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NAMM Webinar Details Small Business Coronavirus Relief

Carlsbad, CA (March 26, 2020)—A webinar, COVID-19 Small Business Relief Resources, hosted by NAMM on March 24 provided details of the current federal and state relief for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency business loans and newly expanded emergency sick leave and family leave legislation.

“It’s complex, but we need to make sure that our members have access to some of these business-saving resources that will be coming online,” said NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond in his brief introduction. Mary Luehrsen, director of public affairs and government relations for NAMM, hosted the webinar, which was presented by representatives of South Carolina-based law firm and lobby group Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

Coronavirus and Pro Audio: Developing News

Indeed, the new legislation is complicated and could be affected by subsequent bills passed by lawmakers as they continue to respond to the current crisis. For that reason, anyone planning to take advantage of these new programs is advised to check with the relevant federal and state agencies, local Chambers of Commerce or their tax advisors for the very latest information.

The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, passed into law March 17, 2020, offers low-interest loans for working capital of up to $2M to help small businesses overcome their temporary loss of revenue due to the virus. Full details are available at sba.gov. Lawmakers are currently negotiating over an additional stimulus package that may include further relief for small businesses.

The loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid due to the impact of the coronavirus. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses or 2.75% for non-profits, repayable over 30 years.

There is a three-stage loan application process beginning with a 30-minute online form, followed by verification, documentation and a credit review, a process that reportedly could take three or four weeks. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis.

[UPDATE: Phase III of the congressional response to the coronavirus crisis, Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act or H.R. 748, has passed the Senate and is expected to pass the House on Friday, March 26. According to the Wall Street Journal, small businesses and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees in a single location can apply for loans backed by the SBA via qualifying banks: “The loans would convert into grants that don’t have to be repaid for amounts spent on items such as payroll, rent or utilities, with the grants reduced when workers are laid off. The loans would be capped at $10 million and cover wages up to $100,000 a year,” reports the WSJ.]

New legislation providing expanded emergency sick leave and family leave is temporary and fully reimbursed through payroll tax credits. It applies to businesses with less than 500 employees and is in effect from Apr. 2 through Dec. 31, 2020. It also applies to independent contractors and gig workers. The package is designed to keep workers on payrolls while ensuring that employees aren’t forced to choose between work and the health of themselves and their families, or the public health.

Full-time employees are eligible for up to 80 hours of sick leave, while part-time workers’ compensation will be based on work history and a formula in the legislation. Employees will be compensated at their regular rate of pay, federal minimum wage or the local minimum wage, whichever is higher. Employees unable to work (including telework) are to be paid 100% of wages if they are subject to quarantine or self-isolation or are experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. Compensation is capped at $511 per day or $5100 per employee in aggregate.

A second rate applies if the employee is caring for someone with coronavirus, or for a child because the child’s school or childcare facility is closed, or if the childcare provider is unavailable due to the coronavirus. Eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, which is capped at $200 per day or $2000 in aggregate, for up to 10 days’ leave.

An emergency paid family leave provision provides up to 12 weeks of protected leave, of which 10 are paid. Eligibility is very narrow, specifically, if the employee is unable to work in order to care of a son or daughter, if the school or place of care is closed, or if a childcare provider is unavailable due to the public emergency. The employee must have been employed for at least 30 days before the law was enacted.

The first 10 days may be unpaid and during that time the employee may elect to use other paid leave such as vacation or sick leave. The employer cannot require them to use that leave. Compensation is at two-thirds the rate of regular pay and is capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate, per employee. Again, compensation for part-time workers is calculated using a formula.

Every dollar of sick leave or paid leave that employers are required to pay under the act is to be offset by a refundable tax credit. The tax credit can also be advanceable. In practice, employers will take the payroll taxes withheld in an escrow account and use those funds to pay for the leave. They may also be reimbursed if their cost for the leave exceeds the taxes they would owe. For those businesses with cashflow issues, there will be a procedure for employers to request an advance from the IRS.

Cost offsets for independent contractors and gig workers will come from self-employment tax and payroll taxes. The IRS and Department of Labor are reportedly working on compliance details.

The Dept. of Labor is reportedly also working on rules detailing the circumstances under which a small business of 50 or fewer employees would be eligible for a hardship exemption from the leave provisions. Legislation currently passing through Congress may further impact or clarify this provision.

Under the new legislation, federal requirements such as the one-week waiting period, looking for work and the requirement to quit for good cause are temporarily waived with regard to unemployment insurance benefits. The bill before Congress may further expand these benefits.

Finally, the deadline for filing federal taxes has been moved from Apr. 15 to July 15. Anyone owing taxes of up to $10M on Apr. 15 will pay on July 15 with no penalty for those additional 90 days. There is no guidance available yet regarding the estimated Q1 2020 tax payments due Apr. 15 for some individuals.

Most states have harmonized their tax filing deadlines to July 15 with the revised federal filing date, except for—currently—nine states: Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and West Virginia. Check with taxadmin.org for the latest information.

Additional resources and information, constantly updated, are available from NAMM.

NAMM • www.namm.org

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Broadcasters Prep for Live Immersive Content

Immersive audio continues to grow in popularity among content creators and consumers, buoyed by a growing selection of devices for playback in the home or on the go. But while post-produced immersive audio is now well supported by tools and technology, products with a full complement of features and functionality to generate live broadcast content are still relatively scarce.

To be sure, there are already examples of live broadcasts incorporating immersive audio to be found globally, particularly in sports programming. And immersive audio capabilities have been written into the next generation of television standards worldwide. What features are equipment manufacturers considering to meet the challenges in the broadcast market? And when might we be able to regularly experience more live immersive broadcast content?

Wheatstone senior sales engineer Phil Owens believes that it will be some time before immersive audio is commonplace in broadcast television. “Immersive audio at the console end requires two things: more console bus outputs and the ability to pan in 3D. The z aspect—height—has to be added to the panning algorithms,” he says. “It’s definitely a must for the mixing of films, but I don’t think you’ll be seeing immersive audio in your 6 o’clock news anytime soon.”

Read more about immersive audio

Larry Schindel, senior product manager for Linear Acoustic, says that, just as 5.1 surround arrived married to HD video 20 years ago during the digital broadcast transition, immersive audio will likely be wed to 4K picture. Consequently, he says, “Products that support immersive audio will need to be prepared for not only the additional audio channels and processing, but for the greater video requirements that will come along with this.”

As the industry transitions to media-over-IP networks, “It will be interesting to watch how quickly SMPTE ST 2110 adoption will take hold on a wide basis,” he adds, “and whether new 4K/immersive buildouts will rely on SMPTE ST 2110 infrastructure or stay with SDI.”

Any new equipment will need to support the requirements of immersive audio mixers, says Mark Davies, director of products and technology, TSL Products. “With even more audio to monitor, it is important that we make life as easy as possible for operators, presenting clear and concise displays for them to confirm everything is in the right place and legal at the point of monitoring—and allowing rapid fault-finding when things do go wrong.”

Calrec Audio already offers an immersive audio solution, the ImPulse audio processing and routing engine, reports vice president of sales Dave Letson. Supporting multiple next-gen audio formats, “height and 3D pan controls are provided, and paths of all widths can coexist within a mix and be routed to/from each other with flexible panning and downmixing built in,” he says of ImPulse’s capabilities.

For the moment, broadcasters are keeping it simple, says Letson. “One of the most common ways that broadcasters and content creators want to add an immersive component at the present is in sports productions by adding some P.A. in the height speakers to help convey more of the atmosphere and drama of a game. Over time, immersive productions will become more ambitious, but it is understandable that currently an air of caution is predominant.”

Support of next-generation immersive audio for ATSC 3.0, Dolby Atmos and MPEG-H is at the heart of SSL’s System T console architecture, says Tom Knowles, product manager, broadcast systems, SSL UK. “System T has immersive paths up to 12 channels wide—for 7.1.4—with 3D panning from the console surface, which can be fed to the encoding system of choice. This is equally important at the front end of the process, where System T has native support for AMBEO and other ambisonic mic inputs, with GUI control of mic orientation and focus.”

Innovations: Solid State Logic System T Broadcast Console, by Thomas Jensen, Mar 24, 2020

With object-based immersive audio schemes, metadata handling will be critical, says Schindel, not least for the potential personalization features such as foreign language commentary. “While metadata will be more critical, and critical to get correct, it’s also going to be easier to author and use,” he says.

“Much of the new metadata will come down to identifying what the audio actually is—dialogue, effects, music, M&E bed mix, et cetera—and where it should be placed in the soundfield. Without this information, downstream encoders and decoders will not know what to do with the various audio elements.”

SSL System T
SSL shipped v2.3 Release for the System T broadcast console in January.

As with any jump from one audio format to the next, “there are other common-sense elements to consider as well,” Schindel says, “such as making sure that the mix sounds good in immersive, in 5.1 and in stereo. There will be viewers listening in all of those formats.”

Knowles agrees. Content is now watched on a wide range of devices, from TVs to handhelds. “The ability to up- or downmix content for different delivery media without additional work is a massive efficiency for operators and gives solid flexibility and futureproofing to broadcasters,” he says of System T.

Exactly when the immersive content pipeline might start flowing is a chicken-and-egg situation, suggests Schindel, noting that some immersive sports programming is already available in the United States and Europe. “Broadcasters often do not want to integrate a new format until there is content to broadcast, and content creators don’t want to produce content in the new format until they know it can be delivered to the viewer. I think in the next 12 to 24 months you will see immersive content broadcast regularly,” says Schindel.

Immersive Mix Room Studio 1 LA Debuts, by Steve Harvey, Mar 23, 2020

“Broadcasters have committed to launching ATSC 3.0 services in 60 markets across the U.S. during 2020, and this includes the top 40 markets. The pipeline will largely be in place then, and it’s just a matter of the content.”

Owens is less bullish. “I think we may see it in network content—entertainment shows—that local stations air. Metadata for correct panning can be inserted at the network end. For the local affiliates, it should be a pass-through, but I don’t see widespread implementation for another five years or so.”

“You need to look at different content types,” says Davies. “Movies have been produced for some time with immersive audio, and it is relatively easy to transfer this straight to TV. Live TV, especially sports, attracts the biggest audiences and hence has higher budgets. However, the production of immersive audio for live TV is a big challenge. Many leading broadcasters are still experimenting with ways to produce consistent but compelling immersive audio.”

Wheatstone • www.wheatstone.com

Linear Acoustic • www.telosalliance.com/Linear

TSL Products • www.tslproducts.com

Calrec Audio • calrec.com

Solid State Logic • solidstatelogic.com

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PhantomFocus System Studio Monitors Review

PhantomFocus PFM UHD-1000 monitor
PhantomFocus PFM UHD-1000 monitor

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone more passionate about audio than Carl Tatz. Not only is he serious about it, he knows it inside out. I got to know him before Recording Arts, his legendary Nashville studio, wound up in the hands of Sheryl Crow nearly two decades ago. Even in those days, more than anything else, Recording Arts was known for its exceptional monitoring. The fundamentals of the PhantomFocus System (PFS) were developed during Tatz’s Recording Arts tenure. That system has evolved into a portfolio of both physical studio designs and products that hold their ground against anything in the world today. The number of top engineers around the world who use Tatz’s talents to ensure their mixes accurately translate anywhere—be it streaming, on television or in movie theaters—continues to grow every year.

While Tatz often designs recording studios from the ground up, the PFS branding includes various pieces of hardware that are configured and “tuned” by his process, which combines physical properties, hardware design and system settings. Tatz can be hired to build a PFS studio from the ground up, but an existing studio can also bring him in to transform the facility into a PFS space through the integration of specific hardware that he configures via a combination of physics, software and his golden ears.

While the PFS process can be applied to any high-performance studio loudspeakers, Tatz had historically gravitated his clients toward the now-discontinued Dynaudio M1s because of their sound quality and their adaptability to the PFS process. The M1s were never perfect, but Tatz was convinced that they were the closest thing to perfection available on the market at the time.

Never one to settle for the status quo, Tatz began developing his own monitors. After finessing his dream over the years, the PFM UHD-1000 and PFM HD-1000 Professional Reference Monitors and PFM ICE Cube-12 Subwoofer are finally ready for public consumption. Tatz boasts that the monitors’ accelerated response times, phase linearity and tightly controlled mid-bass response result in high confidence, better and faster mixes, and increased enjoyment. My own extensive listening supports my assertion that this isn’t hype.

The Carl Tatz Interview, by Russ Long, Feb. 11, 2015

Carl Tatz Design PhantomFocus Monitor Optimization System (PFS), by Russ Long, Oct. 21, 2011

PhantomFocus PFM HD-1000 monitor
PhantomFocus PFM HD-1000 monitor

Both monitor models are passive and share nearly identical 8.2 x 17.8 x 12.2-inch cabinets with a built-in custom integrated IsoAcoustics pistonic decoupling system with a studio black luster finish. The UHD version, which is designed to be biamplified and features upgraded low-frequency drivers, weighs 24.1 pounds. The HD version is offered in two configurations: the PFM HD-1000A is actively biamped, requiring two channels of amplification per monitor, and the PFM HD-1000P features an internal Straight Wire passive crossover, requiring one channel of amplification per monitor.

The PFM ICE Cube-12 subwoofer is a 15.75-inch cube weighing 55 pounds. It incorporates a 700-watt amp that provides 120 dB maximum continuous SPL. It includes typical subwoofer functions including 40–140 Hz LPF with LFE Bypass and 0–180 Phase Switch. It’s important to note that both the PFM HD-1000 and UHD-1000 monitors are part of the PFS turnkey precision monitoring instrument ensemble and can only be purchased with the installation of a PhantomFocus System using the proprietary PFS tuning process.

I’ve spent a lot of time in PhantomFocus rooms around Nashville and my only complaint had been the rapid degradation of sound quality as you move away from the sweet spot. When you’re in the sweet spot, you’ll likely be experiencing the best monitoring situation of your career, but once you begin sliding one direction or another, the sound quickly deteriorates. I had always attributed this to PFS processing, but after spending time listening at The Upper Deck, one of the first studios to install PFM HD-1000 monitors, my tune has changed. The sweet spot of that room is still precise, but as you move in and out of the sweet spot, the transition is smooth, natural and subtle—an entirely different experience than listening in other PFS rooms with other monitor models.

The Ultimate Home Studio? Upper Deck Hits It Out of the Park, by Steve Harvey, Nov. 29, 2018

PhantomFocus PFM ICE Cube-12 Subwoofer
PhantomFocus PFM ICE Cube-12 Subwoofer

This was confirmed when I spent time listening at Doug Sarrett’s Uno Mas studio. Sarrett was an early adopter of the PhantomFocus System, and he updated the Tannoy Super Gold monitors that he’d been using for over two decades to the premium PFM UHD-1000 monitors; the results were stunning. The complete system has excellent imaging, pristine depth of field and accurate, extended low-frequency response regardless of monitoring volume. As is always the case with a PFS implementation, the speakers magically disappear, leaving a detailed sonic landscape. While the difference was subtle, the upgrade to the UHD version of the PFM monitor that I auditioned at Uno Mas in comparison to the HD version that I listened to at The Upper Deck was a definite improvement in both depth and clarity.

The new PhantomFocus monitors and subwoofer elevate monitoring accuracy to yet another level. Regardless of whether you are upgrading a current room or planning to build a space from the ground up, PFS along with PFM monitors and subwoofers should receive top consideration.

Carl Tatz Design • carltatzdesign.com

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Software Tech: Safeguarding Your Software Tools

Computers are involved in nearly every aspect of pro audio, from production to delivery, and so is the internet. What’s more, many of us have web sites for promotion, education or to connect with clients. What do these things have in common? The data we generate, which is often stored, transferred or downloaded using the internet. Unfortunately, the internet was never developed with security in mind.

The stats are frightening: According to the Cisco 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Report, ransomware is growing at a yearly rate of 350 percent. More statistics: 4,000 ransomware attacks occur every day, one in every 131 emails contains malware, 81 percent of cyberattacks are based on weak or stolen passwords, and over 40 percent of cybercrime attacks target small businesses (it’s not just hospitals and local governments). Whether you know it or not, you’re in the crosshairs of at least a few cybercriminals—and they can bring your studio, post-production suite or web site to its knees with just one click.

Read More: Cisco Cybersecurity Report Series
Learn with Your Ears: Cisco Security Stories Podcast Series

There are two main safeguards. The first is being able to reconstruct your system so you don’t have to pay ransom in case of an attack. The second is preventing an attack in the first place.

Safeguarding Your Data: Backing up data has always mattered because data storage devices—whether hard drives, SSDs or even online servers—can and will fail. Drive imaging programs and backup storage are an essential line of data defense.

That said, having storage on your network and backing up periodically is no longer sufficient. Today’s ransomware may be able to infect everything on your network, including backup storage devices, so that when you try to restore your data, you can’t.

Cloud storage is one solution, but be careful with storage that syncs automatically to your computer, as it may incorporate the infection in your backup as soon as it syncs. Consider cloud storage as vulnerable unless you can turn off synching, and have made sure the data you’re backing up isn’t corrupted.

Software Tech: Will Your Hardware Rack Move to the Cloud?, by Craig Anderton, Oct. 28, 2019

Getty Images Colin Anderson/Blend Images LLC

With network storage, you need more than one backup. If you do a complete backup every week, for example, keep several weeks’ worth of backups (on different media) in case the most recent backup was compromised. Also, back up with the computer offline, and physically disconnect the network’s backup storage media before going back online.

Another option is read-only optical storage media. I use Blu-ray discs for archival storage. They’re immune to tampering, more robust than DVD-ROMs, and hold lots of data (about 46 GB for dual-layer discs and over 100 GB for BDXL discs). For static data like sample libraries, Blu-ray discs can remain connected to your network at all times, with no worries they’ll be modified.

An Ounce of Prevention: Of course, it’s best to head off attacks before they hit your computer. You’ve heard these warnings before, but they bear repeating.

Keep Your OS and Security Software Updated: If you’ve patched a Windows or Mac machine lately, you’ll have noticed that many of the updates are about security. Granted, many people believe that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and are reluctant to update a system that’s working. Updates can cause problems and be disruptive, but they’re not as disruptive as ransomware or viruses. Besides, you can use Time Machine on a Mac or System Restore on Windows to roll back any problematic updates until fixes are available. Your browser and operating system also offer various security options—use them.

More from Cisco: 2019 Threats of the Year

Passwords Matter: Never use the same password for multiple sites because if cybercriminals can get into one site, the others become accessible. Some security experts recommend “passphrases” (i.e., long phrases) instead of passwords. Update your passwords at least monthly, especially for sites that supply work-critical services such as DAW updates. If keeping track of all of those passwords is too daunting, use a password manager—there are several free, effective choices (e.g., LastPass Free).

Scrutinize Attachment Names: You probably know not to download any attachment you don’t recognize, but also don’t click on any links in emails unless you know they’re legit, and watch for fake filenames. For example, if you’re expecting a file from CRAIG, don’t fall for one from CRAlG (lowercase L instead of capital I).

I hope you won’t be targeted with an attack, but the odds are increasing that you will be. You lock your studio’s door; lock your computer as well.

For more articles, information, and free downloads, visit craiganderton.org … and yes, it’s an SSL-secured web site.

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TASCAM Debuts Model 12 Mixer Carrying Bag

New York, NY (March 25, 2020)—A new specialized carrying bag for the TASCAM Model 12 Integrated Production Suite multitrack recording mixer. Designed for desktop-style audio and multimedia production, small-format live performances, podcasting, live streaming and more, the Model 12 can now get from here to there safely in its own specialized carrier.

Tascam Updates USB Audio Interface Driver

Dubbed the CS-Model 12, the custom-fit carrying bag that helps protect the Model 12 in on-the-go production environments. Made of heavy-duty fabric and weighing less than two pounds itself, the CS-Model 12 carrying bag features an extra layer of padding sewn into the internal lining to protect knobs and switches from damage. The bag’s dimensions are custom-measured to match the Model 12’s small-format footprint and profile, providing a snug fit during transport

The bag can be zipped up from both sides once the Model 12 is inside. An external side pocket with two metal zippers provides room for storing mics, cables, SD cards or other peripherals. A shoulder strap with metal clasps sewn to the bag supports hands-free transport of the unit. Additionally, two securely sewn-on fabric handles provide a hand-held carrying option.

While designed to specifically fit the TASCAM Model 12, the CS-Model 12’s size and features – pocket, padding, strap, handles, and rugged fabric – mean it can be used to carry other types of gear, including small format mixers, microphones, cables, TASCAM Portastudios and field recorders, and more.

TASCAM • www.tascam.com

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Mr. Rogers, Dr. Dre, Village People Added to National Recording Registry

What do Mr. Rogers and Dr. Dre have in common? Both were just inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
What do Mr. Rogers and Dr. Dre have in common? Both were just inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Washington, DC (March 25, 2020)—Cheap Trick at Budokan, the theme song from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” and the play-by-play of the 1951 National League tiebreaker between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers are among the 25 recordings just added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Released in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the 25 titles newly added to the registry are described by the Library of Congress as the “ultimate ‘stay at home’ playlist.” New inductees also include Dr. Dre’s debut studio album The Chronic, Selena’s 1990 album Ven Conmigo, Allan Sherman’s comedy 1963 classic “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,” Dusty Springfield’s 1969 album Dusty in Memphis, Whitney Houston’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” and Tina Turner’s 1984 album Private Dancer.

Recording Academy P&E Wing to Honor Dr. Dre

“The National Recording Registry is the evolving playlist of the American soundscape. It reflects moments in history captured through the voices and sounds of the time,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “We received over 800 nominations this year for culturally, historically or aesthetically significant recordings to add to the registry. As genres and formats continue to expand, the Library of Congress is committed to working with our many partners to preserve the sounds that have touched our hearts and shaped our culture.”

 National Recording Registry
National Recording Registry

Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), is tasked with annually selecting 25 titles that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least 10 years old.

Some registry titles have already been preserved by the copyright holders, the artists or other archives. In cases where a selected title has not already been preserved, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the sound recording will be preserved by some entity and available for future generations. This can be either through the Library’s recorded-sound preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, recording studios and independent producers.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

See the full list: www.loc.gov/item/prn-20-023/national-recording-registry-class-produces-ultimate-stay-at-home-playlist/2020-03-25/

Library of Congress: www.loc.gov

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2020 Best of Show Special Edition Awards Open for Nominations

New York, NY (March 25, 2020)—Despite the recent announcement that the NAB Show will not take place this spring, Future PLC. is fully committed to honoring and helping promote outstanding new and recently introduced products. We are announcing a Special Edition Best of Show Awards program showcasing new products to our 95,000+ readers across Future’s market-leading media brands.

From now until April 17, companies can nominate their new products for awards presented by Future publications TV Technology, TVBEurope, Digital Video, Government Video, Video Edge, Radio World, Pro Sound News, Sound & Video Contractor, B+C and Next TV.

The winners will be selected by panels of professional users and magazine and site editors, based on descriptions provided by companies via the official nomination form with additional promotional opportunities available online.

Upon submitting a nomination, entrants will receive a nominee logo to display for any digital marketing. Each nominated product will also be featured in digital Program Guide. Read the 2019 Program Guide for an example.

For more information about the Special Edition of the Best of Show Awards visit the official Best of Show website.

Future Best of Show Special Edition • future.swoogo.com/bestofshowspecialedition

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Innovations: Solid State Logic System T Broadcast Console

Thomas Jensen
Thomas Jensen

This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of Pro Sound News. Innovations is a monthly column in which different pro audio manufacturers are invited to discuss the thought process behind creating their products of note.

Solid State Logic has been making consoles for 40 years, and fundamentally, our goals have not changed. Whether we are designing consoles for live sound, commercial studios or broadcast, we want to provide the best possible workflow for the audio operator. In the world of broadcast, audio operators are consistently being asked to do more with less while facing new challenges of both scale and flexibility in increasingly complex environments. This is true not only in “traditional” broadcast environments such as local news stations and large TV network facilities, but also within multinational corporate broadcast operations, streaming facilities and other venues.

In each of these scenarios, we have witnessed increasing demands on content dissemination over distributed networks. This has led to a need for more powerful audio consoles to accommodate more sources and buses—in multiple formats. The flip side of this is that broadcasters also need their operations to remain simple and scalable as technology continues to move forward. Our customers need the power and capacity to do more with less, while accessing predictable, familiar and nimble work surfaces.

SSL has been designing and manufacturing digital broadcast consoles for a long time, and each generation has pushed the boundaries of what was possible with technology at that time. Our System T, originally launched in 2017, was a significant step forward for broadcast operators. Its namesake derives from the SSL-developed Tempest engine, which allows an unprecedented degree of flexibility and audio processing on a very large scale. Rather than running on dedicated fixed signal processing hardware such as DSP or FPGA-based technology, Tempest relies on SSL’s own Optimum Core Processing (OCP) software on an industrial PC platform. In a quickly evolving market, this allows SSL to update dynamic feature sets so users can adapt to new operational and workflow requirements, such as immersive audio.

SSL System T
SSL shipped v2.3 Release for the System T broadcast console in January.

The Eye of the Storm

System T was a departure from SSL’s previous digital consoles, and it pushed our technology forward in three specific areas. First, integration of the Tempest engine meant that users now had an audio processor that could be reconfigured in between shows, or even while on the air. Adding or changing important features no longer required swapping out hardware or making complex changes. For instance, 5.1 was the native architecture when we launched, but now the system is fully immersive with 7.1.4 channels, buses and monitoring. This “future forward” capacity was available for users on the first day and presents a very nimble methodology for us to adapt to changing workflow requirements and to deliver them to users.

Second, System T is natively AoIP. Within the world of broadcast, embracing the rapid development of IP as the media transport mechanism was a logical step for our engineers while designing System T. Keeping the audio operator in the driver’s seat required not only the console’s audio I/O, but the console control software also had to connect to the IP network so audio routing could be facilitated from the console control surface, stored and recalled with the console’s show files. The System’s seamless integration with a Dante AoIP solution allows native routing control—not just between SSL devices, but among potentially thousands of Dante-enabled products on the network.

SSL Partners with Group One, Appoints Phil Wagner, Oct. 22, 2019

Recognizing that interoperability is a key component in the future of broadcast IP networking, we worked closely with Audinate to ensure that SMPTE 2110 is supported and that the System T infrastructure works with both Dante and open standard transport protocols at the same time.

Third, scalable control surface options, ranging from large-format surfaces to headless control, are also IP-based with remote log-in capabilities. For large entertainment shows, a production mixer and a music mixer can sit in two rooms on two surfaces mixing on the same console. In automated multi-studio facilities, A1s or broadcast engineering can change audio settings for each control room from a centralized location and shadow the productions without disruption. This affords not only the opportunity for increased quality but also an optimized workflow.

SSL System T

Building a Bridge

To satisfy the Tempest engine’s large I/O requirement, we needed to design a high-density connection to the audio network. This ultimately became the SSL HC card, which provided 512 bi-directional channels between the Tempest engine and the audio network on a single connection. (A Tempest engine can utilize six of these.) In the process of developing this technology, we realized that by adding sample rate converters, we would be able to solve a number of other network-related challenges—and so the HC Bridge SRC was born.

The HC Bridge SRC effectively bridges 256 channels of audio between two HC cards. With sample rate conversion, it allows two audio networks to be segmented while still sharing a large number of audio signals where required. Thus, our development of the HC card ultimately allowed us to solve multiple problems while addressing new applications for operators looking to integrate, say, mobile trucks and venues with disparate IP address schemes, clock domains or even different sample rates.

SSL Gets Cooking at Verse, March 3, 2020

In early January, we launched v2.3 Release for System T, which included many incremental software improvements. This update took SMPTE 2110 and all of the SMPTE interoperability tools out of beta and into actual release. In the software update prior to that, we launched several new immersive sound tools that we were first to market with, one of which provided onboard A-B format conversion support for Sennheiser’s AMBEO format. This enabled operators to mix 3D audio in real time, with no rendering in post-production.

We continue to make refinements to System T for broadcast operators as production needs evolve. At SSL, we are excited about helping people migrate onto this innovative platform, while removing the obstacles they face in moving over to and ultimately mastering AoIP.

Thomas Jensen is part of the Systems & Support Group at Solid State Logic.

 

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Podcasting? Yeah, Staples’ Got That

Each Staples Connect iHeartRadio Podcasting Studio features a Røde RødeCaster Pro recording interface and Røde PodMics, as well as Genelec 4010A speakers and Shure SRH440 studio headphones.
Each Staples Connect iHeartRadio Podcasting Studio features a Røde RødeCaster Pro recording interface and Røde PodMics, as well as Genelec 4010A speakers and Shure SRH440 studio headphones.

Hanover, MA (March 24, 2020)—Massachusetts-based retailer Staples has teamed up with iHeartRadio and Professional Audio Design (PAD) to build podcasting studios at seven of its stores in the greater Boston area. The studio facilities are a key part of a community-focused reimagining of some of the company’s stores, rebranded Staples Connect, which also offer co-working and event spaces.

“The mission was to have a professional-quality podcasting studio, consistent from location to location, that could be set up in a repeatable way,” says Dave Malekpour, PAD’s president. His company, based in Hanover, MA, was called in by iHeartRadio’s Boston engineering team to develop the technical design and acoustics of the new podcasting studios, which are prominently positioned in the new Staples Connect outlets.

Staples Connect has also partnered with audio technology company Voxnest, whose Spreaker platform offers podcast hosting and distribution. The retailer additionally offers its customers discounts on partner We Edit Podcasts’ post-production services.

Staples US Retail and iHeartRadio were looking for a solution as close to broadcast quality as possible, but within a budget, says Malekpour. PAD’s team, including system engineer John Songdahl and technical director Eric Anderson, developed a value-engineered design that can accommodate up to four participants in a 10-ft. by 12-ft. acoustically treated and soundproofed studio.

Central to the technical design of each Staples Connect iHeartRadio Podcasting Studio is the Røde RødeCaster Pro recording interface. The RødeCaster Pro not only has a compact form factor but is also easy to use, says Malekpour.

Dave Malekpour, president of Professional Audio Design, and his team developed the technical design and acoustics of podcasting studios in Staples Connect stores.
Dave Malekpour, president of Professional Audio Design, and his team developed the technical design and acoustics of podcasting studios in Staples Connect stores.

“It’s an interface, but it also records to SD card—you can get individual tracks or a stereo mix. You can Bluetooth-in your phone as a source or if you want to Skype an outsider caller in. There are eight sample pads that you can load with tails and heads, or music and effects, and fire them off at the right moment in the show. Four microphones are a manageable number for a podcast. And it’s got built-in effects that help with vocal clarity and creating a broadcast-sounding vocal.”

Each of the rooms features a pair of Genelec 4010A speakers for playback, either side of a video display. Shure SRH440 professional studio headphones are also available at each seat.

PAD recommended several different microphones and Staples had iHeartRadio’s team evaluate them for broadcast quality, Malekpour reports. In a shoot-out between a $100 mic and another costing four times that, he says, “We found that because of the way the RødeCaster is designed, the results were really close, so they didn’t need to spend the extra money.”

The selected Røde PodMic microphone offers good rejection, he says, “so even if you’re in a noisy environment, you’re going to find that you just hear the vocal, with no interference.” That performance also enabled PAD’s team to value-engineer a structure that, while offering a little less isolation, provides a high level of quality while being more affordable to create, he says.

“It has double-wall construction and double-glazed laminate windows, things that we helped spec out. They used an acoustics product that is easy to install consistently and looks nice, a polyester felt board. It’s affordable, consistent and maintainable,” says Malekpour.

“The acoustics in the room are really well-balanced for vocal clarity. They’ve even had musicians come in and record; they’re not opposed to anything.”

Beyond specifying suitable audio gear, PAD had to consider numerous issues of ergonomics as well as wear and tear from the constant customer turnover. “How big does the studio need to be to be effective? How do we lay it out? Where do the cables go so that they’re not in the way?” he enumerates.

“We had to think of it from a reliability standpoint, trying to make it so that a user coming in couldn’t necessarily undo the installation. We used mic stands with internal cable harnesses. We had to figure out cool ways to do stuff, such as using the table leg to mount hardware into. We even picked the size and shape of the table, so that there’s enough room to roll your chair back in a 10-by-12 room.”

The seven studios were built by Staples’ construction division. If the test marketing pans out and the company, which is in nearly 1,100 locations nationwide, opens Staples Connect stores in other markets, the design will likely be re-engineered to allow for prefabrication and easier on-site assembly, says Malekpour.

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“We also built them a setup at their headquarters, for testing and training. They want to become experts at podcasting as a company, so they can learn to use that voice.”

While the Staples Connect podcasting studios, which are available for $60 an hour, can be self-operated, there is also an expert on hand to assist. “Staples has gone to various music programs around here, like Berklee, to get graduates that are competent in the recording field,” he says.

Staples is apparently also hoping to entice some customers to purchase their own podcasting setups once they’ve learned the essentials at the in-store facilities. “There’s an endcap facing the studios that has a set of podcasting equipment that they’ve packaged to sell to customers,” he reports.

When you look at the amount of content being created by companies such as iHeart, Apple and Spotify, says Malekpour, and the similarly huge consumer demand, “There’s still room for a mass of exponential growth in that market. It’s a way that people can communicate their message and receive information.”

Indeed, Malekpour has even started thinking about launching his own podcast—a PADcast, if you will. “There’s space in the market for us to tell our story and talk about facility design, so we’re looking at it as a place where we could launch our own podcast. Even though we have the technology, obviously, it would be cool to use our client’s facilities,” he says.

“And I love the fact that their podcast studios tie into the event spaces and the other services that they offer. It makes for a really cool business condition, building community around their stores—which is lost in today’s point-and-click world.”

Professional Audio Design • www.proaudiodesign.com

iHeartRadio • www.iheart.com

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Capturing Pop & Tacos on Record

Los Angeles, CA (March 23, 2020)—Songwriter, producer and engineer Jorgen Carlsson, bassist and member of the band Gov’t Mule, streamlined the production of the latest album by his side-project, Little Days, by using the same mic — Mojave Audio’s MA-200 — for multiple sources.

Carlsson and partner Mini Diaz, recording under the name Little Days, released their third album, Pop & Tacos, last year. The project includes several well-known artists, including Warren Haynes, Matt Abts, Steve Ferrone, Mike Campbell and Steve Lukather.

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Pop & Tacos can best be described as a retro pop album. Musically, there are progressive tendencies reminiscent of the English rock band 10cc, along with ABBA, and Pink Floyd,” says Carlsson.

“For this project, we used two Mojave MA-200 mics in several different ways. Most notably, we used them as the primary overhead drum mic as part of a Glyn Johns 3-mic setup, which includes two mics, one above the snare and rack tom, a second one to the side of the floor tom, as well as a kick mic. You can add a few mics for room and snare colors. With that style of drum overheads setup, you need a mic with full range response. In this regard, the MA-200s sound very good.”

Carlsson continues, “I’ve also used my MA-200s for backing vocals, saxophone, and acoustic guitar. When coupled with the Quad Eight mp227 mic preamp, they respond incredibly well and make for a really versatile setup.”

Carlsson reports that he’s been working with his Mojave MA-200 microphones for the better part of 10 years and, in that timeframe, they have proved to be an essential part of his Little Days studio work style. “In the past, I would always reach for a pair of Neumann U 67s. These days, I automatically choose the MA-200s because they are truly great sounding mics.”

Mojave Audio • www.mojaveaudio.com

from ProSoundNetwork.com www.prosoundnetwork.com/recording/music-production/capturing-pop-tacos-on-record
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