Norah Jones’ success proved – as if the point needed reaffirmation – that there is still a market for music where the vocal is everything. For pro production and home studio recording, gear quality is getting better and better. So are the recordings. In addition to great new gear, one of the reasons is the expanding depth and quality of software, including audio samples and loops being offered to composers. Arrangers and producers can now get a bigger sound without hiring hundreds of performers. Even with the cutting edge advances in hardware and software, combined with talent such as Norah Jones, producer Jonathan Todd feels that the most important element of all is still a great microphone.
Photo caption: Producer Jonathan Todd, president SabreMark, Inc., located in Los Angeles depends on the Soundelux U95 microphone to accurately capture pro sample libraries. According to Todd, the Soundelux U95 is the only mic capable of handling the 3.5 octave range of European diva, ILONA!.
Jonathan Todd is the president of SabreMark Inc., an entertainment/marketing firm based in Los Angeles, California. In addition to his management work, Todd also produces commercial tracks and sample CDs for arrangers and composers. This year, Todd was tapped by Sony Pictures/Sonic Foundry to produce three pro sample libraries. The result: “Mick Fleetwood: Total Drumming,” Electric Skychurch’s “Alex Spurkel: ElectroWorld Percussion” and the European diva “ILONA!: Universal Female Vocal Toolkit.”
Jonathan Todd says that recording ILONA!, whose powerful voice encompasses a full 3.5 octave range, was challenging. Finding a studio with proper acoustics was important, but choosing a microphone that could handle ILONA!’s range was the most critical decision he had to make.
“I’ve spent years in the studio as a producer and spent untold sums of money trying and testing equipment. Without question, the most important element in any studio (after the engineer) is the microphone. That’s where the sound source enters the simplest to the most complex of recording systems in every studio. I’ve tried nearly every professional microphone (old and current) in the world and my consistent favorite for vocal recording sessions is the Soundelux 95.”
It’s no secret that there are microphone manufacturers – particularly those with access to the Chinese market, who have released inexpensive product that has found its way into many project studios. Todd believes that this choice places many project studio owners at a disadvantage. “I’ve produced in some of the world’s finest studios and I can’t think of one that didn’t have access to Soundelux mics. On the other hand, I’ve seen many home studios with $3,000 worth of computers, a Pro Tools rig, compressors, reverb machines, $6,000 worth of keyboards, power supplies, custom grounding, a $10,000 board but only a $300 microphone! My first advice is to get the best microphone possible. If you’re doing recording of vocals, there’s nothing like the Soundelux line for getting an open sound with superb reproduction.”
If you can afford to call vocal talent and book a lead or background vocal session with a team of experienced singers, go for it. But now there’s actually a substitute on CD that can ride behind a lead singer, add harmonies, scats, even create the lead for instrumentals. “ILONA!: Universal Female Vocal Toolkit” is designed for those occasions where either your budget can’t withstand the production costs of hiring live singers or where you want complete control of the vocals to be created. The product features three-and-a-half octaves of ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ vocal samples with long and short durations provided for every note. Additionally, separate stereo Lexicon 480 reverb tracks were made for each and every note. Users can create a conventional mix or experiment with unique combinations of sung notes and reverbs for startling vocal effects. The loops work with any sequencer or programs that accept .wav files. This allows complete control over both the chordal composition and the sonic texture of the user’s vocal harmonies. The special two-CD collection features 864 license-free loops, including a beautiful assortment of diva samples appropriate for use across a wide range of genres and moods. Every note was captured on a Soundelux microphone. Musician’s Friend bills this production as, “A milestone in music production libraries and an indispensable tool for serious desktop producers.”
ILONA!, who has been frustrated at times by microphones that fail to accurately reproduce her voice throughout its entire range, was captured by the sound of the Soundelux. Here are some thoughts directly from the artist, ILONA!, about recording these sessions.
“I’ve been recording professionally for years and have over 80 songs on international radio. My range is three-and-a-half octaves, which makes capturing the full range challenging. After trying every professional microphone available in the best-equipped studios in Europe and America, I chose Soundelux as my number one microphone line. Nothing else captures both the honesty of performance and the individual color of each note the way Soundelux does.
“The dynamics of the Soundelux microphone line are truly impressive. The intensity and clarity of low to high vocal reproduction is superb. Before finding Soundelux, engineers often used two different microphones for capturing different ranges in my voice. Each mic imparted different characteristics, and the result was invariably a poor blend. With Soundelux I can achieve a smooth, seamless transition throughout my entire vocal range.
“As an artist in the studio, I crave a microphone that presents the most intimate nuances of my performance and techniques. What I hear while I’m recording is what fuels my performance at the moment. Other microphones tend to provide a compressed sound in my phones that requires increased volume or reverb for compensation. Soundelux microphones deliver the integrity of my work without the need for that compensation. Pure, clean, powerful, natural sound is what I hear when I’m on a Soundelux microphone.”
“ILONA!: Universal Female Vocal Toolkit” and “Mick Fleetwood: Total Drumming” were both recorded at Blue Moon Studio, an L.A. studio owned by Joe Vannelli. “We had access to a huge variety of mics,” says Todd. “Nothing meets the sonic reproductive quality of Soundelux.”
An often overlooked aspect of production, which ILONA! mentioned, is the importance of a headphone mix that makes an artist comfortable. “When using standard ‘all-purpose’ microphones, for vocalists I often find the headphone sound feels either airy or compressed to the artist,” says Todd. “The first clue is when the artist asks for more volume. If you run harmonies the headphone bleed can kill your tracks if you turn the phones up. With the Soundelux 95s I’m consistently able to run minimum headphone volume, please the artist and reduce the bleed.”
All three of the libraries that Todd has produced for Sony Pictures/Sonic Foundry are enjoying critical and commercial success. Jonathan Todd is currently producing new albums due to hit the market in 2003 & 2004. ILONA! just received critical acclaim in EQ magazine and has a new album “Wonderful Feeling” debuting later this year. Additionally, ILONA! has dance album produced by Todd being released in 2004. Look for Todd to continue this work and explore new recording techniques. But don’t expect him to part with his Soundelux microphones. For information contact [email protected], or [email protected].
Transamerica Audio Group, founded by industry veteran Brad Lunde, has quickly become the premier U.S. importer/distributor for high-end audio. Success hinges on Transamerica providing users with technical expertise extending far beyond the norm. Transamerica AG’s product lines include AEA ribbon microphones (USA), Apex (Belgium), ATC Loudspeakers (UK), Brauner (Germany), Drawmer (UK), Geoffrey Daking & Co. (USA), George Massenburg Labs (GML) (USA), Mission Audio (UK) Phoenix Audio (UK) Soundelux (USA), SoundField (UK), and Z-Systems (USA).