There’s a revolution happening in how digital audio processing is being used in audio production. The reason is the dramatic increase in processing power and the sophisticated applications that are running on desktop and portable devices. And there is no reason to believe that ever more powerful…and cost effective…processors and innovative software won’t continue to offer recording professionals ever more tools.
I feel obligated to point out that all of the new plug-ins, powerful DSP tools and innovative software operate on PCM encoded audio. None of these new processes are available in a 1-bit or DSD environment. Even if the ultimate delivery format is an SACD or DSD download, chances are the majority of the production flow will have been done in the analog or PCM digital domain. Those advocates who believe that DSD will somehow impact a significant percentage of all audio production being done regardless of market segment are fooling themselves. Even now, as I’ve pointed out in the past, only 16% of the DSD audio you can purchase are native DSD recordings. The past, present and future of music production is going to be PCM-based…period.
Modeling an acoustic space using digital signal processing has been around for well over 20 years. Once we switched from analog to digital reverberation and delay lines back in the 1908s, the doors were thrown open. The first high quality room modeling applications captured the acoustic parameters of a specific (and usually wonderful concert hall). Engineers would bring expensive calibration microphones and test equipment into the targeted space and project a number of test tones to determine the reflection characteristics of that space. This would include initial reflections times, frequency dependent filtering, decay times and other timbral vs. time components.
The results of the exhaustive testing was encapsulated into a “convolution” algorithm that would be programmed into a reverberation preset in an outboard digital effects processor. Any signals that an engineer would route to the convolution program would be output with the “sound” of the original acoustic space. The boxes were expensive ($10,000 and up) but it was a whole lot better than traveling to actual halls.
More recently the notion of modeling an acoustic space has taken on a new and potentially very exciting new direction. By adding dynamic or real time modification of the convolution algorithms and other equipment modelling associated with a prized studio and space, engineers working in less than ideal environments can enjoy the benefits of a rich acoustic studio or performance space and its rare and valuable collection of microphones.
Figure 1 – The Ocean Way / Universal Audio Dynamic Room Modelling Plugin screen.
This is the opening blurb from the Universal Audio web page that describes the “world’s first dynamic room modeling plugin”:
“Imagine having access to one of the world’s premier recording studios, with full use of its vintage microphones, working alongside the man who has spent decades recording in its rooms, shaping your sounds in real time…with stunning results.
Developed by Universal Audio and Allen Sides, the Ocean Way Studios plug-in rewrites the book on what’s possible with acoustic space emulation. By combining elements of room, microphone, and source modeling, Ocean Way Studios moves far beyond standard impulse response players and reverbs — giving you an authentic replication of one of the world’s most famous recording studios.”
Now everyone that wants to have that Ocean Way Recording Studio sound can purchase a plugin for their Pro Tools rig and start making hit records. Well, at least they’ll have some new sound modification tools.
One final note regarding the plugins from Universal Audio. I wrote some time ago about the “Massive Passive” EQ Plugin and the fact that it claimed to be capable of 96 kHz/24-bit operation but was in fact, downconverting to 48 kHz. I was unable to determine from the specifications document whether this plugin runs at 96 kHz or 48 kHz. My guess would be the former.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the modelling of classic microphones and their use in a virtual space.