LEARN - Everest 701

Interview with Hisaaki “K.M.D” Komatsu

Hisaaki “K.M.D” Komatsu, the Front of House Engineer for many of Japan’s most well-known artists including LUNA SEA, is perhaps one of the more prominent users of the Abendrot True Audio Master Clock. We had the chance to talk with him at Nakano Sunplaza’s concert hall about the integral relationship between a digital console and its master clock and the Everest 701’s undeniable appeal.

── Please tell us about your audio set-up today.

A YAMAHA PM5D with a Abendrot Everest 701 locked 48kHz word clock output. A 10M reference output is sent to an Antelope Isochrone OCX with the word clock’s signal sent as 96kHz to an Apollo 8, which I am using as a multi effector. I have to say that the results are clearly better when sending the word clock signal directly to the 701 rather than via the OCX, and I am currently experimenting the 701 with other word clock distributor in various configurations.

── We’ve heard you have been trying our master clock in other locations as well. What is your impression of the Abendrot?

Initially, I was very impressed of the Abendrot master clock’s ability to “re-produce even the subtlest musical nuances”. I’ll give you an example; whenever I perform a sound check in CD format, I can still sense the unique nuances of each musician in the studio such as how the drummer is hitting an offbeat or how the guitarist is strumming his guitar. These pure sounds are perhaps best felt when doing a 2-channel mix down; as if the sound information lost in a typical digital environment has been re-evoked.

For live performances, my job is obviously not to just simply re-produce the sound of the CD recording, and I am responsible for mixing the live sounds coming from each microphone into my mixing deck. I mainly use the 701 for Rock concerts and have always been intrigued at how crisp, clear and separated each sound frequency range stands out. When mixing bass drums and guitars, I tend to trust my instincts and feel the vibes through matching my body movement with the rhythmical movement of the bass sounds rather than just “listen” to them like I would with melodic instruments. Through the 701, I can really get a grasp on how all the low frequencies are blending in or skipping. These small nuances and changes are so subtle yet so important, and being able to clearly distinguish each sound separately in the richest possible tones has been such a revelation I am discovering newfound fun in the art of mixing after all these years. It all falls into place so easily that I almost feel like a puppet with the Abendrot pulling my strings! The end result is a beautiful harmony of multi-layers of sound; an unparalleled experience not possible by any other audio device.

──When did the benefits of using an external master clock first catch your attention?

I first started using the Yamaha M7CL back in 2000 and eventually moved on to the Yamaha PM5D. A little while after, all the manufacturers started releasing their own digital consoles and my use gradually increased from around 30% back then to around 90% currently in comparison to their analog counterparts. Honestly, my initial impression of digital consoles was that the sound was a lot flatter than analog consoles. However, the pros of being able to save mixing data and keep it for the next concert, in which I could progressively upgrade the sound each time to become more of my taste in the same way a chef would add more ingredients to a pot of stew to “individualise” his dish, often outweighed these cons and allowed me to continue using digital consoles throughout the years. With an analog console, I would have to write down all the details on a piece of paper each time and it was always a bit of a nightmare when attempting to re-produce the exact environment of the previous concert. Being able to re-produce this environment instantly and also being able to continue to build upon this foundation was a revolutionary step forward at the time.

In terms of pure sound characteristics, I still feel that analog consoles have an edge over their digital counterparts in terms of the richness, bulkiness and sheer presence of their sound and for this reason my go-to console for many years had been the analog Midas Heritage 2000 when travelling for live concert tours. However, carrying around and having to fit this huge console at every venue we were going to perform was a real nuisance. Although I still get to work with an analog console today as the SSL 4000G is the designated plug-in console for our regular venue in Las Vegas, it is one of my personal dreams to be able to mix a whole live tour only using an analog console. However, if I was asked right now which console type I would prefer to bring along to a tour; with all things considered my reply would be “Digital”.

── Do you still often use the Yamaha PM5D to this day?

I have been using the PM5D for almost 15 years and I feel as if it has become an extension of my own body and senses. These senses have also helped me in creating sound that is as close to “analog” as possible when using a digital console. In other words, my vast experience with the PM5D helps bring out the best in my digital mixing. In addition, even after all these years, reliability of the PM5D is excellent as I cannot ever remember a malfunction or having to replace a fader or encoder, and I personally believe the functions of the PM5D can still hold their own even when up against the newest of digital mixing consoles. The Rolling Stones’ touring team still use the PM4000 to this day and have been for many years, a persistence that I admire which perhaps even enters the boundaries of philosophical faith.

── Is there anything that has particularly caught your attention while using Abendrot?

One thing that has definitely come to my attention is that it is the ultimate product in bringing the sound of a digital console as close to an analog console as possible. It also makes you kind of re-discover, or should I say remember how much we should appreciate how rich the sound of an analog console always has been. In retrospect, you get to understand just how much information had been lost through digital conversion once you use an Abendrot master clock, whether it be the general inaccuracy of each digital device or how important it is to accurately convert time information when in digital format. These are all things that I hadn’t been able to comprehend until I actually used the Abendrot for mixing. At first I thought over 30,000 USD for an external master clock I had never previously heard of was a pretty hefty price tag. But when you consider the fact that a brand new state-of-the-art digital console environment costs close to 200,000 USD to fully install, and the fact that you can objectively expect instant and drastic improvements in the equipment you already own by connecting them with the Abendrot, it starts making a lot of sense and that 30,000+ USD price tag suddenly doesn’t seem so expensive after all. I truly recommend this master clock especially to those experienced engineers who fondly remember the heydays of analog sound mixing.

Hisaaki Komatsu
Worked as a sound engineer for 12 years at the Yamaha Music Foundation before founding Oasis Sound Design Inc., and mixed and produced for notable artists and singers including Maki Oguro, LUNA SEA, INORAN, Aoi Teshino and Mako Ishino. He is also a visiting professor at the Senzoku Gakuen College of Music Japan Department of Music and Sound Design.