ATC MONITORS TURN TO GAMING WITH STEVE KEMPSTER
Although he is still best known for his work on over 120 films such as National Treasure, Remember The Titans, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Armageddon, Twister, Bourne Supremacy, and Training Day, veteran recording and mix engineer Steve Kempster has, as of late, turned his prodigious talents to the burgeoning world of high-end audio for gaming. Indeed, this year composer Austin Wintory won the ASCAP Composers Choice Award for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and composer Gareth Coker won the Game Audio Network Guild Awards for Ori and the Blind Forest in the categories of Audio of the Year, Best Mix, Best Instrumental Track, and Rookie of the Year. Kempster mixed both scores at his private mix room, relying on his ATC SCM100ASL LCR midfield monitors and his ATC SCM25A LCR near-field monitors to ensure that the full emotional impact and intention of the composers’ works translate to gamers around the world, regardless of the sound systems they listen on.
“I’ve done most of Austin’s games and movies in the last few years,” Kempster said. “I helped him record the original ideas for Assassin’s Creed here in LA, and we were able to get very specific about the feeling and timbre we were after. He wanted a real tactile feeling so that the gamer would feel like the music was right there, not far off in the distance. Our early conversations and work held the project together, and so my mix was a natural extension of that.” Wintory introduced Kempster to Gareth Coker, which led to his work on Ori and the Blind Forest. Kempster is also working on new games with award-winning composer, Mikolai Stroinski.
Back in the late 1970s, Kempster got into the music business as a singer-songwriter. “I learned engineering so that I could get the right sound for the stories I wanted to tell,” he said. “I was inspired to do that because I found that if the engineer understood what I was up to, the song’s intention came through. But if he didn’t, it fell flat. It was an important place to get it right, so I trained myself on how to record and mix and worked with musicians on my own material. They said I had a better sound coming out of my garage than they were getting at the nice studios, so they started asking me to come work with them there. I think it’s helpful to keep the songwriter’s perspective as an engineer. I look at my job from a storytelling point of view first and foremost.”
Kempster explains that the biggest difference between mixing for records or movies and mixing for games is the inherent non-linearity of games. “Depending on the design of the game, the player will hear different things depending on their play,” he said. “If a player engages in a battle and loses, the game may reset to an earlier point. There can be a million different paths and outcomes, as compared to a record or movie with just a single linear arc. The music has to be composed so that it walks hand-in-hand with the action without becoming repetitious. It’s an amazing art that Wintory and Coker are adept at navigating. They build in different levels of the same cue. Those levels seamlessly transmute, and I have to be very careful that my mix works across all of those levels. That’s no easy trick.”
Kempster has two ATC setups: he has his LCR system of ATC SCM25As permanently installed in his home mix room and a large, but mobile LCR system of ATC SCM100ASLs paired with an ATC SCM0.1/15ASL subwoofer for use at different facilities around town. “My ATCs are the most important thing I own, and I own a lot of gear,” Kempster laughed. “With the 100s, I’m kind of like a mobile MASH unit. I’m pretty good at arranging them and working with the subwoofer’s cutoff and volume to get a nice even response. I have a few pieces of music that I listen to that help me calibrate things. Once they sound right, I know whatever I record or mix will translate.”
“All mixing is like sculpting,” he continued.” I chip away and remove the things I don’t want until I hear what I want to hear. With all the levels of a game’s mix, the details can add up in unexpected ways, and I rely on my ATC’s incredible clarity to alert me to any potential issues. When I have the mix right, the imaging on the ATCs is breathtaking and the mix sounds correct across all the volume levels. By relying on ATCs, my mixes translate to postproduction and consumer systems. If I couldn’t get that right, someone later in the production chain would have to do it for me. It’s great that there are talented people who can do that, but I certainly don’t want to be the engineer whose mix needs saving! Career longevity doesn’t come out of that equation!” (Spoken by an engineer who has been delivering spot on mixes for nearly forty years…).
Photo © 2016 Larry Mah
Steve Kempster IMDb
Transaudio Group (ATC U.S. Professional Product Distribution)
Hi-Fi+ Review the ATC SCM150ASL & Primare PRE60
Jason Kennedy has reviewed the SCM150ASL in the latest (May) edition of Hi-Fi+. Here is just a taster of what Jason though of the loudspeakers.
“Real gravitas, there is no excess, no flab, just girth.”
“More important is that the music makes sense, the absence of thickness in the bass allows the tune to take precedence over the sound, it allows the message in the music to be communicated in a way that most systems struggle with because they don’t have the resolution and control that this one does…”
Jason Kennedy, Hi-Fi+, May 2016.
To downloand and read the review in full, here is the PDF of the SCM150ASL review.
Studiobizz Makes a Big Step Forward with New ATC Monitor System
After working on audio monitors of a well known brand for over 12 years, Ulmt of Helios suggested to have a listen at ATC. After short deliberation the SCM45A Pro looked like the best option, so he brought a pair over to my studio. After all, it is best to check a monitor system in your own, familiar environment.
We played several CD tracks as well as some of my own recordings from a Pro Tools HD system. I “clicked” with the loudspeakers immediately, though I didn’t dare to say it out loud just yet! Ulmt suggested to keep the monitors in my studio for a while. “I’ll call you up in about a week to hear what you think of them”, he said. Two days later I made the call and told him I couldn’t do without them anymore.
Despite the fact the mixes I made on my previous monitors still hold their ground, the ATC’s give me much more detailed and accurate information, especially when it concerns layers of instruments, placement and depth of field. After experiencing this, there simply was no way back. But the most important thing for me was that, while so much more information was presented to me, the overall sound appeared more relaxing to my ears. It caused, so to say, less confusion in my head. The positive result of this is that it leaves more room for creativity in my mind. Making mix decisions is now so much easier! Music is a story to be told and when mixing, all the track information needs to be brought into balance, giving each and everything the right dynamics. The SCM45A Pro’s are a great support accomplishing this.
Peter van Tilburg, Studiobizz, Oss
Helios Pro Audio Solutions
ATC MONITORS DELIVER FOR TV’S PROLIFIC COMPOSER DEVIN POWERS
“I know it’s cliché to say, but it’s true. The most important piece of gear in my studio is the monitor system. My ATCs are the best overall loudspeaker that I’ve ever heard.”
Like The Beatles, Madonna, and Nirvana, you’ve undoubtedly heard the music of Devin Powers, but you probably didn’t know it. Powers is arguably the world’s most prolific recording artist turned composer for modern television. He’s written, performed, and recorded literally tens-of-thousands of songs in every genre and style imaginable for all manner of TV shows. His clients include the pioneering reality show Blind Date, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race, and Naked & Afraid, the ground breaking #1 survival show for Discovery along with others for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, The History Channel, MTV, A&E, and more. In fact, Powers has had music in over four hundred TV shows over the last seventeen years. He’s earned numerous awards from ASCAP, including “Most Performed Television Underscore” in 2006. The three keys to his success are a limitless wellspring of musical inspiration, the capacity to perform every aspect of his compositions, and the professional tools to nail the sound of the target genre and deliver a perfect mix on deadline. For the last two years, Powers has relied on ATC SCM25A active near-field monitors to craft those perfect mixes in an enjoyable, non-fatiguing way, day-in and day-out.
Powers didn’t start out aiming to be top dog in the world of television underscores. Instead, he was a bona fide rocker; an ace on guitar and vocals, with plenty of chops to spare on everything else. He wrote for and led the Universal Records band The Vents in the 1990s. With top-10 radio hits saturating the airwaves, The Vents toured the USA, opening up for bands like Smashmouth, Matchbox 20, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, and Wilco. Clearly, Powers had arrived. But alas, the vicissitudes of corporate mergers and steely boardroom decisions saw The Vents dropped from the label despite radio hits and an undeniably ascending trajectory.
It was a blessing in disguise. “My goal had never been to be a rock star, per se,” Powers said. “I live and breathe music. It oozes out of my pores. My goal was always to make a living making music. I started producing for younger bands when I met up with an industry friend who was looking for an authentic rock guy to write songs for a ‘reality TV show.’ This was back in 1998, and no one knew what a ‘reality TV show’ was! He explained the concept, and I thought it sounded like a fun opportunity to sit in one place and write punk, funk, rock, R&B, metal, you name it. I signed on, and it was way more rewarding in many ways than working in the rock world with no touring! In Blind Date’s first season, Powers wrote and recorded over 1,500 tracks, and at the end of five seasons, he had 7,000 tracks.
Now eighteen years later, Powers has a group of writers working under him, but his main focus is still on writing, recording, and mixing music for his biggest clients. And he has amassed the resources to be a true master of tone. He has all the guitars, amps, drums, keyboards, microphones, vintage outboard gear, and all the deep know-how to pick and choose among that massive arsenal of tools to get just the right sound for a piece. And he does it at a breakneck pace, often starting with nothing in the morning and leaving eight hours later with several completed mixes of songs he wrote and recorded that day!
“Only the biggest primetime scripted shows master or sweeten the music tracks before they’re incorporated into the show. On unscripted shows it’s on the composer to make sure everything is absolutely perfect before it goes out the door,” Powers said. “I have found that my ATC 25s reveal everything that’s going on in my mix, and they do so at any volume. Their midrange is fantastic, and overall, they have the right combination of rock, detail, and punch. And I can listen to them all day and not leave feeling fatigued.”
Powers notes that there are a few differences between mixing for traditional music outlets and for television. First, there’s no unity volume in TV, so Powers typically mixes in the green, leaving more room for dynamics than you might guess. Second, the effects of low volume on sustained sounds (e.g. synth pads) versus transients (e.g. drums) can wreak havoc with a mix. Although he doesn’t want to give away too many secrets, Powers always checks his mixes at low volume on Auratone Sound Cubes. “I listen carefully to the transients,” he said. “My mixes have to work well and translate at all volumes.”
SCM11 Reviewed By Hi-Fi Critic
Highly experienced designer and reviewer, Martin Colloms has reviewed the SCM11 in the latest edition of Hi-Fi Critic.
To save the document, download the Hi-Fi Critic SCM11 Review
Hi-Fi Critic: www.hificritic.com
ATC LOUDSPEAKERS SPONSORS LEGENDARY RECORDING ENGINEER AND PRODUCER, MICHAEL BISHOP AT AXPONA
Behind the Magic Curtain: The Making of a State of the Art Recording
In association with Lone Mountain Audio, ATC’s U.S distribution partner,we are proud to announce the sponsorship of Grammy Award winning recording engineer and producer, Michael Bishop at AXPONA 2016, Audio Expo North America.
The seminar event, “Behind the Magic Curtain: The Making of a State of the Art Recording” will be held on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. Ever wonder about the process behind making your favorite recordings? Recording high-resolution music is as much an art as the music itself! Attendees Of Michael’s presentation will learn first hand what it takes to record and master a major orchestral, jazz, or blues recording and get peak inside the studio and see “how it’s done”. Michael will conduct demonstrations of his recordings that have won him Grammies on the same ATC monitors used to Master the recordings, right at AXPONA. Attendees of the presentation will have the rare experience of being inside the Studio with the Recording Engineer and hear how it all works. Michael will discuss the present reality of DSD downloads with additional demonstrations. Michael will also be on hand after his presentation in the Lone Mountain/ATC Room 408 to personally answer your questions.
Michael Bishop, multi-award winning Recording Engineer and Producer has received ten Grammy® Awards (2015, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2002 and 1997) including six for Best-Engineered Recording and two consecutive Grammy® Awards for best Sound Mix-Orchestral, and multiple nominations over the past years. Michaels recording credits include Bobby Womack, the Count Basie Orchestra, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, Isaac Hayes, Carlos Santana, Dianna Krall, The James Gang, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie and many more.
Michael Bishop co-founded Five/Four Productions, LTD., an independent full service audio production company. Michael engineers and produces renowned recording projects, maintaining the high production values set in his twenty-year career at Telarc Records.
AXPONA, Audio Expo North America will be held April 15-17, 2016 at the Westin O’Hare located at 6100 North River Road. Please visit www.axpona.com for more information on Axpona 2016.
ATC Loudspeakers / Lone Mountain Audio will be exhibiting at Axpona in room #408.
dB HI-FI OPEN EVENT
On Saturday 2nd April, ATC will be participating in an open event with dB Hi-Fi in Suffolk.
On demonstration on the day we will have:
- SCM40 & SCM40A – demonstrating the differences between passive vs active loudspeaker designs.
- SCM10SE – One of only a few pairs in the UK.
- SCM50ASLT – The classic ATC 3-ways, now specified with the new ATC ‘S-Spec’ tweeter.
For further details:
SIGNATURE EDITION SCM10SE CELEBRATES A LIFE IN SOUND
ATC marks the 70th Birthday of its founder with the luxury edition of a favourite speaker…
ATC Loudspeaker Technology is celebrating the 70th birthday of its founder and Managing Director Billy Woodman with a ‘Signature’ version of a landmark ATC design. Based on the highly original and acclaimed SCM10 mini monitor from 1990, the Signature Edition SCM10SE is an immaculate reworking of the breakthrough model.
Presented in a lustrous ATC blue piano finish, the SCM10SE is enhanced with an anodised silver aluminium tweeter wave guide, complementary silver mid/bass driver surround and a fine grain blue leather baffle, hand-finished by Eissmann, a leading supplier of pristine interior trims for many of the world’s most desirable car brands including Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini and McLaren.
Matching the flawless precision of its finish, the SCM10SE’s proprietary drivers and crossovers are wholly conceived and hand-built at ATC’s UK development and production facility in Stroud, Gloucestershire. The original SCM10’s soft dome tweeter has been replaced with a recently developed SH25-76S ‘S-Spec’ 25mm dual-suspension design, and its ground-breaking SB45-125SC 125mm mid/bass unit with a latest version, complete with integral soft dome. The system’s crossover is re-designed for the new drive units and uses ATC’s hand-wound air-cored inductors and high performance polypropylene capacitors throughout.
Appropriately the SCM10SE is limited to a production run of just seventy pairs, each supplied with an exclusive owner’s guide relating the story of Billy Woodman’s career from his formative engineering in Australia to the seminal, ethos-building work at Goodmans in the UK and culminating in the founding and flourishing of his Company as a world-renowned exponent of high performance audio reproduction systems for the studio, cinema, club and home.
Capturing the innovative spirit and uncompromising culture of ATC, the exclusive SCM10SE Signature speaker is a definitive 70th birthday tribute to the remarkable energy and influence of its founder, MD and Chief Engineer Billy Woodman.
Like all ATC products, the SCM10SE is backed by a six-year warranty.
- New ATC designed and built ‘S’ specification 25mm Soft Dome HF unit with dual suspension, neodymium magnet assembly and a precision alloy wave guide.
- ATC 125mm short coil mid/bass unit with integral soft dome.
- In-house hand wound precision flat wire coil.
- Massive optimised motor assembly.
- Excellent impedance curve ensuring an easy load for any amplifier.
- Cabinet in exclusive ATC Blue high gloss piano finish.
- Baffle hand-bound in fine grain leather.
- 6 year warranty.
Drivers HF: ATC SH25-76S 25mm Soft Dome; Bass/Mid: ATC SB45-125SC 125mm drive unit
Matched Response: +/- 0.5dB
Frequency Response: (-6dB) 50Hz–25kHz
Dispersion: ±80° Coherent Horizontal, ±10° Coherent Vertical
Sensitivity: 82dB @ 1W @ 1metre
Max Continuous SPL: 103dB
Recommended Amplifier Power: 75 to 300 Watts
Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohm
Crossover Frequency: 2.5kHz
Connectors: Binding Posts/4mm Plugs, bi-wire
Cabinet Dimensions: (HxWxD) 380x185x267mm
SCM10SE Price: Please contact your local authorised dealer or distributor for pricing in your region.
Availability: 23rd March 2016
ATC LAUNCHES ‘SCM19AT’ ACTIVE TOWER SPEAKER SYSTEM
The SCM19AT system is an active version of the Company’s SCM19 award-winner, uniting proprietary, optimised driver/amp pairings in a slender floor standing design…
ATC Loudspeaker Technology’s new SCM19 Active Tower speaker system will deliver the company’s reference-quality audio from an elegantly curved floor-standing design, just 370mm wide and under a metre in height. Identical acoustically to ATC’s award-winning passive SCM19 2-way system but utilising the 19 litre volume in a slim tower format, the SCM19AT combines high aesthetic appeal with the widely acknowledged performance benefits of ATC active design to create a compelling speaker proposition for music lovers.
The SCM19AT’s braced, sealed and curved multi-layer laminated cabinet, which is precision-finished in cherry or black ash real-wood veneer, provides a rigid and optimally damped environment for the Company’s acclaimed SH25-76 soft dome tweeter and 150mm Super-Linear mid/bass driver. Drive units are individually powered by an upgraded bi-amp pack (also proprietary), comprising ATC’s discrete MOSFET Class A/B modules, providing 32W of continuous power to the HF section and 150W to the bass.
Sharing technology with the renowned ATC soft domed mid-range drive unit, the 19AT’s tweeter employs a unique dual suspension system, designed to suppress rocking modes even at high power output levels. The ATC configuration of a short edge-wound voice coil in a long, narrow magnetic gap ensures exceptionally low distortion throughout the tweeter’s operating band and removes the need for ferrofluids, which can dry out over time, compromising performance. A complex-shaped, soft-domed diaphragm extends high frequency range and offers a smooth off-axis response. The tweeter’s 15,000 gauss (1.5 tesla) neodymium magnet has a black heat-treated top plate, which dissipates heat away from the voice coil to maintain high power handling and low power compression. A precision-machined 5.5mm rigid alloy waveguide provides optimum dispersion with a flat on-axis frequency response and resonance-free operation.
The SCM19AT’s 150mm ATC SL mid/bass driver utilises a carefully weighted doped fabric cone with a 75mm soft dome – exceptional for its broad and even dispersion of mid-band frequencies. The cone is driven by an ‘under-hung’ (short coil/long gap) motor using a huge 9kg ‘Super Linear’ magnet system, which is unique to ATC loudspeaker systems. The 75mm ribbon wire voice coil is meticulously milled and wound in-house by ATC. ATC’s familiar under-hung motor topology maintains linear coil force and inductance, even at high drive levels, keeping distortion low.
The 19AT’s proprietary two-way on-board amp pack design has been revised to reduce noise and distortion (a further -10dB @ 10kHz), while achieving a lower operating temperature for improved reliability. The design includes protection circuits for both DC offset and thermal overload. Mid frequency THD is vanishingly low at 93dB/0.002%, and a very wide bandwidth of 200 kHz ensures the accurate reproduction of musical transients. ATC’s Grounded Source output stage modules are fed by a newly developed two-way active crossover section featuring 2nd order modified Butterworth circuitry with phase compensation for each crossover point. The advantage of active crossovers is that their response remains unaffected by variable voice coil impedance, while the use of phase compensation enables phase coherency at the crossover points, improving the SCM19AT’s tonal balance and enhancing imaging for a pin-point stereo field. As usual system input is via balanced XLR.
The ATC SCM19AT – the first active 19 in the Company’s history – is designed for optimum performance with the grille attached, although the difference in performance without the grill is minimal. Finished in anthracite grey, the metal grille fixes to the cabinet via hidden magnets. Designed and manufactured by ATC entirely in-house, the SCM19AT offers the ownership of a hand-built ruggedly engineered speaker system, world famous for musical accuracy and high power output. Like all ATC products, the SCM19AT is backed by a six-year warranty.
- New ATC designed and built dual suspension 25mm soft dome HF unit with precision alloy wave guide
- “SL” spec bass driver with 75mm integral Soft Dome
- 9kg optimised short-coil/long gap motor assembly
- On-board grounded source 182 watt Class A/B Bi-amplifier
- Active filters and overload protection
- 6 year warranty
Drivers: HF ATC 25mm dual suspension Tweeter, Mid/LF ATC 150mm SL
Matched Response: +/- 0.5dB
Frequency Response (-6dB): 54Hz-22kHz
Dispersion: ±80° Coherent Horizontal, ±10° Coherent Vertical
Max SPL: 108dB
Crossover Frequency: 2.5kHz
Connectors: Male XLR
Input sensitivity: 1V
Filters: 2nd Order critically damped with phase compensation
Overload Protection: Active FET momentary gain reduction
Fault Protection: DC fault protection and thermal trip. Fault indication on rear panel mounted LED
Amplifier Output: 150W LF, 32W HF
Cabinet Dimensions (HxWxD): 980x370x344mm (spikes add 25mm to height, grill adds 34mm to depth)
The advantages of active operation:
Perfectly matched dedicated amplifiers for each frequency band
Active crossover filters with phase correction ensure accurate timbre, excellent imaging and source location
A flat magnitude response that is not changed with power input level
A 20dB improvement in intermodulation distortion
Better controlled low frequency
A greater dynamic range for the same input power
Price: please contact the local authorised ATC dealer or distributor in your region for pricing.
Availability: 23rd March 2016
SCM19A Launches 21st March