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More than gear

We live in a time when an investment of $4000 - $6000 can acquire professional grade sound reinforcement hardware adequate for small-to-medium sized events. Many bands, organizations, and theaters can afford to have high quality sound equipment

However, the best sound equipment produces poor results if it is not combined with sound engineering expertise. Many factors contribute to the quality of sound reinforcement, such as:

  • Microphone quality and the knowledge of placement
  • Equalization of the total sound to match the acoustics of the venue
  • Equalization (and other processing) of each instrument to achieve a balanced mix
  • Proper speaker placement
  • Ideal monitor coverage and mix
  • Minimization of factors contributing to feedback
  • Choice of when to use direct boxes
  • Consultation with musicians to improve the quality of sound at the source
  • And many other factors

 

What SonoCrafters Does

We provide and operate live sound systems that are compact and professional grade, suitable for audiences up to about 1000.

Clients typically include:

  • Concerts (indoors or outside)
  • Church events, such as revivals
  • Organizational rallies
  • Panel speakers
  • Weddings and other ceremonies

We use the best available compact speaker systems that provide great sound quality, yet set up quickly and unobtrusively. We use full-digital mixing consoles and digital stage boxes that allow the front-of-house mix to be practically anywhere and can even provide the entire mix from a wireless pad if the situation dictates.

We can cover the largest ensembles, with up to 32-channel live mixing and recording. By utilizing compact, high-quality components, we are able to offer these professional services at an affordable price.

 

What we DON'T do

Our specialty is sound. We do not provide lighting systems. We do not supply stages and stage apparatus for large shows. We do not provide arena-sized sound systems.

Instead we recommend other highly qualified companies for projects of that magnitude, such as:

These are highly capable companies, excellent at large productions.

We do not provide DJ services, per se, although we do offer tasteful background music suitable for most occasions.

Icon Recording

 

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The Challenge

Organizations have a wide variety of recording needs. Sometimes the need is simple, such as capturing song ideas or preserving a panel discussion for later playback. Sometimes the goals are more challenging, such as creating an impressive demo track for a band.

Anyone can buy low cost stereo digital field recorders today, such as the unit shown here. And in the right situations, with good placement, these devices can achieve very good sound quality with a minimum of expertise.

SonoCrafters has extensive experience producing good quality multi-track recordings from live performances, and this can be done in combination with live PA reinforcement. The process consists of using a live reinforcement strategy that can easily be mixed for the live audience while capturing clean tracks that later can be processed and mixed in the studio environment. In the right circumstances, this process can come close to the quality achievable with expensive studio recording sessions, at a small fraction of the cost.

Compared to Studio Recording

Today’s live recording technology permits us to capture separate tracks for each instrument, up to 32 separate tracks recorded simultaneously. Once captured, the editing, mixing and mastering process if practically the same as if the material had been recorded in the studio. There are four major differences to consider:

Quality of components. Professional studios use specialized (and expensive) microphones and pre-amps that really should not be used outside of the studio environment. Today’s live sound equipment is able to come very close to the quality of studio pre-amps. SonoCrafters uses microphones that are generally higher grade than used by most sound companies, somewhere between the usual live sound equipment and studio equipment. This minimizes noise and provides a very high audio quality.

Cross-talk. In the studio, one usually has the ability to completely isolate each channel, such that each recorded channel has one instrument or voice and nothing else. This provides for the cleanest mixing landscape. We cannot achieve that level in the field, but we can get close through a combination of direct boxes, sound dampers, and some filtering in the post-production.

Studio correction. A significant part of today's studio production is the ability to correct problems, either through multiple takes or through editing during the mixing stage. In a live recording environment, we cannot usually do multiple takes, but many of the studio correction tools can be used with live recordings as long as the channel separation is good.

Ambient noise.The live environment usually includes ambient sound, such as audience noise, that cannot be fully controlled. However, by concentrating on close-in microphone placement and direct boxes where practical, the noise can be contained. And we used advanced post-production tools that allow distinct sounds like a door closing or whistle to be removed while preserving sound quality

In summary, the live production cannot equal the best studio recordings, but we can often achieve a result very close to studio quality, and certainly good enough for demos and self-marketed CDs. And we can do this at a small fraction of the cost of the full studio experience.


The SoundCloud clip below is a brief demo of what is possible when recording a live performance. This was a 15-piece jazz big band performing outdoors under ideal circumstances. We tracked every instrument with either tight mics or DI and then mixed and mastered later. The end result was very close to what this ensemble could achieve in a costly studio. We were fortunate that the setting had very little noise and the band was capable of a good performance with a single take. We cannot guarantee results at this level every time, but this does demonstrate what is possible.

The Challenge

Organizations have a wide variety of recording needs. Sometimes the need is simple, such as capturing song ideas or preserving a panel discussion for later playback. Sometimes the goals are more challenging, such as creating an impressive demo track for a band.

Anyone can buy low cost stereo digital field recorders today. And in the right situations, with good placement, these devices can achieve good sound quality with a minimum of expertise. However, most recordings produced in a "point and shoot" mode will sound shallow and amateruish when compared to commercial recordings.

Audio Recording

SonoCrafters can help you close the gap between "point and shhot" quality and competitive commercial quality.  See what goes into our professional audio recording.

Video Recording

In today's social media world, we have a strong incentive to tell our story both audibly and visually. People are far more likely to consume your information if it is in the form of a video. As with audio recording, there is very good technology available at a low price. But there can be a huge difference impact in between a raw movie  clip shot from a smart phone and a professionally produced video. SonoCrafters is primarily engaged in achieving the best sound production possible. We can deliver this sound quality through video productions. We do not aspire to produce Hollywood-quality video. Instead we target productions suitable for today's social media and can do such productions at a modest price.  See what goes into our professional video recording.


 See a review of the various technologies here.

As recently as 2000, it was common for major universities and conservatories to invite a prospective student to audition based simply on a letter of recommendation.  Today, a student may be asked to provide a collection of 6 or more recordings, including brief excerpts, but also including major works such as concertos.  All of this may be required just to win an invitation for a real audition. As the technology has become more accessible, it is common for the schools to require this be provided in video format.

The schools might justify this by saying, "You don't need to do anything special.  Just capture your practice on an iPhone video and upload it to us so we can pre-screen your application."

But the reality is that admission to the best schools is very competitive.  Chances are good that you will be up against other applicants who have done something more involved than simply running their IPhone.

Concerns

If some students engage professionals to produce the audition recordings, it is difficult for the university staff to remain completely objective when comparing against ad hoc videos.

As amazing as today's smart phones are, their ability to record high quality audio is very limited.

Some of the audition materials may require a live accompanist.  Or it may be permissible for the applicant to perform with a pre-recorded accompaniment track.  In either case, this complicates the job of providing a submission that will impress the evaluators.

Hiring an accompanist and professional videographer can be expensive.

In the videography world, sound quality is often an afterthought.  Many of the recording formats brutally punish the audio quality, and it is not common for videographers to have a deep understanding of audio recording.  For an audition recording, we must place the audio quality at the top of priorities.

SonoCrafters Solutions

SonoCrafters can help address these concerns.  We are able to produce impressive audition materials on a budget. These can be recorded live in a suitable space, such as a church or hall.  Or we can record in our small mixing studio for a more intimate feel.  All of our recordings begin with attention to the audio, using high quality microphones and carefully planned placement.  When live accompaniments are required, we record the student and accompanist on separate tracks to maximize flexibility in the final mix.

If recorded accompaniments are used, we keep that material on separate tracks.

In the studio, we are able to provide a polished sound while adhering to the requirement to not edit any of the applicant's performance.  We may, however, make "back room" adjustments to the accompaniment that save the time and expense of doing multiple takes in order to correct imprefections in the accompaniment.

In some cases, it can save time, money, and effort to record the accompaniment separately, so the accompanist will be "on the clock" the minimum amount of time.  SonoCrafters can accommodate all of these approaches.

In addition, because of our extensive musical experience, SonoCrafters can often identify flaws in the student's performance and provide coaching to improve that with an additional take.  We will not edit the student performance, but it is certainly allowable to record multiple takes and submit the best one.

Final Production

The final production of the audition material is surprisingly challenging.  Preparation of audio recordings is straightforward.  But when a video is required, there can be many complications.  There are many different video standards.  Each format has its own characteristic of file size, video quality and audio quality.  And to be honest, some of the video formats constrain the audio is a way that makes for a terrible presentation.  The school may identify a small subset of allowable formats. It is up to the engineer to determine which format will present the student in the best light while still meeting the school's technical requirements.  This is what SonoCrafters does.