Gear Stories #48… Lewitt Microphones, Telefunken, AKG, sE Electronics, Paul Reed Smith, Ashdown Bass Amps, the “Real Deal” when it comes to mastering, and a whole lot more going on!
ATTENTION!!! SPECIAL NOTICE! (I’ll keep this really quick!)
I know I have a lot of loyal readers, but statistics tell me that there are more of you that just hit delete if an e-mail is more than three short sentences! If you fall into that second category, believe me, I sympathize, but just this once… if you have ANY INTEREST WHATSOEVER in pro audio gear, or if you even KNOW ANYONE who makes music, PLEASE look at this episode!
There are so many things happening right now, that you will truly be glad that you took the time!
And now back to our regularly scheduled program…
(Play Theme song here!)
Hey there, my friends! It’s (past) time for the latest episode of my (sort of) monthly newsletter, but a WHOLE LOT of things have JUST started to happen, so I figure it’s time!
As always, if you have no interest in gear, let me know and I’ll take you off the list, but if you have ANY interest in gear at all, try it out… I try to make them both fun and informative! Kind of like a granola and fruit bar covered with chocolate! Full of nutrition, and it tastes great too!
ONE MORE SPECIAL NOTE!!! I often offer special deals in Gear Stories… but these special deals usually do not show up on the web site, and the only way you can get them is by contacting me directly by phone or e-mail.
SO…. Let’s start right off with lots of tidbits of great news!
SWEETWATER MIC MONTH DEALS!
MIC MONTH HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS here at Sweetwater, so we are running all kinds of really great deals! The two most impressive deals in my book are these…
Amazing deal #1…
As advertised… buy the Blue Bottle microphone (In my opinion, one of the three best sounding mics in the history of the WORLD) and you get a full set of the Bottle Caps (removable mic capsules) for FREE with it! The Bottle Cap Kit usually sells for $4199.99! Imagine buying a mic and then getting a forty two hundred dollar accessory kit with it for free! Blue did this deal last year, and I was amazed at how many people jumped on that deal! And even better, if you have a Sweetwater credit card, you get a full two years interest free financing, so as long as you pay it all off before two years is over, you don’t pay a penny more than the advertised price!
Check out the Blue Bottle Mic and the Bottle Cap kit here…
Amazing deal #2 – the classic mic every studio should have! The AKG C414XLII
ALERT!!!! THIS IS NOT ADVERTISED!!! It’s a secret deal, at least as of right now!!!
If you have spent any time around the studio scene, you get the feeling that it is a requirement that every pro studio has an AKG C414 of one kind or another. It’s kind of a rite of passage… Of course, if you are a big time pro studio charging several thousand a day, you have a vintage 414, but even your local pro project studio charging fifty or sixty an hour most likely has one or two of the new ones… it’s like a ticket into the club!
(If you are wondering what I mean by referring to the “Vintage” and “Moderrn” versions of these mics, there have been several incarnations of the AKG 414, and they have shared a common look, and a pretty similar sound, but along the way componenets have changed here and there… The current incarnation is the C414XLII which is similar in sound to the legendary C-12 microphone, and is commonly used for lead vocals and instruments becasue of its presence boost.)
Normally these mics go for $1099… but while our current supply lasts, we have a SPECIAL PRICE… They now go for $899! This deal is so low that at this time, I can’t do free shipping with that, and you have to actually call me or e-mail me to get that deal, but we have a bunch of them, and they are ready to ship out and let you join the club! (At this price, however, I highly doubt that our supply will last all the way through Mic month, so don’t hesitate!)
And to sweeten this deal, once again… 24 month interest free financing if purchased with your Sweetwater card!
Amazing Deal #2 1/2
As a side note, I wrote in one of my last gear stories about the sE4400a microphone, which is a sonic clone of the HIGHLY sought after vintage era C414 microphones! it is quite remarkable, and it goes for $649 instead of several thousand! SO, if you are not interested in the superficial trappings of the studio club, and all you care about is getting that sound, then I personally am offering an un-advertised special this month on the sE4400a …
For the single mic, $50 off! Which puts them at $599! http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SE4400a/
And for the matched pair, $130 off, for a total of $1369! And these come with the stereo bar, shock mounts and carrying case! http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SE4400aSP/
Once again, ALSO on the 24 month interest free financing with the Sweetwater card! In fact, there are so many manufacturers on the 24 month interest free program right now, I can see a day when everything will be! (Well, I can dream, can’t I!?!?)
SO… How can you get your own Sweetwater card? Here’s the online application… http://www.sweetwater.com/financing/allaccess.php
(A handy hint… if you apply, once you hit submit, do not leave the page… if you have a little patience, you will be notified on that page within a minute or so! If you leave the page, you will probably wind up waiting for a letter in the mail! If you wait a moment and find out right there on the site, they will give you the information needed to go ahead and use that line of credit instantly!)
And one last tidbit about Mic Month… we have been given special authorization to create some amazing discounted bundles of mics and preamps! (After all, a great mic only sounds it’s best when it’s going through a great preamp! I won’t take the time to elaborate on these… I will just put the links here… look them over for yourself… but believe me, if you are into mics at all, these deals will make your mouth water!
And not all, but MOST of them are on the 24 month financing!
I start this off with the lowest priced bundle of the bunch, and it’s one that is nearest and dearest to my heart, because I am currently saving up my pennies and the next major purchase I am going to make is THIS PREAMP!
And to top it all off… the grand champion of the greatest mic month bundle deals! SAVE $899) http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/TLM67-6176Bun/
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE mic news! Sweertwater is now one of a very tiny handful of Telefunken mic dealers in North America!
I am very very excited about this! At the same time, I need to dispel a few myths! The current company called Telefunken in North America does not have any official ties to the original Telefunken company back in German history… It is merely an American guy with a lot of money who is completely into vintage microphones, and thought he could do the world a great service by reviving the name and the reputation for excellence. They did get off to as rocky start, with a few real controversies regarding the substituting of some of the original components, however, these things have been cleared up, and the current lineup of microphones is of excellent quality, and as similar to the original lineup as they can get (For instance, many of the original tubes are simply not attainable anymore… ) They do not make any claim to be the original Telefunken, and they do not claim that these are the original designs… but I have heard these mics, and believe me, they sound absolutely amazing!
So I HAVE to say this… If anybody can put the Fun back in Ken, Telefunken can! …sorry, I couldn’t help it…
…but hey, folks, it’s not ALL about mics!
FOR YOU GUITARISTS!
Even though it’s mic month, so we have some really great deals on some very special guitars right now!
GREAT GUITAR DEAL #1
First of all, I am personally running a special on ALL GIBSON CUSTOM SHOP guitars! There are a lot to choose from, so check them out at this link, and then call me for special deals! Things I can’t publicize, but believe me, it will be worth your while! (Oh, and guess what!?!? 24 month interest free, baby!)
GREAT GUITAR DEAL #2
Paul Reed Smith builds guitars of absolutely phenomenal quality and consistency, and we just bought SIXTY of some classic models that are virtually unobtainable as new guitars anymore… and we have been authorized to blow them out the door at very special pricing… I will put a list of every single guitar in this promotion at the end of this e-mail… If you are a guitarist and have ever thought about getting into a PRS, THIS IS THE OPPORTUNITY YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!!!
The guitars available for this promotion range in price between an advertised price of $1644 up to over twelve thousand dollars, and on the very bottom of the range, I will be making them available personally to you for 15% off (That comes out to around $250 off!) and the savings get sweeter as the prices go up!
Here is the list of guitars that I can do this special pricing on…. http://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=s%3Aprslaunch&Go=Search
(I will list them in their entirety by their model number at the end of this e-mail so that you can see the enormity of this secret sale!)
Really… If you don’t have one of those cards, now is the time! Here’s that link again! http://www.sweetwater.com/financing/allaccess.php
Just added…. NEW GUITAR BUNDLE DEAL!
ALSO!!!! There is a new bundle available! This one includes the FAMOUS ELEVEN RACK, (One of the best sounding guitar processors ever, as well as a complete Pro Tools interface!) complete with exclusive Sweewtwater Presets from the likes of Joe Satriani, Johnny Hiland, John Five, Adrian Belew, and many many many many more! IT ALSO COMES WITH A COMPLETE, FULL VERSION OF PRO TOOLS 10 and a future license for PRO TOOLS 11! And it is bundled with the Voodoo Labs Ground Control footboard! Even though it’s made by a different company, AVID recommends this as THE foot-pedal controller for the ELEVEN RACK, and we have programmed it to work perfectly out of ther box with the Eleven Rack. If you bought the original components of this bundle, it would come out to almost two thousand dollars, so at $999… this is one heck of a bargain! Plus, we have them in stock!
FOR THE BASS PLAYER:
We now carry ASHDOWN amplifiers! If you follow a lot of famous bass players, then you have most likely heard of ASHDOWN! These are so cool, I am going to have to write a whole Gear Stories about them soon, but in the meantime… check it out! http://www.sweetwater.com/store/manufacturer/Ashdown
CALLING ALL HARMONICA PLAYERS!
I know you’re out there! You are lurking, quietly in the shadows, waiting for your moment to strike! Well that moment might be now! When you do jump out, you might notice that you are not alone! ANYBODY can play the harmonica! (Not everybody can be an amazing harmonica player, but with not much effort, ANYBODY can become a pretty decent harmonica player!)
Sweetwater is proud to announce that we are now dealers of Bushman harmonicas! This brand makes some of the finest harmonicas on the planet!
There are videos on the individual product pages on our web site, and these are some of the finest harmonicas made anywhere!
However, It deeply saddens me to say that they are not subject to the 24 month financing program… What would the monthly payment for two years be on an item that cost $37? ( did the math… It looks like $1.54 per month!)
And now for the rest of us!
AND, for those of you who play the bass, Drums, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, jaw harp, or the spoons! Just call me… I’m sure I can make you a great deal on SOMETHING!
And of course, you can always check the dealzone! http://www.sweetwater.com/dealzone/
Part one! NEW CONCEPTS IN MICROPHONES… Lewitt Microphones… True Innovation!
Given that it’s Mic Month, I figured at least part of this Gear Stories should be about mics… and Lewitt microphones has just given me a GREAT reason to write about them…
Lewitt is a relatively new manufacturer of microphones that we have just picked up as a line here at Sweetwater, and the thing I find most remarkable about them is their innovative approach to integrating digital technology into the systems of analog microphones!
Let me say right off the bat that these mics sound very good, especially for the price! They tend to lean toward the clear and “sweet” sounding mic, rather than the vintage, or “grainy” vibe you get from some mics that are going for that sound. The sound of these mics is reliably clear and clean, and quite musical… and I like that… but let’s face it… if a mic manufacturer these days can’t pull off that trick, they should not be making mics at all… So the sound, to me, is a given… they sound good…
It is the other things these mics do that blow my mind…
Lewitt has released a whole line of microphones, from a competitively priced dynamic drum mic (DTP 340 TT) to a large diaphragm Tube/FET condenser mic with NINE (HOLY COW! NINE!) polar patterns (LCT 940) and three attenuation positions. SO, what is the deal…. ?!? Usually you see the terms “Tube” and “FET” as kind of mutually exclusive… but this is a perfect example of the kind of “out-of-the-box” thinking that is coming from Lewitt…
I have seen several preamps that let you choose between Tube and FET circuitry, or a blend between the two, but I have never seen that feature in a microphone before!
They have all price points covered in between these two extremes, including drum mic bundles, and small diaphragm condensers as well.
BUT what’s all this fuss I’m talking about, regarding innovation? Well here it is, and as far as I know, NO OTHER MIC MANUFACTURER has EVER done anything like this before. The studio mics in their line have a clipping history, as well as a digitally recallable automatic attenuation setting!
What the heck is that, you ask?
So let’s say you are sound checking, and you you have ten mics set up all throughout the studio… everybody blows at once, and you can walk around to the mics and see if they clipped! (This is also a phenomenal feature for live uses as well! ) There is a little green light that turns red when the mic has clipped. You can set the attenuation with the touch of a button, and you can even recall that setting if you break for lunch, or come back the next day, or the next week! The more I think about this function, the more I realize how much of my time and effort I could save! I imagine all the time I have spent trying desperately to repair tracks that have mic clipping, and I didn’t notice it during the sound check because I had five other musicians in the studio demanding my attention, and a bean counter looking at his watch every time I tried to make an adjustment…
The fact is, that if you commonly record multiple musicians in one session, Lewitt mics will save you MASSIVE amounts of time, hard work and keep your reputation intact!
There is ONE more extremely cool thing about one of their mics in particular… and that is the kick drum mic, called the DTP 640 REX… and let me tell you, when this mic becomes well known, REX might just be the correct title… I think it will become the KING of Kick Drum mics!
This mic is a combination of a dynamic cardioid mic with a condenser mic as well… so you don’t have to settle for one sound or the other, or have two microphones in place to get the right combination of sounds, and then even when you have done that, you still have to worry about phase issues! The DTP 640 REX handles that! Also, it has a unique feature where you can combine the two sounds, OR you can record them on two separate tracks for complete control in the mix! I have never seen a feature like that at this low a price point, and it sounds amazing! Just the right blend of deep thump and high snap that lets you capture the full range of a kick drum mic and work it into the mix to both stand out, and sit in the goove! I have put this kick drum mic on my list of MUST HAVE microphones!
So, Until the next Gear Stories comes out, I will send you ANY Lewitt microphone at a 15% off discount! You have to contact me directly for this deal… you can’t get it by ordering on the web site… Believe me, you will be glad you did!
Here’s the link to the entire product line… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/manufacturer/Lewitt
Part TWO… the Mastering argument… Here is the REAL STUFF!
Recently, a discussion started an argument on a professional forum that spread like wild fire and sparked the most heated discussion I have seen since the Obama/Romney debates! (But this discussion was much less civil!) It involved a new iPad app for “mastering.”
As a professional recording engineer, I instantly took the side that this whole idea was ludicrous, since the art of mastering requires a WHOLE LOT MORE than signal processing… but of course, from the point of view of a guy on a budget, I also understood the appeal of the idea that you can download a few free apps and create a finished recording…
So who’s right? Are we doomed to a world where the only people that can make “Radio Ready” recordings are the handful of professionals that charge an arm and a leg for mastering. Or are we doomed to a world where what used to only be available from a professional is now available to ANYBODY with an iPad, and the whole process is completely democratized… POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
My completely biased answer is NEITHER… my answer is a happy medium.
Personally, I use a combination of software solutions, as well as a well tuned room and many years of experience. The heart of my mastering at this point has evolved to the use of the software “Ozone” by Izotope. I won’t go into it too much, since I have written about it in the past, but it has virtually all the basic elements needed in mastering, and it is very well written software.
It has pre- EQ, multi-band compression, reverb (which I RARELY use at that stage) Aural Excitement, stereo field enhancement, post EQ and limiting with dithering… I’m sure that this iPad app has a similar lineup… but there are a few more things that I use to sweeten the pot… One is only available with a UAD processor of some sort.. ( http://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=uad ) It is the Studer two track tape machine plug in… What this does is add analog warmth to the mix without the other dreaded side effect of Analog… HISS! (So many people romanticize the Analog days so much, but let me tell you, it had its problems, too… Some folks feel that digital recordings don’t sound “real” because the high frequencies are rolled off an octave or so above the range of Human hearing, but let me tell you the high end of a LOT of old analog recordings were rolled off a lot lower than that because of the analog engineer’s nemesis, HISS)
The beauty of this plug in is that it very accurately and subtly recreates the greatest benefit of analog recording, which is that warmth, but you don’t have the disadvantages of the added noise to deal with… but there is a danger of overdoing it in the name of actually “hearing” the sound of the plug in… It has to be used with great discipline and discretion, or else, you will make your recording sound crappy and distorted in the midrange! But when used properly, it is AWESOME! I remember the first time I experimented with it… I was extremely cautious about adding distortion to my mix, so I put it on to the point where I could barely hear it, and then backed down the effect mix another few percent, to where I was not sure if I heard it or not… but then, when I bounced it down and took it out to play in my car (On a CD! How old school is THAT!?) I was amazed at the way it just popped out of the speakers and sounded SO YUMMY! That was my reassurance that I had done it right.
The final piece of my mastering processing is another piece I have talked about in the past… the ARC system by IK multimedia… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ARC2/ Unless you have invested a lot of time, energy, and money into the design and acoustics of your room, without this, all the great processing in the world would be irrelevant, because if your room and your speakers are not telling you the truth, you are not doing it right! This is the part of the process that the iPad mastering proponents completely forget about… you need to hear the music in a room that you understand… headphones will not do… no matter how many hip hop producers endorse the brand… they will not tell you the truth, and every decision you make will be conjecture.
Let me add this disclaimer… It would be better to build a mastering room that is perfectly tuned, designed by Russ Berger, or someone like him, with the perfect dimensions, contours and surface treatments… BUT, if you don’t have the few hundred thousand dollars that it takes to do that, and your control room was actaully originally designed to be a living room or bedroom, then the ARC system is a really good substitute!
If you tune your room and know it well, you can, with confidence, master in that environment, knowing that what you hear there will translate with the most accuracy to the outside world… (Keeping in mind that every single environment that you experience recorded sound in will sound completely differently!)
Mastering is not rocket science, but it absolutely requires HIGH quality digital converters (that you would be hard pressed to find for an iPad), Great Digital Clocking, (I have yet to see an iPad with a BNC input for word clock!) and excellent monitors, (I repeat, NO HEADPHONES!) and a well tuned environment, that you know like the back of your hand, and trust… If you are carrying around an iPad, trying to master your record on the city bus on the way to the radio station, then I guarantee you that you are not providing them with a professional sounding, radio ready, master of your song.
In the grand scheme of things, there are more and more companies starting to make quality converters that are iOS compatable, like Apogee, with their new Duet and Quartet interfaces… but most people who are taking about mastering on their iPad with a free app are not sporting a Quartet… they have ten dollar headphones plugged directly into the 1/8th inch headphone jack. There is a BIG difference!
But how do the big boys that charge mega bucks for their mastering services do it? AND, is it really worth it?
High end mastering houses have the tendency to use all analog gear for the signal processing, and they use great Digital to Analog and Analog to Digital conversion, along with KILLER good clocking… SO with that in mind, I have assembled a list of my DREAM rig for mastering! Of course, it keeps evolving and changing, and I have a few categories where there are several solutions, and I have not decided which I like best… so I’l just lay it out and tell you, if I won the lottery and decided to set up my uber, ultra perfect mastering house… here is what I would use…
First of all, for the digital conversion… the Symphony I/O from Apogee… there are a number of versions, and each studio is different, but if you are JUST mastering, the 2 by 6 I/O version would be sufficient… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SymphIO2x6/
If you use your digital conversion for more than just mastering, you might need a different configuration, but I can tell you, the Symphony IO has the sweetest, most beautiful and musical sounding digital conversion that I have ever experienced… It is a bit expensive, but in my book, it’s totally worth it! http://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=symphony+io&Go=Search
Next, we must be concerned with clocking. Although the Symphony IO has some of the best clocking available to humankind, it is not THE best… so remember, this is a shopping spree for after I have won the lottery… the ABSOLUTE BEST clock that I have heard is the Antelope Audio 10M Atomic Clock. In order to use it, it has to be connected to another Antelope Clock like the OCX…
In a blind shootout, I was amazed to find that this clock blew ANYTHING else that was available completely out of the water! I was very pleased with the sound of the Antelope OCX clock by itself, and I was extremely pleased with the sound of the Symphony IO clock on its own… but when they engaged the 10M, it was as if I were suddenly no longer listening to a recording, but I was actually inside the performance… the stereo field was HUGE, and completely transparent… the clarity of every part of the frequency spectrum was unlike any recording I had ever heard… and I was ruined for life!
The next thing is having perfect routing and switching… For that, I would need the Manley Backbone! http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/BackBone/ You wouldn’t think that routing and switching would be that important, but the signal path is a HUGE part of high end mastering… And there is none more convenient and well made than the Backbone. It allows you to patch every part of your signal processing componentry into one unit and choose the order that you send the signal through each unit, without pulling cables in and out and re-patching… because believe me, there are times when you want the EQ before the compressor, and there are times when you want it AFTER the compressor, and you don’t want to have to be crawling back there re-patching things… If you have to do that, you will probably just NOT do it and the mastering will suffer. (Or at least, I probably wouldn’t)
After that, I could take two paths… I love Ruppert Neve and his silk circuit that he includes in many of his Portico series products, and in this case, Mr Neve has included the silk circuit into both a summing mixer as well as a master bus processor for mastering…. But you don’t want to overuse the silk, so I would pick one or the other…
Here is his summing mixer… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/5059Sat/
And here is his Master Bus Processor… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Portico2MBP
If I actually WON the lottery, I would have some hard decisions to make about which way I wanted to go…
If I chose to do Summing without the silk, I would choose a couple of these… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/2BusLT (Analog summing is a controversial practice, but after hearing the results, I am a believer, and I would use it… )
If I used the Neve summing mixer, and added the silk there, Instead of the Neve Master Bus Processor, I would get the Manley Slam Mastering edition for that absolute brick wall limiting… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SLAMMaster/
That leaves the two other main elements of mastering… EQ and multi-band compression… For the compressor, it’s easy… I have heard this unit and in my opinion, there is nothing else that will do it anywhere nearly as good as this… It is the Tube-Tech SMC 2BM stereo multi band mastering compressor… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SMC2BM/
I have heard this alone used to master a song for international release… no other bells or whistles, just a very adept engineer… It was incredible…
Finally, there is the element of EQ…
There are may schools of though regarding this, but I would sit and ponder two… First is the old standby… George Massenburg! http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/GML9500/ This has long been the Gold standard of mastering Equalizers… and at only eleven thousand and fifty dollars… WHAT A BARGAIN!
There is another EQ that costs a LOT less, but has real validity when it comes to analog mastering… and that is the BAX EQ by Dangerous music… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/BAXEQ
The Bax is great because it is designed exactly for what mastering engineers need… subtlety! It is not the kind of EQ that is used for a surgical strike against a troublesome spike in the EQ curse… it would be useless for that… Instead, the Bax is designed to province a gentle wide curve to the frequencies that you are working on… bringing up the overall low end, or taking down the overall mid range with a very wide swath… wide and gentle… and if you are mastering a track that has been well mixed, that is exactly what you need…
Another unit that has come in and muddies the waters is the Pultec… Long considered some of the best Equalizers ever made, the company did not exist for many years, and has only recently been revived. They have done so with a fierce authenticity and perfection in the recreation of the old units, down to the exact shade of paint they used on the housing! They are truly remarkable, and may be enough to turn my head when I cash in the winning ticket… however, the big drawback is simply, for me, a matter of convenience… He does not make a stereo unit, and you have to buy TWO mono units! What the heck!?! But here it is… Subtle like the BAX, and authentic down to the individual parts… the real deal… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/EQM1A3/
I know I have thrown a lot of choices out there, and a lot of it is a matter of taste, but for high end mastering, these are ALL very valid options… pick your poison, and start buying Power Balls and Mega Millions tickets! And when you win, call me!
As for me, I have kind of decided… hypothetically… until I actually have the winning ticket in hand, and right now, my dream mastering rig quote comes in right around 37 thousand dollars! I tell you… scratch off’s just aren’t going to do it!
Until next time, that’s Gear Stories! I hope it was fun for you!
Remember, if it’s a special promotion I am offering, you have to contact me directly to get in on it… so as always, I look forward to being of service.
Jon Gillespie, Sweetwater Sales Engineer
800 222 4700 x 1352
260 432 8176 x 1352 (outside the U.S.)
260 432 1758 FAX
As promised earlier, here is the list of guitars from PRS that I mentioned…
As promised, here is that entire list of PRS guitar models that are in the secret sale… And remember, this is a total secret, so tell all your friends to call me, and I’ll hook them up too! (Hmmm did that make any sense?) When these are gone, they are gone, so if something catches your fancy, get in touch right way.
(Just copy the model number into the Sweetwater search bar and it will take you right to it!)
Keep it secret, keep it safe!