Technical GRAMMY Award: Royer Labs

GRAMMY-winning engineer/mixer Ed Cherney pays tribute to innovative ribbon microphones manufacturer

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. In the days leading up to the 55th GRAMMY Awards, will present the tributes to the 2013 Special Merit Awards recipients.)

One of the first times I had the opportunity to record a horn section early in my career I was really excited to use the old ribbon microphones I saw in all of the pictures. I got out those mics and dutifully set them in the proper places. They were bigger, and much heavier than I anticipated so I had to use heavy-duty microphone stands, and even then they were unsteady and difficult to place. Was I ever disappointed when I pushed up the faders to have a listen. They sounded horrible: dull, distorted and just plain weird.

I quickly went to plan B and got through the session OK, but just couldn't understand why the ribbon mics didn't sound good. After the session I got them out and plugged them in again to have a listen to try to determine why they just didn't work for me. They were all at least 30 years old, and for the most part just beat. At the time, these were the only ribbon microphones available to us. For the next 20 years I abandoned the idea of using ribbon microphones. There hadn't been any new ribbon designs since the mid-'50s, so most ribbons were old, fragile, big, and heavy … and broken.

In 1998 I got a call from a friend who had a ribbon mic that he had developed and wanted to know if I would like to check it out. Of course I was interested. The first time I tried it I was working with a rock band. For me it was always challenging to get those loud electric guitars to sound great on a recording, especially as we moved from linear tape-based recording to digital recording. Well, I put that new ribbon mic up on the guitar cabinet and cracked the fader to have a listen. I was blown away. It was certainly clear, but it also had body, warmth and clarity, and without the use of any equalization or compression or other signal processing. The musicians came in for a listen and were delighted and considered me a genius. Any tool that does that for me, I need to have.

Dave Royer cooked up his first ribbon microphone in his garage in 1997. In May 1998 Royer Labs opened with two primary purposes: to reintroduce ribbon microphones to the recording industry and to make the world's best microphones. At the time, most music makers had no interest in ribbons.

Royer's R-121 was the first compact, lightweight, high-sound, pressure-level-capable ribbon microphone ever. It was the first ribbon microphone that could be used to close-mic a loud guitar cabinet without fear of blowing the ribbon element. That by itself put it on the studio map. The R-121 soon became a standard for brass instruments and drums. I started carrying my Royers to all of my sessions. When one day all of the horn players showed up to a session with their own R-121s, it really cracked me up.

Recently, Royer developed the world's first phantom-powered ribbon microphone, giving ribbons the same sensitivity levels as phantom-powered condenser mics. I also own those and use them every day that I have music to record.

I got my first Royer mics Nov. 3, 1998. My recording skills absolutely got better that day.

(Ed Cherney is a two-time GRAMMY-winning engineer/mixer. He was nominated for Best Engineered Album — Non-Classical for three different recordings in 1994, winning for Bonnie Raitt's Longing In Their Hearts. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Sting, among others. Cherney is a current member of the Producers & Engineers Wing Steering Committee.)


2017 Special Merit Awards: Sly Stone, Velvet Underground, Nina Simone

Shirley Caesar and Charley Pride are also among The Recording Academy's 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

The Recording Academy announced its 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients. The Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Charley Pride, Jimmie Rodgers, Nina Simone, Sly Stone and The Velvet Underground. Thom Bell, Mo Ostin and Ralph S. Peer are Trustees Award honorees; Alan Dower Blumlein is the Technical GRAMMY Award recipient.

More information on the 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients

"This year's Special Merit Awards recipients comprise a prestigious group of diverse and influential creators who have crafted or contributed to some of the most distinctive recordings in music history," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "These exceptionally inspiring figures are being honored as legendary performers, creative architects, and technical visionaries. Their outstanding accomplishments and passion for their respective crafts have created a timeless legacy."

The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates performers who have made outstanding contributions of artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award honors contributions in areas other than performance. The recipients are determined by vote of The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are voted on by The Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees, and are ratified by The Academy's Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and/or companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording industry.

Additionally, The Recording Academy and Hal Leonard Books will release A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends, a hardcover book that collects two decades of artist-written tributes to The Academy's annual Special Merit Awards honorees. Among those who have written tributes included in the book are Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Whoopi Goldberg, Ice Cube, Miranda Lambert, Queen guitarist Brian May, Dolly Parton, Carly Simon, Patti Smith and Yo-Yo Ma. The tributes were originally commissioned for the annual GRAMMY Awards program book and never published widely until now. A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends will be available in early January.

Pre-Order A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends

The 59th GRAMMY Awards will take place Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, live from Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 pm ET/5–8:30 pm PT. Follow Recording Academy/GRAMMYs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and use #GRAMMYs to join the conversation.


Technical GRAMMY Award: Waves Audio Ltd.

Producer/engineer Steve Lillywhite on 2011 Technical GRAMMY Award recipient Waves Audio's breakthroughs in the field of recording

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. Each year, The Academy invites friends and colleagues of Special Merit Awards recipients to pay tribute to the honorees' career accomplishments, while also adding colorful anecdotes and personal accounts. In the days leading up to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards, will present the tributes to the 12 Special Merit Awards recipients for 2011.

Once upon a time, while sitting in a recording studio back in the distant '90s, a strange thing occurred. A computer appeared near the mixing desk and men crowded around the screen, and appeared to be "looking" at the music. I dismissed this as a passing fad and continued with my old-fashioned Luddite way of "using my ears"....

The years passed by and one day I decided to join those men looking at the computer and imagine my surprise when my engineer shared with me what was hidden behind the screen!

I had been producing hits for more than 30 years in top studios on many different consoles and if I had known when I started that one day I could carry every console I had ever worked on in my back pocket, along with as much high-quality outboard gear as I needed, I would have thought I was going crazy. I now arrive at my sessions with my iLok stuffed with the Waves Mercury bundle and I am ready to go!

I still have no idea exactly how the company's wonderful founders, Gilad Keren and Meir Shaashua, and their team managed to put so much stuff in such a small space, but I don't need to know. All I know is that when I compare the Waves version to the "real" version, I cannot tell the difference, especially with my favorite plug-ins, the SSL G-Equalizer and API 550B 4-Band Equalizer.

Today, technology has completely changed the way we make music but Waves has enabled me to stay true to my original roots while retaining a technical standard that we need in today's marketplace. It's a standard that was set when the company was founded in 1992. That same year Waves introduced its first audio plug-in, the Q10 Paragraphic Equalizer. The company has grown now to more than 150 employees with offices in the United States, Israel and China, and is expanding into the consumer electronics arena, as well as film and video games. A true leader in professional audio.

Waves' commitment to safeguarding the intellectual property rights of their clients is something I highly commend and I think our industry could learn a thing or two from them.

As George Martin said, "Waves is synonymous with excellence." I know that without my iLok and my Waves bundle I would not be able to continue making the quality music I still demand of myself.

(Steve Lillywhite is a five-time GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer. He has worked with an array of artists, including Dave Matthews Band, Matchbox Twenty, the Rolling Stones, and U2. He won the prestigious Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical GRAMMY in 2005.)

Presented by vote of The Recording Academy's National Trustees, the Technical GRAMMY Award recognizes individuals and companies that have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the field of recording. The Technical GRAMMY was first awarded in 1994. To view a complete list of Technical GRAMMY Award recipients, click here.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Julie Andrews, Roy Haynes, Juilliard String Quartet, The Kingston Trio, Dolly Parton, Ramones, George Beverly Shea
Trustees Award: Al Bell, Wilma Cozart Fine, Bruce Lundvall
Technical GRAMMY Award: Roger Linn



Top Moments From The 2014 Special Merit Awards Ceremony

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

By Chuck Crisafulli

Spirits run high all throughout GRAMMY Week, but perhaps emotions are sweetest and deepest at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception. The GRAMMY Awards on Sunday will rightfully honor particular musical brilliance from the preceding year, but on Jan. 25 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles a group of exceptional artists and trailblazing innovators were recognized for their extraordinary achievements.

Below is a list of the top moments and quotes from the 2014 Special Merit Awards Ceremony that are sure to make you laugh, or cry — or both.

"I'm prone to emotional breakdowns at any time, that's your only warning," said Kent Knappenberger, the first-ever recipient of The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Foundation's Music Educator Award. "Music is a reminder of who we are, and an expression of who we'd like to be. Thank you for honoring and encouraging those of us on the front lines of music education."

Oliver Berliner, grandson of inventor Emile Berliner, who received the Technical GRAMMY Award, framed his grandfather's achievements this way: "What did my grandfather and his invention do? It created the record industry. That's why we're all here."

Photographer Amelia Davis accepted the Trustees Award for her late friend and fellow photographer Jim Marshall. "Jim was a really difficult human," she said. "You either loved him or hated him. As he used to say himself, if he loved you, he'd lay down in front of a truck for you. If he hated you, he'd be driving the truck that would run you down. But friend or enemy, everyone could agree that he was a genius."

Ralf Hütter of Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Kraftwerk used some of the band's lyrics to "The Robots" to accept their award: "We're charging our battery/And now we're full of energy/We're functioning automatic/And we are dancing mechanic/We are programmed just to do/Anything you want us to/We are the robots. Thank you."

Ernie Isley was coaxed to the microphone by brother Ronald Isley to accept the Isley Brothers' Lifetime Achievement Award. Ernie Isley couldn't speak until a hug from Ronald gave him the strength to continue: "I want to thank our parents, and the hand of divine providence that gave us such longevity. Not everybody gets that. And I want to thank Neil Portnow for a phone call that now I wish I had recorded."

Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Kris Kristofferson kept his acceptance short and sweet: "I can't say that I'm not moved, but I can say that I can't think of anything to say. The only thing I remember well these days is my wife, my kids and my songs. It means more than I can say that you would even think I deserve this award, so I better get off before I say something really stupid."

Ringo Starr received a rousing standing ovation accepting on behalf of the Beatles: "It's a Lifetime Achievement Award but I happen to think we've got a lot more life left in us." Earlier on the red carpet, Starr remarked that he preferred to think of it as a "Longtime Achievement Award."

Yoko Ono, who was there to accept on behalf of her late husband John Lennon, said, "I'm here today because I think John would want me to be here. … Now the Beatles music is waiting and ready to go to planets all over the universe. I'm very excited about that."

Olivia Harrison, the late George Harrison's wife, said, "Here's something you probably know: George was my favorite Beatle." Then, becoming very emotional, she continued, "But here's something you might not know. Aside from their music — as people — they are the most supportive and generous friends in my life. The Beatles are extraordinary people, and I'm thankful to be part of this extraordinary family."

As the event came to a close, Ono snuck back to the mike one more time to address the crowd: "Can I just say that I love you? I love you."

But, insisting on the last word, Starr jumped to the mike and added: "I really want to say thank you. So, thank you."

(Additional 2014 Special Merit Award honorees included zydeco king Clifton Chenier, Mexico-born singer/songwriter Armando Manzanero and American violinist Maud Powell, who received Lifetime Achievement Awards, and composer Ennio Morricone and producer Rick Hall, who were honored with Trustees Award. Audio manufacturer Lexicon received the Technical GRAMMY Award.)


GRAMMY special to feature Run DMC, Linda Ronstadt, more

PBS special will celebrate 2016 Special Merit Awards recipients with live tribute concert; an awards ceremony and broadcast to air later this year

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

The Recording Academy will honor its 2016 Special Merit Awards recipients with an awards ceremony and live tribute concert on April 23 at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" will be produced in partnership with Thirteen Productions as part of PBS' "Great Performances" series, and is set to air later this year. Led by GRAMMY winner Don Was as musical director, the tribute concert will feature rare performances by some of the honorees and showcase never-before-seen renditions of their songs by artists they've inspired.

This year's Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Ruth Brown; Celia Cruz; Earth, Wind & Fire; Herbie Hancock; Jefferson Airplane; Linda Ronstadt; and Run DMC. John Cage, Fred Foster and Chris Strachwitz are Trustees Award honorees; and EMT and Dr. Harvey Fletcher are Technical GRAMMY Award recipients. Also being honored is Phillip Riggs, this year's recipient of the Music Educator Award. Performers will be announced shortly.

Previously held during GRAMMY Week, this is the first time The Recording Academy has celebrated the Special Merit Awards with a stand-alone event and musical tribute. In addition to the concert, special celebrity guests will present recipients with their awards and guests will enjoy video packages celebrating each of the honorees' contributions to the music industry and our cultural heritage.

"For many years now, we've wanted to honor Special Merit Awards recipients on a larger scale with an event like 'GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends,' so I'm delighted to partner with Thirteen Productions and PBS to bring this worthy celebration to a bigger stage," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "The contributions of our honorees are innumerable, and we look forward to an unforgettable evening as we pay tribute to their exceptional accomplishments."

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors performers who have made contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award recognizes such contributions in areas other than performance. Both awards are determined by vote of The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are determined by vote of The Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees, and are ratified by The Academy's Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.

Tickets for "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" will be on sale via Ticketmaster beginning Tuesday, March 29 at 10 a.m. PT.