We spoke with Rainer Maillard, German recording engineer and producer of classical recordings. Rainer Maillard was hired by Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft as a recording engineer in 1990. After he studied music he became an independent recording engineer before working as an engineer for Deutsche Grammophon. Since then, he has worked with some of the most renowned artists in classical music and has won four GRAMMY Awards during the course of this. In 2008 he started to work as a producer and general manager of Emil Berliner Studios and has (among other things) specialized in direct-to-disc recordings. He is now the managing director of Emil Berliner Studios.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do?
“For thirteen years we have been independent now under the name Emil Berliner Studios. We did a management buyout from Universal, the mother of Deutsche Grammophon and thereby took over the recording department of the Deutsche Grammophon”
How did you become a sound engineer/mixer?
“I was fascinated by music and all kinds of technology so I started studying a Tonmeister course in Detmold. This was the first course of its kind in the world and is still offered at the music college today. After I finished studying, I became an independent recording engineer and was hired by Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft a few years later”
“It is hard to say what Karajan would do with this immersive technology today. We do however know he was a big fan of CD and music technology in general”
We asked Mr. Maillard why there is a need for immersive audio in the field of music.
“We have two ears but we hear in 3D, else we would have been dead through the evolution. We need to be able to locate which direction the danger is coming from. This evolution of mankind has been going on for millions of years. On the other hand the recording business is very young and started with mono, only with one dimension. And it works. Reproduction is an illusion only. Illusion can be mono or illusion can be 3D. It is not reality. Immersive music is just another tool to trigger your head to get a good illusion.”
What attention to detail goes into creating an immersive sound mix?
“There are two different categories of music we have to talk about to answer this question. Everybody knows how a piano sounds and everybody knows how it sounds in a concert. You sit in a concert hall and the piano is in front of you. You can hear immersive sound reflections of the hall. Listening to this kind of repertoire at home should be the same, otherwise it would be irritating. That’s the reason why a pair of stereo speakers are placed in front of you in your living room. Whenever the music doesn’t need the connection to a real concert experience, you can be much freer with placing direct sound sources wherever you like.”
Is microphone placement the key to immersive sounds?
“It is the key to all types of sound recordings. To capture direct and indirect sound separately is the key for good immersive sound”
Are there limits to genres within immersive audio?
“There are still programs where playback in mono and without any room information works best (and nothing else makes sense). Think about the news speaker on radio or TV.”
The Herbert Von Karajan Beethoven: 9 Symphonies is available in immersive audio. What was the challenge like to re-mix this in immersive audio?
“Karajan recorded the symphonies three or four times. In the 1970´s analogue multitrack recordings started. One reason for multitrack recordings was quadrophonic sound on LP. This meant that one groove on the LP should carry the sound for four channels. This was a challenge and as you may know this failed in the market. However, quadrophonic sound was born. To get more than two playback channels is an almost 50 year-old idea.
The Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft continued to record multi track, first with four tracks, later with 8 or 16 tracks. For the production of the Beethoven symphonies they used an eight track Studer A-80. The recording engineer worked with stems. Stems for strings; for woodwinds and stems for the main and room microphones. With these stems it was possible to remix it for ambi-sonic sound on Dolby Atmos. It is hard to say what Karajan would do with this immersive technology today. We do however know he was a big fan of CD and music technology in general.”