Stu Kennedy on Music, Mathematics and sE Munro Egg 150 Monitors

Friday 24th February 2012

Stu Kennedy is one of the most interesting characters in the audio industry; part ‘slightly mad’ mathematician and programming genius, and part highly successful Film / TV Composer… this, you need to read.

  • sE Endorsee: Stu Kennedy www.stukennedy.com
  • Occupation: Film & TV Composer / Mathematical Guru / Producer & Engineer 
  • Recent Projects - BAFTA 'Behind The Mask', Torchwood: Miracle Day, BBC 'How To Grow A Planet'
  • Monitors: sE Munro Egg 150

 

 

 

 Key Quotes:     

“I demoed the sE Munro Egg and Unity Audio The Rock monitors, and I was just stunned by the response on the Egg 150’s… the superb stereo field definition and the smoothness of response across all the frequencies just made me fall in love with the Eggs and I couldn't give them back”

I think I lost 2 work days just listening to tracks I'd produced with a new set of ears. I could hear my mix issues much more clearly, but I could also hear where I had got it right. What had been guesswork before, had suddenly become much more objective and definable. “ 

“I started the BBC documentary on my Genelecs, but moved to the Egg 150’s mid-project and really noticed a difference in my mixes… the tone of tracks I mixed on the Egg 150s sounded much closer to what I expected…”

“The bass response is well defined, clear and big. The stereo field accuracy is amazing; you can close your eyes and point to where the sound comes from."

“They feel rugged and well-built and the rubberised finish is very tactile… and I love the shape! Everyone comments on how cool they look when they come into the studio, even my wife likes them! sE's approach to monitor design is somewhere between mad-scientist and art masterpiece... and I love the result.”

 

After studying for an HND in Music Production at Newcastle College, in 1996 aged 20, Stu abandoned his dream of working in the ‘impenetrable’ music industry and re-sat his A-Level maths in evening classes whilst working shifts as a Hospital Porter so that he could re-engage with humanity and get a ‘normal’ job. After a 1st class mathematics degree, wife and 4 kids, 7 years working as a programmer of algorithms in hardware and software, followed by a PhD in applied mathematics, aged 33, he decided it was time to give his dreams another chance! He built his own computer and started trying to make music in his garage. Stu got in with an online community who wrote music for low budget films, as a collaboration, and quickly got trained in how to apply his ideas and make them reality using virtual instruments.

Having a family to support I realised quickly I wasn't going to be able to buy the sample libraries I needed to do a decent job, so I designed a sample library distribution system, using my programming experience (something I knew the industry needed) and started to sell it to companies whose products I wanted to use but couldn't afford. I sold it on the condition I would also get all their products, and quickly built an arsenal of libraries and was able to start learning how to produce the sounds I had in my head. After hearing one of my tracks via twitter, and realising I needed a push in the right direction, the renowned composer/producer David Arnold offered me the opportunity to create orchestral mock-ups for some of his film scores.”

From there Stu moved on to write on several projects, assisting Dr Who composer Murray Gold on Torchwood: Miracle Day TV series, writing the music for AVIVA Athletic's dramatic Olympics advert 'Paving The Way' and more recently working alongside BAFTA winning composer Paul Leonard-Morgan on a BBC nature documentary and composing the score for BAFTA's own behind-the-scenes documentary. More recently he’s been involved in producing and mixing songs for artists and doing orchestral arrangements for other producers.

Stu’s system is based on two Windows-7 PCs with 6-core i7 CPUs, 32GB of RAM and some SSD drives. He uses a simple M-Audio Firewire 1814 interface with a CME UF8 weighted keyboard and makes use of the DAW Reaper for its flexible routing, rendering and MIDI editing.

I'd been using a pair of Genelec 1029A for a year or so (and some Yamaha HS50M before that) and found it very difficult to translate my mixes across different systems due to the lack of low-mid detail and virtually no bass response. As I started moving towards more electronic production and band production I really noticed the limitation in my monitors. Alan Branch (producer and mix engineer - Jeff Beck, Sinead O'Connor etc.) was giving me some advice on my mixing for an album and he suggested looking at the sE Munro Egg 150s; he'd been very impressed when he heard them. I'd created a short-list of 3 sets of monitors: Focal Solo 6 Be, Unity Audio The Rock Monitor and the sE Munro Egg 150.”

I demoed the sE Munro Egg and Unity Audio The Rock monitors, and I was just stunned by the response on the Egg 150’s. The detail was great on both sets of speakers but the superb stereo field definition and the smoothness of response across all the frequencies just made me fall in love with the Eggs and I couldn't give them back. The concept behind these speakers also appealed to the maths geek in me... I can appreciate why geometry can have such a significant effect on sound. In fact my mathematics PhD research involved modelling the chaotic flow of fluids which is caused by specific geometries; so the theory of reducing strong frequency Eigen modes by introducing spherical geometry makes perfect sense.”

I started by listening to Harry Gregson-Williams & David Buckley's 'The Town' soundtrack. I was shocked how much more I could hear on this very familiar soundtrack, the high frequencies were crystal but not piercing and the dramatic changes in dynamics were accurately followed. I then listened to some James Taylor, Seal, George Benson and started giving all of my favourite tracks a work-out on the Eggs. The presence, placement and life that these tracks had were a completely new listening experience to me. I think I lost 2 work days just listening to tracks I'd produced with a new set of ears. I could hear my mix issues much more clearly, but I could also hear where I had got it right. What had been guesswork before, had suddenly become much more objective and definable."

The sE Munro Egg 150 speakers now get used for all Stu’s work, which covers everything from draft composing through tracking live sessions in his studio, mixing and mastering. When composing for TV & Film, he is often producing the final mix, so the whole process is integrated with the writing phase.

Sound design and tracking real instruments is all an organic process in building a track, so I need to know that what I'm hearing is consistent and I can trust that is will translate to TV or radio or whatever.”

So far I have used the sE Egg 150 on a BBC nature documentary I did music for (with ‘Rage Music’) called ‘How To Grow A Planet’. I started the BBC documentary on my Genelecs, but moved to the Eggs mid-project and really noticed a difference in my mixes… the tone of tracks I mixed on the Egg 150s sounded much closer to what I expected on the TV broadcast through my in-built TV speakers, which proves an important point sE Munro make… Well recorded material translates to any medium, but the opposite is absolutely not true!”

Right now Stu is working on developing an album with a singer-songwriter and also composing music for a short film and a cartoon.

The Egg System will be priceless on each of those projects; I feel I can relax a bit if the tracks sound good in my studio.”

The frequency response is noticeably smooth across all the audible ranges without any dips or peaks. The bass response is well defined, clear and big. The stereo field accuracy is amazing; you can close your eyes and point to where the sound comes from. I love the fact that the amp is separate and I can just tweak the level quickly or switch them off. I constantly use the AUX input for playing reference tracks from a CD player, something I couldn't do before. They feel rugged and well-built and the rubberised finish is very tactile…

… and I love the shape! Everyone comments on how cool they look when they come into the studio, even my wife likes them! sE's approach to monitor design is somewhere between mad-scientist and art masterpiece... and I love the result.”

www.stukennedy.com

sE Munro Egg 150