Sound Reinforcement Behind the Scenes at Blizzcon

Christine Wu and Band on stage at Blizzcon 2010I don’t often get a chance to talk about my secret passion for World of Warcraft (a massively popular online game) here at AudioWorld. So I was quite pleased to find this opportunity! Electric violinist Christine Wu has posted a great story about the technical challenges she faced with sound reinforcement when she performed as bandleader at last October’s Blizzcon 2010 event.

Blizzcon is a huge annual event put on by Blizzard Entertainment, the game developer responsible for World of Warcraft, in Anaheim, California. It’s the place to be for WoW gamers, and it always includes splashy concert events in the evening, at Anaheim Convention Center. For Blizzcon 2010, one of the main stage events featured a costumed, WoW-themed dance contest, with music provided by a very hot band of L.A. session players, fronted by three electric string players. All led by Christine Wu.

The show came off without a hitch, at least as far as I could tell at the time. I remember thinking what a great job the band did, sounding (and looking) great under difficult circumstances. As Christine puts it… “we have no idea if we’ll play 10 seconds or 2 minutes of each song… but I’ll have no feed from the show’s producers or a talkback mic to talk to my band, which is going to present a MAJOR challenge.”

That turned out to be almost the least of her problems. Her story of behind-the-scenes at the show details how she used an Apogee GiO guitar interface to hook up her custom 5-string Yamaha electric violin with her Mac laptop, Logic Audio, and Waves GTR and Pedalboard. This solved all kinds of trouble with software incompatibilities and audio connectivity, and she managed to run solid through a 3-hour show entirely on battery power.

It’s a great story, especially for those of us who were at Blizzcon and enjoyed the whole spectacle without ever thinking what was going on with audio. In fact, I remember overhearing several comments about how great the sound was, better than ever before at a Blizzcon event.

Gratz to Christine Wu, her band, the sound reinforcement crew at Blizzcon… and Apogee Digital for the versatile GiO interface.

Native Instruments Releases a Slew of New and Updated Software with a Massive Deal

The latest round of software instrument updates from virtual instrument maker Native Instruments (NI) includes upgraded versions of Battery (drums and percussion), FM8 (fm synthesis), Absynth (modular synth), and Komplete (big software bundle), along with the brand new Massive wave-scanning synth.

The best news for completists who want to own everything NI makes is a limited time offer: buy Komplete 4, along with the Kore hardware/software bundle, and you get a free copy of Massive (special deal runs until December 31st 2006).

Native Instruments says that Massive ($339 US) uses a new high-resolution audio engine, and combines advanced Wave-Scanning synthesis with a wealth of sophisticated sound-shaping and modulation options.

The result: a charismatic high-end sound full of warmth, punch, character and definition. Massive is “a true next-generation software synthesizer with unique sonic character, outstanding audio fidelity, vast flexibility and an innovative, highly accessible interface.”

Absynth 4 ($339 US) is the 4th generation of NI’s award-winning semi-modular software synthesizer. Absynth is well-known for its unique evolving sounds and textures. The new version offers a new customizable signal flow that allows for extended sound design and performance capabilities.

It also brings additional oscillator, waveform and envelope features, and a completely revised modulation concept. Native Instruments also points out numerous usability improvements, including a new KORE-compatible sound browser, that will provide a more convenient creative workflow.

FM8 ($339 US) is the long-awaited successor to the popular FM7 software synthesizer, which has become a classic in its own time as a deluxe emulation of the Yamaha DX-7 synthesis architecture. The new FM8 comes with an enhanced high-resolution audio engine, intelligent sound morphing, added performance features and a new KORE-compatible preset manager.

“The FM8 makes the timeless and highly expressive musical potential of FM synthesis available in a thoroughly modernized instrument that fits perfectly into today’s studio and stage setups,” says Native Instruments.

Battery 3 ($229 US) offers a significant revision of the popular drum and percussion sampler. New features include time-stretching and advanced loop capabilities, innovative “play parameters,” a powerful master effects section and an integrated wave editor. Battery 3 also comes with an enormous library of more than 100 high-quality drum kits providing a wealth of studio-quality material for all styles and genres.

Last, and by no means least, Komplete 4 ($1,499 US) is the new version of the powerful software bundle that has become a mainstay with professional musicians and producers around the world. With a universal selection of state-of-the-art instruments and effects, reinforced through several powerful updates to some of its key components, Komplete 4 continues to mark the cutting edge in software synthesis and to provide an invaluable resource for all areas of modern music production and performance.

Native Instruments Website (U.S.)

Tascam’s New DM-4800 Digital Console Is Perfect for the Computer-Based Professional Studio

Tascam’s new DM-4800 ($5,999 US) digital mixing console, launched this week at the AES convention in San Francisco, is designed to integrate with a computer-based DAW.

The DM-4800 provides 48 channels and 16 returns for a total of 64 inputs. Also onboard are 24 analog mic/line inputs with phantom power for condenser mics and analog inserts. Users can add mic preamps by using expansion cards with external preamps. Four expansion card slots support optional FireWire, ADAT, AES/EBU, Analog, TDIF and Surround Monitoring cards.

Tascam says that the DM-4800 feature list offers mixing specs that equal or surpass digital consoles over twice its price. The company positions the DM-4800 as a digital console for professional users who demand a flexible, 64-channel mix platform that can be configured to fit their needs, especially in a computer-based environment.

A “fat channel” strip in the center of the board provides instant access to 4-band parametric EQ, dynamics and auxiliary controls available for the first 48 channels. Twenty-four studio-grade mic preamps provide enough inputs for a live event, and more can be added using expansion cards with external preamps. The standard compliment of analog and digital I/O is more than you’ll find on consoles costing three times as much, and a completely configurable 24-buss routing system allows you to re-patch the board at the flick of a switch.

TASCAM’s DM-4800 fits seamlessly into the modern recording environment based around a computer DAW. With a single button press, the Remote layer provides a 24-fader control surface for control of premiere workstations such as Pro Tools, Logic, SONAR, DP, Cubase and Nuendo.

Options available for the DM-4800 digital mixer include the IF-FW/DMmkII FireWire interface card, which provides 32 channels to and from a computer at up to 96kHz over a single FireWire cable; and a surround monitoring card that provides down-mixing, bass management and level control for mixing in up to 6.1 surround.

More features:

  • 48 channels and 16 returns for 64 total inputs
  • 24 busses
  • 12 Aux Sends
  • 24 mic/line inputs with analog inserts and phantom power for condenser mics
  • 24 channels of TDIF and 8 channels of ADAT built in
  • 4 expansion card slots support optional FireWire, ADAT, AES/EBU, Analog, TDIF and Surround Monitoring cards
  • Dedicated cascade port -supports cascade of two DM-4800s
  • Channel Strip section for EQ, Dynamics and Aux control of selected channel
  • Per channel LED ring encoders for pan, aux sends and EQ
  • Built-in DAW control layer compatible with Pro Tools®, Logic Pro™, SONAR™, Cubase™, Nuendo™, and Digital Performer™
  • Transport buttons control DAW software or RS-422 devices
  • Powerful automation with touch-sensitive motorized faders
  • 4-band EQ, compression and gating on each channel
  • Compression for each aux, buss and main output
  • Two built-in effects processors, each able to run TC Reverb programs
  • Flexible routing allows any input to be routed to any channel or output
  • Offload data to convenient Compact Flash media using built-in CF slot
  • Optional MU-1000 meter bridge
  • Stylish, professional design with rear panel I/O connections

Grundig Introduces New Car and Mobile Family Entertainment Systems for European Market

German consumer electronics maker Grundig is gearing up for the major European car and mobile entertainment show of the year, the Car & Sound show in the small town of Sinsheim, Germany (April 11-13, 2003) with several new car and mobile audio entertainment products.

Leading the way is the DVD 150 “infotainment center” which is available with various liquid crystal display (LCD) viewing options. The system handles a wide range of disc formats, including DVD-Video, CD, CD-R, CD-RW and MP3 CD. It also features an anti-shock system which allows for glitch-free playback of discs, regardless of whether the unit is mounted vertically, horizontally or diagonally.

The DVD 150 is aimed squarely at families on the road, with input connectors for a number of commonly-used games consoles, to help kids pass the time on long drives.

For the very best in mobile viewing, Grundig is offering the Rooftop RTFT700 as the top-of-the line display for the DVD 150. It offers a screen diagonal of 7 inches and a very high resolution of 1440 x 234 pixels. Films can be enjoyed in either 16:9 or 4:3 format. On the audio side, the RTFT700 has an infrared interface for cordless headphones, enabling passengers in the back seats to enjoy the entertainment without disturbing the driver.

The Rooftop RTFT700 has a super-flat design that allows it to fold away unobtrusively into the roof of the car when not in use.

The new Grundig DVD 150 infotainment centre is available from specialist dealers in Europe at a recommended retail price of € 499 (approx. $500 US). The Rooftop RTFT700 will be priced at € 799 ($800 US).

Grundig will also offer lower-priced display options for the DVD 150, with screen sizes of 5 inches (TFT 500, € 349), 5.6 inches (TFT 560, € 399) and 7 inches(TFT 700, € 749).

Grundig CarCine

The new Grundig CarCine 560 and 700 systems are complete, self-contained, portable entertainment centres you can take with you anywhere.

CarCine systems come in a bag that houses the player unit, with a high-resolution TFT monitor and a pair of speakers mounted in the flap of the bag (5.6-inch diagonal display for the CarCine 560, 7-inch diagonal for CarCine 700).

In the car, you power the system from a cigarette lighter socket. The CarCine can be fitted securely behind a seat using a simple belt system, with the monitor fastened to the head restraint. In a hotel room (or at the office), the system plugs into a standard electrical outlet.

Like the DVD 150 car-mounted system, the CarCine portables can handle DVD-Video, CD, CD-R, CD-RW and MP3 CD discs, and they have game console connectors. Illuminated buttons let you access all of the system functions easily in the dark of a car interior at night.

In addition to the two built-in speakers beside the screen, the CarCine has audio outputs to connect directly to an existing car sound system. Both models also have connection sockets for separate headphones, so that passengers can listen in the car and not disturb drivers or distract them from the surrounding traffic.

European pricing for the Grundig CarCine 560 is € 899 ($900 US), while the CarCine 700 will be available for € 1299 ($1300 US).

Digital Radio On the Road – Allixx DAB

Rounding out the new line of Grundig car audio systems is the Allixx DAB, a digital radio with built-in DAB receiver.

The digital radio network is expected to grow in Germany and throughout Europe for the next few years, and DAB reception will become an essential feature of car radios, according to Grundig.

The Grundig Allixx DAB guarantees high-quality, interference-free radio reception with a sound quality comparable to that of a CD. Even out of the reception range of a digital radio broadcaster, the Allixx DAB has no problems. Its sophisticated control software allows it to switch between digital radio and FM so quickly that it is imperceptible to the listener, and automatically switches back to the digital medium when the reception improves again.

The Allixx also has an RDS system, standard on all Grundig car radios, to provide the best possible FM reception by automatically switching to the strongest available frequencies.

For digital radio station that support the function, the Allixx DAB can also show PAD (program associated data) such as traffic information or news from around the world, on a large two-line dot matrix display, optionally illuminated in blue or white.

The Allixx DAB also includes a built-in CD player that handles conventional CD, CD-R and CD-RW discs, even on very bumpy rides. It can show CD text in its display when it’s available. The unit power speakers with 4 x 50 Watts of amplification.

The Allixx DAB will sell in Europe at a recommended retail price of € 649 ($650 US).