Artist Spotlight: Luke Howard
Australian Music Prize twice-long-listed composer Luke Howard has been described as “absolutely heavenly” (Mary Anne Hobbs, BBC Radio 6) and his music as “an ambient masterclass” (Musos’ Guide), but no words can fully capture the potency of Howard’s enthralling compositions. A pianist since childhood, Howard has scored films and performed with artists as diverse as Lior and Jeff Mills, capturing audiences with contemporary classical arrangements that curl and twist around the boundaries of a particular emotion. Though wordless, Howard’s songs perform a function unique to music as a medium – that of evoking without describing, bringing listeners to a feeling which defies articulating.
Back home in Melbourne, Howard recently composed music for the short film The Sand That Ate The Sea (nominated for best soundtrack in the 2019 ARIA Awards) and the theatre work The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes (Back To Back Theatre). He has worked with choreographer, Juliano Nunes on pieces for the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden, and the Atlanta Ballet.
Howard is one of Australia’s foremost practitioners of contemporary classical music whose work continues to captivate audiences worldwide.
ATC caught up with Luke back in May, to find out a little more about how it all began, how he works in the studio and his experiences playing live….
ATC: Can you tell us a little about how your background and how your career in music began?
L.H: It’s probably not an uncommon story – I learned piano as a child at my parent’s suggestion – and I’ve just kept going. I suspect persistence is likely the real secret to a career in the arts. Of course, the story is a bit more nuanced: I studied jazz and improvisation at university as I enjoyed making things up, and didn’t have the technique nor repertoire to be a concert pianist. Much of my twenties and some of my thirties I oscillated between being a jobbing jazz pianist and a software developer, but in the past few years I’ve focused mostly on composition. I miss playing the piano as much as I used to, but I feel I can address bigger ideas, instrumentation, etc. as a composer. In a way, I’m just chasing the sentiment I first felt when I heard, say, Keith Jarrett. Trying to recreate that.
ATC: ATC’s founder, Chairman and fellow Australian, Billy Woodman has a great passion for jazz and has played piano from an early age, even covering the cost of his journey from Australia to England by backing a singer onboard the boat that he travelled on. One of his great influences, and all-time favourite pianists is the late great, Bill Evans. Which musicians have had a strong influence on you and your music?
L.H: Well, Bill Evans of course is an influence, but I think in my study of jazz piano I looked both before and after – I transcribed many Bud Powell solos, and then spent a good few years on a diet of Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau. They really define the language of modern jazz piano. The sadly departed pianists Lyle Mays and John Taylor were also huge influences, and aesthetically much more aligned with the music I make today. This of course is just a very narrow jazz piano lens – there’s much more music I love, including the artists I’ve mentioned so far, along with Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Blue Nile, I could go on for days…
ATC: Piano is your primary instrument, but do you have any other instruments you are particularly fond of, both acoustic and electronic?
L.H: I am fond of many instruments, but I can’t play any of them save the piano (I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to play the French Horn and oboe by now). I have a small cadre (which Google informs me is actually a tautology) of musicians I use on almost every record: effectively a jazz rhythm section, with guitar and violin, but used in more creative ways. So I love those textures. And, really, string orchestra is still my favourite ‘instrument’ for its emotional depth. I do look forward to the time when it will be possible to record with one again.
ATC: You incorporate electronic instruments and programming in your compositions. Is this an area of music you have been interested in for a long time or, a more recent development?
L.H: I’m a definite nerd but I’ve usually kept the two worlds fairly separate. I have been using synthesisers since I was a high school student thanks to some particularly forward-looking education programs in Australia (electronic music was offered as instrumental subject at my school). I’ve been reading audio magazines since approximately 1987 when my Dad bought me an issue of the now defunct Music Technology! As a jazz musician I didn’t listen to a whole heap of electronic music until recently, but I have been particularly inspired by how artists such as Nils Frahm, Jon Hopkins, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, et al. have integrated acoustic and electronic elements.
ATC: Could you give us an overview of your studio setup?
L.H: I work mostly ‘in the box’, I have a few nice bits of outboard but beyond the things necessary to actually get the music into the computer in the first place, that doesn’t see a great deal of use. So what really matters are the room and the speakers. My room was designed by Adelaide acoustician Chris Morton. I have a very beautiful desk (of the non-mixing sort) designed by my friend, Thomas Jouanjean of Northward Acoustics. My speakers are a pair of ATC SCM50ASLs (fed by a Cranesong Solaris DAC), which to me are a perfect combination of musicality and truthfulness; not fatiguing to listen to for long periods, not flattering, but also not so clinical one doesn’t feel inspired. My piano is a Yamaha upright, nothing particularly extraordinary but one which records quite well. I’m a bit of a collector of reverbs and tape delays, too.
ATC: When you are in the studio, do you have a pretty structured process you like to follow when recording and do you have a favorite place to record?
L.H: I do a lot of recording at my own studio now, so I tend to record rough ideas on the piano, then work and edit them in the computer, and then re-record them if the original version wasn’t up to scratch. It depends on the piece: an orchestral piece might start as an improvisation on the piano or the computer, but most of the work will be done in notation, and it doesn’t really exist in a tangible form until it’s been performed. Other pieces I’ve improvised on the piano have ended up on the record with very little editing.
Regarding a favourite place to record: I loved recording at Rainbow Studio in Oslo when Jan Erik Kongshaug was alive…but it wouldn’t be the same without him. Again, it really depends on the composition, but I learned the lesson early that acoustic instruments need good rooms, and it’s a lot easier to bring recording equipment to a great sounding room, than a good acoustic to a poor studio. High land prices have forced the closure of many studios here and elsewhere, so nowadays we are usually recording ensembles in a concert venue, and solo instruments in smaller spaces. One of my favourite released albums, Ten Sails, was recorded in a Berlin apartment. Good music recorded in a less than ideal room will always trump the converse, but great music in a great room is ideal!
ATC: Are there any technologies that have had a particularly strong influence on your ‘sound’?
L.H: Most of the music I make has an acoustic genesis, using instruments which haven’t changed for hundreds of years. I am fond of treating sounds using delays, reverbs, etc. but I’m fairly certain I’m using exactly the same tools as everyone else, and I arrived at a ‘sound’ simply through experimenting with them. I love a beautifully recorded Steinway just as much as an upright piano with some felt draped between the hammers and strings (I’ve actually been using a distinctly Australian cleaning cloth – Chux – as a replacement for felt of late!). I did buy a Prophet 6 synth a couple of years ago, which I’m slowly getting to know, so you might hear more of that on the next album.
ATC: I read that you performed live as part of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra alongside iconic techno artists Jeff Mills and Derrick May. On paper, an unlikely musical combination! but can tell us a little about how that came about and the experience?
L.H: Well, my name must be somewhere on a list of casual musicians as the Melbourne Symphony calls me occasionally when they need someone who can both read music and improvise. It was an interesting gig, certainly a lot of fun but the nature of amplifying an orchestra means that I couldn’t hear what Jeff and Derrick were doing too clearly. I do have a good story from that gig though, which might also explain why I haven’t heard from them since: I had a long solo feature just before the final song Strings of Life, and as I took a bow for this, my earpiece (with the click track) fell out. By the time I got it back in, I didn’t know where in the bar I was, let alone which bar! It was a pretty excruciating moment in front of many thousands of people – suffice to say when the gig ended I snuck away very quietly. To this day I’m not sure if anyone in the audience noticed, but the conductor certainly did!
ATC: Many people have had more time on their hands the past few months and are listing to more music and/or are looking for new artists and sounds to explore. Can you recommend three artists or albums that you have been enjoying recently?
L.H: I often go back to Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. It’s a perfect record. Keaton Henson’s Six Lethargies is a beauty. Other favourite artists to check out that your readers may not have heard of are Bing & Ruth, Ben Lukas Boysen, Marty Hicks and Hania Rani.
Quick plug! – a new live record of solo piano music, All That Is Not Solid, releases 30th July on Mercury KX (Decca/Universal). It was recorded in January this year, at the height of the Victoria bushfires. Listen to the track Passions of All Kinds here. I also recently released a book of sheet music which is available here.
Luke Howard: Website – Instagram – Facebook – Spotify – Tidal – Qobuz
Hit Producer Fraser T. Smith Monitors with ATC
Producer, Songwriter and Musician, Fraser T. Smith has upgraded the monitoring at his Buckinghamshire studio with the addition of a pair of ATC SCM110ASL Pro 3-way monitors, and complimentary ATC 15″ subwoofer.
Smith’s career in music began in the 90s as a guitarist, before progressing to be an in-demand session player and eventually into a role focused on production and writing. Since then he has worked with or written for Adele, Sam Smith, Kano, Ellie Goulding and Stormzy to name but a few.
Discussing the new monitoring system, which was supplied as part of a larger studio upgrade by Kazbar Systems and Studiocare, “Designing my new studio, I wanted a pair of main monitors which could deliver punch, excitement, and low-end vibe for production and tracking, whilst still retaining absolute accuracy for mixing and critical listening. I tried a lot of options, and the ATC SCM110’s we’re far and away the most perfect. I couldn’t be happier.“
Smith has co-written, mixed and produced 7 Number One singles in the UK, 2 Billboard Number One singles in the US, and contributed to 18 Number 1 albums, collecting Grammy and Ivor Novello awards along the way. Most recently, he achieved great success in 2019 with UK rapper, Dave, co-exec. producing his debut album, ‘Psychodrama’. The album went to Number 1 on the UK Albums Chart, received widespread acclaim from critics and won the 2019 Mercury Prize.
Fraser T. Smith Website – Wikipedia – Instagram – Twitter
Kazbar Systems – Studiocare
New Album Release – Gemma Sherry ‘Songs I Love’ – Featuring Billy Woodman
In music, timing is everything. The same could be said about the making of the album “Songs I Love”. ATC founder, Billy Woodman, an accomplished pianist and arranger, originally from Australia knew his relative, Gemma Sherry was into Jazz but it wasn’t until recently that their musical lives coincided.
In his early 20’s Billy made his way to England from Australia as a pianist on a cruise ship. This was followed by many years of touring and performing with some of the biggest name vocalists in England. Gemma, who is from a small town in outback Australia, started off playing saxophone in numerous jazz bands. After being accepted into music school she moved to New York City to study Jazz singing.
Gemma and Billy’s first musical encounter was when she was a teenager and during one of Billy’s trips back to Australia to visit his family, however it would be another 10 years before they began discussing the idea of making an album together. The original concept was to capture all of the musical talent in the family by including Gemma’s brother Jacob Sherry, an accomplished bassist. However with the family split between Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. this was very difficult and it wasn’t until 2019 that Gemma was able to sit down with Billy and bass player, Mike Waite to record a full album at Yellow Shark Recording Studios in Cheltenham, England, with none other than award winning New Zealand born engineer Clint Murphy behind the mixing desk.
This inspiration for this album was to showcase some of the most beautiful jazz songs that have ever been written. Billy & Gemma both have the same approach in that they believe the songs should be allowed to speak for themselves. It’s the subtlety in the music that shines and you can hear that from both Billy’s playing and Gemma’s singing. Their treatment of the melody and chords is with care and thought. Billy’s arrangement of all the songs shows his deep love for piano voicings and getting them, ‘just right’. He is an absolute perfectionist and you can hear that. Even if you didn’t know they were related, it’s hard to miss the effortless musical connection between Billy and Gemma as you listen to the album. There is such an understanding between the both of them. It also helped that Billy and Mike Waite have been playing together for over 20 years, having weekly jam sessions and rehearsals.
With a wide range of influences including legends such as Bill Evans, Kenny Barron, Blossom Dearie and Astrud Gilberto, the album ”Songs I Love” is a treasure.
The album was mastered by Ryan Smith at the new Sterling Sound facility in Nashville, TN, USA who employ ATC monitoring throughout their new facilities.
The album is available now from Gemma’s Bandcamp page. If you would like information on upcoming gigs, please visit www.gemmasherry.com
Clint Murphy Productions. Yellow Shark Studios. Sterling Sound Mastering.
MUSCLE SHOALS LEGENDARY FAME STUDIOS REVITALIZES STUDIO B STARTING WITH ATC MONITORS
MUSCLE SHOALS, ALABAMA – OCTOBER 2019: Built in the 1960s by Rick Hall, FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama was the first and most prominent studio to curate the Muscle Shoals Sound, a unique and ultimately ineffable combination of country, gospel, rock, and soul. Listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. FAME Studios recorded hits by Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Gregg Allman, and countless others who shaped the face of modern music. It has been in continuous service since it opened, with modern recordings by Jason Isbell, Blind Boys of Alabama, Alison Krauss, The Revialists, Keb Mo’, Demi Lovato, Steven Tyler, the Raconteurs, and Alicia Keys. FAME operations are handled by Rodney Hall, who recently teamed up with Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer Glenn Rosenstein to revitalize the control room of FAME Studio B (paired with a live room that Rosenstein considers one the best in the world) with structural changes, new equipment, and a pair of ATC SCM45A monitors.
“I was deeply influenced by the music that came out of Muscle Shoals,” recalled Rosenstein, who has worked with U2, George Clinton, The Ramones, Madonna, James Brown, Talking Heads, and others. “So, I was thrilled in the mid-1980s to get a call from the late Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section member Jimmy Johnson. He was producing an album for Lynyrd Skynyrd and asked if I would mix. We finished that project and shortly thereafter teamed up on Gary Rossington’s solo album, which cemented our friendship. We worked together over the past thirty-plus years, and recently I started spending more time in the Shoals area. When I needed to track drums or do other ‘big studio’ tasks, I went to FAME Studios and fell in love with the live room in Studio B.”
Rick Hall built Studio B in 1967 due to the overwhelming demand for Studio A. Early incarnations of what would become The Allman Brothers Band put Studio B through its paces immediately after its completion. During large Studio A sessions, Rick would record the horn arrangements in Studio B while other elements were recorded in Studio A. Hits recorded in Studio B include “Hey Joe” by Wilson Pickett, “Greenwood Mississippi” by Little Richard, “I Loved Her First” by Heartland, Sirens Of The Ditch album by Jason Isbell and Dirty South album by the Drive By Truckers. Studio B also hosted Jimi Hendrix, who recorded the song “Mojo Man” there. The song was released a year ago as part of the Jimi Hendrix People, Angels & Hell retrospective project.
In an illustrious career spanning nearly four decades, Rosenstein has worked in almost every major recording studio in the country. “FAME’s Studio B is one of the finest live rooms anywhere,” he said. “I discovered this about a year-and-a-half ago, when I was cutting vocals in B with Whitney Woerz for my record label, 600 Volt/Sony. Rodney [Hall] dropped in, I told him I was getting some of the best vocal sounds I had ever heard, despite the fact that the control room equipment was average. How was this gem of a studio not being used more frequently?”
Despite the fact that Rosenstein has a studio in Nashville and two home studios near Muscle Shoals, he felt compelled to partner with Rodney Hall & FAME to help bring Studio B to the glory it deserved. “The control room was small and needed to be refreshed,” he said. “Its original UA console had been loaned to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and there was a control surface in its place. The next thing I knew, Rodney and I were pulling down walls to expand the size of the control room. We contacted Paul Savasta at Odyssey Pro Sound to broker our console purchase – he found us Stevie Ray Vaughan’s SSL 6000 E Series. We are in the process of restoring the original UA console to serve as a side car. Most importantly, we didn’t touch the live room”
He continued, “It was like archeology, pulling off walls that had been built on top of walls. Many of the surfaces hadn’t been exposed in over fifty years. There were a lot of smart design elements that we used to our advantage, and the room now competes with the best of modern acoustic design.” Rodney Hall added, “I’ve had people ask, ‘what would your dad think of this renovation?’ I’m sure he’d love it! He was always changing things, always updating equipment and aesthetics. We even outfitted a private lounge attached to the control room that had previously been a tape vault. So, it’s got a really cool vibe. You can hang out in there with the Otis Redding masters.”
The choice of ATC SCM45A monitors was not a difficult one for the team. “I’ve used virtually every high-end monitor available, and ATCs always speak to me,” Rosenstein said. “In this room, we’re treading lightly on the shoulders of greatness – if we’re going to equip the studio with the kind of gear that represents that kind of legacy, then ATC was a natural choice. I know that ATCs are an amazing draw that make a clear statement about the caliber of this room. Moreover, we were careful not to pigeonhole Studio B in any particular genre. We wanted a fully-modern room capable of delivering on the Muscle Shoals sound, sure, but also on anything else – EDM, pop, country, you name it. ATCs cut across genres because they reveal a true picture of the work.”
He concluded, “To go from a young fan of the Muscle Shoals sound… to now having some partnership in its most iconic studio… I never would have guessed that would be possible. But here we are, and here we go!”
ATC products are distributed in the U.S.A. by Transaudio Group.
NAMM SPECIAL: EXPERIENCE DOLBY ATMOS MUSIC WITH TRANSAUDIO & ATC
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JANUARY 2020: TransAudio Group, U.S. distributor of ATC and a full line of high-end professional recording equipment, will show a Dolby Atmos Music playback system at Winter NAMM 2020 in Booth #14914. This will be a smaller version of its wildly successful Summer NAMM 2019 Dolby Atmos Music demo held at Blackbird Studios, Nashville. Dolby Atmos Music is a next-generation immersive audio experience that takes music far beyond traditional “surround” that includes 3-D spatial information to bring the listener into the music itself. TransAudio Group has supplied Dolby with ATC loudspeakers applied to Atmos for its San Francisco Market Street headquarters and other multi-channel Dolby executive listening rooms. Now TransAudio will set up an all ATC monitor system at NAMM 2020 for visitors to experience Dolby Atmos Music for the first time. With support from Universal Music Group, Netflix, Amazon, and others, Atmos Music is poised to create a new standard in music playback for listeners around the world. The all ATC 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos Music system at Winter NAMM will also use a new, in-development product from Latch Lake Music, a free-standing, high speaker stand to support the eight to nine foot “height” speakers. This system is designed for Atmos Music playback, suitable for mixing, production, or a very high-end personal listening system.
In addition to the Dolby Atmos demo, TransAudio Group will also have a traditional stereo setup demonstrating ATC SCM25A and SCM45A monitors.
AirHush acoustic isolation panels will form the 350 square-foot demo room with nine-foot walls, and TransAudio Group will take groups of attendees in for a prepared demo experience. Three ATC SCM110ASL monitors will comprise the front LCR channels, four ATC SCM25A monitors will comprise the side/surround channels, and four ATC SCM12i monitors will comprise the overhead height channels. Two ATC SCM0.1/15SL 15-inch subwoofers will handle the LFE channel. One of the current challenges in a Dolby Atmos or other multichannel music production system is that the overhead height speakers need to be installed or mounted. To overcome this, TransAudio Group worked with Latch Lake to develop a prototype free-standing speaker stand for the overhead height channel SCM12i speakers.
“Very few people have had a chance to hear music specifically mixed for Dolby Atmos or other multi-channel immersive formats, much less at the high resolution we achieve with ATC monitors,” said Brad Lunde, founder and president of TransAudio Group. “We’re excited to provide this new and unique experience for visitors at NAMM, and we’re pleased that the setup will simultaneously demo AirHush sound isolation technology and portable, non-permanent ways of building multichannel systems using Latch Lake technology. Our ability to provide these smaller non-permanent systems will allow professionals and artists to work in Atmos and other formats much more easily than before.”
Demos at NAMM will be held on a first come, first serve basis.
SIX-TIME GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING MIX ENGINEER KEN “DURO” IFILL SWITCHES TO ATC SCM45A NEARFIELD MONITORS
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 2019: For over 25 years, Ken “Duro” Ifill has been mixing the living history of urban hip-hop and R&B. His client list includes Jay-Z, NAS, Pharrell, Erykah Badu, Will Smith, Beastie Boys, Usher, and on and on, and through a singular focus on making everything he works on as cool as possible, he has won six Grammy Awards. These days, Duro splits his time between the studio, where he still engages his first and enduring passion (mixing!) and Senior VP of A&R at Republic/Universal Records. After twenty years on the same monitors and two years in dissatisfied flux, Duro recently upgraded to ATC SCM45A three-way nearfield monitors.
“I discovered ATC working at Q-Tip’s studio (A Tribe Called Quest),” Duro explained. “He had a pair of soffit-mounted ATC SCM150ASL Pros and some other well-respected nearfields. The first thing I fell in love with on his ATCs was the imaging. As a mix engineer, I don’t think of things as just left or right. I think in three dimensions, which makes imaging especially important. I’ll put things, say, to the left-rear or center-up. Even beyond that, I’m thinking in actual depth. Say, for example, is something three feet back on the left or is it six feet back? I quickly stopped using Q-Tip’s nearfields entirely and just mixed everything on the ATCs. I loved how the volume didn’t affect the mix. I could mix quiet or loud and still have the same stable relationships and all the bass information. The top end was smooth and not at all fatiguing. It was a really enjoyable and productive mixing experience.”
Around the same time, Duro was acquainting himself with a new set of nearfields in his own studio that he had committed to before the Q-Tip ATC experience. They came after two decades on the same monitors. “I was having reliability issues with my new nearfields, but because I had made a pretty sizable investment in them, I wasn’t ready to abandon ship,” Duro said. “Then I went back to Q-Tip’s studio and he had upgraded to the biggest monitors that ATC makes – soffit-mounted mains with dual 15s (ATC SCM300ASL Pros)! I said, ‘man, you must really love these things!’ When I got back to my studio and still had the same unresolved reliability issues, I said forget it. I decided to just get the ATCs that I was wanting.”
Based on the size of the nearfields he has always preferred mixing on, Duro went with the ATC SCM45A three-way monitors, which use two 6.5-inch low frequency drivers, a three-inch soft dome mid-frequency driver, and a one-inch high-frequency driver. Although he has only had them for a short time, Duro already completed Kiana Ledé EP Myself using the ATC SCM45As. “The translation on the ATCs is great,” he said. “But even beyond the balance between the instruments, the more nuanced texture of the sounds translates. The same way that two vocalists can hit the same note and still sound different… it’s kind of analogous to what I’m talking about.” That translation of texture allows Duro to reliably mix not just for balance, but also for the emotional edge that separates a good mix from a fantastic mix. Thoroughly pleased, Duro is convinced he now has the monitors that will see him through the decades to come. A huge thanks go out to Dan Physics at Alto Music in New York who was instrumental in his quest to acquire the ATCs.
IN-DEMAND RECORDING AND MIXING ENGINEER MICHAEL ASHBY USES ATC SCM25A TO MAKE RISKY MOVES WITH CONFIDENCE
Michael Ashby is a young recording and mix engineer with an incredible work ethic who has taken the blessing of great sonic instincts and leveraged it with dedicated study at New York City’s SAE Institute. After just a decade behind the console, Ashby has five Platinum albums to his name, was twice nominated for a Grammy Award, and was nominated for “Recording Engineer of the Year” by the Pensado’s Place Academy. His highest-profile clients include Cardi B, Latoya Jackson, Fetty Wap, Zoey Dollar, and Offset, but Ashby’s passion for music and aptitude for recording and mixing have earned him a client list that numbers four-hundred strong. Ashby operates out of his own Krematorium Studios in New York City, where he recently upgraded to a pair of SCM25A Pro compact three-way monitors. The new ATCs let him make risky moves with confidence and create mixes that reliably translate whether he’s mixing alone at a reasonable volume or in a room full of excited clients at a loud (i.e. less-than-reasonable) volume.
“I started out as a drummer, but I was lucky enough to become an audio engineer before I went deaf,” Ashby joked. Although he’s tremendously passionate about music, he is also refreshingly humble: “I kind of fell into engineering. It wasn’t something that I initially decided. People liked what I was doing, so I just kept doing it.” That said, once Ashby knew that engineering spoke to his heart, he had the good sense to formally train up and continued to work while taking classes at SAE Institute. Great work and excellent referrals kept his existing clients and organically networked him with new clients, many of whom were already big names in the music industry. “Things just got more and more serious over the years,” he reflected.
With that growing seriousness and Ashby’s own deepening knowledge and experience, he figured it was time to elevate his monitoring situation. “I wanted to listen and evaluate using the same tools that my favorite mix engineers use,” he said. “I’m inspired by Jaycen Joshua [Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Rihanna, etc.], and he recently made the switch to ATCs. In addition, I saw a pair of ATCs in the room of Craig Bauer [Kayne West, Justin Timberlake, Ed Sheeran, etc.], and I also have a deep respect for his work. So, there I was, seeing different styles of music, different engineers, and the same monitor company. I looked into ATC and learned what a lot of other highly-respected engineers were saying about ATC’s midrange clarity and translation.”
Now several months in, Ashby is more than satisfied with the upgrade. “I can use the ATCs to be super surgical or I can use them to bump,” he said. “I can listen in depth by myself, but sometimes I’m forced to do a rough mix when the room is filled with people. The ATCs let me satisfy the client while still giving me the clarity and balance I need to deliver an effective mix. I think it’s important to point out that they aren’t dangerously flat-sounding. They’re really fun to listen to, but everything I do still translates. For monitors to sound great and bump in the room but still translate perfectly outside the room… that’s everything!”
Michael Ashby Website
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.