null Immersive Talk with Yoad Nevo

Immersive Talk with Yoad Nevo

Genelec recently caught up with legendary producer and studio product developer, Yoad Nevo, at his studio in East London. Known for collaborating with artists such as Sia, Bryan Adams, Pet Shop Boys, Giggs, Goldfrapp and Sugababes – to name but a few – Nevo works at the very highest level and was delighted to share a few of his experiences of immersive audio with us.

Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?

I started out as a sound engineer and producer when I was seventeen, and I’m mainly known for my mixing and production work, as I’ve had the chance to work with some major talents. What fewer people know is that, for 25 years, I’ve also been developing pro audio products. I joined Waves in 1997 and worked with them on over 100 products, from plugins to hardware. It was really exciting to work on some of their AI products, like Studio Verse, Online Mastering and 2023-Emmy-Award-winner Clarity Vx. I love audio products and my role as the pro audio tech lead was really to focus on the sonic integrity and UX of Waves products. Then, five years ago I built my own studio in East London and had the chance to create my ideal environment for mixing, production and developing audio tech.

So, you're also a technological developer! Can you tell us more about that?

That’s right. For me, music and technology have always gone hand in hand. My musical life started with the guitar when I was ten. When I was eleven my dad got me an electric guitar, but I had no amp. So, I had one jack lead and I cut the end off to expose the wires and I tried to connect it to anything that would make sound in the house. I got electrocuted many times! You could say that was the start of my career in music and technology.

I've managed to keep producing and doing around 150 to 200 mixes a year while also working on new technology. Producing and mixing in the studio is really important to me because it’s how I keep in touch with the users of my audio products. The two different roles kind of feed each other. There are so many exciting developments happening in audio technology at the moment – I can’t give too much away, but I’m currently working on some very interesting hybrid AI products.

Can you tell us more about your studio?

When I had the chance and the time to build Nevo Sound Studios the way I wanted it, I decided to work extensively with my friend, an amazing architect in the audio field, Gil Rosenthal. We used to play and record together when we were 15 and then, during 2018-2019 we had the chance to build the studio we had dreamed of. So, we really went to town with this massive project and we did it properly using the most advanced technology in terms of the acoustics, overall design process and space-age materials.

For me, it’s really important to have a very accurate room. You can have great monitors, but if your room isn't good in terms of acoustics, they won't sound correct. A great room with great monitors, that's the ultimate setup.

How have you set up your monitoring for Dolby Atmos?

For Dolby Atmos, I prefer to use nearfield satellite monitors rather than main monitors flush mounted into the walls. You see, I've been mixing in multichannel since the early 2000s, in 5.1. From that experience, I've found that I don't like to have a clear distinction between the LCR and the satellite monitors. I feel that all the monitors in the Atmos setup should be of the same kind. When I work in Atmos, I feel very much in control when I know that I sit an equal distance from each monitor. I use Genelec 8040B monitors for LCR, and 8030Cs as surround monitors, and they all provide a consistent audio experience. This way, I don't get distracted with sound colour differences.

I want to have one system. I'm not here to enjoy and get immersed in the experience, I'm here to have a critical listening environment, and I need to hear exactly what I'm doing. Genelec monitors are great for that.

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How and when did you become interested in immersive audio?

My first encounter with immersive audio was back in 2017, when I was visiting Wilfried Van Baelen’s renowned Galaxy Studios, located in the same town as me. I had a demo on a Genelec system there, and from the first listen Auro3D blew me away. It felt extremely natural, yet enormously powerful. From that moment, I knew immersive would become a big thing in cinema and the consumer market – for both audio and video. Working with stereo audio had always felt like – no matter how much effort one puts in – ultimately, it's enclosed in a box and cannot escape. I decided to future-proof my whole studio with a 7.1.4 configuration. That tends to work well with most immersive formats. After that, I could happily experiment with the various formats and possibilities.

How do you personally approach Dolby Atmos work?

I come from a background of technical and scientific disciplines, so I understand the theory behind surround and immersive formats very well. My work has taken me very deep into the principles behind immersive audio, so I adhere to a set of rules, which make sense, both in terms of the physics and the listener’s perspective. For music, one thing you don't want to happen is that people turn their heads towards a sound source. For cinema, it’s obviously different, but for music, you want the listener to become immersed. Some movement can draw the listener in, but for me, it's very important that the base of the sound composition is solid and complies with spatial audio theory.

Did you build your studio with Atmos in mind?

It was an immersive room from the very beginning. I work in other places as well, but this room sounds great. Everyone who comes here, including a few famous, world-class engineers, have been blown away by how this room sounds. This building has adjoining offices and residential spaces but the level of work that we did here, in terms of both insulation and acoustic treatment, ensures I can do anything here at any level and the sound stays between these walls.

What about the history of the building you're in?

The building was built around 2004, and I think it first belonged to the Zippo company. It's a relatively new building, which was great for me because it's all made of concrete – heavy duty – according to modern building standards. So, we could strip the whole thing down. It took five weeks just to empty everything and to get to the skeleton of the building, bare concrete. And as you can imagine, the room was much higher, wider and generally bigger. We put so much stuff in for insulation and acoustic treatment here, and the resulting room is still a good size. The control room of the studio is around 9 x 7 metres, and there’s also a live room, which is around 4 x 6 metres.

Is the amount of space working well for you?

If I took out all my synths, instruments and racks, then I would have a much bigger space. But, after spending years in big commercial studios, where if you have to prepare the rhythm section, you have to set up the drums, amps and then mic the piano and guitars, I have learned to keep everything connected all the time. This way, if I want to play anything, it's there. It's connected and ready, so I don't have to set up anything. This is really important for me, to keep the creative process going without interruptions. You can be truly creative once you take the technical hurdles out of the equation.

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What are the key pieces of equipment in your studio?

You know, it's really the room and the monitors, because you can do everything else on a laptop. You obviously need the plugins, you need this, you need that, but really, it comes down to the room and monitors. If I know what I'm hearing, then I can do anything.

For monitoring, I use a Waves SoundStudio STG 2412, which gives me 24 inputs and 12 outputs, exactly the number needed for the Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 channel set. That's what I have here in the control room. It has the cleanest sound, which is necessary for monitoring purposes, and it's also quiet compared to most big converters. It has a fan, but it's very, very quiet, to the extent that I can record in here.

Have you calibrated your system in any way?

The room is very neutral, and I have a very good sound image in here, so I don’t use any EQ on the monitors. I did use an Earthworks measurement microphone to make sure that everything is at the right level. I set it up exactly at my listening position, and then I just used pink noise for the measurement.

Which DAW do you prefer to use and why?

I use Logic as my main DAW, but then as a developer, I also need to use Pro Tools, and sometimes Ableton or Cubase. I love Cubase! My dream machine would be Cubase on PC, but there are a few specific limitations in Cubase that prevent me from using it the way I wish, like the mono to stereo aspects and a few other basic things I feel they’ve never got right. Still, I love Cubase and its sound. Anyhow, my main DAW is Logic. It's really great, especially in terms of MIDI capabilities – the whole Logic Environment concept.

How do you see the future of immersive audio over the next few years?

Most people listen to music on headphones or earbuds, but at this point listening to immersive audio on physical loudspeakers still provides a far better experience than what's possible on headphones. Producing and mixing in surround is incredibly exciting because of the creative possibilities that open up when you're working in a 3D space - the sound is just amazing. We are making progress with the technology that improves binaural listening on headphones and I think that this technology will continue to improve quickly in the next few years. As this happens, the audience for immersive audio will grow dramatically.

To find out more about Yoad Nevo, click here.

Do you want to be featured in our ‘Immersive Talk’ series? If so, just post some pictures of your setup on Instagram using the #GenelecImmersive hashtag. We’ll be keeping a look out for the most interesting setups, so who knows? We may be in touch with you!

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