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The Creative Music Recording Magazine

Andrew Savage
Parquet Courts & Solo
Luke Temple
Here We Go Magic, Art Feynman
Taylor Deupree
12K Records, Mastering, Music
Nils Frahm

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Composer Builds Studio
Yo La Tengo .c
34 Years of Recording Great Records
The Mammals
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Recording Folk at Home
Sphere Electronics
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Console History Lesson


Modern Loudness
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Gear Reviews
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Issue No. 126


Aug/Sept 2018
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Hello and
welcome to
Tape Op
#126!
12 Letters
16 Modern Loudness
18 The Mammals
22 Andrew Savage
28 Sphere Electronics History
36 Nils Frahm
44 Taylor Deupree
50 Luke Temple
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58 Yo La Tengo

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64 Gear Reviews
84 John’s End Rant
As people intimately involved with the recording and
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producing of music, we are always told to follow the mantra
of “the song comes first.” Many will often re-iterate, “A great
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song makes a great album.” But in so many cases this is just
patently not true. Some pieces of music originate almost
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exclusively with sounds, such as ambient music and


electronic-based works. And many songs can be quite simple
in structure, yet remain an expertly crafted soundscape that
can make them a treat to listen to. There are popular songs
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through the ages that turn unique sonic tropes into hits, like
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Joe Meek’s [Tape Op #100] work on The Tornados’ “Telstar,”


or the fuzztone guitars on Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the
Sky.” Or what about bands like Pink Floyd, renowned for their
production savvy in the studio?
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Listeners’ ears are always hungry for change. Techniques,


such as different instrument lineups for each song, drastic
arrangement diversity between tracks, or tracking similar
sources with varying mic placement and sonics can all make
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a set of songs sound diverse and interesting. Sure, a great


songwriter and performer can trot out a collection of amazing
Photo by Lia Darjes, outtake from Nils Frahm interview on page 34
tunes with simply a piano or guitar accompaniment and hold
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our interest, but not every record is (or should be) created
this way. The sounds that we get can be as
important as the music being delivered,
and knowing when this matters is the key to making great
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recordings.

Larry Crane, Editor


The Creative Music Recording Magazine

Editor
Larry Crane
Publisher &Graphic Design
John Baccigaluppi
Online Publisher
Geoff Stanfield
CTO & Digital Director
Anthony Sarti
Production Manager & Gear Reviews Editor
Scott McChane
Gear Geek at Large
Andy Hong
Contributing Writers &Photographers
Cover art by JB & SM from original drawings and photos by Wally Wilson
and Tony Corsello of Sphere Electronics. See page 30 for details.
Mark Nevers, Aaron Mullan, Ben Berke, Jay Mamana, Brian Burton, Wally Wilson,
Jeremy Black, Alexander Schneider, Lia Darjes, Joseph Branciforte, Bren Davies, Brian
T Silak, Don Gunn, Adam Kagan, Kevin Friedrichsen, Scott Evans, Dana Gumbiner,
Scott McDowell, Thom Monahan, Alan Tubbs, Mike Wells, Chris Godbey, Will Severin,
Pete Weiss, Brandon Miller, Josh Boughey, Kirt Shearer, and Garrett Haines.
Editorial and Office Assistants
Jenna Crane (editorial copy editor), Jordan Holmes (reviews copy editor),
Thomas Danner (transcription),

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Maria Baker (admin, accounting), Jay Ribadeneyra (online)
Tape Op Book distribution
c/o www.halleonard.com
Disclaimer
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TAPE OP magazine wants to make clear that the opinions expressed within reviews, letters, and
articles are not necessarily the opinions of the publishers. Tape Op is intended as a forum to
advance the art of recording, and there are many choices made along that path.
Editorial Office
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(For submissions, letters, music for review. Music for review is also
reviewed in the San Rafael office, address below)
P.O. Box 86409, Portland, OR 97286 voicemail 503-208-4033
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All unsolicited submissions and letters sent to us become the property of Tape Op.
Advertising
John Baccigaluppi
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916-444-5241, (john@tapeop.com)
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512-529-1032, (laura@tapeop.com)
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415-420-7273, (marsha@tapeop.com)
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415-601-1446, (kerry@tapeop.com)
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@ Democrat Printing, Little Rock, AR
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(Notice: We sometimes rent our subscription list to our advertisers.)


Subscription and Address Changes
Can all be made online at <tapeop.com/subscriptions>.
Back issues can be purchased via <tapeop.com/issues>. If you have
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subscription issues that cannot be fixed online, email


<circulation@tapeop.com> or send snail mail to
PO Box 151079, San Rafael, CA 94915.
Please do not email or call the rest of the staff about subscription issues.
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Postmaster and all general inquiries to:


Tape Op Magazine, PO Box 151079, San Rafael, CA 94915
(916) 444-5241 | tapeop.com
Tape Op is published by Single Fin, Inc. (publishing services)
and Jackpot! Recording Studio, Inc. (editorial services)
8/Tape Op#126/Masthead www.tapeop.com
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We have occasionally I’ve been excited about the new look – perfect bound
reviewed older pieces of gear with matte paper – as well, and want to thank my partner
in Tape Op, so keep an eye in Tape Op, John Baccigaluppi, for doing all the legwork
out for those. But most and making this happen! -LC
reviews are for newer I just read your Chip Young interview [Tape Op #124]
products, as that’s what many and was wondering if you could give me an example of
users need (or want) to know the “dorky snare samples and chorus-y guitars” you
about and possibly make mentioned in the article? Thanks for a great magazine!
purchasing decisions on. -LC Brad Bierschenk <bradbier@outlook.com>
Though my time interning at a 24-track analog studio I love Larry’s intro in #124 regarding gear, skill, and Just about anything from Music Row from 1986 to
in Western Massachusetts back in the early ‘80s only results. I have often felt like an imposter and/or fake 1990. It was more about the system: once an artist had a
lasted for a little over a year, Larry’s End Rant titled because I’ve never owned a classic and/or vintage piece of hit with one of those triggering machines with the sampled
“Who’s Dropping By?” [Tape Op #124], struck a chord. gear. I’ve been recording since I was 14, all the way back in “Heart” snare, suddenly everyone one had to use it. I
Somewhere I have rather extensive daily notes on an 1983, beginning with the classic swapping-tapes-between- remember everyone using that same sampled snare. I think
album (the first by a solo artist) we were recording, and two-portable-tape-recorders-with-built-in-mics method, it was actually from a Heart song – it’s what was labeled
remember upwards of ten people dropping by throughout progressing to a borrowed Tascam 4-track cassette, a Roland on the cart. I think the cart must have been used to load
the day and derailing the proceedings. As we were racing VS-series HD recorder and, eventually, a modest computer- the sample into the unit. It was some funky shit – never
towards the budget deadline, doing guest overdubs and based home studio with cables, instruments, and mics in in time, and always the same hit with no dynamics.
mixing, the artist invited a female friend to stop by and bedrooms, closets, and everywhere else. Along the way, kind Mark Nevers <marknevers.com>
hear him at work. I guess they were on a level where they friends have allowed me to sit in on sessions, given me
shared their opinions freely. While we were mixing one of opportunities to assist with all manner of grunt work, as I am 16 years old and an avid reader of Tape Op. I am
the most production-heavy tracks, he asked her what she well as provided a litany of small but crucial [words of] good a music nerd to my core, and I am also growing as a
thought. The engineer/producer turned to me, smiling advice. I have made recordings I’m very proud of, and musician. I have very real intentions of releasing music
angrily while gritting his teeth. That’s when she pointed others that I will never allow other humans to hear. when I am older, either as a hobby or a career. Being that
out things like his vocal wasn’t loud enough, the Sometimes I think I’m doing okay, and I am intending to record music in the future, I will, of
drummer’s beat seemed funny, etc. The artist turned to other times I feel like I’ve fucked up every mix I’ve ever course, need access to excellent equipment and an
the engineer and before he got to say anything, the touched. In the company of more accomplished peers experienced engineer, but I have realized studio time is
engineer said, “Maybe we could take a 15-minute break,” recording to 2-inch tape through painstakingly rebuilt quite expensive. However, recording equipment isn’t
so that he could listen through the mix and the artist boards and all other manner of classic gear, I have often felt cheap either. Tape Op has wholeheartedly convinced me

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could have some quality time with his friend. They left like an amateur. Much like Larry, I often thought, “What am that all-analog is the way to go. Is building an analog
the control room, the engineer had a momentary I thinking? I don’t belong here.” I’ve never owned a recording studio more cost-effective than renting time at
expletive filled stomping fit, then calmed down and Neumann, a reel-to-reel tape machine, or a board, much an analog studio, if I intend to record regularly for many
explained to me why having people stop by during
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less a Schoeps, Harrison, Neve or anything else like them. years? I know I’ll probably need to hire an engineer, but
recording or mixing can be the worst thing; especially My studio has been stocked with [Shure SM]57s, [Audix] I want to have a few high-quality instruments and amps,
with those who didn’t know anything about performing i5s, and RØDE mics, along with a couple of decent mic pres. as well as a nice acoustic space of my own, regardless of
or recording music. The artist came back in without his Larry’s essay helps me feel justified in continuing my avid so it seems
whether or not I build a studio,
like a wise decision.
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friend, and the engineer explained that he listened hobbyist/once-in-a-while paid professional work. It’s
through and had made a couple of minor tweaks. He enough to enjoy my little tinkery experiments and Joshua <reedj1244@gmail.com>
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played it for the artist and everyone was happy, allowing explorations, and sometimes help others get their visions You are placing recording before the music. Work on
us to stay on schedule. Some 35-years later I still translated in an affordable way. The music I’ve recorded has understanding music and composition, learn
remember that moment. Take care, and thank you for sufficed to move me, and occasionally others. I don’t know arrangement, master your preferred instrument(s),
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your great publication! why I sometimes lose sight of how lucky I am to be able to perform with others, and craft engaging live performances.
Jim Gardner <songwritingguy@gmail.com> do that, but lose sight I sometimes do. Thank you, Larry, for For most professional musicians, full on studio time is only
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My name is Scoops and I am a big fan of Tape Op! I providing some much-needed inspiration to continue a small part of what they do. Any studio that you set up
loved your introduction in #124 about your interactions recording at this level. You rock, your magazine rocks. I for yourself should be catered to the work you need to be
with people who commonly use some of the classic gear, learn something every single time I open up an issue, doing, the work that makes you a living. You don’t know
That made whether it be a technique like parallel compression, insight what this is yet. How would an “all-analog” studio work
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while you (and I) have rarely used it.


me feel like I belonged a little into someone else’s process, or a glimpse of the cool new out if someone needed you to overdub on a track from
bit more in the world of professional engineering, gear constantly hitting the shelves. Don’t ever stop! across the world? Don’t worry about such a long-term
so thank you for that. I often find myself perusing the Dave Lindenbaum <infiniteguitar@hotmail.com> investment in recording gear at this point; right now is the
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internet and looking at pieces of gear that have no I just wanted to say how much I love the new paper the time to focus on the music. Buy a pair of mics and a
pedigree, no place in the canon, but might be really great magazine is printed on! Thank you for providing the best, simple interface to record yourself. Pay a great engineer
pieces nonetheless. There are the countless threads of most honest, and inspiring audio and recording magazine, and studio to record you, and/or your group, when you
people hemming and hawing, of course, but rarely [do are ready. Watch the process and learn. Discover what a
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period. There is a lot of heart put into each interview and


they have] any definitive/ credible/objective opinions. review, and it shows. Keep doing what you do! producer is. An analog-based studio can cost quite a lot
Basically I was wondering what you thought of the idea Greg Eichelberger <grevanstudios@yahoo.com> to build (I know), and even more to maintain. Very few
that it might be fun to review the odds and ends that artists make enough (or sell enough) records to justify
Just a quick note to say the new paper stock and binding
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have been created over the years. The old board people spending $250,000 (or so) on a studio. Note that then
format are a killer look befitting the magazine. Kudos; you you end up managing the studio to pay it off, and then
love the mods on, the weirdo mic that doesn’t really have
just keep getting better. I did your Nashville cover [#108] people complain about your gear and want you to buy
a model number, etc. I don’t know; just a thought!
a while back, and can’t wait to submit another cover idea more. You can, of course, go this route. Or you can focus
Scoops <scoopsdardaris@gmail.com>
for this new matte look! Thanks for all ya do. on the music. -LC
Kevin Seidel <seidelworks@gmail.com>
12/Tape Op#126/Letters/(continued on page 14)
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I love Tape Op. Thank you for making this publication.
I am a classically-trained violinist; I also teach high
school orchestra, and I teach a few high school music
technology classes. Though I do not have any formal
training in audio engineering I have learned a lot on my
own, from other musicians as well as from people who
run sound for live events. There are still some gaps in my
knowledge, and reading Tape Op is one of the ways that
I attempt to fill these gaps when I encounter content
that is a bit over my head. I’m wondering if there might
be space in Tape Op for a column directed at teachers like
me. Maybe some “Newbies Ask Larry Questions” kind of
thing? Or a teacher’s column? I think it would be a hit
with teachers like me, as well as college students, and
those of your sponsors who do a lot of business with
school districts and colleges. It would potentially
broaden your reader base and expose more people to the
world of great professional audio recording. Keep up the
great work!
Daniel Jenkins <daniel_jenkins@gwinnett.k12.ga.us>
Daniel, thanks for the kind words and idea. For many
years we have avoided adding any columns of any sort to
Tape Op. Why? Three reasons: 1. We have plenty of
content as it is, and filling up the magazine with editorial
is not difficult; however, deciding what to leave out is the
hard part. 2. Assigning work to a writer and then getting
the text back in a timely manner are two different things,
as I found out early on (when the mag was quarterly, no
less). 3. Many of the subjects we tried covering in columns

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became the least “timeless” of our content, so I’d rather
use the space for a short interview that readers can refer
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basic “newbie” information I would look at actual books.
I reviewed The Blackbird Academy Foundations: Must-
Know Audio and Recording Principles by Kevin Becka in
#125. Resources like this are close to timeless, and can be
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kept as reference for many years. I also strive for the
magazine to be a self-guided learning tool that motivated
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readers can use to expanded their knowledge by doing


their own research. -LC
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Send Letters & Questions to:


editor@tapeop.com
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possible by our
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Please support them and tell them
you saw their ad in Tape Op.
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tapeop.com
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Bonus content online!!!

14/Tape Op#126/Letters/(Fin.)
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Modern Loudness
by Aaron Mullan
How many of you ladies and gentlemen are making music these days intended for
listening primarily on a five CD changer set to shuffle? If that’s your audience, you might
feel forced to use multiband compressors and brick wall limiters to squeeze every bit of life
out of your mixes. Go ahead and set the maximum output of a limiter to -0.1dB Full Scale,
and crush the living hell out of your songs. Sure, all the dynamic range will be gone, but
that’s the price to be paid to ensure your clients won’t sound wimpy compared to the other
four CDs in the changer.
But if you are mixing for any other format, be it radio, vinyl, CD, film, television,
streaming, or iTunes, crushing your mix to maximize loudness is self-defeating. Way back in Television: Okay, this is where we are going to get into some
the day, someone decided to cut their 7-inch, 45 rpm singles louder to impress radio station interesting and perhaps unfamiliar territory. Here in the USA, it used
managers as they sorted through stacks of new singles. This somehow got misunderstood to to be common practice for commercials to be crushed with
mean that cutting records louder meant they would sound louder to people listening to the compression to make their average loudness higher than the
radio station. (Not true, as we will see next.) From there, a comedy of errors ensued. Now program’s. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation
that the war is over, we shake our heads with retrospect and see how human folly was writ (CALM) act of 2010 put an end to this in a way that seems
large in the audio bloodbath that engulfed the world for those years. unfathomable in today’s political climate: The government decided
Here is a case-by-case delivery format overview of why loudness to make enforceable the Best Practices put forth by actual
maximization on the mixer’s part is not a good idea: knowledgeable people; the Advanced Television Systems Committee
Radio: Since 1975, various versions of the Orban Optimod have been strapped across the (ATSC). In short, the ATSC said all content broadcast on television
broadcast mixes of most every radio station in order to maximize the loudness of the signal. should have the same loudness. To make sure that various audio
The current version provides “stereo enhancement, equalization, AGC (Automatic Gain signals are similarly loud, there needs to be a way to quantify
Control), multiband compression, low-IM (intermodulation) peak limiting, stereo encoding, loudness, so we have Loudness Metering. To simulate how humans
hear, loudness metering essentially runs an audio signal through a

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and composite limiting – everything that even the most competitive major market station
needs to stand out on the dial.” These guys have it covered; they don’t need your Waves L2 high-pass filter set to 100 Hz, plus a high-boost shelf around 2 kHz,
Ultramaximizer limiter on your mix bus. then measures the average signal level in LUFS (Loudness Units
Vinyl: There is a physical limitation to how loud vinyl can be cut. If a mix is limited too relative to Full Scale [Full Scale = digital zero]) over time. According
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heavily, the lacquer needs to be cut in order to not have the needle flying all over the place... to ATSC standards, each individual advertisement or program
wait for it... QUIETER. The end result is simply more surface noise. The good news about this television station broadcast needs to have an average loudness of
limitation of vinyl is that great mastering engineers know this, and – assuming the mixes -23 LUFS. Thus, the problem of overly loud commercials has been
solved with science! When a television mix engineer delivers a
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you give them aren’t already over-compressed – they will make a less-limited master to be
cut for LP production. I’ve started asking mastering engineers to send me the “mastered for program to the network, the network measures the loudness; and if
the loudness is not between -22.5 and -23.5 LUFS, the mix will be
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vinyl” files of records I work on. Those are the best versions.
CD: Every single CD playback system I’ve ever seen has a volume control. The listener will rejected and the mixer will have to re-mix.
adjust the playback volume. You can sacrifice all of your dynamic range to make your disk Streaming and iTunes: Apple and various streaming services
LOUD, but the listener is going to adjust the volume to his or her taste anyway. also want to provide their listeners with a consistent volume, but it’s
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Film: Sorry to be pedantic/obvious, but films are mixed by film mix engineers, who will impractical for them to demand that every mix turned in to them
layer your song in and turn it up or down in the mix. You can’t beat them by making it so averages -23 LUFS. Instead, when tracks are uploaded, the loudness
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loud they can’t just turn the fader down. of each track is measured, then a playback gain offset is calculated
for each track so that they all play back at similar volumes (usually
-14 LUFS, because your headphone amp on your device isn’t very
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powerful). If you upload a track that has been brickwall-limited to


sound “louder,” it’s just going to be turned down. You might have
crushed all the life out of it to make your track average -4 LUFS; but
it will still play back at -14, and will now likely sound like garbage.
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While the good news is that the Loudness Wars are over, the weird
news is that what ended the wars are a set of competing, and ever-
changing, Loudness Normalizing algorithms that almost everyone
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listening to music uses, and which we may never see the inside of.
Are they really just turning the gain up and down, or are they doing
something else to the audio? Sure, you could do a null test to try
and find out, but what will they decide to do next week? Maybe
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somebody will decide that users of mobile apps are likely listening
on earbuds and could use some bass enhancement. Who knows?
Nobody is forthcoming about this, and it’s probable that none of this
process will become any more transparent in the future. r

16/Tape Op#126/Modern Loudness/


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What’s the recording space like that you have set up at your
home?
Mike: We call it “Studio B.” It’s a single room above our garage with exposed beams and
a gambrel roof (i.e., only two parallel walls). It was built by a previous owner as a
clogging studio, and from the outside it looks like an old barn. There’s a wood stove
and a porch, but no plumbing. We set up a “control room” off one of the corners, with
monitors freestanding in the middle of the room firing in. The other three corners of
the room are for tracking. We also have a cabin about 50 feet away from the studio
Recording Around Their Home, Literally that we use for some live vocal separation, via a 100-foot snake. Same goes for the
by Larry Crane piano, which is about 100 yards away in the front room of our house. For songs like
“Stayin’ Up Late” and “Lilac Breeze,” we utilized all three buildings and tracked the
songs 100 percent live.
What part of the work was done at Faraway Sound in Brooklyn?
M: Robin MacMillan recorded Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz’ harmony vocals, as well
as Sarah’s mandolin parts. Some of those tracks will appear on a companion album in
the fall of 2018.
How live are most sessions?
M: Generally speaking, as live as possible. Basics are always live – drums, bass, guitar,
fiddle, and keys – and about half of the vocals end up being live.
How are instruments isolated, or not?
Way back in Tape Op #39, we received a wonderful report on how M: We use some small “professional” gobos, that I bought cheaply from a lady who was
The Mammals utilized a bunch of borrowed gear and gathered 86’ing all her ex-boyfriend’s home studio gear after he disappeared with another
talented friends to track their Evolver album at home, in upstate New woman! We cleansed them with sage and reupholstered them to clear out the bad
York. Some 14 years later they are still at it, but now have a private mojo. We also stuffed a box spring with Roxul insulation for a larger drum gobo. The
studio above their garage (Humble Abode Music), along with various bass amp gets isolated in the one closet we have, and also tracked via DI. Guitar amps
other spots around their property. With the help of engineer Adam are gobo’d. Ruthy and I both prefer to sing live with the band whenever possible, so
Armstrong, Mike Merenda and Ruth Ungar lead a group of
the cabin has been getting more and more use.
musicians through some of the best folk rock music you will ever hear.
Adam: We’ve been mixed between isolation and not. At our most isolated, we had drums
in the studio with me, a bass amp in the closet, Mike playing acoustic and singing

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up in the cabin, Ken [Maiuri] on piano down in the house’s stone and tiled laundry
room, and Ruth playing fiddle in the living room. At our least isolated we were
rehearsing late night on the song “Big Ideas.” It was never meant to be the keeper
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take, with everyone in the room and bleed everywhere. At one moment you can hear
the leakage from the control room monitors of a delay I was trying out on the drum
set; something that wasn’t meant to stay. But that was the take.
How are live vocals captured?
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A: Live vocals were captured typically the same as our overdubbed vocals, and if we were
smart we moved them up to the treated cabin. But many vocals on the record were
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recorded to the right of me in the studio. Mike was on a [Neumann] M 49, [Neumann]
U 47, or [Gefell] CMV 563 through an API or Millennia mic preamp. Ruth was mostly
U 47 or CMV 563, again through an API or Millennia. We did switch it up a lot.
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M: Vocals would be in the cabin, ideally. We’ve also tracked them in the same room with
the band, which tends to work best on quieter numbers, although “Rock on Little
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Jane” from [The Mike & Ruthy Band’s] Bright as You Can was captured live in the same
room and came out great.
Ruth: We recorded “Stayin’ Up Late” – as well as a couple of other songs that have been
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held back for a future release – during a session in May of 2016. I had a scratchy
voice that day and was isolated in the cabin doing true “scratch” vocals, but when
evening rolled around I suddenly got my voice back! If I remember correctly, Mike was
down in the house getting the kids to bed and I taught the song to the band (Ken,
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Konrad [Meissner, drums], and Jake [Silver, bass]) and we cut it right then and there.
Ken was playing piano in the house, Jake and Konrad were cutting bass and drums in
the main room, and I was up in the cabin; but we were connected by headphones
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and the magic of having played together all day. It is one of my favorite recordings
of my own song/voice ever captured, probably because of the spontaneity and
connection – we were really all performing for each other. I know I was singing the
song for the guys, for myself, and for tired moms and dads around the world. Mike
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isn’t even on the track, but he wandered up and filmed a couple of the takes, which
should be fun to play with for a future video edit. Another live-sounding song is the
title track, “Sunshiner,” where Mike sang and played guitar simultaneously in one
take. It’s really not convenient for making an instrumental mix, should someone
request one someday, but it provided a solid core for the recording. I stepped up right
after and tracked my strummed fiddle and vocal simultaneously to match that spirit.
18/Tape Op#126/The Mammals/(continued on page 20)
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By contrast, songs like “Make it True,” “Open the Door,” or “Fork in the Road” were done
in overdub land (and in some cases doubled), where we had much more control and
created a thicker sound. I find we usually know early in the session which songs will
take more vocal takes and which ones will be “cut it live” songs. But having the cabin
available for isolation means we can always have that live vocal as an option. Amusingly
my, “Won’t you gimmie some of what the doctor ordered!” and general “Wooooo’s” were
all sung from the control seat as a placeholder vocal idea when I was resurrecting
“Doctor’s Orders” from the virtual dustbin. The basic for that track is a Frankenstein edit
of mine; part rehearsal, part first take, and all fun. Since we never actually played an
ending, I created one by using a snare hit from the warm-up part of the take, and then
I smoothed the whole thing over with a second fiddle and some “party time” vocals. The
vocal mic was definitely 6 feet away and pointed the wrong way. But, in the end, I never
even tried to replace it. It just felt like a good time! “Beautiful One” is a demo I recorded
all alone one day into one mic. I think it might have been the CMV 563. You can hear
me saying, “Ouch!” at the beginning of the track and I really wish I could remember
what that was. Probably stepped on a Lego or something. [laughs] Adam already
mentioned “Big Ideas” – that was the most weirdly resurrected and strangely manifested
recording of all. I’m pretty sure these awkward engineering moments are not Adam’s
favorites, but they give the album a variety of sonic textures, intentional or not!
Some songs have cool fuzzy vocal sounds, like “Fork in the Road.”
What is that from?
A: I am a big fan of distortion. I’ll put additional grit on anything. Every song on this
record has added distortion somewhere in the mix, often on lead vocal in varying
degrees. I feel like a good distorted vocal is reminiscent of so many wonderful things,
from old folk recordings to the first band you were in when all you had for a PA was a
Peavey guitar amp.
What are some standout mics you both liked on these sessions?
A: We have the luxury of owning some, as well as having friends with great mics. A Coles
4038 and a pair of Neumann M 582s were our go-to drum overhead set up, which allowed

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us to capture the drums nicely without close mic’ing toms or hi-hat. The piano was
recorded with a Coles and a pair of Neumann KM 184s. Fiddle was often a Coles or an
all original U 47. Acoustic guitars were anywhere from a U 47, KM 184, Coles, M 49, to
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our favorite Neumann KM 54. Kick drum was often a new Telefunken M82, which I liked
a lot, but I think I like that mic even more on the bass amp.
M: About halfway through tracking we had to give a lot of the loaners back, so we bought
an original CMV 563 mic with a M7 capsule that we picked up via Reverb.com. I find
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that I can do most anything with the CMV or the Coles.
How was mixing done?
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A: All of the mixing was done at Humble Abode, but using nearly all my own gear for the
mix and mostly in-the-box. Plug-ins from Waves, [Audio Ease] Altiverb, Soundtoys,
Plugin Alliance, and more. All were going to my Metric Halo and Lucid converters into a
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Dangerous Music summing bus, then back into the box. My monitors are ATC SCM20’s
and I’ve worked over the years to treat the room, so I’m quite happy with the results.
@g

Most of the mixing was hyper collaborative; but being that we were at the house, I didn’t
need to have anyone hanging around during the boring moments of mixing.
Some of the mixes, like “Culture War,” are fairly dense, with
drums, organ, and bass. Was mixing difficult, or were there
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many revisions?
A: Dense mixes with this band aren’t all that difficult; they are amazing players and seem
to each choose a proper time to have their own moments. A few volume rides help. But
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when the mixes are super dense, it was typically by design on this project. We wanted
to give the listener an energy without the need to know there’s an acoustic guitar, or
four; [rather we aimed for] a wash of instrumentation.
You had Greg Calbi [Tape Op #86] master it. How did the record
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change in mastering?
A: Greg is amazing. I had worked with him before and I was so pleased that we could use
him on this project. I trust Calbi to do the right thing, and he thinks of music in all the
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right ways. The biggest beauty with Calbi is that he gives the record a more cohesive
sound. Before we went to mastering, we had a pile of great songs. After mastering we
had a great record. That’s the best way I can explain what he brings to the table. r
<themammals.love>

20/Tape Op#126/The Mammals/(Fin.)


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Andrew Savage
Parquet Courts and More
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Andrew Savage, one of the co-songwriters of Parquet Courts, is decidedly “not an engineer,” yet he owns
tape machines and once built a studio with his friends in Denton, Texas. Savage’s top priority when recording is an
environment free of distraction – acoustics be damned. Book his band Parquet Courts a week at Electric Lady
Studios, or leave them in a musty warehouse with the lights off; whatever grows will still impress the music press
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and please their fans. Parquet Courts have a new album out this year,
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produced by Danger Mouse [Brian Burton], called Wide Awake.


by Ben Berke and Jay Mamana • photo by Brian Burton
You’re from Denton, Texas? What were your first recording experiences like?
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I was born there. My parents worked at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My dad was a My first recording experience would have been on a Tascam 414 MKII [cassette] 4-track,
sports reporter and my mother was the art director of the paper. recording demos on that for bands that I didn’t start, and eventually bands I did start.
How does Denton relate to Dallas? I wasn’t on that for long until I got a Roland VS that recorded to Zip drives. They were
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I lived in Dallas when I was in junior high and high school, but I would always go like floppy discs, but much bigger. Much later on, all of [Parquet Courts’] American
to Denton for shows. In those times that’s where all the bands would come through. Specialties, as well as a lot of demos for [the next album] Light Up Gold, were also
I grew up going to different house shows. recorded on a Tascam 424 Mark III in our practice space.
Were you studying music at Denton’s University of North How old were you when you were doing those early
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Texas [UNT]? recordings?


Yeah. I started off studying upright bass performance, but it only took me about a I probably got the Tascam when I was 14, and I was maybe 16 years old when I got
semester to learn that it would make me hate music. UNT is a factory. It’s a school that Roland VS used through Guitar Center. The guy said that [David] Bowie had
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where you go to be a gigger; where you go to be a session musician. There are, recorded his last album on his tour bus with one of them. So, you know, “Good
of course, some interesting composers who came out of there, like William enough for David Bowie...” Fast forward a few years, and I put out a 7-inch that I
Basinski. There’s a cool avant-garde and noise scene there with people who are recorded on that Roland machine. I guess the first proper album was with my old
either in, or who have dropped out of, the composition program. But I was band, Teenage Cool Kids, and we would have recorded that on a Fostex 1/4-inch
watching a lot of my friends really fall out of love with music, so I switched to machine with eight tracks. Later, we all got together and bought a tape machine,
painting after a semester. a Tascam MSR-16 1/2-inch, 16-track, which I still have and have recorded a lot of
22/Tape Op#126/Mr. Savage/
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records on. I’ve got the board that came with it too. Did you build out the house in Texas, or Jonathan recorded [Parquet Court’s second album],
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I used to have a band called Fergus & Geronimo with had it been previously used as a Light Up Gold, in that same practice space in three
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Jason Kelly, and we recorded both our LPs on that. recording studio? days on a 1/4-inch Tascam [tape deck]; [I believe it
And we recorded two Teenage Cool Kids LPs on that No, we all built it out; all of Teenage Cool Kids: Jason, was] a 388 or something. Then we took him to
machine. I’m sad to say that it really has not seen my buddy Payton [Green] who was in Wiccans with Seaside Lounge and did Tally All the Things That You
much use since it’s been up here [New York]. I haven’t me, and myself. We soundproofed it. We did the Broke [EP] and Sunbathing Animal [album]. It was
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been doing a lot of recording in the way that I had double wall, double door thing. We didn’t float the evident very quickly that Jonny is very talented and
been in Denton. floors. It was a big group effort, with a bunch of knew exactly where we were coming from. He liked
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Can you tell us more about those trips to Home Depot. Whereas a lot of my friends Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention, so
recording sessions? here are engineers, I wouldn’t call myself an he got it. We became friends really quickly, ‘cause he’s
We had a great recording situation set up in Denton, engineer by any description. But I know how gain, such a great guy. The reason I really wanted to work
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Texas, where we lived. We had a snake going into the EQ, faders, and buses work. From using that Tascam with him for Light Up Gold was that I knew he’s good
house; Jason [Kelly]’s bedroom was the control room, deck, I get how tape machines work. I can record about being positive and encouraging, and also
we had a tracking room in the detached garage, and something rudimentary. getting the job done. Being a whip-cracker, while at
we had a talkback set up. It was great. That was one How’d you meet Jarvis [Taveniere] from the same time being your friend. That’s a very good
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of the biggest culture shocks of moving to New York Woods, and how’d you get him talent for an engineer to have. As important as
– there’s no practicing in your apartment here! Not involved in mixing Parquet Court’s operating a tape machine or Pro Tools.
that I would even want to these days, but it was cool debut album, American Specialties? Did you track Light Up Gold live?
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living in a college town with a big backyard and a I met Jarvis in Denton when his old band, Meneguar, Oh, yeah. We had a room that was 15 by 12 feet. We
detached garage. You didn’t have to worry about played at my house in 2006. He came back with were living all over each other for those three days.
making too much noise. We were active in the music Woods a year later, and I booked them. Whenever I He put Max [Savage, drums] in the corner, and we put
community in Denton, and we were cutting all sorts was on tour in New York, I would see him. We became some U-Haul moving sheets hanging over this loft
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of records. I was in four or five different bands. We did friends, and when I moved to New York I told him, that was built-in. Max was semi-isolated, but the
a Wiccans 7-inch on that machine. Jason is still active “I’ve got this new band, Parquet Courts.” A year later amps were out. We also used that as the vocal booth
in recording. He’s a very talented engineer, and he I needed the record to be mixed, so he and Jason later. We usually cut between 20 and 30 songs
does a lot of live sound in Brooklyn. We moved up [Kelly] split mixing duties on that album. whenever we do a record. Light Up Gold was three
here together when I was 23. And Jonathan Schenke [Tape Op #122]? days; we did 18 songs with vocals and everything.

Mr. Savage/(continued on page 24)/Tape Op#126/23


Was it completely written before? Monastic Living, the EP before Human There were three studios.
It was not completely written. What was written we were Performance, was done in a practice And one was The Loft [in Chicago]?
really rehearsed on, because we were practicing every space? The Loft was kind of by invitation.
week and playing a couple shows a month. We were doing Yes, most of it. That was done with the Tascam 388. From Wilco?
15-hour days, for three days straight – I think that was a It sounds like there are guitar loops, From Jeff [Tweedy], yeah. We didn’t use much from
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – and then we mixed it on feedback loops, and such. Is that just there. It was mostly hanging out with them and having
Sunday. That was my label, Dull Tools’, second release. the way you tracked it? fun. That was three days at the Loft. I guess we did,
Your fourth album, Content Nausea [as Feedback loops? Nothing is looped. But Austin and I non-consecutively, two weeks at Sonelab and then,
Parkay Quarts], was recorded to a used [MXR] Blue Box [octave fuzz] pedals, so that consecutively, two weeks at Dreamland [Recording,
cassette 4-track? gives it a uniformity. It might give the impression Woodstock, NY]. A month of actual tracking.
Yes, I think it was my 4-track, a [Tascam] 424. That was that it’s one piece from which we’re pulling, because Is that longer than you’ve devoted to
Austin [Brown, guitar, vocals, keys] recording that one. it reduces it to this robotic sound. But there were no other records?
That was the first time Austin stepped in on recording. overdubs; it was all live. There wasn’t any editing I would say Sunbathing Animal took three weeks. Content
Did you feel an affinity for the DIY punk outside the mixing phase. Nausea was probably five days total with recording,
scene that was going on when you Did you come in with premeditated mixing, and mastering in October, and out by December.
were a kid? ideas, or was it mostly jammed in the Adjacent to Content Nausea, there’s a
Around the age of 13, I got obsessed with punk and studio? version of the song “Captive of the
hardcore, going to shows, and talking to other bands We’ve always improvised together. That’s how the band Sun” with Houston rapper Bun B.
that were recording themselves. Before that, music started, more or less. We were doing a lot of that at At that point the original song was recorded, and Bun
was such a mystery to me. “Who did it? And where?” Sonelab [in Easthampton, Massachusetts]. Maybe a B did his part on top of it. But we met the
The idea that I could record myself came from seeing quarter of Monastic Living was done there. Then we Swishahouse [Records] crew when we played in
the DIY punk scene and going to shows at a young decided to see where this improvised music would Houston. They came into the green room and were
age. It’s not gonna sound as good as a David Bowie take us. Whenever I meet someone who says, “That’s really nice. They gave us a bunch of mixtapes, t-shirts,
record, but I had to record somehow. Moving to my favorite Parquet Courts record,” I’m like, “Let’s be and some weed. There is a version of “He’s Seeing
Denton and meeting a lot of like-minded people was friends forever.” A lot of people thought we were Paths” that Lil’ Keke raps on but it’s not released. We
a big step. From the age of 13 to about 20 I was only deliberately trying to piss people off. I had bands really need to release that. That’s when we got the
listening to hardcore and punk. I thought indie rock coming up to me that said, “Oh yeah, good one with idea that it would be cool to start doing remixes and
was for posers. I didn’t know about bands like Blonde Monastic Living,” and I’m like, “Yeah, it was a good try to work with some rappers we like.
Redhead, Belle and Sebastian, or Cibo Matto at that one. It was a good fucking record, if that’s what you We’re both fans of the influence hip-

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time until I got to college and started this record club mean.” But they don’t. hop has had on your songwriting.
called Knights of the Round Turntable, which is where Like you made it to piss off critics or I can hear hip-hop influence in The Fall and Sonic
I met Austin. I got wind of The Smiths. I already liked something. We were imagining Youth. I’m a fan when it’s done well, and it’s really
New Order and Joy Division, but those were socially people comparing it to Metal .c hard to do well. I like the challenge of it. Austin’s a
acceptable for a punk kid. I’ll be the first to admit that Machine Music. huge fan of Houston hip-hop. I guess for “He’s Seeing
I was a little close-minded during that time. ‘Cause that’s people’s only point of reference. Paths” there was a Beastie Boys influence; their
And now you’re recording at Dreamland It’s odd that the popularity of, say, history as a hardcore band evolving into hip-hop.
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Recording Studios in Woodstock, NY. Lightning Bolt, or even Fuck So for your first A. Savage solo record,
How do you relate Parquet Courts’ Buttons, wouldn’t provide a context Thawing Dawn, are these songs
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present to your DIY beginnings? for Monastic Living. written specifically for the album?
Part of the Parquet Courts recording experience is to get Yeah. Within the context of Parquet Courts, people Yeah, they’re not Parquet Courts rejects or anything!
out of New York City, because there are so many looked on it suspiciously. For some reason we’ve Who engineered Thawing Dawn?
distractions here. When we would record at Seaside garnered this reputation for being insincere, or as That would’ve been Jarvis [Taveniere], with back seat
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Lounge [in Brooklyn], I’d sleep at the studio in order being jokesters, both of which I take issue with. Some driving from me.
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to stay in the headspace and not get distracted. Going people chose not to take Monastic Living seriously, We liked the pedal steel. Was the song
to Outlier Inn [in Woodridge, NY] for [our third and it’s their loss. I thought it was cool that our first “Buffalo Calf Road” the first time you
album], Sunbathing Animal, was cool, because we record on Rough Trade was Monastic Living, and that used it on a record?
were there for eight days and all we did was record. it came before what I’d say is our poppiest record to It’s definitely not the first time I thought of it, but I
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When we got to Dreamland I think we wanted to date with Human Performance. I like that there is no had never attempted to use it in the past. I don’t
replicate that experience. We just got back from Sonic one way of doing a band. It doesn’t have to be more know any pedal players besides [Jon] Catfish Delorme,
Ranch [Tape Op #94] in Texas. The ideal is that a place convenient for everybody with every release. who played on the record. He’s Jarvis’ buddy. I’ve
21

can board you, without the distractions of New York We’re also curious about the transition known of others in New York, but they’re on the
City, and you’re left to focus on the task at hand. I to Rough Trade. Do the economics of experimental side and not really on the “Nashville”
don’t approach songwriting from a production record making change after signing side. Catfish studied in Austin and Nashville, so he
standpoint, and it’s fairly rare – [our fifth album], to a larger label? knew exactly where I was coming from.
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Human Performance, being the exception – that our Well, sure; it was the first time we really had a recording We thought, with “Untitled,” that there
instrumentation gets more complicated than what we budget by any description. We didn’t have to pay out was a Zombies’ thing. Like the song
do live with four guys. Whether we record at of pocket. That started at Sonelab, the early sessions “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)”?
for the record that would become Human Performance. Well, you guys are very intuitive. I was really into the John
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Dreamland or at a budget studio doesn’t really matter


to me. What matters most is that it’s done at a place We were paying for studio time, paying for Justin Cale record, Music for a New Society. There are some
where we can concentrate. We’ve gone from expensive [Pizzoferrato]; and Sonelab doesn’t have lodging, so songs that are just strings, guitar, and voice. I liked that
studios, to practice spaces, and back. We’re on no sort we paid for a place to stay. idea, because it makes the voice feel like a detached
of trajectory. Where else did you record Human spirit, or like something that’s floating out there and
Performance? doesn’t have a rhythm section to anchor it down.
24/Tape Op#126/Mr. Savage/(continued on page 26)
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Reading & Writing What mics were you using for vocals?
I guess in my twenties I was into postmodernist I pretty much do all my vocals on a Neumann U 47.
writers like Thomas Pynchon and William Gaddis. I view Johnathan [Schenke] told me that one’s best for my
myself as a lyricist before a songwriter these days. voice and I’ve always trusted him since. For the Parquet
Reading fiction and poetry is something I like to do, Courts record we just did in Texas, I ended up doing a
but I don’t know if it’s something I really associate lot of the vocals on a handheld Telefunken mic [M80].
with my lyric writing. Bill Knott is one of my favorite I was able to get into the vocal part a bit more just by
poets lately. [James Joyce’s] Ulysses is one of my having something in my hand.
favorite books. I’ve gotten into a lot of French writers, How did Milano, the collaboration
like Marcel Proust, Michel Houellebecq, and Louis- between Parquet Courts and Daniele
Ferdinand Céline. Recently also Karl Ove Knausgård. I Luppi [Tape Op #40], come about?
was recommended him because I like Proust. One of my favorite records ever is Warren Zevon’s Excitable
Did you use a real organ? Boy. That was recorded at Sunset Sound in L.A. and so
Yup, it’s a Hammond B-3 going through a Leslie was Milano. So I got to play on the “Werewolves of
[speaker]. London” piano, which is this really beautiful, stained
What was in your mind when you Steinway that’s not black.
recorded “What Do I Do”? A lot of the record is about 1980s Milan.
I didn’t want the record to be purely singer/songwriter. I How did you write the lyrics?
wanted a song that was more abrasive, and I wanted Luppi sat down and told me, “This is the idea. This was
something that I could do with a tremble in my voice. the vibe in Milan in the ‘80s.” I liked writing about
I like a repetitive cycle of chords that enables an subjects that weren’t so personal, and from a third-
instrument to really go wild on top of it. person point of view that I had nothing to do with. I
How did you build the wall of feedback on started researching the history of that region and city.
that song? It’s such an interesting place, politically. It was a
That’s me on guitar. I’m playing on the other side of the manufacturing capital. A lot of textile industry was
bridge on an offset guitar, maybe a [Fender] Jaguar, there, which gave birth to the fashion industry that
with the amp cranked. I’ve got a really loud pickup put dominates it now. It changed a lot in that time, so it
in, and I’m facing directly at the amp. I’m going on the became like New York was in the ‘80s; a superficial place
tremolo pretty hard too. of finance, greed, and money, but it also had this

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Do you use that technique for feedback interesting political history to it. Like Benito Mussolini
on other records? was captured in Como, and he was hung upside down
No, I started doing that after I finally bought some new in the square in Milano.
guitars: a [Fender] Jazzmaster and a Jaguar.
.c So what exactly were Daniele Luppi’s
It’s interesting that you bought both. contributions to the record?
It’s because I got really into offset guitars, and I wanted First of all, he gave us sheet music, which is hilarious
to have that offset for multiple songs in multiple because my brother [Max Savage, drums] and I know
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tunings. I got back into the Boss Metal Zone MT-2 pedal how to read it. But I don’t read treble clef; I read bass
on the record we just recorded down in Texas. People clef. His idea was to make these ideas of songs, and
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associate it with metal bands, but you can do a lot with then Parquet Courts would help finish writing them.
it, like get great feedback. He would give us a very loose idea and say, “Make this
When did you record Thawing Dawn? into a song.” He’d give us an hour, and then we’d
record it and move on. The lyrics were done later in a
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I did three different sessions, all of them very short. Like


two or three days in my free time, which I don’t have different session. He came to New York and we did
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much of. December 2016, then a session in February, vocal overdubs.


and a session in April. A total of about a week. It was It seems like you stay busy.
me, Jack Cooper, and Jarvis. And whatever drummer Thawing Dawn came out October 13th; Milano was out
was available, be it Aaron Neveu – who’s going on tour two weeks afterwards.
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with us, Shannon Sigley from PC Worship, or Mike And you also just got back from a
[Stasiak] from EZTV. recording session?
Did you record the album in New York? In Texas, for the new Parquet Courts record [Wide Awake!].
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Yeah, at Thump Recording in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, on


a completely residential block. They’ve taken out the <a-savage.com>
first floor, so the tracking room is in the basement
and what would’ve been the first floor ceiling is 30- Tape Op is made
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feet up above. What would’ve been the kitchen in this possible by our
apartment is still on the first floor, so you can look advertisers.
down into the basement from the remaining part of Please support them and tell them
you saw their ad in Tape Op.
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the first floor. Jarvis is on staff there. They’ve got a


2-inch Studer machine, which is what we used, and a
Neve board. I’ve done sessions at Electric Lady
Studios, as well as some other cool New York studios; www.tapeop.com
but for my money, Thump’s is one of the coolest Bonus content online!!!
studios in New York.
26/Tape Op#126/Mr. Savage/(Fin.)
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AUTHOR WALLY WILSON BEHIND THE FIRST SPHERE MULTITRACK


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CONSOLE AT CREATIVE WORKSHOP, NASHVILLE, TN, 1976


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Sphere
Recently there’s been renewed interest in recordings. Don built his own tape recorder, a portable
Sphere consoles, and the history of Sphere 3-track, 1/2-inch, and he would sneak into Royce Hall

Electron i cs
Electronics. With Don McLaughlin having sadly passed at UCLA to secretly hang small Stephens condenser
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away in 2014, I guess I’m the guy left to tell the original microphones over the orchestra and record without
story. Don and I formed Sphere Electronics in 1973. This anyone’s permission. He hated limiters and compressors,

A Brief History of this is my personal account of how it happened. so a lot of headroom was his answer. The recorder had
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Don was extremely bright in every way, especially mic preamps built in, and that was it. He’d go home and
Console Company with electronics, philosophy, and business. I found Don play it back on the same machine, on his 3-channel
to be very honest and easy to deal with. He was hard system with no EQ or futzing around, and it would sound

by Wally Wilson working and inventive, but he loved to have fun. His
passion was classical music; he was very knowledgeable
spectacular! Many musicians from the L.A. Philharmonic
would come to his house after a performance and listen
of the subject, as well as critical of the quality of to their work, and the booze would flow.
28/Tape Op#126/Sphere/
I reported to the Vice President. It was hard work I flew back to Nashville, resigned my job from Cetec
sometimes, working 24 hour days more than once. Corp., and got to work on drawings to show Don. This
Console delivery dates had to be met, not only for was very exciting and scary. I now had no income, with
customer’s schedules but to receive payments to meet house payments and a family to support, and just a little
payroll. We nearly always had cash flow problems, and bit saved. Now I had to sell some consoles! To expedite
were finally bought by MCA Corporation as a tax things, I needed to spend a lot of time with Don and
deduction for them. We were later reborn as the Cetec Paul Bennett, an engineer he had hired whom I knew
Corporation, and at this point Don was bought out and from Electrodyne and had worked well with. This was a
departed the scene. I was burned out from trying to wonderful surprise to me. It meant that Don was totally
run manufacturing through these mergers while committed to this endeavor – Paul had worked for many
attempting to maintain my position. I was supervising years in aerospace, and he was among the best
about 50 people, and didn’t want that pressure engineers in our field.
anymore. I’d learned a lot but I wanted out, so I I flew back to L.A. and moved in with Arch,
resigned from my job there. my father-in-law. His house was luckily in Chatsworth,
I moved to Memphis and went to work for one California, near L.A., as was Sphere’s new shop. I didn’t
of our dealers, W&W Distributing. Leon Sides at W&W want to bug Don for rides, and renting a car was out of
had sold several of our consoles locally. Meanwhile Cetec the question, so I walked the two miles to and from
Corp. kept calling me to come back to work for them. Sphere, usually coming back to Arch’s late at night.
They’d built five 16-channel consoles, Series 2000, and Don and I were developing two console concepts, the
hadn’t sold them. They wanted me to help. After nine Alpha and the Eclipse. The Eclipse – another name idea
months in Memphis, my gig there wasn’t going well, so I coughed up – was to be a fully modular 24-channel
I agreed to go back to Cetec Corp.; but instead of L.A. I recording console, and the Alpha was much smaller, with
opened an office in Nashville. I did sell those five limited modularity and only four outputs. We both
consoles, but it was clear they weren’t going to build any wanted to offer consoles to recording studios, but also
more. I was looking at the end of the trail at Cetec Corp. to television stations for production. We’d previously
Meanwhile, I’d also developed some ideas about a new only sold only a few Electrodyne consoles for television.
console design, including a new name: Sphere. It was an I’d personally sold one to a station in Miami and had a
original name, and I thought it had a freshness, as well good feeling about the untapped potential in that
as a certain appeal. market. I liked the television idea for several reasons.

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I’d heard Don was starting a new console company, First, it wasn’t as “emotionally” driven as recording
so I called him and asked if we could meet to discuss studios, as in, “What hits were cut on your board?” All
my ideas, as well as what he was doing. He was very
.c television stations had a professional, licensed engineer
amiable about getting together. We were face to face in who showed up for work every morning at 9 a.m. The
an L.A. restaurant within a few days. He was working on engineer also understood the technical aspects of the
new circuits and module ideas, but had not yet gotten product. Plus, the money was either allocated in the
to a console design stage. Here I was with console annual budget for equipment, or it wasn’t. This seemed
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design ideas, and Don was receptive to doing something like something worth pursuing.
together. I asked him what he was going to call his new Back in Chatsworth, I was working long hours
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company. He said, “Mac Electronics,” with the Mac from making panel and signal flow drawings, as well as
McLaughlin. It sounded terrible to me, and I suggested developing the ideas with Don and Paul. I worked
Sphere Electronics. He liked it and I breathed a big sigh seven days a week, and was really under the gun to get
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of relief. I suggested we work together, and that I would these designs done so they could build consoles. I
provide my plans at no cost for no salary, in exchange remember staying at Paul Bennett’s house in Glendale
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for a 10 percent ownership in his company. I would start for about a week. Paul had a drafting setup in a spare
a manufacturer’s representative sales company in bedroom; we’d get up in the morning, eat breakfast,
Nashville, with an exclusive contract to represent Sphere work all day and into the night, then get up the next
in the eastern United States. I would call my company morning and do it all again. His wife was a great cook,
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Sphere Audio Sales, and I would also represent other – and they were wonderful hosts. Paul was an excellent
non-competitive with Sphere – professional audio lines. draftsman, and he made full-size panel drawings at his
He wouldn’t own any part of my company; I would work house, according to my input. He did exactly what I
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on a straight commission, with no salary or expenses, asked: type of switch, knob, color, location,
But to tell this story, it’s necessary to first talk about except that if I created literature for Sphere he’d nomenclature, and function. These drawings would be
Electrodyne Corp., a company Don McLaughlin started compensate for printing, photography, and so on. I used to actually make the panels. Paul was a lot older
on his own. My involvement began when I was hired at would also commission the consoles I sold, meaning I’d than me, and he worked very hard. He was very precise
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Electrodyne, in its early days, around 1967. I needed a check them out completely, debug and repair, teach the and accurate; everything was done the right way,
job badly, and was hired as a wireman. I was promoted customers how to operate them, and live with warranty including documentation. No shortcuts.
to technician in a few days, and when the Console repair for one year with him, providing spare modules Having made so many consoles at Electrodyne, Don,
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Manager, Johnny Robbins, found out I could operate and parts at no cost to me. I knew Sphere’s reputation Paul, and I believed we could improve on them in a big
test equipment – signal generators and oscilloscopes – would be absolutely critical if we were to succeed. I way. Our futures were on the line, and we had to do it
I was soon promoted to Project Manager, then Lead also knew that if a console were made with the quality well in order to succeed.
Project Manager, and, after a few years, to we envisioned, as well as properly installed and
Manufacturing Manager. Don was the President of debugged, it wouldn’t be a problem to get through a
Electrodyne, and he and I had only spoken a few times. year and beyond.
Sphere/(continued on page 30)/Tape Op#126/29
FEATURES I WANTED IN THE NEW CONSOLE: them. Paul and I put together the proposal, and Sphere I had met Bob Todrank when I first moved to
didn’t have a copy machine. It was a Sunday, and we Nashville and still worked for Cetec Corp. Bob worked at
 The closest to a direct signal path from input to
were at a Ralph’s supermarket, digging in our pockets for Fanta Professional Services, owned by Johnny Rosen,
output – using all discrete circuits – to minimize the
quarters to feed the copy machine there. Being the which was the only pro audio dealer in town. Bob was a
amount of circuitry and distortion.
government, they needed at least five copies of young guy and worked as Johnny’s technician. Fanta had
 Easy to operate. It’s easy to design something
everything, so we kept going back to the cashier for bought a small 12x4 Langevin console that had a problem;
complicated, but not so simple to include the desired
more quarters. It was a long process and finally I started Langevin was part of Cetec, so I went down to Fanta to see
functions and still make it simple to understand and
laughing, “Hey Paul, hold on a minute. Do you realize what the problem was. When I got there, Bob proceeded
operate.
what’s going on here? Our company doesn’t even have a to chew me out over the problems with this little console.
 A different, appealing look for the Sphere Eclipse. I
copy machine, and here we are at Ralph’s on Sunday After receiving this abuse, I assured him I would get the
gave Paul my drawings for a wood cabinet, with
feeding quarters to make copies for a sale to The White console replaced. I got on his phone right there, ordered a
curved end panels, which he made into
House! Only in America could this be possible!” Paul replacement, and made it clear this new one needed to be
manufacturing drawings for the cabinet maker. They
stopped for a minute and we took a break and savored trouble-free. Bob heard this conversation, the mood
looked exactly the way I’d designed the originals.
the moment. But we got the project! Our first console changed, and I think I gained a little respect. About a year
 Bipolar power supplies, +/-24 volts DC, for 6 dB more
went to none other than The White House in later I’d heard that Bob had started his own company,
headroom than the Electrodyne consoles, which had
Washington, D.C.! Valley Audio, and that he was doing studio maintenance. I
been unipolar, +24 volts DC only.
In about four weeks we had drawings I could use to met up with Bob and we decided to work together. He’d be
 Robust power supplies. Power supplies contribute
show to potential customers, but no product literature. doing studio installations and sell all the gear except the
greatly to stability and noise floor of consoles. I
So as soon as I got home I made some basic spec sheets consoles, which I would sell. The plan was that if I got a
wanted good ones, and none of the BS of building
and had them speedily printed with both Sphere lead on a console, I would recommend Valley Audio to
our own.
Electronics’ contact info and mine, Sphere Audio Sales in install it, as well as provide any other gear they needed,
 Transformers on all inputs and outputs, using Jensen
Brentwood, Tennessee, on each sheet. Here I was in including tape machines, monitors, and, “How about some
by Reichenbach only. In the real world, interfacing
Nashville, Music City. I only knew a few people, so I dbx?” Likewise, if Bob got a lead he would recommend
unbalanced with whatever grounding scheme other
decided to go for the television stations instead. I made that they consider a Sphere console. We were totally
products had was frequently a nightmare, leading you
appointments and hit the road. I called on every ABC, independent, but this seemed like a pretty good plan. Of
into hum, oscillation, and RF problems. This could be
CBS, NBC, and PBS station in Tennessee, North Carolina, course there were cases where Bob couldn’t control the
eliminated with transformers, but they could add a
South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. The sad console choice, and there were cases where I sold just a
lot of distortion, phase shift, and hum pick up. It had
result was that I didn’t turn up anything. Here I was, console and they didn’t need other equipment.
to be an excellent transformer, which only Ed
back in my little basement office, having wasted a whole In 1975, Bob was doing maintenance at Buzz Cason’s
Reichenbach made.

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month. I’d spent a lot of money, and I had only one or Creative Workshop recording in Berry Hill, a suburb of
 Faders of good quality, with conductive plastic
two weak potentials. My idea to go after television Nashville. They had hired Brent Maher as a new recording
elements.
stations wasn’t really wrong, but it was a much longer engineer, and he wanted a new console. Bob called me
 Pan pots on every input.
term scenario than I thought it was. I was now pretty
.c about it, and I went down to see Brent. Here is an example
 Solo In Place function.
worried about my future, so I started calling on a few of how Don McLaughlin was to work with: Brent wanted a
 Programmable mute, with at least two circuits on
Nashville recording studios, as well as meeting people in separate monitor section on the right side. We had not
each input.
the equipment business. designed the Eclipse to be anything but an inline console. I
 The fantastic graphic EQ developed at Electrodyne,
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I didn’t like country music, and had only a vague choked a bit, called Don, and he said, “No problem.” We
but with significant improvements.
idea that it was becoming popular across the globe. would make an Eclipse Type A, with an inline monitor, and
 Isolation amplifiers on each VU meter, to prevent
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In addition, 24-track recording was quickly becoming Eclipse Type B, with separate monitor. Brent wanted gold
them from adding distortion to the audio circuit.
necessary for any studios to be in the game. For studios panels. I called Don and asked him to send me a sample of
 A Mix Module, separate from the EQ and Mic Preamp,
this meant buying a brand-new 24-track tape recorder, a gold panel. He sent me three gold anodized panels; one
to allow choices of different EQs, or no EQ at all, as
as none were available used, and either modifying an old yellow gold, one orange gold, and one silver gold. The
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well as line-only inputs without having to make


console to monitor and mix 24-channels, or purchasing psychology of getting a customer to choose something like
different input modules. The Mix Module would have
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a new console. These two developments were a that is well known to be very helpful in moving them
Solo, Mute, Pan, Cue, and Echo Sends only.
fortuitous combination for me here in Nashville! I had towards a sale, and I needed this sale badly. Brent chose the
 Panels would be clear-coated, to protect lettering
also become the Southeast Factory Representative for one with the silver tone. I made a whole console panel
from wear.
dbx, Inc., which only made a noise meter and noise layout drawing back in my basement office to show Brent
 A full one-year warranty on all parts and labor.
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reduction systems at the time. They sent me 4- and 24- how the separate monitor section would look, and I
Don and Paul agreed with these ideas, and Don – channel noise reduction systems on loan, which I remember my hand with the pencil was shaking. We needed
along with making all the circuit designs – came up with started demoing in recording studios. This gave me some this order so badly! I believed we had a real shot at this, if
the unique innovation of small lamps in the Mic
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income, and got me into studios so I could talk about I didn’t screw it up. Brent was also looking at Audio Designs
Preamps’ (M1200) and Output Amps’ (SPA 50) DC power Sphere consoles. The first sale I made was a small mixer, and Manufacturing (ADM) who made a beautiful console
feed circuits to provide protection from shorts. If you which I sold to Alpha Audio in Richmond, Virginia. Then which used a color television monitor to display the VU
had a short on the output of the Mic Preamp patch point I sold a completely custom mastering console to meters. I told Don about this and he said, “Okay, we can do
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or Bus Out, the lamp would come on, making it easy to Nashville Record Productions. This was lucky, because that.” Could we make the cabinet white? “Hell yes!” We’d
find the problem, as opposed to the power supply Larry Boden, the mastering engineer at Nashville Record finally sold our first Sphere console; it’s still in use at Creative
shutting down. Productions, and I had become fishing buddies, and he Workshop, and the studio is still owned by Buzz Cason. It’s
I remember we had a RFQ (Request For Quote) come thought very highly of Electrodyne and Sphere. When
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had a few mods made to it, but the original circuits are still
in from the federal government while I was out there at customers would come to master their recordings, Larry working and the same pure sound is unchanged. A few years
Sphere. One of the first things Don had done was to get would start bragging about his fantastic Sphere console. later Creative Workshop ordered a second Sphere console for
Sphere on the bidder’s list with the Feds. Very smart. We He’d say, “Man, you should get one of these if you want a new room. This time it was an Eclipse Type C; a much
had built a lot of consoles for the government at that really clean sound with punch.” larger, more complex console from the Type A and B.
Electrodyne, and knew the ins and outs of working with

30/Tape Op#126/Sphere/(continued on page 32)


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MASTERING
A major innovation from Sphere were disc
mastering consoles. Very few console
manufacturers attempted to make them, as they
require very demanding specifications to be
successful. This is due in part to the preview and
record channels, which must have extremely low
crosstalk between them, even at the top of the
audio spectrum. Kendun Recorders, Nashville
Record Productions, and Hedden West purchased
mastering consoles. They all had excellent specs,
plus special low-frequency crossover filters and
several circuits specific to mastering.

A PHOTO GALLERY OF
SPHERE CONSOLES

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ABOUT THE FRONT COVER


The background image is Wally Wilson’s original panel
drawing for the Creative Workshop console. The top and middle
console drawings are initial renderings for the Sphere Eclipse
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console by Wally (top) and Tony Corsello (middle). The bottom


photo is the BJ Recording Eclipse Type C in Orlando, FL.
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32/Tape Op#126/Sphere/(continued on page 34)


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To the best of my knowledge Sphere delivered 53 considering the situation. I felt bad about leaving living, as long as you were willing to travel and work a
consoles in my Eastern territory; 42 of them being Sphere, but I couldn’t maintain the level of commitment lot, and at least I wasn’t crawling under consoles and
Type A and B, a few of the smaller Alpha boards, three required to debug the new consoles, which always had chasing hum problems throughout recording studios
disc mastering consoles, and ten Type C. Five studios problems. Usually they weren’t checked out completely; anymore. Wilson Audio Sales was a success until 2004
ordered a second console a few years after their first, there were wiring errors, or sometimes simply a bad when I lost my main line, Electro-Voice, which had
and one even ordered a third. We had satisfied, loyal component that hadn’t been checked. I had to dedicate become part of Mark IV Industries, Inc., which included
customers. Besides Creative Workshop, a few of the 100 percent of my energy to every new Sphere console Midas, Klark Teknik, Dynacord, University Sound, and
more famous studios that bought Sphere consoles that was delivered, until it was totally without problems. Telex. This group was 75 percent of our business, so I
were Sigma Sound Studios [Tape Op #68] in Once that milestone was passed, the consoles performed had to shut down, as I was unable to replace them in
Philadelphia and NYC, Columbia Recording Studio in very reliably for years. It was also very frustrating a timely manner. I had three full-time salesmen, with
Nashville, Bang Records/Web IV Music in Atlanta, waiting for commission checks from the company. Don two office staff at that time, and we all lost our jobs. I
Doppler Studios in Atlanta, Young ‘Un Sound [#24] in and I had discussed this many times – he simply had to went to work for Techrep Marketing, another rep
Nashville, Best Recording Truck in L.A., and Kendun pay vendors and employees before me, and cash flow company based in Nashville, for a year, and then I took
Recorders in Burbank. was always a problem. When he finally made my a job with Durrell Sports, a sound contractor doing
It took a few years for a buzz to start up about outstanding commissions current, we had a long and major stadium sound systems until 2007, when I
the great sound of Sphere consoles. I never heartfelt talk. He totally understood my reasons and decided to give retirement a try. I still have friends from
considered myself to have a good ear, but I certainly didn’t really have much to say except, “Thanks for all the recording community in Nashville, whom I golf with
listened to, and enjoyed, a lot of music – live and you’ve done, and good luck.” I relinquished my 10 and occasionally meet for dinner and lunch.
recorded – and as time went by I did begin to recognize percent ownership, we parted friends, still visited with Somewhere around this time I got a call from Duncan
really good quality. Plenty of great musicians, producers, each other socially over the years. Rowe, who owned Primal Gear, a pro audio shop in
and recording engineers became fans of Sphere because LIVE SOUND Nashville. I’d known Duncan for several years, working
they had the “ears,” and would sometimes sit me down Another innovation was a highly custom sound with him as a Lexicon and Aphex dealer. He’d been
and play something they’d recorded. I picked up on what reinforcement console made for the Dorothy Chandler reconditioning used studio consoles, and had expanded
they were saying. Comments from recording engineers Pavilion at The Los Angeles Music Center. The trick was and specialized in that business. He currently had a
and producers included, “Totally transparent,” “So much to solve a problem of no sight line from the console used Sphere Eclipse Type C. He needed drawings and
clarity,” and, “Super definition.” Ed Seay, an engineer’s location way in the back, very high above schematics, which I was able to provide for him. He and
accomplished engineer at Bang Records in Atlanta at the the audience, looking down to the stage. Any normal one of his tech guys had a lot of questions, and I was
time, put it this way, “It’s like a picture on television console would totally block the view. This was glad to try to help them. They recognized this was no
that’s really in focus, with great detail, depth, and color.” something Don McLaughlin was very interested in, due ordinary console, and that there was a special interest

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The discrete circuits and Reichenbach/Jensen to the types of music being produced there – classical in it. A few years later, Duncan inquired about buying
transformers were the thing. After a few years I made a and opera – which he loved. He made a special cabinet the Sphere Electronics company, so I put him in touch
list of these guys, with their phone numbers and their with half of the controls above the engineer’s head to with Don McLaughlin. Don sold him Sphere, with all the
permission to use them as a references for potential .c
allow a view down to the stage. Its concept was similar drawings and spare parts he had. Duncan now owns
Sphere customers. I would tell a prospective customer, to an airplane cockpit, where some of the controls are Sphere Recording Consoles in Nashville and
“This console will be the most honest component in your above the front windshield. Sphere also produced a manufactures outboard equipment, using Sphere
studio. If it sounds like crap, you’ll know it because sophisticated automatic mixer module, which plugged circuitry from the original designs, and his Sphere
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there’s no coloration. If it sounds good, it’s good. Add into a mainframe, allowing a choice of inputs and easy Eclipse Alpha 2 console is in production now.
the coloration you want, because you’re starting with the expandability, plus serviceability of individual inputs. I was very fortunate to pursue a fun and rewarding
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pure music the players made.” The circuits were pure Sphere high-quality, so this was career in professional audio, something that as a boy
An amplifier is sometimes taken for granted, as if it a very special auto mixer, and I think this was used at and young man I could have only dreamed of. Sphere
simply amplifies and adds gain to the signal. In the Music Center’s console. Electronics was something I’ll always be proud of, and
actuality it completely remakes the signal presented at I treasure my friendships with Don McLaughlin, Paul
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its input the best it can, and this happens several times My next move was to become an agent for Trident Bennett, Ted Bennett, Larry Boden, Freddy Cameron,
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while going through the various stages of a console. Audio Developments, which went very well. The Trident Chip Young, Glenn Rieuf, and especially Bob Todrank –
That’s why the discrete circuits that Sphere designed consoles were nearly trouble-free on delivery, sounded our working together in the early days was always fun
have a much higher slew rate and headroom than good, had a strong reputation to build on, and there and very amicable. Many other people became good
integrated circuits, and they sound much better. Low were no money problems. As time had progressed with friends in Nashville, and helped me build a company of
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THD (total harmonic distortion), IMD (intermodulation Sphere and Trident, my manufacturer’s representative great recording consoles. Thank you all. r
distortion), noise, and other parameters are critical too; agency was growing. It was originally known as Sphere <www.sphererecordingconsoles.com>
but slew rate and headroom are a big part of why Audio Sales, but with my departure from Sphere, I See also Larry DeVivo’s history of Electrodyne, Sphere,
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Sphere consoles sounded good. Sphere’s slew rate was changed it to Wilson Audio Sales, with a territory of and Quad Eight.
measured at around 15 volts per microsecond, and it North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, <tapeop.com/interviews/49/electrodyne-history>
allowed the circuits to respond accurately to the inputs Mississippi, and Tennessee. I was determined to
from mics and other sources. This would be obvious on represent only high caliber lines, and was very fortunate
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transients, but the dynamics of the human voice has a to rep Lexicon, Aphex, White Instruments, VEGA
lot of character to be defined, as well as the complexity Wireless, Electro-Voice, Midas, Klark Teknik, Dynacord,
of any instrument with its harmonics, like an acoustic Telex, dbx, Crest Audio, and Rane at one time or
piano. Headroom is critical because, while a very small another for over 30 years.
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amount of peak clipping may not be obvious, it’s still I had sold several Trident consoles in Nashville and
perceived and recognized as a distraction to the music. the south, and all was peachy. At that time I was doing
Sphere had begun in 1973, but it closed around 1988. pretty well with the other companies I represented, and
I had already resigned my association with Don and decided to resign from Trident to concentrate on the
Sphere in 1984; under very good circumstances, other manufacturers. It was a sensible way to make a
34/Tape Op#126/Sphere/(Fin.)
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Although I’d heard of Berlin-based musician thought life should be easier, I want to meet that Exactly. I’m a collector of these. I brought five on this
Nils Frahm, I actually first heard his music on his person and punish him. It makes life horrible, and tour. There are a couple of spares, and so on, because
beautiful and recently released LP, All Melody, not worth living. We are experiencing a depression in they work so great with the synthesizer parts. When I
which I reviewed online for Tape Op #123. Nils our society right now, which I think is due to people use it with something on repeat, it makes it feel like
was recently in San Francisco, on tour for this feeling like they are not challenged. They also don’t it’s a plate. It’s very different. Even an analog delay
album, so engineer Jeremy Black (from Coyote have tools at hand that give them the experience of wouldn’t do that. It’s too steady and, at a point, it
Hearing Studio) and I caught up with him after the doing something grown-up. Babies, grown-ups, and would feel too static. With a tape delay, I always feel
show to find out more about his creative process grandparents are all on their tablets or whatever. like on the next loop it’s catching energy again.
and recording methods. They all have the same tactile experience. They all I saw you had one of those early EMT
use an Apple product, but nobody feels like they built digital reverbs in your rack too.
On All Melody, I feel like I can really something with their own hands and uses it. Nobody I have all the EMT equipment. I’m a big fan. I have the
hear your studio space. I love how you gets the joy of doing that. If everybody would build EMT 140, 240, 244, 245, 520, and 252. Whenever I
walk into the room to open the even just a little piece of furniture for their get the chance, I buy some of my dream equipment.
record. equipment; you make it and then you’re so happy. In the end, my studio will always be a curated piece
It sets the space. Usually we just do this [clap] or walk Even a little shelf; it’s like building a little universe. of recording history. I’m pretty stubborn about its
in already. The wooden floor there, as well as the After ten or twelve ideas you’ve had with your studio, purpose. I want people to realize, and to feel, how
early reflections, gives me the feeling of, “All right; you already sound like nobody else. That’s great. much they’re missing when they try to do something
this is happening.” It’s always a room which Each [vintage reggae] dub studio – 4-track, 8-track, all at home. There are certain things you can do at
impresses me, because it’s patiently and kindly or whatever – sounds completely unique. Maybe the home, but other things don’t make much sense.
waiting for awesomeness to happen. Nothing is in impedance was all weird; that makes it sound punchy Before I got the studio, my albums were very low-key
the way to be brilliant. It’s just up to you. When I am and fun, and certain bands love it. Then maybe with enterprises. I recorded quiet piano takes, and I never
not, it’s okay. But the room always is; it’s never that failure of signal flow, a whole genre develops. recorded a drum set or a string quartet in my
something I’m struggling with. It’s always so Who knows? I think it’s very important that all bathroom. But a lot of people do that because they
welcoming, just waiting patiently. studios have their own sound. They become a little think it’s possible. You can do anything now with a
There are many musicians working in bit like a resonant, interconnected beast, which, if computer, but it doesn’t make sense. When you make
the genre that you’re working in – you just hit it here, it starts shaking on the other bedroom music, it needs to fit the bedroom
instrumental music that combines side. That whole thing becomes a complex system, repertoire. You cannot really do a brass ensemble, or
electronics and acoustic instruments which you also need to try to understand and whatever. But people sometimes have this specific
– and they are using a laptop and control. You’ll have moments where you have a good idea where they want a brass ensemble but are doing

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sample libraries. You’ve gone in a day, and then a bad day where nothing works. You a laptop production, and they go through the sample
completely opposite direction, and feel like everything sounds bad. You leave the mix library looking for some brass. That is something I
taken over a historic studio. how it was, and you come back the next day and it always felt I wouldn’t do. The studio now is a heaven
For two big reasons. No one wants the technology and sounds different, even though everything’s the same.
.c and hell. Heavenly sounds, and the hell that
the knowledge of historic studios to disappear, so I You’re like, “What the fuck?” You have to wonder, “Is everything is possible.
try to finance a web of engineers and technicians, it me? Is it my perception? Is it the piece of In the liner notes on the new record
who are dependent on my advertisement fees and equipment that needs to warm up? Is anything today you mention how building a studio
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concert fees, which I spend on the art of recording not like yesterday? Maybe something is half-broken?” was an excuse for you to bring in
audio. I am very proud about that, to be honest, All that is so fun. At a certain point, I’m going down people and collaborate more.
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because I’m preserving knowledge. I think it’s useful to my instincts, not thinking anymore, and just doing Before I could not invite so many musicians over, and
knowledge. We’ve already lost a shitload of things. I’ve never had that moment with a computer. now I can. I also wanted to sit in the control room
knowledge about analog audio, which is a shame. I’m I hate how they feel and what they try to be. They and hear the room recorded. I wanted to check out
trying to support younger people – around my age – try to be an emulation of anything and everything, everything and see the studio from all perspectives.
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to go deep down into building cutting machines, but the most important things they cannot do. I use I was curious, so I invited a lot of friends to do
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tape machines, and mixing desks. I could buy an SSL the iPhone all the time in my studio to document sessions. A lot of that we didn’t use, and some of that
or a Neve [console], but I want people around me to patches. There are certain things where I really love we used. It was all basically fine-tuning certain
learn how a Neumann works, and how a master bus how I can combine digital technology and things and making tests.
works, with the zero ohm Neumann summing cards, mechanical sounds with the computer. I’m using the Did you enjoy that collaboration then?
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and so on. That topology is really important. The computer, but only to control the synthesizers Yeah. It’s fun, especially when you have so much space.
studio is basically an excuse to do that. When making sounds. They can modulate. I feel like When there are all these people in your bedroom, it
everybody goes in a certain direction, I usually go in everybody is pretty careless about the computer, out just feels claustrophobic. In a studio a couple of
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the opposite just to spread out. It just makes no of a misunderstanding of the debate about the sound people make it comfortable; it’s not too crowded or
sense that everybody behaves like sheep. We need to of PCM digital. It sounds a little different if you play anything. It’s much more fun than being alone all the
have space around us with our ideas. We shouldn’t sit back all your tracks live from the computer, and you time. On the other hand, I had a great setup. I could
on the same rock as everybody. I think everything have to control MIDI synthesizers playing the actual mirror the computer from the control room in the
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sounds the same since Ableton [Live] came out. I parts. It sounds better when you put it on a mixer recording room, so I had everything there as well. At
can hear the reverb. I can hear that preset. It’s just and mix it together. It’s just a different thing. People night I was alone in the recording room and could
philosophically unsatisfying to deal with somebody think I’m using [Boss] Loop Stations, but they sound use the room there instead of having to run back and
terrible. I’ve recorded so many Loop Stations in my forth. So I took care that I could run the whole thing
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else’s shit. Art is not there to just copy each other;


it is there to express something that is impossible to life, and I always wish I didn’t. They’ll never really alone. But, on the other hand, the main layout of
express in any other way. I feel like everybody now repeat a loop. It has so many different modulations; these rooms was a four-person enterprise. There were
gets inspired by a preset or a sample library that and then, with the tape delays, it’s never really usually three to four engineers on a normal shift, so
comes with a program; and you can just go with that, smooth. It’ll wobble. I had to come up with a system of how I could do it
if you feel like making it easy. But the person who So all your delays are tape delays? alone in the main room where I was not supposed to.
Mr. Frahm/(continued on page 38)/Tape Op#126/37
You built your own mixing console?
Yeah, that was crazy. I spent too much money on it. We The control room of Saal 3 in Block B at Funkhaus
in Berlin. This room became a second home for
had to drive throughout all of Germany for weeks to me during the last year. ALL MELODY was mixed
get the parts first. My friend Matthias Hahn built it; on KONSUL 1, a custom-made mixing board, built
around traditional Danner broadcasting
he’s the Beethoven of vintage modding and design.
modules. KONSUL 1 was built by Matthias H.
He’s absolutely crazy, unfortunately; but he’s the guy Franz Hahn and his team during 2016 and
behind the mixing desk, and the treasure hunter 2017. Working on this desk changed the tone of
my productions for the better, which I appreciate
behind all my studio gear. I’ve worked with him since a lot. I am looking forward to growing old with it.
2010, and he finds me equipment which nobody
would find – he has mafia-like trade things going on,
which are super awkward but effective. We have M/S
[Mid-Side] matrices made out of four vintage
transformers; it’s the best sounding M/S matrix
you’ve ever heard. I use it behind reverbs and then
on the master bus. I usually insert gates and
compressors on the mid, and nothing on the sides. I
like the idea that there’s no op-amp in my mixdown,
because the whole console is transformer-based. It is
not only transformer-based on each module, but it is
also completely balanced. That means I can take any
step. I can take the panorama out of the chain if I
don’t need the panorama.
So it’s like multiple taps of a
transformer?
Yeah. Everything is input-output transformer-based so I
can get everything to the patchbay. That’s the main
point. It makes mastering great. I did a lot of
mastering, so I wanted a mixing desk that’s great at
multichannel work and mastering at the same time.
What is Arduino?

om
That’s why we decided on the Neumann concept. You
session. We were so excited about the transients and When we met Nils at his gig, he showed us his custom-
can only activate certain channels on the bus, and
all that, but we didn’t consider how much vinyl would made MIDI controlled pipe organ back stage that was
not all the channels are looking into the bus.
hate that. built with custom Arduino boards. He also uses Arduino
So the console is based on the old
Neumann consoles? The vinyl pressing sounds great.
.c boards in his custom-built studio console. But, what is
Arduino? Well, according to their website, it’s an open-
Yes, we had to re-cap all the modules and then we built The dynamics are great. It took us eight test pressings.
source electronics platform based on easy-to-use
a digital solo/mute matrix, which was the most work, Wow. Who did it?
hardware and software. It’s intended for anyone making
l
obviously. Originally the Neumann desks had these In the end it was Barry Grint in London [at Alchemy
Mastering]. He does Radiohead, and he’s really good. interactive projects. A skim through the Arduino website
early switching units. They alone were like 1,000
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I also used to work with Dubplates & Mastering in shows that they have a bunch of circuit boards, modules,
pounds. They were usually out of the control room,
Berlin. In the end it was a long journey with the test I/O boards, with lots of tutorials and software to help
and it was making the signal path much longer. We
pressing, and everybody just wants to fuck with you. anyone wanting to learn how to make custom digital
got all the technology switched, so it’s entirely in the
You have to really, really make sure that they use devices. All of the boards are very affordable, most
m

console. When you switch a board on there, it’s a


enough time to press the records they release. between $20 to $40, and the Arduino Starter kit is only
millisecond or something.
$88. Check out <arduino.cc> for more info. -JB
@g

Are you still tracking to tape for the Because they’re always under time pressure, everyone
record? wants to use half the time necessary. It needs to cool
No, I used my BURL setup, which sounds fantastic. We down, and then it releases. That time in the ‘70s was I always talk to people and say the 24-bit is great
didn’t drive the BURLs hard, ever. I always drive them a lot longer than it is today. Now they have different sounding. Vinyl depends on your setup, and so on.
34

below the distortion level. The whole record is pretty chemicals to cool things down faster, and so on. That It’s hard.
undistorted. The only thing that is distorted are the is my least favorite topic, ever. I’m so frustrated with If you meet a total stranger on an
tape delays. That gives it some crunch. the whole pressing that I’m like, “Okay, guys; if we airplane and they ask what you do,
don’t get it right the next time, I’ll write a big what do you tell them?
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What DAW are you using?


[Steinberg] Cubase. Facebook thing and just say vinyl is dead for me. I just say, “I’m a musician.” Very harmless. People don’t
Are you mixing to tape at all? There is no good-sounding vinyl out there anymore. really know if they should feel sorry for you, or if they
I tried. I think I have a good tape recorder. I have a Fuck you.” Then we got that pressing done, and I’m should feel happy for you. Because people are polite,
ki

Telefunken M15, which is modified to 1/2-inch. It still unhappy with it. They really did something they usually seem to be happy.
sounds fantastic. I use it basically on every mixdown. amazing there, but it frustrates me still. If you make If they probe a little bit more, do you say,
But after I got the board and had my mix on there, I folk music with vocals and crunchy, distorted bass, “I play piano,” or, “I’m a producer,”
you can put it on vinyl and be happy. But to really put or, “I’m a composer”?
ti

didn’t need it anymore. It was ridiculous. It sounded


so good on the master bus that I didn’t want any this They’ll ask what type of music. I say, “I do concerts and
type of music, with electronic music and all this
tape or anything on there. I didn’t even use my Gates crazy, recording. I don’t sing. I just play keyboard instruments
wide stereo sounds, vinyl can’t really do that.
[Sta-Level] compressor; I didn’t compress anything. I I thought it was great that on the and piano.” Usually that’s enough for them.
was just so excited about all the transients, which are download option you have the 24-bit I guess I’m curious if you identify
regretted in the mastering session and the vinyl cut wave file also. yourself as more a composer or...
38/Tape Op#126/Mr. Frahm/(continued on page 40)
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ki
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@g
mai
l.c
om
History of Funkhaus
Nils works out of Saal 3, part of the historical 1950s East German Funkhaus building
beside the River Spree east of Berlin.
At the end of the World War II all the allied countries had their zones in Berlin.
There were four zones; there were the Russians, the British, the French, and the
Americans. They all had their own radio programs. The existing radio broadcasting
facilities, which the Nazis built during the Third Reich, were used by the Allied forces.
Then, all of a sudden, the French went to the place where the Russians did their radio
programs and recording, and the Russians were pushed out. The Russians got pissed
off; they went outside of the city to start a project to show everybody that they were
the kings of broadcasting. That is definitely the most ambitious broadcasting complex
in existence, made in 1950. They designed Block B in 1952, and built it from 1953 to
1956. Block B is the main studio block where all the main six studios are. I think that
was the first time where things like double doors, triple windows, angled windows, all
the basic panels for cables to go through the roof, and all that were built in Germany.
They would say the GDR [German Democratic Republic] built it, but it was money from
Russia for broadcasting. But it was also for all the propaganda. All the music labels in
GDR were state-run. Eterna was classical, and Amiga was pop, but both labels were
basically run by the government. The studio complex was shut down in 1989. I think
they pulled the plug in 1995, because they couldn’t find a west German television or
broadcasting channel which wanted the building. It was put on the market and it sold
for $150,000 to the first bidder. He sold it. Now it’s worth $12 million after eight
investors have sold it. It’s like nothing else, really. It’s so huge. It would probably take
about half a billion to really make it a great place again; it’s almost like an airport.
I’ve been there for two years. The new investor is crazy, and he just does it in a very
Above: In the back room you can see my custom-made “Peterson-Maus-Hahn” different way. It’s not dumb, but it’s also not considering the intent of the building
touring organ which has been on the road with me since 2015. I had a great time and what it really needs, which is infrastructure for studios. But he would never invest
using it all over this record, mostly to create percussive sounds, like on the track
HUMAN RANGE or in the second half of SUNSON. The most prominent appearance in microphones, or tape machines, or studios, because he’s not an idiot. I would do it
of this versatile instrument can be found on KALEIDOSCOPE. The organ is similar just to piss everybody off who constantly says that it’s totally impossible to make a

om
to a traditional church organ but can be controlled via Midi in order to make it sound studio. Maybe we are idiots, but I am very much against that idea. If we would keep
out of this world. The organ is close-mic’d, similar to my piano recording technique. carrying on like we have been, then the next generation would have a huge problem
finding joy in music. I think what we’re doing is very important, the preservation of
knowledge from the ‘50s that was as hip as neuroscience is today. What is happening
And the old lamp
said, “Be patient,
.c
in Funkhaus is magic. It’s pure magic. It’s far beyond music. It’s about the Cold War,
and the whole history of Germany.
little microphones,
l
one day you will all
be grown up!”
m ai
@g
34
21
ki
ti

Photos this page and next of Nils’ studio by Lia Darjes


<www.liadarjes.com>
Captions by Nils from the All Melody liner notes
40/Tape Op#126/Mr. Frahm/(continued on page 42)
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ki
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34
@g
mai
l.c
om
I’m honestly just a musician. I could say I’m an artist, because there’s
also probably something true to that; but more precise would be just
a musician.
You go much deeper than a lot of musicians into the
sonics.
Well, yeah. Beethoven couldn’t hear anything when he was writing his
ninth symphony [“Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125”]. I wonder how
nice it must have been to not really take care of the sonics in that way,
since not really many people take care of the sonics these days. There
are always some people who will sweat for it. I started by helping my
band and my friends, or helping in the youth club because people
couldn’t really figure it out. There was a graphic EQ and I was like, “No
guys, look!” Then, all of a sudden, I was the guy who was always there.
I was unfortunately getting really good at that, and then I could not
get out of it. At some point everybody just comes to you. They make
their music, and you fix it.
Jeremy: How much are you writing through
improvisation? Are you jamming and then going
through your material to write tunes, or are you
writing more from ideas and then composing?
I think it comes more from playing. I’m not so theoretical about it. I always
admired composers who didn’t even have to sit at their instrument. They
could just dream it. There are maybe more rules there, certain harmonic
ideas and whatnot, but for me it is very much a combination of the notes
that I want to play, as well as the sounds they produce. I feel like that’s
the magic that’s so important. Not the series of notes and the pauses in And if you ever need a cable…
between, but also the timbre of the notes and the envelope of each note
and so on. For me, that inspires the idea of the melody.
Jeremy: What do you find is a key element to feeling

om
like you’re finished with something?
When I have the feeling that I experienced something which I shouldn’t
doubt. There’s also a perfect element when “lieber Gott böse” – when .c
it’s too perfect and the gods are angry at you. You shouldn’t strive for
perfection. Say I have a mic’ing technique. I’m trying one thing and
listening to it, then trying another thing, and at one point I just feel
it. I feel like, “This sounds cool.” Then I hear it and, when I have no
l
issues with what I’m hearing, I say it’s finished. Then I just record. I
ai

could obviously try to save that as maybe position A, go further, and


try if there’s something better; but I think this is the point where you
lose time. I’m always trying to just get things to a certain quality, of
course. It’s not worth then going further before you’re done, because
m

then everything you do afterwards is just built on sand. But you have
to also know “this is good enough” so everything goes in a flow. I try
@g

to have that humility throughout the whole process until the mastering.
Even in the mastering studio, I have to remember that there won’t be
that perfection.
34

Are you making decisions and then moving on, not


keeping 50 playlists?
No, I’m moving on. I’m also going back sometimes and erasing. I’d rather
delete the whole song, call it a day, and take some song that I feel happy
21

about. We can all focus on the songs we feel like are actually better than
we hoped they would be. As musicians, I think we always go to that point
where we make something greater than we could have hoped it to be. I
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think, as musicians, we all get to that point where we’ve made something
that is just unbelievably incredible, because we have no idea how we
made it. It’s done. Then there are so many tracks which are the opposite.
They’re hard to finish, and they really give us all these doubts. Then
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maybe it’s just time to start with a new track. Some tracks are never
finished. When they don’t ask to be finished, I won’t try to wrestle them.
They will always win anyways. r
<www.nilsfrahm.com>
Sometimes the smallest instruments
have the biggest sound.
42/Tape Op#126/Mr. Frahm/(Fin.)
ti
ki
21
34
@g
mai
l.c
om
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l .c
m ai
@g
34

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21

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44/Tape Op#126/Mr. Deupree/


small American electronic music labels. It probably On a practical level, it was family. Thinking about
takes the least amount of time, because I’ve dialed schools for the kids was something we’d have to
in the process. I’m not doing a ton of releases; just consider in just a few short years. We had a great
a few a year. Most of the work involved is online; place in Park Slope, but I wanted to get back into
communication, production, and promotion. nature. I think we were just getting a little fed up
Mastering I have to do every day, because I have with apartment life, even though we love Brooklyn.
clients waiting for me, as well as deadlines. My own It was really tough for a couple years. This is a very
music, unfortunately, is the first thing to get pushed quiet, small town. We didn’t know anybody. All the
to the side, even though it’s what I want to do the like-minded people we knew we left behind in
most. So I have less time to do my own music – but Brooklyn. For a couple years, we were like, “Oh man,
still enough time. The three are often combined, too, we made a mistake.” But we decided to give it a
because I master most of the releases that come out couple years, and now we love it. I couldn’t have this
on the label. I offer that to all the artists, as well as studio in Brooklyn for a reasonable amount of money.
the graphic design for the album covers. That helps I had a cool little studio, but it was a separate
keep costs down with the label as well, because bedroom.
they’re important services I don’t have to pay Do you like having your work space
someone else for. attached to your house?
How do these different roles play out on I’ve thought about that a bit. I’ve gone through
a day-to-day basis? iterations of studios in parents’ houses, apartments,
It’s tough, especially with family and kids. I’m sure lots and basements. I worked my way up to a nicer
of artists my age have this trouble, when you have a facility. I have friends who rent places in town, and
family life and all these different professional roles they really like being able to get up and go to work
you’re trying to play. I never wanted a regular 9-to- somewhere. I don’t think I’d like it, because I do so
5 job, so I’ve always done whatever I needed to do many different things. When dinner’s done and I
to make that possible. I love every minute of it. My need 45 minutes to make some DDP files and send
day-to-day work time is largely spent mastering or final files to clients, I can do that because it’s right
doing label tasks, such as shipping orders or here. I’m doing the grocery shopping, doing the
overseeing some aspect of a new production. There cooking, watering the vegetables, weeding the

om
will be design or photography days, when I’m gardens, and making sure the kids are home from
working with an artist on a new release for 12k. It school. It’s easier to be here and take a break from
really comes down who needs what the soonest, and work to do that.
I usually prioritize that way. It can be tough How did you get into mastering?
.c
squeezing things in, but I manage to get all of it I really got into it about ten years ago. Looking at the
done. There’s a lot of variation in the things I do, and music I did, and what my friends in the genre did, it
I have to balance my studio to be ergonomic for both was all about the sounds. The music was sparse and
l
mastering and writing, as well as to be able to sit at empty, generally, so the sounds were really
the desk and work on label management. important. Every sound was emotional. We were all
ai

Do you have to explicitly set aside time recording with suboptimal converters and Mackie
for your own work? boards in our bedrooms. Which is fun, but I said, “Let
One thing I started doing last year is what I call “no- me see if I can’t do something to take these
mastering Thursdays,” where I just spend the day in recordings to the next level a little bit.” I wasn’t
m

the studio messing around and working on my own really thinking, “I’m going to be a mastering
music. I had to make that time. Usually I work on an engineer.” The first piece of gear that I bought –
@g

album of mine until it’s done; then I take a break for which I thought would be all I’d need to make
a while, and then do another album. I’ve recently everything instantly sound better – was the Manley
released an album [Somi]. When I’m in between Variable Mu compressor. I got that to take music I
34

projects, and nothing’s pushing me to get something released on the label hopefully sound a little better.
done, I tend to get a little lazy, except for just And it did, but it wasn’t the “magic box.” Then I
It’s rare for someone to be equally well messing around – making sounds or something like thought, “Well, maybe I need a better converter.” So
known as a musician, record label that. Yesterday I had 20 bells out here, a mic, and a I bought a better converter. Then I thought, “Maybe
21

founder, and mastering engineer. looper, just making cool loops. I record it all and I I need a nice analog EQ.” I started becoming aware
You are also active as a photographer keep folders on my computer of 3- to 5-minute of mastering as a thing, and realized that that was
and graphic designer. Is there a passages. They’re going to be fodder for an album or pretty much the path I was headed on. Ever since
hierarchy or natural order among
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something down the line. If I can get someone from then I’ve been focused on getting better sounds,
these roles? out of town, like Marcus [Fischer] or Stephen Vitiello, better speakers, room treatment, and converters. I
Making music is just what I do; it’s why I’m here. I feel in for a few days and we’re working on an album, learned pretty quickly that there’s no one magical
like if I could do nothing else, it would be that. It’s that’s great, because it’s just time for that. I’ll tell my box, it’s a combination of things. As soon as I built
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how I express myself. Mastering is really my day job clients, “I’m not going to be able to work these up a decent analog chain, then I could hear a
now, because in today’s music environment it’s days.” Collaborations always go more quickly than difference. Every piece added a little bit; nothing on
harder to make money writing music. Mastering can working on solo recordings. its own was the solution, but in the end it really was
pay my bills, and I like to do it. I was always a very What made you decide to move your better. I began doing it for my friends and for the
technical person. The label was started 20 years ago studio up here from Brooklyn? label releases, and eventually I felt that I could safely
to fill what I thought was a certain creative gap in
Mr. Deupree/(continued on page 46)/Tape Op#126/45
do it for people I didn’t know and not ruin their speakers, and the skill set to work on anything. I I used to have a Doepfer [modular] system when I lived
music. That fact also guides a lot of decisions. I built might specialize in the more experimental types of in Brooklyn, and I was doing much more synthetic
a room like this for other people, not so much for music, but I’ve gotten calls to do all genres. Coming music then. I liked it, but I eventually sold it for a
myself. I feel responsible for other people’s music, from a photography background – and I mention that Nord Modular, which I liked better at the time. As
especially as I moved away from just doing friends or on my website too – I always find correlations Eurorack has become so popular again; specifically
label work. When you’re mastering or mixing between mastering and photo editing. Preparing a modules to do sampling, external processing, and
someone’s music, you’re ruining something that the final photographic print for a gallery show is the looping, I started to get back into it. In 2013 I
artist put their heart and soul into if you screw up. exact same thing as mastering a record for final started building my current system. So much of my
There is a responsibility on my end to do the best I presentation on a record or CD. I’m adjusting work lately has been about organic, less synthetic
can for my clients. I want to have good speakers and lightness and darkness, reducing or adding grain, sounds: electric piano, bells, and tape loops. So I
a good room so I don’t make bad decisions. It also balancing levels, and adjusting it to be optimized for said, “Can I do what I do with the modular?” So I
helps that I’m a gear head and don’t mind buying a the final medium. Fortunately, with a photograph, tried – and I could. I’m hoping to show other people
cool piece of gear to make the job better. I’m printing it on a specific printer and it either looks that you can do all kinds of music with a modular
What did you do to educate yourself good or it doesn’t. Whereas with mastering, synth. I perform live now with just a modular. Like
about mastering when you were just someone’s going to listen to it on their phone, and any instrument, there’s definitely a learning curve –
starting out? this speaker and that speaker, so I have to have you can’t just pick it up and be an expert. But I’ve
Trial and error, first and foremost – being able to learn something that translates well. I think all my work in found this synth to be great for what I do live.
on my own music and close friends’ projects. Also photography and Photoshop gave me skills that help So you’re using the modular system for
books, magazines, and the internet. But a lot of what me in mastering. At the end of the day, mastering is mostly processing and sampling, or is
I’ve read on forums talks about the gear in a really primarily technical. I have to make it translate well, there synthesis involved too?
certain way, like in rock or pop. I felt like I was on and sound the best it can first, before I can get Probably half and half. If I can have some slow-moving
my own a bit, because all I read was about different creative with it. sinewaves – and I have a lot of them – that’s about
genres of music than what I was working on. I’d hear To what degree are you creatively all I need. I have friends that make fun of me
demos of these compressors; they’re putting a drum inspired by gear in your own music? because no matter what new synth I buy, I make the
track through it, and getting these big compressed I’ve been pretty much obsessed with music gear since I same sound on all of them. On the modular, like any
drum sounds. My compressors have never been used was 15 – I had a subscription to Keyboard Magazine monophonic synth, as soon as you play a second
for that. The gear can be so program-dependent. I’ve – and every waking moment for 30 years has been note, it cuts off the first one. The tough thing with
gone through different pieces of gear that have not about music and gear. I constantly read websites, modular is that I have to have something in mind
worked as well for what I’m doing. Pretty much read magazines, and talk to all my friends who are before I do it, as opposed to a subtractive synth

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everything I’ve done, though, except for musicians. I’ve definitely been obsessed with music where I just hit a note and start turning knobs. I
photography, is self-taught. I taught myself a few gear, but friends of mine who have very rudimentary have to plan ahead where I’m going to patch. Once
years ago how to brew beer. I love to cook. I really recording equipment can make albums far more I get a patch, then I can think again, re-patch part
relate cooking to creating music. If I find something, beautiful than my own, [made] in a room full of
.c of the middle of it, and then think about where I
I get really into it and I want to do it myself. fancy things. The gear is fun and the gear helps, but want to go. But I have to think before I do, which
I read something interesting on your websites like <gearslutz.com> can be dangerous. can be hard to get used to.
website about your mastering People always make you think you need X and Y piece Are there things that you can do with
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philosophy: “I don’t claim to be a of gear to get a good sound. While that’s true on modular that you can’t do elsewhere
transparent mastering engineer. some levels, it’s also not true on many levels. You in your studio?
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Because I am an artist myself, I have to learn what you need and what you don’t I could probably do anything that I can do on the
cannot help but to approach projects need. My new album is almost all electric piano, modular on a plug-in, but I have no desire to do that.
from that vantage point... to explore glockenspiel, and [Yamaha] DX7. My next album will I want the physical interaction; I want to have to
different paths, and to bring forward probably be all modular [synthesizer]. turn the knobs. I love how ephemeral modular synths
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the artistic concepts inherent in the When did you first get into modular are, and how organic they are. Because there’s no
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music.” How do you find your clients synths? patch memory, when I pull something out I’m done.
respond to that philosophy? And if I make one parameter change here, it ripples
Well, because I come from an experimental music down through the signal path and makes changes in
background, most people come to me to master other places that I may not expect. A little change
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because they know my label or they know my music. somewhere can make all these other things happen.
I think if I didn’t have that whole background – [if I One of my favorite things to do is to get a really nice
was] just an empty slate, musically – it would have patch and then turn all the knobs to random
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been a lot harder. Early on I didn’t have the locations. It’s amazing how the same patch through
mastering credits to back me up, but people who the same modules sounds completely different with
came to me knew my music and the label. They said, different knob settings. I don’t have a single software
“I like your sound, I like your philosophies. I’ll trust synth installed on my computer. I used to, but over
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you with my project.” Still, to this day, a lot of clients the last five to ten years they’ve all gone away. I
come to me because they know what I do musically. mean, there are great software synths; I’m not
If they’re comfortable with that, or they have a knocking them. It’s just a different way of working. I
similar sound, they know what to expect. I don’t enjoy the hands-on process; it’s a way to get away
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want to be someone, or put on some face, that I’m from the computer screen.
not. At the same time, I don’t necessarily want to be What is the role of the computer in your
typecast as a mastering engineer who only does a recent solo work?
certain kind of music. I can do any music, and I’ve I mix in the computer, at least the EQ. I usually sum it
done all kinds of music. I have the room, the out to the console, but I do a lot of subtractive EQ
46/Tape Op#126/Mr. Deupree/(continued on page 48)
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Tape Decks Yeah, sometimes. Like the [Eventide] H8000 – that’s recording through the Space Echo. When I stopped
The Roberts is a consumer model. It’s a stereo such an instrument. If this place was burning down, recording and went to play it back, I realized it was
machine with two tube amps. It’s only half-working, but I’d get my screwdriver and pull that out of the rack. missing something. I realized it was the motor from
I use it to make loops. There’s this weird portable That’s one of my favorite pieces of gear. It’s a multi- the Space Echo sounding in the room, which makes
machine with some mode on it called “language effects unit – reverbs, delays, and distortions – but noise as it goes around. At some points, the tape
learning.” I guess it’s some educational deck. I use that it’s the cream of the multi-effects crop. I call it the almost gets crinkled – just for a second I’ll hear
all the time because it really sounds terrible. The object “cheating box.” I have some programs in there that something struggling in the motor and then it keeps
for my own music is to find the worst-sounding machine I made, where I’ll just hit a couple of notes and then going. [The internal tape loop’s splice. –ed.] During
that still functions nicely. They all have their own quirks. the H8000 makes them go into this other world. It the half-hour I was recording, that all became part
There are millions of them on eBay, but finding ones can do so many crazy and creative things that I’ll of the sound. I was like, “That was it!” I put a mic
that work well can be hard. I have three more in the often record it going in, because it is part of the on the motor and recorded the motor sound to
basement that don’t work at all. I use some tape plug- sound. As opposed to a reverb or such that I could another track in Pro Tools. I also ended up using the
ins, but it’s not even remotely the same. The UAD [plug- add later. I tend to record with effects because I like switches on the Space Echo on another song, so the
in] emulations are good, and I use them a lot; but none to make that commitment. Like the [Roland] Space motor and the switches all became part of the
of them are as inconsistent as these, where halfway Echo [tape delay], where it’s instrumental to the instrument. I also use a lot of cassette. A lot of
through a take it just starts crapping out. I never quite sound I tend to record. It’s all live into the computer times, if I get a nice loop going on my gear, I’ll
know what I’m going to get – that’s part of the fun. when Marcus [Fischer] and I work together. The last record it from the speakers through the built-in
record we did, Twine, was just two mono tracks for [cassette recorder] mic and layer in that hissy,
the whole album. It was the easiest mixing job I ever crappy recording. When I’d finish a song on my new
had. I EQ’d them to make them sit together a little album, I’d feel it was nice; but it needed something
better, faded them in and out, and then mastered it. else. I ended up taking the whole mix and recording
Collaborations tend to be more fluid in that way, it through the speakers to this cassette machine.
because there are two of us working so we can Then I’d be mic’ing the built-in speaker of the
bounce ideas off of each other and get things going cassette player and layering that under the whole
a little more quickly. piece. Sometimes I’d be delaying, or pre-delaying,
Some of your later releases have the sound. It becomes this noisy, ghosted version of
embraced a more lo-fi “weathered” the studio recording. I get this sense of texture, as
sound, with lots of surface noise and well as a more human sound. It just became part of
a natural noise floor. What got you the process. That’s a big part of what I’ve been doing

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with plug-ins. When I’m mixing my own material, I’ll interested that, and what are some of lately. Not to be noisy and loud, but a gentle,
use massive filtering to create separate spaces for the techniques you’re using to weathered sound.
instruments. I don’t have enough hardware EQs to do achieve it? Do you think moving up here, away
that. Sometimes I’ll use the computer for reverbs, If I were to go back 15 years and tell the young me that.c from the city, has inspired your work
although I often use hardware reverbs. I also I’d embrace noise, I wouldn’t believe myself. Back in to move further in that direction?
compose in the computer by copying and making the early digital days, I just wanted to get rid of It’s interesting. I attributed my initial love for all things
layers, but everything else pretty much happens noise. We finally had DAT machines. I sold my 4- minimalist to living in the city; I felt that the city
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outside the computer. I will make the loops, do some track. I had digital, which was clean, clean, clean. was so “on” all the time that minimalism gave me
performance on the instruments, and then use Pro Digital photography was clean, and I could sell my peace of mind and escape. I always said that I made
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Tools as a multitrack machine. My album that I just film camera. And just like any of this, eventually I quiet music because I lived in a loud city. It was just
finished has very little editing. I did the looping realized that we were missing something from those a way to keep the balance. I said, “I wonder if I
manually – instead of making a loop in a looper and old dirty cameras. For me, creatively, it was really a move to where it’s quiet, am I going to start making
recording it for 10 minutes, I played the loop slow arc and it happened alongside my photography louder music to get that balance back?” But it was
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manually for 10 minutes. I’ll get all the interests. With photography, I got interested in just the opposite, which really surprised me. The
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inconsistencies that come along with that; every Polaroid cameras again – all these lo-fi cameras. environment really took over as an influence. I’m
repetition is different. I’ll watch a counter on a Creatively, I found a way to put another layer over living in all this nature, and I’m appreciating all the
laptop so I know when to repeat my phrase. Then I’ll what I did that I had no control over. When I take a imperfections and the grit. My music got quieter,
layer that with another loop that’s looping at a Polaroid, I have a picture of something, but the more natural, more organic, and less electronic. It
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different time. It’s all single long takes. Then I Polaroid adds its own layer, in all its inconsistencies, was pretty profound, and it’s still continuing on that
adjusted the fade-ins and fade-outs of each track, and makes it something else. It gives it some trajectory. But in ten years, I may be somewhere
and occasionally cropped out a note. A lot of other implied story or something. I can’t control what the else. I never try to predict the future, at this point
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times I’ll use a looper pedal, like the [Electro- Polaroid does. It’s the Polaroid film that makes it I’ve realized that everything changes – processes
Harmonix dual stereo looper] 22500, or multiple look like a Polaroid. It’s the same with the tape and interests come and go, fade, and loop back. It’s
loopers, so I’ll get continuous variations. If I’m in machine. I’ll record a glockenspiel in, and have nice all part of the adventure. r
here working on the website or something, I’ll let a mics and a nice pre[amp], and it sounds good. But <www.taylordeupree.com> <www.12k.com>
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loop run. If I can listen to it for a good hour or two, coming out of that tape machine, it’s got a different
I know it’s pretty good. A lot of times there’ll be one sound that I can’t do anything about because that’s Joseph Branciforte is a recording and mixing engineer,
note [that’s not working], I’ll have to erase it and try what the tape machine added. I like that. It’s a way composer, and sound artist based out of New York City.
something else. I like to make long pieces that are of abstracting it one more step from what I’m <www.josephbranciforte.com>
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very repetitive, but it has to be able to pass that test. consciously creating. Over the years, I’ve embraced
I’ll record it for 10 or 15 minutes, and maybe do some that more and more, and not been afraid of noise. I
performance, tweaking a filter or whatever. used to want to get rid of all noise. I thought noise www.tapeop.com
Are a lot of the effects being recorded on was unprofessional. But I won’t just add noise, it’ll Bonus content online!!!
the way in? be noise from something. On my new album I was
48/Tape Op#126/Mr. Deupree/(Fin.)
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The Many Faces Yeah, the 424mkIII. It was the last series of cassette 4-tracks that Tascam made. It’s
my favorite, because it has four individual outs. I do a loop between the 4-track
of Luke Temple and Pro Tools; I can record on the 4-track, and then I can dump those individually
out into four tracks on Pro Tools and get a mix together. Then I dump it back to
by Geoff Stanfield 2-tracks, to have the stereo back on the 4-track, and then I have two tracks to do
sidebar and photos by John Baccigaluppi more overdubs. I can keep doing that.
So you were tracking, dubbing it into Pro Tools, doing a
submix of those tracks to stereo, spitting that back onto
Luke Temple wears several masks and many hats. Since 2005 he
two tracks, and then continuing that process?
has released five solo records under his own name, four as Here We Yeah, correct. I would usually start with a groove. Another aspect of what Art
Go Magic, and his latest release, Blast Off Through the Wicker, under the Feynman is that I didn’t come to it with songs. I would usually start with a bass
moniker “Art Feynman.” He is an engineer, songwriter, singer, line or groove. I’d record that for seven minutes, and then I’d put it into Pro Tools
multi-instrumentalist, and producer – with the exception of working and edit it together to get a loose outline of a song. Then I’d go from there and
dump it back into the 4-track.
with Nigel Godrich on Here We Go Magic’s A Different Ship. Each of his So why not do it in Pro Tools?
records have a presentation unique unto themselves, but one thing It’s a sonic thing; the 4-track has a sound. The grain and the presence of it has a
remains a constant: Luke’s instantly recognizable voice, engaging different quality than recording into Pro Tools. The pitch wheel is a big thing. I
lyrics, and always interesting production.  suppose you could do that in the computer. If I had Ableton [Live] I could do
more varispeed [processing]. But I don’t
I’ve been a fan of Here We Go Magic and your solo records. have that capability in my Pro Tools rig. I
When I was sent your new record, it was by Art Feynman. was doing a lot with the pitch wheel.
Why did you decide to go with that moniker for this record? Did you limit the palette of
The name popped into my head. It’s a funny play on fine art. Also, I was obsessed instruments that you used
with Richard Feynman, the theoretical physicist. His whole character was pretty on it? I hear some synths, and
funny. He was a scientist, but also this bongo-playing ladies’ man and part-time some drum machine.
artist. To me, the music seems like that ‘60s version of sci-fi, or something. Also, There’s actually no drum machine.
it’s probably a nod to [producer/musician] Arthur Russell, to some degree. It was Oh, really?
a way of reinventing myself, as well as thinking in terms of a character rather than Yeah. Those are all played drums. I would do

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myself. That can be liberating. some looping. I would record the drums –
Is it freeing to not have to be Luke Temple, or Here We Go usually at slow speed and speed them up.
Magic? It really tightened them up and gave them
If you create a little narrative for a character, it gives you more freedom in ways that that “drum machine” sound, but it’s all
.c
you wouldn’t normally allow yourself. Writing as Luke Temple, there’s pressure I put played. I’m glad people think it’s a drum
on myself to be as personal as I can in sharing my story. If I think in terms of machine.
another character, it frees me from that. In the end, I’m expressing the same thing; Did you put some limitations on
yourself in terms of track
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but sometimes it’s easier if it becomes less subjective and more objective. I had
just made a Luke Temple record [A Hand Through the Cellar Door] that was the most counts, or did you go wild and
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deeply personal record I’ve made. This was a way of cleansing my palate and use the 4-track for the sound?
getting back into more of a humorist thing. I don’t really think about this very in-
depth. It’s a way of sometimes tricking myself into going into new territory. Luke
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Temple could be anything I want it to be, and Here We Go Magic could be anything
as well. I’m pretty mercurial, and creating a new
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moniker was a way of fitting this other side of myself


into a little package that made sense, rather than
confusing the situation even more.
Did it start with the concept, or did you
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write a bunch of music and think,


“Oh, this would be fun to package in a
certain way?”
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Yeah, it started with the music. I did it mostly on 4-track.


That’s my go to for demoing. I guess I was in a liminal
state; demoing ideas before I was going to go into a
studio and record it “properly.” It had such a vibe on its
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own that I decided it would probably be better if I


decided that was going to be the record. I was doing a
lot with pitch-shifting my vocal and it seemed a new
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character was emerging, so then the name came after.


Can you tell me a little bit more about
what gear you used to make the
record? You talked about a 4-track.
Which machine were you using? A
Tascam Portastudio?
50/Tape Op#126/Mr. Temple/
There are limitations inherently with working on 4-track, It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. I have a I’m moving more in that direction, as time goes on.
even though I do that bouncing. At a certain point, pretty simple little rig that I’ve slowly been adding to Even since recording that record, I’ve been recording a
it starts to lose some sonic clarity the more you go over the years. I’ve always recorded myself, and the bunch. I’m always recording, and I feel I’m developing
back and forth. Especially if you bus on the 4-track. first [self-titled] Here We Go Magic record I recorded on my own language with it. That’s a really exciting and
I’m also limited, via the fact that I only have a that same 4-track. The last Here We Go Magic record, liberating feeling to me, because it means I actually
certain amount of instruments. I have two synths, Be Small, I recorded myself also. It wasn’t on 4-track; don’t have to be beholden to anybody else. If I’m going
drums, bass, and guitar. I was pretty conscious of it was into Pro Tools. I feel I’ve been getting more to get the sound I want, I need to do it myself.
keeping no more than a few voices going on. adept at recording myself; I realize that there’s a Are you using basic microphones? Are
Originally I was thinking it was only going to be certain sound I can get when I work with myself that you a Shure SM57 guy, or do you have
maybe one melodic element, vocal, bass, and drums, I can’t get in a studio. I’m feeling more confident in more high end mics you’re using?
and then never anything more. But I ended up that. Especially mixing. I felt pretty confident for a No. I have an [Electro-Voice] RE20 that I use for
adding more in the end. I was definitely conscious while about recording myself, but, in terms of mixing, everything, a 57, and I also have a little Shure
of keeping a lot of space. I didn’t really compose I felt it was some dark art that I didn’t really condenser that I don’t use very much. Basically that
anything. I would jam with myself; I would find the understand. This record was the first time that I whole record was RE20, and a lot was direct.
little bits that seemed to work, and I would edit it decided mixing is just about my ears. It’s about if it What are you using for preamps?
together. Then I’d overdub a little bit over it, so it sounds good or not. There’s no real secret to it. There I have a Golden Age Project PRE-73, which is a knockoff
seemed more composed. It was more capturing are so many records that I love that have the craziest of the Neve 1073. I use a dbx 160A compressor, a
chaos and making something out of it. sounding mixes. There’s no reason why I can’t do it Roland Space Echo, and that’s it. I also have some
What got you initially interested in the myself. It was a way of stepping off the cliff and plug-ins in Pro Tools that I use.
recording aspect of music making? deciding that if I’m going to create a full world in the The record certainly doesn’t sound lo-fi.
way that I want it to sound, then I have to do it People have the sense that a 4-track
myself. and a $100 mic are inherently going to
sound lo-fi or demo-y.
Blast Off Through the
Wicker is very interesting
sonically, but certainly
not a lo-fi sounding
record.

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l .c
Photo of Luke at The Old
Western in
Point Reyes Station, CA
where he hosts
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a monthly night of music


called “Good
Fortune.” He curates a
group of
musicians for an improv
set, sometimes
an artist on tour, possib
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ly a group jam
afterwards, then a DJ clo
ses out the
night which ends as a dan
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ce party.
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Mr. Temple/(continued on page 52)/Tape Op#126/51


At The Old Western waiting for the rest of the musicians...

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I’m glad to hear you say that. I have my little moves. I But I felt so far removed from those guys. I didn’t we were playing in Paris, and he turned up again at
understand how to mix my voice at this point, and I know how I would ever get in touch with them, or if that concert. It seemed he was really interested. After
understand how I like to mix drums and bass. [I like] they would even be interested. It turned out that Jen
.c that show, he said, “I’d love to record you guys.” It
the basic foundations. I don’t know that I could [Turner], the bassist in our band, had some encounter was totally weird. It felt I had manifested it or
necessarily jump into a big studio and be able to with Nigel Godrich. I asked her if she could get our something – it was pretty cosmic. We ended up
make it sing in the same way. I understand my rig, recordings to him. It was too uncomfortable for her to making that record a year later.
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because I’ve had it for so long. Working on the 4- do that, for whatever reason, so I dropped it. Six How was that for you, as somebody who’s
track as a way to track, and then facilitating it months went by; we were touring that record and held the reins of your music and
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through Pro Tools, really helps to keep that clarity. I playing at the Glastonbury Festival. We got there the been in control of recording and
don’t do a lot of bouncing on the 4-track. That’s day before to pick up our wristbands, and then we production?
where it starts to get really muddy and “lo-fi” decided we were all going to stay there for the night. I had implicit trust in him. The second he set everything
sounding, because the tape can only take so much We didn’t even have tents or anything. The drummer, up and we started to record, it sounded amazing. You
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sound. As far as the 4-track is concerned, it’s only Pete [Hale], and I ended up sleeping on this really wonder about these people. Like if their reputation
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ever getting four clean tracks. steep hill. We woke up with the sun beating down on precedes them, or if the story around them is more
On Here We Go Magic’s A Different Ship us, and we had 15 minutes to get to our stage because grandiose than their actual ability. But he is really
you worked with producer Nigel we were playing early in the morning. We got to the worth everything that’s said about him. He’s a total
Godrich. stage right in time for our set. I was feeling hung over, wizard. It sounds as good as it sounds when the
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Long before we ever met him, we had finished our second and a little bummed about our slot. Glastonbury’s a record comes out on the first take. The first time you
LP with Here We Go Magic called Pigeons. We did it nighttime thing, and we were playing at 11 in the sit in the control room and listen to it, it sounds that
ourselves. I was happy with that record, but I was morning. It was either people still up from the night good. He basically mixes as he’s going. There wasn’t
21

listening to it and thinking there was a certain before – wobbling on their feet – or families checking much to argue with. The session was a little stilted,
spaciousness and a sonic quality that we didn’t get us out. I noticed there were two guys in front that only because I had put him on such a pedestal. I was
that I don’t think any of us really understood how to were really into [our set]. On closer inspection, I really nervous and felt it was my one shot or
achieve. We’d all been in studios in the past, to realized it was Thom Yorke and some guy. They came something. I had put all this pressure on myself. We
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various degrees. That’s partly why we decided to backstage and were talking to us after the set. It turns had almost a year before we recorded with him, so I
record it ourselves. We wanted that freedom. After out the other guy was Nigel Godrich. We talked for a was feverishly writing songs with all this pressure in
listening to it, I thought this music could stand to be little bit. It was pretty uncanny that I had had that my mind. I don’t think it was my best work. The first
really produced. I had worked with producers in the thought about him earlier that year, and then we met session we had with him was in L.A., and I realized
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past, and I didn’t really enjoy it. I was thinking, “What him. We ended up playing in London, opening up for after listening to that first session – and all those
producers would I want to work with that get that Broken Social Scene, and it turned out that Nigel was songs – that it really wasn’t happening. That was
more hi-fi sound, but also have a soulfulness or an good friends with Kevin [Drew], the singer. So he originally our only session. I was like, “Well, that was
idiosyncratic sound?” The two people that I thought showed up again at the next show, and we got to hang a failure,” but he realized what was going on. He got
of were Brian Eno [Tape Op #85] and Nigel Godrich. out with him more. He really liked the set. Then, when back in touch with us, and said, “We should book
52/Tape Op#126/Mr. Temple/(continued on page 54)
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another session at my studio in London now that we’ve gotten to know each other a
little bit better.” The bulk of that record was made in London. At that point, we were
friends, and we were more equal partners in the process. I basically wrote that record
in the studio – I didn’t have anything prepared for the second session. We kept only
two of the songs from the original session.
What was Nigel bringing to the session that brought out the
best in the music?
He works really fast. Part of what I don’t like about working in the studio is that it’s a
lot of waiting. You spend a day getting drum sounds. You go in there really eager and
fresh, and you want to start. It’s a day to get drum sounds, and then half a day to
get a bass sound. By the time you get started recording, you’re at half-mast. But with
Nigel it’s like everything was set up immediately, so the second we had an inspiration
for something, it was ready to go. If we wanted to change anything, or he needed to
set up a new microphone, he did it so quickly. He’s an amazing enabler for an artist
to stay inspired. That’s his greatest strength. Also, he was constantly recording
everything, and we didn’t realize that. He had this archive of all these weird, in-
between sounds of us talking, noodling on synths, or whatever. At the end, when he
mixed, he had that library of all these sounds that he manipulated and would weave
in and out of the songs, which was amazing. I didn’t realize he was doing that.
That must have given you pretty good confidence, in terms of
moving forward.
Well, yeah. One thing I learned from him is not to be too precious. There’s not a ton of
secrets there. He’s got an amazing studio; he has a Fairchild and some gear that not
everybody has, but there’re no real big secrets. He has a really good ear. If I had an
idea to do a vocal part, but I was tracking the guitar, he would move whatever mic
was close by for me to sing my idea. It wasn’t like we had to break down everything
and go, “Okay, now we’re going to do vocals. We have to set up a vocal situation
properly, get our [Neumann] U 48, and isolate.” He’s really mutable. He’d use
whatever was around and capture takes really quickly. I took that from those sessions;

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to realize that I know that if the inspiration is there I can record something that
sounds good. I don’t need to be too precious, or wait for the situation to be perfect
before I can do it or get the “right” microphone. That’s what I took from it the most.
Yeah, that’s important. Preparation, as well as not being
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precious, is undervalued and underrated.
We come in and have an idealized idea of what we want it to sound like. That’s a good
springboard, but then we have to be open for it to become what it’s going to become.
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I like to think about how you have to leave the window open to let the world come
into it. A lot of times those random things that fly into the window are going to be
ai

the best parts of the record. We have to leave that open-ended aspect of it there.
How do you reconcile outside contributions to your music?
My workflow feels more comfortable solo for the last few years, for whatever reason.
There’s also a part of me that really loves playing with other people, and I’m open to
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that in the future. There are certain things that I do to trick myself into fresh,
@g

surprising ideas. If I know what the key of the song is, and I have a tempo, I’ll record
a bass line, but I won’t listen to any of the other tracks. I’ll know what key it is in
and what tempo it is in. I’ll play completely random with the tempo and knowing
what the key is. When I go back, unmute everything, and listen to it, a lot of it won’t
34

work but then there will be these crazy ideas; these crazy things that will happen
sonically that I wouldn’t have been able to come up with if I sat there and thought
about it, or tried to arrange it consciously. When you work by yourself, you have to
21

trick yourself into that. I’ll do random edits in Pro Tools, for instance, where I’ll record
a bunch. Then I’ll visually start to chop something up, completely randomly. It’s on a
grid, so it’ll be in rhythm. With a 4-track it’s a bit more complicated, because it’s not
to a grid. But I’ll randomly chop sounds up and then sit back and listen. Then new
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ideas will emerge, and I’ll take it from there and let that spin off into a new direction.
In that way, it sounds like someone else came in and did something that I never
would have thought of.
How much of that ends up making the record?
ti

You’d be surprised. A lot of the Art Feynman record is that. But most of those songs are
very linear. It’s in one key, and they’re not very modal. There’s one song called “I Rain
You Thunder.” It’s an instrumental track on that record. I don’t know if it’s good to
let all my secrets out of the bag, but it’s fun to talk about. I improvised organ over
the whole song before any of the other tracks were on there. I then built the song
54/Tape Op#126/Mr. Temple/
around that. There were these totally improvised organ lines that I re-learned on
guitar so that I could double it. I doubled those melodies so it would sound
composed. But it started with pure improv; something that would have taken forever
for me to sit and write. Some of it was more composed, but a lot of the rhythmic parts
were done completely randomly. I would build the song around that. Even if there’s
one element that’s random; that one wild card in there gives it that fresh air.
I look forward to going back and listening to the record with
our conversation in mind.
There’s another track, “Party Line,” which is a ballad. It was the first pass on the bass, and
I didn’t really understand the song. There were completely different chords underneath
it, and I was freestyling on the bass. There was a lot of dissonance, because I was hitting
all these wrong notes. It turned out that I enjoyed the bass part I did on its own, so I
got rid of the original chords and just used the bass line. I wrote everything around that
bass line, and the vocal. The whole song took a complete hard right turn based on a
mistake, and a new song emerged from it.
It sounds like the studio definitely influences your writing, as
opposed to you writing some songs sitting on your bed and
going to the studio to record them.
For this record for sure. But the solo record I put out before this, A Hand Through the
Cellar Door, those were songs that were totally written before we went into the
studio. They couldn’t really have been done any other way. I do both. Now I’m
actually getting back to the old way of trying to write good songs and record them.
But I want to bring in some of that random arrangement technique into it. I’m trying
to marry the two.

Part 2: Plays Well With Others


After Geoff did this interview Luke was in my studio, Panoramic House, a few
times, producing and engineering other artists, including Malcolm Perkins, Teeny
(TEEN, Nancy Feast), Scotty Fetzer, and Adrianne Lenker (of Big Thief). I recently

om
got a chance to sit down with him in his new home studio space in Inverness,
California, and ask him about working with other artists.-JB
What do you feel you bring to a session as a producer or .c
engineer?
I’m more in the producer role than an engineer. For example, Nigel Godrich is really an
engineer, and he also has really good suggestions in terms of how to deal with the
economics of songs. My strong suit is more of a musical contribution; being able to
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offer perspective to an artist. If something needs to be shook up and viewed from a
completely different angle, or if the artist is stuck on something, that’s the standard
ai

producer role – to give perspective. I think that’s my greatest strength. I’m really good
at thinking about things from completely different angles. I’m really good at not
being precious. I like to stay fresh in the process. I’m not best suited for someone
m

who comes in with very defined demos and wants to color by numbers, recreate
something they’ve already done, or wants to sound like somebody else. That’s not my
@g

best role. I like to use the studio as a tool.


When you were working with Adrianne Lenker and you had
Gabe Wax engineering, how did that dynamic work between
the three of you?
34

It was really pretty effortless. Before we started, Adrianne and I had some discussions
about the sort of sound that we wanted, which was a fully dimensional sound with
an acoustic guitar. Gabe intuitively set up some microphones to capture what I was
21

trying to express. He also had his own ideas. I think there’s a lot of blurry lines in the
studio when there’s a producer, an engineer, and an artist. Everyone’s trying to wear
all the hats, to some degree. With Adrianne, it’s pretty clear what’s going to convey
her music the strongest. It’s so clear how strong her work is. If you’re somewhat
ki

intelligent and sensitive, you’ll understand what needs to be done. It’s not something
you have to communicate with somebody else. Me and Gabe were naturally on the
same page about that with her.
ti

Did that record stay pretty stripped-down?


No, we did some subtle overdubs. Some of the coolest were some synth overdubs with
her playing. She’s not really that familiar with keyboard instruments, let alone a synth.
She was playing your [Sequential Circuits] Prophet 600, noodling around, and we were
spinning the knobs. She was going on instinct. We did a bunch of different playlists
of her noodling; then we’d edit it together to create this ethereal synth track that
Mr. Temple/(continued on page 56)/Tape Op#126/55
almost sounds like the overtones that the acoustic guitar was generating. It was cool
that she played that and didn’t really know what she was doing. Gabe and I were
trying as well, but it wasn’t really working. It needed that more instinctual touch to
happen.
Did you end up with drums or bass on any tracks?
There’s bass on one track, and there’s some hand drums on a track. We did some muted
conga. Then there’s an arpeggio that we have on one song.
Did you end up playing on the record at all?
I played some bass, some piano, the hand drums, and I think I played some synth.
Is it typical when you’re working as a producer to also end up
playing a bit on peoples’ records?
Yeah, if they want me to play on it.
You did all the engineering yourself on your sessions with
Teeny and Scotty. But with Malcolm Perkins’ and
Adrienne’s sessions, you brought in an engineer. How do
you decide if you’re going to engineer it yourself or bring
in another engineer?
I think if there’s a budget to have an engineer, I’d rather have an engineer.
It’s really more financial than anything else?
I guess so. I can engineer fine, but having to hold all of that information in my head
when I’m engineering is something that I’d rather not have to deal with when
producing.
Are you more comfortable letting someone else engineer?
Yeah, if it’s someone that I’m comfortable with. I would love to work with Gabe on
every project, because I know him so well and he knows me. We have this simpatico
with each other. Engineers aren’t just engineers; they bring their whole person into
a project. They’ll have their intuitive, instinctual ideas. It doesn’t always work. I
would rather do it myself if I’m not sure about an engineer. But if it’s recording a
band and there are a lot of inputs, it starts to get too much to have to think about

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both at once.
Do you ever find yourself wanting to push the engineer out of
the way and do it yourself?
I don’t really typically feel like I need to do that with Gabe. I’ve had that experience
.c
before with other engineers. But also, I try to stay open. I have ideas about how
I like everything to sound, but I don’t think it’s that complicated. I don’t think
you need to try to troubleshoot forever to get the perfect sound. I like to move
l
quickly. If someone’s being too fussy, and the flow is stilted because of that, then
I’ll butt in. But with Gabe, he works so fast and he’s right on that same page, so
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it’s no problem. r
<feynart@gmail.com>
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Luke’s home studio


in Inverness, CA
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56/Tape Op#126/Mr. Temple/(Fin.)


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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#126/57


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Finding Analog in the Digital with Yo La Tengo


by Bren Davies, photo by Brian T. Silak
Photographer Brian T. Silak and I met Some things that you hadn’t necessarily So it evolved over time, from a writing
up with indie rock legends Yo La Tengo intended to release, but were just approach to a recording approach.
at the SOHO Manhattan offices of Matador documenting for songwriting IK: The songs were definitely recorded before they
Records. We discussed the evolution of the band’s purposes, as well as to keep track of – were written.
songwriting and recording process throughout the later on you decided to release them How much of the sonic cohesiveness
course of their 30-plus year career, culminating on the Genius + Love collection? over the course of any one of your
in the lush soundscape of their 15th album, and IK:. We did more of it as time went on. Fade [13th albums is a reflection of this process
newest release, There’s a Riot Going On. It was an album] was the biggest change. that we’ve been discussing?
interesting conversation, and I may have gotten Ira GH: Once we moved out of Jersey City, things were set GH: It probably has a lot to do with personality and
Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew [Tape up a little differently. taste. It’s also how we play, which has evolved over
Op #8] to open up about a few things. IK [to James]: You were already doing Dump on time as well. I don’t know that there’s a straight-up
computer prior to doing our soundtrack? answer to that, because you’re talking about a pretty
Let’s talk about your recording process, JM: True. long period of time. Certainly, and this is kind of to
and how it has evolved over the years. IK: Had you recorded Yo La Tengo on a computer before the side of what you brought up, but I think that
JM [to Ira and Georgia]: Where did you make that we did film projects? [choosing the order of the songs] has always been a
first single? JM: I don’t think so. We had done little project-y things key part of making a record. I love doing it.
GH: Water Music [in Hoboken, NJ]. here and there, but nothing official. There were little Is that something you’ve personally
IK: With the first single [“The River of Water”], the first spec things that never came out. I started on Cool Edit taken a strong role in?
album [Ride the Tiger], and the second album [New Pro, kind of a Playskool version of Pro Tools. We gave up GH: I have on a bunch of our records. I’ve never done
Wave Hot Dogs], I think we just went to studios and and started using Pro Tools in 2003 or 2004. We bought all of it by myself, but I know that on past records I
recorded. We had never made a demo before, or a Digi 002 and hauled it over to the practice space. would come up with an idea and then people would
anything like that. The first time we ever made demos, I want to talk about the collaborative have an opinion. Then it would change. This time, I
in any fashion, were the songs on President Yo La Tengo group writing process that evolved think it was more [of a group decision], but I know
[third album]. Our pal, Tara [Key] from Antietam, came out of your rehearsals – as opposed to there were specific [choices that I made]. But we’d
over with a state of the art Tascam 4-track cassette one band member crafting some work on it together and get it to where we think it
recorder and recorded us. Sadly, nobody can find that lyrics with a structure. How has this works as a piece.
recording – I wish we had it. But things have really approach to group songwriting IK: I don’t think we’re aware that what we’re working on
evolved, like so many things about our band, thanks to affected your recording process? is, or is not, cohesive or has a mood that runs through
James. As you can tell by the Dump discography GH: It’s been moving in that direction for a while. what we’re doing. We’re not listening to individual

om
[James’s own recordings, outside of his work with YLT], Certainly with Fade, James was doing a lot of songs with that in mind. I think that we’re just
he’s the most prolific recorder of the three of us. That recording of songs that we ended up augmenting and confident that when we’re done mixing, we’ll find a
kind of focus on rehearsal recordings; more and more using when we made the record with John McEntire sequence in which some or all of the songs will hold
of that happened [after James joined]. Then our friend, [Tape Op #23]. I think we also released at least one together in a way that is meaningful to us. The fact
Fred Brockman, ended up sharing a Hoboken [New
.c
song that was just a straight-up version of one of that the records have individual and distinct
Jersey] rehearsal space with us. He put in an 8-track James’s recordings. We had done things like that personalities is not surprising, but I don’t think it’s
studio when we were there, and we split time. He before, but that album cemented that way of working been the plan.
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recorded a bunch of demos for us – by far the most for us. We did some movie soundtracks, and that It just happened as a result of three
evolved demos we’d ever done, for Painful [6th album]. would be another thing that helped us focus. At some musicians getting together and
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Some of them ended up on Genius + Love. point we started doing certain pieces on a grid almost creating something at a certain
JM: “Nutricia” I think ended up on the [From a] Motel – so that we could throw anything in there and it moment in time?
6 single. would be in time. IK: Yeah. There are things that we can be really
IK: Oh, Fred recorded that? I don’t remember. Fred also did That’s definitely a different approach to enthusiastic about and then at a certain point
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the first session with Jad Fair that became Strange But composition. completely lose interest in, or feel like we have to go
@g

True. That session had a huge impact on our JM: Oh, yeah. back to the beginning. Then there are other ones
songwriting. We made up songs on the spot for Jad to IK: I can’t remember the last time we used a format other where we just completely forgot about something.
sing along with. We enjoyed that so much that we just than the computer for recording. We used the MiniDisc Especially with this record, when we could pick the
kept doing it, which put even more emphasis on for quick recordings, “Okay, that sounds good. Let’s smallest element of a recording and repurpose it. In
34

documenting the things we were making up at practice; throw it on the MiniDisc.” But, at a certain point, James that sense, it wasn’t like, “This would make a great
and also because things were happening only once. got nimble enough that he’d throw up two microphones song.” It was more like, “This will make the basis of
JM: That’s when we really started recording our and make a stereo recording. Not every computer something we’d like to work on for the next week.”
21

practices, or at least being ready to record a rough recording that we have is multitrack. We ended up JM: It was super fun to take time to make mistakes and
version of practice, whether it was on a boombox or having this stockpile of all sorts of different types of have accidental discoveries; when we were going for
a recorder. As time went on we graduated from the things on the computer. I think that the more we had one thing and missing it but finding something else.
boombox to a MiniDisc player. Here and there we on the computer, the more we got used to working with Then one day we’d be thinking, “You know that one
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found opportunities to put out some of those, like [a it. There would be days every couple of months when guitar part? Let’s just start a new session, mute
cover of The Ramones’] “Blitzkrieg Bop.” That’s just a we’d try to remind ourselves what all of these files were. everything else, and hear that guitar part.” Or taking
rehearsal recording that we made. I think that became a whole way of thinking and a backing vocal track and building something out of
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IK: That was a 4-track cassette recording. Or 3-track! working, as well as seeing what we could do with those just that – eliminating the middleman of finding a
“Surfin’ With The Shah,” “Gooseneck Problem,” were recordings, rather than it being “the song” coming out remixer, and instead doing it ourselves.
some of the other things from that day. of us playing together. On [There’s a Riot Going On] When I was listening to your
JM: Then later it was “Blue/Green Arrow,” as well as the maybe 14 of the 15 songs came out of listening to a discography, I was struck by some very
Earworm [Records] and Planet [Records] singles. recording and figuring out how we could work with it to specific production decisions that
Some of the Planet stuff is live. build a song. were made along the way. Certain
Yo La Tengo/(continued on page 60)/Tape Op#126/59
songs evoked late ‘50s, early ‘60s, and other time periods
and styles. How many of those “vintage” flavors were
thought out in advance? The Ace Tone organ, for example,
has a certain “retro” sound.
GH: The Ace Tone was maybe the first organ we had. I think it almost became part of
the band, because you heard it on so many of the records.
JM: We devised ways to play it while playing another instrument at the same time, so
it was kind of a non-human member of the band. We could duct tape a few keys
down, and then turn it on and off when we felt like it.
GH: When we’ve been in studios and had access to gear we don’t own, we
definitely made the most of it. “Hey, we should use that thing that weighs two
million pounds.”
IK: Definitely. The vibes at Alex the Great [Studios, Nashville], for example.
GH: The [Hammond] B3.
IK: As far as evoking certain genres or styles, that depends on the song. There are
times when we have specifically tried to do it, and other times when it’s accidental,
or we [even] tried not to.
Your music strikes me as lush and spacious. Who are some of
your musical influences?
GH: That’s tough. I think it probably goes without saying that all three of us love a
lot of different kinds of music. Over time you’ll discover something that may have
been around for 50 or 60 years, but you only heard it recently.
IK: I think the “influence question”…well, I’ve run away from it before. I feel like
everything influences. The way that it’s generally used is to ask, “What are your
favorite things?” But you can be just as inspired to not do something by something
that you encounter. Maybe it doesn’t ring true to you. It’s not necessarily bad. Of
course, I feel like there are influences that are inspiring.
Fans and critics alike have taken a lot of time to surmise
about your influences.

om
GH: I’ll do that when I see bands. Like, “Oh, this little thing reminds me of this band,
and this little thing reminds me of that.”
IK: On the current record, the shoo-wops on “Forever” are unmistakably us
imitating “I Only Have Eyes For You.” I love that song, but I don’t think The
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Flamingos loom particularly large in any of our lives. But there was just
something in that moment where this collective memory... Rather than do
something like it, we did something...
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That was it.
IK: Yeah. It just felt right, in the moment, but I don’t think it was a reflection of the
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influence doo-wop has had on the band.


I’ve heard Ira discuss that when you’re recording an album,
you give everything of yourself creatively, and when you’re
done there’s this moment when you wonder whether it’s
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possible to make another album again. But then time


@g

passes, and once again there’s some sort of pull to create a


new record.
JM: I feel like we do, unconsciously, have some kind of internal clock where it just
feels like, “Yeah.” It’s a cycle of write, record, and tour – and then I guess it’s time
34

to write some songs again. We don’t really stockpile stuff, like write a hundred songs
and keep culling them. We empty it out each cycle, for the most part.
GH: And it’s of a time. Even if pieces are old, we still feel like this is what we did during
21

this particular period of time. Who knows what the next one will be like?
How did not having an outside producer manifest itself in the
music on There’s a Riot Going On?
IK: I would say that a difference between Roger [Moutenot, Tape Op #20] and John
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McEntire, who produced Fade, is that Roger was interested in expressing his opinion,
while John was very reluctant to do so. A lot of the dynamic with Roger was that if
there was disagreement within the band, Roger was very interested in saying where
ti

either he thought one person’s opinion was right, or what combination worked, and
how we should go about resolving a conflict. John was more like, “Let me know
when you guys have decided.” I think working with him definitely led to us doing
this record ourselves. We got much more adept at establishing consensus, rather
than staying heightened where it’s like, “I want to try it this way,” “I want to try it
that way” or, “Maybe we’ll do it both ways.” Instead, we just worked. I think we’ve
60/Tape Op#126/Yo La Tengo/ always worked together pretty well.
GH: I think things became more efficient in our communication with each other,
and with what we collectively wanted to do. I think it was sort of obvious. We
enjoyed doing it ourselves, and James has continued learning more and more
about recording.
IK: It also wasn’t the plan. I think everyone enjoys having the input. Mixing [There’s
a Riot Going On] with John was fantastic. It wasn’t like we thought, “Okay, we’re
ready to do this ourselves.” It was more a function of we were working [that way]
for a long time without even realizing. I think, at a point, we still thought we were
going to go – whether it was John or someone else – to someone’s studio with what
we’d been working on and make a record. Somewhere along the line we figured out
that not only could we do it ourselves, but we were already a third of the way done.
JM: It was a slow revelation. [It started with] “Are we playing music in front of
people?” That’s crazy! I never thought I could do that! [And then it was] “Are we
writing songs?” That’s unheard of! [And then] “Are we self-engineering a record?”
That’s impossible! That’s crazy!
It was a logical step along the evolution of the band.
JM: It was a really awesome feeling. And now, 30-some years on…
IK: I don’t think there’s any feeling like, “We’ll never work with someone else again.
This is now what we do.” It’s just what we did.
You’ve made some very interesting production decisions over
the years. I heard an interview where Ira talked about the
use of heavily-processed toilet flushing and air
conditioner banging in one of your songs, “Big Day
Coming.”
IK: Yes. That toilet, that was Roger’s idea – I’m almost 100 percent sure.
JM: Oh, yeah. The toilet and the Eventide Harmonizer.
IK: We wanted to record singing in the bathroom.
Because of the tiles and natural reverberation?
IK: Yeah. But because the lyrics were written late, we needed lyric sheets. The

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fluorescent light in the bathroom was humming and creating a problem.
Roger’s solution was to take the hum and process it. Once that was done, we
added the toilet.
GH: We recorded in the bathroom on Fade a couple of times. We did some .c
vocals in there.
JM: That’s true. Drums too.
Since you had so much freedom at your rehearsal space
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during the process of recording this new album, are there
any similar creative production techniques that you used?
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JM: The air conditioner was left on the cutting room floor this time, sorry to say.
IK: That’ll be a bonus track, at some point. There was a guitar solo that we recorded
on this record where we used multiple microphones. One of them was a microphone
built by our guitar tech, who’s also a really great solo and group musician on his
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own, Kevin Micka. He has a group called Animal Hospital. He built us a contact
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microphone inside a Twinings tea box; a little aluminum box with a quarter-inch
jack. We actually took the box and duct taped it to an amplifier. It sounded like the
end of the world. That was a lot of fun.
That made it onto one of the tracks on your album?
34

JM: Sure did.


Can you tell us which one, or do we have to figure it out?
JM: I think you can figure it out.
21

IK: One of the songs starts with a soundcheck. We were sitting on stage waiting to
play, and Georgia started playing a drum beat. I was sitting at a keyboard and just
starting playing along with her. James took out his iPhone and recorded 30 seconds.
We ended up looping it, and built a whole song around it.
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Were there any times when making a decision was more


challenging, when there was an impasse compared to what
might have happened on previous albums with an
external producer?
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GH: We hit some snags, but you get through.


JM: There was a lot of tech stuff that happened while we were recording. I had to
make crazy gain structure decisions based on, “Okay, we need this now!” Trying to
find solutions to problems. Then there were the very humbling moments of taking
the sessions to John and having him redo some of my gain structures.
Yo La Tengo/(continued on page 62)/Tape Op#126/61
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IK: It’s funny that you say humbling. My recollection
of it is different. In one of those cases where John
GH: It didn’t have the same feeling.
Given that this band has operated on
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took something that we had done “wrong” and the fringes of the music business
made it right, it didn’t sound as good anymore. One and created a successful model over
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of the reasons we avoided demos for so many years the years, how have recent changes
in the music business affected Yo La
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is the amount of time that you can spend chasing


the rough mix or demo. It’s like, “Why do I like our Tengo?
old version better?” He finally went back to the JM [laughing]: Oh, I’m afraid we’re out of time!
wrong gain structure, and I was like, “Yeah, that’s GH: The fringe still stays the same.
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what we like.” That’s what we ended up using. IK: We could rage against downloading. We could
Digital recording, as far as I understand, is not rage against streaming and all of those things.
@g

supposed to work that way. That sounds like You’re not going to change it, so you may as well
analog, when you oversaturate. Somehow we just do what you do. I think the three of us have
managed to find analog in the digital. loved working together for a long time – in a lot of
34

JM: We broke it! A lot of the songs that got recorded ways even more so now than we used to. A lot of
were really spontaneous. A lot of it was happening that is just us trying our best to ignore what’s
for the first time, unrehearsed, and just naturally going on around us. r
being played. A lot of our technical decisions
21

<www.yolatengo.com>
followed that emotionally, and we preserved the
feeling of spontaneous discovery – on every level. Bren Davies is a singer and beef jerky maker in the midst
GH: Even with Roger, he was great. He went along of a personal reinvention in Brooklyn, NY. This is his
tenth piece for Tape Op. <www.brendandavies.com>
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with a lot that was not “done the right way.”


There’s one instance where I was playing Brian T. Silak is a professional photographer in NYC. He
something and working it out while the tape was shoots for billion dollar companies and Tape Op. He and
running. I hadn’t really figured out what I was Brendan have knife fights every Tuesday.
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going to do yet. We all liked it so much better. He <www.briansilak.com>


hadn’t mic’d things up the way he planned to, but
we decided to go with it anyway.
IK: Well, Georgia tried to turn it into a part and make
it better, but it just didn’t…

62/Tape Op#126/Yo La Tengo/(Fin.)


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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#126/63


Distressor sound and its dynamics controls so closely that I
was able to get a vocal running simultaneously through the Sphere Recording
plug-in and the hardware, with both set to identical Consoles
parameters, to null at almost 60 dB while using the Fab Four 4-channel mic preamp
Distressor’s vaunted Opto mode, at a 10:1 ratio, with the Sphere Recording Consoles may not be the most recognized
slowest attack, and fastest release settings – this just seems name in pro audio, but to those in the know, Sphere
to park a vocal in the perfect place for me. Snare drums and represents the holy grail of mixing consoles. [See Wally
bass guitar fared similarly. For a non-linear process like Wilson’s article on Sphere Electronics this issue.] Sphere
compression, the Distressor’s results are impressive. For my Recording consoles emerged in the late 1960’s as an
use, I have no issue choosing the plug-in over the Distressor outgrowth of the legendary Electrodyne and Quad Eight
hardware as I feel like I’m getting the same thing. During console manufacturers, whose designers and contributors
ABX testing (a method of comparing two choices of sensory include Dean Jensen, Ed Reichenbach, Jim Hall, Chuck
stimuli to identify detectable differences between them) I Broneer, and Don McLaughlin. Electrodyne and Quad Eight
found myself preferring the hardware and plug-in equally – consoles grew out of the audio technologies developed for the

Universal Audio the UA folks really have nailed this emulation!


The downside for me is that I own Apogee Symphony I/O
U.S. motion picture industry of the 1940s, and Electrodyne
may be credited with designing the standard console channel
Empirical Labs MkII [Tape Op #118] converters. Universal Audio converters strip layout, combining a preamp section, equalizer, and
EL8 Distressor plug-in are required for recording with UAD plug-ins. If I could, I output routing section. Quad Eight sold modified and
In the “modern recording era” (let’s say 1950 until would have no qualms about tracking and printing with the rebranded Electrodyne consoles, and eventually those designs
present), there are a few compressors that can easily be Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor plug-in just as I would with were transferred to a new company called Sphere. Sphere
called Classic with a capital “C”. You know, the ones by the hardware in the racks. If you want the nearest thing to Electronics created a new line of consoles that utilized
Fairchild, Teletronix, UREI, dbx, Gates, ADR and perhaps SSL? the actual Empirical Labs Distressor while working in the updated Jim Hall op-amps and Reichenbach transformers for
These compressors have helped define much of what we think box, I highly recommend Universal Audio’s Empirical Labs improved preamp and equalizer performance.
of as “recorded sound” in many genres, and I’d wager that EL8 Distressor plug-in. ($199 street; uaudio.com) During the 1970s, Sphere manufactured over 50 custom
many of the records we all regard as timeless would sound -Don Gunn <www.dongunn.com> mixing consoles for many top studios, musicians, and even the
very different without them. White House. Perhaps 25 complete Sphere consoles remain in
In the mid ‘90s, Dave Derr [Tape Op #33] began tinkering Alan Parsons’ ASSR use in recording studios throughout Nashville, Memphis, and
with a new compressor model after leaving Eventide, and Session Files Vol 1 around the world. The unique Sphere 910 and 920 paragraphic
from this experimentation was born the Empirical Labs EL8 Alan Parsons’ Art & Science of Sound Recording (ASSR) equalizer modules have become highly sought after by both
Distressor, offering a “modern/classic” style of compression encompasses an array of audio recording educational tools mastering and mixing engineers. Users of the Sphere consoles

om
– if ever there was one. Neither optical nor FET, the all- and events built around Alan’s [Tape Op #42] studio mastery say the consoles rival the Neve 8068 in sound, and fall
analog signal path with two modes of distortion plus and patient explanations of the process. Previous products somewhere between the warmth and sweetness of the Neve
characteristics of many of the usual compression suspects have included Art & Science of Sound Recording - The Book and the clarity of an API. Electrodyne, Quad Eight, and Sphere
we see in nearly every commercial studio made the EL8 [#82], ten hours of ASSR videos, and related, in-person
.c defined the layout, operation, and electronics of the classic
Distressor almost instantly ubiquitous upon its release. Master Class Training Sessions with Alan. With Session Files recording console.
Almost 30,000 hardware units later, Universal Audio has Vol 1, we get access to ten actual Pro Tools sessions of songs Sphere, now based in Nashville and owned by Duncan Rowe
teamed up with Empirical Labs to faithfully model the EL8 Alan has recorded, produced, and mixed. All the raw audio is (former Primal Gear owner), has recently started
Distressor for the UAD platform. recorded at 24-bit 88.2 kHz, is continuous, and files can be manufacturing new preamps based on the original-spec Jim
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The UA boffins have done a full component model of the imported to any DAW. Sessions include a track sheet with Hall op-amps and Reichenbach transformers. These mic pres
Distressor circuit in all eight ratios of the stock EL-8 are available as a 4-channel, one rack-space unit and a single
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Alan’s notes on mics used, EQ performed, and his thoughts.


hardware, plus the multiple distortion modes and filters in Each also has a folder full of photos showing the session in channel 500 Series module. The Fab Four is their single-rack-
the detector sidechain, and those in the audio path. Missing progress, with valuable mic placement and gear images. space, 4-channel preamp with a black faceplate and minimal
from the plug-in, and a feature that is only available on the Sessions were tracked at some of the fanciest studios in the controls for each channel. Each channel has a gain knob,
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EL-8X Distressor [Tape Op #32] version of the hardware, is the world, including Ocean Way Recording (now United switches for phantom power, polarity, and a -15 dB or -30 dB
Brit Mode switch; this is effectively Derr’s approximation of Recording Studios), The Village Studios, Studio at the Palms pad. The rear of the unit simply contains one XLR input and
@g

an 1176 style “all-buttons-in” mode (heavy limiting achieved (Las Vegas), and Abbey Road Studios, where Alan cut his one output for each channel, along with a standard IEC power
by engaging all four ratio switches simultaneously). I’ve only teeth on records with Pink Floyd and his legendary band, The connection. The Fab Four chassis has vents on the top of the
ever owned the stock EL-8 Distressor hardware, and even Alan Parsons Project. The players aren’t bad either, with chassis, indicating that it would probably be wise to leave
when tracking in other studios with EL-8X Distressors, I’ve Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips, Nathan East, and Rami Jaffee some space above it in a rack.
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never found myself using the Brit Mode (especially when making appearances, along with groups from Canada, Mexico, Duncan lent me the 4-channel Fab Four preamp for use
1176s are available for use), so this hardly makes the UAD and Belgium bringing some great music to the studio. during some of my sessions so that I could check out the
version any less useful to me. Like the EL-8 Distressor What may be humbling to some is how close the raw tracks Sphere sound. I was fortunate enough to have the preamp for
hardware, a Nuke function for brick-wall limiting is offered in use while producing a Latin jazz record for the Rhymoi Music
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resemble the final mix. Choices have been made while


UAD’s version, which is close enough to an over-the-top tracking, and unlike some modern-day sessions chock full of label, and was able to put the unit to work on a variety of
compression mode for my use. plug-ins and virtual instruments, this is old school tracking instruments. I recorded a lot of acoustic guitar with a variety
I’m a die-hard UAD plug-in junkie with a pair of Universal with brilliant intent. There is a lot to be learned by closely of microphones, including a pair of vintage Neumann U 67s,
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Audio Octo Thunderbolt Satellites attached to my Mac Pro, examining other engineer’s work in this way. Comparing one’s some Neumann KM 84s, and an Ehrlund EHR-E. I was able to
and I’ve had the UA Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor plug-in own tracking to others can either be reassuring or frustrating compare the Fab Four directly to NRG Recording’s Neve 1078
since its release. I sold my pair of hardware EL-8 Distressors – there’s always more to learn! Trying to match Alan’s mixes with 1073 modules, an API 1608 [Tape Op #81], and Focusrite
a few years ago as I’m working more and more in the is also a perfect challenge, and keeping dynamics open the ISA 215 preamps. On acoustic guitar, the Sphere preamps
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proverbial “box” while mixing, and I’ve been waiting for a way he prefers is a lesson unto itself. Session Files Vol 1 is an sounded wonderful – transparent and detailed, but still very
proper emulation ever since. For this review, I was able to excellent glimpse of a master at work and a perfect way to solid. The Neve sounded a bit denser than the Fab Four, maybe
borrow my friend, Jeremy Wurst’s <coyotefacerecording.com> learn the “Art & Science of Sound Recording.” even slightly compressed, while the API was a bit more
hardware EL-8X to test against UA’s plug-in. Let me just say ($99 per session; www.artandscienceofsound.com) -LC present but with a slight metallic resonance in the hi-mids.
that with the release of this plug-in, I’m happy to have the The Focusrite was even-toned but a bit less present than the
Distressor sound back in my life again! UA has nailed the others. Even with low output mics, like the Ehrlund EHR-E,
64/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/ and the gain cranked all the up way on the Fab Four, the tone
and low noise remained consistent – that is to say, the The Revision F really made the Martin a better version of
preamps are extremely well balanced at all gain levels. While Hairball Audio itself. The compressor really brought electric bass forward
my Chandler Little Devil [Tape Op #88] preamp, with its wide FET/RACK Revision F enough to cut on a rock track without coloring too much.
tonal range, has become my go-to preamp for acoustic DIY Kit compressor On electric guitars I found the Revision F to be less
guitars, I would easily put the Fab Four as a top consideration I have always looked at cost versus performance with gear, aggressive in comparison to a Rev A or D, while still
for acoustic guitar duties. and although I love the classics, I don’t always love the price imparting the classic fast FET compression that helped
On a drum kit, with a Royer SF-24 as a stereo room mic, tag. I enjoy DIY projects for several reasons; gaining a better them sit up front in the mix. Crushing drum overheads with
the Sphere preamps sounded powerful, solid, and very well understanding of how gear works; if it’s in need of repair, I “all buttons in” made me instantly want to build a second
balanced. The overall sound was about as real as you could can fix it myself; the cost is less expensive; and I enjoy the Revision F for this purpose specifically. With not as much
hope for. An API preamp may provide a bit more upper mid satisfaction of building it myself. I’m pretty good with pumping character compared to its 1176 counterparts, the
excitement, but the Sphere sounded very familiar and three directions and a soldering iron, however I am nowhere near Revision F still had it in spades.
dimensional. On female lead vocals, with a Klaus Heyne a qualified technician or electrical engineer. This review will The usual suspects are required for such a build: a
modified U 67, the Sphere sounded in-between the Neve be on the latest incarnation of 1176-style compressor kits by soldering iron, a digital multimeter, some wire cutters and
1073 and Focusrite ISA 215. The low end was smooth and Seattle based Hairball Audio, who offer DIY kits based on strippers, and soldering skills. Soldering is an essential skill
clear, like the ISA, and top end was a slightly smoothed as Universal Audio’s 1176 (Rev A, Rev D, and now F) alongside to have, and after watching the instructional video provided
on the 1073. The 1073 perhaps had a bit more high sheen several 500 Series mic preamps. in the kit’s directions I’ve definitely learned a few things.
but lost a little low-end focus. I find with ISA preamps that The Universal Audio Rev F FET compressor, released in To be fair, this is an intermediate build. If this sounds
vocals often need a slight boost around 10 or 11 kHz, but 1973, utilized a Class AB output amplifier based on the daunting to you, there are smaller DIY projects available
I didn’t feel that was the case with the Fab Four. The vocal 1109 amplifier, with the same output transformer that was that will boost your confidence.
sound of the Fab Four reminded me of the GML 8300’s used in Universal Audio’s LA-3A compressor. At this point It’s a great time to be an engineer and musician, and there
character – thick, natural, and interesting. in the circuit’s history the low noise section had been are a lot of choices. For the price of this kit you could buy an
I never found a need for the -30 dB pad, even for drums, integrated into the circuit board, giving the Rev F the already finished clone from another manufacturer, but here’s
but that pad does open the opportunity to use the Fab Four lowest THD (total harmonic distortion) of the 1176 range. some reasons why you might opt to build a kit: (1) there are
as a line driver or makeup gain in an analog summing setup. Also, it should be noted that the Rev F’s VU meter was component options (which make a performance difference
A Shure Beta 52 on kick didn’t overload the preamp even changed to an op-amp design. beyond the expectations of a stock unit) – like the robust
without the -15 dB pad engaged. When using the Fab Four Unboxing the Revison F Kit, everything was clearly labeled power supply in the Hairball kit, (2) you’ll learn a lot (I am
after an A-Designs Audio REDDI [Tape Op #53] on bass, I and organized in individual packages for the different firm believer that I can get more of out my gear knowing
could actually open up the REDDI’s output a bit more than sections of the circuit. All instructions are online, broken what each section of the circuit is doing and, more
usual and still get clean gain through the Fab Four. I often down into stages of the build, accompanied by photos. importantly, why it functions), and (3) it sounds great! It
feel that the REDDI through most console preamps runs on Hairball has created an interactive build-map, which is really, really does. Hats off to Hairball Audio for putting out
the edge of overload, but the REDDI into the Fab Four another great kit! ($595 direct; hairballaudio.com)

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absolutely brilliant. This time saver allows you to check off
provided a solid and clean tone. what is already populated and highlights the component on -Kevin Friedrichsen <greyroom510.com>
The Sphere preamp certainly holds up alongside the classic the schematic. All components of the discrete audio path are
studio favorite preamps. In addition to the 4-channel Fab
Four, Sphere also produces a single channel Fab500 (a 500
high quality, with Bourns trimpots, Neutrik XLR connectors,
and film resistors. Taking the time to double-check
.c Furman
Series module with the same circuit and features as the Fab component values will save you in the long run. I cannot
M-8S rack-mount
Four). Also, Sphere is currently producing a 16-channel, all stress this enough, as two blue ceramic caps were swapped, power conditioner
discrete Eclipse Alpha 2 console. causing hours of frustration. I immediately went and bought Unlock the studio and walk in. Power up each rack, then
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($1899 street; sphererecordingconsoles.com) a magnifying glass. Yes, the print is really that tiny. Most of the console, then lean over the console to turn on each
-Adam Kagan <www.mixer.ninja> the really difficult portions of this build have been simplified. powered monitor. Be sure to do the monitors last or they go
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JST connectors are used (instead of having to wire pop and swearing ensues. Ten hours later, do the same list

A Spy in the House everything by hand), the Ed Anderson transformers are in reverse. I don’t mind most studio rituals, but I don’t like
this one. A few months ago I replaced one of my rack-
of Loud (book)
board-mounted, and the FETs are already matched. I split the
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build up over a few days, and throughout the build guide the mounted power strips with a Furman M-8S. It’s 1U chassis
Subtitled New York Songs and Stories, producer, musician, in-depth sections help further explain what’s going on in the with eight outlets on the back: two are always on and the
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songwriter, engineer, and occasional Tape Op contributor Chris compressor, which really helped with my understanding of other three pairs are sequenced – they power up in order,
Stamey details his youth in North Carolina and his adventures how this module works. If you get stuck during the build, with a few-seconds delay between each. A trim pot on the
in NYC of the late ‘70s. As a member of The dB’s, he co-wrote there are troubleshooting documents and forum threads back sets the delay interval, with values ranging from half a
and helmed their classic albums, Stands for deciBels and discussing build problems. Customer service is top notch – second to ten seconds. I run it at about four seconds. Now
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Repercussion, but more telling for us are the home recording owner Mike Mabie was quick in answering a ton of questions when I walk into the studio, I flip one switch and everything
scenarios and studio experiments and growth that Chris lets from me, and with troubleshooting the build. slowly turns on, in the right order – sorcery. Power-down
us into along the way. As a youth, Chris and Mitch Easter The finished project is housed true to 1176 form, with a goes in reverse order, which is exactly right. Bonus: when
[Tape Op #21] messed around with home recordings, some black 2U steel enclosure, authentic knobs, and Hairball’s own someone else uses my studio, the intro lecture just got
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even becoming releases. Later studio experiences thankfully twist; a red stripe with red off button. I dig it! What a nice shorter and simpler.
get covered in detail, and studio experimentation and differentiation from canned blackface revisions. After the The M-8S can handle 15 amps. That’s okay in my studio, and
philosophies are discussed. Chris is a thoughtful guy, and it’s calibration procedures, the Hairball’s first test was running all of my gear was on a single circuit anyway, so running
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a special treat to be let into his head and to watch his growth an analog drum sample pack I’m working on for everything off of a single master outlet is fine. If you have
as an artist and producer. Any (most?) of us who have made LP24audio.com with no compression. The Revison F has the more gear, or more circuits, you can connect multiple M-8S
the transition from musician to engineer to producer will Off setting which bypasses compression, and just gets the units in series or parallel and have them driven by a single
recognize this path, and Chris’ journey is unique; playing with vibe of the transformers. The Hairball imparted a bit of girth remote switch. There’s a 4-pin “remote” port on the back and
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Alex Chilton, running a small label, performing at CBGB, and to the low-mids, which added weight to the percussive a few dipswitches for configuring this. The manual clearly
travelling to the UK for sessions while watching the culture, sounds. Next up was tracking bass and acoustic guitar for describes these features and you can download it from the
and the world in NYC, change around him. A great, compelling the band Go By Ocean’s newest EP. On the Martin D-28 Furman website. This simple thing makes me happy every day.
read, with many candid photos and a wonderfully fascinating acoustic guitar we recorded, the Revision F offered a glossy, ($279 MSRP; www.furmanpower.com)
story – Chris Stamey proves he’s a great writer, along with hi-fi sound while still retaining the guitar’s original character. -Scott Evans <antisleep.com>
everything else he does so well. (utpress.utexas.edu) -LC
Gear Reviews/(continued on page 66)/Tape Op#126/65
Ableton
Live 10 Suite
Ableton once again delivers a compelling update to their Sixth, the new Drum Buss audio effect sounds flat-out rad.
always imaginative music creation software suite, Live. Version A catch-all rack, featuring compression, transient shaping,
10 feels like an addition of significant fit, finish, and refinement harmonic distortion/coloration options, and a tunable sub-
to what has become a game-changing DAW. Of course, Live isn’t bass emphasis tool, Drum Buss is an instant go-to for drum
just a DAW in the conventional sense; although it can be tracks and loops. Invariably, this rack found its way on to just
capably used to record audio and MIDI within (or outside of) a about every two-bus or drum subgroup I could drop it on –
linear timeline, Live excels at being a platform for musical such an easy way to add character and punch. The “Boom”
inspiration and idea generation. With the last two updates, in sub-bass emphasis offers a means to quickly tune a kick drum
particular, it seems as if Ableton has focused on expanding that to the key of a song: the frequency knob controls the impact
principle, while also building in workflow refinements that allow of the resonant low-pass filter and is measured in Hz, but the
users to complete and deliver on those inspired ideas. In other tuning display below that knob displays the corresponding
words, Live has always helped you start cool new ideas and now MIDI note value. The dedicated Bass meter helps to keep the
includes even more smart tools, better enabling you to finish Boom in check and is a nice visual if you’re, say, mixing away
those ideas as well. from your favorite subwoofers.
Although there are a ton of new features, in honor of the Seventh, Wavetable is a super deep (yet accessible) new
version number milestone, I’ll focus on ten key aspects that have virtual synth that allows for the creation of evolving
made the most significant improvements to my workflow (in no multitimbral textures, sound effects, ‘90s’ Toto-esque
particular order). The first is a simple one; the addition of “cheese,” ripping bass or lead instruments – it can do way
Collections to Live’s browser helps keep your favorite devices, more than we have space to cover in this review. With two
effects, .alc (Ableton Live clip) files – basically anything that is oscillators (plus a sub-oscillator), a gaggle of flexible
viewable within the browser – in a tidy, color-coded list that’s envelopes and LFOs, a clean and seemingly infinite
also accessible from Ableton’s Push [Tape Op #115, #97]. modulation matrix, and an entirely new expanded view that
Although not a comprehensive contextual tagging system (à la occupies the majority of Live’s window when toggled,
NI’s Komplete Kontrol [Tape Op #108]), the Collections “system” Wavetable begs for experimentation. While wavetable synths
significantly focuses workflow. Among other techniques, I use seem to have some harsh preconceptions around their
Collections to constrain my available selections to a particular set “digital” sound in some synth nerd circles (perhaps mainly
of instruments and effects when writing new music, which helps due to the prevalence of the Korg Wavestation sounds of the
to sharpen my attention and focus on the feel I want to obtain. ‘90s), this instrument brings wavetable synthesis into a

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Second, the addition of a super useful new feature called refreshing new context (kinda like Live’s Operator did for FM
Capture, which automatically grabs the last few measures of synthesis before it).
whatever you’ve played on your MIDI keyboard or controller,
.c Eighth is Echo. Live’s built-in delays always struck me as a
without having to press record. I can’t count how many times I’ve bit “vanilla” until paired or grouped with other devices. Echo
paused when playing something spontaneous or inspired to hit is the badass delay unit I didn’t realize I needed in Live, until
record, only to then lose the idea (or the motivation). Capture now. Echo has replaced just about every instance of the older
squashes that mental bug. Now if I’m playing along with an (included) ping-pong delay in my Live sets. To my ears, Echo
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existing session (or trying to start something new) and hit on has far more organic vibe and atmosphere than any of
something nice, I just press Capture after the fact and move on. Ableton’s previous included delay devices. It certainly has
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The third essential (if a bit “unsexy”) addition I find myself more options too, with the ability to clip input signals
using quite often, is the new ability to edit multiple MIDI clips (emulating analog delay behavior), and tons of modulation
simultaneously. With a quick shift-select of multiple clips, I and sound shaping opportunities – low CPU footprint too!
can see the piano rolls of each clip in an editor view that Ninth, improvements to the GUI bring a cleaner look to
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allows me to gain a more comprehensive understanding of Live overall, most notably on my Retina MacBook Pro. Every
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where my harmonic relationships are aligning or clashing – aspect of the interface looks sharper and easier to read, and
and it works in both the Session and Arrangement views. This there are fresh new skins to get your custom “look” on.
enhancement is yet another way that Ableton is making Tons of Arrangement view editing enhancements are
editing smarter – if I want to see the relationship between a another bonus.
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complex chord, a bass line, and the kick drum, I can shift- Tenth, but not least, are the multitude of improvements to
select the clips and adjust as needed or experiment to Ableton’s controller/instrument Push 2 [Tape Op #115],
satisfaction. including some incredibly helpful visualizations workflow
Fourth, you can finally assign custom names to your I/O in enhancements for EQ Eight, MIDI clips/notes, Compressor
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Live’s preferences. While this should have been implemented a (real-time gain reduction visuals!), as well as new sequencing
while ago (ahem), I’m glad it’s finally been added! I still wish and pad layouts. No joke: my Push 2 felt like a new
Live could read the Core Audio driver names from MacOS – but instrument after the update.
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hey, there’s always Live 11. Are we at ten highlights already? I didn’t even get to new
Fifth, again, not a super shiny feature, but the tweaks to the free Live Packs (or the clever new built-in “store-within-the-
Utility device are massive – the Bass Mono switch and frequency browser” for said Packs. As a Live user since version one in
selector help to keep mixes clean by converting the low the early 2000s, I’m particularly heartened by the last two
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frequencies in your mix to mono. When inserted on the master thoughtful and mature updates from Ableton. Not only is Live
bus, I found that having this option helped to clean up stereo here to stay, but it clearly keeps getting better with age.
imaging and added extra power to flabby mixes. It’s nice to be ($749 MSRP street, upgrade pricing from $229,
able to quickly solo just the bass elements in a given subgroup Free 30-day trial available; ableton.com)
or mix as well. -Dana Gumbiner <danagumbiner.com>

66/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 68)


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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#126/67


Bittree TnR Products
PS48DB25F 500 Series patchbay Booty Shakers
When looking for a new TT patchbay with DB25 connectors & Little Booty Shakers
to add to the several I already have, I needed options beyond The Booty Shakers and The Little Booty Shakers make up a
the typical offerings; something that was a step up in terms of family of incredibly simple drum isolation mounts. They have
quality and reliability. It also needed to be portable, with a been well designed by two guys in San Diego who refused to
solid build. A good patchbay is not cheap, and in my settle with drum tones. They do one thing, and they do it
experience you get what you pay for. well, which is to decouple your drums from the floor (or the
When I stumbled upon Bittree audio patchbays after a bit of stand they’re connected to), thereby preventing the larger
web surfing, I was intrigued. The term “military specs” gets mass from absorbing the energy of your drum while it
tossed about in the marketing pitches of some audio resonates. There are two products in the family. TnR’s Booty
manufacturers, but Bittree actually builds audio and video Shakers, which are designed for floor toms, is a set of three
patching systems for submarines and other military foam boots that you slip over the bottom of your tom stands.
communication applications, where equipment failure can have It’s dead simple and only takes seconds to install. I’ve tested
a much more consequential result than a misstep in the studio. it out with everything from vintage Gretsch and Ludwig kits
But don’t assume Bittree patchbays are designed by someone to more modern C&C or Yamaha kits with absolutely zero
with no sense of what working in a recording studio is like; very fitting or installation problems. The Little Booty Shakers set is
much the contrary. Bittree’s founder Glenn Gerrard entered the slightly more complicated; it’s designed for snare stands and
music business in 1968, building and maintaining speakers, has three tiny L shaped pieces of foam that attach to your
tape machines, and recording studios for Motown Records in drum stand with Velcro. Once attached, all that’s needed is to
Detroit. Gerrard moved to Hollywood in 1971, working for open the stand up slightly wider than before, set the snare or
Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. when the company relocated tom in, and you’re good to go. It was when I installed my
in 1972. He also worked for Merv Griffin’s Trans-American Video Little Booty Shakers to a tom mounted on a snare stand that
television studios starting in 1974, where the tedious process I noticed the biggest improvement. The snare stand was
of hand wiring patchbays into inflexible, hard-wired choking the tone of the drum, and once the Little Booty
architectures inspired him to develop better solutions. Shakers were in place, the drum opened up and matched the
One of his solutions got my attention. In addition to its floor tom. I record 90% of my drum tracks in a great sounding
build quality specs, the Bittree PS48DB25F patchbay is room in San Francisco, CA, and, when appropriate, I really
programmable from the front, by simply removing the scribble enjoy using minimal mic setups. The only way to achieve a
strips. This may not sound like a big deal, but being able to

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minimal mic setup is to make each drum in the kit sound its
access the normalizing and grounding functions from the best. It’s pretty hard to use drum replacement software if
front is a big deal, and makes life easier by not having to you’ve only got a single mono overhead mic! I would say the
crane your head around to the back of a gear rack to see what
.c Little Booty Shakers kit is a must have if you mount your rack
you are doing. toms with a snare-style drum stand. These mounts are so
This 48-channel unit sits perfectly on top of the classic API inexpensive, will last a really long time, and the difference in
6-slot 500 Series Lunchbox chassis. If you are not familiar with tone is immense! The floor tom version was great as well, but
patchbays, not sure if you need one, or just need to know how to my ears the improvement was much more subtle. In the
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to use them, there is a good article in Tape Op #29. All this talk rare section of a song where the guitars drop out and there’s
of patchbays being “normalled,” “half-normalled,” etc., can be a long, sustained floor tom, this helped achieve the ultimate
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confusing, but once you understand what it all means – and tone. Beware: if you like to mute your drums, or put a sheet
how it can greatly improve efficiency and flexibility for your over them when you play, then I doubt you’ll hear much
studio workflow – you will see the benefits and never look improvement from the Booty Shakers. However, if you like
back. The one aspect of this patchbay that can be elusive or
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your drums open – especially if you use a snare stand for your
nonexistent in many other products is the flexible grounding toms, these drum isolation mounts are more than worth the
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scheme for each jack. Each one can be set to bused, isolated, tiny investment.
or looped, and this awesome feature allows for the best (Booty Shaker $22.39 direct, Little Booty Shaker $15.39
grounding schemes according to the gear being used. direct; tnrproducts.com) -Scott McDowell <fadersolo.com>
A patchbay doesn’t (and shouldn’t) sound like anything. It
Antares
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must pass clean signal with solid connections, while remaining


free of hum, crackles, or noise. After using the Bittree Auto-Tune Pro plug-in
PS48DB25F for several months I have had zero issues, and it I didn’t realize Auto-Tune was 20 years old this year, and
passes the “sounds like nothing” test with flying colors. I’m sort of in shock. I remember renting the ATR-1 hardware
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Connections are solid. Not overly tight, but firm. I have it un- version from a local studio back then and trying to tune some
racked for ease of use when traveling, but an optional rack- poorly pitched slide and violin by processing back to open
mount kit is available. Build quality, easy access to the tracks on 2-inch tape. It might not have worked well
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normalizing scheme from the front panel, and an attractive (dreadful performances), but it did get the tracks closer to
price makes this a no brainer purchase for a first patchbay or the proper pitch. Since then Auto-Tune has become an
addition to a pro setup. The biggest compliment I can pay the industry standard – even non-studio geeks know its name –
ProStudio PS48DB25F 500 Series patchbay is that I haven’t had despite some healthy competition from Celemony’s Melodyne
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to think about it since it showed up and was put into service. [Tape Op #84], Waves’ Tune [#54], Serato’s Pitch ‘N Time
It just works flawlessly, delivering clean signal and flexible [#83], Synchro Arts’ Revoice Pro, and others. I will admit that
routing options every day without one hiccup. Perfect. I am not a power user of any tuning software, and I use Auto-
($630 list; bittree.com) -GS Tune so infrequently that I never have fully learned any of the
ins and outs or details. In fact, I only now learned how to use

68/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/


Focal
Shape Twin active monitors
the Graph mode for this review (hey, it’s cool), as previously I Monitors of all shapes and sizes have always seemed like an
would open it up and sit there staring at the graph window extension of the stereo speakers I saved up my paper route
utterly confused. In the studio I’d rather ask for new passes money to buy when I was a kid. Over time they got better,
of a vocal than to tune any, and luckily a lot of my sessions clearer, definitely more expensive (ouch), and I learned what I
are ones I’m producing where I can work this way. But when needed from them to work and mix. Fundamentally just boxes
I have used Auto-Tune in the past, it’s been to simply process that resonated well around the reproduction of music, any
and fix single notes that were rubbing or sticking out of a mix oddness they had or created by coupling to the room could be
in a bad way, and I’ve always double checked that there were learned and compensated for. I figured out what the monitors
no odd glitches or issues with crossfades (the dreaded did well, what they didn’t, and how to get my work done. But
“thump”). But I’ve never used Auto-Tune as a plug-in running what I never realized was how much of a presence speaker/room
on an entire vocal track, since I don’t trust any tuning interaction accounted for when listening. It’s been such a
software to make the right choice every time, nor do I see a constant that I never imagined a world where I felt free of it.
musical reason to blindly tune every note! So, for me to be I got to spend a couple of months with the Focal Shape Twin
the reviewer of the new Auto-Tune Pro might seem like a active near-field monitors, and my experience has been
mistake, but I think that many engineers and musicians are wonderful. These monitors seem to disappear in a way that
working in a similar, simple way like mine, and that power I’ve not quite experienced before. There’s far less room
users are a rarer breed than one may think. interaction than any monitors I’ve ever used. They’re
First impressions? The opening GUI of Auto Mode is a lot extremely clear, but not clinical, and speaking in hyperbole,
cleaner, simpler, and nicer than the cluttered and sterile- there seems to be just the sound itself. I love these monitors,
looking Evo version I’d purchased previously. A new feature is and I’ve found them to be true while providing great mix
this initial Basic View and a button that unlocks the Advanced translation and being easy to work on.
View, with MIDI tools, scale editing, vibrato features, and a lot A 2.5-inch high frequency driver (equally aligned for both
more controls. In the middle of a session I first opened up horizontal and vertical placement) system gets a lot of monitor
Auto-Tune Pro in the default setting, set Flex-Tune and into a small space. The Shape Twin is made of curved MDF wood,
Humanize to 12 o’clock, and processed some flat vocal notes covered in a dark walnut veneer. With included adjustable
for a mix I was working on (that I hadn’t tracked). Compared decoupling spikes, and a small footprint of about 18-inches tall,
to Evo, I felt that the immediate results were less artificial 9-inches wide and about 1 foot deep, these are not huge
sounding, and more natural. As with any technology like this, monitors by any stretch. Featuring two 8-inch passive radiators

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it seems as the years go by the sound quality is better and the on each side and two 5-inch Flax cones arranged around a
software reacts more intuitively for the user. I like this, as it concave aluminum-magnesium tweeter, the earth tones all
reflects how I work and what I need. I performed more vocal around would easily blend into the background of a period ‘70s
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tuning stunts after this, and even pushed Auto-Tune Pro hard movie. They’re also not really that heavy, which honestly is
a few times to see what would break, and I was happier with wonderful. It’s not that I move monitors around all the time
better, more usable, and natural results than in the past. (like the daily swapping at some studios), but when you dread
I’m not gonna mess with this next feature, but many Auto- having to move them at all because they’re difficult to
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Tune Pro parameters can be accessed in real time via a MIDI maneuver, that’s just not good.
controller. I can see some hot shots getting pretty creative Featuring one 50 watt and two 80 watt class AB internal
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with this, in either overtly weird or subtle ways. Antares also amps, the lower speaker takes care of frequencies between 40
added a Classic mode for the “Auto-Tune 5 sound.” Oh boy, and 180 Hz, while the top goes from 40 Hz to 2.5 kHz. Made of
yeah – it glitches in that certain way. I tried it out and ran a new material for Focal, the cones are a rigid sandwich, layers
screaming from the room, but for others this might be their of flax in between glass fibers, making for a focused and clear
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retro-nirvana processing moment. There is also a new bass/low midrange reproduction. TMD surround rings around the
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automatic key and scale detection via the Auto-Key plug-in, drivers – what Focal calls “suspended harmonic absorbers” –
which will listen and give you the key a piece is in; a great help further minimize distortion in critical midrange
boon to some of us who are as musically ignorant (intuitive?) frequencies. The inverted M-shaped dome tweeter used in the
as myself. Though Auto-Tune Pro operates in sessions with Shape Twin is a newly updated Focal design. The dome’s new
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sample rates up to 192 kHz, audio is still down-sampled while shape has improved rigidity, and thanks to an optimized voice
running higher resolutions (48 kHz for 192 or 96 kHz, and coil paired with the suspension system found in Focal’s SM6 and
44.1 kHz for 176 or 88.2 kHz), and then up-sampled after SM9 [Tape Op #108] designs, the Shape Twins offers even lower
processing. Antares has informed us that they have plans to distortion (sense a theme here?), with the added bonus of a
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rebuild the DSP to process at higher sample rates, but given larger sweet spot. I can attest that the imaging is vibrant and
this admission I wonder how much DSP architecture is really easy to work with. I could make accurate and subtle decisions
new within Auto-Tune Pro. on placement even when working further back in the studio,
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I never thought I’d write an Auto-Tune review ever, but away from the central listening position.
here it is. If you need it, or your clients demand it, you will The passive radiators on the side extend the low-end, and
probably buy it. I think it’s gotten better sounding and they sound clearer than ported systems I’ve used. I think this is
easier to use, which makes me less tentative about using it one of the major contributing factors to the Shape Twin’s clarity
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on sessions. That’s a good thing. in my room. Sub bass synths and deep kick drums just translate
($399, $129 for most upgrades; www.antarestech.com) -LC better with the Shape Twins, which may be their most killer
feature. I barely ever had to use a sub to get really low detail.
With previous monitors, I always felt like I could dial low-end
elements that I knew would feel musical and have the right vibe

Gear Reviews/(continued on page 70)/Tape Op#126/69


but had been surprised how their relationships would
Gear Geeking w/ Andy… change in the outside world. They’d work, just not BandLab Technologies
While attending the Summer NAMM Show, I ran into several
always exactly how I expected. Low-end translation on Cakewalk by Bandlab
friends who thought I had left Tape Op completely. I apologize The reports of the death of the PC/Windows DAW Cakewalk were
the Shape Twins came across extremely stable in the
if my “Gear Geeking” column in the previous issue wasn’t clear greatly exaggerated. With tens of thousands of users, many willing
outside world with no surprises over a number of
in explaining that I’m sticking around as Gear Geek at Large to pony up a hundred dollars plus every year for updates, and various
playback systems. That alone sold me on their
(while Scott has taken over the role of Gear Reviews Editor). top-notch virtual synths, plug-ins, etc. sold separately, Cakewalk (the
usability. Plus, the clear midrange detail allowed for
These friends also mentioned that they really enjoyed reading company) had value – I just wondered who would bite. No need to
matched balances with smaller speakers, and,
this column, because it often covers products that are handy in wonder now, but just who the heck is BandLab? They call themselves
pleasantly, mixes done on the Shape Twins translated
the studio but aren’t the kinds of things you regularly see in a a “easy-to-use, all-in-one, social music creation platform.” Their site
really well on my phone!
pro-audio publication or catalog. Thank you for being fans of my offers an online DAW and libraries of loops, as well as the ability to
The rear panel features balanced XLR and unbalanced
tangential gear ramblings and recommendations. ••• SmallRig share songs – plus one can connect with other BandLab users to
RCA inputs, with a stepped 12 dB/octave High-Pass
<www.smallrig.com> is a manufacturer of all sorts of affordable work on songs. These users can be your actual band members or total
Filter control with settings for FR (full range), 45, 60,
camera accessories for filmmakers. Two categories of their strangers that contribute in the spirit of Commons (a general term
and 90 Hz. There are a trio of tone controls designed to
products in particular are fantastic for mounting studio mics. The for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal
help correct for room placement: a boost or cut of a low
first is the Ball Head Magic Arm series, starting at $3.90 in its interest). You can get feedback from the entire user base, much like
shelf at 250 Hz, a low mid bell at 160, and a high shelf
most basic configuration. The Magic Arm has a central T-handle Soundcloud etc. There’s even access to “how to” articles about
at 4.5 kHz. Attachment points for wall or ceiling mounts
that tightens down on two metal ball-ends. Ball-ends come in recording and music production. The BandLab online DAW is a simple
are also there. Focal suggests 20 hours of break in at
different options, but the standard 1/4’’ threaded screw, which one that seems fine for “creating online,” but as a professional tool
medium volume with full-range source material before
works with lots of accessories in the photo/video world, can it leaves something to be desired.
you turn them up.
easily be converted into a standard mic mount using a 1/4’’ After buying the software, BandLab re-renamed Cakewalk’s SONAR
While the Shape Twins initially do come across as a
female (tripod) to 5/8’’ male (mic) thread adapter. For this [Tape Op #107] Cakewalk by BandLab. Last century Cakewalk was
low distortion take on classic rock nearfields, that would
purpose, I prefer the CAMVATE <www.camvate.com> nickel- actually the name of the MIDI sequencer program from Twelve Tone
be missing the essence of what’s different here. There’s
plated brass adapters that have a knurled “skirt” that you can Systems, but everybody called both the sequencer and company
definitely a sense of the monitor itself receding, and the
tighten/loosen by hand. My favorite Magic Arm configuration Cakewalk, so Twelve Tone Systems changed its name. Now we’re back
raw sonics taking over. They’re so clear that, in my
costs $11, and it includes an anodized, aluminum-alloy, screw- to square one. But the real kicker is that BandLab released their
experience, when you crank them up (they do have the
down Super Clamp on one end that has jaws that open to 2’’ freshly bought, new/old stock DAW for free, which is crazy; or is it?
ability to get rather loud), the room resonance doesn’t
wide — big enough to effectively grab onto extra-large mic BandLab seems to be preparing to be the Facebook or Google of
build like anything I’ve ever heard. The self-resonance
stands, drum hardware, pipes, railings, desk edges, and whatnot. online music production/sharing, so having a professional-caliber
of the Shape Twins seems to be extremely minimal, with
Once you add a mic thread adapter on the other end, you can DAW makes sense, and they bought the entire software outright. As a
a reproduction so even in the low-end that they just
securely mount even a heavy, large-diaphragm condenser, and major player in the social music scene, they would have a world of
didn’t excite the room in the way that I was used to –

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use the articulating Magic Arm to orient the mic in any direction. built-in customers for anything else they release – presumably not for
I had less speaker and more sound.
The second product category from SmallRig worth checking out free. If you are worried about the “free” part, don’t. You must join
The Shape Twin has several advances for Focal, and
includes Shoulder Rig Rods and Clamps. With various lengths of BandLab and get their Assistant to download Cakewalk by BandLab,
the design emphasis on lowering distortion at all
rods and several different types of connectors and clamps, you
can assemble anything from a simple stereo bar, to a
points is evident in the incredible usability and
translation prowess of these monitors. Since modern
.c but you can delete the Assistant from your computer after
downloading, keeping only the DAW if you prefer. You also get to keep
multichannel array/tree for far less money than you would that copy until a Windows update breaks the application or the cows
production uses so much saturation and harmonic
expect. SmallRig also offers affordable NATO Rail (a standard for come home. The free software is not time or function limited, and I
manipulation, they’ve created a wonderful tool that
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mounting auxiliary equipment) systems, if you prefer to go that had no problem with downloading and installing. It picked up most
allows you to better hear what type of distortion you
route instead. Slow Dolphin, a value brand that seems to exist of my SONAR preferences and effects, and I was able to run an older
are actually using.
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only on Amazon (like countless other pseudo-brands), also sells version of SONAR in tandem with Cakewalk by BandLab on the same
One odd thing that takes a bit of getting used to; the
camera accessories. If you prefer a simpler solution for clamping computer – the new software doesn’t replace or overwrite the old.
On/Off switch is really a Standby/Off switch. When you
a mic somewhere, I recommend the Slow Dolphin Tripod Camera Cakewalk by BandLab itself fits somewhere between the old SONAR
turn the Shape Twins on they need audio signal to fully
Clip Clamp Mount, which has a single ball-end with a tripod Artist and Pro versions. It has the same engine as top versions,
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engage. Later during normal workflow, if there is no


screw, attached to a wide, spring-loaded metal jaw covered in offering a 64-bit program with a 64-bit engine, and unlimited tracks
input for a few minutes the Shape Twins return to
rubber. With an aforementioned tripod to mic thread adapter, the
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standby mode and will need a little bit of signal to and buses (dependent on your computer, of course). Most of their
Clip Clamp Mount is perfect for small-diaphragm mics. (Julius ProChannel effects, including the third-party REmatrix Solo, and
reengage. They do come right back to life, but it takes
Studio, Anwenk, and Fovitec are pseudo-brands that seem to be BREVERB SONAR (along with all the old, but good Sonitus DirectX
a little bit of time to get used to that pause in
selling the same products as Slow Dolphin on Amazon.) ••• I plug-ins, and the TH3 guitar amp simulator from Overloud). The only
operation. EU Ecodesign standards now require
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have several heavy-duty boom stands that can hold a hefty tube synth plug-ins installed with the application are the TTS-1 (a basic
implementation of a standby mode. Though there are no
mic with authority — some officially marketed as mic stands, General MIDI 2 compatible software synthesizer) and Studio
controls to define an alternate silent “rest” time, in the
and others that I assembled out of accessories purchased from Instruments, which provides a taste of the sounds available from
U.S., you can talk to your Focal dealer about
Adorama and B&H Photo Video. I’ve found that lighting stands Cakewalk’s more complete SFZ format sample synths. Missing from
permanently disabling Standby mode.
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and video-equipment tripods perform better and cost less than Cakewalk by BandLab’s free application are the “for pay” ProChannel
Well balanced across the frequency spectrum, with
similarly sized pro-audio mic stands. Just take a lighting stand, VSTs – other third-party plugs – premium software synthesizers, and
great imaging and tone shaping options that help pair
attach a grip mount on the stand’s 5/8’’ stud, put a boom arm Celemony’s Melodyne [Tape Op #116] (though it does include a trial
them to a wide variety of rooms and situations, the
(or a cradle for a boom pole) inside the clamp of the grip, and
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Shape Twin’s price point is fantastic. They’re easily copy). Still, it is the best “free” DAW you’re likely to find in my
add a counterweight. Impact <www.impactstudiolighting.com>, opinion. BandLab brought along the CTO and some senior
replacing monitors in my room that cost a few times as
Flashpoint/Adorama <www.adorama.com>, and coders/quality control people from Cakewalk, and its first update
much, and outside of getting used to the standby mode,
Avenger/Manfrotto <www.manfrotto.com> are affordable included some bug fixes. Another release (with improvements; not
it feels like a step up in performance, build quality, and
brands I recommend, but there are many others I haven’t tried.
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peace of mind. A solid choice, the Focal Shape Twins are just fixes) should be out by the time you read this review. It is
Years ago, sE Electronics sold a heavy-duty mic stand [Tape Op impossible to say how much longer such good times will last, so
stunners – fully capable sonic tools that help your
#42] that rivaled ones costing several times more. Once I started picking up with improvements and not just fixes is a no brainer if
perspective on sound and the world navigate this
kitting together my own stands, I realized that the sE was an you use a PC. After searching for a SONAR replacement, the answer
modern playback landscape.
aggregation of photo/video products. –AH may have been just to wait for Cakewalk by BandLab.
($2198/pair street; focal.com)
-Thom Monahan <goldenvoidstudio.com> (free; bandlab.com) -Alan Tubbs <www.bnoir-film.com>
70/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 72)
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record either of two stereo (or dual-mono) sources. 100 Hz, with more relaxed and transparent high frequencies
Dangerous Music Additionally, during mixing, the CONVERT-AD+ could be used – a noticeable improvement in clarity and stereo imaging.
CONVERT-AD+ stereo converter to select between two analog mix bus chains. In my studio, When I used the CONVERT-AD+ as a master clock for the whole
Veteran Tape Op readers will know that I have tremendous I often switch between recording, mixing or mastering, and system, the lows and highs of the mix remained clear, while
respect for Bob Muller and Chris Muth of Dangerous Music the CONVERT-AD+ provides useful routing and processing for the midrange frequencies became slightly less congested and
[Tape Op #45]. Over the years, I’ve contributed to many all of these different session types. felt more open. A fair description would be that the Antelope
reviews of their products published here in Tape Op, and I’ve Dangerous Music has implemented some very clever and clock makes the mix feel a bit more aggressive – maybe more
retold educational conversations I’ve had with both of them. unique features into this box, which will likely influence appropriate for rock and pop – while the Dangerous clock
Moreover, a number of their products are deployed in my other manufacturers. Each center-lit button on the front sounds more natural, relaxed, and open. Next, I inserted
commercial studios, as well as in my own personal studio, panel changes color or brightness as you toggle or cycle CONVERT-AD+’s Hammond transformers, and instantly the mix
where my monitoring system utilizes a Dangerous Music through selections for input choice, clock synchronization, gained flavor. Not as obvious as the flavor of a vintage Neve
CONVERT-2 [#109] and a Monitor ST [#60]; plus, I use a BAX sample rate, level calibration, and metering. The level console with its warm but cloudy low end, or an API with
EQ [#79] on every mix that I complete. Last year, I asked Bob meters simultaneously display peak and average levels forward midrange punch, but the CONVERT-AD+ added a
when his company would be adding an ADC (analog to digital (peak over average), and the scale may be “zoomed” from density to the low frequencies that maintained the clarity,
convertor) to its product line, given the success of the two an 80 dB range down to a 10 dB range. For mastering, this while it added some upper bass harmonics, and even lifted
DAC (digital to analog convertor) models in the CONVERT meter won’t replace a full-featured LUFS meter, but it does the high frequencies slightly. For percussion-heavy mixes, I
series. As I expected, Bob explained that a Dangerous ADC provide much more information than the typical low- found the transformer slightly softened the transients, which
would only be released if it could meet the exacting criteria resolution indicators on converters or outboard processors. added a bit of polish to the mix. The transformer insert is
of Chris and the company’s high-profile customers. I got the The analog input can be calibrated for −18 dBFS (Avid), either on or off, so the more input level the unit gets, the
hint, and I told Bob I wanted a production unit as soon as −16 dBFS (Apogee), or −14 dBFS (mastering) operating more saturation the transformer adds.
one became available. levels, corresponding to maximum input levels of +22, +20, The Emphasis knob, next to and associated with the
As with other Dangerous products, when I received the or +18 dBu; and the meters change from yellow to green at transformer, goes from zero up to a modest 2 dB boost. The
CONVERT-AD+ I was immediately impressed by its stellar the chosen level. Standard sample rates from 44.1 kHz to boost is a parallel EQ with compression and a touch of
sound, and its carefully engineered features – aspects that 192 kHz are supported, and the unit can serve as a master second-order harmonic distortion. The effect of turning up
make this box more useful than competing units. clock (with sample rate selectable via USB or with the the Emphasis control is a “make it better” knob. Too much
Understanding that Dangerous had once again developed front-panel buttons) or lock to an external signal, as well is just that, but the right amount can really add some magic
something special, I strived to assemble a group of engineers as distribute sync to all digital outputs. For jitter reduction, sparkle and fairy dust to the mix. My usual processors for the
with more experience than me to co-review the product. the CONVERT-AD+ utilizes a custom implementation of “make it better” effect include the Emphasis slider on
Veteran Tape Op contributor Adam Kagan was the first person JetPLL technology. Sonnox Limiter [Tape Op #68] and the Shape knob on UAD
that came to mind. In between teaching college-level audio Two more buttons enable features unique to the Precision Maximizer. Usually, one of these plug-ins can add
classes and working on many Gold, Platinum, and Grammy- CONVERT-AD+. First is the Clip Guard function, which some zing to pop and rock productions, but for acoustic

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nominated projects, Adam has written some of my favorite effectively prevents a digital “over” indication on the music, the Emphasis circuit on the CONVERT-AD+ did the
reviews for the magazine. Also contributing here are Mike destination device. This does not affect the audio – clipped trick far better than either plug-in. Unlike the plug-ins, the
Wells (mastering for Prince, Green Day, John 5, Parris Goebel, audio may still sound clipped – but only affects the meter
.c Dangerous box adds sparkle without smearing the lo mids or
Tony Sly, and Gridlock) and Chris Godbey (engineer for reading where an over condition can trigger an alarm or even adding any harsh artifacts. The combination of X-Former and
Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Ashlee Simpson, be cause for rejection from certain facilities. The second Emphasis increases the overall level and punch of a mix
Jay-Z, Shakira, and Drake) – many thanks to Mike and Chris feature affects the audio side of things, which is ultimately without pumping or clipping the signal. For mixing and
for taking part in this multi-perspective review. The review why we choose our gear. Dangerous has implemented an all- mastering, I’m sure the CONVERT-AD+ will become a staple
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ends with my own usage notes and closing thoughts. -AH analog circuit designed by Chris Muth to enhance the audio just for these effects.
Dangerous Music, maker of top-shelf monitor controllers captured by the CONVERT-AD+. The X-Former Insert button The Dangerous Music CONVERT-AD+ may be used in so many
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and audio processors for mastering and high-end mixing allows the user to engage a pair of customized Hammond ways that this review can’t cover them all. The power of its
studios, has introduced their first A/D converter in a transformers that were chosen for their specific sonic flavor, components – A/D converter, mix bus processor, and master
package named the CONVERT-AD+. Dangerous’ single rack while the Emphasis knob dials in a sophisticated Baxandall- clock – could be put to great use in any studio, and the
unit form belies its powerful and sophisticated feature set.
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style high-shelf EQ at 300 Hz, the output of which is gently combination of all of these functions make for a formidable
The sleek and ultra-modern front panel of the CONVERT-AD+ compressed before it’s blended in parallel to the dry signal piece of gear.
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sports round, center-lit, pushbutton switches; a high- before the transformer. -Adam Kagan <www.mixer.ninja>
resolution stereo level meter; and one large knob, that In the studio, I used the CONVERT-AD+ mostly while mixing Let’s talk innovation. The CONVERT-AD+ has a couple of
surprisingly is not an input or output level control. More on an audiophile Latin jazz record featuring the bassist Oskar unique features that, as a mastering engineer, I now find
the specific controls later, but who is the intended customer Cartaya. My mix setup is a hybrid system with various analog indispensable. The first is its Meter Scaling option. Seeing
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for a stereo ADC in this world of integrated interfaces and processing used as inserts via the Avid interfaces of my Pro the peak-over-average balance with such fine granularity at
monitor controllers? Tools | HD rig. Clocking and monitoring duties are handled by the capture stage is something only the CONVERT-AD+ can
To answer that question, let’s look at the I/O of this unit. an Antelope Audio Eclipse [Tape Op #96]. For this project, deliver, and now that I have it, I can’t live without it. The
On the rear panel are two pairs of XLR connectors for analog mix stems were routed to a custom Lawo analog summing second is the Clip Guard feature. Different than an audio
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inputs 1 and 2. The user may select between either pair, but mixer, and the Lawo’s stereo output fed the CONVERT-AD+ for process like a soft-clipper, Clip Guard just performs a bit of
only one pair at a time. Two XLR outputs provide duplicate printing back into the Pro Tools session. The approach of this Chris Muth engineering mojo on the digital output so that
AES3 digital streams. One TOSLINK optical port supplies ADAT album was minimalist, with very little EQ and compression, the meter on the playback device won’t display an over-
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(on channels 1/2), while a second port provides S/PDIF. which provided a good opportunity to hear subtle changes in indicator. Why is this great? I can drive the input stage
S/PDIF is also available via an RCA jack. Two BNC connectors the master bus processing and clock settings. The Lawo mixer however necessary to achieve my clients’ desired sound, so
are for wordclock input and output, and a USB jack provides is extremely transparent, with virtually no low-frequency they can then focus on listening to the playback instead of
digital output to a host computer via Core Audio (macOS) or phase shift and a very flat frequency response, so it only adds watching meters for red lights. Essential.
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ASIO (Windows). So, at first glance, it appears that the a tiny bit of dimension while allowing me to sum the analog- Now, let’s talk about what matters most – fidelity. I use a
CONVERT-AD+ would be best suited for a mastering studio, processed stems without another trip through my interface. highly customized ATR-102 1-inch, 2-track for tape layback
where the engineer could choose to capture one of two I first configured the CONVERT-AD+ and my interfaces as in the mastering process quite often. My clients and I love
analog mastering chains to a digital recorder or DAW – and wordclock slaves to my Antelope Eclipse, as that is my usual the warmth and vibe that only tape can bring to a digitally
this is one possible setup. But the unit could also excel in a way of working. The CONVERT-AD+, compared to the ADCs of recorded project. Unfortunately, even with the go-to
recording setting, where the input pairs could be used to my Avid interfaces, provided much clearer low end below mastering converters so highly regarded today, there
72/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 74)
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is always something being sacrificed when I convert back to digital, whether it is image,
feel, or clarity. I was excited to get the CONVERT-AD+ and put it through its paces; and I
have to say, this box delivers. I went through a variety of material across a number of
different analog paths, including tape layback, tube-heavy processing, analog color boxes
– you name it. Playing back the captures from the CONVERT-AD+ was stunning. The height,
width, depth, and detail preserved by the CONVERT-AD+ puts it in its own class. There’s a
euphonic character that I’m simply not hearing from my other converters. Height is a hard
one for converters to capture accurately, I have noticed, and nothing came close to
the CONVERT-AD+. With my other ADCs, the “analog mojo” always seemed to be collapsed
a bit – compromised in some way.
Finally, I am hearing a true representation of everything I love about my tape machine,
tube gear, and the analog glory we work so hard to attain in modern recordings; and the
price tag is the ultra-bonus. Half the cost of anything in its class, delivering twice the
results – how can you beat that?
-Mike Wells <www.mikewellsmastering.com>
I’ve always loved Dangerous Music. When the recording world was transitioning away
from large-format consoles and tape machines, Dangerous was there, providing ergonomic
solutions that actually felt more like upgrades than compromises. I’ll never forget the
feeling on the day we got our original Dangerous 2-BUS [Tape Op #35] and Monitor [#60]
up and going. Listening to stereo mixes out of Pro Tools using the Dangerous Monitor
(instead of just two channels on the old console) was such a vast improvement. We were
no longer lamenting the past; we were embracing the future.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and Dangerous Music is still a huge part of my
workflow. I now use a CONVERT-2 [Tape Op #109] as my primary mix bus DAC, out to a
Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor and a Dangerous BAX EQ [#79]. Until the end of last
year, I was bouncing between a few different ADC options. The first option sounded closest
to the source, the second provided a nice stereo image and color, and a third handled
clipping better than the others – but they all missed the mark in one area or another. All
of the testing and moving around had me wondering when someone would finally make a
converter that could do all these things without compromise. I was also wondering when
Dangerous would give us a path back into the box. Their DACs have always been among

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the best, and it only seemed logical for them to give us an ADC as well. Dangerous was a
few years late, but they far exceeded my expectations. My first exposure to the
CONVERT-AD+ was limited to a five-day beta test. Marek Stycos, a professional cool guy of
.c
the highest order, arranged to get me a CONVERT-AD+ a couple months before the actual
release. I knew I had to work fast, only having a handful of days with the Dangerous.
Would this finally be the ADC to check all my boxes?
The short answer here is yes – and more. Need an honest, no frills conversion? Got it. I
l
find the phantom center and stereo imaging just perfect without feeling exaggerated in
any way. Want a little color and magic? Has that too. Just engage the X-Former insert and
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dial Emphasis to taste. Want to run hot and get a little more level? Just turn on Clip Guard,
and clip to your heart’s content without hitting any red lights. It’s important to note that
Clip Guard is not a limiter. You’re still clipping – just not hitting red in your DAW – so be
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careful. There are several handy features that seem like no-brainers: You can easily switch
calibrations between −14, −16, and −18 dBFS right from the front panel. Two sets of stereo
@g

inputs make it easy to switch between tracking and mixing modes without much fuss. For
example, your mix gear patches can stay intact on input 1, and you can switch to input
2 for a mic preamp or whatever. To top it off, you get a beautiful, usable meter with a
couple of scaling options. Needless to say, the two months after sending the beta unit
34

back were some of the longest. I’m now a proud owner of a CONVERT-AD+, and haven’t
thought about what my ADC might be missing since. That’s a pretty big statement for a
gearhead. If you’re like me and tired of loopback tests and double-blind converter
shootouts, get the CONVERT-AD+ and get back to work, knowing you’ve got one of the best
21

options any price point. It’s easily the best converter I didn’t know I was waiting for.
-Chris Godbey <jvuentertainment.com/talent/chris-godbey>
Regarding the many features and the overall sound of the CONVERT-AD+, I agree with
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everything Adam, Mike, and Chris wrote, but being the Gear Geek, I do have some
additional notes from my own testing and use. Transient response of the Dangerous box
is exemplary. The CONVERT-AD+ captures detail with a precision that has more to do with
rise time, settling time, and overshoot – stuff that our ears can definitely hear but we
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don’t tend to visualize as easily as we do Hz, dB, and SNR. I believe that many of the
words used earlier in this review – like open, clarity, height, center, and image – relate
directly to transient response.

74/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/


Regarding the X-Former and Emphasis features – with X-
Former enabled and Emphasis at 0, I hear mostly odd-order DPA Microphones
“thickening” in the bass and lower midrange. Consequently, d:vote CORE 4099
bassy notes benefit from extra “oomph,” despite the very Instrument Microphone
shallow low-frequency rolloff (−0.5 dB at 40 Hz, −1 dB at DPA’s approach when creating the d:vote CORE 4099G
10 Hz) that is mentioned in the manual. The manual also Instrument Microphone was to create a mic that is equally at
explains that X-Former adds energy “folded up an octave,” but home on the stage and in the studio. When I perform live, I
I don’t hear the second-order harmonics in the lows until the want my acoustic guitar to sound like my acoustic guitar and
input is hit hard. When this happens, percussive elements, like that’s what I got from the 4099G. The mic captured my six-
kick drum and toms, gain extra energy and “sweetness.” string acoustic guitar in a natural, clean way, without
As I turn up the Emphasis knob, the odd-order thickening colorization. As the d:vote CORE 4099 was new to me, I found
starts to affect the whole spectrum (not just the lows), but out that the DPA d:vote 4099 has been around for a little
really only on the peakier/louder stuff. In other words, dynamic while, but DPA has improved it with the addition of their
material becomes livelier, without getting cloudy. Meanwhile, CORE technology, with an 8 to 14 dB increase in dynamic
the second-order sweetening comes up in the lower midrange range, less distortion, and more clarity in general. I didn’t
and in the highs, increasing dramatically as the knob is turned have a non-CORE d:vote 4099 to compare to the CORE, but
all the way up to 10, even at lower input levels. Importantly, the new d:vote CORE 4099 is impressive.
this sweetness seems to leave the midrange mostly untouched Packaged in an attractive black hard-shell canvas case, the
(except when hard hits result in odd-order thickening). small mic is covered by a foam windscreen and is connected to
Therefore, smooth vocal lines and lead instruments (that are an instrument with an adjustable gooseneck clip. Also included
not overly punchy) remain clear and focused but gain that extra are a MicroDot cable and an XLR adapter. This condenser mic
bit of sweetness in their timbral regions. Or to put it another has a supercardioid pattern yet imparts a natural sound. Once
way, it’s as if the saturation effect is parametric and is tuned assembled and mounted the d:vote CORE 4099 is fairly
to leave 1 to 3 kHz clear – in between the peaks/hits/notes. unobtrusive and blends into the background visually. For most
The end result is a control that lets me dial in some excitement applications the mic mounts directly to your instrument, so you
and sugar without dirtying up critical midrange. could almost clear the stage of mic stands if you used multiple
When I shared my findings with Bob Muller, he answered, 4099s. The 4099 I auditioned had an SPL rating of 142 dB, but
“Your perceptions are definitely on. Chris Muth worked hard for louder sources, like drums or brass instruments, DPA offers
to make this circuit obvious enough to be useful when an Extreme SPL version that can handle sources up to 152 dB.
tracking a vocal or instrument, but subtle enough for use in I auditioned the d:vote CORE 4099 with both my Taylor steel
mastering where the situation requires a final touch that

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string acoustic and my custom nylon classical guitar. The plastic
won’t ruin the work that came before, staying clear of the mounting bracket (GC4099) worked well and was a breeze to set
upper mids, and without a heavy-handed broad brush. It took up. On the steel string acoustic, once I found the sweet spot for
a while and a fair bit of tweaking.” mic placement, the sound was natural and balanced. The
.c
I also asked Bob how he would differentiate the X-Former mounting bracket allows for lot of flexibility in positioning the
and Emphasis features from the Color circuits in the Dangerous mic, which really takes the artist into consideration. Once you get
2-BUS+ [Tape Op #112]. He replied, “The tone circuits on your position with the gooseneck set, you’re good to go. I like
2-BUS+ were crafted primarily with mixing in mind. They are a to move around a fair amount when playing, so it was great that
l
bit more obvious and appropriate for assigning to a single track the sound never changed (as the mic position remained the
or stereo stem (in the case of Paralimit and Harmonics), as well same). In a live setting, the mounted mic was very freeing; it
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as putting across the entire mix. What we wanted for never folded and remained clear even when bashing away on the
CONVERT-AD+ was a different transformer tone and a subtler strings. On my nylon string guitar, the mic was equally solid and
emphasis to give a track some lift and cohesion. It is wholly captured all the warmth and detail of the instrument.
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different from any of the three 2-BUS+ effects.” Due to the supercardioid pattern, the d:vote CORE 4099 does
At some point in my conversation with Bob, I joked that I a pretty good job of rejecting other instruments/noise. It’s a
@g

understood the reasoning behind his company’s name. It’s very directional mic, and this really made a difference in a live
Dangerous, as in Dangerous to my studio budget! Needless to setting as I was able to quickly balance the guitar in the mix.
say, I’m also a proud owner of a Dangerous Music I recorded a few acoustic guitar tracks with my Taylor guitar in
CONVERT-AD+, and it’s become an essential part of my the studio, and, upon listening to playback, I was surprised at
34

tracking and mixing signal chains. It’s also now my studio’s how I heard the instrument but not the room or other ambient
master clock. -AH noise. I’d imagine having a handful of 4099s for close mic’ing
($2,599 MSRP; www.dangerousmusic.com) a live group would make it a snap to put up a solid mix.
Tripp-Lite There are a wealth of mic clips for the d:vote 4099 available
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depending on your needs –whether you play accordion, cello,


RS-1215 rack-mount power strip drums, bass, piano, sax, or anything else, DPA has you covered.
The rack-mount power strips I bought on eBay years
There are even stand-mount clips to attach to mic stands as
ago (lots of server equipment to be found for cheap there)
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well. The MicroDot cable that attaches to the d:vote CORE 4099
had blank front panels and six or eight outlets on the
is detachable and comes stock with an XLR adapter. Depending
rear. I’ve since replaced them with these Tripp-Lite Power
on your necessary connection, there are a variety of cable
Strips that include six front-facing outlets – perfect for
adaptors available. Whether you need 1/8-inch or some other
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plugging in pedals, amps, synths, and phone chargers. If


connection to just about any third party wireless pack, DPA has
you prefer, the Furman RS-1215-RA I reviewed on page 63
the adapter you need to make the right connection. With all of
of this issue has vertical outlets to leave room for big wall
the interface options available, you can be sure your
warts. Both are handy! ($49 street; www.tripplite.com)
investment is a solid one. The design seems fairly rugged, and
-Scott Evans <antisleep.com>
the mini cable is more durable than some others I’ve dealt with.

Gear Reviews/(continued on page 76)/Tape Op#126/75


For instrumentalists, the d:vote CORE 4099 is a great investment. It offers wonderfully accurate
sound reproduction while moving with the player rather than holding them hostage to a mic
stand. A mounted mic configuration in the studio allows the engineer to achieve a more natural
sound without relying on compression to record an even performance, thereby avoiding
potential headaches when tracking a performer with poor mic etiquette. Bottom line; with the
marriage of the d:vote CORE 4099’s great sound and noise rejection, this mic simply makes
engineering easier. ($619.95 street; dpamicrophones.com) -Will Severin <www.willseverin.com>

Fjord Audio
Classic microphone cables
Recently, while pondering the anonymous-yet-crucial role of the lowly microphone cable in
studio and on stage, Fjord Audio owner Spencer Tweedy found himself in a quandary: could there
be high quality XLR cables made in the USA that look, feel, and sound great? All without
breaking the bank? It was a tall order – usually it’s a “pick two” situation (see John
Baccigaluppi’s End Rant [Tape Op #87] titled “Done Fast, Done Good, Done Cheap”) – but after
a successful crowdfunding campaign, Fjord Audio Classic microphone cables now exist, and I
think Tweedy nailed it.
Inspired in part by Conway Electric’s beautiful AC extension cords, Fjord Audio cables are based
around Canare Star Quad Cable cores (for maximum RF rejection) wrapped in custom designed
cotton fabric. Color pattern options have cheeky names, like Muscle Shoals Gold or Record Plant
Red, and all look fantastic, vibrant, and vintage/classic. The cables feel great – luxurious – and
are just stiff enough to wrap sensibly and consistently. The Switchcraft AAA series XLR
connectors have gold-plated contacts and are the type of plug that actually, truly work
universally (unlike some XLR connectors that simply don’t play well with certain newer
microphones, for example.) Fjord Audio admits this is perhaps a “beauty item” that may not be
an absolute studio necessity, yet I know they can brighten an otherwise dingy room. Moreover,
there’s something to be said for beautifying one’s surroundings in the interest of creative
inspiration. ($60 and up direct, discounts for bulk orders; www.fjord.audio)
-Pete Weiss <www.weissy.com>

Meris

om
Polymoon Super-Modulated Delay pedal
I had a blast reviewing Meris’ Ottobit Jr. Bitcrusher and Mercury7 Reverb pedals [Tape Op
#123]. The three-person company (steered by inventive folks formerly of Line 6 and Strymon)
has been turning heads with its intense, expanded spins on stompbox classics. I was glad to
.c
hear they had a delay pedal – known as the Polymoon – and gladder when I was asked to give
it a spin for review.
A reasonably sized, dual-footswitch (bypass and tap tempo) delay pedal that runs on a
l
standard 9V adaptor, the Polymoon has up to 1200 ms of multi-tap delay time with six fully
adjustable LFOs for many more comprehensive modulation effects than seen on typical delay
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pedals. Yes, you can get gooey phasing and icy flanging in on the pedal’s all-inclusive
echo/delay act.
As with its other pedal siblings, the Polymoon has three familiar control knobs: Time,
Feedback, and Mix. These knobs are bolstered by three more controls that are a little more off
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the beaten path yet are still intuitive: Multiply (selects the number of delay taps), Dimension
(creates a “smear/smoothing” effect on the delay taps/reflections), and Dynamics (sets the
@g

amount of flanger effect that can be dynamically added to the delay signal.) By holding down
a small Alt button, each of these six knobs have secondary functions for accessing even deeper
parameters such as Early and Late Modulation, Dynamic Flanger Mode, Feedback Filter, and more.
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I had a chance to use the Polymoon on my guitar tracks for Jeff Berlin’s Random Misfires album
and really enjoyed the process and results. Jeff asked for some randomized, stabby guitar line
overdubs with ever-changing echoing decay. I rolled the dice by holding the Alt button down
while tweaking some of the knobs haphazardly, resulting in some crazy-yet-musical echoes that
21

Jeff loved. Later I decoded what I did and discovered how cool Early and Late Modulation
manipulation can be – triangle wave modulation can be added in varying amounts to the early
or late (or both) delay taps. This struck me as a technique previously only achievable with
multiple cascading effect units.
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The Polymoon pedal is super-quiet and well built. With its switchable line/instrument level
capability, expression pedal jack, MIDI I/O, and preset control (with external switch) capability,
the Polymoon can keep up with the best rack-mount gear. In fact, according to Meris, its original
inspiration was multiple cascading rack-mount delay units à la Frank Zappa and Belew, et al. I’d
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love it if Meris would consider creating rack-mount or tabletop versions of this, in addition to
their other deep, singular pedals. In any case, all of this versatile profundity as well as stunning
fidelity made me consider the multi-faced Polymoon to likely be today’s ultimate hardware delay
(pedal or otherwise). ($300 street; www.meris.us) -Pete Weiss <www.weissy.com>

76/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/


Steinberg Media Technologies
UR-RT4 interface
Uh-oh. Looks like the cool techs at Steinberg have been up to something. Audio
interfaces are traditionally designed to offer transparent conversion from capture to
representation. Though the new UR-RT interfaces can achieve that transparency in digital
conversion, and feature Yamaha-built ultra-clean Class A D-PRE mic preamps, something
unexpected has happened here. They’ve added a switchable Rupert Neve Designs
transformer to the path of its preamps on their new interfaces (6-input, 4-output UR-RT4,
and the 4-input, 2-output UR-RT2).
With all the UR-RT4’s connectivity (see later) packed into a box the size of a ‘90s Day
Planner (10.5-inches wide x 8-inches deep x 2-inches tall), how do they fit all those
transformers in there? I asked specialist Nithin Cherian at Yamaha/Steinberg, and this is
exactly what he said; “With respect to the RND transformer, a special implementation of the
transformer had to be utilized in order to recreate the saturation characteristics of their
existing designs. Usually RND uses an input and output transformer to create the bold,
musical, and expressive harmonic characteristics intrinsic to their designs. In the case of the
UR-RT models, a mid-stage implementation was utilized in order to achieve similar results.
The benefit of this is that the user essentially gets two flavors of input audio. One with our
D-PRE circuit by itself, and the other with the D-PRE circuit plus the custom RND transformer.
Therefore, when the transformer is enabled, sources connected via the MIC/Hi-Z and
MIC/LINE inputs on the front panel of the device get the sonic benefits of both the D-PRE
and the RND transformer.”
Okay. This makes sense. The UR interfaces obviously aren’t trying to duplicate a Neve
preamp design here, and I don’t think that was ever fully intended. However, these
transformers are definitely adding something cool to the preamp path. Engaging them during
tracking delivered a welcome, saturated character, with a big console vibe. Generally, the
RNDs added a rounded harmonic shimmer to the top end. On every source I tested (vocals,
acoustic guitar, electric guitar amp, percussion and DI instruments), the transformers never
seemed to be the wrong choice for indie/rock/pop recording. In blind A/B testing with a
performer, she preferred the transformer-engaged tracks to the clean ones in almost every

om
instance. If the RNDs were the UR-RT interface’s only feature of note, we could wrap up this
now. But these boxes have more to offer.
What really makes my day better every time I use the UR-RT4 interface is that I get no .c
latency DSP monitoring (compatible with any DAW or iOS device) built-in! Being a long time
Pro Tools user, this just floored me – not too long ago, the only option for no latency
recording with Pro Tools commanded a 5-figure price tag. As a bonus, Steinberg’s latency-
free dspMixFx software (included with UR-RT interfaces) comes with dedicated VST effect
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plug-ins: channel strip (compressor/EQ, reverb and guitar amp modeler) plus a free download
of Cubase AI (or Cubasis LE for IOS). Cubase users are already in the know about ASIO Direct
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Monitoring capabilities.
The small but imposing UR-RT4 chassis is wrapped in tough black steel, with top venting
in front of an easy-to-read (and super handy) printed diagram of the rear panel’s I/O schema.
Its front panel presents good-quality metal gain pots (for preamp Gain, Phone, and main
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Output control) that stick out 5/8-inch and are very accessible while being easy to turn –
@g

just the right amount of stiffness to avert a gain change if the knobs are accidentally bumped.
Located above each of the four preamps are illuminated push-button switches that light
when the Rupert Neve Designs transformers are engaged. Inputs are via four XLR/TRS Combo
jacks (two Mic/Hi-Z and two Mic/Line) for each preamp. Rear connectivity provides two TRS
34

Line Inputs, four TRS Line Outputs, two TRS Main Outputs, MIDI In, MIDI Out, a USB 2.0 jack,
and a 12V wall wart input. Two separate Off/On switches provide phantom power in pairs to
mic pres 1/2 and 3/4 (status LED indicator located on front panel). Note on wall warts: thank
you Steinberg for providing one with stress relief at the jack end!
21

The RND transformers are definitely tasty, but the UR-RT4’s built-in D-PRE mic preamps
deserve attention too. In my opinion, they sound noticeably better in comparison to other
well-known interfaces (with built-in preamps) in the same price range. Obviously, Steinberg
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has invested a lot of their energy here. Deep, deep, down – way down – we all know cheap
stuff will always sound cheap. No plug-in can save you from hearing that voice in your head;
the one reminding you every day that you’ve thrown your money in the wrong landfill. The
UR-RT4 is thoughtfully designed with really good preamps, and a sound color option you
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won’t find in any other interface. Those with limited cash and high aspirations need to
seriously consider the UR-RT4. ($599 street; www.steinberg.net) -SM

Gear Reviews/(continued on page 78)/Tape Op#126/77


Focusrite
Clarett 2Pre & 8Pre USB interfaces
In January 2018, Focusrite introduced USB 2.0 class compliant versions of three audio
interfaces in the Clarett range that were previously available as Thunderbolt-only devices,
opening up the range to greater compatibility across macOS and Windows. Clarett occupies the
space between the best-selling Scarlett [Tape Op #115] and the high-end Red [#120] lines,
and of the three, I believe Clarett offers the highest ratio of sonic performance over price All
of the Clarett interfaces share the same high-quality preamps and converters, but Focusrite,
never content with the past, made incremental improvements in the circuitry of the USB
editions to eke out some slightly better audio results compared to the original Thunderbolt
variants. Also in a forward-looking move, Focusrite chose to standardize on a USB-C connector
for the USB 2.0 connection to the host; both USB-C and USB-C to Type A cables are included
in the box. Also included is a software and plug-in package of Ableton Live Lite, XLN Audio
Addictive Keys, Focusrite Red Plug-In Suite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, and 2 GB each of
Focusrite Drum Tracks and Loopmasters sample libraries. Additionally, customers who have
registered their Scarlett, Clarett, or Red purchase are given a Focusrite Plug-In Collective
membership, with access to bimonthly deals, discounts, and freebies from the likes of
Accusonus, Eventide, Sound Radix, iZotope, NUGEN Audio, Exponential Audio, and many other
respected software developers.
I asked two of our contributing writers, Brandon Miller and Josh Boughey, to try the Clarett
2Pre USB and 8Pre USB interfaces, respectively, in their home studios. Their opinions follow. -AH
We’re well into an age of recording gear where not only is it easier than ever for anyone to
achieve their musical vision on a computer, but it’s possible to make great music and sounds,
with far less financial investment than before. Plug-ins are no longer taboo, and story after
story gets told of the song you’ve been obsessing over for years being produced in someone’s
bedroom on a laptop. In that vein, the demands on consumer and prosumer gear goes up,
while newer technologies offer improvements in performance, and subsequently, sound quality
goes up too. This sums up how we arrive at the Focusrite Clarett series of audio interfaces.
Sitting above the Scarlett 2i4 [Tape Op #115] at roughly double the price, the Clarett 2Pre USB
10×4 audio interface is aimed at recording artists that want a step up in quality while keeping

om
the portability of a compact desktop box with universal USB connectivity. The 2Pre USB is
essentially the most mobile of the Clarett line. Because it’s bus-powered from a 15 W USB-C
port, it takes no time to pull it out of your backpack, connect it to your laptop, plug in a mic
.c
and/or instrument, and get to work. (A wall wart, and a cable with Type A termination are also
included in the event your host device doesn’t offer USB-C.) In short, the 2Pre USB definitely
succeeds, and I’ve really come to love this interface. The first time I plugged it in, the interface
was immediately recognized by my Mac (a wicked-old Mac Pro tower, at that), and my initial
l
reaction was that the sound was very clean and detailed compared to my also admittedly old
FireWire Apogee Ensemble [Tape Op #62], which cost much more than the Clarett.
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Build quality of the 2Pre USB is truly impressive. While the Scarlett range utilizes plastic, the
Clarett’s chassis is brushed metal and the red-anodized front is beautiful to look at. Everything
about the unit is rock solid; you can’t feel the seams of the case, and the controls are smooth,
offering the perfect resistance.
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I also prefer the functionality of the Clarett to that of my Ensemble. The Ensemble is sparse
@g

despite being physically large, and I have to “click” a rotary dial to switch between controlling
the volume of the mains, the first headphone output, and the second headphone output –
cycling through all three to get back to the first. This click-wheel paradigm has grown dated
and stale, so I appreciate that the Clarett has dedicated controls, including a large metal knob
34

for the mains, and smaller ones for the gain of each input and the headphone output. The feel
of these knobs is superior, reminding me of the Allen & Heath XONE V6 mixer [Tape Op #62]
that I reviewed many years ago.
I’ll admit that I’m not one to travel much with an audio interface, but over the course of a
21

few weeks with the 2Pre USB, I did take it to several different locations and found myself really
appreciating exactly how convenient this box is to pack up in seconds and throw in a backpack.
For such a tiny package, the sound quality is impressive. During playback on the 2Pre USB, I
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immediately noticed that transients are audibly clearer than what I hear from my Apogee
Ensemble, bringing out nuances that surprised me, even within the character of each
instrument in a mix. For example, I could hear a sort of a reverberation of the guitar string
pluck of Eddie Vedder’s “Toulumne” that I wasn’t hearing before. This gave the song a much
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more distinct character. Likewise, with Dog Blood’s “Next Order,” a massive dance track, I heard
nuances that were new to me. The song has an enormous kick drum with swirling lower-register
synth lines, intense percussive elements, and bright sawtooth synths; and it’s mixed superbly.
Listening through the 2Pre USB, the presence of each instrument was more pronounced and
the clarity of the kick drum was better. Again, the nuance of what each instrument was doing
was much clearer. Not only did this “feel” more accurate, but it was more pleasant to listen to.
78/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/
I asked Andy Hong if I was crazy for what I was hearing. His The 8Pre USB is a 24-bit, 192 kHz–capable 18×20 interface boosted the highs noticeably, but it also seemed to increase
response was three pages long, and I didn’t even follow half with eight onboard mic preamps. It shares the same single the overall gain, raising the background noise of my room for
of it, but he basically said I wasn’t crazy and that, “Everyone rack space height form and functionality as the original example, so I had to turn the preamp level down when
talks about sampling rate and frequency response; and these Clarett 8Pre Thunderbolt, but obviously, this newer edition enabling this feature.
days, pretty much all interfaces can do 192 kHz, with utilizes USB for connectivity to the host computer. Although On the downside, I found myself wishing the device
frequency response that’s ruler flat, and harmonic distortion the Clarett USB models have higher roundtrip latency than provided more versatility. While inputs can be monitored
way down in the 1/1000ths of a percent. On the other hand, their Thunderbolt counterparts, the low-latency performance directly for near-zero latency using Focusrite Control, there
Focusrite focused on the actual sound of their Red and Clarett is still impressive. I verified the published latency figures are no built-in effects to add to the monitor outputs if you
interfaces in a way that’s not simply conveyed by specs and with my own measurements, and I was able to monitor decide to work this way. The preamps sound nice, but there
numbers – and they nailed it.” overdubs through the DAW with no perceptible delay, even are no polarity, impedance, or filter controls. Phantom
I was genuinely blown away by the 2Pre USB’s sound, and on an older (2010) iMac. power is ganged in sets of four, which seems like an
after a few weeks, I got around to carefully A/B’ing the The 8Pre USB’s front panel includes eight knobs to control obvious way to reduce cost, but it doesn’t take into
Ensemble and the Clarett. What I heard was really surprising. preamp gain, a dedicated knob for monitor volume, and two account the workflow of small project studios, where you
I was hearing things from the Ensemble like “smearing” in more knobs to control individual headphone outputs. Six- often add and remove mics and other sources as the
the low frequencies, and instruments “clouding” each other – segment LED meters show levels for the preamps as well as session progresses. I found myself making patching choices
in comparison to the Clarett. I heard more detail overall from the main L/R monitor output. The preamps and converters based on whether phantom power was on or off on a free
the Clarett, and got a generally better “picture” of what each are essentially the same as found in the entire Clarett line. channel. I wouldn’t mind if all the preamp features were
instrument was doing in the mix. I checked with different All eight preamp inputs (two on the front of the unit, six in switchable in software, if it meant additional per-channel
songs from different genres and heard similar things across back) use Combo jacks and can handle mic or line–level functionality. The more expensive Clarett 8PreX [Tape Op
the board. signals, and the front pair can also operate as instrument- #111] includes many of these missing features as buttons
On the Clarett’s inputs, the mic preamps include the Air level direct inputs. The preamp design includes Focusrite’s on its taller front panel, and it utilizes dedicated mic, line,
feature “that switches in an analogue model of the classic Air feature, meant to emulate the sound of the transformer- and instrument inputs instead of Combo jacks, so you can
transformer-based Focusrite ISA mic pre.” Focusrite also says based Focusrite ISA circuit. You also get 10 balanced line keep more of your various sources patched in (or have all
the Clarett has instrument inputs with extra headroom. I did outputs in the rear, one pair of which you can use as your its inputs connected to an external patchbay); but it’s
some recording with and without Air enabled, and I have to main monitor out. ADAT, coaxial S/PDIF, and MIDI I/O are available only in a Thunderbolt variant.
say, it’s a neat tool to have. It does add what others have also in back. Two buttons in the front enable phantom power The Clarett 8Pre USB offers quality preamps, flexible I/O with
called very succinctly, a “sheen” to vocals. It’s a pleasant rise in banks of four, and another two buttons dim and mute the ADAT and S/PDIF expandability, and impressive latency
around 4 kHz that I’m hearing, and it does give an “airy” feel. monitor out. Status LEDs indicate power, Air, USB figures. It’s compatible with USB 2.0 and up – convenient
The preamps in general, even without Air, sound great – super connectivity, and MIDI lock. whether you’re running a newer computer or still getting by
clean. The Focusrite website has a well thought out section A big selling point for this interface is its low latency. I’ve on an older machine. The 8Pre USB may fall short of
going into more of the detail of why the Clarett interfaces never owned a super-low-latency setup, so I typically avoid standalone “ministudio” status, but the combination of nice-

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sound the way they do; it’s worth reading. latency issues by monitoring through an analog mixer, and sounding preamps, low latency, and useful software make it a
On macOS, installation is driverless and super-stable. The I use outboard gear if I want to monitor with effects. I solid purchase. ($799.99 street; www.focusrite.com)
included Focusrite Control software allows signal decided to do loopback latency testing to verify the.c -Josh Boughey <thespencerroom.bandcamp.com>
routing/mixing, control configuration, and near-zero-latency published figures using a 2010 iMac 3.2 GHz Core i3 with
monitoring. I chose to monitor through my DAW, and even 8 GB RAM, running macOS 10.11.3, as well as a brand new Mixing with Impact
running boatloads of plug-ins, latency was never an issue.
(On Windows, installing Focusrite Control also installs an
Lenovo X1 Carbon 2.9 GHz Core i7 with 16 GB RAM, running
Windows 10. At 48 and 96 kHz, with buffers set at 32, 64,
(book)
Subtitled “Learning to Make Musical Choices,” Wessel
l
ASIO driver.) and 128, the actual round-trip latencies I measured (as well Oltheten’s book is one of the most comprehensive guides
I should also point out that the rear of the 2Pre USB includes as the numbers reported in Reaper) were comparable to the to mixing music I have ever come across. As Peter Katis
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an ADAT port for adding input channels. For example, a racked figures published on the Focusrite website. I also completed [Tape Op #31] is quoted on the back, “Mixing is an
Clarett OctoPre, with its eight Air-enabled mic preamps, would subjective testing, by recording a vocal with a reverb plug- intensely instinctual endeavor that can’t really be taught in
be a perfect studio companion to plug into, when you pull the in, while monitoring through my DAW. This worked well, as a book. But Wessel, an engineer, mixer, and educator, lays
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2Pre USB out of your backpack. There are also four balanced long as I set the buffer size fairly low. As expected, when I out and explores an impressive number of the things that
line outputs and MIDI I/O in the rear. A very minor gripe here, gradually increased the buffer size, the latency became more go into making this very complicated process make sense.”
@g

but I’d love to have a second headphone out. Plugging in a noticeable. I found the most usable sizes to be 128 at 48 I agree. The usual topics of effects, compression, and EQ
headphone splitter gets you halfway there, but if you’re and 96 kHz, and 64 at 44.1 kHz. are covered but in more realistic, hands-on detail than
working with another person at the studio, in your home, on The two front-panel headphone jacks allow two different most vague mixing guides usually are fluffed up with.
the beach, or wherever you just happened to go because this mixes. Monitoring configuration is handled in the included Special attention is given early on to the importance of
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box freed you so incredibly, the chances that the two of you Focusrite Control software. In addition, Focusrite Control phase, space, and time and how all these interrelate. One
will want different monitor mixes (or even just different allows for mixing any set of inputs to the various outputs, of the best features of this book is that Wessel doesn’t
volumes) could be pretty high. One solution is to connect a or direct routing between inputs and outputs, as well as generally hand out specific names of hardware or plug-ins
headphone amp to outputs 3 and 4, while still reserving 1 and switching device settings (toggling the Air feature per to use but instead educates the user about actual
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2 for your speakers, but that requires another box to channel, setting sample rate, etc.). The monitoring utility is techniques, what type of gear will achieve the desired
purchase/carry. The 4Pre USB, which is the next model up in simple to use; I was able to dial up two headphone mixes goals, and why it works. These are the fundamental
the Clarett range, gives you two headphone outs, as well as quickly. However, the headphone mixes sounded overly building blocks of quality mixing; not some whiz-bang
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four preamps and eight outputs, for another $200, but it’s also bright to me (compared to my speakers and to the plug-in template that claims to always deliver “perfect
a bigger unit physically. headphone mixes from my MOTU interface), and there was vocals” or some such lie. Other topics include the practical
Is the Clarett range worth the price jump over Scarlett? As no way to EQ the headphone outputs. realities of maintaining objectivity, working with others,
with many things in life, there are options and The preamps sounded quite nice and crisp, and provided and even serving the clients’ needs as opposed to your own
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considerations, and no obvious “Yes, that’s the best solution adequate gain for my go-to condenser mic (AKG C 414 XLS) ego. Mixing with Impact is a perfect handbook for the mix
for me.” Having to choose, I prefer the Clarett 2Pre USB over as well as a vintage dynamic mic (Electro-Voice Model 630). engineer, and I find myself thumbing through it and
any interface I’ve owned and even over most of the interfaces However, I noticed the gain really only kicks in during the nodding my head at all the truth within its pages.
I’ve heard costing much more. last 20% of the pot’s rotation, which doesn’t provide much (mixingwithimpact.com, routledge.com) -LC
($399.99 street; www.focusrite.com) -Brandon Miller fine control. This hard-to-manage taper was similar for all
<brandon@mavrik.us> the controls, including headphone volume. The Air setting
Gear Reviews/(continued on page 80)/Tape Op#126/79
There are 12 aux sends. Not six. Not even eight; but 12! And the ASP8024-HE mix, the difference was noticeable. This
Audient that doesn’t include the headphone mixes. Now true, these sounds cliché, but the console sounded bigger, wider, and
ASP8024-HE console are shared between six knobs so there are some combinations just more interesting. The vocals seemed to sit more
Large-format recording consoles; there just aren’t as many that aren’t possible, but with 12 sends you should be able to convincingly in the mix, and there seemed to be more
of them being made these days compared to decades past. A plan accordingly. All these sends can be pre or post fader, and harmonic content. It was just more fun to listen to.
portion of the industry has moved towards totally mixing in can be sourced from either the short or long faders. Here’s The ASP8024-HE is dead quiet. The first time I powered it
the box and tracking only with outboard preamps, but there another thoughtful feature: you can link other aux sends back up after installation, I brought up the monitor volume pot
is still a percentage of people, myself included, who to aux 1 and 2. Why? Let’s say you are doing a dense mix and (upgraded to an ALPS Blue Velvet pot on the HE version), and
appreciate the workflow of tracking and the sound of mixing using both the long and short faders. You might have some I had to check to see if the monitors were powered up and
through a large format console. inputs on the short faders and some of the long that you want connected. I brought up the master fader and some channel
Although I still co-own a studio, I also run an audio to send to, perhaps, your main reverbs. But the auxes can be faders. There was virtually no noise. From the first moment I
program at a local college. When the 35-year-old Otari sourced from either the short fader or the long fader. Normally powered up the board, everything worked. I spent no time
console at that facility had degenerated into non-operational, you’d be out of luck. But with this link feature, you can use chasing down problems, and everything worked perfectly.
I began looking for a new console. After months of research, another aux send to also send to aux 1 or 2. So (stay with That doesn’t always happen.
I discovered that there were really only a few options, as we me) you could have aux 1 assigned to the long fader and aux A few things regarding the DLC Moving Fader module: First
still use an analog 24-track tape machine plus Pro Tools | 3 assigned to the short fader, link them, and therefore get of all, it acts as a Pro Tools controller very well. It will also
HDX. We also needed to incorporate a good deal of outboard sends from both faders to the same reverb. There might be work with any HUI protocol DAW. It is comprised of eight
gear, and we wanted moving fader DAW control. All of these another console that also does that, but I’ve never seen it. In touch sensitive moving faders, a data knob for pan or other
factors narrowed the field of current console possibilities. addition, you have two headphone foldbacks with multiple parameters, DAW transport control, and a shuttle wheel. You
Then I came across the Audient ASP8024-HE (Heritage source options including external sources. This means that, can also nudge or bank the faders to access all of the tracks
Edition). I was certainly aware of the original 8024, as it had including the headphone sends, there are really 14 aux sends. in the session. Color LED scribble strips are located above the
been in production for almost 20 years, but Audient now has Also, there are four stereo effect returns. With another data knobs. Though fairly straightforward, it’s called “Dual
put in some time updating the console. Let’s first talk about example of thinking through the workflow, each effect return Layer Control” for a reason. With the push of a button the
the basics, and then I’ll cover the new upgrades. can be routed to the stereo bus, or to any of the multitrack faders disengage from DAW control and become eight
The ASP8024-HE is insanely configurable upon ordering. You buses for printing effects. patchable analog moving faders with their own inputs,
can have 24-channels, or up to 72 in 12-channel increments. Although the ASP8024-HE has 24 output buses, the first assignable to the mix. You can patch in your most important
You can choose where the master section is located. You can eight are full-featured groups as well. This means there are tracks to these faders and have post-DAW analog audio
have an integrated patchbay, or no patchbay. You can add a master faders for these first eight buses with pan knobs, automation. These faders interface with Pro Tools using an
producer’s desk. You can add the DLC Moving Fader Section “assign to mix” buttons, and group inserts for bus AAX compatible plug-in, which gives a great deal of flexibility
(more on that later). You can arrange these sections in almost compression. Additionally, there are 24 trim knobs for all of to this section of the console.
any order. Audient even has a file for an app called Sketch Up, the buses. Also on the master section is the monitor So, it’s clear that I like the board. Is it perfect? Of course

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which helps to plan and visualize a configuration. controller, which allows you to select between four sets of not. With all of the functionality, there are signs that this
I chose their basic configuration of 24-channels in two 12- monitors, each with individual level trim controls – nice board was clearly designed to give the best features and
channel buckets, with the DLC Moving Fader Section, Master feature! There’s also a mono and a dim button, as well as left
.c performance while making some compromises for sake of the
Section, and integrated patchbay. Even with just 24- cut, or right cut. Controls for live room speakers with budget. One example is that the channel strips aren’t modular,
channels, you get a full 48 on mix down, as the in-line design selectable sources are also included. Rounding out the master but lie in 12-channel buckets. That can make quick repair or
gives you both a short and long fader for each input strip. You section is a versatile oscillator and a flexible talkback section. swapping difficult. Fortunately, these consoles have a long
can individually flip the faders to swap which is the “tracking” Now we get into the sound of the console, as well as some track record with great reliability, so this shouldn’t be a big
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fader and which is the “monitor return” fader, and both can of the other new features. The sonic approach of the ASP8024- issue. Another small annoyance would be that the hundreds
return to the mix bus. HE leans towards transparency, but this is an instance where of pushbutton switches used throughout the console have no
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Now, before I continue going down the extensive laundry transparent doesn’t mean boring. The overall character of the illumination to indicate their state, on or off. When coupled
list of features, I need to say one thing. At first glance, it desk is wide open, with good imaging and depth. There is a with the relatively short throw of the buttons, this means that
looks relatively simple for being a large format design. But the slight character to the console, but it’s not overt. I much prefer you often find yourself peering at an angle across a module
more I looked at it, the more I realized how much thought
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the sound of the ASP8024-HE to another currently-produced to see what’s selected. Adding lights, however, would have
went into the design and layout. I kept finding features that console that costs a good bit more. Again, it’s mostly added thousands to the price. Also, you don’t get 24
@g

showed real thoughtfulness in approach and workflow. The transparent with a little extra harmonic stuff going on. motorized faders; you get eight. All of these compromises are
highest compliment I can give the ASP8024-HE is that it The transformerless class A mic preamps are clean, with made in a conscious effort to deliver a serious console at a
offers amazingly versatile options and flexibility in a package have tons of gain. Their 60 dB range means that they can reasonable price. I don’t know of a console that can compete
that is laid out in a very simple and straightforward form. even handle most ribbon mics. The preamps, EQs, buses, and with it for features and sonics without costing much more. In
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Here’s an example of a cool feature: the ASP8024-HE is a full master section have impressive headroom and can be order to get anything comparable or better, the competition
24-bus design, making it easy to route your mic inputs to the pushed to ridiculous levels before breaking up. This brings is between 60 to 100% more. For the most part, the
recorder. But guess what; the bus outputs are redundant, me to one of the other improvements of the HE version. The compromises seem to be absolutely the right decision, except
meaning there are TWO sets of outputs. For me, that’s great, stereo bus has been upgraded to discrete, class A classic 990 one in my opinion.
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as I have both a 2-inch tape machine and Pro Tools. I can op amp output circuitry. This helps improve headroom, Audient designers, please look deep into my eyes. Please,
track to either or both without lifting a patch cable. If you clarity, and punch to the overall mix. In addition, they have for the good of all mankind, make one change to the DLC
have a 48-channel version, you can also return both without added a button that will insert Carnhill transformers in the Moving Fader System: Change the LED scribble strips to be
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lifting a patch cable (this requires the 48-bus link mod). output section, offering a subtle harmonic footprint when positioned with one per fader, right above the fader… just
Continuing with features, the EQ offers high and low desired. Two more switches add a slight EQ bump at 60 Hz, like everyone else on the planet does. Right now, the strips
shelving filters with two fully parametric mid bands. The high- and a slight lift at 20 kHz. I find the high frequency are nowhere near the faders, but rather off to the right with
shelf can be either 10 kHz or 18 kHz. I have to say I love the especially useful. I pretty much never turn off the only four windows of two rows. With only four windows, the
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18 kHz option. I can really add subtle and cool air on top. The transformers, and often mix with the bump buttons in. All eight selected channels are stacked with channels 1-4
low-shelf is switchable between 50 and 100 Hz. The shelving of this helps make the ASP8024-HE an excellently showing on the top half of the window and channels 5-8
bands are separate from the parametric bands, allowing you functioning and great sounding board. I set up a session showing on the bottom half of the same window. You can hit
to assign either section to either of the faders, so you can that had been mixed in a DAW and sent the tracks out to a toggle that will bring 5-8 to the top. If the explanation
have the EQ on the small (record) or the large (monitor) fader, stereo sends that were returned on the console faders. When seems confusing, try actually using it. The mental gymnastics
or split half the EQ between the two faders. switching back and forth between the in the box mix and required to quickly associate which fader goes with what
80/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 82)
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Put your ad on this page: https://www.tapeop.com/mediakit//Tape Op#126/81


name and data pot makes the control surface much less was always a need to add “just one more stand” in a
effective than it should be. The entire idea of a control TAMA previously mic’d environment. Although they said most of
surface is to make DAW control be faster, more intuitive, and Iron Works Studio mic stands their tests were with classical musicians, anyone who has
to eliminate steps between thought and action. This issue Anyone familiar with TAMA drum hardware will have the recorded drums understands where this is headed. This
could have easily been avoided by just designing it like same reaction to learning that the respected drum maker is TAMA mic stand was designed to be added at the last
most other DAW controllers. That aside, it is a fantastic now selling mic stands: What took so long? I’m actually old minute, provided stable support, and allow placement that
console. The power supply, even with a fan, is dead quiet. enough to remember the debut of the Spartan and Titan does not damage mic cables. Ah, I get it. We liked the other
The mic preamps are so good I don’t feel a need to reach for stands. Before TAMA’s stands, drummers used unstable, flat- stands, and the Low Profile boom now gets so much use
high-end outboard preamps. The console has enough subtle bottom stands. Consequently, TAMA stands have been the that we have to order more. -GH
character to make mixes interesting. Being able to switch most copied hardware since the kick pedal. Within the Iron I think it’s telling that my studio did not receive review
the Carnhill transformer in or out of the stereo bus is great. Works family are three product lines: Standard, Tour, and units of any of these TAMA Iron Works Studio mic stands to
The routing options and features are excellent. The Studio. Standard is the most economical and lightweight. try out and pass judgement on. We’ve purchased four rounds
patchbay allows for 144 points of external equipment. The The Tour line is targeted at live sound, media, and theater of booms and stands to solve problems at Jackpot!, and
build quality is excellent. The armrest is hand carved walnut. situations. Studio is the most durable (and pricier) line, and they all performed excellently. The cost may be slightly
There is nothing else anything like the ASP8024-HE for the those are the products we reviewed here. -GH higher than other brands’ quality mic stands out there, but
price. If you are looking for a large format, completely During the NYC AES Show in 2017 I noticed that TAMA had I wish these had existed when I first outfitted my studio. It
configurable console, you need to check this one out! taken out a small booth and was showing mic stands. I’ve would have saved me a lot of money in the long run and
(starting at $36,999 list; audient.com) long been frustrated with all the friction-based clutch boom avoided a ton of frustration and annoyance compared to the
-Kirt Shearer <kbshearer@sbcglobal.net> stands at Jackpot! Recording; no matter how much they build quality of most mic stands. -LC

Benson Amps cost these booms all started to droop after a few years – or
sometimes immediately – after purchase. I was also tired of
($69 to $129 street, tamamicstands.com)
-LC and -GH <www.treelady.com>
Studio Tall Bird spring reverb
I love electro-mechanical reverbs. I’ve owned several plate
non-telescoping booms; the long ones that would end up
sticking out in front of amps or drums and getting
Dear Client (book)
I stumbled on this book from a recommendation by a
reverbs and currently have a Hamptone-customized EMT 140 continuously bumped out of position. These TAMA Iron
friend from my past corporate life, and I’m passing this tip
along with two different Demeter Real Reverb units [Tape Op Works Studio booms appeared better built than any I’d seen
on. You may not know the name Bonnie Siegler, but you’ve
#21, #109]. I use these all the time and love the uniqueness or used before. Being that all of my stands were tripod-
encountered Siegler’s work. The founder of New York-based
of real hardware and rich tones. My pal Chris Benson builds based, and the main, straight part of the stands seemed to
Eight and a Half design studios, she’s been responsible for
some of the best tube instrument amplifiers out of his shop be in decent shape, I initially opted to purchase five Vice-
visuals for Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Seth Meyers,
in Portland, and now he’s introduced his first piece of rack- Grip Boom Tilter with Iron-Core Telescoping Boom Arms
HBO, Brooklyn Public Library, and many more. Along with
mount gear, the Studio Tall Bird stereo tube-powered spring (MS756BB, $69) to try out as replacements in my studio.
Tape Op editor Larry Crane, Siegler is also a contributor to
reverb. There aren’t a lot of features, which suits me fine. Not all outlets carry this “accessory” part, but after a bit of

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the Lynda.com learning website. She’s a busy woman! The
The Input gain control can be used to set typical levels, or searching I found them online. In real studio use these
book, Dear Client: This Book Will Teach You How to Get What
the tubes and spring can be driven a bit for a more obscured booms quickly became favored, leading me to order more to
You Want from Creative People, is a blast to read and well
reverb tone, and the Output can make sure you’re not swap out all my booms. The Vice-Grip tilter’s “multi-steel-
.c worth the time for audio engineers to consider. It’s billed as
blowing out the next stage of your signal chain. Bass and plate compression” technology is the only non-teethed
a cheat sheet or handbook for clients, so why would an
Treble control wide, mellow EQ slopes on the spring’s locking clutch that I’ve ever used that really works. Even a
audio engineer care? If you think trying to get a musician
output. The unit is set up for wet only output, which I am slight turn of the knob will provide more support than
to tell you what they want their song to sound like is
more than happy about (I’d use my console to submix grabbing a big pair of pliers and cranking on my old boom
difficult, you ain’t lived until you’ve worked in an
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Studio Tall Bird with a source if needed during tracking). The stands. The rest of the tightening knobs and die-cast
advertising or marketing environment. Growing up in a
I/O of the spring is all transformer balanced, though the locking thumb nut (to tighten against the mic clip’s
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house where my mother ran a graphics design firm, I can


1/4-inch TRS connectors on the rear might mislead some threads) all set without trouble and hold their positions
attest that corporate clients originated the concept of, “I
guitar players into plugging in (buy Benson’s Tall Bird guitar better than most stands as well. The inside telescoping part
don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it once I see [hear]
spring reverb for that). Note that these two reverb channels of the boom is solid cast steel, not tubing, as are the legs
it!” Sound familiar? Siegler’s prose comes with the poise of
may share the main audio controls, but that they do not in the full Telescoping Boom Stand. In fact, many of the
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a trusted confident. After all designer (audio) studio time is


share signal paths, so separate sends can be routed through parts on the Studio stands are cast metal, not plastic, and
expensive, and designers (engineers) are sensitive. She’s
the Studio Tall Bird for more flexibility and some mono
@g

I’m expecting years of work out of them. I went on to


here to make sure clients get the most efficient experience.
reverb fun. purchase two full TAMA stands after my booms – the
She does this through suggestions that ostensibly increase
Chris claims that he was gonna build a plate reverb, but Telescoping Boom Stand (MS756BK, $129) and the Low
the client’s ability to rein in pesky-creatives (us). But the
that once he built out the prototype of this unit he felt he Profile Telescoping Boom Stand (MS756LBK, $129) – and
whole action actually grooms the customer (recording
34

didn’t need a plate. I see what he means. While his Tall Bird the rest of the build quality is better than my existing
artist) to better participate in the process. In short – it
for instruments uses shorter springs, and sounds great for stands by a long shot. I also bought a Round Base Extra Low
helps them focus, determine what they want, communicate
that purpose, the Studio Tall Bird uses longer springs inside Profile Telescoping Boom Stand (MS756RELBK, $119). This
that to us, and in the event of discrepancies, crafts feedback
and has a much longer, deeper dwell; reminding me of a is great for kick drum mic placement, and unlike the Tripod
21

and criticism loops that allow us to make edits the client


plate to some degree. In some cases, like on short, staccato Cast Base Garrett is confounded by (below), the Round Base
desires. Conversely, the chapters assume a level of
sounds that only needed a small ambience, this reverb was won’t tip over easily and is very heavy. In fact, all these mic
professionalism on the creative (us), subtly offering process
too much. But on many sources – like Rhodes electric piano, stands are heavier than comparable stands by other
that should be standard in our studio operations.
guitar solos, and synth pads – the Studio Tall Bird was
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manufacturers. -LC
I understand most Tape Op readers want to share gear tips,
awesome, lending a deep blanket of reverb to the sounds. I At Treelady, we tested the Telescoping Boom Stand, the
talk about technology, and discuss best practices for the
also liked it tucked way in the back behind some mono, un- Low Profile Telescoping Boom Stand, and the Tripod Cast
engineering side; we’re geeks at heart. But audio is a
doubled, electric rhythm guitar that needed a slight Base Straight Stand (MS750TBK, $79). The Tripod Cast Base
customer service industry first and foremost, and very few
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widening in a mix. I’ve been using the Studio Tall Bird on confused me initially. Instead of the common, round
engineers succeed without solid interpersonal skills. With
almost all my mix sessions since Chris Benson dropped mine weighted base, it has a solid cast tripod that takes up a
chapters such as “Decide Who Will Decide,” “Be Upfront
off, and now I have to pay him for it. You wouldn’t think I’d smaller than expected footprint. Immediately I noted how
About Money,” and “Good, Fast, Cheap,” Mrs. Siegler is
simply return something this cool, do you? it was susceptible to being knocked over and had to write
giving away the keys to the creative kingdom, years of deep
($1499 direct; bensonamps.com) -LC to TAMA for an explanation. The designers in Japan chose
experience, and approaches Solomon-level wisdom.
this base because they ran into many setups where there
(workman.com) -Garrett Haines <www.treelady.com>
82/Tape Op#126/Gear Reviews/(Fin.)
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The Panoramic House is the ultimate VRBO for musicians. A live-in residential studio in West Marin, CA
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overlooking the Pacific Ocean with API & Neve consoles, 2” tape, Pro Tools HD, and an echo chamber.
Each room of the house is filled with musical instruments except for the gourmet kitchen with a Wolf range.
Plenty of room and solitude to get into a creative space but only 30 minutes from San Francisco.
Rates start at $350 a day.
panoramic-house.com • john@onefinmanagement.com • 916-444-5241
Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#126/83
An Endangered Species?
by John Baccigaluppi

If you’re one of the folks doing all your music making in-the-box, with
your DAW and plug-ins, then you can skip the rest of this rant. Consider
yourself lucky, as this older analog gear is getting really hard to repair and
keep in service. Stick to your software, and email me if you have any boring,
old analog gear you need to get rid of; I can help you “recycle” it. For the
rest of us still using that outdated, analog junk, I’ve got one massive
concern: Parts. The beauty of older analog gear is that we can actually fix it
with fairly common parts, or at least we have been able to so far. I recently
sent a pair of 1950’s-era RFT bottle mics to Scott Hampton, of Hamptone,
in order to upgrade their power supplies and he had this to say, “These
things are beautiful, in the fact that it’s like working on a 1940’s truck.
Everything is easy to access and is straightforward. [The work is] going quick
and smooth.” This is a much different experience than troubleshooting why
a DAW stopped working after the operating system was updated. Better than
throwing away (or, hopefully, recycling) incompatible computer components
that are less than five years old. And way better than trying to fix a piece
of analog gear built with surface mount technology circuit boards that
cannot be serviced.
I was recently on the phone with Nashville’s MCI repair tech
extraordinaire, Steve Sadler, who was helping me troubleshoot my MCI JH-
16 tape deck’s master bias oscillator. We determined that I
needed a resistor and a diode, both fairly inexpensive
parts. Steve said I might need to order the diode from
China. I told him I was hoping to get the part at my local parts store, Over the years I’ve had many discussions with folks that build recording
since I needed to do the repair the following day. “You have a parts store?” equipment, and I’ve increasingly heard stories about how hard it is these days to

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he asked somewhat incredulously. I do. Electronics Plus, in San Rafael, find parts, especially semiconductors. Nowadays, when a manufacturer finds a
California, is one of those old school electronics stores that every city used transistor that will work well for a design, they will need to buy lots (in the
to have several of. They’ve got a great stock of parts, as well as a friendly, thousands) so they will have enough for a lifetime of the product’s run, as they
likely won’t be able to find any a year later. Older recording equipment and
knowledgeable staff. Plus, I can ride my bike there in five minutes. I’m lucky,
as most cities don’t have these types of stores left. When I lived in
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designs can suffer a worse fate. In Tape Op #125, engineer/producer/mixer F. Reid
Sacramento, we used to have three or four of these suppliers. Metro Shippen said, “Honestly, a lot of the gear that I truly love is impossible to make,
Electronics was right downtown, near my studio, but it was the last to go because the equipment doesn’t exist. Or the materials don’t exist. Or they’re
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when the building was demolished a few years ago. illegal – RoHS is not a friend of audio gear.”
I’ve found the RoHS lead-free solder specifications to be slightly ironic. RoHs
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[Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive] is an EU directive on the


restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic
equipment. This is a spec that manufacturers need to meet in order to distribute
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their gear worldwide. Part of the spec is using lead-free solder, so that if the
product ends up in landfill the lead won’t leach out into the soil and water table.
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This is, of course, a good idea. The ironic part is that solder without lead is not
as electronically reliable, so compliantly-built equipment is more likely to break.
The RoHS spec seems designed around the concept that all electronic devices will
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end up in landfill, and our culture of disposability and replaceability (Apple, cell
phones, etc.) would certainly encourage that behavior. But how many pieces of
classic recording gear have you seen in a trash dump?
There is something to be said for any piece of gear, like my old microphones,
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that still works 60 to 70 years after being built. I just hope we can continue to
find parts and keep this equipment working. If your town has an electronics
supply store, support them. Even if you can get an XLR jack for $2 online, go buy
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a $6 XLR jack from your friendly local parts store once in a while, so that when
all you need is a Zener diode that costs 78 cents to fix your tape machine, you
don’t have to order it from China, or toss your vintage gear in a landfill. r
ti

84/Tape Op#126/End Rant/


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