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In the pursuit of excellence - Forssell vs Pacific Microsonics
Friday, 16 September 2011 06:14

forssell-mada-2Having the best available A/D and D/A converters in the studio means that we are able to capture and monitor every nuance & detail that our analog mastering chain provides very accurately and without compromise.

That's why we recently conducted a mastering converter shoot out in order to find the very best converters for our mastering suite. We tested the Lavry Gold AD122-96 MkIII, the Cranesong HEDD 192, Prism Orpheus, Prism Dream, Prism ADA8-XR, Pacific Microsonics HDCD Model 2 & the Forssell MADA-2. The converters were put through their paces very carefully in order to reveal the most consistent performer. What we were looking for in our conversion was transparency, detail, focus and the best imaging.

The two converters that stood out were the Forssell MADA-2 and the Pacific Microsonics HDCD Model 2. The Forssell MADA-2 is a brand new design that designer Fred Forssell has been perfecting through prototypes over the past few years. The Pacific Microsonics is a discontinued converter from the 1990's which is rare to find in the used market because few units were produced, and they are highly sought after. (Matthew Gray Mastering had purchased a Pacific Microsonics after auditioning some test files from a unit in Sony mastering, New York, and finding a unit for sale in Hollywood.)

Once the Pacific Microsonics HDCD Model 2 was set up along side the Forssell MADA-2, we found only very small sonic differences between them. As both units had been in use at Matthew Gray Mastering over the past several months on a wide variety of projects, Matthew was able to get to know the sonic signature of both units in greater detail. The results of this extended listening revealed that the Forssell MADA-2 was the superior converter for both A/D and D/A conversions. The MADA-2 now has pride of place on the analog mastering processing chain.

After much deliberation Matthew decided to sell the Pacific Microsonics unit in favour of a second 'modified' Forssell MADA-2 unit to be a back up A/D for the first MADA-2 while also taking over the Pacific Microsonics as the primary monitoring D/A converter.

In the pursuit of excellence, it was hard to refute the Forssell MADA-2. So hard, in fact, that we are now an Australian distributor, so let us know if you would like pricing or a demo unit.

We hope you enjoy listening to the results of these converters on your next mastering session with Matthew Gray Mastering, where we care about even the smallest of details to give you the best sonic result for your next project.

Drawn from Bees
Monday, 29 August 2011 19:14

Drawn from BeesOur client Drawn from Bees are a creative rock band from Australia.

Since 2008 Drawn from Bees (the name comes from an Oscar Wilde play) have released more recordings than most bands release in their careers and they have performed across the East coast of Australia and internationally.

Jeremy recently caught up with Dan James, vocalist and guitarist for Drawn from Bees, for a Q/A session.

Q: Please tell us a little about Drawn From Bees.

A: You could say that Drawn from Bees are a creative rock band, I always prefer the word creative as opposed to experimental. We are a hard working bunch and are always trying to grow our music in the recorded and live arenas. We are mainly based in Brisbane although recently our guitarist (Raven) moved to Melbourne. The result is that we are one of those "modern" bands that is creating music and sending it down to Melbourne for him to add guitar ideas. Influences are older bands like Pink Floyd and Bowie, bands that are constantly pushing the boundaries and moving into new sonic territory.

Q: Drawn From Bees have consistently released shorter recordings over the years, almost as if you grabbed hold of the single culture before anyone else. But then you hedged your bets with an album release (2010's Fear Not the Footsteps of the Departed). Can you tell me why the two-pronged approach was used, and what you've found great (or or not so great) about each?

A: The length of our releases were never really something we thought about too much. When we started our "Box Set" project we just wanted to release a batch of work every six months. The last one happened to be a full length record because we had quite a backlog of songs that weren't quite finished on the first three. We have a policy of not releasing music until we all feel it is ready so by the time we hit the final record in the set we had quite a lot of ideas that needed finishing and a whole lot of new ideas. We actually left quite a few songs off that record.

I also feel that we are now living in a world that embraces creativity more than it did in the past. Bands are no longer stuck to formats like CD's and they are no longer living in a world where you need big recording studios to lay down great records. The result is that you are only limited by your imagination and application. I also think that there is no cutting edge anymore and once a band understands that then they are on the cutting edge.

Drawn from Bees - Of Walls and TeethQ: What's the new single and what's it about?

A: Of Walls and Teeth is about my fear of conflict. The song uses an allegory of fighting with a wolf that is preparing to tear me apart. It seems that a fight is never about right or wrong, it is only ever about how far a person will go to prove a point and what horrible things people are capable of saying when they are angry.

On a sonic level this is a new direction for Drawn from Bees - we are really drawing from older guitar sounds of Cream and towards the end we were attempting to get that ripping guitar sound that Keith Richards is so well known for. The drums and bass are punchier than the normal DFB approach and we hope it gives a feeling of being "kicked in the guts". This was a really fun mix for us as we are doing things differently again, we mixed this song "out of the box" for the first time and were lucky enough to mix it with the lovely Stephen Bartlett on his Neve console straight to tape. It is a very new sound for us which is ironic considering it uses much older technology.

Q: Where will you be performing or touring to promote the new single Of Walls and Teeth?

A: We will be traveling up and down the east coast of Australia. We are doing the usual big cities, but we will be trying out some new venues this time. I am excited about playing at Yah Yah's for the first time. Actually I am excited about being back on the road full stop! Being in a band gives you the best excuse to go on really awesome road trips with your best friends, there aren't many jobs that allow you to have that much fun while you work.

Q: Recently you guys have been gone from our land of droughts and flooding rains. What did you get up to?

A: We have been touring through Hong Kong, The UK, the East Coast of the United States with a little side trip to Canada. We have also played in some pretty iconic venues and released our first EP in the USA. We played four shows at SXSW and signed a syncing deal with a rather large company in LA and we even signed a deal at SXSW with INK music back here in Australia. It has been a huge few months of constant gigging and no sleep coupled with the odd smattering of alcohol abuse, I'm surprised that we didn't get sick.

Q: What was your favourite or most memorable or funniest or most exhilarating experience on your overseas trip?

A: There are two venues we have played in the States and it is a tossup between them. In NY we played an amazing show at the Bowery Ball Room and then went out on the town with some New York locals. I remember that Raven passed out in the bar at one point and eventually we all got separated, Stew had a fight with a cab driver and I chatted to other bands all night, I can only hope that I didn't embarrass myself as the wine was flowing freely that night!

The second venue was the Whisky a Go-Go in LA. We had the worst sound check in history, everything that could go wrong went wrong including feedback problems, pedals breaking, boomy unclear holdback. It is also quite an intimidating venue that was famous as the home of The Doors - they still have the same stage that Jim Morrison performed on. We walked on stage with nothing but fear and stood in front of a packed house and struck the first chord. From then on all the problems somehow disappeared, nothing went wrong and the atmosphere in the room was electric. It still stands out in my mind how good it felt to really belt it out on the same stage as the Doors.

Discover more

Drawn from Bees Of Walls and Teeth on iTunes
Official website

Neumann PEV - the cream of the passive EQs
Saturday, 18 June 2011 06:39

Neumann PevWe've been on the lookout for a set of Neumann PEV EQ's for a few years now. Why? Because they sound unique and impart a 60's passive vintage flavour which we knew would compliment our existing more 'modern' analog mastering EQ's.

We finally came across a set in the USA which were in excellent condition and snapped them up - we weren't going to let them get away!

Originally only found in the early 60's Neumann vinyl cutting lathes/transfer consoles these rare passive EQ cartridges consist of a 60Hz low shelf, a midrange with seven frequency choices, and a 10kHz high shelf. Effectively they are like an expensive tone control for your audio and can quickly & broadly re-shape the tone of your mix in a very musical manner.

The sound of these EQ's can be described as 'smooth' & 'broad'. The low end is large and creamy, the mids smooth & buttery, the highs smooth & silky. While not suitable for all styles, we've found nothing else that comes close to the tone of these remarkable EQ's for acoustic, RnB, hip-hop and some rock tracks.

We had the PEV modules carefully restored & set up for mastering in a custom rack by Rob Squire of Pro Harmonics.

We've also added a set of 'active' Neumann PEV-C modules which were one of the first Neumann designs to utilise the OA10 discrete op amp, and are equally as rare to source. The PEV-C's sound completely different to the PEV's which were passive inductor based with transistor (silicon) op amps. They have the same frequency choices & the same basic design but sonically they're worlds apart - the PEV-C sounds faster, snappier and punchier and suit more electronic or percussive styles of music where the EQ needs to be more up front and aggressive in nature.

Win online mastering
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 05:30

UPDATE: This competition is now closed.  Congratulations to Dave Hillis for winning.upload

We thought we'd run a little competition to start off the year. Here's how it works ...

All you have to do is sign up to our email list by the end of February 2011.  All new people who sign up go into the draw to win an online mastering session.

Please note:

  • An online mastering session is an unattended mastering session for one song.
  • The prize must be taken by 31st December 2011.

Queensland floods - charity single
Friday, 21 January 2011 07:24

Love You Queensland charity singleThis week, after the massive floods through the state of Queensland in Australia, Matthew Gray was involved in a project to raise money for the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Fund.

A selection of Queensland's music theatre stars, under the direction of Harvest Rain Theatre Company, recorded a ballad version of the Love You Queensland anthem.  The song includes the voices of Simon Gallaher, who made the song famous almost 30 years ago, Leisa Barry-Smith, Jason Barry-Smith, Liz Buchanan, Julie Cotterell, Kynan Francis, Angela Harding, Belinda Heit, Luke Kennedy, David Kidd, Hannah King, Shaun Kohlman, Dash Kruck, Arlie McCormick, Kathryn McIntyre, Naomi Price, Danika Saal, Megan Shorey, Lionel Theunissen and Luke Venables

The song was mastered by Matthew Gray Mastering and is available now from iTunes.  All proceeds from the song go to the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Fund.

Ampex ATR-102 and why analog tape sounds so good
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 16:06

Ampex ATR-102Analog tape sounds amazing on the right project, which is why we have gone to significant effort and expense to have a custom modified Ampex ATR-102 two-track mastering tape deck right here in the studio.

The ATR-102 is the last mastering deck to roll off the Ampex assembly line before they ceased manufacturing in the late 1980's. Our machine was sourced from the University of Wisconsin, from where it was shipped directly to ATR Services for a complete internal rebuild with the highest grade components. This rebuild also included an exchange of the stock electronics for Aria Class A Reference Series electronics and flux magnetics mastering grade half-inch heads which gives it maximum transparency and detail.

Our ATR-102 was initially biased and aligned for Quantegy GP9 half-inch tape, but this tape has been unavailable since Quantegy closed its factory doors in 2007. Today the only companies producing analog tape are RMGI (formerly Emtec/BASF) with their 900 and 911 series tape, and a new company, ATR Magnetics, a sister company to ATR Services. ATR Magnetics have produced arguably the best sounding analog tape around. It is similar sounding to Quantegy 456, while able to maintain a higher operating level similar to Quantegy GP9. Our ATR-102 is now set up to run the ATR Magnetics tape.

Why analog tape?

Analog tape has the ability to subtly compress a mix in a very natural manner, and has what can only be described as a 'gluing' effect - giving a mix more cohesiveness by controlling and absorbing transient peaks in a way that no other compressor can hope to do. Analog tape can also add subtle harmonic distortion which helps to give a mix depth and width while softening harsh mid and high frequencies and adding a robustness to the lower frequencies.

The Ampex ATR-102 tends to work best on rock, metal and hip hop styles, and even folk or acoustic-based music that needs 'warming up'. Where it doesn't work well is when a mix is already quite compressed, dull or heavy in the low frequencies - in these cases the tape only tends to exaggerate these areas.

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