AES Section Meeting Reports

Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences - August 8, 2022

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The AES chapter at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences was fortunate enough to host a Zoom event with Roger Robindoré, Director of Product Evangelism at Apogee Electronics. Roger has been with Apogee for 22 years, before which he was a recording engineer throughout numerous parts of Europe. Mr. Robindoré's goal for the evening was to demonstrate the plugins currently produced by Apogee Digital by means of a mix that was created completely in the box by world-renowned engineer Bob Clearmountain. This wasn't just any mix either, it was a remix of Bruce Springsteen's classic, "Born in the USA."

Roger began with a sample of the new mix, which was a refreshing yet familiar take on the original mix. Those in attendance expressed much approval for the sound of the new mix. Roger then stripped the mix of all of the plugins that were utilized, down to the raw tracks that were sourced from the original multitrack tape. It was striking to hear how much of the signature sound of the track was missing from the source material. The key to that sound was in the plugins. The plugins Apogee offers include the FX Series, the Pultec Series (The only plugin version of the Pultec created in collaboration with current Pultec Manufacturer Steve Jackson), and the Clearmountain Series which is a collaboration with none other than Bob Clearmountain.

Mr. Robindoré proceeded to go track by track through the mix, adding in the plugins to demonstrate their effects on the mix. All plugins that were utilized were from Apogee except for a De-esser, something that Apogee does not currently offer. One of the first plugins to be demonstrated was Clearmountain Spaces, which is Bob Clearmountain's personal impulse responses. This means that the reverb of the rooms that created the unique sound of Bob's back-catalog was sampled by means of DSP, which recreates the acoustics of the room for realistic reverb. One such room that was sampled for this plugin was the main room at Power Station Studios, where Born in the USA was recorded.

Roger isolated the bass drum track and enabled the ModEQ 6 Band EQ. It was shown that Bob had placed a fairly sharp cut at 200Hz and a boost at 5kHz, which according to Mr. Robindoré was possibly the sharpest EQ in the entire session. He noted that the tools that Bob used were very broad, but the way he puts them together makes it all blend in.

The snare drum track was given a fair amount of midrange boost by means of the Pultec EQ. Next, to add some "dirt" back into the mix, the Symphony ECS Channel Strip was applied, adding parallel compression and a healthy amount of drive. Finally, Clearmountain's Domain was added, specifically, a preset that precisely models the reverb of the original mix's snare sound, aptly titled "Born in the USA Snare."

The bass track was fairly straightforward, adding a Pultec EQ and turning up the boost and attenuation simultaneously. This is an incredible trick to achieve a "beefy" bass sound by giving a boost in the lower bass and a dip in the mid-bass.

Mr. Robindoré then isolated an acoustic guitar track that is not easily heard in the original mix. Bob used and abused a mod comp on this mix, giving it a very fast attack and release. It was noted by CRAS AES Vice Secretary James Shaw that it made the sound go from him playing the guitar to practically beating it. Another Pultec EQ was added to bring out the brightness. It's worth noting at this point that the Pultec EQ is used heavily throughout this mix, much like it was in the original mix. Mr. Robindoré showed a picture of the control room at Power Station Studios which had 24 separate Pultec EQ's, one for each track of the tape. While it would be a dream to have that many physical Pultec's at your disposal, purchasing one plugin is a superiorly cost-effective solution.

The Pultec was also used on the piano track to add a boost at 5kHz cranked to the max with the bandwidth cranked all the way as well. The synth lines utilized the ECS Channel Strip, cranking the drive to give more saturation. A long reverb was then added by means of the Roscoe impulse, modeled after a studio with giant plaster walls in LA owned by one of Bob's close friends.

Bruce's isolated vocal track was quite revealing. Even the raw track conveyed so much passion and energy. According to Mr. Robindoré, When you're recording vocals, understand what you want at each stage. When you're doing takes, have a clean signal. It may not sound like a very big vocal, but that's because you're building towards one. It's good for this stage, so it will be a good foundation for the later stages. The first plugin applied was the Opto 3A compressor, which is based on the LA3A. This is a more transparent compressor. Bob loves to use this compressor because it makes the voice consistently "out there." Minimal EQ was then applied with the EQP 1A to add some brightness. A general De-esser was applied, as well as three separate reverb stages: A short slap, followed by an additional short delay, finally going into a long decay, identical to the one that the synth track was fed into.

A Bus Compressor was applied to the stereo output, and Mr. Robindoré noted that this step was the most important aspect of Bob's workflow. This is the "glue" that makes it all work. Bob Clearmountain historically uses the SSL G console, and the Mod Comp used emulates the SSL G Compressor. One feature of this plugin that is not originally part of the SSL G Compressor is the ability to add a hi-pass filter on the side chain to roll all of the bass out. This feature is modeled after modifications that Bob made to his personal SSL G Compressor.

Upon the conclusion of his run-through of this mixing process, Mr. Robindoré introduced other tools offered by Apogee, including the Symphony Desktop Audio interface. This Interface allows you to run Apogee plugins natively from the hardware, saving you valuable CPU usage. This also gives you the ability to record audio directly through the plugins, as well as providing dual path monitoring. Until recently, Apogee was the only company providing such capabilities. Roger noted, "We're really integrating the hardware and software in unique ways."

The meeting was concluded with the news that Apogee was partnering with CRAS, providing all students with a 1-year trial of all Apogee plugins, as well as 40% off the purchase of the license thereafter. Also, students can receive 20% off all Apogee hardware.

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