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AX32 User Story

Two AX32’s and a MOM Take Center Position at Manhattan Studio Gem: Sound Generation

Sound Generation is a true studio gem located on lower Manhattan in New York City. It is extremely well-equipped and has specialized in some interesting niches of production that has earned its owner, Andrew Mittelman, a neat spot in the NYC music recording and audio post production market.

Mittelman established Sound Generation some 14 years ago, and while he hired contractors to build it, he eventually ended up designing and doing major parts of the hands-on work himself, including floating floors and sound-concealing double doors to the recording rooms.

Obviously, on the more technical side, Andrew had a clear idea and a strong opinion on exactly how he wanted the studio to be laid out and interconnected.

The technical setup is in an ever-changing flow, as Andrew is keen to explore and test new gear first-hand. However, since he first got his hands on our AX32 units, they have held a central position in his setup.

Further, he has added a MOM hardware monitor controller to the studio and is currently considering adding a third AX32, which we will get back to later.

Classic Studio Work – and Niche!

Andrew’s area of production is very wide. Of course he does a lot of classic studio sessions – recording music. Often, he works with Indie artist from the New York area, but he also works quite a bit with modern composers, and a recent project involved a newly written piece of music by Keith Patchel along with poet, Bob Holman, who created spoken lyrics for the piece.

Other areas of work include location recording, but not only concerts. As an example, he has a partnership with The New York Times about recording special events, which are most often captured with just a few microphones and one of the AX32 units in the field.

But obviously, recording live music is also a part of Andrew’s repertoire, and in that case, many more mics are of course necessary. Yet, a single AX32 with 24 mic preamps is usually enough to capture everything. And to avoid long analog cable runs, Andrew prefers to keep the AX32 on or nearby the stage and then connects via Dante to the computer.

Digging Deeper into the Gear

Since Andrew often collaborates with composers, who mainly write on their laptops, he has created a workflow around being able to switch seamlessly between Pro Tools, Nuendo and Logic Pro.

Each DAW has a DADman profile preset, which allows him to switch workflow in a matter of seconds. Sometimes, he even runs DAW’s in parallel.

For instance, Andrew mentions a composer, who uses Logic Pro, and when he comes into the studio along with musicians for recording his music, his original Logic session is dubbed to Andrew’s Mac.

Then, Pro Tools is fired up from the same computer for recording the musicians, and synchronization is simply handled by MIDI Time Code.

In the ‘server room’, Andrew has a top-tuned Mac Pro, two AX32 units, tons of hard disks and a Waves SoundGrid system installed, as well as a Trinnov room-correction system.

But since the Trinnov introduces 16 ms of latency, Andrew is currently considering adding a third AX32 unit with an SPQ Speaker Correction card to replace it. Well, we can only support that idea. 😉

Mixing Halfway in the Box

Sound Generation also has a lot of nice analog outboard gear in the racks, as well as a few digital boxes, and Andrew takes on a hybrid approach, mixing with both plug-ins and external hardware, which of course makes the AX32 and their AD/DA converters central to the system. In total, 32 channels of analog I/O make patching in an analog classic a breeze.

And with regard to that, Andrew immediately noticed a significant improvement in the audio quality once the switch to the AX32 converters had ben made – when inserting analog outboard gear, as well as when re-amping instruments in the studio.

Among the analog goodies, we found Neve, Universal Audio, Solid State Logic, Manley, dbx, and much more, and on the digital side, a new Eventide H9000 accompanied digital classics by Lexicon and TC Electronic.

But in particular one rack section caught our attention: 24 Neve channels, 16 of which with EQ, taken from a Neve console and converted for rack-mounting. Nice!

Andrew also mentions that the one of the AX32 units is responsible for the digital Master Clock, regardless of whether the project in question is running at 48 kHz or 96 kHz.

Power MOM

In the studio, the main control surface is a Digidesign ICON-D console, but also importantly, a MOM Monitor Operating Module is conveniently placed on the right-hand side.

And in fact, Andrew really takes advantage of the flexibility that the PRO|MON-powered DADman software and MOM has to offer. One of the great features in this monitoring system is the ability to create different user roles on up to four layers of control.

The initial thought behind this design was to allocate different layers for e.g. a producer, an engineer, the talent, etc.

But surely, you can take advantage of this possibility even when you mainly work the desk alone. Therefore, Andrew has created three different layers where Layer 1 controls the Neumann main stereo studio monitors and a pair of mini speakers.

On this layer, the most-used sourced are also programmed in: Pro Tools Main Out – stereo out 1 and 2 for mixing and mastering respectively. Source C is reserved for a reference track or a previous version of the project that is in the works.

On Layer 2, the speaker setup is identical to Layer 1, but the sources are now Pro Tools Stereo 3, the output of the Mac Pro and a feed from the SoundGrid system when that is being used. The third layer in Andrew’s MOM setup is dedicated to 5.1 surround work with the ability to switch each of the channels ON/OFF, including the LFE-channel.

Finally, Andrew also stresses that the Talkback function is key to his daily workflow at Sound Generation.

Checking for ANY Playback System

As mentioned, one of the stereo speaker pairs is quite small. Obviously, the idea is to check how the mixed and mastered track translates to small, domestic playback systems, but Andrew actually takes it one step further, as he realizes that the way people listen to music today has evolved a lot recently.

Therefore, Cue 3 on the MOM is routing the audio back to the computer where an application called Airfoil makes it streamable via Bluetooth. And for that purpose, Andrew has a small Bose Bluetooth speaker, and is even able to stream directly to a laptop, iPad or iPhone to check how his work translates to ultra-small speakers.

No, it’s not the ideal way to listen to music, but reality is that at least some people chooses to listen that way from time to time, and in that case, double-checking for these scenarios seems like a very good idea.

Knowing the Tech AND the Notes

Clearly, Andrew is deep into the technical side of designing a super-flexible studio, but his background is actually rooted in a life as a musician. He studied at a NYC conservatory and played jazz guitar professionally for a number of years before moving toward the studio life. Apart from guitar, he also plays drums, piano, saxophone and bass, which has given him a great overall understanding of the different instruments – what their roles are and how they sound in the most fundamental way possible. And surely, this natural understanding of the individual instruments also helps him when mixing and mastering.

Further, he has received classical training in music theory, which enables him to follow scores and understand complex harmony.

And while Andrew sometimes works purely as an audio engineer, he is also keen to take on a producer role from time to time, helping the musicians and composers achieve even better results – audibly as well as musically.

Well, it was a big pleasure to visit Sound Generation and to meet Andrew. Because it is when we experience first-hand how the products that we develop, design and manufacture every day are being put to good use that it all makes sense. And it certainly made a lot of sense in this case!

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