UAD Plug Ins

Written by Bickerton Bob on . Posted in News


Did you hear that California’s Ocean Way and London’s Abbey Road studios have opened a branch in Nelson? Well not literally, but we’re pleased to announce we have a comprehensive range of classic equipment emulations, as found in those studios, in Nelson, thanks to U.S. company Universal Audio.

UAD are the leading developers of software emulation plug ins and carefully reproduce the sound of classic pieces of gear worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The result is access to equipment that simply would not be affordable otherwise. But does it make a difference? Absolutely! Even the valve tone and circuitry have been recreated in these plug-ins, so by simply patching it in, you get the benefit of the tone from the original device. Some of my favourite applications are using the: Teletronix LA-2A compressor on vocals Fairchild 670 compressor for mastering Manley Massive Passive EQ for mastering Cambridge EQ for incisive EQ Neve 1081 Classic Console EQ on instruments EMT 140 Classic Plate Reverberator on Vocals and Instruments Professional recording has been revolutionized in recent years with the advent of computer based recording.

Having invested in esoteric studio microphones and pre-amps, the source material we record is as good as you would find anywhere. Add to this mixing with plug-ins of the UAD calibre and we are able to produce recordings suitable for international release. All we need now is a zebra crossing outside the studio……..

Fiona Pears

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I first met Fiona Pears at the Woollaston Nelson Jazz Festival in 2007 where she was performing in the fantastic cellar at Woollaston Estates. This largely concrete and glass venue is somewhat challenging sound wise, but everyone was impressed and I’ve since gone on to engineer many concerts and also albums with Fiona and her band. However one of the most formidable challenges working with Fiona occurred when she asked me to provide sound and record a concert in Christchurch Cathedral for a DVD.

The Cathedral in Christchurch is large and very reverberant, so I decided to use three pairs of speakers on delay lines down the nave, tilted down into the audience. We packed in that morning and spent a very busy day setting the stage and front of house up only to find we had to break everything down again for a choir rehearsal at 4pm! This put immense pressure on resetting the stage before the concert and we’d just finished line checking when doors opened. Incredibly everything went smoothly and we ended up with an excellent recording. Fiona and the band are a pleasure to work with. Her stunning music is difficult to describe, a fusion of classical, gypsy and jazz, but I really enjoy working with music which is of such a high standard and which can be professionally produced in a live setting.

Vocal Microphones

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For many years the standard stage vocal mic was the Shure SM58 and its legacy still lives on today with many band riders specifying SM58 or Beta58 models, probably because this is all most sound companies have on offer. However these mics are from an era when sound systems benefited from a large degree of ‘cut’ from microphones, but these mics can sound grainy and hard on the better concert systems like those used at the Nelson School Of Music and the Theatre Royal. Add to that the fact that each voice is unique and different performers work with different monitor levels in variable stage configurations and you’ll perhaps understand why we have eleven different stage vocal microphones available for performers at BBSound, most of which sound better than an SM58!

One of finest stage vocal mics available today is the Neumann KMS105. We used it for Cairde when they played support at Opera In The Park and both Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s sound engineer and one of Oceania’s leading engineer’s commented on how good this microphone sounded. However, on loud and smaller stages, feedback and spill from drums can be a real problem for vocal mics and that is where a mic like the Audix OM7 comes in. It has incredible feedback rejection, but still sounds very open, almost like a condenser. An example of this was a recent Arts Festival concert featuring a leading vocalist where her engineer spent some considerable time EQing her monitor to avoid feedback when using his preferred Beta57 vocal mic. When the same vocalist played at the Nelson School Of Music we were able to run monitors at a similarly high level using the OM7 with minimal EQ, plus is sounded better on her voice! One of my favourite mics is the Electrovoice RE510 which we imported direct from America. It is a condenser mic with reasonable feedback rejection and a neutral sound and we’ve used these for live recordings of concerts, some of which have been released commercially.

But the old SM58 still has a place as a real rock and roll type mic, so when Tom Sharplin of Cadillacs fame came to town we threw a 58 on the stand for him. I was pleased as Tom’s stage routine involves swinging the mic on the end of its cable – I’m pleased he wasn’t using my Neumann!

Theatre Royal

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Nelson’s Theatre Royal was built in 1878 and reopened last June after a major refurbishment. The opening festival included a variety concert featuring around 25 local acts each night and included anything from CD playback to 20 radio mics on stage! There was no time for a dress rehearsal and sound checks had to take place during the week, so it quickly became apparent our new digital mixing desk would be required.

We programmed the desk and saved each sound check during the week so that we could recall settings on the night. It also became apparent it would be impossible to set monitor levels from the front of house position, so Brendyn Montgomery hooked up his MacBook Pro to the system and ran monitors from side of stage.

The Theatre Royal is a leading performance venue in Nelson and it was clear that the Theatre would need a permanent in-house system of exceptional quality for concert and playback uses and so BBSound have installed a system purchased specifically for the Theatre. It comprises four QSC K12 self powered speakers with Peavey Q118 subs and front fill using EAW VR62 speakers all managed from a Driverack 260. This provides excellent coverage throughout the venue. This superb system can be supplemented by BBSound’s esoteric microphone inventory and range of mixing desks and processors to provide excellent sound for any event.

Nelson School Of Music

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The Nelson School Of Music is Nelson’s leading music venue featuring a wide range of music genres in concert each year. The acoustics in the main auditorium are acclaimed as being the best in the Southern Hemisphere for chamber music, however, this creates issues for amplified music which is better suited to dryer acoustics. Many years experience (Bob was Director of the School for seven years) have shown that excellent results can be achieved for sound re-enforcement in the School by careful placement of quality speakers. BBSound have permanently installed a sound system which works ‘with’ the natural acoustics of the room to provide excellent sound.

At the heart of the system are a pair of QSC three way HPR153i speakers which are critically acclaimed for their reproduction of acoustic music. In addition are a delayed pair of QSC HD-282 speakers which are positioned half way down the auditorium to give definition in the rear of the room. These are then enhanced by Peavey Q118 subs to give a full range system suitable for all music genres from subtle acoustic to serious rock. When supplemented by our range of esoteric microphones, our StudioLive mixing desk and quality monitoring, the sound system reflects the quality lineage of the school’s musical history. A major event in the school calendar is the Nelson School Of Music’s Winter Festival where BBSound are the preferred supplier of sound reinforcement services.

In recent years we have technically produced concerts at the school for such performers as Hollie Smith, Roger Fox, Tim Beveridge, Tom Sharplin and the Cadillacs, Graham Wardrop, OneVibe, Tina Cross, Taisha, Caitlin Smith, Luger Boa, Iva Lamkum, David Goldthorpe, Strike, dDub to name but a few. The open acoustics of the auditorium make for excellent live recordings, in fact the recording made of Peggy Seeger’s fundraising concert for the Nelson Women’s House was considered to be as good as a BBC recording made of her concert in London a few years previously.

Presonus StudioLive

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We’re thrilled to have invested in a new Presonus StudioLive digital mixing desk. It’s both flexible and powerful affording 24 inputs, 10 auxillary monitor sends, 2 onboard effects units, compression, limiter, gate, parametric EQ on every input channel and with the addition of graphic EQ on eight output channels. Multiple sound checks can be saved and recalled making it ideal for variety concerts. Most important is that the pre-amp and conversion quality is extremely high giving a sound quality you would expect from top analogue desk.

Now it may seem totally over the top, but the StudioLive can be run off an iPad and this is a very useful facility for EQing stage monitors from the monitor position, tweaking EQ in the room from any point in the theatre space and even mixing over wireless in certain scenarios.

In fact one group was so impressed by being able to EQ monitors from the stage that they said ‘you wouldn’t even find that in Auckland’. Without question this is a significant development in live sound infrastructure for Nelson. There’s lots more information on the StudioLive on line at

StudioLive is a fully fledged 24 channel recording interface The flexibility of digital audio starts to become apparent when you realize the StudioLive is also a 24 channel firewire based recording interface. This amazing device enables us to record 24 tracks of audio direct into a computer with no other hardware required. It will also allow 24 track playback. Multi-track recording of live concerts can now be done with ease straight into our preferred recording software Logic Pro. But this can also facilitate concert preparation by recording and playing back sound checks, fine tuning EQ without musicians being present, etc.

Recording of full bands now becomes a breeze with 24 inputs available. Plus with 10 analogue outputs available all band members can receive their own headphone mix. Pre-amps and converters on the StudioLive are superb quality giving excellent results. Mixing By Wireless It seems remarkable but it’s quite possible to mix an entire concert on the StudioLive from an iPad, but would you really want to? The answer is sometimes, yes! Imagine for example a performance which is playback intensive, like the Arts Festival’s Red Square or Race Unity Day. Why not have playback at side of stage where monitor levels can be set with ease and communication with performers is more direct and mix out front wirelessly. No gazeebos, no snakes, just a flash new iPad – and a sun hat of course. With luck it would work from the nearest coffee cart, now we’re talking!

Stage Management

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The Dominion Post described the Adam Chamber Music Festival as New Zealand’s only truly international music festival. It features top chamber musicians from around the world and attracts audiences from all around New Zealand and overseas. I’ve enjoyed stage managing the last three festivals and whilst this may seem like a simple task, it requires precision and focus to provide a supportive and positive workspace for the musicians.

I recall one concert by (an unnamed) trio, who were so relaxed they were still eating fish and chips outside the takeaway store ten minutes before the concert was due to start. Needless to say they went on stage precisely on time and gave a fantastic concert, which I suppose says a lot for sustenance! All concerts are recorded for archives and some are recorded for broadcast by Radio New Zealand. It’s been fascinating working alongside the Radio New Zealand engineers and discovering that we use similar techniques and equipment for chamber music recording.

I constantly feel privileged to work with professional musicians and the Adam Chamber Music Festival is a case in point. My philosophy of creating a positive environment in which to work always seems most welcome.

Nelson Symphony Orchestra

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If I was asked ‘what is the ultimate instrument to record?’ I would have to answer the symphony orchestra. For several years now I have recorded the Nelson Symphony Orchestra concerts in the beautiful acoustics of the main auditorium at the Nelson School Of Music.

The technique used is fairly standard for orchestral recording, an ORTF pair of Neumann TLM193 microphones with omnidirectional Neumann KM183s as outriggers and the occasional spot mic for soloists. It’s always a pleasure to record these concerts and we release a ‘best of’ double album at the end of each year.

Student Discounts

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BBSound continues to offer a 33% discount to students who wish to record, making professional recording accessible. Often students will take advantage of this offer when preparing audition CDs for competitions or courses. Having a high quality recording can really make a difference and enables adjudicators to audition material without having to struggle with poor recording quality.

The process is not particularly daunting as we can record in the student’s preferred environment with our portable recording equipment. It’s a good idea to have a teacher present who can comment on takes, this way you’ll get the most out of the recording session. A highlight in the year for students is the Nelson Symphony Orchestra’s concerto concert where students can audition to play a movement from a concerto with the orchestra.

This is a wonderful opportunity and makes for a varied and most enjoyable concert. These concerts are recorded and CDs made available to students with highlights being included in the NSO’s end of year double CD.

All material © Bob Bickerton 2012