Audio-Technica AT899 Subminiature Microphone

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January 7, 2018

First published in Pro-Audio Review Magazine. Here is the link: Audio-Technica AT899 Subminiature Microphone

When considering a microphone for use in the theatre, musical or otherwise, size does indeed matter, as does sound quality. Audio-Technica’s new AT899 subminiature condenser microphone certainly delivers in both departments, and with characteristics that compare with larger A-T microphones it will leave the budget conscious sound designer quite satisfied.
Product PointsApplications: Theater, broadcast

Key Features: Sub-miniature size; omnidirectional pattern; many clips and mic holders

Price: $299

Contact: Audio-Technica at 330-686-2600, Web Site.

Features

The AT899 ($299) element housing is .63 inches long and .20 inches in diameter with a non-reflective black finish. The long 9.8-foot cable is 0.08 inches in diameter. Its three-pin TA3F output connector mates with a three-pin TB3M connector on the provided AT8537 power module, which terminates to a three-pin XLR connector.

The mic element is a fixed charge condenser with an omnidirectional polar pattern that boasts a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The power module has a flat/low-rolloff at 80 Hz, 12 dB/octave. Phantom power can be provided by an external 11V to 52V DC phantom power supply, or a 1.5V AA battery placed in the power module should provide about 1,200 hours of continuous use.

The max input sound level is 138 dB SPL (1 kHz at 1% THD) with phantom, 116 dB SPL with battery. The mic’s dynamic range under battery power is 86 dB (1 kHz at 1% THD) and when powered with phantom expands to 108 dB (1 kHz at 1% THD).

Provided accessories are abundant. Included with the mic are: AT8537 power module, AT8439 cable clip; clothing clip base, viper clip base, magnet clip base and plate with lanyard, three single mic holders, two double mic holders, two element covers, two windscreens, battery and a protective carrying case. Options include beige finish for the mic and accessories.

There is also a version for wireless systems with proper terminations.

In Use

I wanted to test frequency response and dynamic range for vocal reinforcement (singing as well as speaking) and for recording. I designed a production of Dames at Sea in a well-known theatre in Maryland, and one of the performers agreed to help me test out the microphone by singing a few songs with an accompanist onstage after a matinee performance. She stood onstage and performed four songs – two with the lav on her head and two with the lav clipped to her shirt.

The first thing you notice about the AT899 when you open up the leather-like case is its compact size. When deciding on a mic to use in a theatrical situation, size is a consideration. This microphone is small enough to mount on the forehead just below the hairline so it’s exposed without reading too badly from the audience. The actor told me that it was comfortable to wear, and she pretty much forgot it was there. That’s important because an actor that is thinking about her mic is not thinking about what she should be thinking about when performing.

This lav performed surprisingly well for a capsule of its size. I have to say that in general I find that the smaller the mic, the crispier it sounds – but the 899 was undistorted and uncolored from the quiet to the very loud. It needed a minimum of EQing to the room, and its coverage area allowed for little proximity effect. She told me that the mic was so light that she forgot it was strapped to her head.

She sounded very present in the recording as well, with a natural attenuation of the background noises made by those stage hands.

The next test was on a man that had never spoken in public before. He was the new house manager and was tasked with getting in front of the audience for the pre-show announcements. We clipped the mic to his lapel and he nervously made his way onstage. Again, the mic performed just as well as the “expensive” mics we used in the show, with smooth transitions as he jerked his head to and fro while speaking. He was nervous and spoke softly, so thankfully there was plenty of headroom, and loads of gain before feedback.

Summary

The AT899 is a good value. It reproduces vocals dependably, can be hidden on a performer comfortably and virtually invisibly. I would have absolutely no problem recommending this lav to small to mid-sized theatres as a very fine alternative to the most expensive models.

Qlab Sound Cue List – Applescript

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January 7, 2018

Here is a little AppleScript I wrote to export a list of cues to in a CSV format, which can be opened by Numbers or Excel. It only lists Qlab cues that have numbers.

(Still trying to figure out how to post code without word-wrapping)

 


# This script was written by Tony Angelini. If you use it, email me a cheerful note at tonyangelini@gmail.com
display dialog "This script was written by Tony Angelini. If you use it, email me a cheerful note at tonyangelini@gmail.com" buttons {"Cancel", "Continue..."} default button 2
# Create the CSV file and set up column headers
try
	set myHeaderText to "SQ,Description,GO,Notes"
	display dialog "Cue Sheet Save As" default answer ""
	set theCueSheetName to (the text returned of the result) & ".csv"
	
	do shell script "echo " & quoted form of myHeaderText & " >> ~/Desktop/" & quoted form of theCueSheetName
end try

# Choose the QLab file
set theFile to (choose file with prompt "Select the QLab File:")

# Read The QLAB file and write to the CSV file
tell application "QLab"
	activate
	open theFile
	# display dialog "Create Sound Cue List?"
	tell front workspace
		#make type "audio"
		repeat with xCue in (every cue)
			set xNumber to the q number of xCue
			set xPage to the notes of xCue
			set xName to the q display name of xCue
			# defeat any commas in xName
			set AppleScript's text item delimiters to {","}
			set newText to text items of xName
			set AppleScript's text item delimiters to {" / "}
			set xName to newText as text
			set xNotes to the notes of xCue
			# Replace carriage returns to " / "
			set AppleScript's text item delimiters to {return & linefeed, return, linefeed, character id 8233, character id 8232}
			set newText to text items of xNotes
			set AppleScript's text item delimiters to {" / "}
			set newxNotes to newText as text
			if xNumber is less than 1 then
				set xNumber to 1.0E+22
			end if
			set xText to xNumber & "," & xName & ",," & newxNotes
			try
				do shell script "echo " & quoted form of xText & " >> ~/Desktop/" & quoted form of theCueSheetName
			end try
		end repeat		
	end tell	
end tell

beep
beep
beep
tell me
	activate
	display dialog "Process Complete"
end tell

Audio-Technica Artist Elite 5000 Series Professional UHF Wireless System

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January 7, 2018

Publish in Pro Audio Review Magazine. Here is the link: Audio-Technica Artist Elite 5000 Series Professional UHF Wireless System

When I design a system with wireless microphones, I have one rule – get the best there is. We all know that in the long run it is cheaper to have gear you can count on, and in my experience, the average lay person does not understand the quagmire you can fall into when you use a wireless system that’s less than excellent. I was interested to see where on the dependability scale Audio-Technica’s new Artist Elite 5000 Series Professional UHF wireless system performed.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, installation

Features: UHF system; IntelliScan channel scanning; true diversity; handheld, beltpack transmitters; software control interface

Prices: 5000 Series systems begin at $959 for the basic dual bodypack system; the AEW-5313 system reviewed here has an MSRP of $3,359.

Contact: Audio-Technica at 330-686-2600, Web Site.

Features

I had the AEW-T1000 beltpack transmitter which boasts a battery life (two 1.5V AA) of approximately eight hours on high (35mW output), or 10 hours on low (10mW output). It weighs 4.4 oz, which matters if you are forced to, say, mount the beltpack inside a wig. It has a 10-position audio input gain setting, ranging from +12 dB to -6 dB in 2 dB increments.

I also had the AEW-T3300 handheld transmitter – a cardioid condenser. The batteries last approximately six hours on high and eight hours on low. It has a three-position audio input gain setting; +12 dB, +6 dB, and 0. There is also a mechanical pad switch under the wire mesh grille for an additional -6 dB attenuation.

The AEW-R5200 dual receiver (two true diversity receivers in one rack chassis) is also sleek, with a soft blue tint on the LCD windows that display everything you need to know in a live performance, including RF signal reception, audio frequency level, and battery levels.

On the front you will find a headphone output with level controller, and the mode/setting switches. It also has front or rear mount antenna options. On the back you will find both line level and mic level balanced outputs, ground lift switch, AF output attenuators, rear rack mounts to permit attachment for extra support, as well as connectors to link all your receivers.

Audio-Technica’s IntelliScan Channel Assignment System has the capability to do a frequency sweep of the area and program your receivers to available frequencies that work well together. It is assigned 200 frequencies in a 25 MHz-wide frequency range, 655.500 – 680.375 MHz (TV Channels 44 – 49).

The 5000 Series system uses standard networking protocol and Ethernet interfacing. This permits all the receivers in a system to be integrated, monitored and controlled from one computer in real-time, from a single laptop, to a central computer via local area network or even the Internet. It also comes with software to monitor and control things like the receiver name, frequency, squelch, and even display the transmitter name and some cool tools like the spectrum analyzer, which shows frequencies occupied in your area and at what power level.

Audio-Technica never skimps on accessories. Included are all power cables and link cables, rubber-ducky type antennas with BNC cables, feet for the receiver for table-top mounting, and even an over the shoulder microphone transport bag.

In Use

First used as a talkback mic during the sound check and rehearsal of a dance concert held at Appalachian State University, I must say it worked pretty well. Tuning was a snap. The audio was strong and so was the RF signal. The LCD display on the transmitter is rather small for all the information it provides.

Next, I decided to plug it into a theatre/dance show at the Manhattan Arts Institute. The performers were students of the arts in the high school age range, freshman to senior. I purposely used it in New York City, where UHF frequencies are very carefully monitored because of the number of musicals. A quick sweep with the IntelliScan gave me two good frequencies. A student had no trouble programming the transmitters, even though she had no experience working in sound. Both the handheld and the beltpack survived the rigors of a high school performance without so much as a pop, crackle, nick or scratch. The RF indicators on the receivers hardly flashed in this 1,400-seat theatre, even with the performers backstage. I noted that the handheld AEW-T3300 has a warm feel, and the pattern seems to be slightly larger than, say, your average SM-58. It has a personality all its own.

So I felt confident to use it on another dance show. I decided to use it in a gospel number, the singer standing by the dance-dramatization of an adult baptism. The microphone blended perfectly with this singer’s voice – warm and silky, milk-chocolaty smooth.

Next I used it in a small cabaret where JF-100s sat at the edge of a tiny stage with 100 people packed into a room suited for 50. It responded to the subtleties of a performer who controls his dynamics by moving the microphone closer to or further from his mouth. The warm microphone accentuated that sexy low-end that you want in a club.

Summary

This is a tool that you turn to as a matter of choice, and not because you have to compromise. I’ll recommend this system to anyone who has a standard for the RF they use and can’t afford to go below that standard. I have just added it to the short list of wireless mic systems I’ll consider using on my performers.

Audix M1290 Micro Condenser Microphone

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January 7, 2018

Published in ProSound News. Here is the link: Audix M1290 Micro Condenser Microphone

The Audix M1290 ($399) condenser microphone is a member of the Audix Micro series, the newest line of microphones from Audix. The company claims that these microphones are the world’s smallest condenser microphones with an integrated preamp and detachable cable. Even though the M1290 is only 3.5 inches long, it’s packed with king-sized features.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound.

Key Features: Choice of omnidirectional or hypercardioid capsules, small size, numerous mounting accessories

Price: $399

Contact: Audix at 503-682-6933, Web Site.

FEATURES

The microphone comes packed in an elegant rosewood box with a brass latch and hinges. Open the box and you’ll find a plush interior that mounts the microphone, its 12-foot mini XLR – XLR adapter cable, a windscreen and clip. The microphone looks elegant. Its machined brass housing has a black “e-coat” finish with gold lettering, and is 3.5 inches long with a diameter of less than half and inch and weighs only a single ounce. Each microphone has its serial number etched on the finish.

The M1290 has a cardioid pattern, the M1290 – hc has a hypercardioid polar pattern, and the M1290 – o is an omni. With a frequency response of 40 Hz – 20 kHz (I bench tested it), the signal to noise ratio is 75 dB. Maximum SPL is less than 138 dB. The microphone is fully balanced, with an output impedance of 250 ohms, and can run through 150 feet of cable before the frequency response starts to degrade. Phantom power (48V) is required from your mixer or other source.

Other optional accessories are a rubber insulated shockmount clip, a clip for hanging the microphones overhead for area miking and choir reinforcement, and 25-foot and 50-foot microphone cables. The Micros are also compatible with the Dvice and Dclamp accessories from Audix, which allow for a wide variety of instrument miking.

IN USE

The first instrument I put in front of the microphone was a Bluegrass fiddle. Always interested in the characteristics of different microphones, the fiddler was happy to experiment. We put it on a boom stand because it’s important to him to be able to adjust the distance between the fiddle and the microphone as a way to supplementing his dynamics, even though this microphone is small enough to mount on his fiddle with a clip. You could mount it on an upright bass as well, even a banjo.

Often when I use condenser mics on the fiddle, I have to notch some of the high end to avoid that twang and screech that is definitely not there when he plays acoustically, but not with the M1290. It handled the high end of the fiddle just as smoothly as it did the low end, and so the fiddle sounded more natural with less equalizer manipulation. Once the fiddler got used to the mic’s pattern, he was able to control his dynamics quite smoothly, and I was able to use a softer touch on the compressor.

Next I used the mics in my studio as a stereo pair. I needed to sample some percussive sound effects for a theatre production – glass breaking, door slams, knocking on the door, a champagne cork popping. The capsule is capable of handling some high sound pressure levels, so I was able to get the microphones very close to the sources without peaking..

Then I put the pair to use on a personal project, recording my one-year old niece for posterity as a present to her mom and dad. I mounted them on a stereo pair bar and onto a boom that I held in my hand. Even though I followed her wherever she went, there was virtually no handling noise. The size of the mics was also just as important to this little project. Larger microphones would have intimidated this little girl and I would not have gotten anything out of her, but the M1290s were so small that she eventually forgot they were there.

Finally, I used the mics to reinforce a small choir, hanging them from above, and they sounded just great. The mics picked up the basses and the sopranos equally well, and I was able to get quite a bit of gain before feedback. The nice thing in this application, again, was the very low profile of the mics. They’re so small, they blend right in.

SUMMARY

Despite their small size, the Audix M1290 microphones sound good and are rugged enough to go on the road yet elegant enough to use on a high-level executive podium. In fact, there are scores of uses for a mic this size with great sound quality. In my opinion, at the suggested retail price of $399 they are a bargain.

M-Audio FireWire 410

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January 7, 2018

Published in Prosound news. Here is the link: M-Audio FireWire 410

Since 1988, M-Audio, formerly Midiman, has changed the definition of the word “studio,” inventing and distributing innovative computer-centric products that offer portability, audio-quality, and quick and accurate editing options. The bottom line is that they allow creative options and opportunity like never before.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, project studio, live

Features: FireWire port; 32 kHz Ð 192 kHz sample rate; 48V phantom power; onboard DSP; Windows/Mac-compatible; software bundle

Price: $499

Contact: M-Audio at 800-969-6434, Web Site.
As a sound designer for theatre, the three most important qualities I look for in recording gear are: portability, performance, and price. The new M-Audio FireWire 410 ($499) combines all those years of expertise and experience, causing quite a bit of buzz from sound designers all over the country.

Features

The FireWire 410 has every feature and option I’ve ever wished for in a portable computer audio interface. It’s very sleek and compact – anyone familiar with my reviews probably knows the importance I place on portability. At 9.25 inches by 7 inches by 7/8 inches, this unit weights in at 2.9 pounds and easily fits into my gig bag, along side my laptop, testers and other gear I normally carry everywhere I go. It boasts a frequency response of 20 Hz – 40 kHz, signal-to noise ratio 107 dB and dynamic range at 108 dB. Sample rates can be set from 32 kHz to 192 kHz for the line inputs and some of the outputs, and 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz and 96 kHz for the S/PDIF I/O.

M-Audio gives you four discreet inputs: two Neutrik combo XLR/TRS mic/line inputs with gain control, pads, and a phantom power switch, along with two additional TRS line inputs. On the flip side, there are eight, count ’em eight unbalanced 1/4-inch line outputs, making it ideal for your surround-encoded program. Both 1/4-inch headphone outputs have their own individual volume controls, and the unit has an overall volume level controller. In the rear you’ll also find S/PDIF I/O with coaxial and optical connectors, as well as MIDI in and out.

The FireWire uses, obviously, the FireWire protocol, FireWire 400 to be specific. This allows the 410 to hammer latency down to almost nothing. The 410 also eliminates those nasty audio “hiccups” that you can sometimes get with slower USB 1.0/1.1 interfaces. Usually the unit receives all the power it needs from your computer’s six-pin FireWire port, but an optional wall transformer is included in the event you want to use it as a standalone unit or with notebooks (which often use a four-pin FireWire configuration or a six-pin unpowered PCMCIA adapter configuration).

M-Audio also includes a software control panel that allows you to manipulate all of the interface’s settings, including input and output levels, and auxes, so that you can actually mix your multitrack recording in real time.

Other software that came with the device included M-Audio ProSessions and SE versions of Ableton’s Live Delta and Propellerheads’ Reason Adapted.

In Use

For all the marvelous features this device offers, once installed on my computer, I found it hard to get it to actually work. After installing the drivers as per the manual, all audio sounded choppy and eventually my computer froze up. Rebooting did not help. So I called M-Audio for help, and spoke to a technical customer service agent. Together, we did what the book he was reading from told us to do, but when that didn’t work, he was stumped. I suggested that I speak to someone who might know more about it than he did, and he politely promised to have someone call me back. No one did. But after about a month, I again checked the website, and to my delight, there was a new version of the driver which I promptly installed. With the new driver, the interface works great.

I was asked to create a demo recording on location of a new musical commissioned by Signature Theatre. It needed to sound great, and it needed to be inexpensive to produce. The inputs consisted of one piano and three singers – a perfect project for the FireWire 410! So I packed my mixer, laptop, mics and the FireWire 410 into one Pelican case and drove to the theatre. At the theatre, I was very pleased with the interface’s on-sight performance. The gain structure was easy to set, and my multitrack software had no problem at all recognizing all the input options. The footprint on the table was very small, consisting of my laptop, the FireWire 410, a mixer and two powered speakers. Two separate headphone outputs allowed the director and me to set the volume to our individual volume preferences during the takes. The overall product sounded almost as good as if we were in a recording studio, at a small fraction of the cost, and was perfect for potential show-investors to listen to.

After that successful test, I decided to use it in a show I was designing for a regional theatre in the DC area, in conjunction with Stage Research’s SFX Software. Installing it onto the theatre’s computer (Windows XP Pro) took about five minutes, and within 10 we had all eight outputs patched through the SFX software, allowing us to program some pretty complicated sound cues. I was able to control the Yamaha 02R mixer through the 410’s MIDI interfaces without any associated glitches that tend to slow you down. Along with the SFX software, the computer had other audio recording software such as Cakewalk Sonar and Sony Digital’s Sound Forge, and the FireWire 410 easily interfaced with all of it. In fact, all through technical rehearsals, previews, and production, we had no problems with the device whatsoever. Just clean, stable audio.

Summary

I give the M-Audio FireWire 410 gets an A+ in portability, performance, and price. It’s a very stable interface that is easy to install and makes good on every promise. From now on I’ll consider it an essential piece of gear that goes with me everywhere.

Miklat by Joshua Ford

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January 7, 2018

Miklat by Joshua Ford
Theatre J, Washington, DC
Directed by Nick Olcott

I just think this curtain music is fun, so I’m including it. A montage of Sound Effects and Voiceovers created for use in the show.
Here’s a link to the review in the Washington Post, if you’re interested: My Son the Fanatic: ‘Miklat,’ A Playwright’s Smart Start

Miklat Curtain Call

The Art & Science of Sound Design for the Theatre

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January 7, 2018

Practicing the art of Sound Design is becoming increasingly complex as technology and expectations evolve; however I see the purpose of Sound Design for the theatre as simple. Sound and music must serve to raise the level of the audience’s understanding of the story on a macro level (the overall statement the playwright is making) and on a micro level (specific moments.) We must never attempt to make the audience feel or think a certain way. We must help tell the story and allow the audience members to interpret the theatre experience in their own unique way, encouraging everyone to participate in a conversation, (not a lecture) that continues long after the curtain comes down.

How does the Sound Designer do that? We choose music and effects that set tone, mood, tempo, intensity, time period, geographical location, etc. We become masters of our tools – the delivery system (sound systems, microphones, speakers, etc), recording technology and computer networking, for example – so that we can use them in an artful way.

All sound and silence an audience hears must be as deliberate as the words and pauses the playwright puts into the script, the timber and tone the actors use, the costumes, lighting and set. Sound Design is wholistic in this way, as it must work in harmony with all the other elements of the theatrical event.

My ultimate goal: to raise the audience’s level and depth of understanding of the story we intend to tell.

Charlotte’s Web adapted by Joseph Robinette

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January 6, 2018

Charlotte’s Web adapted by Joseph Robinette
based on the book by E.B. White
Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer
Imagination Stage, Bethesda, MD

Some original music
Guitar & Bass: Danny Knicely
Fiddle: Baltimore Johnny Glick
Recorded in the kitchen at the Footworks Ranch:

Slumber Swing


Slumber


Minor Swing



Other fun music we recorded for use in the show (You might recognize these tunes):

Flop Eared Mule


The Gift


Faraway


Dark As A Dungeon


Over the Waves

The Field by John B. Keane

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January 6, 2018

The Field by John B. Keane
The Andrew Keegan Theatre Company, Washington, DC
Directed by Mark Reah

We decided on solo acoustic guitar as the only instrumentation. Somehow it fit with the themes of standing alone and being “enough”.

Opening/Top of Act 1


Underscore into Scene Change


Underscore into Scene Change


Curtain