Lurssen Mastering Console by IK Multimedia
Apr12

Lurssen Mastering Console by IK Multimedia

Mastering is a dark art. Some people don’t believe in it. Some people believe it’s magic. Others say it’s a straightforward science. However most people will agree that it’s a necessary step in bringing a collection of audio recordings to the listening public . If the public then chooses to listen to it on their phone, streamed, through cheap earbuds – so be it. So what is mastering? It’s the sonic manipulation of a collection of songs to give them the same overall sound, in terms of dynamics and EQ so that the album is cohesive and nothing jumps out at the listener. A modern album may have very different instrumentation from track to track. It may have been recorded in several studios under different engineers. It may have been mixed by a number of engineers. All these factors will stamp each song with it’s own unique sonic character. It’s the mastering engineer’s job to pull all the songs together an create an overall sonic character for the album. A mastering engineer should not be employed to fix a bad mix – that’s not a repair that can be done on a stereo mix. A big budget commercial album will typically go to one of a small number of elite mastering houses. A mastering engineer relies on their ear and skill, as well as a proven and usually expensive mastering chain. Lurssen Mastering operates out of Burbank, CA and has earned a silly number of Grammys and Oscars. They’ve collaborated with IK Multimedia to emulate  their famous mastering chain in software and put in in the price range of any recording engineer or band. The software comes as a standalone executable and also in a number of popular plugin formats to work with any DAW on the market. I would suggest that it’s a good idea only to install the standalone. Why? If you slap the plugin on the stereo output bus of your DAW, you’ll be tempted to tweak the mix after you’ve mastered. This will change the balance of the mix and mean you’ll need to remaster. The process should always be: record, mix, master with each step finished and signed off before the next begins. Otherwise nothing ever gets finished! The standalone software has a settings area in the top, a pretty graphic of the mastering studio below that, and the main controls at the bottom. The graphic can be replaced with the stereo waveform or with the signal chain controls (more on these later). At the top left you manage  your projects (albums) and load your songs. You can select from a list of presets...

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Tracktion 7
Mar18

Tracktion 7

Newfound At Tracktion The Tracktion Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) has had a chequered history. It had humble beginnings in 2002 when Julian Storer revealed his creation, but in 2003, music giant Mackie saw it’s potential and took it on, seeing it as the perfect partner for some of their digital studio hardware.The software grew a modest but hardcore fanbase, but in the bust years it seems as though Mackie shifted focus to their core products, and the software stagnated. It was quite a surprise then when the software resurfaced in 2013, with Julian at the help of the newly formed Traction Software Company. My understanding is that this new incarnation was a complete rewrite of the software. Getting To Know You The first thing that strikes you about the software is how the GUI is built for productivity. The interface is clean, and packs a lot into one screen. There are no menu bars with masses of dropdowns and flyouts to overwhelm the noob (I’m looking at you, Reaper!). The software is lightweight and an agile development approach means updates are frequent. While I was testing, a new version was released to fix a number of bugs identified by users in the immediate aftermath of the release. Another very cool thing about Traction is that it runs on Linux. The general assumption up to now is that Linux geeks don’t pay for software, but the Steam gaming service has proven that this is a fallacy, and Traction has a core demographic of hardcore Linux fans who are grateful for a commercial alternative to some of the other free and underwhelming alternatives. The default dark theme (they call it Blue Steel) emulates a trend seen in many of the other major DAWs, that started with FL Studio. Studios tend to be softly lit windowless places, and bright GUIs cause eyestrain and headaches. The Traction UI is easy on the eyes. Here’s One I Made Earlier When reviewing a DAW, the acid test is to make a song and see how far you can get without recourse to the manual. I quickly found out that there was no manual to refer to, unless you’re willing to work with the version 4 manual which can be found on the website, or pay for the endorsed 3rd party manual which is linked to from the training section in the website. Not having a manual as standard is a big omission, in my opinion. If Reaper can ship a DAW with a complete PDF manual for $60, I see no reason why Traction can’t. In a complex application like a DAW, a manual is not optional....

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Ghost Robots – Under Fire [Single]
Jan21

Ghost Robots – Under Fire [Single]

“Under Fire” is the teaser release from Ghost Robot‘s forthcoming 2nd EP, “Sell It To Me“.  This Waterford band consists of Michael Doyle (Vocals), Dael O’Brien (Drums), Evan Hayes (Bass), David Hearne (Rhythm Guitar) and David Rudden (Lead Guitar), and the sound is big – very big indeed. There’s nothing like two electric guitars to project a wall of sound, and the mix is excellent. The vocals punch through, the bass and drums punch through, and the guitars have that Butch Vig sheen that many studio bands aspire to but few achieve. It’s a spiky little belter, with hints of XTC and Franz Ferdinand, but I found myself singing Prince’s “When Doves Cry” along with the verse – the resemblance is tenuous, but it’s there!  More of this, please! Follow Ghost Robots on...

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IK Multimedia Miroslav Philharmonic 2 Review
Dec27

IK Multimedia Miroslav Philharmonic 2 Review

Miroslav Vitous gave us the first really famous sample library. The samples date back to 1993, recorded on state of the art digital systems at 20 and 24 bit resolution. It came out on various hardware sampling platforms and was very costly. When IK Multimedia Miroslav Philharmonic came out in 2006 as a VST plugin, the price was more affordable, it generated a huge buzz, and quickly became a must-have for any DAW composer. Version 2 builds on that legacy with a completely new set of samples, but also includes all the samples from the original.  The installation process takes quite a while. First you sign into IK Multimedia’s authorisation manager, through which all your IK Multimedia licenses are managed. After entering your serial, you can download and install. The installation contains standalone versions, as well as VST, VST3 and AAX format plugins. Next comes the sound library – all 42Gb of it, and that’s compressed. Here lies my only beef with the software. The installer is split into 16 zips. You need to download each, extract it, and run each individual installer. It’s a bit of a kerfuffle, if I’m honest. In my opinion, IK Multimedia should also provide a complete installer package for the majority of its customers who will want all sounds. The installation was further complicated by the first installer of 16 failing, however on further inspection the installer seemed to have done its job. The other 15 parts installed without incident.  On launching the plugin you’ll be met with an interface inspired both by the original Miroslav, and by the SampleTank 3 interface. Indeed, the entire GUI will be very familiar to anyone who already own SampleTank3.    The first instrument I checked out was the Grand Piano. I’m a sucker for a concert grand, and my attempts at Fur Elise provoked strong emotional reactions in my partner (initially – hilarity, but swiftly followed by distress). I revised my strategy and loaded up a midi file of a short classical piano piece. It sounded really lush. The macro area of the GUI gives you quick access to the most appropriate parameters for tweaking a given sound. In this case, EQ and reverb wet/dry levels were the sensible options provided. Subtly tweaking the lows and mids allowed me to alter the tone of the instrument, while keeping it natural. More extreme tweaks could be used in the context of a mix. I added a little more wet to  the reverb, as the initial preset level is quite conservative. I then swapped it out for the convolution reverb, selected the concert hall preset and modified to taste. Now my...

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