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Those seeking a studio in Austria for ultra-high-quality recording of classical music inevitably think of the name tonzauber, and for good reason. The studio, whose name means “sound magic,” has gained a reputation for providing superior audio quality and expert engineering services for the performers who record there, including classical music and other musical genres from jazz to metal.
Now, tonzauber has expanded its capabilities with a new on-location mobile recording truck equipped with a state-of-the-art Lawo mc²36 MkII mixing desk. Georg Burdick, who founded the studio in 1998, says it fulfills his dream. “Building an OB truck was my long-cherished wish,” says Burdick, “but the need to build it heightened with circumstances brought on by the pandemic. When Covid hit, suddenly, there were orders for many live streams that needed implementing within short lead times. This also affected elaborate mobile productions, which had to be ready mixed immediately. It all got to the point where I thought to myself, ‘I don’t like packing everything up, driving somewhere, unpacking again, setting up the equipment and then still having to sit and mix in some room, a storeroom or, at open-air events, in a tent!’”
Trend toward smaller
Other factors also drove Burdicek’s decision to build an OB truck designed to meet his specific needs: the limited selections of truck sizes and available options. “I’ve noticed that for the music productions I’m in charge of in Austria, the trend is toward smaller TV OB trucks because they don’t have the budget for more than five or six cameras, which any Sprinter can do, even in 4K and HD. The problem with this is that there is no sound control room built in — at least not one where I would want to mix an orchestra!” says Burdick.
With all this in mind, Burdick decided in early 2021 to make his wish a reality. “Especially since the technology was already there, and I only had to build the OB truck,” Burdick smiles. After working through various possibilities, from trailers to box vans, the detailed planning of a sound OB van based on a full-grown truck began in August, and construction began in October 2021, with the in-house tonzauber team working with TV service provider Euro-TV, which has extensive experience in constructing OB trucks.
Burdick banks on IP technology for the future. “Our entire vehicle is based on Ravenna/AES67 technology, which gives me flexibility not available in the broadcast sector before. My smallest stagebox is 1RU and offers eight microphone inputs and four line outputs powered by PoE. This makes it suitable for distributed use and can replace long analog multicores,” Burdick says. “These granular stageboxes and additional devices such as DirectOut’s prodigy.mp for taking over MADI and Dante signals, including clock decoupling, leave hardly anything to be desired.”
The Lawo choice
Drawing on years of experience with mixing consoles from Lawo and others, Burdick chose a Lawo mc²36 MkII All-in-One production console. Its A__UHD core technology offers 256 processing channels available at both 48 and 96 kHz, making it possible to master even large orchestral productions. The all-in-one mixer natively supports ST2110, AES67, Ravenna and Ember+. With an I/O capacity of up to 864 channels and local I/Os, the mc²36 MkII offers extensive connectivity, including three redundant IP network interfaces, 16 Lawo-quality mic/line inputs, 16 line outputs, eight AES3 inputs and outputs, eight GPIO connectors and an SFP MADI port.
Demands on the monitoring environment are high, so a superstructure with very elaborate acoustical treatment was mounted on a truck chassis, with the outer shell and interior isolated from each other and fitted with thick, 10cm insulation. Designed for “immersive audio,” the truck can accommodate mixing for Dolby Atmos and is equipped with a 7.1.4 sound system.
The new tonzauber audio OB truck triumphantly debuted in May 2022 at the “Fest der Freude” (“Festival of Joy”), an open-air concert by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, with Burdick producing the live broadcast for Austrian public broadcaster ORF. Other broadcasts and recordings of concerts by renowned orchestras followed, including the London Symphonic Orchestra with Sir Simon Rattle, the Bruckner Orchestra Linz at the “Gmunden Open Air,” and a television broadcast of an Austrian operetta at the Summer Arena event from the City Theater Baden.
Metal in the ears
“The biggest and most elaborate production so far was the performance of the opera Nabucco by Guiseppe Verdi at “Oper im Steinbruch” (“Opera in the Quarry”) in St. Margarethen in the Burgenland county,” Burdick relates. “I had 128 channels to mix there, so I had to set up the console perfectly to keep track of everything and quickly reach buttons or faders without thinking. That’s the only way to handle a live concert mix of that complexity. Lawo gives me a big advantage because I can easily label everything, the color-coded controls support me, and I can also work with logos and symbols from the new mc²36 MKII. All this dramatically increases the overview.”
The new tonzauber sound OB truck can do more than just classical music. “I built the vehicle primarily for classical recordings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t let other people use it as well,” says Burdick, noting that he recently went to the metal festival in Wacken (Germany) to oversee a concert production for a client at the Wacken Open Air. “The colleague who mixed the production came with his own prepared plug-ins on his hardware, which I integrated into our system within minutes. This shows the flexibility of my sound OB truck — audio-wise, there are practically no restrictions,”
Burdick concludes, “Sound-wise, I’m delighted with Lawo because the console has no inherent sound; it just delivers what it’s supposed to and responds to my control. I don’t want any big sound colorations. What happens in front of the mic and comes out of the mic should end up with my specifications on the sum. With Lawo, it does.”