Grace Design Newsletter - November 2004 Presenting the m902 reference headphone amplifier! Plus- AES convention news and more..
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<<User Spotlight >>

Tom Lazarus - Classic Sound, NYC

The Tom Lazarus list of album credits is as long as it is illustrious and is liberally sprinkled with awards including numerous Grammys. His client list ranges from the Vienna Philharmonic, Bjork, Ornette Coleman, Ravi Shankar and many wonderful places in between. It all adds up to the fact that Mr. Lazarus is a virtuoso recording engineer at the top of his class and clearly at the top of his game.

We first met Tom a few years ago when he was recording the Colorado College Bowed Piano Ensemble*, under the direction of composer / faculty member Stephen Scott. Since then we have had the privilege of living vicariously through Tom's ongoing exploits as a first call, globe trotting Audio Engineer.

Tom's home base is Classic Sound in NYC, which he built and shares with mastering engineer Joe Lambert. When traveling, we are honored that Tom often brings along his own model 801R, which has become an integral part of his recording setup.

Always full of good humor and wit, it is truly a pleasure to catch up with Mr. Lazarus. Thanks Tom!

Could you give a little of your background? How did you start out as an audio engineer and who were/ are some of your influences along the way?

California dreaming was my early inspiration. Having been born and raised in Hollywood, CA seems to have figured into sparking my interest in music and recording from an early age. As if by osmosis, the endless hours spent playing in expectant teenage bands while rehearsing and recording in wall-carpeted studios, fueled my curiosity and development as an engineer.

After apprenticing in Los Angeles studios, receiving a music degree in Oboe, then moving to NYC to unsuccessfully pursue a musician's career, I finagled my way into the engineering department of Vanguard Records. My first months were spent razor-blading and mixing 1/2", 3 track masters and QC'ing Vinyl test pressings. Somehow, before long, I was recording Vanguard's artists in its West 23rd Street Studios and traveling with flypacks to concert halls around the world. I was with the label until it was sold in 1987, when I transitioned into the world of freelance.

Tom with the Kronos Quartet and Howard Shore at Right Track Recording, NYC

You have engineered in some of the greatest concert halls around the world. Is there a location or a hall which stands out in your mind as the Holy Grail of acoustical spaces?

I love recording in great acoustical spaces. The engineering is straightforward, pure and simplified and the music making is supreme. They are enablers; among the most wonderful aspects of a remarkable recording space is the motivation the musicians receive from its acoustics. Performances excel when players hear each other accurately, without strain, and are exhilarated by the sounds they hear. I've never experienced the "Holy Grail" of acoustical spaces, but rather a few perfect musical moments when all the elements seem to have come together. The most amazing sounds come from Orchestras which have learned how to work their halls. Regardless, for reasons of logistics, comfort, music, and financial, most of my sessions are in NYC studios. My "Holy Grail" = a sampling reverb; it's always quiet, consistent and adaptable.

The industry has clearly undergone quite a radical change in the past ten years. Access to high quality recording equipment is common, and it seems that everyone has their and in making records. At the same time, quality at the delivery end continues to be trumped by convenience and mass marketability. How do you see your role as a true audio professional evolving to meet the demands of the current state of the music industry?

I've remained involved, interested and flexible with open-minded visions for each and every project. My job as an engineer is to maintain as seamless a liaison between the artist and technology as possible.

We are always honored that you chose to use our microphone preamplifiers. Can you tell us a little about how they fit into your typical recording setup? What sources and which microphones generally end up flowing through our preamplifiers?

I'm a huge believer in placing the mic preamps as close to the mics as possible, thereby running line level for the remainder of the convoluted and tortuous analog path. The 801R's remoteable capability, forever alluring mic to preamp pairing, and ridiculous reliability makes my day....every day.

Any projects on your plate right now that you are particularly excited about?

I'm continuing an ongoing series of live concerts in Carnegie Hall, jointly produced by Nonesuch Records and NPR --- "Creators at Carnegie". All great artists, all amazing performances, all incredible audiences, all mixed live for broadcast and TBD releases. Check out the website.

Tom's trusty model 801R at work

Bowed Piano Ensemble specializes in performing on a Bowed Piano- a grand piano with it lid removed so the ensemble can reach inside and literally bow, pick or pluck the strings. It is a remarkable source and quite a challenge to record. Highly recommended!!

<<AES Convention News>>

We would like to extend a very warm thanks to everybody who visited us at this year's 115th AES convention in San Francisco. The show was a huge success for us. The new m902 reference headphone amplifier was a huge hit, and many people got to get a good look at the m904 / m906 monitor controllers for the first time.

One of the highlights for us was a daily giveaway of 4 collector's edition Halloween colored model 101 microphone preamplifiers to 4 very lucky AES trick or treaters. Pictured below are a couple of the happy winners with the crew. Congratulations winners!!!


<<New Product Announcement >>

We are proud to announce the introduction of the newest addition to our monitoring product line and successor to the venerable model 901; the m902 Reference Headphone Amplifier. (click here to view a pdf cutsheet)

The m902 is a stereo reference headphone amp and monitoring controller housed in a sleek new 1U, half-rack enclosure whose industrial design mirrors that of the m904 and m906 monitoring systems. The m902 has been designed to provide audio pros in music, post and live-sound with exceptional headphone as well as stereo mains monitoring, whether from an analog or digital stereo source.

The m902 provides balanced and unbalanced stereo analog inputs via rear panel XLR and RCA jacks. Both +4dBu and –10dBV analog sources are accommodated. A pair of front panel, parallel-wired ¼” TRS outputs are included to allow two headphone pairs to be used simultaneously. The m902 also adds a pair of line outputs on the rear panel for connection to a stereo pair of monitors, allowing the system to also perform as a high-end system preamp.

The m902 employs high-current, transimpedance output amplifiers optimized for driving even the lowest impedance headphones. A front panel rotary encoder provides precision level control of both headphone and line output levels and level adjustments are made in 0.5dB steps within a 95dB range. Channel to channel level matching is an amazingly low 0.05dB.

AES3, S/PDIF and optical digital sources are accepted via rear-panel XLR, RCA and TOSLINK connectors respectively. As an added convenience, a USB input (16-bit, 44.1 – 48kHz operation) is supplied for users who desire a reference quality listening experience while connected to their computer. A front panel rotary switch selects between all analog and digital sources, and a 4-LED array is provided to show valid digital source sample rates between 44.1 and 192kHz. A high performance 24-bit DAC, which includes Grace’s unique s-LockTM dual stage PLL (Phase Lock Loop) is utilized for conversion and provides exceptional results with extremely low intrinsic jitter.

The m902 also includes an exciting new feature (Xfeed) that simulates the acoustics of a loudspeaker listening environment and which significantly improves imaging while reducing listening fatigue when using headphones. This feature employs carefully designed signal cross-feed, filtering and delay circuits to simulate HRTF (Head Related Transfer Functions).

The m902 incorporates an internal linear power supply, built with a custom wound high-current, low-noise 30 watt toroidal power transformer. Only the highest quality 0.5% metal film resistors are used throughout and there are no electrolytic capacitors in the signal path. Sealed gold contact relays are used for all signal switching.

Finally, the m902 is equipped with an infrared sensor which allows remote operation of numerous system parameters when connected to an (optional) remote control unit.

“The m902 was designed for audio professionals who require uncompromising accuracy and sonic detail when making critical, quality related decisions whether in the recording, mixing or mastering stage of their projects. It will also have wide appeal to audiophile customers for use in their home based listening environments” notes Grace Design VP of Sales and Marketing Doug Wood. “When we set out to develop a product that would supplant our very popular model 901, we knew the new version would have to be very special. With technologies incorporated from our m904 and m906 systems, the m902 definitely raises the bar and we’re very proud to introduce the m902 at the upcoming AES show”.

The m902 is expected to ship in late November and will carry an SRP of $1,695 (USD). (click here for pdf cutsheet)

<<Dealer Spotlight >>

Pacific Pro Audio, Seattle WA

Founded in 1993 by Garth Hedin and Brian Cornfield, Pacific Pro Audio's original mission was to provide the burgeoning Seattle pro audio market with a high quality, customer service oriented retail and service outlet. Eleven years later, while the pro audio market has undergone remarkable changes, Pacific Pro Audio remains as one of the finest independent pro audio outlets in the country.

We first started working with Pacific Pro back in the mid 90's when they were building a facility for a famous rock band and were interested in the then newly introduced model 801 microphone preamplifier. At the time, options for 8 channel high quality mic preamplifiers were scarce, and Pacific Pro Audio understood the appeal of the model 801 right away.

Our paths split for a while, but have happily crossed again. Garth and Brian have done an amazing job growing and evolving their independent business in the face of mass marketed audio via box houses. As a small scale manufacturer, doing business and maintaining relationships with these small, customer oriented retailers is what keeps us going. It doesn't matter how high the boxes are piled up in the warehouse or how deep the salesman can discount to make the sale; what matters more than ever is a knowledgeable, committed sales staff who understands and is an advocate for our products. And Pacific Pro Audio is just that.

We are lucky to be able to chat with co-founder, Mr. Garth Hedin.

Can you tell us a little about how/ why you and Brian decided to open Pacific Pro Audio? What is your background in the pro audio industry?

We both came to Seattle in the early 90’s from Los Angeles, where we worked together for several years, I came from an engineering job and then a pro audio sales job; Brian came from a studio technician job and then a pro audio sales position as well. We were both working together for an audio company in Seattle. In late 1993 the company had fallen on hard times. When things started to go badly, Brian and I decided to take our combined energy and start out own pro audio company.

Pacific Pro Audio was founded by Garth Hedin and Brian Cornfield in the mid 90’s, and has become the fastest growing Northwest pro audio dealer.

What is the current state of the pro audio industry in Seattle? What types of clients are you working the most these days?

Recovering. It goes without saying that pro audio, along with most other industries, has been slow over the past few years. The music industry was dealt a double blow with an ailing economy, and all of the mp3 file sharing. Seattle was smacked even harder with our economy so dependent on Boeing and the .com’s, not to mention our grunge went away.

As far as what type of clients, more home studios than ever. We still do the big studios, but they all have lower budgets than in the past. We find ourselves getting into more commercial situations like churches/schools and corporate than we did in the past. The most prevalent change is, of course, the computer/software dominance in our industry. Our shop is looking more and more like a computer store and less like the traditional pro audio storefront every day.

Pacific Pro Audio has had great success with Grace Design products. Can you give us a little insight into why you think this is?

Grace builds a strong product. We have tried to cultivate a reputation for finding and recommending the best equipment for our clients, by best we mean good value, sonically strong and reliable. Grace fits those requirements, and so we recommend it on a regular basis. We will typically lend out equipment for our clients to try in their own environment, we seldom get the Graces back.

Seattle became quite famous as the world headquarters of grunge music over a decade ago. But what many people don't know is that it is now a rapidly growing destination for large scale film scoring recording. Can you tell us a little about why this is?

Two reasons really, First is a non-union symphony, need I elaborate on that? The second is born out of the first, a couple of guys were able to pull it together and offer the sort of support services needed for the film industry. Seattle has a number of good venues, lots of talent and good equipment, when it is put together properly it can be a pretty attractive package.

Any big changes or exciting events on the horizon for Pacific Pro Audio you'd like to discuss?

Late in September we moved into our new location. The space allows us more room for display and demonstration and features a panoramic view of the Puget Sound, not only from every office, but also from the sales/demo floor. Better parking and improved client services have been received well by our clients, who continue to motivate and drive us to be the best professional audio dealer that we can.

Several years ago, we noticed the introduction of pro audio products that were made in China. We explored the idea of providing a pro audio quality condenser microphone for our customers. About one year later we introduced the LD-1, and soon after the LD-2ube. The LD-1 is a professional large diaphragm, cardioid condenser microphone. The LD-2ube is a professional dual diaphragm, tube, 9 pattern condenser microphone. We are now working on a third microphone that we hope to have in about four months.

In 1998, we launched our online presence. Just last month we commissioned a brand new web site that is still undergoing changes. We are currently working on an online store, so that many of our products can be ordered at any time of the day or night!

To contact Pacific Pro Audio, call 206-264-9386 or visit

About Grace Design

Grace Design was established in 1994 and is a leading manufacturer of world-class hardware for the professional audio industry. Grace Design’s mission is to provide audio professionals with exceptionally engineered and built products coupled with best-in-class customer service. The product line currently consists of the model 801, 801R, 201, 101, Lunatec V3 microphone preamps, the m902 reference headphone amplifier and the m904, m904B and m906 reference monitoring systems. The company’s customers include audio professionals in the music, film, television, live sound, education and corporate markets.

Thanks for your continued support!
-The Grace Design Team

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