Sound Science
Do I need a Neumann?
Category: Sound Science
Tags: mic recording music audio sound

SOS contributor Mike Senior replies:

Q. Do I need a Neumann?You may find that the Rode NT1A  (left) sounds as good as a Neumann U87 on your voice.  But it may not, so it's important that you try before you buy.You may find that the Rode NT1A (left) sounds as good as a Neumann U87 on your voice. But it may not, so it's important that you try before you buy.I've done quite a few multi-microphone shoot-outs for workshop sessions that I've run, and I think that my experiences might shed some light on your question. What I've found is that vocal mics roughly divide into three categories. In the lowest band are the mics that actually sound pretty ropey on every voice. These are mostly in the sub-£150 range, and in my opinion you need to step very carefully if that's your budget, to avoid getting your fingers burnt. It's not that there aren't any respectable mics in this price range, it's just that there are many dodgy ones too.

Then there is the second category. This comprises mics that sound passable on many things, great if the mic happens to suit the instrument or voice you're recording, and pretty horrid if it doesn't. This describes most of the mid-price mics I've tried, and even some of the more expensive 'character' mics. What is characteristic of this category of mic is that its sound is usually tailored in some way, either deliberately for a specific recording application, or because of design shortcomings. If you buy a mic in this category, you need to be prepared for it to sound terrible on some occasions and simply respectable for a fair amount of the time. However, if you're just recording one singer and it happens to sound fantastic on them, then you've obviously got yourself a bargain. This is why we so often recommend experimenting with various different vocal mics when you start working with a new singer. You also need to be careful when using 'category two' mics in any situation where you're likely to pick up appreciable levels of off-axis sound (room ambience or spill from other instruments), because these mics often give an undesirable tonality to off-axis sounds.

The third category of mic doesn't so obviously tailor the sound, instead capturing it fairly neutrally. This is where I'd put mics like the Neumann U87 or the B&K 4000 series, for example. The technical demands of producing such mics generally make them pretty expensive. The thing about mics in this category is that they tend to sound only 'very good' (if that makes sense) when the original sound source isn't stellar. In multi-mic shoot-outs, for example, I've found that at least one less expensive mic will usually out-perform the 'category three' mics (according to audience consensus). This is because the category two mic will happen to change the character of the sound source in flattering ways — perhaps compensating for that sound's inherent deficiencies. However, what I've also found over time is that category three mics never deliver an unacceptable result. Category two mics, in contrast, tend to appear at all positions in the hierarchy, from first choice to last, depending on the particular combination of sound source and room being used. To my mind, one of the most important things you're paying for with a high-end mic such as the U87 is that they will reliably give you very good recordings every time.

If the sound source you're recording already sounds fantastic, then the category three mic will tend to perform better when compared with the category two mic — it is likely to get closest to that glorious sound within the room. Furthermore, premium mics benefit from a great deal more engineering, partly developed to even out the off-axis sound. So if you're recording in a situation where spill may get into the vocal mic off-axis, then the differences between categories two and three begin to become much more apparent. There are now a lot of affordable mics that will give you a reasonable close-miked vocal recording when you work on-axis, and with a bit of acoustic treatment. However, if you put most of these mics out in the middle of an ensemble, their off-axis colorations can quickly let them down by compromising the effect of the other instruments with dodgy-sounding spill


Original Artical:

Behind Abbey Road Studios’ EMI TG12345 Consoles
Category: Sound Science
Tags: waves plug ins studio channel strip

In 1968, the introduction of 8-track recording and increasing sonic experimentation by the Beatles and other groundbreaking artists meant that the capabilities of Abbey Road Studios’ REDD .37 and REDD .51 consoles were being stretched to the max. This called for a new desk.

The year before, EMI had already laid out ideas for a solid-state mixer to replace the valve REDD desks. Throughout 1967, meetings had taken place between the Abbey Road staff and the engineers at EMI Central Research Laboratories in order to design a comprehensive mixing console capable of handling the challenges presented by the latest music recordings.

The following summer, the first prototype console (later known as Mark I) was delivered to Abbey Road Studios. The name of the console was TG12345, with TG representing EMI’s precursor, The Gramophone Company, and with the model number chosen almost at random (EMI used the 123xx sequence as a bearing number: the EMI compander was 12321, the ATOC unit was 12330, and the desk was 1234x. 12345 was simply the next number in the sequence).

TG12345 MK I with Abbey Road staff members, late 1960s



Sounds From Space
Category: Sound Science
Tags: NASA Space Sound Design


Space is the place. Again.

And SoundCloud is now a place you can find sounds from the US government space agency, NASA. In addition to the requisite vocal clips (“Houston, we’ve had a problem” and “The Eagle has landed”), you get a lot more. There are rocket sounds, the chirps of satellites and equipment, lightning on Jupiter, interstellar plasma and radio emissions. And in one nod to humanity, and not just American humanity, there’s the Soviet satellite Sputnik (among many projects that are international in nature).

Many of these sounds were available before; I’ve actually used a number of them in my own music. But putting them on SoundCloud makes them much easier to browse and find, and there are download links. Have a listen below.

Another thing: you’re free to use all of these sounds as you wish, because NASA’s own audio isn’t copyrighted. It’s meant to be a public service to the American people of their taxpayer-funded government program, but that extends to everyone. There are some restrictions – not everything NASA publishes is covered by the same license, though it appears to be on SoundCloud. And you aren’t free to use NASA’s name or logo or imply commercial endorsement. (The Eagle didn’t land on a bag of Doritos.) But that means just about any imaginable musical application is fair game. They do ask you to list NASA as source, but that’s only reasonable. Read their content guidelines for full details.

Let the space remixing begin.

European Space Agency, your move.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in. If you want more, NASA centres all have archival libraries, and the agency has routinely worked with artists and composers to interpret the work they do. See also other research centers around the world. And yes, that’s my Saturn V photo at the top, because, and I’m sure this will come as a huge shock to everyone who reads this site, I’m a big nerd.




Addicts and Alcoholics Can Improve Their Recovery With the Vibroacoustic Treatment Program
Category: Sound Science
Tags: Health science music

Our Solutions, an outpatient counseling program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has recently added the Vibroacoustic Program to their counseling services for the treatment of recovering addicts and alcoholics. Addicts and alcoholics in Fort Lauderdale now have the opportunity to improve their ability for recovery by learning how to effectively manage anxiety and stress and also how to improve their confidence and self-esteem.

(PRWEB) May 20, 2014

Approximately 70 to 90 % of addicts and alcoholics who go into treatment will relapse within the first year after completing a traditional program. Given the current statistics, innovative resources are needed to reduce this high rate of relapse. Our Solutions believes that the Vibroacoustic Treatment Program helps recovering addicts or alcoholics learn how to reduce anxiety and stress, improve self-esteem and as a result support their recovery efforts and reduce the possibility of relapse.

Most addicts and alcoholics experience a great deal of stress and anxiety. In addition, poor self-esteem is one of the primary issues for those suffering from and being treated for substance dependency issues. When an individual experiences stress coupled with poor self-esteem his decisions will tend to be very self-destructive. Providing a program that will reduce stress and improve self-esteem will make addicts and alcoholics better able and willing to stop self-destructive behaviors and instead be open and willing to take suggestions and as a result make healthy decisions that support their recovery and life.

While it is important to also utilize traditional counseling techniques in the treatment of addiction, Our Solutions is providing the Vibroacoustic Treatment Program as an innovative service to directly address a client’s inability to relax and also help improve their poor self-esteem. The vibroacoustic treatment program at Our Solutions utilizes the relaxation lounge and therapeutic relaxation music to help clients to relax and improve self-esteem. The therapeutic relaxation music was specifically developed by Dr. Harry Henshaw using binaural audio tones that have proven effects in helping a person experience a very deep state of relaxation. Combined with certain relaxation techniques, the stress reduction track focuses on helping the client learn how to relax the mind and body when they feel themselves starting to get overwhelmed or stressed. Combined with the therapeutic relaxation music, specially developed positive affirmations are utilized in the self esteem track to help the client begin to think and believe differently about themselves, to improve their self esteem.

The Vibroacoustic Treatment Program at Our Solutions was implemented and is being supervised by Dr. Harry Henshaw. Dr. Henshaw is a licensed psychotherapist and also the Program Director of Our Solutions. Having worked in residential and outpatient treatment programs as well as private practice for 29 years, Dr. Henshaw has extensive experience in working with others to achieve stress relief as well as to improve confidence and self-esteem.

Having used the Vibroacoustic Treatment Program with clients for over 18 months at Our Solutions, Dr. Henshaw is convinced that this program has a positive effect on an individual’s program of recovery. Dr. Henshaw believes further that all treatment centers should be using the Vibroacoustic Program in their clinical programming with addicts and alcoholics. For more information about the vibroacoustic treatment program and what it would take to implement it in your program or treatment center please contact Dr. Henshaw at 305-498-3442 or his website, Enhanced Healing.



Hospital offers lecture series on healing mind, body and spirit
Category: Sound Science
Tags: Health music sound healing

Fort Belvoir Community Hospital hosted its first Complementary and Alternative Medicine lecture May 28, teaching patients and staff therapies that heal the mind, body, and spirit.

The monthly lecture – which focused on Reiki – is free and open to all patients and Belvoir hospital staff. Integrative and Holistic Medicine combines the best of Western Medicine (surgery and medications) with that of Eastern Medicine (Complementary and Alternative Medicine, as known as CAM) to optimize one’s health, said Public Health Capt. George Ceremuga, chief of Integrative Holistic Medicine.

Some CAM modalities include: acupuncture, acupressure, nutrition, herbal and botanical medications, meditation, massage, exercise, yoga, and spirituality. Many of the CAM modalities promote self-care to empower the patients to “heal thyself.”

“The body has an amazing inherent capacity for self-healing and self-regulating by living a healthy lifestyle,” Ceremuga said. “CAM lectures have the opportunity to promote a culture of self-healing and encourage staff and patients to live a life of wellness.”

In the past five years, the Defense Department has moved to reduce the number of potentially addictive prescriptions. A DoD task force in 2010 released a comprehensive pain management plan for physicians, and the Pentagon has cut the percentage of active-duty troops receiving opiate-based painkillers from 26 percent in 2011 to 24 percent last year.

CAM is useful for pain management, wound healing, hospice care, stress reduction, immune function, cancer treatment, post-operative recovery, and relaxation response.

“Integrative medicine incorporates the best evidence-based healing oriented practices and life-style changes, with conventional medical approaches to ameliorate disease and alleviate suffering,” Ceremuga said.

“Combining the best of western medicine with complementary and alternative medicine to create a center of health and well being takes organizational commitment and hard work,” he said. “Done well, the pay-off is a healthier, more vibrant and resilient community/nation.”


Reiki is a Japanese practice that originated in Japan in the early 20th century. It’s a subtle meditative practice that promotes stress relief, balance, and self-healing. Light-pressured, motionless touch in a sequence of hand placements, helps relieve stress and is balancing to the system.

Reiki instructor Christine Mosley, who taught the first class, practices and teaches Reiki self care as a simple and effortless form of meditation. During her daily 30-minute Reiki self care practice, she follows a series of light hand placements that cover the major organs and the endocrine system, keeping her hands in one place for about three minutes before moving to the next hand position.

“The relaxation response comes easily and without any effort,” Mosley said. “Science does not yet know what the mechanism of action is with Reiki. My personal model is, that the still (stationary) hand placements remind our system of its ability to be still. The warmth of human touch is an additional element that feels soothing and comforting.”

Benefits of Reiki Self Care are reduced stress and anxiety, increased self-awareness, and a greater sense of peace. Mosley noted improved digestion and better pain management.

“Reiki self care facilitates our self-healing response because it is deeply relaxing and balancing,” Mosley said. “It reduces stress and brings our system back into balance. A relaxed body and mind give us a foundation for healing, and make us more resilient.”

Reiki is easily learned and practiced. Reiki can be learned in four hours, giving patients and health care workers a self-care tool that is easily accessed through light hand placements. It is a simple form of meditation that can be practiced anywhere and anytime. Reiki empowers patients to be engaged in their own health care, and gives medical staff a tool to avoid burnout.

“Many people report a sense of overall improved well being and mental alertness/positivity in their lives with the routine practice of meditation,” Ceremuga said. “By using meditation, we allow our body to heal itself and not rely on a ‘pill for an ill’ and possible adverse side effects.”

Binaural Beat Technology

The next CAM lecture focuses on Binaural Beat Technology (BBT), sound technology that has the ability to impact brainwave activity in turn affecting mental, physical, or emotional states.

Through stereo headphone, a tone is sent to one ear while a tone of a slightly different frequency is sent to the other ear, said Lt. Col. MeLisa Gantt, Department of Research Programs director. What the brain interprets is actually the wavering difference between the two tones; known as the binaural beat. This integration of the two brain hemispheres produces an affect that alters the electrical pulsations in the brain, changing the brain wave frequency. The tones are overplayed with music so that the person only hears the music.

“Manufacturers of the technology claim it has the ability to place the brain into a synchronized state where both hemispheres work congruently,” Gantt said. “This allows the listener to enter in to different states of consciousness.”

BBT is not currently used at Belvoir hospital as a complementary treatment. However, the hospital is one of the sites for the first BBT study to be conducted in a military setting. The study is assessing if this technology is able to reduce stress so that one can have better quality sleep as well as an improvement in cardiovascular health.

“Stress is the catalyst to many disease processes and – despite peoples’ best efforts – they can’t seem to turn it off,” Gantt said. “BBT works on the subconscious. Instead of the person trying to master the recurring stressful thoughts, BBT changes the brainwave pattern for them.”

This in turn helps the healing process for all of the things that stress causes like high blood pressure, poor sleep quality, etc.

“CAM promotes optimal health by offering patients many self care modalities that will encourage a lifetime of wellness, ‘building a healthy, vibrant, and resilient nation,’” Ceremuga said. “Here at FBCH, our staff and patients have an optimal healing environment, and through CAM we have the opportunity to build a culture of excellence that can be a model for the Military Health System and the nation.”

For more information on the Sound Mind Warrior Study, email or call (571) 231-4016.


Could Rapping Music Make Students Better at Math and Science?
Category: Sound Science
Tags: Rapping music smarts

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Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 announced
Category: Sound Science
Tags: Focusrite Technology

New Thunderbolt-compatible 18-in, 8-out interface


Focusrite’s Saffire Pro 26 is a new addition to the company’s Firewire interface range — though, as with the rest of the Saffire range, operation over Thunderbolt is also supported with the appropriate adaptor. Focusrite explain that the use of Firewire connectivity is to maintain compatibility with the largest number of computers. 

Intended for studio and live applications, the Saffire Pro 26 is accordingly specified with two separate headphone outputs that can receive different mixes, two instrument inputs, a stand-alone mode that doesn’t require a computer, and five‑segment LED monitoring on the front panel for quick level setting. 

The Saffire Pro 26 sees four trusty Focusrite mic preamps pressed into action on inputs 1 to 4. These all double as line inputs and the first two channels can be used for instrument input too. There are two additional rear‑panel TRS line inputs, plus an optical digital input for S/PDIF or ADAT input, and a coaxial S/PDIF input, making a total of 16 physical inputs. The Saffire Pro 26 also features two virtual ‘loopback’ inputs, for routing digital audio between software applications, which Focusrite see as ideal for capturing online audio. In addition to the two headphone outputs, there are also six line‑level TRS outputs and a coaxial S/PDIF out. 

The Pro 26 utilises DSP mixer/router software for flexible output routing and monitoring. It is slated for a June release and should retail for $349.99.

Here's a video of it in action from Focusrite:


Dub Machines - Analogue Echoes in Live
Category: Sound Science
Tags: plug-ins

New Pack of Max for Live delay effects from Surreal Machines


Dub Machines is a bundle of two delay effects for Max for Live, and comes from new company Surreal Machines, co-founded by Ableton’s Matt Jackson and collaborator Pete Dowling.

Modelled on classic tape-echo machines of the '70s, Magneticfeatures multiple physical tape models and three virtual tape heads to choose from. Surreal Machines have measured the distortion, frequency response, errors and mechanical noise of the original units, in order to faithfully recreate their character. Surreal Machines claim you can create anything from shimmering, Pink Floyd-style echoes, or a building, wobbly feedback tail reminiscent of Lee “Scratch” Perry, and much more besides.

The second effect, Diffuse, sits somewhere between delay and reverb, and features a sophisticated feedback network for small tight spaces or long swells. With up to 150% feedback and a special 'pump' effect, Diffuse is a tool designed for sound sculpture.

Dub Machines is available now and costs €29.


Pianoteq 5 adds mic modelling
Category: Sound Science
Tags: plug-ins pianoteq

Model improved for "new clarity and authenticity"


SOS and Pianoteq go way back: we’ve reviewed every major version of Modartt’s modelled virtual piano instrument since it was introduced back in January 2007. Now, some seven years later, we’re presented with the latest and greatest version, Pianoteq 5. So, what’s new?

Like every other version of Pianoteq, physical modelling is at the heart of the sound engine, with no actual samples used at all to recreate the sounds. Each major version has seen the model refined and updated, and in the latest version, the modelling of the attack and soundboard have been addressed. The result, claim Modartt is “a new clarity and authenticity” in a range of the grand piano models.

There are also nine new piano models available, eight of which are based on historical instruments built between 1795 and 1899 and maintained by the Kremsegg Schloss Museum in Austria. The ninth new model has evolved by combining the best elements from several source pianos.

Modartt have also developed the physical model so it is now possible to work with virtual microphones based on popular designs, including classics from AKG, Neuman and RCA, among others. These mics can be rotated in three dimensions and attached to one another for positioning. You also get control over polarity and proximity effect.

There are three so-called ‘flavours’ available: Acoustic Pianos, Electric Pianos, and Chromatic Percussions, the last of which features vibraphone, xylophone and marimba models. Each flavour can be bought separately for an additional €49. There are also three licences available: Stage (€99), Standard (€249) and Pro (€399). Both Standard and Pro include all the features mentioned above, while Stage lacks the microphone features and the ability to tweak microphone models.



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