sustaining trends in audio land, 2021 edition

Now, after spending some time on digging a little bit more deeper into the current offerings and market situation in audio production I just wanted to briefly outline some of my personal summaries regarding sustaining trends but maybe outline also some new things I do see on the horizon.

The mobile audio evolution

To me this indeed looks like an ongoing trend for years now which simply does not stop. On the one hand we can see the whole software and especially the App market continuing and increasing in all areas and platforms: notebooks, tablets, smartphones and their respective eco systems accordingly. Where Ableton once started in providing an almost complete mobile music production approach in literally just a bag, Bitwig and others followed and now Apps are everywhere allowing any kind of recording and music or media production on the go. Apples recent move with the M1 SOC (System on Chip) approach fits perfectly into this trend by increasing the mobility even further in terms of power, size and efficiency. Others will follow this path for sure. Also we can see traditional music gear manufacturers going more and more into compact and battery powered solutions as well, such as the Korg Volca series or the Roland boutique thingies, just to name the two.

The retro cult continues

Companies like Behringer will continue to spit out analog HW clones like there is no tomorrow. Whether thats synthesizer reissues or blatant plain copies of vintage mixing outboard or modeled software – you’ll find everything and in almost all shades of quality and price. And I think this is a really good thing to have such a variety to choose from and also this will lead to some serious price drops in the overpriced used gear market in that area.

Modular madness

I don’t think this is part of the overall retro trend but a niche on its very own. In any case the modular synthesis thing is still gaining more and more momentum. There is a sheer amount of hardware options to choose from and meanwhile also quite a lot of audio interfaces and controller solutions are offering not only Midi but also CV support. Even in software land one can put his/her virtual hands on something modular. All in all, this looks and sounds like real fun and a great opportunity to spend a lot of time on (and money).

Look mom no computer

All those neat outboard DAW-less setups shown on YT: Some hardware samplers and grooveboxes here, some fancy retro synths there and fx stomp boxes all over the place. Well, “Look mom no computer” is of course absolutely wrong here because half of that stuff has tiny little digital displays and computers underneath you have to tinker with. Personally, I would prefer some neat “one knob, one job” analog interfaces plus a real full-blown DAW any day. However, definately a sustaining trend and a good thing.

Loudness war, quo vadis?

While it seems that LUFS finally made it and in fact has been successfully settled as a standard in the broadcast domain – in music production in general it has not. Todays audio mastering target levels are still insane and even some “engineers” continue to present converter clipping as the holy loudness grail to their YT followers. That really hurts. At least some of the big streaming sevices restricted target loudness levels to -14 or -16LUFS which gives a little hope.

ITB production finally took over

Now that even the last renowned mixing engineer has finally surrendered to the dark side in the box – at least for the recording and mixing part – the question remains, why this has taken so long. Was it for quality concerns? The time-to-market pressure to finally have total recall in all regards? Simple ignorance or fear? We might not be sure about the final answer but we do know that today almost everybody can run some media production tasks in a decent quality on his very own while having a low entrance barrier. And this is what I really would call the “game changer” of the last decade. Now, your skills are the limit.

Game of DAWs

There is really no trend in particular here other than the fact that we have the very same players on the board since a decade ago. Maybe Bitwig will aim for the crown from Ableton? It’s whole inherent synthesis and modulation integration make this comprehensive sequencer an instrunment on its very own and also it runs natively on Linux. All the other contenders improved step by step here and there but quite comparable. Maybe having build in mixing scenes and more convincing analog style summing is a thing which sticks a little bit out. So, on my own I wasn’t that much impressed about this very last episodes and now I’m looking forward to an upcoming but much more entertaining season, hopefully.

The pandemic impact

As we all know, the Covid impact on everything live performance related was and still is a sheer desaster. How this will evolve in the future is hard to predict but it is clear that there won’t be any back to normal any time soon if ever. That means this area must transform into the digital/virtual domain as well and most of the suppliers in exact this kind of areas are already the winners of the current situation.

Stay healthy!

 

out now: SlickEQ “Gentleman’s Edition”

SlickEQ_German

Key specs and features

  • Modern user interface with outstanding usability and ergonomics
  • Carefully designed 64bit “delta” multi-rate structure
  • Three semi-parametric filter bands, each with two shape options
  • Five distinct EQ models: American, British, German, Soviet and Japanese
  • Low band offers an optional phase-lag able to delay low frequencies relative to higher frequencies
  • High pass filter with optional “Bump” mode
  • Low pass filter with two different slopes (6dB/Oct and 12dB/Oct)
  • Parametric Tilt filter with optional “V” mode.
  • Six output stages: Linear, Silky, Mellow, Deep, Excited and Toasted
  • Advanced saturation algorithms by VoS (“Stateful saturation”)
  • Highly effective loudness compensated auto gain control
  • Stereo, mono and sum/difference (mid/side) processing options
  • Frequency magnitude plot
  • Tool-bar with undo/redo, A/B, advanced preset management and more

SlickEQ is a collaborative project by Variety of Sound (Herbert Goldberg) and Tokyo Dawn Labs (Vladislav Goncharov and Fabien Schivre). For more details, please refer to the official product page: http://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-vos-slickeq-ge/

Related

released: SlickEQ

TDR SlickEQ main flat

TDR VOS SlickEQ is a mixing/mastering equalizer designed for ease of use, musical flexibility and impeccable sound.

Three (and a half) filter-bands arranged in a classic Low/Mid/High semi parametric layout offer fast and intuitive access to four distinct EQ modes, each representing a set of distinct EQ curves and behaviors. An elaborate auto gain option automatically compensates for changes of perceived loudness during EQ operation. Optionally, SlickEQ allows to exclusively process either the stereo sum or stereo difference (i.e. “stereo width”) without additional sum/difference encoding.

In order to warm up the material with additional harmonic content, SlickEQ offers a switchable EQ non-linearity and an output stage with 3 different saturation models. These options are meant to offer subtle and interesting textures, rather than obvious distortion. The effect is made to add the typical “mojo” often associated with classy audio gear.
An advanced 64bit multirate processing scheme practically eliminates typical problems of digital EQ implementations such as frequency-warping, quantization distortion and aliasing.

Beside the primary controls, the plug-in comes with an array of additional helpers: Advanced preset management, undo/redo, quick A/B comparison, copy & paste, an online help, editable labels, mouse-wheel support and much more.

SlickEQ is a collaborative project by Variety Of Sound (Herbert Goldberg) and Tokyo Dawn Labs (Vladislav Goncharov and Fabien Schivre).

Key specs and features

  • Intuitive, yet flexible semi parametric EQ layout
  • Full featured, modern user interface with outstanding usability and ergonomics
  • Carefully designed 64bit “delta” multi-rate structure
  • Three EQ bands with additional 18dB/Oct high-pass filter
  • Four distinct EQ models: “American”, “British”, “German” and “Soviet” with optional non-linearity
  • Four output stages: “Linear”, “Silky”, “Mellow” and “Deep”
  • Advanced saturation algorithms by VoS (“stateful saturation”)
  • Highly effective and musically pleasing loudness compensated auto gain control
  • Oversampled signal path including stateful saturation algorithms
  • Stereo and sum/difference processing options
  • Tool-bar with undo/redo, A/B, advanced preset management and more

Availability

TDR VOS SlickEQ is a freeware audio plug-in available for Windows and Mac in VST and Audio Units format (both 64-bit and 32-bit). VST3 and AAX formats will follow later.

All downloads are available via the Tokyo Dawn Labs website.

Related Links

compressor aficionados (4) – Bob Olhsson

Bob, you are a professional recording and mastering engineer for over thirty years and already legend. What is more important: The ability to hear or the ability to use the right device according to the context and to apply the right adjustment?

You need to BOTH be able to hear AND find the right device and settings! Probably the most important thing to understand is that just raising the volume a tenth of a dB. will always sound better. All comparisons must be checked with the average level compensated. Otherwise, it’s easy to wind up with something that’s louder but far worse sounding.

Another challenge is mastering for what the recording needs and not what your monitors want. Our goal is for it to sound great everywhere. The best way I’ve found to tackle this problem is sticking to broad strokes unless I’m removing distractions. If a half dB. sounds different but not better, I’ll generally leave it alone. [Read more…]

what Psychoacoustics is about

If you once listened to MPEG 1 Audio Layer 3 (aka mp3) compressed audio files you’ve already heard some encoding algorithms which are highly based on psychoacoustic principles. But what is that voodoo stuff all about in general? The science of psychoacoustics basically investigates the impact of a physical audio signals property on to the subjective perceived signal (hearing) and whats going on under the hood of that hearing, meanwhile. So it can basically be seen as an input/output model where a certain acoustic stimuli comes in and some sort of perception comes out. On top of that, hearing has not just been seen as a black box but a lot of modelling has already been done to get a better understanding on how hearing is actually performed in our bio-mechanical apparatus and our brain as well. [Read more…]

loudness wars – episode IV

Yes, a new hope. While some of the recently established  metering systems did not successfully managed the loudness race problems in general there seems to be a new hope concerning those issues and this comes from the broadcasters standardization efforts. Started in 2006 the ITU recommendation BS.1770­‐1 defined already some replacement for the common QPPM metering and instead was oriented towards loudness metering. [Read more…]

about audio signal coloration

In this comprehensive article some deeper explorations and explanations on this topic are given and at the end a brief but handy definition about audio signal coloration is proposed.  Some tips on mixing can be obtained here as well and – by the way – some myth about equalizing audio in the digital domain gets busted.

Digital image spectrum

Digital imaging spectrum

[Read more…]