LEARN - Everest 701

Using the Abendrot Everest 701 with Avid VENUE I S6L

Interview with Hajime Kodama - Technical/Engineering Director, TWOMIX inc

TWOMIX inc. follows in the footsteps of renowned mastering studios around the world such as Abbey Road Studios and Metropolis studios, by installing the Abendrot Everest 701 - True Audio Master Clock into their live digital sound system. We talked to their Technical/Engineering Director, Hajime Kodama, about the company’s credos and how they operate their cutting-edge studio equipment while incorporating the Everest 701 and the impact this True Audio Master Clock has made to their audio environment.

── Tell us about your current system setup?

We have two Avid Venue S6Ls, a YAMAHA RIVAGE PM10, and a Solid State Logic SSL Live. L500 Plus as our main consoles, while we also have a YAMAHA CL5 due to its mobility. We decide on which console to use depending on the type of arena or concert hall the artist will be performing at, or the amount of paths and channels that will be required for each particular event. There are other factors that we consider such as the preferences of the operator, and in some cases the event organizers will specifically ask for a certain popular and versatile console to be used. For our main speaker system, we have the d&b audiotecnik GSL which is widely regarded as the best in the business.

── When did you convert to a fully digital environment?

Probably about ten years ago. Unless we have no choice but to use an analog multi-track console due to restrictions at the venue, we will always operate with a digital environment. In that sense, we were well prepared for this sudden wave of digitalization as most of our staff were already familiar with such equipment. Those who weren’t familiar with digital equipment became quickly outnumbered and they quickly adapted to keep up with the rest of the crew. In the earlier days of our conversion to digital consoles, we would trial and error with unconventional methods such as deliberately connecting the console and equalizer through an analog environment, or deliberately not connect an audio compressor such as the AMS Neve 33609, to enable an easier-to-control sound environment.

──Have you used an external clock for your digital consoles?

Our initial digital consoles had independent analog input and output just like their analog counterparts, and a master clock wasn’t considered necessary as the thought of audio quality in a fully digital environment didn’t really cross our minds, and we therefore simply used the internal clock built into the digital console at use. Due to initially not wanting the added work of having to synchronize an external master clock with the recorder during a live recording, we only got around to installing a Mutec half rack product about five or six years ago. We first made the decision to install the external clock as a means to synchronize two digital devices, but by doing so we thought we noticed an enhancement in sound quality. We then proceeded to experiment with other devices and got the impression that a change in the master clock made a positive difference to the sound, although we also attributed the changing of BNC clock cables to sound quality and weren’t truly sure which component contributed more. We kind of left our conclusion there and continued to work with whatever sound environment we had on scene, and didn’t really experiment further with an external clock for quite a while.

── What is your impression of the Abendrot Everest 701?

Although we hadn’t made any definitive conclusions regarding the relevance of a master clock towards sound quality, we decided to try out the Everest 701 as it had a certain vibe or look to it that differentiated it from other products. We immediately felt a difference especially with its excellent sense of sound localization. Furthermore, that feel of haziness in the high frequency range that I can’t quite describe in words but is a common factor with digital devices had immediately disappeared. The overall clearer sound also impacted the low frequency range, as the high/low sounds with attack really started to feel lively and totally aligned with each other. Furthermore, the clearly defined frequency ranges made each instrument standout.
Although the built-in, high-spec rubidium clock certainly contributes to the excellence of the Everest 701, this factor alone does not guarantee the fantastic results that this master clock produces. I understand it is difficult to prove the level of sound quality with a master clock in quantifiable terms, unlike say a speaker product, as all you can really do is check the specification data of jitter or phase noise, so this may be more of a sensible conclusion rather than quantifiable one, but i must admit that the Everest 701 clearly makes a difference and moves digital sound up several notches to a level almost on par with analog sound.

── Has there been any direct improvement to your workflow?

I don’t need to hastily move the equalizer up and down anymore while making acoustic adjustments at a venue, especially in the low frequency range. Unlike a recording session or a mixing session with a console, making acoustic adjustments on the spot is the only possible way of cutting down unpleasant bass sound trembling. I usually end up having to cut off certain low frequencies which can sometimes be a hazardous job as the frequencies of the particular sound range I want to cut can at times be fuzzy and hard to isolate. The Everest 701 produces a clearly defined and crisp bass sound from the get go, and I usually either only have to make minor adjustments or don’t even have to make any adjustments entirely when adjusting the acoustic environment. I always make the final decision with my own ears, and I can genuinely feel an enhancement in overall final quality each time as the reduction in having to play little tricks to maintain decent sound quality or having to “over-do” equalization is eliminated.

── How have you incorporated the Everest 701 into your system?

We have two Everest 701s, each connected to an Avid Venue S6L system. After much deliberation on how to effectively incorporate Abendrot master clock into our system, we decided to prepare a Dante network which included a Dante I/O with a Dante word clock. We then connected the network with the Everest 701 96kHz word clock, and then decided to use 96kHz as the default frequency for our Dante network as all the equipment we use such as the Avid Venue S6L and YAMAHA RIVAGE PM10 consoles, together with the d&b audiotechnik GSL LAKE speakers can operate at this frequency. Sometimes we have to separate digital consoles that operate at 48kHz from our system and connect them with analog methods in order to avoid having to “downgrade” our system to 48kHz. If you layout the system by having the console as the main input and output with the Dante devices being consolidated to it, then it is possible for the word clock to be received by the console, in which this console can then be used as the clock master for the Dante system.

Since last year, we have been using the Abendrot Master Clock effortlessly in a Dante 96kHz environment for top domestic artists singing at arenas. I have personally become so accustomed with using the Abendrot Master Clock that I sometimes forget I am even using it.

── Why have you pro-actively been updating your equipment?

New equipment allows us to do the same thing with less effort, and thus it is kind of inevitable that we would update them frequently. Our line array system has been overhauled twice, and our current third generation system has more power per unit despite being lighter than their predecessors. In addition, our DSP software allows us to simulate beforehand, factors such as sound pressure distribution in accordance with the characteristics of each venue, which in turn allows us to try out the speakers with a pretty high sound volume as soon as they have been installed at the venue. Most of the time, new speaker products are updates of a manufacturers previous products built with user feedback incorporated and this usually means good news for us. We also make sure to try out each product first through demonstrations in order to get a grasp of each manufacturers software and what this software can or cannot do.

── Has the new equipment made your job easier?

The elaborate nature of digital technology actually makes things harder in some ways, although that doesn’t deter us from using them. None of us have the mindset of “We won’t do this today because we weren’t able to do it yesterday” as we continue to strive for improvement. There are no excuses for sound not being delivered properly to the balcony section of an arena in this day and age. This is definitely one aspect that has improved immensely over the years as sound can now be delivered evenly across an arena, despite the sound in the engineer booth not changing that much.

Although I believe our main system has almost reached the point of being ideal, I still think we will see truly innovative products that will blow my mind like the Abendrot Master Clock. I will continue to look forward to seeing such products entering the market while I continue to strive in making the best audio system and environment possible today.