Birdland Gets a Digital Leg-Up

May 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Editors


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In 1997, Birdland's (New York City) recording engineer/house sound engineer David Ruffo built a control room designed to record live shows: "It’s small, but complete," he said. "It beats the kitchens and stairwells that you often encounter at other clubs. It’s all ready to go." Recently, the recording room made the switch to a completely digital path with the addition of a new Yamaha 02R96 as the main console.

"I’ve spent years working in studios, and the 02R96 has a ‘pro’ vibe," he said. "A lot of engineers respect it. I also read the reviews, compared features and auditioned other products. It has enough knobs to keep the operator from living in the keypad and scrolling around. The EQ and compressors have all the parameters on the desktop, and the board has a nice ‘analog’-type flow to it, so you don’t have to go through a lot of pages. Initially, that was my fear of doing any live recording with a digital board: If something goes down onstage, you don’t want to start paging through stuff."

Ruffo recently used the new board on recording dates for the Django Reinhardt Festival, the Roy Haynes Quartet and Scott Whitfield’s Big Band. "I was blown away by the mixes," Ruffo said. "They sounded really open and transparent; they had an almost ‘silky’ quality. The imagery and depth perception was incredible. We have a lot of big bands perform here, and many of the digital boards on the market didn’t offer enough mic preamps. These mic pre’s and A/D converters sound great. Now, with the recording path in the digital domain, we’ve noticed a 20 to 30-percent increase in the sonic quality. Even the rough monitor mixes are noticeably better.

"We’ve got Tascam DA-78 24-bit machines, which are TDIF’d through the 02R96, and a Panasonic SV3800," Ruffo continued. "I just purchased a new computer and am interfacing it with Nuendo, which can be controlled from the surface of the 02R96. I’m using the 02R96’s onboard effects, but kept some of the old outboard gear [a Lexicon PCM90 and MXP500, multiple dbx 1066 units and an Aphex Compeller 320A] since I hate to get rid of anything." A small video monitor and a pair of Event 20/20bas Direct Field reference cabinets monitor the action onstage.

Recent live broadcasts from the club have included radio station WBGO’s "Jazzathon" and the NPR broadcast of pianist Marian McPartland’s birthday party, with Billy Taylor, Nora Jones and Tony Bennett. "I also do remote recordings," Ruffo added, "and have purchased a road case for the 02R96, so it will travel with me."

For more on the 02R96, visit

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