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Birdland Gets a Digital Leg-Up

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,

In 1997, Birdland’s (New York City) recording engineer/house soundengineer David Ruffo built a control room designed to record liveshows: “It’s small, but complete,” he said. “It beats thekitchens and stairwells that you often encounter at other clubs.It’s all ready to go.” Recently, the recording room made theswitch to a completely digital path with the addition of a new Yamaha02R96 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. Ialso read the reviews, compared features and auditioned other products.It has enough knobs to keep the operator from living in the keypad andscrolling around. The EQ and compressors have all the parameters on thedesktop, and the board has a nice ‘analog’-type flow to it,so you don’t have to go through a lot of pages. Initially, thatwas my fear of doing any live recording with a digital board: Ifsomething goes down onstage, you don’t want to start pagingthrough stuff.”

Ruffo recently used the new board on recording dates for the DjangoReinhardt Festival, the Roy Haynes Quartet and Scott Whitfield’sBig Band. “I was blown away by the mixes,” Ruffo said. “They soundedreally open and transparent; they had an almost ‘silky’quality. The imagery and depth perception was incredible. We have a lotof big bands perform here, and many of the digital boards on the marketdidn’t offer enough mic preamps. These mic pre’s and A/Dconverters sound great. Now, with the recording path in the digitaldomain, we’ve noticed a 20 to 30-percent increase in the sonicquality. Even the rough monitor mixes are noticeably better.

“We’ve got Tascam DA-78 24-bit machines, which areTDIF’d through the 02R96, and a Panasonic SV3800,” Ruffocontinued. “I just purchased a new computer and am interfacing it withNuendo, which can be controlled from the surface of the 02R96.I’m using the 02R96’s onboard effects, but kept some of theold outboard gear [a Lexicon PCM90 and MXP500, multiple dbx 1066 unitsand an Aphex Compeller 320A] since I hate to get rid of anything.” Asmall video monitor and a pair of Event 20/20bas Direct Field referencecabinets monitor the action onstage.

Recent live broadcasts from the club have included radio stationWBGO’s “Jazzathon” and the NPR broadcast of pianist MarianMcPartland’s birthday party, with Billy Taylor, Nora Jones andTony Bennett. “I also do remote recordings,” Ruffo added, “and havepurchased a road case for the 02R96, so it will travel with me.”

For more on the 02R96, visit