Alan Parsons & Stephen Court Sound Check CD
Recorded and compiled by Alan Parsons and Stephen Court, the Sound Check CD contains test signals and reference recordings that may be used as an aid when setting up monitors, to check room performance and to monitor recording quality. The recording was carried out at Abbey Road studios and starts off with pink noise test tones, which are particularly useful for checking active speaker setups in conjunction with suitable level analysis equipment.
Third octave tones follow, and these allow general room and loudspeaker measurements to be carried out using no more than a high-quality studio capacitor microphone with a flat response and a level meter on a tape machine or mixing console. These may also be used to check the frequency response of tape machines. Brief but useful notes included on the CD sleeve explain how these measurements might be made.
A series of sweep tones is provided to help pinpoint resonance problems, after which comes a series of reference sine and square-wave tones which may be used for tape machine alignment and general fault-finding. All tones so far are recorded at -14dB FS, but at the end of this section is a 1kHz tone at 0dB FS with an accompanying warning to make sure your monitors aren't turned up too far.
I must admit that I found the next section particularly useful, containing as it does no fewer than 20 musical extracts, the majority being solo instruments or voices, close miked with no added compression or reverberation. Because of the very high recording quality, they provide an excellent reference for evaluating unfamiliar monitors, and for those working at home, they provide a first class reference against which your own recordings can be compared.
Also helpful in assessing an unfamiliar monitoring environment are the four musical extracts: 'The Race' by Yello, 'Limelight' by Alan Parsons and Gary Brooker, 'Seasons of our Lives' by Graham de Wilde and Mitch Dalton, and Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D minor' played by Daniel Chorzempa. These are well chosen for testing the dynamic range of a system, as are the following sound effects which have been digitally remastered from the original analogue archive recordings. These include a Tornado jet flypast (with afterburners), a thunderstorm and a Chieftain tank firing. There's also the obligatory steam train.
Finally come the utility tracks which comprise five minute sections of SMPTE/EBU timecode in 25, 30 and drop-frame formats. Though most studios will have a code generator, these recordings could be useful when fault finding a suspect generator/reader or when confirming that a unit will in fact read a standard code format. For the recorded extracts alone, this CD is well worth the modest cost. Whether you simply want to run a few tests or whether you want to hear what you should really be aiming for in recording, you simply can't afford not to have a copy of Sound Check.
Sound Check CD, £19.50 plus £1 UK postage and packing (£2 overseas).
RM Mail Order, (Contact Details).
Review by Paul White
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