NASHVILLE’S BLACKBIRD STUDIO MAKES NO SMALL PLANS: BUILDS OUT FOR DOLBY ATMOS MUSIC WITH 15 ATC MONITORS, 6 ATC SUBWOOFERS
Blackbird Studio in Nashville, Tennessee is not known for half-measures. “At Blackbird, the bar is extremely high,” noted John McBride, Blackbird’s founder, owner and visionary. “We do everything we can to create a setting where artists and engineers are equipped and inspired to create music that can change the world.” In that spirit, Blackbird is embracing Dolby Atmos Music, a fully-immersive, next-generation multi-channel playback system that has the backing of Universal, Netflix, Amazon, and other major content providers. Blackbird Studio C, a large control room with incredible diffusion designed by George Massenburg, now contains three ATC SCM300ASL Pro monitors in front, six ATC SCM100ASL Pro monitors on the sides and rear, six ATC SCM100ASL Pro monitors overhead, and six ATC SCM0.1/15ASL Pro subwoofers. With less than a month’s notice, ATC built and delivered the speakers and subwoofers.
“Immersive audio is the future of the industry,” McBride continued. “It’s an incredible experience, and once you start listening in Dolby Atmos Music, it’s hard to go back to stereo! For artists and engineers, the format opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities. There are consumer electronics manufacturers building sound bars to give listeners Dolby Atmos in their living rooms, engineers are hard at work perfecting headphones that will deliver Dolby Atmos, Universal has already committed to mixing several thousand songs in Dolby Atmos Music, and content providers such as Netflix and Amazon are incorporating the format into their new material. Of course, the potential for gaming and virtual reality is astounding. All in all, the industry has a lot of momentum behind Dolby Atmos Music, and I’m thrilled to have Blackbird at the forefront of music creation for the format.”
Initially introduced in 2012, the Dolby Atmos specification accommodates traditional 7.1 surround sound speakers but then goes far beyond. It allows specific placement of sounds at precise locations along the sides and back, includes overhead loudspeakers, and permits flexible scaling of playback system size to include up to 128 discrete loudspeaker or subwoofer channels. “The first thing people notice about a Dolby Atmos system is the addition of the overhead speakers,” said Zach Winterfeld, western regional sales manager with TransAudio Group and part of the team that installed and tuned the new system at Blackbird. “Just as the experience of going from mono to stereo or from stereo to surround opens things up, the overhead speakers add a whole new dimension. Under the hood, the biggest difference is the use of ‘objects’ that allow the engineer to specify where in the room a sound should localize to. The Dolby Atmos playback engine decodes each object’s location and places it there given the particular arrangement of loudspeakers in a given room. Two rooms can have very different loudspeaker setups, and the Dolby Atmos processing will localize a given ‘object’ to the same place in both rooms.”
Blackbird Studio C already had a stereo pair of ATC SCM300ASL Pro three-way monitors, and ATC mains and near-fields are a fixture in the other studios at Blackbird. “For me at least, the higher the quality of playback, the more emotional music becomes,” McBride said. “I’ve always loved ATC, and we’ve been using ATC monitors at Blackbird since we opened up in 2002. I trust ATC monitors completely, and I love the people behind the product – they do incredible work with integrity and with a deep respect for music. Sitting in the middle of fifteen large-format ATC monitors and six ATC subwoofers is a life-changing experience!”
Ben Lilly, technical sales manager with ATC and another member of the team that installed and tuned the new system at Blackbird, added, “Our monitors offer very low listening fatigue. This is important in all types of monitoring environments, but I feel it is even more important with the high channel count and higher than average sound pressure levels that audio professionals will experience in an Atmos mix environment. Also, the wide, even dispersion pattern of ATC’s monitors help to achieve a larger ‘sweet spot’, a greater feeling of space, and solid imaging within the immersive mix environment.”
Lilly continued, “Blackbird Studio C was already equipped with stereo ATC SCM300ASL Pros so adding a matching center was a natural choice. The ‘base’ specification for Dolby Atmos music systems is 7.1.4 (7.1 plus four overhead ‘top’ speakers), but because Studio C is larger than average, the surround speaker count was increased by four to make the system 9.1.6. The choice of surrounds speaker model and the number of subs was based on the room size, listening distance, and target SPLs at the listening position. Dolby’s DART tool helped select suitable monitors based on the room and acoustic data input into the tool.” Four of the ATC SCM0.1/15ASL subwoofers are positioned along the front of the room and two are positioned on the side walls closer to the back, as determined by a judicious combination of measurement and expert opinion.
“John [McBride] called me to describe a full ATC Dolby Atmos room at Blackbird, and I was impressed by his vision and also by the amount of gear it would require,” recalled Brad Lunde, founder and president of TransAudio Group. “Then he said he wanted it all delivered in two weeks to allow a week of installation ahead of a critical deadline. I love John, but I said, ‘you’re out of your mind, there’s no way!’ But of course I called ATC’s UK manufacturing facility and asked if it would be possible to deliver six flyable SCM100ASL Pros, six stand-mounted versions, a single center SCM300ASL Pro, and six subwoofers. They would have to work miracles to get them all built, but they made it happen!”
“Given how few Dolby Atmos mixing rooms exist in the world and given John’s very high standards, it was strategically important to do an outstanding job, with plenty of insurance against any conceivable problem,” Lunde noted. In addition to Zach Winterfeld, who has deep experience with precision measurement systems, TransAudio Group sent Tony Marra, who operates the TransAudio Group in-house repair shop, to Nashville for installation and tuning knowing that between the two, they had the wherewithal to diagnose and repair anything that might need it. ATC sent Ben Lilly, who worked closely with the TransAudio Group team. The team dug into the analog processing capabilities of the integrated ATC amplifiers to make subtle adjustments to Blackbird’s existing SCM300ASL Pros, which had been in continuous use for nearly a decade, to match the new center channel SCM300ASL Pro. Ceri Thomas and Christine Thomas from Dolby saw to it that all of the Atmos specs were dialed in to perfection.
Following installation of the system, the studio has received a great deal of feedback on the format, room and the system. “Studio C was designed by George Massenburg and incorporates wonderful diffusion,” McBride said. “That makes the imaging, which is already amazing with ATC, all the more lifelike.” Aleks Bars, marketing manager at TransAudio Group, added, “With conventional surround sound technology, things are still focused in the front, and creative use of the rear channels kind of stands out. With Dolby Atmos, I felt like I was inside the track. I couldn’t hear gaps between the speakers; it was really cohesive. The vibe from other listeners overall was one of excitement. You could sense how different the experience was for people, and a lot of people told me they were looking forward to jumping into Dolby Atmos as soon as possible.”
A common refrain from the team of experts who installed and tuned the system, from John McBride, and from attendees at the listening party, was that it was fun to listen to remixes of classics but that they were most looking forward to new works created specifically for Dolby Atmos as the output format. “A good example of how the output format matters is the Beach Boys,” Winterfeld summarized. “They talked a lot about how they wrote and composed explicitly for mono. They would have made very different decisions if they had been creating for stereo. I would argue that so much of that older music that was done in mono is still best enjoyed that way. You get excited by different things and make different decisions when you’re mixing for stereo versus mono. The same thing is true moving to Dolby Atmos. Tracks have so much more room to exist and there are so many possibilities with movement, space, and location. It’s going to be exciting to hear what comes out of Blackbird Studio C!”
Dolby Atmos for Content Creators
ATC Professional Mid-Field Monitor Range – 2019 Cosmetic Update
ATC has given its SCM50/100/110/150ASL Pro studio monitors a cosmetic update by way of a new front logo panel. The new panel is manufactured from aluminium, with a black anodised finish and the logo laser etched into the surface.
The fitment of the logo panel has been improved and is now screw fixed (as opposed to the previous self-adhesive fixing). Practically, this means the logo plate can be easily rotated when the speakers are installed in a horizontal configuration. The limit LEDs are now mounted to the rear of the logo panel via a small PCB so will also move when the logo panel is rotated.
The update only offers cosmetic & functional improvements – there are no performance improvements. Updates to older existing products will not be available. There will be no cosmetic changes to the SCM12/20/25/45/200/300 Pro. The new style product is in production now.
LEGENDARY AUDIO ENGINEER ELLIOT SCHEINER RETIRES HIS NS-10 MONITORS FOR ATC SCM25A THREE-WAY REFERENCE MONITORS
For nearly half a century, Elliot Scheiner has been recording and mixing just about every musician and band of consequence, earning twenty-seven Grammy nominations and eight Grammy wins for his efforts. His wins include work with Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, Derek & the Dominos, and Beyoncé; and his larger list of clients includes Toto, Paul Simon, BB King, Eagles, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Sting, Faith Hill, Foo Fighters, and on and on.
In addition, Scheiner garnered two Emmy Awards and three TEC Award nominations. He is a TEC Hall of Fame inductee and holds an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music, where he currently runs recording and mixing workshops. It was at Berklee that Scheiner fell in love with ATC’s revealing transparency, inspiring him to overcome a “superstitious” attachment to his NS-10s in favor of ATC SCM25A Pro three-way monitors.
Scheiner heard ATCs over a decade ago and thought they sounded “incredible,” but that experience didn’t move him to make the jump. “You can get yourself to a place where you’re superstitious about the tools that brought you to that place,” he explained. “I used NS-10s for most of my life.” Given his unambiguous success, it seemed like an open-and-shut case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’
It was only after Scheiner repeatedly got in front of ATCs to do workshops at Berklee that the practical benefits of their “incredible” sound became apparent. “Every one of the rooms at Berklee has ATC monitors,” he said. “I fell in love with them. The ATCs gave me an honest representation of what I was recording and mixing. At the end of the day, I would bring the work home to my NS-10s to finish, but there was nothing left to do! The decisions I made with the ATCs stuck.” He views the difference between working on the ATCs and the NS-10s not as working faster, but rather working with less effort. “Ears are a funny thing,” he mused. “I could try to throw some facts at you about why I like the ATCs so much, but in the end it’s just that I hear what I want to hear on the ATCs. With other speakers, I know what I want but I have to go out and get it. The ATCs just give it to me.”
Since he first got the ATC SCM25As a few months ago, Scheiner has completed work on forthcoming releases by jazz musicians Kandace Springs and New York Voices.
ATC Pro products are distributed in the U.S.A. by Transaudio Group. www.transaudiogroup.com
ATC Launch New SCM12i Pro
ASTON DOWN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK: ATC is proud to announce availability of its SCM12i Pro passive monitor — effectively an adaptation of its SCM12 Pro compact, high-performance, two-way passive studio monitor released in September 2016 to widespread critical acclaim, albeit (re)designed for simple installation into recording, post-production, broadcast, and film studios of all shapes and sizes.
While weighing in at a reasonable 15kg/33lbs (per cabinet), the SCM12i Pro’s compact cabinet size — 400x238x235mm/15.7”x9.4”x9.3” (HxWxD) — and exceptional performance attributes of an even on and off-axis frequency response, wide dispersion and high dynamic range — make it an ideal loudspeaker for use in surround/multi-channel recording/mixing, and immersive audio applications such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro 3D. To facilitate simple installation in whatever audio environment it may find itself — immersive or otherwise, the cabinet features mounting points compatible with popular wall/ceiling brackets, such as those offered by the likes of Californian company Adaptive Technologies Group and German giant König & Meyer (K&M).
Distinguishing Deutschland-compatible, installation-friendly features apart, the SCM12i Pro is designed around the same philosophy as ATC’s two- and three-way active monitor loudspeakers and also employs driver components and technology found in those larger models, resulting in exceptional consistency across the product range. Indeed, it is worth noting that the monitor makes use of the company’s celebrated drive units for both the mid/bass and tweeter, both being meticulously hand built at its UK facility.
The tweeter itself is a 25mm/one-inch soft-dome designed around ATC’s unique dual-suspension technology. Unlike conventional tweeters, this precision part employs two suspensions, offering far greater control of the voice coil and dome motion — especially at higher sound pressure levels. The result is an extended high-frequency response with much greater clarity and definition due to the reduction in disturbing anharmonic distortion. Listener fatigue is also greatly reduced, resulting in users being able to work for longer periods with greater accuracy.
At the lower end of the frequency spectrum, mid/bass reproduction is handled by ATC’s 150mm/six-inch proprietary CLD drive unit. Using a 45mm/1.75-inch diameter voice coil, and employing an FEA (Finite Element Analysis) optimised high-energy symmetric gap motor system, the driver is capable of tremendous dynamic range with minimal power compression. Cone construction is courtesy of another proprietary ATC technology that represents another advance in driver performance — namely, Constrained Layer Damping (CLD), a process that uses multiple laminated fabric cones to form a stiff, light, and tremendously well-damped structure. Speaking acoustically, this construction creates a smoother on- and off-axis frequency response and also a reduction in distortion leading to a more lifelike reproduction of source material. Meaningfully, judgements and decisions can be made more quickly, more accurately, and for longer periods of time by busy working audio professionals.
Let it be known, then, that simple, well-engineered products almost always trump feature-rich, cost-engineered alternatives, and ATC’s SCM12i Pro has been duly designed with that philosophy very much intact. Its neutral fidelity makes for a very versatile proposition, one which — when backed up with the company’s industry-leading six-year warranty — makes for a high-value, longterm investment for anyone looking to make a move into immersive audio or upgrade their existing monitoring system. So surely now is the time to consider entering that brave new world of EQ’ing, balancing, and editing faster, with more consistent results and reduced listening fatigue using the latest, high-performance, compact two-way passive monitor marvel from ATC, perfectly positioned for installation into recording, post-production, broadcast, and film studios of all shapes and sizes!
The British-built SCM12i Pro retails in the UK for £1,604.00 GBP (plus VAT) per pair.
For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated SCM12i Pro Product Webpage
For availability and pricing internationally, please visit the ATC Where to Buy Webpage
Air Studios Mastering Upgrade Monitoring with ATC P2 Pro Power Amps
“We felt it was worth exploring some Class A/B amp options, but, having tried several, we weren’t impressed… until we came across the ATC P2 PROs. Now there’s a more musical bottom end, and this extra dimension has made things more enjoyable to listen to.” – AIR Studios Mastering engineer, John Webber, 2018.ATC is proud to announce that AIR Studios Mastering (UK) — a division of the world-famous AIR Studios started by Beatles producing genius George Martin and specialising in analogue and digital mastering — has literally and figuratively amplified its full-range, ‘no expense spared’ speaker monitoring system, thanks to two ATC P2 PRO Dual Mono Power Amplifier additions…
John Webber at Air Studios Mastering. Photography by Adam Crowe. www.adamcrowe.net
According to AIR Studios Mastering’s wisely-worded website: Professional audio mastering is the last part of the sound production process where recordings are given a final gloss. Our role is to bring multiple songs together within a project, creating consistency across different formats and ensuring greatest possible impact when played on different systems. Using a full-range speaker monitoring system in an acoustically treated room, our experienced ear will polish your music for release. It’s a creative and technical process. No two tracks are the same; each track is treated individually, and this requires ever-changing and well-maintained solutions to ensure the best results. All of which is made possible at AIR Studios Mastering.
Making all that perfectly possible at AIR Studios Mastering comes courtesy of a killer combination of top-tier creative technical talent with three pairs of experienced ears between them. Award winning mastering engineer, John Webber who cut Air’s first ever direct to disc sessions and has re-mastered many classic albums, “often from the original analogue sources” as well as working with releases for a wide range of notable film and TV scores. Cicely Balston, who joined from Gearbox records and the semi-retired Ray Staff (hit after hit spanning all genres of music since starting out at London’s Trident Studios in 1970).
Being part of (the dearly departed) George Martin’s studio legacy clearly comes with some serious fringe benefits. Beautifully built, the “…one fully-kitted mastering suite…” in which John Webber now spends most of his time — now that Ray Staff “…comes in occasionally on a freelance/consultation basis…” — boasts a full-range, ‘no-expense spared’ monitoring system. Said system was developed in surroundings akin to Lockheed’s secretive ‘Skunk Works’ advanced aircraft facility with a purchase price skyrocketing towards a lofty six-figure sum! “The TAD Reference One’s dual-concentric driver was partly developed here at AIR, and they were very kindly gifted to us by Pioneer when the room was conceived,” clarifies their principal practitioner.
Pioneer’s kindness notwithstanding, there is routinely room for improvement in most mastering studio setups — even one as well specced as AIR Studios’. “Originally Class-D amps were chosen for our speakers, but we always felt they were a little hard-sounding and lacking in musicality,” maintains John Webber. “We felt it was worth exploring some Class A/B amp options, but, having tried several, we weren’t impressed… until we came across the ATC P2 PROs.”
Perhaps this is hardly surprising since the P2 PRO power amp is a true dual mono design delivering 300W of continuous power simultaneously from both channels to drive the most challenging loudspeaker loads with ATC’s signature virtues of wide bandwidth and ultra-low distortion. “The TADs are potentially a tough load with dual 10-inch bass drivers to control, and then there’s the passive crossover network and 4-ohm impedance to consider,” continues John Webber. “They’re designed to be very responsive and linear, so, speculatively, we were looking for something that provided a balance between fast, focused, and sweet.”
So sweet it is that those two P2 PRO power amp additions at AIR Studios Mastering proved to be a perfect pairing. “The sound is still quite lively and true, but now there’s a more musical bottom end, and this extra dimension has made things more enjoyable to listen to,” trumpets John Webber. “Two P2 PROs in a bi-amped configuration certainly sound different to just using one and took a little time getting used to, but I have always found brutally honest and revealing monitors to be best for my work because there’s little in the way of flattery going on and I generally find that masters translate better in the outside world.”
While original soundtrack albums for vinyl, CD, and download by Jed Jurzel (Alien Covenant), Murray Gold (Dr. Who) and Clint Mansell (Loving Vincent) alongside “…a ten-LP
boxset of Ornette Coleman’s Atlantic-era releases and reissues for George Michael, Chris Rea and many others….” have already been benefiting from P2 PRO-amplified mastering by John Webber, his brutal honesty shines forth in his closing comments: “If I was to describe the ‘sound’ of the amps in general, I would say they’re balanced, open, and uninhibited. We’re achieving a naturally unveiled soundstage, clean top end, and extended — but never over-egged — extension at the bottom end. I feel like P2 PROs provide excellent value for money… for us, they definitely came out on top when compared with similarly priced competitors.”
ATC P2 Pro
Air Studios Mastering
PRODUCER/ENGINEER/SONGWRITER/GUITARIST MAT MITCHELL WORKS FASTER WITH ATC
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 2018: Twenty-five years into his career, Mat Mitchell has a lot going on, little of which fits into tidy job descriptions. He’s a producer and an all-things tech having toured the world on behalf of Nine Inch Nails, Tool, and Katy Perry. He’s also the lead guitarist and producer for Tool and A Perfect Circle front man Maynard James Keenan’s band, Puscifer. When not on the road, Mitchell works out of his private studio space in north Hollywood centered on an SSL 6000E/G+ console with Apogee Symphony II converters and tons of fabulous outboard gear. His most recent work is with The Beta Machine, the up-and-coming project of A Perfect Circle’s Matt McJunkins and Jeff Friedl. Mitchell recorded the band’s EP, “All This Time,” and is just about to finish producing, recording, and mixing the band’s debut full-length. Before doing so, however, Mitchell ditched his NS-10s for a new pair of ATC SCM45A monitors.
“I’m pretty old school, and I used NS-10s forever,” Mitchell said. “I always had good results because I knew how to work with them, but recently I was listening to some of my mixes in a friend’s mastering room. It was easy to hear things that I had to really focus on to hear in my studio, and I thought, ‘you guys are having a whole different experience!”. Inspired by the thought of having that same experience on a daily basis, Mitchell arranged a demo with Troy Manning at Vintage King Audio, Los Angeles.
“We started out with a pair of ATC SCM25As, which sounded fantastic,” Mitchell said. “Then I wanted to try some other monitors just to get a sense of what’s out there. Sometimes a particular manufacturer initially made me think, ‘that sounds great!’ but once I listened closer to songs I was familiar with, I could tell that things were missing or exaggerated. We tried some of this and some of that, and then we bumped up to the next level speakers. I heard some other manufacturers, and then Troy put on the ATC SCM45As. I was like, ‘ok, we’re done here!’ To my ears, they were very familiar and also very honest.”
Once they were back at his studio, Mitchell had fun playing songs he knew well both alone and with some close friends. “I had a pretty good idea of which songs had mixes I considered were really perfect, and that came through on the ATCs,” he said. “But I also detected problems that I had never heard before in some other songs. On my old monitors, they all sounded like ‘great mixes.’ Now I could discern different levels of ‘great!’ The differences were obvious.”
Mitchell completed the mixes for all eleven songs of The Beta Machine’s forthcoming debut full-length on his new ATC SCM45As. “I think when it’s all said and done, I’m getting to the same place I used to get to, but it’s so much easier and faster,” he said. “I’m reacting to the mix and making choices much more quickly. Any problems are instantly apparent – it’s like, ‘oh, that’s out of phase’ or ‘that needs to come down 1.5dB.’ Plus, it’s more exciting. Once I have things is a good place, it’s fun to turn it up because the ATC’s sound so great! The imaging is wide and precise. And of course, as advertised, the ATCs translate perfectly. Every mix sounds just right on my home stereo, in my car, on my phone, and anywhere.”
Mat Mitchell’s Website
ATC SCM45A Pro Webpage
Mastering engineer extraordinaire Barry Grint gets ATC P2 PRO in on the Alchemy act.
“I was very happy with my monitor speakers, but they seemed to lack bass extension; Matt Colton has active ATC SCM150 ASL PROs in his room, so I thought that an ATC amp might give me more bass… the difference wasn’t subtle with the P2 PRO.”
– Alchemy Mastering Founder & Director Barry Grint, 2017.
LONDON, UK: specialist British loudspeaker drive unit and complete sound reproduction system manufacturer ATC is proud to announce that mastering engineer extraordinaire Barry ‘Bazza’ Grint has acquired a P2 PRO Dual Mono Power Amplifier — a true dual mono design delivering 300W of continuous power simultaneously from both channels to drive the most challenging loudspeaker loads with ATC’s signature virtues of wide bandwidth and ultra-low distortion — to enhance the fullrange monitoring system in his room at Alchemy Mastering, one of the world’s leading lights in half-speed and pure analogue vinyl mastering…
Barry Grint at Alchemy Mastering with ATC P2 Pro Power Amp
Mastering engineer extraordinaire Barry Grint’s ‘lifelong’ love affair with The Dark Art Of Audio Mastering — to paraphrase the appropriate website wording for Alchemy Mastering (www.alchemymastering.com), the company he founded in 1998, having previously worked at Abbey Road, Porky’s Mastering, Tape One, and the legendary Trident Studios — led him to a life less ordinary that has been truly extraordinary. “I always wanted to work in a recording studio, but getting in has always been difficult,” he notes. “I had many jobs beforehand, but eventually I started as a tea boy at Trident Studios. Seeing first-hand what being a studio engineer actually entailed, I felt that it wasn’t quite right for me. On the third floor there was disc cutting — vinyl and cassette being the only formats at the time. I immediately felt at home, starting in the tape and cassette copy room, before moving up to vinyl mastering in 1984.”
The bright-eared Barry Grint was quick off the mark in making his mastering mark. 1984 alone saw his mastering mojo working wonderfully on classic vinyl singles for Duran Duran (‘The Wilds Boys’), Foreigner (‘I Want To Know What Love Is’), Madonna (‘Like A Virgin’), Van Halen (‘Jump’), and ZZ Top (‘Gimme All Your Lovin’’). Thereafter, things went seriously stratospheric as Barry Grint went on to work with a roll call of rock and pop greats such as Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Oasis, Prince, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones, to list but a few notable names. Speaking of names, the master(ing) craftsman identified his vinyl work by etching ‘Bazza’ in the run out-groove with various incarnations including Bazza @ Abbey Road, Bazza @ Tape One, Bazza @ Porky’s putting in an appearance throughout the years.
Yet Barry Grint has witnessed a lot of industry changes — technological or otherwise — in a celebrated career spanning five distinctive decades. Given his mastering pedigree, perhaps it was inevitable that he would one day become a master of his own destiny at Alchemy Mastering in Soho, which went on to become one of the UK’s foremost mastering facilities before leasing issues at its ‘high-flying’ Centre Point office tower London location left its founder rethinking and, ultimately, relocating somewhat closer to terra firma. Its current location in an elegant West London mews houses three acoustically-tuned studios with natural daylight designed by the three ‘Alchemists’ — Barry Grint and fellow Directors Matt Colton and Phil Kinrade — themselves, each equipped with full-range monitoring systems and a wide range of vintage and cutting-edge high-end analogue and digital hardware and software processors, perfect for pursuing their sought-after craft. “We all react to what’s coming out of the speakers, and we make our judgements based on how that sounds in the room,” Matt Colton claimed, soon after receiving the coveted Music Producers Guild Mastering Engineer of the Year award in 2013.
As a full member, Barry Grint is no stranger to the MPG (Music Producers Guild) himself, representing them when working with the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) to create a standard for embedding the ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) within BWF (Broadcast Wave Format) audio, adopted by the main manufacturers of mastering software internationally. But back in the mastering hot seat within Mastering Two — Barry Grint’s mastering studio for digital, CD, and vinyl mastering at Alchemy Mastering — things get more personal. “The choice of equipment is a very personal thing,” its owner-occupier opines. “I was very happy with my monitor speakers, but they seemed to lack bass extension; Matt Colton has active ATC SCM150 ASL PROs in his room, so I thought that an ATC amp might give me more bass.”
Cue delivery of a P2 PRO Dual Mono Power Amplifier — a true dual mono design delivering 300W of continuous power simultaneously from both channels to drive the most challenging loudspeaker loads with ATC’s signature virtues of wide bandwidth and ultra-low distortion — on trial. The result? “The bass extension was great, but there was also a noticeable improvement overall — a smoothness that gave improved detail and clarity,” continues the seriously impressed Barry Grint. “The difference wasn’t subtle with the P2 PRO. I called Ben Lilly, Technical Sales Manager at ATC, and told him he couldn’t have the demo unit back until he had sent me the one I bought!”
Beneficiaries of this latest acquisition already encompasses a lengthening list of current and established artists alike, as Barry Grint reveals: “Remastering Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds, The Stranglers, Declan McKenna, Tom Odell, Sean Paul, Roger Waters; vinyl mastering for All Tvvins, Gorillaz, Laura Mvula, Little Mix, Radiohead, Rag’n’Bone Man, The Libertines, The Rolling Stones…”
So, yes, Barry Grint has witnessed a lot of industry changes in a celebrated career spanning five distinctive decades — not least the putative passing of vinyl into the annals of reproductive audio history only for it to triumphantly return relatively recently, as evidenced by Alchemy Mastering making a name for itself as one of the world’s leading lights in half-speed and pure analogue vinyl mastering: “When I started, people recorded in recording studios and mobile studios were big articulated lorries loaded with massive Neve, Cadac, or Trident desks and multitrack tape machines. Today, digital recording has made available amazing recording spaces. Sometimes this means that for some projects the mastering room is the only controlled listening environment, one where a good speaker/amp combination is vital. This is why we went with ATC.”
ATC P2 Pro Dual-Mono Power Amp
ATC P2 Dual-Mono Power Amp
SCM12 Pro & P1 Pro Review by Sound on Sound Magazine
Phil Ward, writing for Sound on Sound magazine, is the latest reviewer to discover the qualities that make ATC monitors and amplifiers invaluable tools in the studio environment. Here are just a few snippets of his detailed and comprehensive review.
“Finding a path through all the conflicting constraints when designing a monitor is akin to making the pieces of a jigsaw fit together, and when you get it right, everything snaps into focus. The SCM12 Pro had that from the very start.”
“The foundation of the SCM12 Pro is its low-frequency performance: typically closed-box with its lack of overhang and reassuring security of pitch, whatever the volume level, but with the added quality that comes from driver engineering that’s a level or two above run-of-the-mill and can play surprisingly loud.”
“As you can probably tell, I really like the SCM12 Pro. I think it’s a genuinely fine nearfield monitor, and given the relatively low price for the level of engineering involved, it is something of a bargain.”
Phil Ward, Sound on Sound Magazine, September 2017.
You can read the review in full on the Sound on Sound Website where you can also subscribe to both print and digital versions of the magazine.
SCM12 Pro Review by Audio Media International
BBC engineer, Alistair McGhee has reviewed the ATC SCM12 Pro for Audio Media International magazine.
Alistair concludes, “I have been massively impressed by the SCM 12 Pro – defying mere fashion it’s an evolutionary product from a firm that refuses to compromise engineering decisions for marketing acceptability. They are professional tools designed for a working studio environment. The finish is utilitarian but the sound extraordinary, and if you need compact monitors that tell the unvarnished truth about your audio, start here.”
To read the review in full please visit the Audio Media International website.
IT’S ATC MONITORING FOR ACCLAIMED PRODUCER AND MIX ENGINEER RICH COSTEY
Rich Costey is the Grammy Award-winning producer and mix engineer behind a massive discography of consequential indie/alternative albums spanning the last several decades. He is closely associated with Audioslave, Biffy Clyro, Bloc Party, Foo Fighters, Foster the People, Franz Ferdinand, Mastodon, Mew, Muse, My Chemical Romance, Rage Against the Machine, Santigold, and The Mars Volta, among many, many others. Costey’s career began with the legendary Phillip Glass at his Looking Glass Studios, but really took off when producer Rick Ruben recognized his talents. While striving to meet Ruben’s exacting expectations, Costey first recognized how well ATC monitors allowed him to build mixes that translated. He used ATCs for years before moving to New York City, where strange currents pulled him away from ATCs. After returning to Los Angeles two years ago Costey learned that ATC had recently added to its already impressive line with a model that would take care of his needs. Costey has been mixing on the ATC SCM45A Pro’s ever since. “It’s like returning home,” he said.
Costey’s sublime mixing on Fiona Apple’s platinum album When the Pawn… attracted the attention of Ruben in 1999, who then hired Costey to mix Audioslave’s self-titled debut in 2002. “Rick wasn’t coming into the studio,” Costey recalled. “Instead, I brought mixes to his home, and he listened back on his library’s hi-fi. He always listened at extreme volumes, and my mixes never sounded the same as they did in the studio. It was frustrating, so I hunted around for monitors that would allow me to predict the mixes on Rick’s system. Nothing worked until I tried the ATC SCM20PSL passive near-fields. I could listen to those at normal mixing volumes and still hear the details that Rick was going to hear on his system.” Costey later upgraded to the ATC SCM20ASL Pro active monitors and turned out a body of work that includes, Muse’s Absolution, Franz Ferdinand’s You Could Have It So Much Better, Weezer’s Make Believe, and Foo Fighters’ Pretender. (Again, among so, so many others.)
“I feel like everybody has different ears, and different monitors work for different people,” Costey said. “Monitor choice is deeply personal. As far as I’m concerned, I want something that is highly critical of the source material and something that translates reliably. The worst feeling is getting a good mix in the studio and hearing it fall apart in the car! Also, some monitors are more ‘fun’ than others, and I’ve never thought of ATC’s as particularly ‘fun.’ But that’s not why I use them. I use ATCs because they allow me to reliably work without having to second-guess my choices or go back to fix mistakes. ATCs make me more successful.”
That said, things got complicated for Costey when he relocated to New York City. “None of the studios I worked at had decent mains, and the 20s by themselves didn’t give me enough low end to work with,” he said. Through quirks of availability and friendships, Costey journeyed for many years from one monitor manufacturer to the next, never fully satisfied with what he was hearing. When he moved back to Los Angeles two years ago, Costey learned that the ATC line had grown to include mid-field loudspeakers that could give him the fidelity and bass response that he needed. “The ATC SCM45A Pros are really the perfect monitor,” he said. “The crossover is super smooth from top to bottom, and my mixes always translate perfectly.”
Costey recently completed the new Haim album using his ATC SCM45A Pros. “It was a really interesting process because the band and the producer really reflected on the songs as the mixes developed,” he said. “Then they’d record new ideas and bring them in for additional mixing. The content changed while I mixed it! It was challenging, but also a ton of fun.” Costey also appreciates that his ATCs can really “crank” when needed without really affecting the sound of the mix. “That’s useful when I’m wearing my producer hat and want to really inspire the band,” he said. “The ATCs really hang together and present an honest picture at any volume.”
ATC SCM45A Pro Product Page
Rich Costey’s Website
JOHN RODD SCORES BIG TIME WITH ATC SCM150s FOR HIT MOVIE GET OUT AND THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER’S HEROES AND LEGENDS
Renowned music recording, mixing, and mastering engineer John Rodd works on a wide variety of projects from blockbuster movies to television (Breaking Bad) to video games (World of Warcraft, Overwatch, EA Star Wars: Battlefront, Call of Duty: Black Ops II). Rodd’s versatility as an engineer is showcased on a diverse range of projects, including huge orchestral scores, rock, electronica, jazz, and classical. His recent work includes the score albums for Better Call Saul and Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and the chart-topping #1 classical album Stars Are Rising for soprano Joanna Forest.
Rodd had to bring all of his skills to bear, along with the fatigue-free and translation-assured performance of his LCR set of ATC SCM150ASL three-way monitors, to mix composer Michael Abels’ eclectic film score for the hit social thriller Get Out and composer Penka Kouneva’s inspiring score for NASA’s unique Heroes and Legends 4-D experience at the Kennedy Space Center.
Working with Abels was a great experience for Rodd. He noted that “Michael’s score covered a ton of ground – live orchestra, Swahili group vocals, diverse percussion, solo cello, harp, and unique synth sounds. It’s really far from a traditional thriller score, and Michael deserves all the praise he’s received for writing something that works so well with the movie.” But working with a new film director meant working within budgetary constraints. This meant a very tight schedule to mix the movie’s 45 eclectic score cues. Rodd had to deliver ten separate 5.1 score stem mixes, the full 5.1 score mix, and a stereo fold-down for the soundtrack album, thus delivering a 68 audio track wide score mix for every piece of music!
“I’ve had the privilege of recording and mixing music all over the world at some of the greatest studios on their high-end monitoring systems,” Rodd said. “Given that perspective, I’m grateful to have the brutal honesty of the ATC monitors at my own studio, Clearstory Sound. They have tremendous definition and clarity across the entire range, and they really allow me to hear what’s going on so that I can make sure no elements are masking other important elements. My goal is to give each instrument its own sonic space in terms of frequency, panning, fader moves, and overall placement, while having them all work together at the same time. If something is harsh or woofy or boxy, I know it right away. I’m not second-guessing, ever. The ATCs allow me to work very quickly and confidently, which was a huge asset given the time constraints for Get Out.”
Those long days held the potential for ear fatigue, but Rodd claims the ATCs protect him from that pitfall as well: “It seems like a lot of other loudspeaker manufacturers turn up the brightness to give you detail, and I think that can get fatiguing. The ATCs, however, give me tons of detail without the top-end hype, which allows me to put in really long days of consistently solid work.” When mixing 5.1, Rodd uses his three ATC SCM150ASLs for a left-center-right system together with a revolving cast of surround speakers depending on the nature of the project.
Rodd’s other recent project, Penka Kouneva’s score for the Heroes and Legends 4-D experience at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, offered up a different sort of challenge than the traditional film score. The experience takes visitors through the history of the space program in a way that captures and conveys the excitement and emotion of that history. In addition to the immersive visuals on giant, curved screens and audio that can literally shake visitors to their core, the experience includes holograms, wind effects, scent effects, and other surprising 4-D elements spread across numerous theaters.
For Rodd, “It was a very complex mix due to the elaborate nature of Penka’s awesome hybrid score. It used a massive live orchestra along with many live solos, tons of synths, guitars, percussion, pads, arpeggiators, drums, and sub-bass musical effects. She really captured the spirit of the experience and gave it a timeless yet modern theatrical feel. I leaned heavily on my ATCs to let me know when things were right. I knew that if my mix sounded fantastic on the ATCs, it would sound the same in NASA’s theaters.”
ATC Announce ProLyd AS official Norwegian Professional Distributor
2nd May 2017, Stroud, UK:
With immediate effect, ATC is very pleased to announce the appointment of ProLyd AS. as their official professional product distributor for Norway. ProLyd will handle ATC’s full professional product line from the smallest SCM12 Pro nearfield monitor through to the largest SCM300ASL Pro main monitor and including ATC’s range of professional electronics.
“It gives us great pleasure to appoint ProLyd as our new distributor for the Norwegian market,” states, Ben Lilly, ATC Sales Manager, “their experience, technical ability and customer base was an outstanding fit for ATC and we look forward to working with them.”
Established in 1996, ProLyd has grown to become one of the leading companies for the design, supply and installation of professional audio equipment in Norway. Operating from their base in Oslo, ProLyd supply clients in a wide range of categories including music recording & production, postproduction, broadcast, live sound and education.
ProLyd AS. Mølleparken 4, 0459 OSLO
T: +47 23 19 96 00
Synth whizz Will Gregory gears up to take new Goldfrapp album to the masses with ATC assistance
“What’s good about the SCM25A Pros is that they’re more muscular; they’ve got more bass end, and you can control that… they manage to throw the sweet spot quite a long way into the room, so everyone can share it… but they have all that accuracy, so when you do sit yourself down in the sweet spot they’re absolutely invaluable.” – Will Gregory (composer/keyboardist/producer), 2017.
BOX HILL, WILTS, UK: specialist British loudspeaker drive unit and complete sound reproduction system manufacturer ATC is proud to announce that Goldfrapp synth whizz Will Gregory turned to London based ATC dealer Funky Junk to supplement his trusty Nineties-vintage SCM20 passive monitors with an altogether more modern SCM25A Pro three-way active studio pairing, promptly put to good use when working on the multiple Grammy®-nominated British electronic duo’s recently released seventh studio album, Silver Eye…
But before finding critical acclaim and international chart success with vocalist Alison Goldfrapp — Supernature sold over one million copies as Goldfrapp’s third album (featuring striking smash hit ‘Ooh La La’), the Bristol-born multi-talented composer, keyboardist, and producer predominantly recorded and toured throughout the Eighties with Bath-based rock/pop phenomenon Tears For Fears and later performed with other big name ‘local’ acts, including singer-songwriter/humanitarian activist Peter Gabriel and trip-hop pioneers Portishead. It was around this time that Will Gregory began a lifelong love affair with those trusty two-way passives, playing their part in putting him on the road to Goldfrapp glory. “I managed to source a second-hand pair of SCM20s, because I didn’t have a lot of money at the time,” he begins. “But I’ve always used them as my main reference monitors, and I’ve taken them to all the mixing sessions we’ve done with Goldfrapp. I know where I am with them, so they’ve stood me in good stead, because they have this quality of not bringing anything to the party.”
Problems have, however, occurred — albeit as far as Will Gregory’s well-honed listening skills are concerned — when stepping outside his ATC comfort zone: “I’ve had to mix on other speakers when working elsewhere, but then when I play those mixes back on the SCM20s I end up making more changes — put it that way. Whatever else I play them on after I’ve made those changes, I don’t want to make any more changes, so — in that sense — you can trust them to be accurate.”
All of which rather begs the question: why the need to move on up to ATC’s acclaimed SCM25A Pro three-way actives? An answer lies somewhat closer to home. Home is where the heart is, after all, and home for Will Gregory is a spacious Sixties bungalow also housing his primary studio setup (as well as a synth-based room and another room dedicated to analogue drum sounds and tape manipulation). Here he hunkered down for the best part of two years to work on the new Goldfrapp album, announced on Twitter by Alison Goldfrapp herself back in July 2015. While Will Gregory has not entirely forsaken his passive pair of beloved SCM20s, the larger SCM25A Pro three-way active studio monitors met with his approval in more ways than one: “What’s good about the SCM25A Pros is that they’re more muscular; they’ve got more bass end, and you can control that because they’ve got ports on the side, so you can decide how much or little you want, which is great. I love the totally practical, physical way that you can just remove or insert the bungs to change the bass, but, either way, they fill the room much better than the SCM20s.”
Tricky as it may sound, residential room size played a part in influencing Will Gregory’s studious SCM25A Pro purchasing decision. “I’m in quite a big room now,” notes its owner, adding: “I’m here a lot of the time, so it functions like a home. I think they used to have more room in the Sixties, so it’s got this large sitting room with a lovely picture window, which means you can see some nature while working. So I love it from that point of view, having spent so many years underground, which is where musicians seem to put themselves a lot the time in studios for some strange reason. But because we’re detached here, we’re not going to disturb our neighbours unduly, so it’s ideal. But when I’m working with other people in there we clearly can’t all fit in the sweet spot between the speakers, yet they manage to throw the sweet spot quite a long way into the room, so everyone can share it. They’re also fantastic for just ramping up the vibe a little bit, but they have all that accuracy, so when you do sit yourself down in the sweet spot they’re absolutely invaluable.”
Invaluable for referencing that all-important bass end on Goldfrapp’s eagerly-awaited seventh studio album, about which the dynamic duo themselves collectively commented: “Silver Eye belongs more to the electronic world of Supernature and Black Cherry. We’ve worked with some fantastic people on this album and we’re really excited to share it with you.”
SCM25A Product Page
Will Gregory Moog Ensemble
GREEN DAY AND CHRIS DUGAN OUTFIT NEW STUDIO WITH ATC SCM45s AND SUBWOOFER PROS FOR REVOLUTION RADIO
As the legendary five-time Grammy-winning punk rock trio Green Day filled out a project studio in anticipation of recording its twelfth studio album, their longtime engineer, Chris Dugan (U2, Iggy Pop, Smash Mouth), collaborated on the equipment choices. They filled it with their favorites, including API, BAE, Manley, Vintech, Universal Audio, Chandler preamps and equalizers, and a Trident 80b console. When it came time to decide on monitors, Dugan recommended ATC SCM45A Pro nearfields paired with two Subwoofer Pros Studio 18’s, following his success with his own pair of ATC SCM25A Pro monitors. As a result, “Green Day’s recently released recording, Revolution Radio was recorded entirely on the ATC/Subwoofer Pros system. The system was sold to Dugan and Green Day by their long-term supplier, Cutting Edge Audio and Video, San Francisco.
“We had been demoing some songs the band had been working on, and as we made the transition to recording for the album, I suggested that we consider upping the monitoring in Green Day’s project studio,” Dugan said. “We agreed that it made sense to go to the top of the line so that we would know that we’re doing exactly what we hope we’re doing for this big recording project. I have a pair of ATC SCM25As, and I heard the SCM45As at AES last year. I knew they would give us the kind of precision monitoring that we needed, and Brad Lunde at TransAudio Group helped us complement the ATCs with two Subwoofer Pros subs.”
He continued, “They were exactly what we were hoping for; we were able to hear absolutely everything. When I’m talking to my non-audio friends, I tell them that monitors are like prescription glasses: you can’t really discern the details without a good pair. Bad monitors hide various aspects of the sound, and it’s those aspects that poke out in weird ways when you listen back on another system. In contrast, the ATCs reveal everything. The Subwoofer Pros subs fill in the bottom end nicely, which gave us a more inspiring playback – the full frequency impact was impressive!”
JOE CHICCARELLI SCORES WITH ATC SCM45A PRO MONITORS
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 2016: With Ten Grammy wins, including Best Engineered Album for The Raconteurs Consolers of the Lonely and scores of platinum and gold albums, Joe Chiccarelli has made good on the famous opportunity Frank Zappa gave him during the recording of “Sheik Yerbouti” – among Zappa’s best-selling albums ever. When the head engineer couldn’t make the session, Zappa promoted then-assistant engineer Chiccarelli to take the lead.
Joe Chiccarelli at Sunset Sound with his ATC SCM45A Pro.
Since then, Chiccarelli has had the opportunity to work with the biggest and best artists in the music industry, including U2, Beck, Elton John, Rufus Wainwright, Tori Amos, The Strokes, Jason Mraz, The White Stripes, and on and on and on. Inspired by their transparent midrange, extended low- and high-end, and impressive SPLs, Chiccarelli recently switched from the monitors he had been using for two decades to ATC SCM45A Pro nearfields.
“I had stuck by the same monitors for twenty years because they offered the kind of phase coherence that allowed me to hear, for example, small differences in mic position,” explained Chiccarelli. “But in the last five years or so, I started looking around for something that would give me that same phase coherence, but greater low-end and high-end content to meet the current expectations in the recording industry. People are making bigger, punchier albums these days, with an extended frequency range and plenty of synthesized sounds with extreme frequency content. For a long time, it was an unsuccessful search, and I stayed with my old monitors.”
He continued, “But then I was working with The Killers at their studio in Las Vegas, and Brad (Lunde, president of ATC’s U.S. distributor, TransAudio Group) loaned me a pair of ATC SCM25A loudspeakers. We were doing guitar overdubs at the time, and the moment we put the SCM25As up, I heard details that went beyond the capabilities of my old monitors. It was immediately apparent that I had to go move the mic a quarter inch because it wasn’t quite right where it was. That’s the kind of fine detail that I depend on to make the right decisions.” Keen for more low end than the SCM25As could offer, Chiccarelli waited – on the advice of Lunde – for the introduction of the ATC SCM45As, which have two low-end drivers.
In the year-and-a-half that he’s had them, Chiccarelli has used them to record, mix, and/or produce Morrissey, Alanis Morissette, Arkells, Needtobreathe, Milow, Spoon… “pretty much everything I’ve done,” he said. “Recently I’ve been traveling to Montréal to work on a project with Broken Social Scene, and after I finished pretending that I could get by without my ATCs, Brad stepped in to help me find a local pair that I could use. It’s really the midrange for me – that’s the tell. Plenty of monitors can impress with their low end or high end, but the midrange is where most of the critical work happens. I think that’s why engineers used to rely so heavily on Auratones, Altecs, and JBLs – speakers that had that clarity in the midrange. New speakers, with the exception of ATCs, are missing that. And truth be told, ATCs take that midrange clarity to a whole new level – this is something new under the sun.”
Not only do the ATC SCM45As sound great and produce recordings that reliably translate, they also produce plenty of clean volume. “That’s important,” Chiccarelli states. “I do a lot of live tracking sessions with full bands – it’s not just about the vocal. I want the band to come back into the control room and get excited about the work they’re doing. I want it to be big and powerful and to reflect who they are as artists. It’s an impressive psychological advantage that feeds back to inspire better recordings. My SCM45As practically sound like soffit-mounted mains!”
Chiccarelli is so reliant on and impressed by the ATC SCM45A Pro that he recently purchased a second pair for a new overdub room that he opened up in his home-away-from-home, Sunset Sound.
SCM45A Pro Product Page.
Transaudio Group (ATC U.S. Distribution).