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Allen & Heath to announce new digital console January 2012

Yesterday, I received an exciting promotional email from Allen & Heath “leaking” pictures of a new digital console that will be officially announced in January 2012.  You can check out a link to the announcement on the news section of their website by clicking here.

It’s advertised as a “professional digital mixing console system at a distinctly analogue price.”  They also mention that their most accessible digital console will be unveiled in January 2012.  Obviously, it will probably be announced at NAMM which is towards the end of January every year.

It’s a pretty huge deal to me considering what I do and the goals I need to make sure are accomplished on a week-to-week basis.  National Community Church runs Allen & Heath consoles almost exclusively across all of our locations including their current iLive digital series in our Barracks Row location with another iLive system with Dante being installed in our Ebenezers Coffeehouse location early in 2012.

I’d like to give my opinions based on the few teaser pictures that Allen and Heath has released already and try to predict some features that will be available on the new digital system.

Here are a few pictures from the Allen & Heath website.

Picture #1 shows that not only does it feature a touch screen similar to it’s bigger brother, the iLive, but it also has a feature that the iLive does not have as of yet.  It seems like it will feature flash recording to a USB drive as well as playback.  The tab on the top of the navigation screen says “USB Audio” and in the box being displayed below, it says “Playback”, a file name and size as well as controls that seem to allow you to navigate playing the selected file.  Below, there is a finger touching a record button on the screen with an indicator showing how much space you have available on the USB that is plugged in.  Also, the navigation menus to the right of the screen indicate that the operating system will probably be similar to that of the iLive.

The LED channel strips are also similar to the iLive so it seems like Allen & Heath will be keeping a pretty similar vibe across their lines of consoles.

In the second teaser photo, you can see that the button arraignment is similar to the number on the iLive but we’ll have to wait and see exactly what they are but I’d venture to guess that they are Mute, Select, Mix, and PAFL buttons.  It looks like it will look similar to the iLive.  However, I assume they’ll continue the trend that it set when they released the T-series and R-series of flattening the original oddly-shaped i-series modular iLive.  It will feature LED meters on each channel for monitoring levels but obviously not as long as the iLive’s.  To the left of this photo, you see two PK lights which I assume are to indicate peaking on different layers.  That also would mean it features layers which could mean that this console will be capable of a higher channel count then other smaller digital consoles.

Teaser photo #3 confirms a very similar vibe to that of the iLive in orientation of controls and functions.

Teaser photo #4 is another very interesting picture.  It’s a picture of a small section of the control surface and the stage rack.  Purple is certainly an interesting choice of color since the only purple mixer I’ve ever seen to date is a Midas.  The featured stage rack has 12 outputs on it which I’d say is a pretty decent number for a small format console.  There are also 3 Ethercon networking ports on the right side of the stage box.  The top one looks like it says “Expander” and in the picture, it looks like there is a separate rack stacked on top of the main rack so I’d assume you can use multiple stage racks with the same surface.  Second ethernet port down says “Monitor” which makes me wonder if these small stage boxes will support a digital split to a monitor console.  I’ll be interested to see if that is a feature or not.  Finally, the last ethernet port says “dSnake” which I assume is the connection protocol for the new digital system.  I also assume it will not be compatible or interchangeable with any of the iLive systems at this point since the iLive control surface protocols are currently only Ethersound, ACE and MADI.  Photo #5 shows a more close up shot of the stage rack but unfortunately does not show how many channel inputs the stage rack has.  I’m hoping it’s 32 channels.  That would be awesome!

Teaser photo #6 is a picture of the EQ menu on the screen.  Even though it’s cut off, I’m assuming that it will be a FOUR BAND fully parametric EQ with the option to select cut, shelf, or parametric filters on the low end and high end.  You can see five different filters on the screenshot they showed.  Purple looks like a high pass filter, then you see green, light blue, blue and a red filter on the graph.  On the display below the graph you can see that it indicates where you’ve swept the filter and the Q-size.

Bottom line is that I’m really excited about this console.  I’ll certainly keep my eyes and ears open for updates and blog about them as they come out.  If anyone else gets more information, please pass it on to me at jdcastellente@gmail.com.

 

UPDATE:  Allen & Heath has now released more information on this console.  You can check out my post on the release here:  http://jasoncastellente.com/2012/01/mix-with-your-ears-not-your-eyes/

The Next Level

The big question:  “How do I get to the next level in what I do?”  I’ve always loved audio engineering and mixing.  It’s something I’ve been passionate about for years.  Someone once told me that when you think you’ve arrived and you’ve got no more to learn, you’ve died as a creative and an innovator.  I want to consistently stride forward and improve in my field as and in new areas as well.

There are tons of great nerd books out there that I enjoy reading and learning from.  Hands on time with gear is critical in moving forward.  Mixing shows, tuning systems, training your ears…it’s all critical and I undertand that.  However, I want to take what I do to the next level.  There must be ways to learn more and I need to find them…  I have a few ideas already but still, I want to learn and grow.  I’d love to get some feedback and ideas for how I can do that.

Feel free to comment or shoot me an email at jdcastellente@gmail.com

The Parable of the Talents rewritten for audio guys

 

 

I’m kind of in a silly mood tonight yet also spiritual.  So, I was thinking about one of my previous posts where I talked about the Parable of the Talents as found in Matthew 25 and Luke 19 and I decided to rewrite in more modern terms with a church audio tech twist.  Since all of you know my conversations all come back to audio equipment anyway, this shouldn’t surprise you 🙂

Here it goes:

The boss gives his guys some speakers. Terry and Jerry sit down and think about how they can most effectively execute their shows with some dinky speakers.  They figure out how to rent stuff out, market their ideas, do great events and then they’re able to upgrade their gear cause they worked for it.  Joe decides to put his two dinky speakers on his coffee table, sit on his butt and rock out on his couch.  Sure it sounds great in his living room, but that’s as far as it gets.  When the boss gets back, Terry and Jerry are crankin’ up some sweet line arrays with awesome subs and rockin’ their boss’ socks off!  Well, Joe still has the same old speakers that the boss gave him.  The boss is really disappointed, so he fires Joe cause he didn’t do any work!  He gives Joe’s speakers to Terry who promptly grabs them and runs to the front of the room screaming “YES!!  Front fills!!”

And for those of you who want the serious post where I write about the Parable of the Talents, click here.

The God Anthology Live releases TODAY

Today is the day you can download National Community Church’s live CD that was recorded this past August at the Lincoln Theatre in DC.  The God Anthology is available at www.godanthology.com as well as iTunes.  There are samples that you can check out on iTunes by clicking the button below.  I was blessed to be a part of the recording concert and I hope everyone who listens to it is inspirited by the messages and truths that are communicated through the music.  Be sure to rate it and spread the word.  Feel free to retweet my post or share links to the music.  I hope you’re blessed by listening to it!

The God Anthology - National Community Church

Restless Purpose

Lately, I’ve been feeling some kind of restless feeling of wanting to do things better then I have before.  I look back sometimes and I’m amazed and what I’ve been able to do in the short time I have already had on this earth.  I feel very blessed…

I was reading the parable of the talents recently as it was told in Matthew 25:14-30 as well as Luke  19:12-27.  Each person was given gold in bags from their master.  They were given a portion of the master’s greatness and wealth.  In fact, a talent was one of the largest measurements of currency at the time.  So this was a big deal especially because someone’s greatness in the culture of that time was determined largely by their wealth.  Two of the servants went and invested that gold, so that they had something to show for the time they were given before their master returned.  But one of the servants simply went and hid his gold.  Personally, I always think, “what the heck?  Why would you do that?”  It’s kind of like jamming you wallet down in the couch, sitting there all day, not going to work, and expecting to make money.  Not going to happen.  But the two others went out, worked hard and made something happen!

Now, let’s go back.  Way back…to the creation of the world.  God Almighty spoke the world into existence and created everything out of nothing.  But He saved the best for last.  He created man completely different from anything else.  He created man in the image and likeness of Himself and breathed the breath of life into him.

How does this tie in the story of the talents?

Not only has God created us in His image and likeness, He has entrusted us with a gift like the servants received from their master.  We have been given a portion of our Master’s greatness that we must invest during our lifetime.  It’s a process of hard work and dedication to the cause or calling that God has laid out before us.  Maybe it’s a spiritual gift or a practical skill that we use in our occupation.  We must invest it wholeheartedly and responsibly.  That doesn’t mean we will never make a mistake or lose something we’ve gained, but more of a continual process of pressing on and forward to the greatest reward from a faithful investment.

I am certainly earlier on in this process.  God has blessed me abundantly in the time I have lived and I am thankful for the investment He has entrusted me with.  I don’t want to miss out on anything He has planned for me.  Lately though, I’ve been pretty critical of myself in what I am working on as far as my own projects and learning as well as my work for National Community Church.  In my heart, I yearn to continue moving forward and investing in the Kingdom of God.  The hard part is the actual investing.  This uncertainty in how to reach the goals that God has set before me has definitely made me quite restless at times.

However, the master didn’t tell his servants how to invest their money or how to do anything with that money.  He gave them the order, and they needed to figure out what to do in order to meet the end goal.  That is my frustration.  I feel like sometimes, it is really difficult to find the right ways to invest.  I am always looking for new ways to do things and use what God has given me but still I always seem to wonder if I’m doing enough or if I’m trying hard enough.  Am I working on things that matter and make a difference?  Am I pushing too hard on issues that don’t matter as much as I think they do?  What can I be learning in each and every circumstance and where can I go from there?  I’m learning more and more about God each day through the investment He has placed in me and even if I don’t always do everything right, I’ll still try to head the right direction and recklessly pursue the purpose he has place in my heart and in my life.

JBL PRX635 Review

 

One of my reviews originally posted on www.musicgearreview.com.

Okay, so you’ve had a long day at work and you can’t wait to get out and play that gig tonight.  You’ve got your day job, but you love the opportunity to play your music. You meet up with your buddies and pack everything into the van and hit the road. Once you get there, now its time to haul all of your gear in, set up and do your very best to make things sound as good as possible.

Chances are, you’re already whipped and exhausted from the day, but lugging all that gear in kicked your butt.  If you’re in a band that has to bring their own PA (or feels like they have to bring in their own PA after they see what the venue is or ISN’T providing) it gets a lot harder not only on your back, but your wallet.  All of that makes it really hard to put on a great show that everyone will love.  Fortunately, JBL has released a new series of portable loudspeakers called the PRX600 that sound great right out of the box while still maintaining a price that the working musician can stomach and weight that won’t kill your back.

Recently, I needed to purchase a system that would be able to rock a 300-seat auditorium but would also be versatile enough to be used as a portable indoor / outdoor touring system.  I knew the PRX series was solid because I had heard the self-powered JBL PRX635 before.  So, I decided to look at the whole series before making my final decision.

Lots of options
There is a decent variety within the series; all of which are self-powered.  There is a 2-way with a single 12 inch woofer, a 2-way with a single 15 inch woofer, a 2-way with dual 15 inch woofers, and a 3-way with a diaphragm compression driver, a mid range horn and a dual voice coil neodymium woofer.  There are two subwoofers in the series as well but none of them had the output that I was looking for so I decided to go with a passive SRX series subwoofer which I will be reviewing soon.  Ultimately, I decided to go with the PRX635 for my set up.

The PRX635 features two XLR jacks on the back.  One is a pass thru so you can daisy chain multiple PRX635’s together and the other feeds a class-D 1500 watt Crown amplifier with a preset DBX DSP input section featuring a limiter as well as the internal crossover that splits up signal to each of the 3 drivers. The JBL spec sheet claims that it can produce a maximum of 135 dB which I completely agree with.  These speakers are totally capable of some serious bump!  But, bump is nothing without a quality sound.  The PRX635’s cover 90°x50° and can push 53Hz-18Khz with only a variance of plus or minus 3 dB which is awesome because most people can barely hear a difference of 3 dB.  Also, any variances are easily fixed with a 31 band EQ. It also has a user selectable EQ on the back allowing you to choose to run it flat or with JBL’s preset EQ.  I found their preset EQ totally useless because the speaker’s response is solid to begin with.  No crazy corrections or major boosts and cuts are needed for my application.  With that kind of frequency response, you can pick these up and wait a little while and get subs later because they will be able to hold their own.  They have a surprising and accurate low-end presence while still maintaining clear and crisp highs.

Lightweight heavyweight
The PRX635 speaker box is made out of lightweight poplar plywood, which is one of the best features because the whole unit only weights in at 60 pounds! The construction feels solid even after I loaded and unloaded them a few times as well as set them up and pushed them pretty hard.  The outside is covered in Obsidian DuraFlex finish.  I have no idea why it includes “dura” anything in the name because the finish is anything but durable.  It chipped off very easily after the first gig.  It did not effect performance at all, but they look like I beat the heck out of them.  That was kind of disappointing to me but as long as the sound quality was not compromised, I guess it’s okay. They have large ergonomic handles on the sides which are covered in rubber to increase grip when moving them or positioning them.

I have read online that the PRX series does have a problem with rattling inside of the unit when they are pushed hard and apparently, it is something that shows up after some use.  So, I figured I’d just be aware and keep my ears open for it.  Just recently, one of my speakers started doing just that.  The other ones aren’t doing it but I assume it’s only a matter of time.  It is not a major problem because you can really only hear the rattling from behind the speaker. It does not affect the sound quality that you are standing in front of the speaker.  It is just slightly annoying.

The Bottom Line
Overall, I must say I am pleased with the performance of the PRX635’s.  As far as bang for your buck, they come in at a pretty sweet $999.  There are small issues with the finish and the internal rattling but I think it is still a very solid competitor in that niche of the live sound market.  Check them out today!

NCC’s God Anthology Live promo

 

This summer, National Community Church recorded the church’s first live CD at the Lincoln Theater.  I was technical director for the event, created the lighting design, and ran front of house audio.  The CD was tracked by Vanguard Recording and the 16-time Grammy Award winner, Danny Duncan.  It releases on November 22, 2011.  You can pre-order it now at www.godanthology.com.

Click >>God Anthology Promo<< to check out our trailer for the CD!

And a picture of me running FOH for God Anthology Live.  Mixing on an Allen and Heath iLive T112.

An overwhelming feeling of gratitude

 

Have you ever slowed down long enough to step back and see how blessed you are?  Have you ever been continuously left speechless with a feeling of gratitude and awe at the orchestration of God’s great love and provision in your life?  Have you ever been sitting or standing somewhere overwhelmed to the point where all you want to do is listen and not move or even blink because you’re afraid that you’re going to miss something?  God places passions in your heart that are unique as you are.  He also places those passions in others.  Then, He orchestrates paths and creates times where not only does He reveal His sovereignty but He allows you to watch Him knit together a beautiful tapestry of life, passion, creativity, innovation, and purpose.  I spent the last few weeks watching this unfold before my eyes.  Like a symphony blending and movement flowing, I listened to a story of God’s divine orchestration time and time again.  But, what struck me even more then supernatural guidance from the Lord was the humility with which it was communicated.  It was obvious that it wasn’t about them but all about Jesus.  I believe this is an important leadership quality that is frequently overlooked.  We may confuse someone who is forceful for someone who possesses good leadership qualities.  But, I believe the contrary is true.  By exercising humility in your interactions, you may learn more then you would have otherwise.

 

Sometimes, being quiet is the best way to soak something in.  There is a time to squeeze out what you have, but there are times to soak in what is going on, being discussed or communicated because you will have more to offer later.  If you’re constantly trying to squeeze something out to be a part of something, you may miss a chance to soak in and keep something you may wish you had.  For example, if you are surrounded by some of the best creative and innovators in your field, that’s the time to soak it in.  But, it can’t stop there, because you can’t keep it to yourself.  An analogy that really impacted me this week was this: fruit is not meant to be stored or kept.  It is only through continuous growth, harvest, and replanting that actual regeneration happens.  The only way to make a difference is to press forward and use what God has given us to develop His Kingdom.

 

God created the heavens, earth, and everything in it.  We were created in His image; in the image and likeness of the very definition of creativity.  And He said that it was good.  It’s truly amazing even as I cruise at 25,000 feet on my way back to DC.  As those who are following Christ with our whole hearts and lives, we should be the most creative and innovative people on the planet.  Yet, I think so many times we sell ourselves short of who could be and who we truly are in Christ Jesus.  We were given the gift of life, how can we use it and how will we make it count?  We must find innovative and creative ways to communicate the love of Christ to a lost and dying world.  We must continue to find new methods and ways to communicate the gospel.  The day we think we’ve arrived, we have died as a creative innovator.

 

I hope God will continue to open doors and give me opportunities to pursue my passion of audio, production, and technology in the church.  I’m amazed at where I am now and what He has literally dropped in my lap.  I cannot imagine the future and what He is going to do.  And honestly, it’s better that way.  I don’t think I could conceive it.

Doug Gould’s Worship MD Training at @ Ebenezers

Over almost the past year, I’ve been looking into better tech training options for the production volunteers at National Community Church.  It’s a little bit of a challenge to keep my volunteers up to speed because the turnover rate in the Washington DC area is so high.  As all church tech guys know, running tech for an event is not only a learned skill, but an art…sort of like playing a musical instrument.

Anyway, since NCC is multisite, I was looking for a great way to do some hands-on mix training where the volunteers could just hang out and take the time to learn and play with what the mixing console controls do, how EQ works and reacts…basically, run sound with no pressure!  So, I contacted a friend of mine from Worship MD named Doug Gould.  Doug has had a background in audio for many years including working for companies like Shure and now his company helps to market brands like Audio Technica, Aviom, Presonus, Planet Waves, Ultimate Ears, Vox, and Waves plug-in’s.

Doug brought in six Presonus 16.0.2 consoles which we fed with signal from a full band through Aviom I/O and a master Presonus 24.4.2 console.  Doug talked through gain structure, signal flow, EQ, compression, and other mix basics that would benefit church techs.  Then, we turned the volunteers loose on the consoles with some tracks playing and gave them time to mix full band stuff with the Presonus console.  They were able to experiment with gain structure, EQ, compression, and gating.  It was really critical since NCC is multisite and there’s alot of pressure to get the mix and all the production gear set up and simply GO!  They were able to try new things, experiment, create a mix in a relaxed environment and get instant feedback and critique.  NCC will certainly be using Doug and Worship MD in the future for some of the training we will be doing.

Here’s a few pictures from the event we held at Ebenezers Coffeehouse on Capitol Hill in DC.

Spotify: New limits placed on listeners on October 14th

If you haven’t heard of or used Spotify recently then you are seriously behind.  Spotify started out as a free music service that was available to international users and on July 14th of this year, took the US by storm offering the best free music listening service to date.  Their deal with Facebook pushed them past competitors such as Last.fm who were trying to create a music driven social network.  Their edge came because it was a free service that gave you unlimited plays where services like Last.fm cost money.

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true.  Today, if you logged into Spotify to listen to your favorite tunes, you were asked to accept the new terms and conditions and I’m sure many of you just hit “I Accept” without reading it.  That click of acceptance will change how much you’ll be able to listen to tracks and ultimately how you’ll be able to use Spotify.

Basically, there are four different ways that you can access Spotify.  The version that most people had was the free version with ads where you could listen to whatever you wanted without the commercials.  That version now has listening limits placed on it after you are a member for six months.  After that, Spotify will impose “a cap of 10 listening hours per month and a cap of 5 plays per unique track.”  Lame.  I always wonder how Spotify made enough money to make all of those artists and distribution companies happy when it came to royalties but now it’s apparent that they are trying to push people towards purchasing the premium version of Spotify.  But, honestly, can you blame them?  It must require an incredible amount of resources to run a service like this and I seriously doubt there is any way that they can sustain themselves unless they begin to bring in more revenue.

So what does this mean for the user who loves Spotify?  Right now, if you haven’t had your account for six months, (which it hasn’t been available in the US for over six months yet) you won’t see any changes.  However, once you hit that six month marker, your functionality of Spotify will capped at 10 listening hours per month.  If you really don’t want that cap, you can try one of the other four “flavors” of Spotify.  They also feature an advertisement free version where you pay either a monthly or yearly fee, an advertisement free version where you pay a monthly fee which also features an offline mode where you can listen to certain downloaded songs while offline (which I’m sure are encrypted and not available for you to just keep), and finally a paid version where you have completely unlimited access which also supports your mobile device.

Which one are you interested in?  Do you think you will pay for Spotify in the future or will you simply use it less?  Feel free to comment with your thoughts and opinions and what you, the Spotify user, will do about the new terms and conditions.

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