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The Creative Music Recording Magazine

Joe Boyd
Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, R.E.M., more...
Bob Power
Seminal NYC Hip-Hop engineer
Sonicraft
Steve Puntolillo’s obsession with sonics
Jace Lasek/
Dave Smith
Montreal’s Breakglass Studio
Mike Castoro
In Behind The Gear
TapeOpCon
Gear Reviews
CD Reviews

$4.50
No. 60
July/Aug
2007

CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED:


POB 160995, SAC, CA 95816
Hello and welcome
to Tape Op
#60!
12 Letters Okay, for those of you following my misadventures over the latest issues,
here’s an update. We finished moving Jackpot! (my crazy studio) into our
20 TapeOpCon wrap-up new Hamptone digs in Portland at the beginning of June. What do they say
22 Mike Castoro in Behind the Gear about doubling time and money when you build a house or start a business?
It was like that. Ouch. The studio is now open, and studio manager Kendra
26 Jace Lasek and Dave Smith: Breakglass did the first tracking with a BBC radio session for The Gossip. Engineers are
30 Joe Boyd giving it a favorable review, so we’re relieved. What was weird for me was to
not be the first engineer to track there, as Jenna and I had to hit the road
42 Bob Power to get back to Arizona to our home and then to Tucson for the sixth and
50 Steve Puntolillo & Sonicraft
p a g e

final TapeOpCon. “Final?” you ask? Check out the TapeOpCon recap this issue.
Now we’re off to host Jackpot!’s 10 year anniversary and opening party.
58 Gear Reviews Eventually will all this settle down? I’m not even sure how the mag gets done
78 CD Revews at this point. Just kidding.
82 The End Rant My pal Dave Allen recently (via his website www.pampelmoose.com)
recently turned me onto The Long Tail , a concept noted by Wired
Magazine’s Chris Anderson (and recently in book form as The Long Tail: Why
the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, published by Hyperion). The
idea is that in media there are the “hit” products with mass sales (the green
part of the chart above) and then the “non-hit” products with less sales (the
yellow part to the right). What he’s noticed is that companies like Netflix
and Amazon are selling more volume of the “non-hit” products. This is
happening with online music retail and downloads as well. And this is the
theory that I always had in my mind about Tape Op.
Most of the music being recorded in the world is being done in low (no?)
to mid budget recording scenarios. This might seem obvious, but eleven
years ago when I would look at the cover of other magazines and see some
brand new room with a $250,000 console that I would never be able to set
foot in, I knew that there was a world of music recording that was being
ignored. My friends and I were all making records with great local engineers
and studios, and some of us recorded releases at home on out-of-date gear.
Eleven years on it seems more obvious than ever that great music can come
from many different places - and as an avid music fan I’m happier than ever
about that. Bring on The Long Tail. It’s where most of us really live.
www.thelongtail.com

Larry Crane, Editor


The Creative Music Recording Magazine

Editor
Larry Crane
Publisher & Graphic Design
John Baccigaluppi
UK and European Publisher
Alexander Lawson and Nadia Osta
Gear Reviews Editor Recording Tips Editor
Andy “Gear Geek” Hong Garrett Haines
Contributing Writers & Photographers
Cover design by Scott McChane (scott@scottmcchane.com)
Christine Wilhelmy, John Cuniberti, Eric Masunga, Mark B. Christensen, JJ Golden,
Craig Schumacher, Russ Berger, Maureen Droney, Francis Manzella,
George Massenburg, Sally Browder, Ross Hogarth, Eric Ambel, Mark Rubel,
Don Zientara, Joe Chicccarelli, Steve Silverstein, Skid Severson, Debbie Daking,
Mike Jasper, Max Cooper, Martin Horn, Alissa Anderson, Allen Farmelo, Ronald Porty,
David Weiss, Virginia Kamenitzer, Joel Hamilton, Mark Warren, Tony SanFilippo,
Terry Setter, Scott Craggs, Pete Weiss, Dana Gumbiner, Jeff Elbel,
Josh Peck, and Barry Hufker.
Internet Designers and Production
Hillary Johnson <Hillary@tapeop.com>, AJ Wilhelm
Editorial and Office Assistants
Caitlin Gutenberger, Jenna Sather, Holly Abney, Kendra Wright
Tape Op Conference
Craig Schumacher, Director: Craig@tapeop.com
Disclaimer
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
(for submissions, letters, CDs for review. CDs for review are also
reviewed in the Sacramento office, address below)
P.O. Box 14517, Portland, OR 97293 ph/fx (503) 232-6047
editor@tapeop.com
All submissions and letters sent to us become the property of Tape Op.
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10/Tape Op#60/Masthead
Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#60/11
Chris and Larry, I just read I am trying to learn about recording. I have taken
your question [about low classes and read several texts, but there are a lot of
end perception and mixing] things I have forgotten because I don’t use them
and Larry’s response. everyday, and there are many things I have not
Monitoring is definitely part learned about yet. I read your magazine and find the
of the problem. This is a information in it very valuable, but there are many
situation that plagues many things I still don’t understand yet as I have not dealt
home and prosumer recordists. with them directly - throw in the myriad of equipment
Thanks for getting Tape Op to our The dinosaur’s answer is actually a question: Why is this that is available, and I hope you can imagine how a
shores here in the UK. I read it cover to a new problem? In the dark ages of tape, (usually at 30 beginner can become quite confused. I was hoping
cover - I just couldn’t put it down. Thanks for a great ips) the low end was limited by the medium, about 45 Hz you could do something like a “beginner’s page”
read, not just great gear reviews. Its nice to see you and you were gone. Also, studios had large monitors that where you took an item and explained it, how and
still appreciate ears and warm EQs in the USA, rather typically had two 15” speakers on each side, and when it would be used, how it would be connected
than bit depth and DC to light frequency response. I somewhat well-designed rooms where you could actually and whether it goes to hardware or a software
suppose I just don’t want to spend the rest of my life hear 40 Hz. We had well designed HVAC that were pretty program, etc. Maybe when gear is reviewed this type
in front of a computer monitor! All the best quiet and were naturally protected from this situation. of information could be done as a footnote or
and jolly good show. Now digital recorders can typically record flat to 10 Hz, something. Even some of the ads don’t have any
Dow Fereday <www.ltsstudio.co.uk> while small monitors maybe get you to 80 Hz. The result information, and it’s hard to support your advertisers
is that it is extremely easy to record lots of trash in the when you don t know what the equipment does. As an
I am hoping you can clarify something for me. I
low end from HVAC, foot shuffling, and other general crap, example, I see mic preamps going for thousands of
have been doing a lot of “creating” within Mac’s
without ever being able to hear it. This translates into a dollars, but it talks about one input. Does that mean
GarageBand, using loops and samples from the Jam
lot of useless energy in the bottom and worse, harmonics that for eight inputs, I need eight units? I realize that
Packs. From the documents I have read, these loops
an octave or two higher. There is a simple cure, and it’s these things may be basic information for most
and samples are all royalty free with regard to
called the high pass filter. Unless you are recording readers, but as a beginner I look to magazines like
compositions and creations I make. I’m not trying to
something with real low end (low E on a standard tuned yours to learn from. I was just hoping that you might
“get by” with anything unethical or illegal - I just want
bass guitar is 41.2 Hz), ditch the bottom. As a general be able to put in a little more info for the beginner,
to be sure that I am understanding this correctly. I
rule, use a 50 Hz HPF [high pass filter] on everything as I’m sure there are other folks besides myself that
have a CD ready to release on a small “indie scale”. Do
unless it actually messes with the sound. You will find would benefit from this info.
I need to say that the cuts were all created in
that much of the mysterious “mud” is gone. Dan Cameron <Cameron.Daniel@Charter.net>
GarageBand? If so, do I have to get permission to use
Geoff Daking <www.daking.com> I’ve thought about this situation in the past. Can we
the name GarageBand to acknowledge them?
Marc Jonathan Haney <fretsntracks@hotmail.com> I’ve done this ever since getting my first semi-decent make a magazine that speaks to the beginner and the
console. When mixing, I generally use HPFs on seasoned pro? I think we already do, but here’s the
Essentially, a user can use the content provided with
everything except kick drum, toms, top snare, bass catch: Someone starting at the bottom will have to do
GarageBand or the Jam Packs (instruments and loops)
guitar, low organ parts and such. Be careful that you a bit of homework to catch up. When I started
royalty-free as part of their own original compositions
aren’t running the source through an HPF when tracking recording music, I was driven. I read every book at the
and productions. The user just can’t re-sell the loops.
and again at mixing - this can thin out the sound too library, bought a few more and read every mag I could
Here’s what our Software License Agreement says:
much sometimes. Why I forgot to mention this last issue find. When I didn’t understand something I would take
“Permitted License Uses and Restrictions. This License
I’ll never know! Thanks Geoff! -LC notes, and then look for the answers in my books. These
allows you to install and use one copy of the Apple
I was just reading the interview with Lincoln Fong in days you could just Google the question, dig through a
Software on a single computer at a time. You may use
#59, and I have to say I was struck by something in forum (careful about posting “newbie” questions
the Apple and third party audio loop content (“Audio
particular in one of his responses. When talking about his unless you have thick skin or read the stickies!) or look
Content”), contained in or otherwise included with the
work on Dirty Three’s Whatever You Love, You Are, he for sites with tons of knowledge collected (I’ve seen a
Apple Software, on a royalty-free basis, to create your
mentions how his method “would’ve been to go and get bunch of these). But the most important part, just like
own original soundtracks for your video and audio
a better drum kit and then ask him to tune it.” I think any learning experience, is to apply the knowledge to
projects. You may broadcast and/or distribute your own
this is a perfect example of how sometimes even things real world situations and to do this on a regular basis.
soundtracks that were created using the Audio Content,
which don’t fit some kind of working norm or standard And that means to record all the time.
however, individual samples, sound sets, or audio loops
with regard to recording or the sound of an instrument in By the way, if a mic pre has one channel then you
may not be commercially or otherwise distributed on a
general really contribute to the character of a recording. need one pre per mic to record simultaneous sources,
standalone basis, nor may they be repackaged in whole
As a drummer, as a fan of Dirty Three and as a fan of music like a drum set for example. Here’s a real simple
or in part as audio samples, sound libraries, sound
in general, it’s the little quirks and idiosyncrasies of explanation for an audio path: Source > mic or DI >
effects or music beds.” The entire GarageBand/Jam
records like this [and others] that really make them worth preamp (but not if DI is line level out) > recording
Pack Software License Agreement is located here:
listening to. While I’m sure not anyone can walk into a medium (tape deck, DAW or standalone device >
http://images.apple.com/legal/sla/docs/garagebandjam.pdf
studio and get a good recording of a drum kit, I do know mixer (could be within DAW or console) > monitor
Christine Wilhelmy, PR Program Manager Pro
that Fong’s work on this record makes it a record I enjoy controller (could be part of console or DAW
Applications <www.apple.com>
listening to, and I think a lot of that also has to do with interface) > speakers or headphones. Post preamp or
There’s nothing requiring the user to credit post recording medium (or console insert) you can
the sounds he captures. Not having a “better drum kit”
GarageBand or Apple whenever they release a song with place EQ, compression and such. Add extra channels
makes this record sound the way it does, and I for one am
one of their loops. up into the recording medium for more tracks in, and
grateful that things like this exist in the world. While
Alan Korn <aakorn@igc.org> channels between the medium and mixer (or internal
maybe it wasn’t the optimal situation at the time, it
serves the music and at the end of the day I think that’s mixing in a DAW or standalone device) for more
Respond to Tape Op: tracks to mix with. I hope this helps! -LC
all any of us can hope to do.
Editor@tapeop.com
Nicholas Decarmine <slowdynamite.com>
12/Tape Op#60/Letters
I wanted to respond to one of Larry’s answers in In my response (which I should have elaborated on I worked out of Atlantic Studios’ production
#59. Jeff Boller wrote about a program called and didn’t consider a “dismissal”) I wasn’t saying that department from ’86 to its demise in March ’03, and did
REAPER. He hyped it up and talked about its benefits, Pro Tools is the best or the worst, but was instead CD mastering for most of those years, among the
and he also spoke of the benefits that are involved in illustrating that in the commercial recording world it’s numerous other WEA projects necessary for a prominent
working with a company like Cockos Software (who very hard to introduce a new recording system or to sell company such as ours. We were the East Coast
makes REAPER). Larry responded with a dismissal of your business without adopting whatever product, good equivalent of our West Coast sister Warner Brothers
“That sounds like a great solution for you Jeff, and or bad, that is in vogue. Believe me, coughing up Studios. My specialty was back-catalog remastering for
REAPER looks pretty cool, but try telling a potential $15,000-plus for Pro Tools was not something I wanted CD. That, among other things, included the A to D
client for your commercial studio that you don’t have to do, but to stay compatible with other studios and to transfer from (hopefully) the original master tape, EQ’ing
Pro Tools and that they need to use ‘REAPER’ give our clients what they were requesting, I felt like I (I never used a compressor for back-catalog releases),
instead.” I think Larry missed the majority of the had to go to PT HD. Andy and I are curious about and formatting for the new medium (CD), etc. I seem to have
point of Boller’s email. It’s that kind of attitude - the have been keeping an eye on REAPER, so I hope to see quite a fan club for the work I did back then (see
“Pro Tools is the best-and-only software to use. All a review in Tape Op soon. -LC SteveHoffman.tv). One thing, though. I was lucky to get
other software pales in comparison. Pro Tools can do I didn’t get to thank you and John yet for my mastering credits printed anywhere in/on the
no wrong” - that makes Pro Tools the only software publishing my question about recording upright printing of these reissues. It was like I didn’t exist. There
that people will use or even respond to. The point pianos - as well as the incredible myriad of responses are many possible reasons for that. One: Why spend $$$
Boller was making was not that “Everyone should try to my question! Since posing that question to you I on changing the label copy? Another: Who really knew
REAPER, it’s the next big thing!” but rather, “If other have discovered some pretty incredible sounds and who the mastering engineer was in the
companies would take a hint from companies like have experimented a bit with everything from the graphics/printing end of production/manufacturing?
Cockos Software, and actually respond to their angle of the piano to the wall, the distance of the Who even knew that there was a mastering engineer?
customers’ needs instead of just assuming they know piano to the wall, to using a 1950s vulcanized “These things happen by themselves,” maybe they
best, then there would be a more level playing field.” rubber-coated contact microphone designed for thought. Or perhaps the timing wasn’t right, not enough
Eventually, some software company is going to do mic’ing the soundboard of pianos and other stringed time to get the engineer’s name before the release date.
everything so right, in terms of both productivity, instruments - really interesting results. I will send Who knew why, but I was lucky to get my name on one
quality of software and customer service, that the you a copy of the album I am recording for an artist out of ten releases. Pathetic. Forget the fact that the
“industry standard” is going to change, and if PT isn’t named Jonathan Bell once he presses and releases it. studio manager got every single release from the
on top of its game, it’s going to lose its status. It’s I am very proud of the sounds this 115 year-old piano company mailed to his door while the engineers were
happened before, and it will happen again, and it’s can make (with a great human player, of course), that allowed a certain number of freebies. But that’s a whole
always the underdog (like Cockos) that makes a big I have captured. I look forward to trying some of the ‘nother story. I like your mag. It talks when
push in the end. suggestions from your magazine. others are quiet, informs where there are
Brandon <mr.walkaway@gmail.com> Brendan Davies <almostjune@gmail.com> blackouts, excites where others chug...
Zal Schreiber <ZalSchreiberEng@hotmail.com>

Letters (continued on page 14)/Tape Op#60/13


There was one piece of advice that didn’t entirely MP3/AAC encoders tend to seek out and favor short,
register at the time, but which comes back to me again bright transients, so even imperceptibly tiny clicks from
and again: One of your interviewees said: “An engineer digital edits - which may be obscured by rhythm hits in a
should always be clean.” That seemed like an odd final mix - can suddenly jump out when compressed. Be sure
statement, but the idea kept nagging me in the back of my to use zero crossings for all edits when possible.
mind. People invest a lot of trust in recording engineers - Eric Masunaga <www.modstudioarts.com>
you expect your grocer, your banker, your doctor, your Apart from the obvious differences in the sound of the
congressman to be clean... Duh! Of course! An engineer different types and resolutions of data compression
should always be clean! As a beleaguered parent who gets algorithms, I don’t think there is any “magic formula”
up at the crack of dawn and feeds, dresses and rushes his involved in making a better sounding MP3 or AAC. When I was
children to school before dashing to the studio, I have working with the iTunes folks on their iTunes Originals series,
tended to let personal hygiene take a back seat to I asked the same question and was told that since their data
expediency. But now in the morning, I say to myself, “Do compression algorithm was specifically designed to use
you really want to go to work with your hair a mess and commercially available CDs as its starting point, the best way
that stubble all over your face? How will that stained shirt to get a great sounding “data compressed” mix, was to make
play with the artist or the producer?” The best message an a great sounding mix in the first place. I have noticed that
engineer can send his or her client is that he/she is tracks that are overly aggressively brick wall limited in
dedicated, serious and professional about his/her work. mastering sound proportionally worse when data compressed.
Being clean gets you half the way there, while being Doin’ the volume wars thing on your mix not only makes your
rumpled and disheveled puts you at a disadvantage right master overly crispy, but it makes your MP3s suck too.
away. I have tried it for a few months now, and it works! Mark B. Christensen <engineroomaudio.com>
The best engineering tip I’ve ever
read. Thanks for a great magazine! I think you had the answer in Larry’s initial response.
Jon Gordon <www.jongordon-music.com> Make the best quality mix/master that you can. Beyond
that it’s in the hands of the end user and the limitations
Suggestion # 18 in “What Makes A Good Recording of their playback mediums. I’d like to know what these
Engineer?” - Tape Op Sept/Oct 2006. I said, “Keep the items are that have “become really obvious.” I know that’s
equipment and yourself clean at all times. Dirty equipment not the answer you’re looking for, but I think in order to
is a bad sign. A dirty engineer is even worse.” Keeping address this question correctly, we need to know what you
yourself and your equipment clean is a sign that you take don’t like about MP3s.
pride in yourself, your work and respect the people around JJ Golden <www.goldenmastering.com>
you. Nobody wants to sit next to someone in a small, badly
air-conditioned room for ten hours who hasn’t taken a I can’t quote John’s whole comment about A&R people and
shower in a few days. Given the fact that you may be under artists developing from his Bright Eyes’ review in issue #59
some stress or occasionally step outside for a smoke could because it’s too long. You’ll have to trust me on its content, or
also promote an odor that can quickly fill a control room. pull out the last issue. John’s comment really bothers me
Perfume, cologne or scented deodorant are also not because I have a hard time with the idea that artists need an
welcomed in a small hot room. If you notice everyone A&R rep holding their hand to mature artistically. Personally, I’m
leaving the room when you walk in this could be your really excited by the idea that artists have been freed from hand-
problem, not your ideas. holding, and left with the responsibilities of artistic growth fully
John Cuniberti <reamp.com> in their own control. Obviously, I admire Conor’s commercial
success, to say nothing of his charismatic stage persona and
I was a bit surprised at your response (or lack of literate lyrical sense - my comments do not address this Bright
response) to the two questions about creating better Eyes record, which I haven’t heard. I am excited by more artists
sounding MP3s in #59’s letters section. I think these are taking control of every part of their work and careers, ending the
valid questions and would be a great subject for feedback very role-based separation that my years of reading leftist theory
from the Tape Op peanut gallery. My guess is that there have attempted to persuade me is the root of all evil (for an
are many readers who create MP3 and AAC files on a example relating to music, see Chris Cutler’s writing about the
regular basis for any number of reasons. For me, I use Residents in File Under Popular). I hear plenty of recent records
MP3s to collaborate with people via email and I’ve even with the type of artistic breadth that John praises. Living in
been asked to provide MP3 format files for low- Chicago and now New York, I’ve also found it surprisingly easy
budget/no-budget movie projects. Recently I’ve been to find insanely talented musicians who work for far less than
thinking about posting demos, outtakes and works-in- they deserve to help bring such records into existence (and have
progress on my band’s website in MP3 and AAC formats. been lucky enough to record folks who’ve collaborated with
I think this is a great way to share some stuff that everyone from Keith Rowe to Kevin Ayers as a result). I’m
otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day and it’d be nice obviously saddened for many reasons that it’s gotten far harder
if it sounded good. While I’ve done some research and to sell such records in this country (and harder as an American
writing about this myself, it’s become really obvious to consumer to find them), but it doesn’t make me any less grateful
me lately that there’s a lot more to this than just that more artists control their own fates without hand-holding
creating higher bit rate and/or variable bit rate files. or “guidance”, and it doesn’t make me long for the return of
Getting some insight into creating better sounding mixes business people with some sort of parental role in “artistic
and masters for compressed formats would be a great
thing for a lot of us.
growth”. I’d feel remiss for not addressing these
concerns by writing here.
Cliff Truesdell <cliff@masteringdigitalaudio.com> Steve Silverstein <ssilverstein@tapeop.com>
14/Tape Op#60/Letters(continued on page 16)
Hey Steve, thanks for the comments, but I think you First of all, the ISA430 is an analog channel strip.
misunderstood me a bit. I’m not advocating “hand- Perhaps you’re thinking tube? It’s a good piece of gear, and
holding” as you put it, but giving an artist the time, there are many great choices for quality mic preamps out
space and artistic freedom to develop over the course there. I find that I change combinations of mic preamps
of several years and albums. I think A & R reps in the and mics all the time, so even suggesting a preamp for a
best, classic sense of the word did this in the past and new U 87 on vocals is pretty much impossible as I would
allowed artists to develop beyond the “get a hit record pick the preamp based on how it sounded with each
or you’re done” mentality. People like Joe Boyd [see different vocalist. I would first place more importance on
his interview this issue], for instance, nurtured Nick making sure that the U 87 (or any mic) was exactly the mic
Drake in a sensitive manner even though his records you were looking for, and would emphasize getting to track
didn’t sell at the time. But those days are long gone. I with the mic and judge for yourself instead of reading a
completely agree with you that we live in a very review of it or making assumptions. -LC
exciting time for music and that it’s much easier for a I just fell in love... with a baritone guitar that is.
wide variety of music to be both heard and distributed. But, before I buy it, I can’t help but wonder if the
Additionally, I think we are in an age where it’s baritone and a standard 4-string bass would fight in a
possible for musicians to actually make a middle class recording situation. I would NOT use it to play country,
living by performing and recording their music metal or surf and was just wondering how it holds up
independent of a large corporation, which was much functioning as a “normal” rhythm guitar or lead for
harder to do in the past decades of the rock star alternative/indie/rock styles. Have you ever worked
mentality and business model. I’m all for the demise with bands that use both baritone guitar and bass in
of the corporate approach to marketing music and this way, either as a drums/bass/guitar three-piece or
looking forward to whatever’s coming next, even if I’m a drums/bass/two-guitars quartet? If so, what were
not sure exactly what it will end up being. It has to be the pros and cons of that situation?
an improvement on the past few decades. -JB Cory Mathews <cmathews@umail.ucsb.edu>
I really enjoyed your review of Bright Eyes’ I have a baritone guitar at Jackpot!, and it sneaks
Cassadaga. Mike did spend a lot of time and effort on into sessions now and then. I’ve also recorded a band
it and it shows. I completely agree with you regarding before (Two Guys) that was baritone, vocals and drums
American Idol, record labels and music - you said what (like The Evens). To work with bass and guitar it would
I’ve been saying for a while. I didn’t know whether to all depend on the registers the player was using and the
laugh or cry when I saw Larry’s rant on the last page. overall arrangement of the songs as to how the baritone
I was “accidentally” left off of Cassadaga for the would fit into a “band” concept. Just like a “normal”
mastering credit. That stung pretty bad. It’s not often band, making room for everyone can be key to having a
that I work on a Billboard Top 10 release. I was also great sounding recording. -LC
left off of the “Four Winds” single and Noise Floor,
which was a B-sides/rarities release from last year. So Just wanted to drop you guys a note and say that
I can appreciate what he was talking about from both I’ve been reading for several issues now and I love
sides. I do a lot of work for Saddle Creek and they will the magazine. It’s a great service you’re providing
be fixing them on future pressings. We both know that here, and it never fails to inspire ideas and get the
credits are vital to our future work. So kudos to Larry! creative juices flowing. Love the reviews and articles.
Doug Van Sloun <dougvs@bltd.com> I continue to be amazed by how many people write
in to say how they love the magazine - and then tell
In response to the criticism letters in #58 regarding you what you’re doing wrong and how you’ve sold out
Tape Op’s gear reviews, I’d like to say that I get a lot out or something. Wow. But I guess you must be okay
of them. There are usually a few reviews per issue that with that or you wouldn’t continue to publish them
get me excited about something, but they’re often out of I applaud your
in every issue.
my price range. Many of the reviews are for things I don’t
think I’d want or need for some time yet. Sometimes
patience. Anyway, I just wanted to send
you an email that told you how awesome you were
there are items reviewed that I don’t even understand. doing, without then telling you how much better you
But I read them all anyway, and you know what? With could be doing it. Keep it coming!
each issue of Tape Op, I feel like I have a better idea of John Caparoon <john.caparoon@gmail.com>
what gear I “need” next, what the gear does and what I
should be listening for when the time comes. So I very Okay, we’ll print one nice letter so we feel better about
much appreciate the reviews as they are. ourselves. -LC
Ty Hodson <via internet> Fuck you and your yuppie fucking magazine!
Hello my friend Larry, can you help me? I want to Steve Barakat <stevebarakat@comcast.net>
buy a Neumann U 87 Ai and I don’t know what pre Ah, back to normal! -LC
work well with the U 87 for recording vocals. I was
Seems like there are quite a few Tape Op’ers using
thinking of buying the Focusrite ISA430. It’s good, but
the Tascam 388. I created a track sheet for it so you
might make the vocals too bright because ISA is not
can archive your mix settings. Just go to
analog. Sorry my English. If you can tell me for you
www.thehabitat.info/Tascam388_TrackSheet.pdf.
what is the pre who works well with Newman U 87 Ai.
Print it out on 11x17 paper and you should be
Victor Ventura <ventura.jedie@hotmail.com>
good to go.
Roy Silverstein <roy.silverstein@gmail.com>

16/Tape Op#60/Letters(continued on page 18)


Thanks for your article on Matthew Herbert. Both Were you so damn expensive until the big named artists
Herbert and Matmos are prominent examples of a deeply recorded at your studio? I can’t imagine Elliott Smith having
personal approach to electronic music production. In club enough money to record the two albums [New Moon] with the
music there are quite a few artists using field recording as $300+ price. Just curious.
a way to generate unusual musical sounds. One need not Ryan Hanson <morningaftermidnight@gmail.com>
look further than respected techno net-label Wow. I hope you don’t always start off conversations with such a
Unfoundsound to get one’s feet wet nasty attitude. If you’re just curious, there are nicer ways to ask. I’ll
(www.unfoundsoundrecords.com, techno skeptics may answer you anyway, just to educate you, but think before you accuse
want to start with Ezekiel Honig’s release). I think it’s someone who’s spent their life creating music and recording others of
important to remember that the musicians rising to the only being in it for the money. How about a couple of points? Elliott
top are not those who believe combining preset loops recorded most of New Moon in home studios. Three songs were done
makes music. Good electronic music is made with the at Jackpot!, in off hours. If an artist asked me to mix a home-
utmost focus by musicians with ideas. If you keep your recorded album like Elliott’s I would be happy to. I turn around
ears open there is a wealth of deeply considered electronic sessions like that fast and it wouldn’t be too expensive. Jackpot! is in
music, some of which uses familiar drum sounds like the a totally different location now, built from the ground up as a studio,
TR-808. Let’s not confuse the use of presets generally with much bigger and the rent’s doubled. To keep it running I had to hire
the use of a proven classic instrument such as the 808. a studio manger (I spend most of my time working on Tape Op). I
Guitarists may choose a Les Paul because there is no other never charged Elliott because he was helping build the studio and
sound in the world they love more. There is a traditional helped me out with gear and cash. I was charging $250 a day at the
instrument there, but imaginative music can be made beginning - including engineer. We had so much less gear ten years
with the instrument. That tension between tradition and ago it’s not even funny. Compare Jackpot!’s rates to any other local
imaginative sound exploration is a recurring theme in the studio. By the way, who are the “big named artists” I’ve recorded?
pages of Tape Op, and it’s rare (and interesting) to read Do you think recording Sleater-Kinney leads to some big money jobs?
about someone solely focused on the latter. I’ve never really made a consistent living as a studio owner. At
David Last <www.davidlast.net> this point I am over $50,000 in debt with the recent studio move
Nice piece on Bill Bottrell. He is a great guy, the and I won’t make this back from the studio for years. I love music.
finest in every way. He has always been gracious about I never started this to get rich or to fuck over artists. If I had, I would
speaking of his beginning at my studio and I am proud say I’ve failed on both counts. People who are driven to get their
to have known him. Please give him my best regards. music out there (like Elliott was) make it happen for themselves
Also thank Matt for his excellent interview. Your instead of accusing others of some misdeed. Elliott did drywall
magazine is excellent. mudding and worked in pizza shops while playing music for years.
Del Casher (Kasher/Kacher) <www.delcasher.com> And his first record was recorded on a 4-track cassette. -LC

18/Tape Op#60/Letters(Fin.)
Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#60/19
TapeOpCon2007
“Of the dozen plus annual shows that I attend,
TapeOpCon is by far the best show of the year, one I look
forward to and enjoy.”
-Russ Berger, Russ Berger Design Group
“It’s like being on vacation with 500 of your friends!
Held at the Hilton El Conquistador Resort in Tucson, Arizona on June 8- Everywhere you turn there’s someone interesting to talk to

An ending... 10th this past month, the sixth annual and final TapeOpCon proved to be an
educational and entertaining event indeed. Advice, talent and brainstorming
sessions flowed through five main panels, 36 workshops, nine Pot Luck
about music and recording.”
-Maureen Droney, Producers & Engineers
Wing/The Recording Academy
Studio sessions and more. “TapeOpCon... what can I say? Relaxing, informative,
On Friday, Club Congress and The Rialto Theatre hosted a New Orleans benefit with Rebirth Brass Band, Mitch Easter and many others - good networking, lotsa fun... Work should be this good!” -
plus some good Creole food. Saturday morning’s “Classical Recording” workshop saw Linda Ronstadt dropping in to banter with her long time Francis Manzella, FM Design Ltd
collaborator George Massenburg! Saturday night brought a fantastic free concert by the pool, featuring Calexico, DeVotchKa and John
“TapeOpCon is a wonderful, kind of unnamable,
Vanderslice. Then O’Malley Jones and the James Brown revue (featuring Geoff Daking, Greg Gualteri (Pendulum Audio, Anamod) and Dave
indescribable thing. It’s not like any other thing that any of
Amels (Bomb Factory, Anamod)) performed Live at the Apollo 1962 in its entirety, playing their last note around 2 a.m., showing the kids how
us do. The faith and passion you see at TapeOpCon make
to play for nearly four hours. Truly a special event. After Sunday night’s “More Records that Made Me Want to Record” moderator Mark Rubel
Joan of Arc seem like Friedrich Nietzsche by comparison.
called up the legendary Les Paul and led us in a sing-a-long of “Happy Birthday”. Couldn’t be a better end than that!
For some reason we want to do it again and again.”
For the past six years, Tape Op Magazine has partnered with conference director Craig Schumacher to host TapeOpCon. This year’s event
-George Massenburg
was an amazing event but also the last of this run. This may seem like an odd choice of actions, as the event is always successful in attracting
some of the most creative and forward-thinking producers, engineers, musicians, exhibitors, sponsors and panelists around, and is a highly “It was encouraging to see so many people of all age
enjoyable time for all involved. Tape Op’s reasons for this change are complex. ranges and musical styles getting together after the
With my partner John Baccigaluppi we handle the constant editing, publishing and running of Tape Op Magazine, which this spring also apocalypse. This bodes well for the future of the music
launched a branch in London to handle publishing, UK/EU subscriptions and related advertising. We are also working on a series of books business.” -Sally Browder
compiling the back issues of our magazine. For over a year I have seen many changes in my own life. A personal move to southeast Arizona, “If a kid’s going to smoke pot, we may as well teach them
where my girlfriend and I purchased a home to renovate, led right into to a move for my studio (Jackpot! Recording) to a new building in how to roll the joint right.” -Garrett Haines on the
Portland, Oregon. I also began work as an archivist for the estate of Elliott Smith, a job I am just beginning to tackle in full and foresee taking Mastering in the Box workshop.
up a large amount of my time. What this leads to is a question of time and energy - what do I excel at and want to do on a daily basis?
“I think TapeOpCon serves a purpose far removed from
Given the monthly deadlines I already cope with, layering a year-long deadline for the conference on top of it was just more work than I
just gear or the technical, it gives us a sense of community
could handle or do to the best of my abilities. As I kept thinking about it - what did I really want to do with my time? - I decided that working
that would never otherwise exist if not for the hard work in
on Tape Op Magazine, owning a studio, making albums (which I haven’t been able to do in eight months) and working on Elliott’s archiving
planning and putting on such an event.” -Ross Hogarth
were enough recording-related tasks in my life. I decided that helping run and putting my magazine’s name on an event - even a successful,
enjoyable and positive event like TapeOpCon - isn’t something I have the time or drive to do anymore. “You just can’t beat talking about gain structure and
Six great years of TapeOpCon sit behind us. I hold many friendships that have been made at or reinforced through this venture dear distortion while in a hot tub.” -Hillary Johnson
to my heart, and have always been thankful for all the work everyone has put into this event. Given all the experience he initially “I met a lot of great people from all over who where
brought to the table and has gained over these last years, TapeOpCon director Craig Schumacher is now poised to bring a new-yet- happy as hell to be a part of the thing.” -Eric Ambel
familiar recording related event back to the city of New Orleans in summer 2008. Me? I’ll take a quick breather and then jump back in
“The TapeOpCon reminds me of the scene in Muppets In
and try to catch up with my own life! -Larry Crane
Space in which Gonzo the Great is reunited with his people,

...and a new beginning: other odd tufted beaked creatures - it’s a pleasure to gather
annually with our people (normally dispersed in caves), to
immerse ourselves in talking about music, recording and
their arcana for three days straight!” -Mark Rubel
After six great years it’s time to take this conference to the next level and to grow it and include more people and more voices in the audio
community. Next year we will return to New Orleans and do a similar conference, but with a new name. I am very passionate about bringing it “Only a legendary guitar hero like Pete Anderson could
back to New Orleans, a city which has been very good to us. Bringing the conference to New Orleans in 2004 and 2005 allowed us to expand set the state of digital recording back ten years with his
the conference content and the experience and was a good fit for our attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and panelists. Post Hurricane Katrina, personal preference for older digital systems.”
New Orleans is still a great music city and is still a perfect site for this conference. Our government has abdicated its responsibility to New -Joe Chiccarelli
Orleans, and as a community of people who live for the music it’s on us to do what we can to help lift this great music city back up. Bringing “Irodeahorse,rodethewaterslide,touredBiosphere2,
our conference, our community and our business to New Orleans is one of the best things we can do. ate fabulous Ecuadorian food, and got a great massage...
Thanks to all of you who’ve attended, and for making this the best event in the audio community. Thanks to Larry and John for everything Recording, what’s that?!” -Steve Silverstein
they and their wonderful magazine has done - and for contributing to a vision of what a truly great audio conference could be. We look forward
to continuing our relationship with Tape Op Magazine as a cornerstone sponsor in this conference and we also look forward to adding other
“No superlative is adequate.” -Don Zientara
significant and relevant organizations in our audio community. I hope we see you all in New Orleans in 2008. -Craig Schumacher
John Vanderslice & Friends Calexico

Devotchka O’Malley Jones & The Geoff Daking Band


Photos by Skid Severson (1-3)
and Debbie Daking (4)

20/Tape Op#60/TapeOpCon
happening. So I got a Small Business Administration
Behind The Gear
This Issue’s Man of Wunder
SBA loan - this was during the Clinton Administration
- and it was probably the best thing I ever did. It’s a
government guaranteed loan. It’s hard to get a
Mike Castoro straight bank loan without collateral, but with the SBA
by Mike Jasper, photo by Max Cooper loan they looked at my last three years of tax forms
and they asked me what my five year projection was
going to be, so I projected very big. They gave me a
good-sized credit line and I went wild - I spent it all
in about a month. Because I loved microphones, I
bought way too many.
What kind of mics did you buy for Misty
Hill Audio?
Neumann U47s of course, along with CMV563s, RFT 7151
bottle mics, Schoeps, and AKGs. I actually blew more
Mike Castoro, the 43-year-old So are you approaching the GT as a new
money than I got from my SBA loan. It was about
owner and creator of Wunder mic entirely?
Audio, lives quietly with his $100,000 and I spent $116,000. I even dipped into
Exactly. We’re doing a new mic from scratch, so we don’t
wife and two kids in the my credit card. I wasn’t very frugal, so I sold some of
have to reverse engineer everything. On the GT, there’s
northern hills of Austin, Texas. the stuff and realized I could make a little profit by
probably two thirds the parts of the CM7. For example,
Originally from upstate New buying and selling vintage gear. So I started a business
York, he spent his junior high on the CM7, if you take off the grille, the capsule
called Misty Hill Audio where I did that consistently for
and high school years in travels with it - it’s connected. But if you take the
about six years. Eventually, I actually earned a huge
Florida, then moved to Austin grille off the GT, the capsule stays on the body of the
rack of vintage gear - Pultecs, Fairchilds, Studer tape
during the ’80s to attend the mic. Just that one part of the equation means the GT
University of Texas, where he machines and Neve boards. I guess I was pretty good
has a lot fewer parts and lower costs. Another example
earned a BA in recording at what I did, because I made a lot of contacts across
is that the connector on the bottom of the CM7 is a
engineering. Shortly after the country and overseas to find gear. The catch is you
U47-type Tuchel. On the GT we didn’t want to
graduation, he started Stardog have to know how to tech your own gear, which I was
Studio as a modest, 4-track compromise too much and use an XLR, we used a 3/4
able to do. I would buy U47s in any condition - I
cassette facility, and within a size Tuchel like you see on a U67 or an M269.
didn’t care if they worked or not, because I knew you’d
decade grew it to a 24-track Any other differences between the two
never find one that was perfect. I always said they
analog museum for vintage gear mics?
rife with Pultecs, Fairchilds, came in varying degrees of decay. As long as all the
Obviously, the heart of the GT is the glass tube, which is
Neve, Neumanns and at least a parts were there, if it wasn’t working, fine. I did lose
what GT stands for. We’re using a NOS Telefunken glass
half dozen Mellotrons - the money on deals a few times, especially when I started
tape-based keyboard popularized tube that basically replaced the VF and EF14 back in
trading on eBay. eBay killed many vintage broker
by The Beatles and the Moody 1960 when they went to glass tubes and stopped
careers, but fortunately I did most of this from 1997
Blues. After six years of making the metal tube. Since it has the glass housing,
to 2003, before eBay got so big - although I was
running a successful studio, he theoretically the microphonics should be a bit better
branched out and became a competing with eBay at the end.
than the metal, and I’m able to find a lot more really
vintage gear broker when he How did you get into making your
good quality tubes because I have thousands to
started a company called Misty own mics?
choose from. Tubes make the biggest difference
Hill Audio. In the late 1990s, I bought my first U47 in 1997, and it was in such bad
he started manufacturing his own sonically between the two mics. The EF14 has finer
condition that I wanted to make a new body for that
line of pro audio equipment detail (I think) than the glass tube and 3 dB more
mic. The grille was dented in and it looked like an old
under the Wunder Audio banner. output. So when you do a shootout between the two
rusted pipe. Surprisingly, it sounded pretty good, and
mics, they’re going to sound pretty identical if you set
when I took it apart I had visions of being able to mill
How is the CM7-GT mic different from and the mic pre to 3 dB more gain on the GT. The extra
the aluminum and reconstruct the mic again from
similar to the CM7 microphone? noise floor is equalized by the lower noise from the
scratch. In my mind, it didn’t seem like so tough an
Well, they’re similar especially if you order the GT with glass tube - the metal tubes tend to be noisier, even
ordeal - but it sure was. I figured if the U47 was made
the M7 capsule instead of the K47 capsule. The though they provide better detail. The other thing I
50 years ago, then there would be no reason it
capsule, the grille and the transformer are all going to noticed is that when I tried some loud, shouting type
couldn’t be done now. One of my uphill battles was
be identical. The main difference is the GT has no vocals the CM7 had a fuller sound than the GT, but
trying to get the right metal kit for the mic so I could
pattern switch on the chrome top grille like a U47 since I did one take, I don’t have a well-rounded
sell it for $5,000. Most of the metal workers were
would have - it’s on the power supply unit instead. So opinion of that yet. Time will tell. It’s basically the
telling me each metal kit would cost $5,000 itself. It
the cardioid is a perfect cardioid on the U47 or CM7, same circuit, although not point-to-point like the
took a long time to find a kit at a price point where it
but when you change patterns using a power supply CM7. One engineer thought that the difference
would be feasible to build a mic and sell it for $5,000.
there’s always variation plus or minus by a tiny between the CM7 and the GT was that vocals sounded
I talked to other manufacturers who wanted to do
percent. Still, the C12 and the M49 also change polar closer, more intimate on the CM7.
what I was doing, and they told me the target price
patterns from the power supply, and those are How did you go from musician/studio
would have to be $12 to $15,000 dollars.
certainly well-accepted mics. Also, the metal work on owner to pro audio manufacturer?
So initially you were interested in
the GT isn’t historically correct like it is in the CM7, I started Stardog Studio as a singer-songwriter looking to
repairing the U47s you already had,
where it’s as close as possible to an authentic U47. It record his own stuff. All I really had was a four-track
but then you took it a step further
comes from the same high quality metal shop, but it’s cassette recorder and a Realistic microphone. I
and decided to build your own?
made of different parts and a lot simpler. We don’t couldn’t afford better stuff, but I was well aware there
Right, except initially I only wanted to make ten of them.
have to replicate every tiny screw, piece of rubber and was better stuff out there. I always used to say that
I wanted to make a body to repair that first mic I
PVC in the U47. we would reinvest ten percent of the studio profit into owned, and then build nine more from scratch. In the
new gear, but after six years I realized that wasn’t
22/Tape Op#60/Mr. Castoro/(continues on page 24)
first year, from 2003 to 2004, I only sold eight CM7s PEQ1s too. Right now you can only go to -18, and with
total. Even after the third year, I was selling less than the output pot on the PAFOUR, you’ll have a lot more
30 per year. It takes a long time to make up your flexibility for gain structuring, both input and output.
investment, but I didn’t care - I just wanted the mic so Why aren’t there more microphone repair
I could use it. And I always wanted parts for U47s. I’d techs?
think, “I wish I had a tube socket”, or “I wish I had a It’s a scary thing, and back in my early days of being a
bottom bell with a cable connector” or “I wish I had the studio owner I was frightened about a piece of gear
U47 grille.” And people were also buying parts from me, breaking. Fortunately I had a lot of contacts out of the
and still do so today. The parts I use for the CM7 you can UK who were some of the best recording console and
also use to replace parts in the U47 - they fit perfectly tape machine technicians in the world and I used to
on the original mic and there aren’t too many have them come over to my house for an extended stay
reproductions you can say that about. and teach me how to fix equipment. That went on pretty
You also make a CM12, which is patterned heavily from 1998 to 2000. We were doing stuff like
after the AKG C12, but we don’t hear joining two consoles together and recapping tape
much about that one. Why? machines. That was my apprenticeship, although I
The reason you don’t hear about it is for the same reason always repaired things even when I was a kid. I used to
the CM7 was flying under the radar for a few years. I don’t send my mics off to get repaired, and believe me, I
send that many mics out for review, and when a mic is in wasn’t always happy with the way they were repaired. I
what I call the pioneering period - when there are not guess by reverse engineering and disassembling things I
many sales happening - it’s hard to keep extra mics to got to know how they worked. I don’t think anybody
send out for review. The CM12s are about two years taught me how to fix mics; I just did it on my own. I
behind the CM7, and I only build up five at a time. That guess I’m from the school of mic repairmen who learned
said, a lot of people have them, and some people even by taking everything apart. With any piece of vintage
own pairs of them. They’re pretty much a dead ringer for gear I buy, I disassemble it all the way and reassemble
the C12. If you had the mic opened up next to an original it before I even turn it on. I don’t know if that’s a
C12, you’d never be able to tell the difference except for problem I have or not, but even if it’s a Mellotron or
the color of the capacitors. Hammond organ, I never plug it in before I take it apart.
You also manufacture the PEQ1, PEQ1R, What does the future of Wunder Audio
PAFOUR and the new Wunderbar. Are look like?
these different versions of the same I have about a half dozen full time people working for
preamp design? Wunder, and I have independent contractors who might
The PEQ1, 1R and PAFOUR are all the same preamp spend half a year’s time working for us, whether it’s a
design. Of course the PAFOUR doesn’t have EQ like the machinist, a mechanical engineer or electronic engineer.
others. They’re like a very vague replica of the old Those are basically the three kinds of workers we need
Allotrope modules. When I say vague, there’s about help from. The whole concept of Wunder Audio is to be a
eight years of work starting from the reproduction to boutique company, so growing into a large company goes
where we are now. We did change resister and capacitor against the grain. Some of the products are limited, such
values, and improved the slew rate from 5 volts per as the CM7. There are a finite number of EF14 tubes, and
microsecond to 22 volts per microsecond, so it’s a 44 there are a finite number of capsules that M7 expert
times faster slew rate. Siegfried Thiersch - who is now in his 70s - can make.
What’s the slew rate? We’ve got the [mixing] boards coming out, the
It’s just the rise time of the signal, and when it’s a lot Wunderbar, but we’re only going to make 20 per year for
quicker it sounds more natural and realistic on the high four or five years at the most. Everything that’s coming
end. That’s the difference between the PEQ1 and PEQ1 out in the future has been planned and prototyped, but
with the Revision A mod. With the PAFOUR we improved they aren’t out yet. One of them is a recreation of the
the output stage a little bit. We added a five watt power Western Electric mic pre. I have a 12-channel Western
amp right before it goes to the output transformer. What Electric board, which is the best tube mic pre I’ve ever
that does is it drives a low impedance load better, such heard. The replica will come out as a module for a board
as a vintage compressor that has transformer inputs. A and as a two-channel mic rack piece. Another component
lot of modern equipment will have a 10 K input is the Wunder Audio compressor, a solid state compressor
impedance, while old vintage stuff might have a 600- based on the PEQ1 topology. It’ll be like a Neve 2254, but
ohm impedance. The PEQ1 is now into a revision C. We with the Wunder transformers and amplifier stages. It’ll
added a discrete active HP filter, a much higher quality have faster attack and release times. Also, we’re coming
gain switch, a custom design that has three times the out with a small diaphragm tube microphone, kind of like
gold contact area on each switch position, and we’re a KM54. That’s going to be a really nice little mic and
replacing the push button switches with the light pipe should be out in 2008. We also have the M49 replica
switches that are found on the Wunderbar console. Even called the CM49 available in limited runs. It’s being
the enclosures will have improved metal work, with produced very slowly. Finally, there will be a one-channel
thicker faceplates and tack welding so everything’s version of the PAFOUR, and we’re also going to have a
beefier. The PC boards have been expanded from two- four band EQ coming out. If we were a large company
sided to four-sided. We’re going to have a radio with a lot of capital, I guess our products would be ready
frequency filter that can be added or not added with a in a month, but it’ll be another two years before
jumper. The Rev C is going to be the epitome of the PEQ1 everything is out. Everything will have its turn. r
and the PAFOUR. Also, the PAFOUR will have hi-pass
www.wunderaudio.com
filters and output pots, along with a lower input gain
that will work like a pad and go down to -24 dB, which
is a pretty good pad. We’ll be doing that last mod on the
24/Tape Op#60/Mr. Castoro/(Fin.)
Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#60/25
My first encounter with the sprawling collection of keyboards, pianos, In this control room you have a 24-
British-made guitar amplifiers and homemade walls that is Breakglass channel Ward-Beck broadcast
Studios happened when I had the opportunity to sit in on a session for the console, Studer 16-track and 2-track
band Shoot the Moon. I opened the door at the end of the hall in an reel-to-reels, Radar and Pro Tools.
otherwise nondescript building in Montreal’s Little Italy to find the studio’s What do you usually use for tracking?
tape library. Reels of 2-inch and quarter-inch tape sat in their boxes, with Jace: It depends how big the project is. Some bands
come in and want to limit themselves to the 16-track,
names like Islands, Besnard Lakes, and Sunset Rubdown written on the so I’ve mixed entire projects on the Ward-Beck using
spines. I made my way further in and opened the door to the control room, outboard gear. Other bands that are doing something
where the band was tracking vocals while Jace Lasek sat at the console. Lasek a little more complex will fill up the 16-track, and I’ll
and his business partner/co-engineer Dave Smith met in high school in dump it into the Radar. Some bands don’t care about
Regina, Saskatchewan. After school, they moved to the west coast before tape, so they’ll go straight to Radar, and then we can
realizing that if they wanted to have their own studio space, they would have mix in Pro Tools if they want. We want to make sure
to escape the high cost of living in Vancouver. They settled in Montreal in that we are always capable of doing whatever people
need. If it’s just a straight rock band with a couple of
late ’99. At the time, Montreal was at the tail end of a long recession, and
guitars and vocals then I can say, “Let’s do it on the
one could easily get by cheaply. Since then, they’ve worked on albums and 16-track and mix on the console.” For some of the
songs by the aforementioned bands, as well as Wolf Parade, Bell Orchestre more involved stuff, if they’re going to be adding
and Destroyer, among others. Along the way they have learned, often through violins and they want to build up 40 tracks of stuff,
trial and error, how to get the most out of their haphazard collection of we’re going to have to mix in Pro Tools, though I
recording gear, how to build walls and reflection-free zones and how to build know mixing on the console would probably result in
and mod their own gear. Most importantly, they have honed their abilities, a better product. If I can get the project down to 24
knowing as Jace puts it, “When to be invisible, and when to step up and tracks, get it back on the Radar with all the edits
done and then pass it through the console to the
provide support to the band.” This is their stated purpose: helping bands get
Studer 2-track, I will.
the most they can out of the studio environment.

Jace Lasek and


Dave Smith:
Breaking Glass
in Montreal
by Martin Horn

26/Tape Op#60/Mr. Lacek & Mr. Smith/(Continued on page 28)


Dave: A lot of bands will come in and use the studio for J: The Sunset Rubdown record was mixed by Spencer shitloads of noise, and I just sit there and sing with
tracking and then take the tracks home to mix, so a [Krug, singer for Sunset Rubdown]. the headphones on. I guess that was the kind of
lot of the time mixing isn’t even an issue. D: He tracked it here and then took it home and mixed it approach that Steve was looking for.
J: It’s actually a lot of fun for the bands to mix on the in an afternoon or something. He called me after and You can afford to be less conservative
board. The shitty thing about mixing in Pro Tools is that said,” You’re gonna hate it, you’re gonna hate my mix.” when it’s your own project.
people are sitting in the back of the room for hours, J: We tracked most of that live-off-the-floor and straight J: Yeah. The other thing is I don’t have a lot of time
watching me draw stupid little lines. We don’t have into the 16-track. when I’m making Besnard records because it’s usually
automation on this console, so when we’re mixing on it D: I bounced it onto Radar and he took those files home. between jobs. I throw a mic up and get it down, so
everybody’s right there helping with the mix, and they The difference in sound between those two records the sound isn’t going to be as hi-fi. I can’t put ten
sort of feel like they’ve had part in it, like they’ve played
probably has more to do with who mixed it. Mark Lawson mics on the drums. I’ve just gotta hope that the one
their guitar or whatever one more time. mixed Return to the Sea and Spencer mixed Shut Up I mic I do use is not going to peak out.
You have an enormous live room, Am Dreaming. They also both used their own gear to D: It think stuff like that sounds better anyway. I tend
especially considering the size of most mix, so that probably accounts for a lot of the difference. to believe that the more obsessive and anal you are,
tracking rooms in studios these days. So the characteristic sound of those the worse off it’s going to sound - to a degree at
J: Our room is amazing for strings and horns. albums isn’t necessarily a result of least. Obviously this is not always the case.
It doesn’t seem like you have any you making it sound that way. Do you J: There is something to be said about a sense of urgency.
treatment on the walls. attempt to get a neutral sound when Sometimes it translates onto the record. You can tell
J: The shape of the control room we built adjoining the you are tracking? when something’s been slapped together really quickly.
live room means that by default, there are no parallel J: There are certain things that I like to do and prefer to There’s something really cool about that. All the old
walls in the live room. Even if the walls were parallel do, but I’m not going to force my opinion on people. records from the fifties and sixties were done very
it would be okay since the room is big enough. I want them to feel like they’re making a record as quickly, and recorded to 2-track or to 4-track. There are
D: Due to the fact that the room’s not finished, there opposed to me making a record and forcing them to obviously lots of errors. Something will be too loud or
are gaping holes all over the place. There are lots of have my sound. pop out, but I love that stuff. I guess I use the studio
places for the sound to get lost. I think if we had So it’s not like a Prince production. as a giant 4-track. I just keep layering things, because
all the doors in, we’d probably have to put in some J: Yeah exactly. [laughs] But you know, there are times when that’s how I always used to use my Tascam 4-track.
kind of treatment. people come in and they’ll say that they want me to put There’s always going to be errors in the 4-track format.
Do you do a lot of live-off-the-floor my stamp on it. I’m working with Steve Ramsay right now Whenever you bounce, there’s going to be something
recording? (the guitarist for Stars) on a project called Young Galaxy, that’s bounced too high or too low, so you have to
J: Because our live room is so big, we do a lot of live and he’s basically said “You can help me with the compensate for that. I love that about it.
tracking that some studios don’t want to do. We do arrangements, and you can play on it if you want and I Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards had
have to tell bands that if you want to record live-off- want you to build it in the way you would your own the “Honor thy mistake as hidden
the-floor, what you’re going to hear coming out of the records.” So this is kind of the first time I’ve been able to intention.” I always try to keep that
monitors is pretty much how its going be, but we’ll let build a project from the ground up, and I’m making the in mind in my own work.
them set up as they would if they were rehearsing. We’ll decisions as far as sound goes. He obviously has the final J: In my experience, a lot of the bands don’t want to
put up baffles if there are any obvious problems. say, and I never impose anything on him, but since he’s experiment. They’re paying, and they don’t want to
D: I like to say to bands, “Go set up and make it sound given me the opportunity make decisions sometimes I’ll spend time on something that might not work. They
how you want it to sound in the room”, and just deal say “Well, I think this is a really good idea. You can throw want to get in and get out.
with the bleed for better or for worse, but make sure it out later, but lets just put it on now.” D: It’s a drag. I’ve been listening to “I Am the Walrus”
they’re okay with that from the beginning. The funny D: Steve liked your record and he wanted you to bring a lot lately, and it seems so far away from what
thing is, they always say they are, but when it comes that kind of an idea to it. But I don’t think it sounds anyone would try today. That was obviously the
to mixing, they’ll ask for me to do something with the like a Besnard Lakes [Jace’s band] record. product of a lot of experimentation. It’s great when
kick, for example. But the bass will be louder than the J: I think Besnard records sound terrible compared to bands do take the time and spend two weeks to
kick in the kick mic, so I can’t. I don’t have too much the other stuff we’ve done here. track an album. Islands actually recorded a drum
room to maneuver. We just have to let it be sometimes, What was it he was looking for? track on the roof. It’s not as experimental as John
which I think sometimes gets you better results. J: Besnard records are always really haphazardly put Lennon wanting to be hung upside down and swung
J: There was one project I did where the vocal mic together. It’s my opportunity to experiment with around to get a weird sound, but at least they’re
actually became the basis for the whole mix because things that I couldn’t really ever do with a band. trying. I think there’s this trend towards
it was a really hot condenser mic, and when the Sometimes I make mistakes when I’m making the documenting bands. My favorite records sound like
singer wasn’t singing, the whole band was in the mic. Besnard records, but I never go back. For example, if records, not like a perfect mirror of the original
I couldn’t just turn that off, so I built the mix around I do a drum track, it’s usually just one mic in the room performance. It’s a philosophy of capturing the
this room mic that he was using as a vocal mic. It was - ‘cause when I do the Besnard stuff I’m alone. sound exactly how it is and that’s the record, as
fun to mix because it was such a challenge. Whereas with Shoot the Moon you used opposed to manipulating the sound in some way. I
I’ve noticed that the sound of the records ten mics on the drums. like it when people make their records a little
coming out of this studio are fairly J: Yeah. I’ll put one mic in the room and record with different from what the band actually sounds like.
diverse. For example, there’s a marked some compression, and when I’m mixing it, I’ll see What kinds of issues would you have
difference between the sound of the drums need more, so I’ll overdub something else. recording drums on a roof?
Return to the Sea by Islands and Shut D: No band would ever come in and let you use just one J: There are no reflections - it’s like an anechoic
Up I Am Dreaming by Sunset Rubdown. mic on the drums! chamber. Once the sound leaves, its gone.
Return to the Sea sounds unhyped, J: I know! So I’ll go back and record another drum track D: They were getting a slapback from a nearby building.
almost the opposite of the Sunset over top of it and it’s fine. I’m just haphazardly It was a telemarketing office and a bunch of people
Rubdown record, which sounds like putting it together. When I’m recording vocals for were watching them from the windows. It was a weird
it’s using a lot of compression and it’s Besnard, I’m usually sitting at the console with an kind of rock star moment for J’aime [Tambeur, Islands’
got a kind of midrange grit to it. SM57 running right into the space echo, so there’s former drummer]. It sounded really cool.
28/Tape Op#60/Mr. Lacek & Mr. Smith/(Continued on page 29)
J: They built the tempo of the song around the reflection that was coming back.
It’s an unreleased track off their album. They’ll probably release it as a b-side
or something. Aside from that, I think almost all the drums on Return to the Sea
were tracked in the dead room.
You guys build some of your own gear?
J: The goal when we started this studio was similar to the Joe Meek philosophy, where
he built his whole studio from scratch, down to the electronics. Dave’s doing a lot
of research on how we can buy kits and build our own preamps and modify things.
We’re really excited about that, but we have this ongoing argument. People come
to the studio and have this preconceived notion that if it’s not Neve or API, it’s not
good enough. We’re going to build this stuff that hopefully will sound as good, or
maybe more interesting. But how are we going to have people know that we can
get good sounds without these big names?
Bandshavecomeinandbeenuncom-fortablewiththefactthat
you don’t have any of the big names in preamps?
J: Yeah. Because the daily rate here is quite low, we’ll say to them, “If you want, you
can rent stuff.” So a lot of bands do that and it makes them feel better.
D: If we bought all the gear that all these people seem to want, we’d have to double
our rates, at which point…
J: No one would come.
D: No one could afford to come. I think a lot of the bands deserve to have a great
sound. I wish people would trust us a little more to be able to provide that. I
think it would be really cool [if] the studio had its own custom stuff that we had
voiced by component choice to suit our needs. It won’t be Neve or API, but
hopefully it’ll sound good. I’d like if you could work it in somewhere that the
Ward-Beck beats out API and Neve in A/B tests.
I can put that in verbatim! The Wolf Parade album, Apologies
to the Queen Mary, was mixed here.
D: That was early on. There were no walls here yet.
J: We mixed it in the giant space. We started in our old space, and finished it here. It
was hilarious. We had a little setup when this was just a raw five thousand square-
foot room.
I had read that they were unhappy with how it sounded
before they came to you.
J: They were unhappy with the way that Isaac [Brock, Modest Mouse] had mixed it,
and they came here to mix it again. I think they just wanted to get their hands
on it and make it their own again
D: Didn’t Spencer take some of the tracks home?
J: Yeah, they all had a huge hand in it. I think they just wanted to get their record
back. They had always recorded in their own space. I think they felt a little
disillusioned because it didn’t sound the way they were used to making
themselves sound.
D: With the Sunset Rubdown record, Spencer lamented the fact that it sounded like
it was recorded in a studio. He would have, with hindsight, preferred recording it
at home. That EP that Wolf Parade recorded themselves sounds amazing.
J: If Arlen [Thompson, drummer for Wolf Parade] ever gets that Ward-Beck that he
bought up and running, I think they’ll probably make their own records from now
on. Going into a professional studio was an opportunity for them to see what it’s
like to work in that kind of environment. I remember Spencer telling me that he
was troubled by it. He was asking himself if they should take this opportunity or
just make it themselves.
D: Dan said to me, “The one lesson I learned out of all this is that having a room
full of super-expensive gear doesn’t mean you’re going to make a good record.”
J: I understand that people want to make it sound really cool because the concept of
the album dictates that it sound a certain way, and that’s awesome, that’s fine…
D: But you’re not necessarily going to make a great album because you have Neve
preamps and a Neumann mic. r
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Joe Boyd
“Only when the sonic
image is right can I relax
and enjoy the music.”

by Larry Crane
photos by
Alissa Anderson

When JÈ Boyd’s book Wh⁄e Bicycles came out laÌ year, I was exc⁄ed. Not only could I finally read more about this amazing record producer/label owner/manager, but there
might be a chance to interview him for Tape Op. During JÈ’s WeÌ CoaÌ book tour we were able to Íend a lunch together at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge, and I finally got
to mÕt the man who recorded some of my all-time favor⁄e records. From Pink Floyd’s firÌ single, “Arnold Layne”, Richard and Linda `ompson’s Shoot Out the Lights, R.E.M.’s
Fables of the ReconÌruÀion, moÌ of the Nick Drake catalog and early Fairport Convention, to some passionate and informed produÀion of world music albums, JÈ has helped
create, release and guarantÕ the (sometimes gradual) success of many artiÌs. In some ways you could look at JÈ’s carÕr as flying under the radar or hidden behind the scenes,
but even he has Úo slightly odd number one h⁄s, w⁄h “Dueling Banjos” Ïom the Deliverance soundtrack, and Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis”. Anyone w⁄h over 40
years in the music business is capable of losing his or her wonder of music, but w⁄h JÈ this is not the case. Yes, he’s Ìopped producing records and running a label, but w⁄h
Wh⁄e Bicycles he tells eloquent tales of his adventures in music through the ’60s and ’70s. W⁄h his next book he will take us on a journey through world music - and I’ll be wa⁄ing
patiently for this sure-to-be-fascinating tale.
The one thing that really struck me with Jones made her record on Pro Tools originally and kind of stuff, it was good to know beforehand what
the book is that everything that Blue Note said, “We don’t like it.” So they went into they had in mind - so you positioned the tracks right,
happens to you really comes from being the studio with Arif Mardin to redo it. They were right. so you could bounce things to non-adjacent tracks.
a fan of music. I think one of the It could’ve easily dropped like a stone, but that record You have to sort of plan ahead. We’d do something on
problems I’ve had with the music had that fantastic warmth and atmospherics to it that track one and we could then bounce it together with
industry lately is that it just feels like you can only get when you’ve got more than one something else on track three or four, and then come
too many people in it are just doing a microphone open in the space at the same time, so it back to two and then four.
job, not coming at it with a large record sounds three-dimensional. How did you end up finding Sound
collection and a passion for music. In your book you mentioned working Techniques and engineer John Wood?
That may be true with the major labels, but I think for with The Incredible String Band and Good luck. When I took up my place at Elektra, I think the
most people who work in the indie world, the rewards doing overdubs, having access to an first thing I did - aside from some recording outside of
are so limited and chancy that most people I’ve met 8-track, probably at that point. London - the first real session I did was that Eric
are pretty passionate about music. The first time it was four. Clapton thing [Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse].
That’s true. We’ll see what happens to You were taking a jump from two That was at Olympic [Studios]?
the major labels, anyway. different ways of working. Initially, I asked Bill Leader, who was this mentor friend of mine
I don’t remember saying it, but [in] one of the interviews what did you learn in that process? and folk producer. I said I had to do this rock session
I read I was welcoming the crisis in the music industry I don’t think there were generic lessons. Mistakes were with a drum kit and everything. He knew Keith Grant
saying, “The dinosaurs will slowly sink into the tar pits individual and specific. You try putting a harmony on at Olympic and he said, “Call Keith.” So I just called
and some of their cousins will turn into birds.” and it doesn’t work and you erase it and put up Keith and he said, “Sure.” That was falling on your
There have been periods where major something else on. You put a pennywhistle on feet to do your first session with Keith Grant because
labels worked fine, hand-in-hand something and Robin [Williamson] or Mike [Heron] he is a great engineer. Jac [Holzman, Elektra] wasn’t
with the music. Your book documents would say, “Oh that works.” It was in the air. [In] ’67, just putting out Judy Collins and Phil Ochs records -
a certain era that definitely made a lot Revolver was already out and the fact that The Beatles he built his label, in a way, on gimmicks.
of sense - Elektra wasn’t part of a major were working on Sgt. Pepper’s - and “Penny Lane” and What kind of gimmicks was he using?
label in the same way it is now. Two “Strawberry Fields…” came out. It was in the drinking The thing that enabled him to stop writing ad copy or
things that make themselves apparent water, those kinds of experiments. It was hugely fun whatever it was he was doing before was a series of
in the book are your early loves of jazz and it worked. They got it right away. records by Ed McCurdy called When Dalliance was in
and working with jazz musicians. In How did you feel your role changed as a Flower (and Maidens Lost Their Heads)– basically bawdy
my vision, that influenced the way record producer working in a songs. It was a guy with a Burl Ives kind of voice,
you recorded everything from then situation built more around adding strumming guitar going, “Hey ho, nonny, nonny, he
on. It became more about looking for and judging overdubs to a take? took the maiden into the green wood and turned her
a space and a performance and I didn’t think about it much. It was all whatever the upside down” - and it sold tons! It was huge. He had
capturing something. situation needed. If I was recording Chris McGregor’s this other idea that was probably okay - it was the signs
It’s not just jazz. Certainly, jazz in general has only really sextet - that was one job. Doing Nick Drake was a of the zodiac [as] a series of easy listening records.
successfully been recorded that way, unlike other forms completely different job because then you had to hire There was an American arranger who Jac would
of music. I don’t think there was a question of taking musicians to come in and join him. The Fairport commission every six months and he would put out
a practice that applied to jazz and trying to apply it to Convention - the recording process changes a lot sounds of Libra, you know - an instrumental record that
other things. I got through the mid-’60s until 4-track whether you have a drum kit or not. All the problems was supposed evoke Libras. In those days a lot of string
tape came in. That was the way all music was made. are different. With The [Incredible] String Band you players were much cheaper and better than now. You
That’s true. That kind of dictates had tremendous flexibility because there was no drum could get London Philharmonic players for twelve
the process. kit, so there’s a lot of sonic space - it’s open. A pounds for a two hour session. They were probably up
Les Paul did some tricks, but they were bouncing stuff back drummer playing a kit takes up a lot of space and if to eighty-five dollars in America. He always did his
and forth. That was an aberration rather than a practice. you put an overdub in, it has to assert itself. Whereas string sessions in Sound Techniques. Jac’s doing these
I guess now we take layering and Robin, on the first track of Hangman’s Beautiful sessions for the next three days and he was going to be
creating in that fashion for granted. Daughter [“Koeeoaddi There”] where he sings, at this studio, “Here’s the address, take down four
The “Wall of Sound” was live. He [Spector] had three “Skating on happy valley pond” – he came up with hundred pounds in cash to pay the musicians” - because
pianos in the studio. He had twelve guitars in the [an] idea. He just said, “I’d like to try this.” He had you had to pay the musicians in cash. I walked in and
studio. He had the girls in the vocal booth live. little finger cymbals and he just rubbed them and it I liked the feel of the place and I met John. I think I
What I responded to was you talking sounds like a skate on ice, or you surmise skates on had to come down the next day again and there was a
about looking for recording spaces ice. He just went downstairs and John [Wood] set up break and everybody was getting their money and
and how that creates part of the all the microphones. I think there was a track that counting it out and getting cups of tea and I started
environment, and making sure had something on it from a previous verse, and he’s talking to John. By that time I had decided I was going
something happened on the floor. going to have to put something else on it the next to do a session and I was thinking I might do it in Bill
That is one of the problems I have with a lot of verse. So we did part of that then did “shhh shh Leader’s kitchen [where many folk records were done],
contemporary recording. You don’t feel like it is taking shhh” [sound of the finger cymbals] and put echo but I already had a few misgivings. I loved Bill and I
place in a room. It’s taking place in cyberspace or in onto the mix - they just really enjoyed the process. loved what he did, but I wanted to set the record that
an electronic environment - close mic’ing in a dead My role was to tell them, “Look, you can do this. I was going to do apart. The kind of recording he did –
space. If you want atmosphere, you dial it up. I keep Think of an instrument to put on to add to this tune” they were wonderful recordings, but sonically they were
quoting these two examples, but I think they’re good or whatever. If Robin would say, “I want to put on a little flat. I was sort of in the background thinking,
examples: Buena Vista Social Club and Norah Jones – four layers of this instrument”, I would say, “Well, I “What am I going to do? I don’t want to hurt Bill’s
they really sound as though they’ve been made in a don’t think it would sound so good.” We would have feelings.” I mentioned it to John Wood. “Would you
space. I don’t personally think they would’ve been to bounce it back and forth. There were also logistical ever think of doing this record with fiddle and guitar?”
that successful if they hadn’t sounded like that. Norah things like, once you learned it and started doing this and John said, “Yeah, great, sure! Come on down.” He
Mr. Boyd (continued on page 32)/Tape Op#60/31
gave me good rates and I liked going there - it sounded I had a horror of that. Sometimes musicians would say, want to cut it off and have bird songs going into
good. The next thing was the Incredible String Band’s “Let’s put a phased guitar panning from right to this next track.” It’s an absolute – you can tell it’s a
first record. John had never heard any of this stuff left.” That kind of shit. There may be something on scissors [cut]. It’s not musical. It’s technical and I
before. He was a classical guy - he loved violin concertos The Incredible String Band – there was one thing hate it. I said, “No, no, no. We can’t do this.” They
and things like that - and we’re playing things like this where they wanted the voice to go left to right very said, “Yes, yes, yes, we must do this. This is the
and he was like, “Wow. Let’s try putting the mic here. slowly. The one argument like that that I lost, which concept. This is what we want to do.” In the end, I
Let’s try this kind of a mic.” It just grew from there. He I really regret that still drives me nuts when I hear always felt that for artists’ records, I can argue a lot
learned a lot about this music from me and I learned it - I tried to look for the tape to see if I could undo and I would often fight against things, but at the
about recording and sound from him. it - was Wee Tam and The Big Huge, an Incredible end of the day I couldn’t convince an artist that this
I like your description of your working String Band record has a track that I love – it used was [the way]. I might say, “Do it my way and if it
methods with John and overlapping a to be their closing track in their concerts called doesn’t work, we’ll try it your way.” Sometimes,
little bit in the production areas. He “Maya”, and they end with this coda sort of flourish every once in a while there were situations where an
would not feel timid to say something and it all grinds to a halt. Mike plays sitar. It’s a artist would say, “I’ve heard it your way and I still
nor you vice-versa. It’s hard to rousing chorus. It’s great and you hear it either once want to do it my way.” That was one of them. It still
develop that sometimes. Someone or twice – I can’t remember if there’s one or two drives me nuts. I can’t stand to listen to it.
thinks, “Well, I’m just the engineer. verses, but you hear it at least once, if not twice all What would you have decided, to go
If they’re only asking me to be the the way through and then the third verse, as it’s just naturally where the music was going?
engineer, I’m not going to say getting to that climax, they said, “Okay, now we Yeah - where it ends in a live show.
something.” Was it just a rare
combination of personalities?
Yes. John is a distinct personality and I think he has
always been. I think it was fortunate for him that he
found me just as much as it was that I found him,
because I think that he probably was not the best front
foot forward for the studio. He’s a grumpy,
curmudgeonly guy who does speak his mind. He was
used to doing typical commercial stuff that wasn’t very
interesting and he’d keep his mouth shut. He was not
one to suffer fools gladly. If he had an idiot producer, `at is one of the problems I have w⁄h a lot of
he’d probably make them feel like they don’t want to
come back - and to be fair, over the years there have
contemporary recording. You don’t fÕl like ⁄ is
been times when he and I have gone our separate ways taking place in a room. It’s taking place in
when we have disagreed about stuff and it wasn’t cyberÍace or in an eleÀronic environment...
shrugged off easily. He got out of the business, but he’s
now getting back in a little bit. Jerry Boys came to work
at a certain point, at ’68 or ’69 at Sound Techniques,
and I was booking so much time. I was block booking
– just give me this week and the next week, and then
Thursday and Friday I’ll be away for four days and then
I’ll book more time. John was part of that so he said,
“I’m not doing all of this stuff.” He would take certain
projects and say, “I’m doing these, but you could do this
with Victor Gann, Jerry Boys or Roger [Mayer].” By that
time we had three other engineers working there. I
think Jerry is in a way temperamental and perfect and
I think that John as a recording engineer might have
done some things that were more original – but you
couldn’t really choose between them. They were both
great recording engineers.
Did you have different interactions
with Jerry?
Jerry is more prepared to shut up, but I never asked him
to. I always asked his opinion. He was a little more,
“What do you want? I’ll get it for you.” Jerry as a
mixing engineer is fantastic. That’s a real strength of Photos from Joe’s book
his. John, too – I got spoiled working with Jerry. Now reading at Time Tested Books
I feel like the ideal thing would be to go make a in Sacramento, CA,
record with John and then take it in to mix with Jerry. March 19, 2007
You talk a little bit in the book about
the lack of sixties trappings on the
recordings, like clichéd overuses
of things. Was that a conscious
decision at the time?

32/Tape Op#60/Mr. Boyd/(Continued on page 34)


In the ’80s you ended up doing R.E.M.’s Which - I guess they were feeling that way. To me, it rains record, he took the click off.” The other record that I
third record [Fables of the all the time – so what? I guess it did affect them. With did from that year which nobody really knows I did is
Reconstruction] and 10,000 Maniacs Natalie and the 10,000 Maniacs, that record has Miss America by Mary Margaret O’Hara. What
[The Wishing Chair] – these American disappeared. It’s not even on CD [Wishing Chair]. I happened there is I tried to sign her to Hannibal and
bands were showing up in the UK to really liked that album. One of the things that her manager said, “No. We want to be with a major
record with you. I remember you had happened with both albums - and it took me a while label.” I got to know them and then she signed with
some comments at the time going, “I to digest this information - I think I sensed it at the Virgin. She actually said to Simon Draper, Virgin’s A&R
don’t know why these people are time, but when I look back on those records – this is director, “I’d like to use Joe Boyd as a producer,” and
coming over here and asking to work slightly the flaw in my philosophy that I espoused of they said, “No. We have much more commercial ideas
with me.” What are your feelings trying to do everything live in the studio. I realized than that! We’re going to make you a star. We don’t
looking back on that era for you? that I was very spoiled. I worked with a lot of fantastic want this Joe Boyd kind of record. You’re going to be
Great experiences. I have great respect for R.E.M. – drummers. Dave Mattacks was a great drummer. I produced by Andy Partridge (From XTC).” They come
both groups – particularly R.E.M., as an worked with Steven Gadd. I worked with Earl Palmer. over and they check into Rockfield [Studios] in Wales
organization, were quite extraordinarily impressive. Come on, I worked with a lot of really, really good and they start working with Andy Partridge. She
The way that they were together and the way with drummers - and Mike Kowalski is a terrific drummer. He brought over her Canadian band. It had Hugh Marsh
the management – that was before their problems was on a lot of the Nick Drake records. The truth is that on violin and Rusty [McCarthy] on guitar. These guys
with Jefferson [Holt, manager] and the six of them Bill Berry and Jerry Augustyniak - they’re good are really good musicians. They are Toronto players.
were very much a unit. The fact that they didn’t take drummers to be in those bands, but they ain’t world The bass player and the drummer had been on the
advances from the label - they were very much in class drummers. That’s where if somebody wanted to road for years with Chuck Mangione. They were jazz
control of their own career. I just thought these call me on some of the things that I say about the guys. They get to Rockfield and Andy Partridge says,
guys were totally on it. I had never met a young rock philosophy of recording things live, there aren’t as “Okay, let’s put down a drum track. Let’s start it that
band with such a mature attitude towards many good musicians around these days. A lot of way. Are you guys used to using headphones?” Treats
everything. I haven’t really seen the guys from musicians making records are not that good at playing them like they’re amateurs - A and B, he does it layer
10,000 Maniacs since then, but I stayed friends with their instruments and in a way, if you say, the only way by layer and starts making this pop record and they
Natalie [Merchant]. Mike Mills [R.E.M.] and I became you should make this record is by playing and waiting freak out. Within a few days Mary Margaret had called
good friends. It was a strange experience because I for the best performance – you might never get the up Virgin and says, “Either Andy leaves or we leave.
didn’t feel like I finished the [R.E.M.] record best performance because they’re just not really good We’re not making this record with Andy Partridge.”
properly. I wasn’t happy with the mix - probably enough to treat it, as you say, like a jazz record. Where I can’t imagine that.
because I mixed it in Livingston [Recording Studios] is that moment going to happen? The moment needs It was just a total culture clash – transatlantic in a way.
with Jerry - but it was when he’d just remodeled help. They need the click track and they need The wildest way of recording has its origins in Britain.
Livingston and we booked the big room for eight something. With both records, I think, the farther The British don’t play. They play at music and that’s
days to do the tracks, and we moved in the smaller along we went in finishing the record, overdubbing one reason they make such good records. They’re very
room to finish the mix. I’ve never mixed another and mixing – both records – when you have a great original. They’re very fresh. They don’t have that
record in that room. I’ve always insisted on the big track, you start adding things on - it just gets better. facility that the American musicians have where they
room because I can’t stand that room. When you have a weak track, you add things on - it can play any kind of style. There aren’t bars. It’s a
Just the way things sound? exposes the weakness. It doesn’t fix it. It makes it whole different ethos. So, Andy and Virgin had in
Yeah, I just don’t hear it. I just don’t hear things right. worse. If you add a harmony and you add another mind making an English pop record with Mary
I’ve done recording in there and overdubs, but I just guitar, it kind of makes the flaws more obvious. It Margaret - and the musicians were like, “Fuck this, we
will not mix in there. It makes me nuts. Then the doesn’t cover them over. It’s very difficult to cover want to play. We just want to plug in and play. We
group was making life a bit difficult because they them over. I think I felt at the end of that experience know these songs. Roll the tape.” Andy had never
wanted everything to be turned down, which is the working with those guys that maybe I wasn’t the right done a record like that. He couldn’t imagine doing a
opposite of the way most groups are. I was a bit producer for them. I remember when I was working on record like that. So I get a rather sheepish call from
annoyed when I heard the next record - Stipe’s voice the R.E.M. record there was another group working in Virgin saying, “Oh Joe, how would you like to go
is right up front. I think at the time I was uneasy the smaller room when we were working in the big down to Rockfield and produce Mary Margaret
about the record. They were uneasy about the room, and the two studios share a men’s room. So I O’Hara?” I drove a hard bargain and got him to pay
record. I think we were all relieved the record did would find myself standing at the urinal and there was me a sizeable advance, and then I went down to
pretty well, but I think we all felt dissatisfied with a guy who was the producer or the bass player (I can’t Rockfield and I started working with them. It was
the final result. remember) of the group in the other room, and we very, very difficult because Mary, as you know...
I really like that record. It stands out as started having a nodding acquaintance. I remember I heard she’s a handful.
a very different record for them. saying, “How are you guys doing?” and he said, “Well, She’s a handful. I love her! She’s a fantastic person -
Now, it’s nice that people now come back to it and we got five tracks finished.” This was four days into really clever, really wonderful but, she’s very eccentric
say, “Hey, I just realized that’s actually not so the thing. He said, “Yesterday we did the bass drum and she wouldn’t, couldn’t change her time – her
bad! It’s pretty good.” and we are doing the bass line today.” I just would Canadian time. She would stay up until six o’clock in
It’s very different because they had the never have the patience to do a record like that. They the morning and then sleep until four o’clock in the
Mitch Easter/Don Dixon records were doing the A and B side to a single and they laid afternoon. These guys were the kind of guys who liked
before that. down the bass drum and… to run at dawn – like two miles of road work before the
I think the second one is fantastic. A track at a time. sun gets too hot and come back and eat a big
Reckoning is one of the best examples of The next record the Maniacs did, Peter Asher obviously breakfast and be ready to go at ten-thirty or eleven -
what they were doing. I can’t put a click on them. I mentioned that to Peter Buck. so they were going nuts. I was going nuts. We couldn’t
imagine that being any better for I saw him in Austin and talked about it and he said, get Mary out of bed. Then we’d have these long
what they were at that time. Fables... “The thing with Scott Litt - we didn’t actually use a sessions and they’d get sleepy at two o’clock in the
came out as kind of a darker, moodier click but we rehearsed with a click for days. We did it morning and she’d just be waking up. But there was
record in some respects. with a click and then when we actually came to this fantastic moment I’ll never forget. One of the

34/Tape Op#60/Mr. Boyd/(Continued on page 36)


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great songs on that record is “Bobby’s In Trouble” and He said, “Yeah, come on down to Athens.” I called boring kind of pan-Euro folk noodling. I went off to
there’s this weird, loping rhythm and even with them Simon Draper and I said, “I think Mary wants to get a beer. As I was walking away from the stage I
all playing together, it was difficult because she kept produce this record herself.” They agreed to give me a heard the singer come on and it was an Hungarian
changing things. We finally did this take of “Bobby’s credit and pay me off or something. singer singing a Bulgarian song using open throat
In Trouble” and I said, “That’s it. That’s nailed it. It’s How much of the original stuff was technique – just this incredible piercing noise – just
fantastic.” It just had this great feel, and she was used? her on stage singing a capella. “Whoa! What’s that?”
singing great and she said, “Yeah, guys that was really All of it – all those tracks I did in Wales -but it didn’t Afterwards I went backstage and I met her. I said,
great, but I’d like to do it one more time.” Everyone come out for five years. Five years! Michael Brook “Wow that Bulgarian song you did was fantastic!” She
looked at her like, “Mary, what are you talking about? finished it off and he’s the one who got her to finish said, “Oh you like Bulgarian music?” She said, “Come
It’s great!” She said, “Yeah, it is, but I heard her vocals and mixed it and everything - but to Hungary next summer because a bunch of my
something.” I said, “What?” She said, “Okay, now, just uncredited on the record, those are all my tracks. friends and I are all going down to this huge festival
do exactly what you did on the last take, but” - and That’s pretty strange. How did you end in the mountains. It’s a festival which has this huge
she pointed to the bass player - “you do exactly the up moving into more of the world assemblage of traditional musicians from all over the
same thing you did there, but do it one beat later.” music stuff? Was part of that due to country.” I said, “I’ll be there.” I actually tried to set
Everyone went, “What?!” She said, “Trust me, it’s going starting Hannibal? up doing a documentary about it. I pitched it to BBC
to work.” They were all rolling their eyes going out When I started Hannibal, my first signings were Richard and Channel Four and I got this woman who spoke
there. I pushed the button and we started to take it and Linda Thompson, Joe King Carrasco, Geoff Russian to come and translate for me - just before
and that’s the master take. It worked. She was right. Muldaur - but I’d always (going back to when I was a I’m leaving, 4AD puts out Le Mystere Des Voix
She heard it. kid), when I was twenty-something I would get Bulgares and John Peel starts playing the shit out of
She heard it. Then what happened was - that was in late stoned and listen to Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares. I it and it goes onto the charts. I’m feeling really
November of ’84. Then Jefferson called and asked loved little bits of African music. I knew about the Ali stupid because if I had listened to my brother... The
would I do an R.E.M. record – this was early January. Brothers – that was another great thing to get stoned Hungarian singer who invited me to go to Bulgaria
What had happened with Mary Margaret was we and listen to. I loved Edith Piaf. I loved all kinds of was Marta Sebestyen, who is a wonderful singer
finished all the tracks, and the idea was over the shit. In the seventies I got totally into Carlos Gardel when she sings in Hungarian. I went to Budapest
Christmas period she was going to be back in Toronto. and the tango. I was gobbling up stuff. When I was and I ended up licensing music. I went to Bulgaria
Catherine (her sister, the comedienne) had a studio in running Hannibal, my brother (who was a lawyer) and met all these people there. I went back in the
her basement, so she was going to get someone in took a year off from being a lawyer and worked with winter and made records and put them out and I
Toronto to make rough mixes and work out all the me. The idea was if it worked out, he would run the found Ivo Papasov & His Bulgarian Wedding Band
harmony parts, imagine other overdubs that she New York office and I would run the London office. and started this whole adventure. One thing led to
wanted, talk to musicians and then she’d be ready to I’m in the office every day scrambling trying to make another and I was part of the committee that
go. I’d come in the middle of January and finish the enough records to fill the orders for [Richard and invented the term “World Music”.
record with her in Toronto. I finished that record and Linda Thompson’s] Shoot Out the Lights because they I was surprised by that, but it makes
got back to London and did that 10,000 Maniacs were selling like crazy. We didn’t have enough credit sense. You have to have somewhere to
record. Then I got a call from Jefferson saying, “Could because distributors don’t pay you for 90 to 120 days. put the record. Going somewhere like
you do an R.E.M. record?” I said, “Holy shit, I’d love The pressing plants need paper in 60 days. So I was Bulgaria to make a record, what are
to do an R.E.M. record.” But I can’t because they getting put on hold by pressing plants, scrambling the challenges? Is it the language
needed it right away. So I turned it down. I went to around checking over duplicate parts from England barrier? You’ve got to educate
Toronto and I had this Chinese dinner with Mary and driving them to pressing plants in upstate New yourself about the music.
Margaret and her manager. I’ll never forget it. We were York, hoping that we get enough to fill the order for Yeah, but it was wonderful. It was a bit of a challenge, but
sitting in this Chinese restaurant in Toronto and there’s Pickwick on the West Coast, because Richard was out it was great fun. I met wonderful people. A lot of what
a blizzard and the snow is piling up outside the there this week on tour and I’m going nuts. In the I did in world music would not have been possible if I
window and Mary Margaret is explaining why she middle of all this my brother says, “Listen, I’ve got an did not speak French. I learned French a long time ago
hadn’t done anything – why she had completely idea. Let’s do a series of vocal harmony records, like when I was a teenager in school. I’ve gotten to be
rethought the whole album and she thought that she Ladysmith Black Mambazo or The Ali Brothers. You pretty fluent in it now, but twenty years ago I was just
wanted to record some new stuff. She hadn’t figured could say that in that idea that he presented to me okay. In Bulgaria, the woman who was the producer of
out any of the vocal stuff and she was re-thinking were the ideas that would dominate world music five folk music for the state radio - she didn’t speak any
some of the things we had talked about. She wanted years later. And my response was, “Listen, I love that English, but she spoke French. My engineers spoke
to take some things off that we had put on and I’m shit. It’s fantastic. I’d love to sit at home and listen French much more than English. Then when I started
looking at the snow and I’m thinking, “Fuck. I’m never to that stuff, but I’m trying to run a record company working with West Africans, Toumani Diabaté and all
going to get out of here. I’m going to be snowed into and that is such an uncommercial idea!” Of course, he that, we always communicated in French. I’m not sure
this fucking city with this mad woman.” I’m haunted turned out to be totally right and I missed the boat. I could have done the Songhai records [without it].
by this phone call that [I] had from Jefferson, so at I loved that stuff - I just didn’t believe there was a French was a door into Spanish. I learned a lot of
some point toward the end of the evening I said, market for it. In a way that was [what] the whole Spanish so I could make a lot of stuff like that. That
“Mary, I get the feeling you have a lot of strong views “world” term was about, was trying to find a place to was pretty key. The radio studios in Bulgaria were great.
about how to do this record. It sounds to me as if you put them in the record store. Because in 1983 the It was all Telefunken and old stuff.
would kind of like to produce it yourself.” She said, record store had a section called “International Folk”, All the good old stuff.
“Joe that is so perceptive of you. That is so or something called “Foreign”, or something called The sad thing is, you meet this time and time again – I
thoughtful. I love you. I think you’re wonderful. I’ve “Ethnic”, or “Imports” or whatever. I think the trigger remember the next time I came back to Bulgaria, I
loved working with you, but I do really feel like I know for me was in 1985. I went to the Fairport Convention made some comment like, “Let’s put this through the
what I want to do with this record.” I said, “Well, I’ll annual summer festival where they play and invite EMT plate” and they said, “Oh, we got rid of that.” I
call Simon and see what he says” - knowing Simon people, and they had this weird group on called said, “You got rid of it? Why?” “Oh, there was some
would probably love to get rid of her. First I called Mosaic. It was made up of a couple of Irish musicians American who came through here and he had one of
Jefferson to say, “Do you guys still need a producer?” and a Dutch guy and this Hungarian singer. It was the Lexicons (not even that, something worse), and

36/Tape Op#60/Mr. Boyd/(Continued on page 38)


he said he’d give us a good deal on that and he’d even Doing “Arnold Layne” - that song was making a record, but had no deal. They got the money
take the EMT off our hands”. Oh God, I bet that’s part of their set, but was it a longer, and the production deal with United Artists, but they
sitting now in Ocean Way [Studios] in L.A. I saw that jamming thing? want to sign the artists through them. Then
all the time - the plundering of studios and Yeah, they would play it and do a jam on it. somebody told me that Rafferty and Murphey had this
“improving” them. So you just had to say, “Let’s rein it in plan to set up a management company. Even though
Without having a real good a little bit and change the lyrics Lustig was the one who brought Richard to them,
grounding, people usually think on the B side”? Lustig was a very abrasive guy. A lot of people didn’t
modern is good when it comes to Yeah. like him. He was insisting on having an override
recording technology, and yet Another record that is really royalty that would go straight to him for executive
things many things haven’t really fascinating is Shoot Out the Lights. producer credit or something like that. They were
improved in fifty years. It’s a really emotional, heavy record, resisting this and holding off signing the contract.
Quite the contrary. In Cuba, Alfredo Rodriguez and his but Richard Thompson has gone on Meanwhile they’re spending United Artists’ money
Korean investors built the big fancy studio in Cuba - record saying it’s not about their making the record. Then they get to the end and they
and nobody in Cuba wants to use the great EGREM situation. need Richard to do a few more guitar solos and
Studios where the Buena Vista Social Club and I think it was subconscious. A lot of things that are true Richard has decided he doesn’t like the record.
¡Cubanismo! were done. “Why would you want to go you don’t know are true. I believe Richard that he did Richard says, “I’m not going to finish the record. I’m
in there? It’s so difficult.” You go in these modern not set out to write songs about breaking up with his not going to sign the contract and I’m not going to
studios and it sounds like shit. wife, but I think that there were certainly tensions in finish the record.” It all suddenly explodes and
They’re different. Progress isn’t always the marriage. The marriage was definitely difficult in everything is in meltdown and it’s a complete
progress. I first learned your name the period he was writing the songs and whether they disaster. So I go to Richard and I say, “Listen,” he’d
through Pink Floyd as a teenager, and were subconscious wish-fulfillment or projection of used Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks and Simon Nichol
the story is often told that you were something…. working with Rafferty, so they knew all the songs. I
hoping that you could have produced Were the sessions reflective of anything said, “You guys are totally rehearsed and ready to go.
their first record. If that had like that? Let’s go into the studio and do it in three days for
happened, if EMI had let it happen – No. This is a story that was told before; maybe more in Hannibal.” He said, “Great idea. I’d love this. I can’t
even Geoff Emerick had a hard time England than here. It was a very curious circumstance wait to get out of this. It’s been kind of a nightmare.”
coming back and engineering The because I set up Hannibal - Island agreed to back me I said, “One condition - the money that we save by
Beatles – if that had happened and you initially and that didn’t last very long – and I went to doing it so quickly, I’m going to put into tour support.
ended up producing the first Pink Richard and his manager Jo Lustig because I knew he You’ve got to do an American tour.” I talked to Joe
Floyd record, what would you have had been dropped. Somebody at Chrysalis had told Lustig. He said, “What’s this about an American tour?
done differently? me, “We’re not going to renew their contract.” I don’t want Richard to go to America until he plays
I think Piper at the Gates of Dawn is a pretty good Carnegie Hall.” I said, “Joe you’re full of shit. This is
Sunnyvista didn’t sell. I said, “I’m making this label.
record. It’s not like you could say, “Oh well, Norman It’s called Hannibal. Come on - let’s make a great what Richard needs to do. This will transform his
Smith messed up”, because they made a good career. He needs to get out. America doesn’t know
record together.” Jo Lustig said, “No way. We’re going
record. I think “Bike” is a fantastic track. I guess to sign with United Artists.” I said, “Really? How’s Richard Thompson. They don’t know who the fuck he
my fantasy is not so much about sounding that going to happen?” He said, “We’re doing a deal is. They’ve never heard him play. They don’t know
different, but about hanging on to Syd. I got along with Gerry Rafferty and Hugh Murphey” who were hot what a genius he is. He’s got to get out there and play
pretty well with Syd and since then I’ve had people because of “Baker Street”. Hugh Murphey was a big The Bottom Line, Great American Music Hall and all
tell me that he never felt comfortable with Smith folk fan. He had done a lot of folk records for Deccathose places. Forget Carnegie Hall. That will come
and the whole thing got kind of out of hand for over the years and Rafferty knew Richard. I went to later. Let him play these places and that’s the deal. If
him. Listen, I don’t think I would have had a magic Richard and said, “Richard, have you ever worked withyou don’t agree, fuck it. I’m not going to do it
wand that would have prevented him from taking Gerry Rafferty, the way that those guys work? Becausebecause I don’t want to make this record and see it
acid every day for seven days, but that’s the part – they make pop records. They really make slick languish without an American audience.” I called
it’s not so much listening to the record and sounding records – very tight, all overdubbing and Richard and I told him what I said and he said, “Well,
thinking, “Oh I could have made a better record I want to tour in America so I’ll tell Joe we have a
control and focus.” He said, “Well, I like Gerry. He’s a
than this or I could have made a better sound than good guy and I think it’ll be interesting. We need todeal.” That’s what happened. We went into the studio,
this” - although I think that there is something do something different. I think it’ll work.” I said, bang! We did it in three days - fantastic, great tracks
about “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”, which but, then the budget got a little ballooned because
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” They started working on
were both done at Sound Techniques with John the record. I’m getting occasionally, either through Linda was very pregnant and she was having trouble
[Wood], and I think it punches more. Richard or Linda, reports that it’s not going that breathing. So everything was done except her vocals.
John’s recordings had a very exciting great, but they’re finishing it. I hear that they She and I would go into the studio night after night
sound to them. finished recording, but they aren’t mixing it yet andfor five nights and do her vocals line by line.
The room was fantastic, and he knew the room. they have a few overdubs left to do. Richard has a few She’d just be winded, more or less.
With Pink Floyd there seemed to be a guitar solos to do. Then, the next thing I know, Yes. That’s the story of that record.
dichotomy between their recorded someone tells me to call Richard. I call Richard and One thing you bring up that’s really
self and their live self, especially in Richard said – he never would have admitted he was important with a lot of this is you
those days. wrong – he said, “Well, Joe, it didn’t quite work out created a management company
Have you ever heard the soundtrack to Tonite Let’s All the way I hoped and I’m not that happy.” The more I early on. You said, “If I’m going to get
Make Love in London? got into it, I discovered this incredible thing. I’m not involved with this record, I want to
Yeah, “Nick’s Boogie”? sure whether this is the true reason, but I remember make sure this band on this record
Yeah and “Interstellar Overdrive” – that’s what they becoming convinced that I had discovered what was does well.” That’s a lot of foresight
sounded like. I did those two records. That is what actually going on. The first thing I found out was that and that’s also stepping outside the
they sounded like with Syd. the contract had never been signed. They were realm of just being a producer.

38/Tape Op#60/Mr. Boyd/(Continued on page 40)


“I’ve never used an EQ that sounds this good.”
-Larry Crane, Tape Op Jan 2005
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When I set out, all I wanted was to be a producer. To me,
management was a pain in the ass. I didn’t want any part
of it, but I realized very early on with The Incredible String
Band – they set the tone in a way because they were
folkies. They played Scottish folk clubs. I took one look at
them and I said, “This is not your audience. You need to
play for freaks. You need to play for the people who listen
to Pink Floyd. You need to play for people who listen to
The Grateful Dead. I don’t want you going to folk clubs.”
It’s just something that happens with almost everything I
ever do in the studio. It’s not a category. It is slightly to
one side or the other of the category. You can’t just put it
on the rock band conveyor belt and expect it to work.
I went looking for records of yours. I went
to the folk section and there’s the first
Fairport Convention record. I said, “Do
you have any Incredible String Band?”
and they said, “Incredible String Band
is in psychedelic.”
Exactly! I think it’s true of almost everything I’ve ever been
involved in – not so much as a producer because
sometimes I do things for hire like R.E.M., who had a
career - but where I would take initiative and start
something up. The only way it was ever going to work
was for me to get involved. Back in the ’60s I managed
people and I was determined not to get into that in the
’70s because I thought I was going to be a film producer
– even when I was passionate about something like the
McGarrigle sisters. I watched that first record (which I
think is one of the best things I was ever involved in) die
because the cover was crap, because Warner Brothers had
it on the schedule. Kate got pregnant and cancelled the
tour - and thank God she got pregnant because she had
Martha [Wainwright, sister of Rufus Wainwright]. But they
should have held the record. All kinds of things lead me
to say, “I’m going to have to have my own label.” Even
as a label head, a lot of the things I would do dealing
with music artists would technically be more
management. I would set up the tours and a lot of that
worked pretty well. When Ryko bought the company they
said they couldn’t do that. We don’t want our people
spending time setting up tours. Sometimes we did it
anyway without them knowing. That was the only way to
make it work. Everything I’ve ever done has been
something that you’ve had to figure out - not just how to
record it, but how to get it across to people in a way that
isn’t the customary way to go about it. It wasn’t
something that I had a vision would be a great idea. It
was more of a defensive response to “What the hell am I
going to do with this record unless I get it to the right
audience and get this group out to the right audience?”
What do you find yourself doing now…
besides writing a book?
Well, I finally got a performer who does absolutely
everything I tell him to.
You?
Yeah. It’s fun. I’m here to middle of April doing lots more
stuff and then I’m going back to London to sit down and
write the world music book. r
www.joeboyd.co.uk

40/Tape Op#60/Mr. Boyd/(Fin.)


Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#60/41
Bob Power
Vibe is Everything

by Allen Farmelo
photo by Ronald Porty
42/Tape Op#60/Mr. Power
Bob Power is one of those names you might know not from reading liner notes, but instead from listening I don’t think it is something that people set out to do,
to vocal ad-libs on records he’s produced or engineered. In the mid-eighties, Power found himself engineering
but an interesting byproduct of loop-based stuff is it’s
at Calliope Studios in NYC, home to many groups that were part of what he calls the second wave of hip-hop.
all in the rub of different people’s time feels working
Bands like Stetsasonic, The Jungle Brothers, Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul went to Power to track and mix
at the same time. I’ve been playing funk music since
records loaded with samples, heavy bass tones and enormous 808 kick drums. By the nineties, he was producing
the late sixties, and in the mid- to late eighties when
records with D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Me’shell Ndegecello and others at the center of modern soul music. The
MIDI and quantizing were in, things got tight, but not
new millennium has seen him mixing or producing with The Roots, India.Arie, Ozomatli, and more recently the
that funky. Then I started listening back to my
Seattle-based rock band Maktub and singer-songwriter Andrea Wittgens. His is a career that has required an
favorite records - Curtis Mayfield is a perfect example
openness to innovative recording strategies, new technology and most importantly, groundbreaking music. As
preparation for this career, Power cites his experiences as a guitar player on the midwestern soul circuit as much
- the shit is all over the place! Bongo Eddie plays
as his two university degrees in music. Today, Power is a self-proclaimed “gear junkie” who remains as open
percussion on a lot of Curtis Mayfield’s stuff, and I
have a joke with a lot of my musician friends that it
to new recording strategies and technologies as ever. Every time we talk, he mentions a new piece of gear that
sounds like he is playing in the next room. Then I
he’s excited about trying, or a new technique he’s discovered. However, one soon gets the sense that a spiritual
realized that the funk is really in the rub, and if you
compass guides his work as much as anything else, and that vibe truly is everything when it comes to making
listen to hip-hop stuff, that’s when it’s cool. If you
records with him. We hung out in his Manhattan studio and talked about everything from karma to kilohertz.
take a loop that is against something else and you
What changed production-wise between circuit. Other than the fact that hip-hop was a
recycle or beat slice it and make it perfectly in time,
the first and second wave of hip-hop? massive paradigm shift, or reflected a paradigm shift
it totally loses the flavor.
The really big difference between the first and second in the art forms of the black community, it was all
the same thing to me. Unfortunately to this day
In the past there have been two
wave of hip-hop, for me, is the use of samples. One
engineering is kind of a white male boys club - and
humans, or the accident of two loops.
of the reasons A Tribe Called Quest was so amazing is
was very much so back then. For a lot of those guys,
Do you think we can now program
that it was the first time samples were used in a really
kids would come in dressed in what the engineers
these vibes in there?
elaborate musical construction - particularly the
That’s a good question. I only use stuff like beat slicing
second album, Low End Theory. That was [Q-]Tip and thought were funny clothes, smoking weed, sluggin’
when I really have to. Usually the only things that
Ali [Shaheed Muhammad]’s real genius. It’s an 40s. I mean, you have to understand that a kid
really line up pretty well are kicks and snares. That can
interesting point because the constructions, if you comes from a certain environment, a tough
be kind of dodgy, still. Occasionally there is one hit in
listen to Low End Theory musically, are very complex. environment, and walks into a nice recording studio
the midst of a four bar loop that’s off, and I’ll do some
If you had good session players sit down and play where everybody pads around in expensive shoes.
time stretching in front of it or actually cut and paste
that, it wouldn’t sound the same because part of the You’ve got to realize where people come from and
that snare, but for the most part I love the rub. That’s
cool thing about samples in hip-hop is that they sort of give them a little room to reflect that without
what makes it really interesting. Again, how much is
weren’t meant to go together. As a guitar player, I saying, “What the fuck is wrong with these people?”
too much is up to one’s judgment. Perfect records are
would play on a new track without monitoring the old People would walk in with turntables and the
boring. Knowing how to keep the good mistakes is the
one, and it didn’t sound right. I soon realized, “Oh engineer would say, “Well, what do you want to do?”
fine line of production that we are always walking no
right, I’ve got to play to the old track to get it to The artist would say, “We are going to put the track
matter how many records we do.
sound right.” Another thing about sampling is that a down this way.” The engineer would say, “Don’t you
want to lock to time code?” “Time code? What do you
This gets tied into vibe. What are some of
hook can be a sound, and that’s really cool. So, I
mean, man?” I think in a weird way there was
the things that you actually do as a
think the palette has gotten so much larger and more
perhaps an undertone of unconscious racism there on
producer to help create and
varied on every level. Stetsasonic were right on the
the part of a lot of engineers. When people walk in
maintain the vibe?
end of the first wave, and Daddy-O and Prince Paul
I am a slave to the song. When artists ask, “What’s your
were visionaries, though they kind of got lost in the the door, you have to say, “Hey what are you doing
approach?” I say, “My approach is always whatever
shuffle at that point. Their second record [In Full and what do you need?” I find that if you focus and
the song wants to be.” So, it really depends on the
Gear] was a brilliant sample-based record. work at getting your humanist values in the right
song as to what elements you think would be most
Do you see any technology since place, everything else will fall into place.
effective at pulling forth the vibe of that particular
sampling that has affected the sound You use loops in a lot of your stuff.
song. If a song does not start taking on a life of its
of music as much? Sometimes they can be heard, but
own at a certain point, and doesn’t start telling you
I consider sampling as part of MIDI, and that to me was not always.
what to do as opposed to you telling it what to do -
really part of the same revolution. Between the late I often have a bunch of little things happening, and if
it’s not happening. It’s a weird thing to say, but
seventies and mid-eighties, it was a really big you listen sometimes you hear them and say, “Oh
everybody who makes records knows what I am
change. I was actually scoring for TV at the time, and cool, there is a loop happening there.” Much of the
talking about. If the song comes out exactly the way
I was working for a more traditional, old-school time, even on rock records, there is a lot of stuff in
you had it in your head it’s going to be boring. There
musician who would write charts. With MIDI a lot of there that you don’t hear that is really more of a feel
is that wonderful, wonderful point where the song
guys from that school fell by the wayside. A lot of thing. One of my theories about record making in
takes on a life of its own and it’s great.
engineers said, “That’s not music,” because the shit general is that if the track is rhythmically buoyant, or
sort of interesting enough, then you don’t have to sell
So what kind of things can you do to get
may have sounded super primitive around that time
the song so hard. One of the problems with badly
to that point?
- especially to those guys who were used to sitting
No matter what happened at home when you left that
behind the console for years. The same arranger produced music and demos that come in is the time
morning, no matter how bad the subway was, no matter
would set down the charts and count it off. The is not compelling. Even if it is somebody playing an
how pissed you are with the record company, you put
engineers would put up the same mics in the same acoustic guitar and singing, it’s got to have this thing
the headphones on and you are on mic, as a singer for
way. I’m not saying it was lazy, but it was sort of to it. You are immediately drawn into it, and you can
example, and you must get into that world in the music
complacent. When MIDI came out a lot of these guys really listen to what is going on.
and not worry that the lights are too bright and stuff
said, “This isn’t music!” and they have been selling With loops and sample-based hip-
like that. I do everything I can to make the person as
insurance for the last thirty years. The same thing hop, where you are using loops
comfortable as they can be. Interestingly, there’s a way
happened when hip-hop first came into New York against each other, are you trying
to read a chart and do that at the same time. Another
City studios. I had played, oddly, in black bands in to find the buoyancy in the
thing on the engineering tip which I think is really key
high school and as an undergrad on the soul band interaction of those elements?
Mr. Power (continued on page 44)/Tape Op#60/43
- and this is something that a lot of assistants don’t Is he working on the drums strictly, or is becoming a better in-the-box mixer about two years
understand - is that when someone comes in to work, he also mic’ing it up? ago. I am fascinated by the fact that every time I do
especially an MC or singer, they should be able to walk No, he’s just working on the drums. Occasionally he’ll what is fundamentally an in-the-box mix, I’m still
up to the microphone, make a couple of noises and you have other stuff to say, which is actually really handy. learning something new. Funny too, it wasn’t really a
should press record. Go! There is no reason not to have There is another guy, Gregg Keplinger - a sort of survival thing. I feel that if you make fundamental
a mic and signal processing chain all up and working. legendary guy that I worked with in Seattle a couple changes to what you love based on making money, it
Not letting the technology get in the way is a giant of years ago - who was really amazing and apparently fucks everything up. You have to really have a passion
thing. The whole point is to make the tweaking process did a lot of the big Seattle records. I did a rock band for the thing and then everything else falls into place.
as transparent as possible when you are trying to be called Maktub out there a couple of years ago - great I took the challenge of being a better in-the-box mixer
creative. One of the things I try to do when I write or band with a really great drummer. Greg was the kind much like I looked at MIDI and said, “Wow, all the guys
produce is to make a concerted effort not to “fix the hi- of guy where you would be in the control room and who said this isn’t music, look what they missed!” So,
hat”, meaning don’t get hung up on the small details. he’d hit something and you’d say, “The snare sounds I do about half of my work at my place now. My room
For better or worse I am a very detail-oriented a little baskety, it’s a little hollow and big, but happens to be terrifically accurate the way I have it set
practitioner. But you have to know when to put your definitely hollow.” He’d say, “Oh, okay” and he would up. I cheat a little, since I have a really high-end, two-
blinders on and when to concentrate on the things that go “urt” and turn one thing a tiny bit and all of a mix bus that I go out through – a lot of Pendulum
are most important to whatever stage of the process sudden it was right there. Whereas guys who are not stuff, API, GML, Tube-Tech - really nice stuff. I can
you are working in. That’s where a lot of not-so- necessarily masters, they’ll be “urt… urt… urt… Let really mix and match on the two-bus the way I want
experienced engineers fall down, because they are like, me get some tape.” to. That said, we’re at the point now that when I port
“Oh wait, I gotta move this...” It’s important to not give And it changes too much. those mixes completely in the box, it compares quite
up - you always have to got to be trying to make it a And it takes forever. A master usually looks at it and well. With digital EQ, I find because of the lessened
little bit better, while at the same time, you also have says, “That will do it.” phase shift issues, you’ve got to throw the faders
to know that there are certain stages of the process
It seems we are in an era where more around a lot more than you do with analog EQ. I work
where you have to get going quickly and then shut the
people are off consoles and are on something in the box, and I find that I’m often +8
fuck up. mixing and matching mic pres, EQs or -10 on things, where if I did that with an analog EQ
So a tech day could be really be and compressors. it would totally suck the life out if it. I also find that
construed as getting the vibe for the I think we are in a golden age of professional audio right digital seems much less forgiving in terms of the
next recording project. now. A second golden age, because people are making timbral anomalies between the different ranges of
With rhythm tracks - if I have money, time and we are emulations of the old stuff that actually works better. someone’s voice and their proximity to the microphone.
going to do a couple of days of rhythm tracks - the Anybody who has ever owned Neves knows what I’m We know about slew rates and tape compression, so
first day is just a setup day. That is great because you talking about – it’s usually switches and caps. One of that’s an obvious reason why analog would smooth it
don’t have the guitar player sitting around for three the reasons I like modern microphones that are built on out a little bit. But for some it’s an intangible. I find
hours while you doing the drums and then have to go older principles is that they sound the same every day. myself doing a lot more automated EQ on mixes than I
in and be inspired. Sometimes I’ll say, “If you go out I like to be able to mix and match my signal chain from ever would have thought I would have done, and I
for dinner and want to come back around nine and the microphone all the way up to what the media is, think, “Wow, what did you do in the old days?” It just
see what’s going on, if you guys feel like playing, we something that is optimized for what I am recording. didn’t seem to sound that weird at different places. On
will probably be good by then.” The players will love On a very large level, if I can afford it and I’m doing a the other side of the coin, there were records in the
you more for it because it means that you are taking rock band, we cut the rhythm tracks to analog tape, analog era where I did automate like that. For example,
care with how they come off on the record. I’ve never then the poor assistant spends a day transferring, and I mixed a Chaka Khan album - it was just so incredibly
found anybody who wasn’t happy that I was taking a we finish the record in the box. I think that’s thrilling to throw up the fader and hear that. There is
lot of time to make them sound as good as possible. something that all the geeks who are going to be almost no singer with a greater dynamic range or pitch
Again, if you approach that from a humanist level, all reading this magazine, including myself, will hear. That range in the business. But it kind of worked against us
the other things fall into place. and the giant differences of mic pres. I am often asked, for a minute, because when she sang low and breathy
But they know that is just a day to get “I’m setting up a studio for myself, what should I do?” she would really come in on the mic. When she sings
sounds, so the pressure is off a little bit. Get a really great mic pre. It makes more of a difference really high and screams – it’s almost like a muted
Right. Now if I have session people coming in, I don’t than the microphone itself. I’ve done things with a trumpet, it’s got that edge at 4 kHz that sounds like
have that luxury. You really have to go for it and get good pre and a [SM]57 that just sound fabulous. In the paper ripping – she would pull back. So, the proximity
it quickly. There is a way, with an assistant, to modern context it’s a little dark, but you can always effect on low end was exactly the opposite of what you
actually have most of the drum kit going before the deal with that - you can always open it up. I’ve been need to happen. It was fascinating. So, we actually had
guy starts playing. When the drummer comes in and a Neve guy for years. I have twenty-four channels of her coming back on five or six different faders with
sits down, obviously your levels are going to change, Neve in racks of eight. I mean it’s nuts, but over the totally different signal chains, and we automated that.
the placements are going to change a little, but you years I just collected it to that point. And when I go That’s a luxury. But my thing is I don’t care how you
should pretty much know what mics you are going to to a room that might not have that stuff, I bring the get there. It’s the old Duke Ellington thing: “If it
use and they should be set, there should be signal stuff with me. Also, I have been totally loving APIs sounds good, it is good.” There are certain practices
flowing, and you should know if there is any part of lately. I have a couple that are racked up, and I love to that we should follow because we know that most of
the kit that is going to be a technical problem. I use be able to track with APIs. There is just something the time it will make a positive difference. But for the
drum techs - and again, that is another expense that about the speed and the punch, and it’s not flavorless most part, if it sounds good, it’s great.
most people don’t usually have the luxury for - but by any means. I love to mix and match gear when I am Are you summing in the box?
I’ve learned a lot from them. There is a guy called recording - it’s actually really important. On the mix I am summing in my [Yamaha] 02R96. At this point it is
Mike Burns whom I have known since he was 18 years end, however, any pro mixer who tells you that they are more like a giant mouse than anything else. As time
old – he’s in his thirties now – and he works with not drifting more and more towards plug-ins and less goes on I use less and less from the 02R96 for several
[Steve] Gadd and Paul Simon… he’s been with and less toward analog inserts is lying. Even the analog reasons. Number one, recall is easier if everything is
everybody. Every time I’ve had him set up the kit it stalwarts are understanding that, for the ease of recall at unity and I just have to recall my outboard stuff.
sounds great real fast. Period. and changes, man it’s great! I picked up the mantle of Number two, what I do now when I mix on an SSL is
44/Tape Op#60/Mr. Power/(Continued on page 46)
spend a half a day to a day here on each song, getting That’s the wonderful, incredibly complex matrix of being So when you say you do it to a particular
it to sound as good as I can without any outboard, sonic practitioners of music, because music is song, are there certain songs where
then we take it up to the big room, split it out onto constantly changing people’s decisions about what you use one signal chain and others
the faders, and four hours later it is phenomenal. instruments to use with what tonal coloration, what where you would use a totally
Compared to where we came from with Pro Tools and kind of part it is going to play - and it really boils down different signal chain on the same
digital audio, I think Digi has been doing a to what’s best for the song. As a producer you always record? Or are you using the same
tremendous job both operationally and sonically - HD have to say, “What does the song want to do, what is chain for the same color?
sounds quite good. There are still issues. I have more going to represent this song sung by this artist as best One of the big, big things about mastering is pulling the
of an issue with getting the spatial things happening we can?” So, if you have one part of a record that’s record together as a whole. It’s a giant thing now. The
when mixing in the box than anything else - recorded on an answering machine and another part of line is a very interesting one, because you don’t want
particularly front-to-rear combined with side-to-side. a record that’s the London Symphony Orchestra, fine. If everything sounding the same, but you don’t want it
You can have stuff going out, kind of forty-five the songs want that thing, then it’s your responsibility sounding too different. It seems that if I think I want
degrees left or right, and then you can have stuff to pull that together. What’s on tape (and I use that to use all the same things it doesn’t sound right. It
that’s panned really hard at ninety degrees, but I have term all the time even though it’s “what’s on DAW”) has just never works out that way.
trouble getting things in between those spaces. such a giant bearing on how a mix will sound. Most Are you ever fighting yourself between
Spatially, mixing in the box is challenging and I think people sort of have a way they approach things that your two-bus stem processing from
everybody will say the same thing. That said, I love will tilt it one direction or the other. There are certain mixing and when you go back and
the challenge. It’s not like every time I went up to a producers with whom I always feel like it’s a good are mastering the whole track? Do
J or K room that it was perfect or imperfect, but the marriage when I mix. Jay Dee, the hip-hop producer you use the same chains?
challenges are very, very different. I do love being who passed away recently, is a perfect example. He was It’s a different chain, and no, I’ve been very lucky with
able to get a mix pretty far here and then take it up really good at distributing his low end, his kick and his that. I know you are not supposed to master your own
to an SSL room and finish it off. That’s great because bass. People don’t pay enough attention to tuning stuff for a bunch of reasons. But I have to say that
by the time you get to the big room, you’re not gating drum samples, much less drums, but his kick and his the stuff of my own that I have mixed and mastered
the kick drum at $2,000 a day. Psychologically it’s a bass were always well delineated and he had a real sounds better than anything else I’ve done. I am not
big deal as well. innate sense for where to place things in the sonic saying I am a great mastering engineer, nor am I
Do you stem out the individual tracks spectrum. Not so much with EQ, but just with the saying these other people are not – quite the contrary
and sum with the SSL? fundamental timbre, the instrument and the range it - we all know and appreciate many incredible
Yeah, I’ve started working at unity where I leave the was playing in. It’s an old adage amongst engineers: “A mastering engineers. But, it just worked.
faders flat and split out into stereo pairs, and I have a great mix is a great arrangement.” I think that What do you see as the difference
way of organizing my stuff so that when I take it up to everybody who mixes will say exactly the same thing. between two-bus processing on a mix
an analog desk and put the faders flat, it’s exactly the You’ve been mastering your own and mastering?
same. It’s really, really great. At first, I started using work more and more, and now for Modern records, for the most part, are so aggressive EQ-
faders on my desk and some EQ from the 02R96, but I others. Why? wise, and to a certain degree compression-wise, that
realized that unless I really had to, it was less flexible. I’m going to take a lot of heat for saying this, but frankly I wouldn’t want to commit to that much at one stage
Are you doing much analog processing I’m tired of going back five times, which is mostly a of the process. I generally don’t limit a mix when I am
during your preparation before factor of the loudness wars. I have all this great gear, printing it. I will compress it, but in a way that it
going to the big room, before hitting and I know what I want it to sound like, so I just makes the music sound better - the same thing with
an SSL? Will you go out to one of your finally said to myself that I should go ahead and start EQs, and a part of it is twice sounds a lot better than
EQs or compressors and come back in? mastering my own stuff. From that, I’ve started to once, just because of the way EQ curves work.
Well, yeah. If I have program EQ on stuff, I replicate it master for select outside clients. Interestingly, you can do some two-bus processing on
up there and use that as a point of departure. You’ve said you work hard to get things mixes that actually sounds really good, and you go,
So you use the same analog pieces there, loud, but not squished. What do you “Gee, it makes it sound great.” Then you master it,
rather than print it? do to achieve that? whether it’s you or somebody else, and then you
Right, and some of my stuff travels with me. I try to keep That’s sort of my quest - lots of creative limiting and listen to the unmastered mixes and they sound like
my recall written simply in the track’s comments box. compression. But when I say “creative”, I mean you there’s Kleenex over your head. I think everybody
But every studio has a GML EQ and Tube-Techs. The really have to work. That’s my feeling about it. I don’t goes through this, which is an interesting sort of
API and Pendulum compressors I either bring or I can think there’s one method. It’s like anything: you try this, psycho-sonic thing. There are certain tools - for
rent. It’s funny, I am just thinking about all the pieces you try that. You see what works best. So it’s just sort of example multiband compressors where you can solo
of gear I am mentioning, and I hope this comes looking for the right piece for that particular song. There the different bands. But if you’re not careful, you can
across: everybody is going to have a different thing to are negative artifacts of limiting that you just try to lose your reference point. If you solo a high frequency
say about a different piece of gear. Some people are minimize - distortion, particularity on the release. Also, band, say from 6 kHz on up, or mute the other bands
going to say, “I can’t believe that he likes the API if you limit badly it will take away all the pop, because and that’s all you listen to for a second, just to kind
2500 Bus Compressor. Man, the SSL kicks the shit out you are taking the attack transients out. It’s funny of find something in there, when you open up the
of it!” It just really depends on who you are, how you because I am hedging a lot about it, because there are track again, everything sounds horribly dull. So you
do things and how things are working that day. Music all sorts of different things that I do. In fact, some of gotta watch doing things like that. On the other
is a moving target sonically. It’s never the same twice! what I do crunches the front end of the A to D, but if I hand, I like the fact that you can solo the different
That’s one of the things that I love about it. can hear it in a crunchy way, then it’s not cool. There are bands and say, “Okay, this is where I need to be
How much of that tallness in your also things you can do in your compiler - you can limit working.” I find that I need to take ear breaks every
sound is you, and how much of that is again in whatever you use for your CD compiling. I find once and a while, just for two minutes and then come
the history of your mixing and that hitting it hard on the way into the A-to-Ds sounds back and pick up again. So, it’s a matter of degree. I
producing, whom you have worked different than tuning it up in the compiler. It’s a different try not to do anything too radical on the two-bus,
with and the kind of sounds you have thing. The latter is somewhat less objectionable to a either during mixing or mastering. Mastering is
been recording? point and then it goes, “Ccaakkk.” usually fine-tuning a second time.

46/Tape Op#60/Mr. Power/(Continued on page 48)


I have heard you mention before that to redo it and change something a little. If it’s not that makes the working relationship better, so it
you also de-ess more than once at really off the wall or really damaging to the record, I’m doesn’t become a drag. The real issue is how you suss
different points in the signal chain. like, “Yeah that’s not going to take much, if that’s out your clients, the artists, and how you work your
Or twice at different frequencies. Although, I am important to you.” But if they say something that is knowledge as an engineer in a way that’s the most
definitely from the school that says when you start really damaging to the record I will tell them that, complimentary to that. If you approach it like that, it
putting two or three things on something, you had and tell them that they probably need to find never, ever gets boring. It’s nice to have done projects
better think about your approach. Because in way, somebody else to do it. There have been some times that get a lot of notoriety, and people like the way I
the purist in me says, “Bob, start again. You where I really think that people have used stuff that do things, but the real deal is having amazingly
shouldn’t need all these things.” I’m also of the mind I took to a certain point and worked from that point positive interactions with the artists who I’ve worked
now to be really objective. Does it sound better? If it on, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not important. with who are all wonderful people in their own right.
sounds better man, you know, I just go with Tell me a little bit about teaching at NYU. Are there any particular relationships
whatever I had to slap on it. But often I find I need It’s in its fourth year. I am teaching a class in advanced with artists that you’ve especially
to de-ess at 2 kHz and then again at 8 kHz, ‘cause production at the Clive Davis Department of Recorded enjoyed or that were standout
they are very different areas. Music, Tisch School of the Arts, at NYU. I am experiences?
Are you using software de-essers? assuming the Clive endowment program gave it its All of the artists I have worked with are really wonderful
Yeah, I like the Waves DeEsser, not the Renaissance, but mandate, but it seems a bit separate, which is very people, and most of them very singular and unique
the regular one. Also, you can use de-essers as tonal good. I know a bunch of people who are very artists. It’s been a nice karma for me. From A Tribe
shaping tools if you have enough range. The Waves successful practitioners now who have come out of Called Quest, De La Soul to Me’shell to Erykah Badu,
one only goes down to 2 kHz. I find if there’s a lot of the Music Tech Program. The Department of Recorded D’Angelo - it taught me that there are certain people
things that are kind of spiky and snarfy in the upper Music is not part of the Music Department either, that stand out from the pack. I have found that the
mid range, if I set it all the way down to 2 kHz and if which tends to be a little more classically oriented. I best projects and the truly groundbreaking artists have
the vocal is all nose and real pointed, it can do a lot was pleased to find that it’s a very, very well been the ones who you can’t describe quickly, because
for smoothing it out. Another thing about de-essing developed four-year curriculum that includes a couple they are doing something new and different. To do
which is interesting, and this comes from the analog of semesters of legal issues for the record business, something in a way that hasn’t really been done before,
days, is that it can help acoustic guitars. If you have couple of semesters of music history and the history and to have it be compelling, to get an emotional
an acoustic guitar that is real spiky and stringy in of recorded music. There’s some people there, reggae reaction on our part – that’s wonderful. But they have
certain areas, a de-esser can really help tuck those and hip-hop historians, who are absolutely amazing. all been wonderful. I value my time with these people
places in. You have to be careful because you can The engineering end of it is very strong. I have mostly and value their friendship as well. I’m fortunate.
really dull it out too. juniors and seniors, and Jim Anderson chairs the Because I mix, and because I generally have as much
Do you have any techniques, tricks, things department, who has probably recorded more good work as I need doing that, I pick my production
that you do, that you really don’t want jazz and classical records than anybody. Jim is really projects really carefully. I pick them if it seems like a
other people to know about? a master and so is Nick Sansano, who runs the good marriage, and a good marriage includes a certain
No! That’s a quick answer. There are some guys that production end of it. Jason King is the Artistic intangible about the way people go about their
cover up their mix shit, and it’s the silliest thing. Director. There are a bunch of people who have been business, plus things of musical interest to me where I
There was a thread on Gearslutz where people were in the record business for a long time, including think I can help them. There’s a lot of artists who have
talking about who owns the materials for the record attorney Lauren Davis. It doesn’t mean that you are come through who have a real unique way of doing
when you hand in your materials to the label. If you going to come out of there and be successful at it, but things that they don’t need me for and I don’t want to
work in Pro Tools fundamentally, if they load that into I have to say that the people I’ve met who are juniors be there if that is the case. I’ve walked on some really
a computer and open up Pro Tools, everything that and seniors really have a lot on the ball. To sort of famous records part way through, only because they
you do is laid out for them right there. There were all find out where they were at the first couple of really wanted to do it themselves and I value my
these threads about what you should do, and I tried sessions, I asked them to write me critiques of three relationship with them in terms of honesty – real
to hold back for a while, and then I finally wrote in. very important records, and I was very impressed with honesty and trust – much too much to just sit around
From my point of view, that’s the most ridiculous the way that they listen to music, both in terms of and collect money and show up once and a while. r
thing I ever heard of, because music is a constantly production technique, as well as in terms of who the www.bobpower.com
morphing thing. If you do a certain kind of record, artist is and what the intent of the record is. Their Allen Farmelo is a producer, mixer and engineer in NYC
maybe the settings you used for one song you can use answers were very acute and very well developed. (www.farmelo.com). He’d like to thank Matthew Agoglia
for the whole record, but people were saying, “Well Is there anything that you want to for his help with the transcription.
they’re getting get my magic EQ, my kick drum touch on that we haven’t gotten to?
settings, my vocal settings.” Nobody can possibly The one thing that’s important to me when I talk to
copy stuff you do because you approach it differently. people coming up as engineers is that it’s really
There are zillions of little tangible and intangible important to understand that we are facilitators. Once
things that make things come out in the way that you get into that mind-set, you become much more
they do. So yeah, I have really no secrets because I effective both for yourself as well as your clients.
really think that it’s a matter of the whole picture, not Remember that you are helping people along their
any one thing we do. way, and if you really open yourself and listen and try
Have you had any examples of somebody to get inside your clients’ heads, several things will
going back into your mix and happen. Number one, they will trust you and will
tweaking? always be back. Number two, you’ll never have to
That’s a good question. I don’t think so. I think when they close the door after a session and say, “God, I’m glad
haven’t liked the mixes they’ve actually redone them. that’s over!” We know in reality that it doesn’t always
Do they come to you for that? work like that, but to me that is one of the jobs of
No, that’s the whole idea. They didn’t like it. [laughter] the engineer. That’s why some people are very, very
Sometimes, if they don’t like something I’ll be asked successful at it, because they have a way with people
48/Tape Op#60/Mr. Power/(Fin.)
Steve Puntolillo and his Sonicraft
It got to the point where it became as important to
me to see how you could get a recording and capture
that content as it was to play the music itself. That
was really a big shift for me. I didn’t have a lot of
money at the time, so if I wanted to learn how a piece
of audio gear worked, I would buy it, hook it up,
experiment with it and then I would sell it so I could
buy the next piece. It was an empirical process to get
from, “What is this stuff? How does it connect and
interact?” to the point where I was helping people to
wire their studios together. Later I was working with
a company called Audiotechniques, which at the time
was NYC’s premier pro audio dealership, and I got to
the point where I was spec’ing out entire recording
studios. Eventually I started a studio with some
friends. I moved on from that, but it was a good
engineering experience, with bands moving in and
out constantly.
Didn’t you drop out of audio
engineering entirely for a while?
I was a little bit burned out after I got out of the studio.
The LinnDrum came out and then MTV and I said, “I
don’t really know if I want to do this.” You could see
where MTV took music, and the LinnDrum was the
start, to me, of programmed music. I decided to do
something else entirely, and I got out of pro audio
and into computers, where I ramped up really, really
quickly and started building graphics systems.
Eventually, I did sales, marketing and PR for a
computer graphics software company. But, after some
pretty decent success with all that, I did an executive
bailout, because I wanted to go back into audio.

Kamenitzer While I was doing all this computing, great sound and
listening to music had become my hobby. In this
room [now the Sonicraft studio] were a pair of Urei
Virginia

813 monitors, some couches and an outrageous


listening environment. It was my no-stress zone. But
that also started an inquiry: With the advent of audio
CDs, there was no excuse, in my mind, why the sound
of a recording shouldn’t be the same as it was in the
control room. Before that, vinyl intrinsically changed
By David Weiss, photo by the sound of the recording - I don’t care who mastered
it, vinyl sounds different from tape playback. They’re
just not the same, and I prefer tape playback. With
If the good men and women of NASA What was the pivotal event in starting you CDs, they’re transferring the masters right onto CD - I
who put the Hubble Telescope together on the path of audio engineering? should hear just what the control room engineer
were ever to visit Sonicraft in Freehold, I heard playback in a studio control room in, I’d guess it heard. But a lot of times in my “control room”
New Jersey, they just may come away was 1968. That was a totally mind-blowing experience environment, CDs sounded dead, or cloudy or grainy
ashamed of the shoddy work they’d done. for me because I’d never heard what music could and nasty. This started a search for me: I had to learn
That’s because there resides the Sonicraft sound like straight off tape on a really good all about digital audio to find out why some CDs
A2DX (analog-to-digital transfer) lab, monitoring system before. I was like, “Oh my god, it sounded good and others didn’t.
built to astonishing specs and capable of could sound like that?!?” That’s a deep question.
And what did it actually sound like? Yeah! This was in 1995 or so, and a huge help was Bob
what creator Steve Puntolillo calls the
Like nothing I’d ever heard before. I’d only had basic Katz’s Digital Domain website [www.digido.com]. I
“ultimate A/D analog-to-digital transfer.”
record turntables until then, so to hear the sound of started to say, “I don’t like the way these CDs sound,
Originally simply a sound maven with
a control room - I just couldn’t believe my ears. I was so I want to fix them.” So I started capturing CDs
extra-sharp ears, Puntolillo became a man hooked. My primary reason for being in recording
back into the computer to remaster them so they’d be
who realized that the path to incredible studios up to that point was playing drums in them, the way I wanted them. The other thing I did was I
digital audio begins with incredible but once I heard that playback, the music playback went out and found an old Ampex tape machine so I
analog capabilities. Thus began the quest system became very important to me. I started trying could get some of my old tapes and mixes onto CD.
for an obsessive method to transfer that to build my own speakers, upgrading what I had to So I had this little mastering chain, a tape machine
sound from the realm of tape to the realm listen on, and what began to take over was the whole and a computer running digital audio, and some of my
of bits and sample rates. process of recording, playback and listening to music. friends that were still in the audio or media business

50/Tape Op#60/Mr. Puntolillo/(Continued on page 52)


started saying, “Can you do this or that?” They Magnetics heads. Another one was that Bob Starr of each of the two A2DX MM1200s. After we reassembled
started bringing me work, and before I know it I’m RTZ Audio had developed a replacement repro card each machine, we adjusted it, aligned it, tested it and
archiving all the tapes from the John Cage Trust, that would work in the 440 that basically kept all of evaluated its overall operations. I don’t use the term
doing soundtracks and sound design for AT&T’s the great Class A discrete transistor single-ended “audiophile” lightly, but all of the critical components
multimedia productions and CD mastering too. So I design of the original Ampex line amps, but replaced are audiophile-grade. The playback amplifiers, for
woke up one day and realized I’m in business. I let the all of the components with today’s devices which are, example, have Lundahl input transformers,
day gig go nine years ago and decided to name the in point of fact, much better. He even put Lundahl Roederstein metal film resistors and capacitors by
business Sonicraft, feeling there was a need to transformers in these things. So between the changes Wima and Panasonic, and lower distortion and
emphasize that great sound is a craft. to the signal path, the flux heads and the RTZ cards, additional headroom to accommodate the extended
Is that when the A2DX analog-to-digital I was getting playback from the 440 that was really, response of the Flux Magnetics ME heads.
transfer lab was founded? really exciting. It was pure and transparent, but It sounds like you spent extra time with
That’s when the concept basically arose. At that time, I pleasing - never harsh, but smooth, open and clear. the heads…
had the capability of transferring up to 1/2” 4-track, And I began to think to myself, “You know, a (2” 24- We did. Every single part of the tape path was examined
but I didn’t really need to be able to transfer any more track) Ampex MM1200 uses the same audio circuitry and questioned to bring the audio performance of this
than two tracks as a mastering engineer. Then two as a 440. So what would happen if I got one of those machine to the highest possible level, and the heads
things happened. One of them was I looked at my 2- and made all these same improvements, and you were obviously a huge part of that. Before we get to
track machine and said, “This really needs to be a multiply all this wonderfulness times 24 tracks?” I had that, our decision to upgrade the head assemblies with
killer machine, because any serious mastering an idea it was going to be good, but no idea how an ATR Services modification, which replaces three
engineer that masters from analog tape has to have a good it was going to be. static guides in the tape path with precision rolling
way of playing tape that is beyond average.” Is there a reason you picked the Ampex guides, is a good example of our approach. A mod like
Otherwise, why would you go to them? Right? So it MM1200? this is extremely important to the sound quality. When
became sort of a quest of, “How good can I get this There were four primary ones. First off, of course, was tape passes over a static surface, the friction between
2-track machine to sound?” as I looked for ways to the sound quality: the MM1200’s playback amplifiers the tape and the surface sets up a resonant vibration
improve the machine and the signal path. Then in the are discrete, Class A single-ended, and plugging in the of the tape - like a violin bow on a string - which
middle of all this, I had a client, that wanted to RTZ amps made them truly audiophile quality. It also clouds up the sound. It’s called “scrape flutter”. By
master a surround DVD here. His artist was based in uses a capstan and pinch roller design that gives it a replacing the static guides with rollers, we were able
Santa Fe, and he had sent his 1” 8-track tape to my very high degree of control over tape motion and to significantly reduce scrape flutter, and that results
client in NYC, who was going to supervise the mix speed. Thirdly, the design itself is very in markedly better signal clarity, as well as reducing
session. I wasn’t set up to transfer that format, and straightforward, which means it’s more open to stress on tapes. At this point, we realized we really
to make a long story short, we went through an modifications, as well as boding well for future were on the verge of achieving extremely high
incredible ordeal to get the transfer accomplished. We reliability. Lastly, there’s some excellent resources out accuracy, transparency and purity in our transfers,
figured there would be great facilities to do that in there that continue to make advances in the which was the goal all along. There’s a genius I’d
NYC, but the fact of the matter was the best of the components that are available. So all those factors worked with in the past, John French of JRF Magnetic
best - and we’re talking about a huge studio with a made the Ampex MM1200 the primary candidate for Sciences, that I called again to build the ultimate head
world-class reputation here - did a job that was totally the countless man-hours of testing and prototyping assemblies. He built, customized or restored all of the
unacceptable. It turned out that there was really no that we would go on to subject our A2DX machine to. many head assemblies we use here. For many of these
place in the area that was equipped to do such an The restoration sounds like an involved we chose hand-built Flux Magnetics ME playback
essential task at a high level of quality, and maybe process. heads. These heads are designed and hand-built by
even passable. When we got the transfers, we Well, really, it’s a never-ending process, but here’s what Greg Orton, and made an incredible difference versus
discovered they hadn’t even bothered to decode the we did. First was fleshing out the platform itself, stock heads. They provide a full extra bottom octave
dbx noise reduction! After a night of pure insanity which began by purchasing three complete MM1200s. and ultra-flat, low-frequency response when operating
tracking down the right decoders in the middle of New Each one of those was given an exhaustive at 30 ips, and no matter what playback speed we’re
Jersey, repairing them and running the transfers evaluation, part by part, until the best parts from all talking about, there’s benefits all over the audio
through them, we finally had eight tracks of decoded three machines had been selected for the final build. spectrum. We got flattened and extended low and high
audio ready to go. It was the middle of the night by After that, we took them outside of their host frequency response, tighter bottom end and overall
the time everyone left. I sat on the stairs and I machines and fully reconditioned them, although gains in clarity. There’s a page on my website
remember clear as day saying to myself, “Somebody sometimes we replaced them with newer versions. The (www.sonicraft.com/a2dx/a2dx_tech.html) that goes
needs to do this right.” Then the thought went MM1200 that was in the best condition overall was into greater detail about all this, but the point is that
through my mind, “Why don’t you do it?” But it earmarked as the final platform, disassembled and anywhere we could find that would result in an
seemed like too huge a job. I realized that to do it cleaned inch by inch - that includes the wiring improvement in clarity - great or small - we
right meant that the same type of madness I had harnesses and all electrical contacts, plus cosmetic implemented. All those improvements add up in a big
already put into my 2-track machine had to go into a restoration as well. One key step in the custom wiring way at the final output.
machine with up to 24 tracks. It’s hard enough to get of the chassis was the installation of switches to allow You’ve done this with more than 2” 24-
two tracks to audiophile grade - to do it right with 24 the machine’s meters and transformers to be switched track format though, right?
tracks is a tremendous undertaking. in or out of the signal path at the output stage. We It’s easier to say what formats we can’t handle at the
So what changed your mind? can also easily switch between a stock Ampex head A2DX lab at this point. We had to cover as many bases
I initially dismissed it as too expensive and time- and a Flux Magnetics ME head. As a result, our clients as possible, because a lot of times, people come to us
consuming, but the idea sat there like an itch in my can choose between a classic “Ampex” sound or one with projects that were recorded on more than one
psyche. And there were some breakthroughs that I that’s best described as more pure or transparent - as kind of tape format. We didn’t want to have to turn
found when I was working on this Ampex 440 2-track identical as possible to what actually came off of the people away because we could only transfer part of
I had. One of them was certain changes I could make console during the recording session. Between their project. The MM1200s have 2” 24-track, 2” 16-
in the signal path. Another one was that there was a upgrades to the signal path and reliability upgrades, track, 1” 16-track and 1” 8-track capabilities. We have
significant uptick in quality when I changed to Flux we changed well over one thousand capacitors in a completely restored “Bridgeport” Scully Model 284

52/Tape Op#60/Mr. Puntolillo/(Continued on page 54)


recorder that has three OEM head assemblies so we can handle 1” 8-track, 1” 4-
track, and even 1” 12-track. An amazing Ampex MR-70, which may be the best-
sounding vacuum tube analog tape recorder ever is on hand for 1/2” three-track.
And, by the way, we’re not yet done with MR70s, and so on. There’s currently more
than fifteen different machines in operation, not counting backup machines and
over 40 head assemblies. Then, there are all of the project studio type smaller
formats, and the list goes on and on - again, it’s all on the website with lots of
pictures and detailed information. Basically, if it’s an open-reel analog tape we can
transfer it, and at the best possible quality.
What are the considerations after the audio leaves the
tape machine?
The next thing is noise reduction. If it was used on the tape, what’s the use of
handling somebody’s transfer if you can’t decode the noise reduction? When you try
to decode the tapes and the noise reduction system is not the same vintage as the
one it was made on, does that matter or not? Noise reduction is an encode/decode
process, where dynamics - with respect to frequencies - are compressed during the
encoding, then expanded again during decoding, which is when any errors you make
in playback are going to be much more noticeable. That’s what makes the accuracy
of the Sonicraft machines so important, because if your playback machine is less
than optimal, it can cause artifacts like pumping and breathing, or even cause your
decoder to mistrack, which is bad with a capital “B”. We listened to a ton of
decoding systems, and came away equipped with 24-track racks of Dolby A, Dolby
SR, dbx Type I, and Telcom C4 - and with the A2DX machines in the path, these
decoders do the best job they can possibly do.
I’m sure everyone wants to see your wiring scheme.
You can’t go this far and then forget about the wires! All the runs here are short, discrete,
with the heaviest gauge Mogami cable out there. The patch bays and patch cords are
hand-soldered and 1/4” military-spec, and we power the analog equipment using an
extremely high quality isolation transformer. The connections between the analog-to-
digital converters and the capture workstations are optical, which keeps the electrical
systems of the analog gear isolated from the computer.
Your converters were supplied by another NYC-area mad
scientist...
Michal Jurewicz! The Mytek 8X96 converters are amazing - they’re the crucial last link in
bringing the audio home into the workstations. I had Michal modify ours to have
mastering-style stepped attenuators on each channel.
What’s the mindset you need to have to evaluate your systems to
such a fine degree?
You’re looking at the signal path and what’s in it. What’s this audio touching? Basically it’s
a process where you look at what the key points in the signal path are. Is the audio
traveling through a coupling capacitor or a transformer, for example? What effect is that
having on the audio? Good effect? Bad effect? No effect? And no effect is perfectly
acceptable, although nothing has no effect, by the way - it just might be negligible. A
lot of times you’ll find that there’s just one particular component that, for whatever
reason, maybe they just couldn’t make it well enough back then, or maybe the
manufacturer decided not to spend a lot of money and you say, “If the audio is going
to go through this thing or be affected by it, what happens if I put a better one in, or
just a different one?” Or, “What if I go around this thing?” So you look at each stage
of where the audio is going and say, “Is this helping us or hurting us?” And you try it.
The transformers are an excellent example of this. Transformers usually have a sonic
signature, and you can change the sound of the machine by changing the transformer.
Or you can bypass them. The question then becomes, “Do you want what they do to the
signal or do you not?” In the case of the MM1200, I have a switchable bypass to the
output transformer of that machine, which is one of the things that gives the MM1200
that “MM1200 sound”. But by bypassing it, you get an almost audiophile type of
rendering, so it becomes a question - “Do you want a stamp on that transfer that says
MM1200, or do you want something that’s closer to what’s really on the tape?” By
default, I opt for what’s really on the tape, but if someone says, “I want it to sound like
it came off of the MM1200,” I just have to flip 24 switches, which is no big deal.
I’m interested in what you learned about what constitutes a
positive, upgraded signal path as you did this?
Well, the definition of that is different things to different people, but I deemed something
an improvement if, I after I did it, I could hear more than I could before. Here’s a
concrete example: Let’s suppose you have a recording of acoustic instruments. You
54/Tape Op#60/Mr. Puntolillo/(Continued on page 56) change components on the tape transfer machine, and now you hear more of a sense
As Steve Puntolillo readily acknowledges, an entire crew of
talented people with extra-sharp ears helped to launch the
A2DX Lab. Here they are in alphabetical order:
Nejat Bakin - Audio Technologies - “Nejat is an audio design guru with a line of world-class,
custom built tube gear. Since a machine’s power supply is the foundation of how it sounds, to
make sure it was done right, I asked Nejat to do all of the restoration on the power supplies
and filtering in the A2DX MM1200s.” www.audiotechnologies.com
Carl Farruggia - Crimson Pro Audio - “Carl is an ace at fixing equipment and worked his magic
on several of the lab’s restorations. He’s not afraid to tackle anything. I learned a lot just from
watching him.” www.crimsonproaudio.com
John K. Chester - “Try to picture an absolutely brilliant person, seasoned by decades of
practical audio design and repair experience and the kind of ear that can take over where the
best test equipment leaves off.”
John French - JRF Magnetics - “Although John is primarily known for his outstanding ability
to assemble, modify, build and recondition heads and head assemblies, his contributions go far
beyond tape recorder heads. We could never have built this place without his experience,
support, insight and generous outpouring of knowledge.” www.jrfmagnetics.com
Philip Jost - Audio Technologies - “Phil is great guy with a passion for clean power and what
that can do. Starting where the power enters the building, he went through this place installing
isolation transformers, line filters and upgrades to the AC wiring and connectors to make sure
the power is clean. Sometimes he kept right on going all the way into a machine’s power supply
and beyond.” www.audiotechnologies.com
Michal Jurewicz - Mytek Digital - “Michal designed and built our 24 tracks of A2D conversion.
He also made modifications to give us mastering grade stepped gain and attenuation on each
channel. I’ve learned a lot about the ins and outs of A2D and D2A conversion from this kind
and brilliant man.” www.mytekdigital.com
Bob Katz - Digital Domain - “Bob has been incredibly generous with his vast knowledge of
the practical considerations of ultra high-end analog and digital reproduction.”
www.digido.com
George LaForgia - Formerly of Ampex Tech Support and Quantegy - “Besides being a
crackerjack troubleshooter for both transports and electronics, he’s probably baked more tapes
than anyone else in the world. George has been a teacher, tech mentor and repair wizard.”
Bob Ligotino - Sonicraft A2DX Lab - “Literally thousands of squeaky clean connections, new
capacitors and impeccable soldering points later, here we are. If not for Bob, we’d still be
looking at a pile of parts.” www.sonicraft.com/a2dx
Greg Orton - Flux Magnetics - “Greg has designed and hand crafted many of the incredible
heads used in the lab. His work is impeccable. Besides that, he has gone the extra mile,
providing expert consultation on modifications and upgrades to erase, record and repro
circuitry.” www.fluxmagnetics.com
Paul Prestopino - Record Plant Remote - “‘Presto’ is a legend in the business and knows the
MM1200 inside and out. He is best known for his technical work at the Record Plant and with
Record Plant Remote. Paul saved me a lot of mistakes by coming down when we were first
getting started and making sure we were pointed in the right direction.”
www.recordplantremote.com
Bill Schlegel - International Recording Corporation - “Bill is responsible for the truly
wondrous rebuilding and updating of the MR70 transports used in the A2DX Lab.”
www.internationalrecordingcorp.com
Mike Spitz and Andrew Bingham - ATR Services Inc. - “Mike and Andrew are the wizards who
improved and rebuilt our Ampex ATR 102. Also, Mike was the first person I know of to ‘rollerize’
the MM1200 tape path, with the many benefits that provides.” www.atrservice.com
Bob Starr - RTZ Professional Audio - “Besides providing expert advice on component selection
for restoration work, Bob designed and hand-built the wonderful RTZ discrete Class A record
and playback amplifiers used at the Sonicraft A2DX Lab.” www.rtzaudio.com
Other mentors and contributors have been: David Blake - Fox Recording Studio, Mike Bogen
- Dale Pro Audio, Cary Cornett - Cornett Technical Services, Jeff Gilman - MDA Precision Motor
Works, Dana Hathaway - Access Audio Services, Richard Hess - Vignettes Media, Joel Katz -
Broadway Sound, John Klett - Tech Mecca, Inc., Bill Lund - formerly 3M, Dale Manquen, -
formerly Ampex & 3M, Michael MacDonald - AlgoRhythms, NYC, Jay McKnight - formerly Ampex,
now Magnetic Reference Laboratory, Larry Miller - formerly Ampex, David Ollard, Andrew Roberts
- Purple Audio Inc and a host of incredible people from Howard Sanner’s Ampex List
(http://www.recordist.com), who generously shared their knowledge and sometimes dug up
impossible to find parts. I wish I could list them all. -SP

Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#60/55


of the room that it was done in. There’s clearly more
information than there was before. Every time I took
a step closer to being live in the space that it was
recorded, I chose that. So the before-and-after
comparisons of these machines is that someone took
a blanket off of the speakers. If you prefer the
blanket-over-the-speakers sound, you may disagree
with some of the decisions I made, and some people
might. If you later want to do things to the sound to
make it less clear, go ahead. You can always do that,
but my goal is, “How close to the clarity of what’s on
the tape can I get to?” I have a 24-track tape here -
the last tape I did before I exited the studio business
in 1984 - and I remember during the recording I was
driving the engineer crazy because I wanted to hear
harmonics and a tactile-ness in the instruments, and
during playback it was all sounding dead to me. With
the mix I did back then, I felt I was fighting an uphill
battle to get the vibrancy and life out of the recording
that I wanted. When I did the first transfer through
the A2DX MM1200 and brought it up in my mix
environment, everything I had fought and struggled
to EQ and never really achieved was just sitting there
waiting for me. It was like a whole different
recording. Now I was shocked in a whole new way. I
thought, “How many tapes are out there with this
sound locked in there that no one’s ever heard?”
So who’s calling you for transfers?
Where does the business come from?
We do have the actual owners of the tapes calling us
directly. More often we’re being called by recording
studio owner/managers who have a client with
analog tapes and they don’t have the particular
format of playback machine that the tapes are. We
provide them with the files that they need to keep
working with the project so that they don’t have to
turn that client and their business away. We’re also
getting some record label work and some independent
engineers and music producers.
What have you discovered in your quest
for pristine analog sound - and
therefore pristine digital sound -
that might be useful to other audio
engineers who might want to get a
little more obsessed themselves?
The succinct answer is that good sound is not
necessarily about spending money, it’s about
spending time. It’s all in the little details, just looking
at your tools and each step along the way, putting
aside all the hype and superstition of what is and isn’t
supposed to work and really listening for yourself,
detail by detail. Because what happens is that old
cliché about the whole being greater than the sum of
its parts: As you go through your whole method -
from the condition of the gear to the plugs in your
wall to the speaker position - and you work on these
things, the quality goes up and up, and you reach a
point where it gets harder and harder to make
improvements. You keep refining and refining - as you
clear away the negatives you’re left with the
positives, and the result can be a slap in the face
better than what you started out with. r
www.sonicraft.com/a2dx

56/Tape Op#60/Mr. Puntolillo/(Fin.)


Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#60/57
Like many independent producers and engineers, I work Next, I tried remixing a Time Farmer song, aiming to
in both larger commercial studios and my own studio. These add some dimension and groove to an up-tempo tune. I
days, I mostly work at my studio in Brooklyn, where I have decided to soak some electric guitars in long delays running
been working on a pair of ADAM P11As, and at Mavericks though an automated sweeping band-pass filter that fed a
Studio in Manhattan. Last winter, Mavericks installed Barefoot spring reverb. The idea was to add depth by building an
MM27s (see my review in Tape Op #58). The accuracy and reach almost subliminally shifting sonic backdrop. On the Solo6’s,
of the MM27s seriously raised the bar for what I expect out of I was able to hear very subtle changes in both the band-
a pair of speakers. Rumor had it that Focals could sound close pass filter’s frequency and in the reverb tails, and I was
to the Barefoots, especially in the low-end detail and overall really digging that inverted beryllium dome tweeter during
transparency. I was very curious to learn whether the Focal this mix. To cajole the groove a bit, I played with
Solo6 Be, a speaker considerably smaller and less expensive compressors on the bass guitar, overheads, and a mult’ed
(about the same size and price as the P11As), could deliver the snare track. Very subtle changes to the attack and release
kind of sonic information I’d come to expect from a studio settings were easy to hear across the whole frequency
monitor. If so, I might have found the perfect counterpart to spectrum. For rock, I tend to mix with an API 2500 bus

Focal the Barefoots for my own studio.


One benchmark question I now use when determining
compressor strapped to the mix bus, and I love the different
sonic characteristics this unit can impart on a mix. Like the
Solo6 Be active monitors the transparency of monitors is, “How different do different “different records test”, the differences between the various
The French company Focal has dominated the records sound from one another?” The way I see it, if records compressor settings on the API were blatant on the Solo6s.
audiophile speaker market since its inception in the 1970s. sound similar in color, tonality, frequency response, stereo In fact, I fiddle less with the API while working on the
Today, Focal helps to form what I consider to be a vanguard imaging, and/or depth of field, then something is Focals because the settings I want to use seem pretty
of studio monitor designers who are quickly catching up consistently coloring—and homogenizing—the sound with obvious after trying just a few different combinations.
with the ever-increasing resolution, bandwidth, and its own sonic characteristics. According to the theory, the With the Focals on hand, I had a chance to track and
dynamic range of modern audio by systematically reducing greater the difference between the sound of two records, the mix a tune with producer Art Hays. Tracking to tape at
distortion—and the resultant coloration—generated by more accurately the speaker is representing the recording. 15 IPS and monitoring on the Barefoots, we recorded a
amps and speakers. With the Solo6 Be model, Focal has Listening to a bunch of records through the Focals droning bass chord in D (fundamentals around 140 Hz and
aimed to bring their cutting-edge technology to a immediately revealed one very important thing; the unique 300 Hz) and an un-muffled double-skinned bass drum tuned
reasonable price-point ($2000 pair, street). The Solo6 is an sonic character of the low-end on different records was very to resonate an octave below (at roughly 70 Hz). The low-
oddball in the Focal line of professional studio monitors for easy to hear. Kick drums and bass guitars had as much detail end chord produced by the bass and kick drum coming off
appearing so traditional—a smallish rectangular cabinet in texture and color as the highs and mids, and not just the of tape was a rich, warm woof on the Barefoots, but as you
with a round tweeter mounted above a 6.5’’ woofer and a string and fret sounds of the bass, or the attack of the kick might guess, this could be a sticky glob of low-end
bass port across the bottom of the cabinet. However, the drum, but the contours of the low frequencies. One way to schmootz on less capable systems. This was a great test case
Solo6 Be packs in most of Focal’s innovative designs, and it’s describe it is that I could actually hear the lack of distortion for the Solo6s; if I could hear into that low-end situation
good to know that they’ve cut no corners with this speaker in the low end, which meant that I could hear what was clearly, I could hopefully EQ out some of the inevitable
to meet the price point. really on the record. Even at high volumes, the low end was mush, while maintaining the resonant frequencies that
The cabinet consists of 19 mm MDF panels with distinctly undistorted. Another great surprise is that if you made up the chord. While the Solo6s obviously didn’t
internal braces with real red veneer on the sides. At 24 lbs turn the Solo6s down to a whisper, the low-end impact stays reproduce the same sub content as the Barefoots, the clarity
each, they’re hefty for their size. On the back panel are the intact and sounds full-range. This consistency at different in the low end was stunningly similar, which put a big smile
XLR input jack; IEC power cord socket; +4 dBu or -10 dBV volumes made it possible to monitor quietly for longer on my face. Next, I tracked a Telecaster over the top of our
operating level switch; and recessed high and low periods of time, without worrying that the low end had rhythm section. The openness of the tweeters really spelled
frequency contour pots set at 5 kHz and 150 Hz strayed—good news for any eardrums. The “different records out where to place the mic in order to maintain the Tele’s
respectively, offering plus or minus 3 dB of adjustment for test” showed off the detail and transparency of the Solo6’s snap while steering clear of the harsher side of the tone.
room tuning. The tweeter is an inverted beryllium dome. mids and highs, too. The tweeters sound airy, presenting the Again, the mix went swiftly and is translating nicely on
At an astonishing 25 microns thick, it is capable of space and dimension around high-end sounds, but in no way laptops, ear-buds, and other real-world playback systems.
reproducing frequencies up to 40 kHz at a velocity nearly did they seem hyped. The detail and clarity of the beryllium I’ve done a lot more mixing, tracking and listening on
three times that of titanium. Focal designed this tweeter tweeter is uncannily well matched to the W-Cone, making for the Solo6s, and my impressions have remained consistently
to avoid the comb-filtering that results from non- a very balanced, unified listening experience up and down positive. (For more examples see the unabridged version of
concentric tweeter and super-tweeter pairings. A generous the entire frequency spectrum. Different records certainly this review at www.farmelo.com.) Most significantly, the
100 Watt Class-AB amplifier powers the tweeter. The sounded quite different—for me an important factor in Solo6s have sped up and helped my mixing. When I can
woofer is made with Focal’s W-Cone technology, a foam affirming the transparency of the Solo6 Be. really hear what’s up with the low-end tones, and the stereo
core sandwiched between two thin woven-glass tissues. Next, I checked out some of my recent mixes. I was placements are accurate, and the reverb tails are obvious,
The W-Cone provides an unprecedented stiffness-to-mass relieved to hear that they sounded the way I had intended and the top end is wide open, it’s just easier and more fun
ratio that, to my ears, results in far less coloration of the them to, though there were some new discoveries. Upon to mix. Similarly, spotting an issue and finding a solution is
low-end signal. If these woofers have a signature sound, hearing one of my mixes for the Portland, Oregon band Time easier, faster and less worrisome. I’m thrilled with how
it’s a distinctive lack of distortion. The 150 Watt BASH Farmer, I noticed that the ride cymbal wasn’t carrying the changes in mix-bus processing are rendered, especially tonal
amp that powers the woofer is the only component not excitement of the song as much as I’d thought, and the changes from my trusted hardware units. Most importantly,
built at the Focal factory and is licensed from Indigo. acoustic guitar seemed to have more to say in the upper music I’ve tracked and mixed on these speakers is
BASH amps have been designed to accommodate the highs; at the same time I could hear more subtle changes in translating positively on all kinds of systems in the outside
heavy work of delivering the power needed at frequencies the ride’s overtones as the drummer changed his approach. world, a clear indication that Focal designed a killer studio
as low as 20 Hz while staying cool and small enough to There just seemed to be plenty of space in the stereo field for monitor with the Solo6 Be. For the money, I don’t know of
work in an enclosed speaker. (To learn more, visit all the different high-end details going on. In the midrange, another speaker with this kind of low-end clarity and overall
www.bashaudio.com.) So, while not looking all that the snare on the same song had more of a lower-mid “poof” transparency. I’m happily keeping them in my studio as the
tricked out at first, the Solo6 Be obviously packs in a lot to it than I had thought, not quite cutting through the best complement to the Barefoot MM27s I’ve yet to hear. If
of innovative, proprietary technology that sets it apart guitars. Rechecking it on other systems, this seemed to be you get a chance, definitely check them out. ($2190 pair
from other monitors in its class. the way it was translating—another indication that there’s MSRP; www.focalprofessional.com)
little hype in the high-end with these speakers. –Allen Farmelo www.farmelo.com.
58/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews
Brauner shockmount into the pop screen leg thingies. I instantly
dropped one of the thumbscrew thingies and was swearing
Pearlman
VMX tube mic again. I knew that I would lose at least one of the little Church, TM-1 & TM-2 tube mics
I have always been curious about the Brauner thumbscrew things if I had to use this mic over and over. There are legends in microphone technology, and there
microphones. I have seen the name for a while now, and the fact So then I patch all the preamps and finally start feeling are legends in microphone technology. Everyone has surely
that Klaus Heyne got involved with this company, when any like I kind of know what I am doing again when I hear the heard about the legendary U 47 microphone, but have you
company would probably be glad to collaborate with such a man sounds I am getting—all fun to listen to, and something heard about the U 47 Church microphone? The legend goes
on a microphone, really piqued my interest. Brauner seems to that appeals to the lizard brain that seems to have taken something like this. On a smoky movie set on an MGM
make microphones not to a price point so much as making a over in me. Then I push up the Brauner. soundstage sometime in the mid-1950s, a director yells
microphone that is great and as fully realized a design as they It really sounds good. Really. It was more balanced “Sound!” A mic boom is lowered, and then “Action!” is called.
can at a price point. Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know is that across the entire spectrum than my U 47 and more “gleamy” Clark Gable takes to the set and suddenly begins his dialogue
the VMX is very, very nice. It’s a large-diaphragm condenser with and open. The transient response felt fast and light, like you into… a stubby black U 47???
a freely adjustable pickup pattern, Class-A tube amplification, might expect from something with a little less mass At the time, most people wouldn’t have known what that
and VOVOX conductors (Tape Op #59). swinging around inside the basket than a U 47. (I don’t even mic was, but today we know it as the Stanley
I happened to get the mic the day that Bernie Worrell know if this is true, but it feels that way.) As I reflect on Church–modified U 47. Stanley Church was the Chief Sound
of Parliament fame loaded into Studio G in Brooklyn to do this microphone, and its possible audience and user, I can’t Engineer for MGM studios in the ever-classic 1950s period,
some stuff with me engineering and playing with him. This help but think that an investment of this type—$6000 for and he must have had some gumption to think that he could
was something I was freaking out about. I love everything a top drawer microphone—is a tough decision. This is why build a mic better than Neumann could, using some of
that this guy has ever played on. He turned out to be an so many people wind up with a bunch of classic Neumann Neumann’s own parts! Because that is precisely what Stanley
amazing person, which was icing on the cake. I was mics in their locker and collection. You can count on a Church attempted; he went ahead and ordered a stockpile of
recording some drums, some organ, some bass, some guitar, classic Neumann to accrue value, even sitting on the shelf. U 47 capsules from Neumann (or more likely from Gotham
and some vocals. We didn’t have a ton of time for all this, The Brauner VMX is beautiful and sounds amazing, but will who was the US Neumann distributor) and proceeded to build
so I started out with the mics I rely on all the time: it hold its value? Will you be able to use this amazing tool his own microphone from them. These microphones were
Neumann U 47s, Neumann M 49s, and a few more obscure for recording, knowing that in a darker time, you could sell designed to use a bit higher power and be more detailed than
modern gems like the Sage Electronics Bova Ball. Drums this thing and get out of it what you put in? I personally a standard U 47, perhaps for getting more sound to the tape
were mic’ed up, and I usually use one of the 47s for a center wouldn’t freak out about that too much, but I can see why from a more distant mic placement on a movie set; or maybe
ambient microphone about 4 ft back from the kit, dead the $1000–$2000 condenser market has gone cuckoo; it Church was just nuts.
center, at chest height. I decided to replace that mic with does not require a lifelong quest for quality, or a dedication History would prove Church’s vision valid though, as
the VMX for this session, just to start out trying the thing to having the best tools for your recordings. A $1500 today these original Church U 47 microphones are rare and
on drum room, in a position I know well, in a room I know microphone is an upper-level hobby purchase. With that found only in the hands of the lucky few with a serious
well, and where a U 47 normally sits on almost every session said, the VMX may be one of your favorites on a day-to-day microphone collection. This is because once Neumann got
I do these days. First things first, I take the thing out of the basis in the studio. It sounds good on lots of things, and wind of what Stanley Church was doing with their capsule,
beautiful case, and everything looks amazing. Even the way it’s very well made. Are you an artist? Are you truly they proceeded to shut him down—so to speak—letting
the thing sits in the box commands respect! The passionate about recording? If you are, this could be one of Church and MGM know in no uncertain terms that they
shockmount is a thing of beauty… so I thought. Everything your favorite tools. I love recording. I love music. I love weren’t going to tolerate a Frankenstein version of their
is really well made, just like you would expect from German great tools for recording, and I like this mic. If you want an microphone being built and distributed to movie studios in
engineers… then I tried to put the mic up. Tried. emotionally engaging experience, and not an academic Hollywood. In the end, it is rumored that of 200 capsules
The shockmount is totally weird. I couldn’t figure out treatise on frequency response, you probably will like it too. Church acquired, less than 20 actual Church mics were
how the frig to get the damn microphone into the The VMX sounds like whatever you put in front of it, only completed. Talk about rare!
shockmount! Awesome—makes you feel cool when one of more flattering. I liked it everywhere you would expect to like In regards to technical specs, beyond the obvious
your heroes is on the couch, and you are like wrestling for a tube-based LDC. The quality of the sound is really cool— Neumann capsule, Church used a 6072 tube with a Triad
your life out in the live room. I actually moved the stand to like a smooth, flattering, 3D picture of the event in progress. transformer and then shoved the messy works into a stout
where nobody could see me swearing and poking at the In front of a very nice vocal, it really sounded great. It was black microphone body. As the years advanced and
shockmount like an ape with a robot in the room. I finally not the mic for that vocal because I wanted the vocal to sit soundstage microphone technology along with them, the
figured it out; the two dots on the weird tension ring in a different way than the VMX was gonna give me. I went Church mics retired from movie studio use into the hands of
thingies at each end of the shock have to be lined up for with an M 49 instead, because it wasn’t so gleamy in the top most likely the very engineers who used them. Over time,
the mic to slide in. Clever? Annoying. It worked well once end. For acoustic guitar, however, the Brauner made the cut these found their way into some recording studios where they
the part of my brain that enjoyed Rubik’s Cubes in seventh even with a C 12, a U 47, an M 49, and a CMV 563 up on were as good as and sometimes even better than a standard
grade kicked in. Then I realized that the lever arm on the stands. I am pretty lazy, and sometimes I will record every U 47. Thus the legend began.
shockmount was spring loaded, so no matter where I put it, overdub with whatever is on stands from the basics, especially Dave Pearlman of Sherman Oaks, CA is a relative
I could then move it ten more times to try and get a good when it is me doing the playing, but I wanted to put this mic newcomer to the microphone scene. Yet in the past few years,
grip on it to reposition. It does hold the mic really, really through some paces. On the Leslie cabinet, I thought the VMX he has turned the boutique microphone industry on its side
well; I just didn’t bank on such a steep learning curve to put was also a bit gleamy. I don’t like “toppy” mics, and I (or its ear if you would) by designing microphones that
a mic on a stand. I was bumming on how overly clever wouldn’t call the Brauner toppy, but I would say it has a capture and emulate the best the U 47 had to offer, and at a
everything seemed to be… but I was still unprepared for sheen to it on top that can really give an acoustic guitar some price point that can fit the budget of almost any studio, even
the pop screen, which I wanted to have ready in preparation shine in a dense mix, or could poke a male vocal out past a home or project studio. Dave began with the TM-1, which
for tracking vocals immediately after the basics. some hefty guitars. When I tried it for a male vocal in a dense uses a custom configuration of capsule, tube (original
The pop screen is beautiful. It looks like a mid-century mix, I felt it was a little too shimmery for that track—like too German), and transformer to create which is in my opinion,
modern lampshade that could have been designed by Herman much breath—though not too much “ess”, which was the best damn large-diaphragm condenser under $2,000!
Miller and Gyro Gearloose in a first-ever cartoon-character, interesting. This is a microphone of quality, and it’s a great Capturing the essence of the original vintage U 47s, the
furniture-designer collaboration. This thing drove me mental. choice as your one big bruiser of a LDC, especially if you hear Pearlman TM-1 is an amazing microphone, especially on
It looks awesome, but then I realized that I had to take the things in a gleamy way. This mic can put sparkly lip gloss on vocals, for the price point of $1,750. To get anything better
little thumbscrew thingies all the way out of the screen just a gorilla, and what else can be said after that? ($6259 MSRP; or closer to a U 47 in an LDC, you’d have to spend at least
to push the two leg things into the shockmount and then www.braunermicrophones.de) two to three times as much.
thread the two little thumbscrew thingies back in through the –Joel Hamilton, www.joelhamiltonrecording.com
Gear Reviews/Tape Op#60/59
Always looking to innovate, Pearlman began researching On acoustic guitar, the Pearlman Church mic also sounded
the different variants of the U 47 last year and came upon excellent, delivering the warm full sound of a Collings body
the legend of the Church microphone. Upon confirming its along with all the shimmer and detail in the high end. The
existence and legendary character, Dave used all his secret Pearlman Church mic was even put to task on a roaring electric
microphone powers to procure a schematic and parts list of guitar cabinet, and in combination with a Royer, it helped to
the components used by Stanley Church to build these mics again put that great high end to work, adding interesting
while at MGM Studios. Thus the Pearlman Church microphone high-end detail that can be lost on the Royer.
was born. This mic uses an actual, original Neumann K 47 Is the Pearlman Church microphone a perfect
capsule, the same used in U 47s the world over, along with microphone? From a technical perspective, no. One aspect of
a 12AU7 tube (better sounding, Dave found, than the 6072) the Church mic I did find awry is that it wasn’t completely
and an original old Triad tranny, just like Stanley Church’s. balanced in the bottom end vs. top end without adding some
Interestingly, Dave Pearlman also has chosen a great looking low-end EQ—say a bump around 200 Hz or so. Interestingly,
black body for his whole series of microphones, so the after adding some low-end EQ on the bottom, the detail there
Pearlman Church mic is even more true to its original form. was marvelous too. It’s like it was there all the time anyway,
So how does the Pearlman Church mic sound? In a just not in perfect balance in volume and intensity with that
word—amazing! For just a little bit more than the TM-1, the pristine top end. So in some situations where you’d be looking
Church mic, at $2500, is the next step up in terms of sound to mic a source that required even balance throughout the
quality and polish. Where this mic really shines is in its top frequency spectrum, you’ll definitely be reaching for some EQ.
end. The top end is rich and distinct, capturing every I found this true even on some vocals, but again, as soon it
essence of the “magic” in a vocal but without being got a little bump on the bottom end, man, there it was, what
sibilant, even on sibilant singers! a great sounding microphone!
A lot of this likely has to do with the Neumann capsule The Pearlman Church microphone can also be tuned to
as well, proof once again that they don’t build things like taste by trying some different tubes in the socket contained
they used to. Therefore, of course there are also only so many within. While I didn’t have a chance to try this, Dave informed
Pearlman Church mics that can be built as there are only so me that I could also try a 6072, 12AY7, or 12AX7 to tune the
many original Neumann capsules to be found, so this mic is mic to taste. Since Dave is a boutique builder, he is personally
going to be a limited production throughout the years. Not accessible to help you fine tune your mic to your
quite as limited as say Gunter Wagner’s U 47 clone, which has specifications. Not many mic builders today will take the time
a two year waiting list—but let’s just say there are only going to do so. The original Church mics were special and so is the
to be so many to go around. Pearlman Church mic. For about half the price of any other
So back to the sound. I went ahead and tracked a male U 47–style mic, it gets so close to that classic magical sound,
vocal within the context of a song with a variety of LDC tube especially on vocals, that I think Dave will have more orders
mics, including a Soundelux U95S, Manley Reference than he can fill in the near future for his new/old Church mic.
Cardioid, Pearlman TM-1, and Pearlman Church mic at 5am Dave also sent along his newest original creation—the
Studios in downtown Austin, TX. I would have liked to have TM-2 microphone. Priced at only $950, this mic resides in a
had the original Church mic handy as well, but they are so smaller body than the Church mic or TM-1 and uses a 6AK5
rare it was impossible. The results of sonic tests confirmed glass pentode tube and a smaller 32 mm capsule. The shape
what Dave had already told me. This mic is special. of the basket is also changed, and this mic can fit into some
Without a doubt, the Pearlman Church mic track was the places a larger condenser wouldn’t, especially on a drum kit. I
one that had the most finished and polished “album” sound, think Dave has a winner with this mic as well. While it isn’t as
if you will, with a top end that sounded perfect. The Manley full and rich as his flagship TM-1, or with the same magical
Reference is also a great mic with a top end that will show top end as the Church mic, it does sound great on just about
you every highlight—and every flaw—in the vocal. On this everything I tried it on. In front of an acoustic guitar, it gave
particular track, the Manley mic sounded far too sibilant and our resident Schoeps a run for the money, and even on vocals
harsh. Therein lies the difference between a 100% accurate it was very good at capturing enough detail to classify it as a
and open microphone capturing the good and the bad, and potential vocal session mic choice.
one that is simply perfect for voice and vocals. The Church In summary, this new TM-2 in my opinion is designed to
mic is precisely that—a mic that can take a vocal and let it be a great all-around microphone for those on a budget. If I
sit in the mix, with minimal fine tuning and most of the time was limited in my mic choice, whether for budget reasons or
alleviating many potential problems in the top end with in the studio or on a location gig, I would want to have at
harshness and sibilance. least one Pearlman TM-2 around as I could likely place it front
I also got to see the Pearlman Church mic put to the test of any source and get a good sounding track out of it. This
on drums within a Glyn Johns mic setup during a session at mic will be a full-production microphone and not a limited
5am Studios. You can search Google to see this setup if you special as is the Church mic. Having used Dave Pearlman’s
are not familiar with it—basically a four-mic configuration microphone products in my studio for more than year, I can
that, if you have the right player and room, can get you a attest to their quality, durability, and again to Dave’s customer
better drum sound than with twenty mics on the kit. We used service. I’d encourage anyone shopping for condensers who
the Church mic for the floor tom / side mic in this setup, and doesn’t have $5K–$10K to spend on a vintage piece to check
it delivered a wallop! Great imaging on all the drums, and out Pearlman microphones for capturing that classic essence
even using a different condenser (an older U 87) for the at incredible price points. (TM-1 $950 direct, TM-2 w/
overhead mic in this setup, the Church mic blended in American tube $1600, TM-2 w/ German tube $1750, Church
perfectly and in all honesty helped to deliver one of the best $2500; www.pearlmanmicrophones.com)
sounding drum sound setups we’ve heard at the studio, –Mark Warren, www.5amStudios.com
especially with only four mics!
60/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews/(continues on page 62)
Gear Geeking w/ Andy…
We have a few new contributors for this issue. Terry
Generator LLC MCA
Setter (who contributed the MCA SP1 review) is not only on
KikBrik SP1 large-diaphragm condenser mic
Bass drums are a strange thing. They are big and can You knew it. You knew that with all the
the faculty of Evergreen State College in Olympia,
Washington, but he also designed the TS-1 and TS-2 tube
be unruly, or worse yet, tiny-sounding if packed with a microphones on the market, there had to be at least
condenser mics for Chameleon Labs. Coincidentally, Mark bunch of crap. They have a lot of interior space that is one cheapo Chinese mic that stands head and
Rubel, who reviewed the Setter-designed TS-1 for this issue reflective and rounded. And they play a really important part shoulders above the rest. You were right! Interestingly,
(his second review for Tape Op) is also a faculty member; he of most music made involving a drum set. Enter the KikBrik, this mic is so overlooked that it is slated to be
teaches at Millikin University’s School of Music in Decatur, a truly “build a better mouse trap” invention. discontinued, although you can still find them for sale.
Illinois and is the owner and Chief Engineer of Pogo Studio. The KikBrik is a physical damper for the kick drum made The mic is called an MCA SP1, and it lists for $60, but
Barry Hufker (Telefunken USA RM-5C) is an associate from recycled materials and shaped roughly like a large brick you can find it for $40 if you shop around. Strange but
professor of Audio Production at Webster University in St. that’s had its edges beveled and its ends slanted. Its cross- true, the price is probably the biggest reason that the
Louis, Missouri; and he heads up Hufker Recording. As far section is about 6’’ x 6’’ square, and it comes in three standard SP1 has been so completely overlooked. People think,
as I know, Mark Warren (Pearlman Church) isn’t a professor, lengths for drums that are 14’’, 16’’, and 18’’ deep. Custom “Hey, I’m not going to buy that cheap junk. I’m going
but he owns a well-equipped studio in an enviable lengths can also be ordered. I had a long talk with John to cough up the extra $20 and get a good mic.” Well,
location—the South Congress Arts District—in the Calder, the inventor of the KikBrik; not only is he a life-long the parent company of MCA is Marshall Electronics
university town of Austin, TX. And speaking of Mark and his drummer and studio owner, but he’s also designed studios (who also have the MXL line of mics), so it does have
informative Pearlman Church review, I got a call from JB, and electronics. It’s clear that the KikBrik is a result of a lot a reasonable pedigree, and it comes with a three-year
who was “super stoked” after he read Mark’s review. It turns of creative thinking as well as real acoustical principles. The guarantee. The mic ships with a mic clip in a bare
out that JB has an original and extremely-rare Church mic. multifaceted bevels on each end (which are shaped bones package—no box, shock mount, or even a bag.
He acquired it without knowing its history, and it was only differently) allow you to place the KikBrik inside the drum and In fact, it comes in a blister pack, like batteries or a
through reading Mark’s well-researched article that JB vary the location and pressure of the contact points on the new pair of scissors.
realized what he’d been using (and loving) on just about heads. You can position the KikBrik so it’s touching one head The SP1 is a large-diaphragm, cardioid, FET
every session since he got the mic. ••• I recently received or the other; both heads; or touching neither (which still condenser mic that requires phantom power. Yes, it
an email from contributing writer Thom Monahan, who just provides acoustic damping inside the shell). looks like all the other Chinese mics of this description,
got back from a recording session in Argentina with Juana I got to use the KikBrik in a number of situations with but that is where the similarities end. It has a sound
Molina and Vetiver (on JB’s FW-1814 and PT M-Powered as a few different drums. It spent the most time in my 22’’ that is in a class by itself. Why? Because in this
reviewed in Tape Op # 49). With Thom’s penchant for Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute. The day it arrived, I put it particular mic, they happened to join an exceptional
recording music in interesting places, his cleanup tool of inside and just played for a while, changing positions every capsule with an exceptional circuit. The capsule
choice is the Wave Arts Master Restoration Suite. He had few minutes. Some changes, like moving the contact point features a 20 mm diaphragm; that’s not really “large”
this to say about MR Hum: “Just magic. The kind of scary higher or lower, were more subtle, while the angled positions by my definition. It’s closer to medium, in my opinion.
stuff that you thought all audio gear was like when you were affecting one head were more obvious. What’s nice is that The diaphragm sits inside a larger ring of thin metal,
a kid. While recording on the fly, in many differing it’s simple to make changes—just reach in and move the which makes it appear to be the size of a typical large
environments project by project, its ability to clean up a KikBrik. The first recording session it saw was for a cover diaphragm capsule. The ring probably has some sonic
wide spectrum of common electrical noise is just invaluable band (All You Can Eat) whose bass drum had a head with a effect, at least on the polar pattern (which is quite
on a day-to-day basis. And it seems to suffer little of the muffling ring and a lot of pillows inside. It was dead and tight) and the low-frequency response. The smaller size
frustrating comb-filter artifacts that plague other methods lifeless. We took out the pillows and put in the KikBrik, and of the diaphragm is probably the reason that the
and products. An absolutely essential plug-in, MR Hum the drum really opened up. I believe it ended up at an angle midrange of this microphone is so incredibly smooth
seems to leave the track nearly untouched. Grand slam touching the resonant head just a bit. The band was a trio, (think ribbon), yet it has the high and low–end
home run.” I recently recorded an incredible jazz trio with so a little bloom in the bass drum was a good thing. I did a extension of a condenser. The electronics are modeled
master improviser Joe Morris (joe-morris.com) on upright live in-room-rehearsal recording with one of my bands (The on the highly respected Schoeps “long tailed pair”; a
bass. To make sure we captured all the subtleties of the Redgraves) without a lot of prep. The KikBrik was in the 22” proven design that is the essence of simplicity and
performance, we mic’ed up Joe’s bass in the control room and touching both heads. The recording sounds great— functionality (steal from the best…). If you’re nervous
while drummer Luther “Trip” Gray (Tsunami, Ida, Glory plenty of thud with very sculpt-able attack. A really about quality, you can buy one and have it customized
Tellers) and saxophonist Jim Hobbs (Fully Celebrated interesting instrumental bass and drums duo (Benelli) was by Jim Williams of Audio Upgrades
Orchestra) played in the live room. Unfortunately, my
in, and with them came a 16’’ x 26” Gretsch Catalina bass (www.audioupgrades.com). For $125, he replaces the
IsoBox’s fan noise was just barely audible during the quietest
drum. We put the KikBrik in and tuned the drum, and it’s one critical circuit components with select, boutique parts
passages. I remembered Thom’s email and fired up MR
of the coolest bass drum tones I’ve ever recorded. Due to its and modifies the DC-DC converter to increase the
Noise—without reading the manual. Five minutes and 6 dB
size, the drum could have easily taken over the mix, and the polarizing voltage. These changes yield higher output,
of noise reduction later, the bass sounded fantastic and the
attack was at a much lower frequency than most of what we extended low-frequency response, and greater overall
noise was no longer an issue. Our very own Garrett Haines
hear in the rock arena. The KikBrik kept the drum from reliability. But try this mic before you go the extra mile.
is in the process of reviewing the whole suite. Also slated
getting away from me and made sure that the attack didn’t It sounds so good that you might decide you’d rather
for a future issue is the continuation of the Wave Arts Power
get lost. The resultant sound took well to EQ and buy three more than pay to have one hot-rodded. But
Suite 5 review. I can’t say enough about how efficient and
compression and was never a fight like the recordings of big beware; don’t buy an SP2! You won’t be happy. ($69.95
easy-to-use (and fun too!) the plug-ins from Wave Arts are.
drums tend to be. MSRP; www.mcamics.com)
••• The most exciting addition to my studio rack in the past
I’m playing in two bands right now: one on drums –Terry Setter <tas@evergreen.edu>
couple months is a Roland SRV-2000 reverb. I purchased it
(Wiplot), the other on bass (The Redgraves). I’ve been able
new back in the mid-’80s (for something like $600) and gave
to use the KikBrik from both sides of the glass and both sides
it to my brother for his home studio. It’s now back in my
of the drum. It’s a super-useful, easy to use, and well-made
hands. I love its band-limited sound and the gritty-but-
product. I think it’s a bargain, and I know I’ll be using mine
www.tapeop.com
warm textures it can add to everything from snare drum to
vocal. It sounds way better than the venerable Yamaha
for many years to come. ($49 for standard size, $58 for free subscriptions online!
custom; www.kikbrik.com)
SPX90 (which I never really liked). Plus, any gear with secret,
hidden modes (do a web search) has to be super cool!!! –AH –Tony SanFilippo <record@oxidelounge.com>

62/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews/(continues on page 64)


Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#60/63
Beyerdynamic track sounded supersmooth and sat perfectly in the mix; it had
just the right kind of midrange presence to stay out of the way
M 160 & M 130 ribbon mics of the vocal. I also tried an M 160 pair on cello and violin as
Does the Beyer M 160 even need a review? Surely medium-distance mics (in conjunction with some close mics),
everyone knows by now that this is the mic Andy Johns and the sound was perfectly dreamy—neither scratchy nor
used to record John Bonham’s drums on “When The Levee squeaky, but not too dark either. At one point, while tracking
Breaks”. Does anything else need be said? I rather doubt, it a French horn with an M 160, the player’s boyfriend, who was
but I will prattle on for a bit anyway. in the live room giving encouragement, put his mouth right up
It’s a ribbon mic, but unlike most ribbons, which are to the mic and pretty much blew up the whole signal chain by
figure-8, the M 160 has a hypercardioid pattern. I bought popping into it—not a funny joke at all. I told Aaron about it
one about two years ago, and it wasn’t long before it was when we were packing up and asked him to tell John to send
seeing a lot of use on most everything you can think of. I me a bill for the mic if it proved later to be damaged, but I
first tried it as an overhead, and while loads of people seem never got a bill. I later shared this story with a representative
to love it in that application, for me the frequency response from Beyerdynamic, who then pulled out a sheet of paper and
combined with the relatively narrow pickup pattern resulted proceeded to fold it. That’s when I learned that each of the
in a sound that was cool but just too “colored”. (Yeah I M 160’s two ribbons has multiple folds across two axes that
know, that word is about as abused and meaningless as prevent it from stretching or collapsing like standard ribbons
both “warm” and “punchy”. Shoot me.) However, as a front with accordion-like corrugations will do under air pressure.
of kit mic it has worked wonders. I put it up about snare Neat! Well, long story short, I recently purchased an M 160 for
height a foot in front of the kit and bam—perfect. Adds myself, and I’ve fallen in love with it all over again. Compared
some nice space to the snare and some high-end smack to to my other ribbon mics (Royer R-121, SF-12; SE Electronics
the kick—two things I always seem to want more of as the R-1), the M 160 has less high-end and exhibits a healthy (or
mix starts to get busy. So I like it a lot there, and I’ve also portly, depending on how you hear it) low and lower-midrange
had nice results with it on the side of the snare and on the boost at close proximity, but that’s part of what makes it
rack tom. But guitar amps are where I really like it... special. The hypercardioid M 160 is really unique in its ability
Shortly after getting the M 160 I got on a real multi- to pick up lots of midrange smoothly while picking up minimal
mic’ing kick for guitars. I felt like experimenting and would room sound, even when it’s positioned more than a few inches
often throw up three or four mics—a couple up close, one from the source. The mic’s response dips slightly within the
a ways back, one really far away, maybe the bullet mic up most crowded bit of the spectrum between 300 to 800 Hz but
close—whatever. I tried all sorts of stupid stuff. Eventually rises with upper-mid/low-treble presence between 2 to 6 kHz,
I got around to mixing all these songs. And a funny thing which for me, makes for easier mixing. Because of these traits,
kept happening. I’d go through the guitar tracks, try I wouldn’t recommend the M 160 as a do-everything mic or as
various combinations and balances, different panning a primary vocal mic; instead, I’d call it the perfect complement
schemes, etc, and almost every time, I ended up going with to the do-everything and vocal mics that you already own. –AH
just the M 160, turned up loud. It just sounds right. My fave If you read my take on the M 160 in the first third of this
guitar mic before I got the Beyer was a Sennheiser MD 409, review, you know that I Am A Fan. So when Andy asked if I
and I would often pair the two of them up close (well, a wanted to review the M 130, I was at his studio’s door before
foot away or so) on an amp. Comparing the two was he finished the question. Pulled it out of the box to have a
interesting. The main difference to me was really one of look, and oh, what a cute little mic. Yeah, I sound like Mom,
texture; the Beyer was just so much smoother in the but it really is kind of adorable looking.
midrange. I just found that, even with some pretty Cosmetics aside, there’s a lot of other things to like
heroically distorted and nasty guitar sounds, the M 160 about this mic. First thing I did was put up the hypercardioid
remained entirely pleasant to listen to; it never seemed to M 160 and the figure-8 M 130 in M/S configuration in front
be the least bit peaky or jagged. Anyway, it wasn’t long of the drum kit. Worked a treat. I’d already come to lean on
before I abandoned the whole multi-mic scheme, and the M 160 there as my new secret weapon for drums, and the
basically the M 160 became the only mic I used on a guitar addition of the M 130 lent a whole new dimension to the
amp for the better part of a year. sound. Then I tried it on some guitars. Zowie—sounds great.
I liked it on a bunch of other things as well: viola, It has the same sort of smoothness the M 160 does, but with
violin, upright bass, tambourine, and other percussive its own unique character. It has this cool “hi-fi” thing going
things. I think it made the cut on some bass amps and on. It doesn’t sound “scooped”, but the lower mids are
vocals as well. It’s hard not to like this mic. I don’t have definitely “relaxed”, shall we say. A look at the frequency-
anything bad to say. If you’re one of those who defaults response chart confirmed what I was hearing; the response
to an SM57 on guitar amps, you reeeeeally ought to try seems to shelve a bit at 500 Hz, and then again around
the M 160 out and see if you don’t find it a whole lot 250 Hz, coming up again with a bump around 80 Hz. The
nicer. You can find it for dramatically less than MSRP high end starts rolling off around 10 kHz.
without much trouble. In practice, this amounts to a really nice presence boost.
–Scott Craggs <scott@rohdelikat.com> Actually, I’m listening to the new Shellac record as I type this,
Yeah, what Scott said! I love the M 160. The first time and you know how Bob Weston’s bass sounds? The M 130 has
I used one was several years ago at John Vanderslice’s Tiny some of that about it. That’s really the best way I can describe
Telephone studio in San Francisco. I think it was house it. Again, it doesn’t sound scooped in an artificial way, it’s just
engineer Aaron Prellwitz who suggested that I give it a go very clear and lively sounding. I may well come to like it even
on the horns. My first thought was, “Am I going to blow out more than the M 160 on guitars, and that’s saying something.
the ribbon by putting it in front of the trumpet?” He I certainly liked the M 130 better than the M 160 as an
assured me it’d be no problem. It worked out great, and the overhead, the understated mids were more flattering to my
64/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews/(continues on page 66)
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inept meanderings around the kit. Neither mic was exactly
what I was looking for from an overhead, but they’re both
Samson Audio
definitely a sound, and I can imagine a lot of folks being CL2 Pencil Condenser Mic
psyched with either of them. I also put the M 130 up against VR88 Velocity Ribbon Mic
a Shure SM7 on bass cab, and I really liked the way the Here’s a couple of new and very affordable mics from
M 130 captured more of a sense of space. Listening to the Samson. First up, the CL2s are sold as a matched pair of
SM7, I thought, “That sounds like bass.” With the M 130, small-diaphragm pencil-style condensers with high-pass
“That sounds like a bass amp in a room.” I also tried it as a filters and 10 dB pads. The mics come very handsomely
distant room mic, maybe 15–20 ft from my drums, and I was packaged in a tough little aluminum case that holds the
surprised how much I liked it. Usually when I have mics that two mics, plus just about every mic accessory you’d ever
far back, I always hate them on playback, as the somewhat need: two standard mic clips, two well-built shockmounts,
wonky sound of my live room becomes way too apparent, pop filters, windscreens, even a stereo bar! You also get
but the M 130 was oddly pleasant. Nice. cardioid and omni capsules for both. I’ve used these as
I haven’t had a chance to check it out on anything else one might expect—stereo drum overheads, acoustic
yet, unless you count cowbell (sounded great!), but I have guitar, upright piano, percussion, etc.—and they have
a feeling it’s going to see a lot of use. Its MSRP is almost the been solid on every source. I was particularly stoked on
same as the M 160’s, so I imagine the street price is similarly the X/Y drum application of these mics; I ended up with
less. Check these mics out. I can’t imagine anyone being a surprising amount of detail, range, and really nice “air”
disappointed by either of them. (M 160 $759 MSRP; M 130 from the cymbals. The CL2s did not disappoint when used
$749; www.beyerdynamic.com) as a cello mic in conjunction with a UA 610 preamp. A
–Scott Craggs <scott@rohdelikat.com> single CL2 with no filtering, placed about 3 ft away, kinda
Malekko between the bridge and f-hole, returned a perfectly
natural, resonant tone. Hey, I even used the CL2s to mic
B:Assmaster distortion pedal up a play at my son’s school, and I can say with
Distortion aficionados, take note—Malekko has served
confidence that the second and third–graders never
up the indie-stompbox scene with a doozie. The B:Assmaster
sounded better. The parents all started using descriptives
is a contemporary tribute to the exquisitely rare Maestro
like “punchy” and “warm”. (They usually ask me to make
Bass Brassmaster, a ‘70s-era pedal that was intended to
their kids sound like The Beatles—weird, huh?) Anyway,
impart trumpet-like tones onto electric guitar or bass. In
great little mics; a steal at $299 for the set.
truth, the original Maestro was a unique device capable of
The VR88 is one of a number of new ribbons that have
an absurd range of tonal variation, with the then-unheard-
cropped up lately, and while it won’t be replacing my trusty
of feature of allowing the user to dial-in any amount of clean
Royer, it definitely has its own character and is a flexible
signal. These are so sought after, vintage units have recently
and durable “entry-level” ribbon. I use the term entry-level
been changing hands for well over a thousand bucks.
without any condescension, but only to illustrate how easy
Seeing the demand for a modern version, the Malekko
it is to screw up a ribbon mic, either by accident or blatant
folks put on their thinking caps and came up with the
abuse. The VR88 is actually pretty tough and can withstand
B:Assmaster. It delivers the goods in spades. With just three
higher SPLs than most ribbons; I used this thing on a rock
knobs and two switches (besides the true-bypass footswitch),
kick drum, and it weathered the beating admirably, and it
this box really does give up a huge palette of sounds just like
sounded great! I would never subject my tender Royer to
its ancestor. The Ass Volume knob and Ass switch (for real)
that kind of brutality. It’s also phantom-powered (no more
control the level and tone of distortion. The Bass Volume knob
“did I just blow the ribbon again?”) so you don’t need a
adjusts the level of dry signal to be mixed in. I found the
high-gain preamp. It comes with a massive spider-style
sound of the dry signal was not quite the same as the
shockmount, so it’s a bit of a thug, really. Furthering its
bypassed signal; it’s a bit more compressed and harmonically
thuggish profile is the industrial design of the VR88, which
rich, but in a great way. This feature helps make the
is somewhere between that of a flattened RCA 77A and
B:Assmaster quite possibly the ultimate bass distortion
R2D2’s mug shot. Like the CL2s, it has its own tough
device. The Harm switch and Sensitivity knob adjust the
aluminum case, plus a cheapish-looking right-angle XLR
harmonic shape and depth of distortion. Hard to explain, but
cable (didn’t trust the cable, but that’s probably just my
those two controls seem to have the biggest range of tone.
long-standing cable snobbery). For rock music, I really liked
The Sensitivity knob, in particular, sometimes acts like an
it on kick drum and bass amp; it seemed to consistently
expander/gate and other times seems like a high-pass filter.
return an articulate and “tight” low end. I also noted
The cool thing is that almost all of the sounds that can be
exceptional results with it in front of an upright acoustic
conjured up are musically meaningful; it’s hard to find a
bass placed 3 ft from the bridge. Conversely, I didn’t care
setting that yields chaotic, uncontrolled, atonal sounds.
for it as a vocal mic at all, as I found it a shade too dull-
Bonus points for a very hip orange, purple, and brown
sounding and lacking in clarity. This may, however, be a
design, with a secret hidden LED for when the unit is
result of a pronounced proximity effect, as I tend to record
activated! Extra bonus points—the people at Malekko have
vocals up close, usually at distances of less than 10’’ away
a toothy sense of humor. I don’t want to ruin the surprise
from the mic. If you are looking for a percussive or woody
for anyone, but let’s just say that when I unscrewed the
sound for acoustic guitars, the VR88 could work well here
bottom panel to install a 9 V battery, I was greeted with a
too; on the other hand, I generally prefer a brighter
bitingly funny revelation.
acoustic tone. If you’re ribbon-curious, on a budget, and
($255 direct; www.malekkoheavyindustry.com)
are into the droid look, pick one up. (CL2 pair $299 MSRP,
–Pete Weiss, www.weissy.com
VR88 $499; www.samsontech.com)
–Dana Gumbiner, www.stationtostationrecording.com
66/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews/(continues on page 68)
A great tracking room in
Northern California
open to freelance engineers
and studio-savvy musicians.

2 inch 16 & 24 track,


Pro Tools HD,
$250/day
Huge recording room w/ 30 ft.
ceilings and lots of isolation areas.
MCI two inch recorder, Pro Tools HD3,
Apogee Rosetta 800’s, Lucid clock,
Neve 34128 16 by 4 console
Daking 16 by 8 console
Preamps/dynamics: Millenia Media (5),
Neve 1272 (2) & 1073 EQ, Avalon 737,
UA 2192, 2-610, 2108, 2176 & LA-2A/3A,
Drawmer 1969/S3, DBX 166, Helios,
Focusrite ISA 220 & Red EQ, Pultec EQH-2,
Chandler TG’s (EMI), Thermionic Phoenix,
Telefunken V72 (2), Altec 438C & 1567,
Meek VC1&6Q, Distressor (2), Quad-8 EQs,
Great River EQ2NV, Fairchild 663, SE C2,
Mercury M66, Sta-Level, Gates SA-39,
Summit MPC-100A, EQP-200B & TLA 50.
Mics: Neumann U67 & CMV 563’s, Elam 251,
RCA 77 & 74, AKG 414’s, Shure KSM-32,
SM-7/58/57’s, Sennheiser 421’s & 409’s,
Coles, Wunder C-12/U-47, Blue Mouse/
Blueberry, Royer R121’s/SF-12, more.
Lots of album credits.
Lots of studio instruments.
For more info contact John:
916-444-5241
<John@tapeop.com>
<www.tapeop.com/john>

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M-Audio brought it back on FW 9/10 so it was the only source to
Ctrl Room (because of the previously mentioned cheat).
NRV10 mixer/interface This post-DAW mix, of course, exhibited converter and
When I first saw the NRV10 at the NAMM show in buffer–induced latency, making it suitable only for me, the
January, I said out loud, “Duh! Why didn’t anyone else engineer, to monitor, and not for my pretend band. I was
think of doing this?” The sucker is an analog mixer psyched that I could get two different zero-latency feeds
and multichannel audio interface in one. It makes a going with the Mix bus inserts and Aux 1, but I really wish
ton of sense! Well, I finally got one, and you know the NRV10 had two independently-assignable headphone
what, the pocket-protector geeks at M-Audio outputs—one for the engineer and one for the performers,
outgeeked me and made it even more useful than I or in some cases, both for the performers.
originally thought it would be. Now it was time for overdubs, so I pulled out some
Sure, you can use it as a regular 8x2 analog mixer. It’s real mics to record myself. Within Pro Tools, I submixed
got six input faders. Faders 1-4 can be switched between the basic tracks and returned them as stems to the NRV10
mic or line inputs. (You can keep both the XLR mic and via FW 3-10 onto Faders 3-7/8 and assigned FW 9/10 to
TRS line inputs plugged in at the same time—no Phones. Then I used Faders 1 and 2 for recording new
unpatching necessary.) Phantom power for the mics can tracks, feeding them to the DAW via FW 1/2. The
be turned on or off globally. And the line inputs have more headphone mix came from prefader Aux 1. And I used the
than enough gain to be used as instrument DIs. Fader 5/6 DFX to add reverb to the headphone mix without the
is selectable between a mono mic input and a stereo line reverb getting into the tracks being recorded. Cool!
input. Fader 7/8 is a stereo line input. Each fader has a Can I tell you that I absolutely hate creating
three-band EQ, a prefader Aux 1 send, and a postfader headphone mixes in software with on-screen faders and
Aux 2 send. Aux 2 simultaneously feeds the Aux 2 output aux sends? Creating a headphone mix on an actual mixer
and the DFX, a built-in digital effects unit. And each fader is so much easier—just grab knobs and turn them! And
can be assigned to either the Mix bus or the Cue bus. The just as in recording basics with the NRV10, channels that
Cue bus is exclusive of the Mix bus—perfect for DJs or are currently being recorded as overdubs can be monitored
performers who need a foolproof way to audition records with zero latency. I should emphasize at this point that
or samples while the Mix bus is feeding the house sound. you can do all this with a separate mixer and interface, but
Additionally, the first four faders have analog inserts. The the NRV10 is so well integrated that you don’t have to
master section has faders for Phones and Ctrl Room output repatch anything as you go between tracking,
levels, and there are two stereo returns. The DFX has two overdubbing, and mixing.
knobs allowing you to select a preset from sixteen And speaking of mixing, all I had to do was return
programs and sixteen variations of each program. All in all, eight channels of stems from Pro Tools to Faders 1-7/8 via
the NRV10 is very straightforward and well laid-out. But FW 1-8, and I had real EQs as well as effects loops. Oh,
things really get interesting when you plug this mixer into and the Mix bus insert was handy for slapping on a stereo
the FireWire port of your computer. compressor. Unfortunately, the analog inserts on the
As a FireWire audio interface, you get ten channels in Faders can’t be switched to post-DAC (they only work on
and ten channels out, at up to 24-bit, 96 kHz resolution— pre-DAC signals), so they can’t be used during mixdown.
these channels are labeled FW 1-10. FW 1-8 are set up like Too bad, because it would’ve been nice to use a bus
tape sends/returns (let’s call them DAW sends/returns) on compressor on the drum submix. Also too bad that the
Faders 1-7/8 (remember, Faders 5/6 and 7/8 are stereo). DAW returns on FW 1-8 are always pre-EQ, because you can
FW 9/10 are sent to the DAW from the Mix bus, and they switch the DAW sends to post-EQ—watch out for
return to the NRV10 through two knobs that you can use feedback! Personally, I think this is a design omission; the
to blend FW 9/10 into Ctrl Room and Phones switch for the DAW sends/returns should instead move
independently. What does this all mean? Well, let’s talk both the sends and the returns pre or post–EQ, not just the
workflow now. sends. Furthermore, the 45 mm linear faders are so short
After reading the well-written manual, as my first test and sticky that you can’t really mix with them—you have
of the system, I connected the NRV10 to my Sony to “set and forget” them. Smooth 60 mm faders (like on
handheld micro PC (Tape Op #57) running Pro Tools M- Mackie compact mixers) would have been more useful. Or
Powered. Then I fed it eight tracks from another computer, if M-Audio really wanted to save space, I think rotary
as if I were recording basics for a whole band. Four tracks knobs would have been better than the 45 mm faders.
for drums landed on Faders 5/6 and 7/8 via the line There are lots of useful LEDs, including peak
inputs. (In a real tracking situation, I would have used indicators for Faders 1-7/8 and the DFX, as well as status
external preamps to feed these two faders.) Scratch vocal, lights for phantom power and FireWire. A Kensington lock
two guitars, and a bass went into Faders 1-4. (And in a port is on the back so the mixer won’t grow legs.
real session, these would have come through the built-in Unfortunately, there’s no word clock input, and I wish
mic inputs.) Then I used the DAW sends on FW 1-8 like inputs 5/6 and 7/8 were switchable to RIAA curve for use
direct outs to the DAW, and I recorded eight individual with turntables. But considering that M-Audio really
tracks into Pro Tools. I created two headphone feeds for thought through various workflows to make the NRV10 as
my pretend band: one using prefader Aux 1; and a second flexible as it is, my various complaints read more like a
using the NRV10’s Mix bus inserts (this is a cheat), which wish list for a future release. My guess is that there will
I fed to a Samson Q5 headphone amp (Tape Op #29). Both soon be copycats of the NRV10 coming our way. Like I
of these headphone feeds were generated pre–A/D said, I can’t believe no one else has done anything like
converter; therefore, they had zero latency. To monitor the this before. ($899.95 MSRP; www.m-audio.com) –AH
actual recorded signals, I created a mix in Pro Tools and
68/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews/(continues on page 70)
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Tannoy CAT5 cables. (The master has both analog and digital audio
inputs while the slaves have only CAT5 connectors. High-
monitors, you can flip the sub’s polarity (knowing that the
digital signal feeding it can’t be accidentally polarity-
Ellipse 8 iDP studio monitor quality shielded CAT5 cables are included.) The manual has reversed), then vary the phase until you get full cancellation
TS212 iDP subwoofer very clear diagrams and describes in detail how to configure of the crossover frequency at the listening position, then
I love the Bag End M-6 Time-Align monitors (Tape Op iDP systems from 2.1 all the way up to 7.1, with up to three flip the polarity back to normal.
#50) that I have in my living room for their accurate imaging; subwoofers. (A common misconception is that the .1 refers Once set up, I spent months listening to and using
these were my first long-term experience with coaxial drivers to the number of subwoofers when it actually corresponds these speakers, and I was quite impressed. Fantastic
featuring a tweeter mounted within the center of the woofer. to the LFE channel, which is a whole different channel of imaging, and exceptionally smooth across the whole
So I was excited to demo Tannoy’s top-of-the-line Ellipse information much like L is different than R in a stereo spectrum! In fact, the first time I sat down for an extended
powered monitors, which use the British company’s signal. With bass management enabled in a three-sub time in front of these speakers, I was a bit confused because
trademarked Dual Concentric technology. The original coaxial system, the center sub would output the LFE channel there seemed to be a bit of “scooping” going on—maybe a
speaker was the Altec Duplex, first available as a 12’’ version together with the center channel’s low-frequency content, dip in the upper mids or lower highs? But a second set of
in 1941 followed soon thereafter by a 15’’ version in 1943. while the left and right subs would handle the low- measurements with my audio analyzer confirmed that the
The latter is commonly known as the “604”—probably the frequency content of the left and right channels.) response was flat at mix position—very close to the
most popular soffit-mounted studio speaker of all time. The Once I’d finished interconnecting the Ellipse 8 iDP response I was getting with my ADAM S3-As in the mids and
Duplex featured a conventional horn tweeter with its monitors and the TS212 iDP subwoofer, I used the side- highs. But over time, I realized that what I initially
compression driver mounted within the center of the woofer’s mounted control panel on the master 8 iDP to align the perceived as a loss of energy was actually a function of the
magnet structure, and the outer flare of the horn in front of system. Although the panel is limited to a two-line LCD Dual Concentric system exhibiting very little distortion and
the woofer cone. Tannoy’s first Dual Concentric, released in display and four buttons, I had no problem navigating the inter-driver interference in the crossover region, with its
1947, improved upon the coaxial principal by utilizing a hierarchical menu system. I especially liked the fact that all near-perfect alignment of the drivers. If you haven’t spent
specially-shaped (and expensive) 15’’ woofer cone that served tweakable parameters throughout the hierarchy are some time with a modern Tannoy Dual Concentric monitor,
as the outer flare of the horn tweeter. With this design highlighted with an asterisk; simple consistencies like this I think you’ll also be amazed that the crossover is no longer
change, not only was the whole woofer cone unobstructed, really do make for a better user-experience. From the master discernable the first time you give it a good long listen—
but the wider horn aperture meant a lower cut-off frequency panel, I turned on the built-in pink-noise generator and especially if you listen to anything with well-recorded
for the tweeter. The crossover was set one octave above this proceeded to take measurements with my Terrasonde ATB-1. vocals. Also, I was at first doubting of the SuperTweeter
natural cut-off, reducing distortion significantly. The biggest Long story short, I didn’t have to employ any of the Ellipse’s because you can’t really hear it by itself when you’re sitting
problem with Tannoy’s original design was interaction filters because the response was very flat out-of-the-box in behind the console. I wish that there were a way to turn it
between the woofer and the tweeter; as the woofer moved in my carefully-treated control room, but I did spend a number on/off remotely—as this kind of A/B’ing might make the
and out, the shape of the outer horn was effectively of days trying out different settings. All filtering (including benefits clearer. Switching between 96 kHz and 44.1 kHz
changing, affecting the output of the tweeter. Modern Tannoy the primary crossover) is done digitally (except for the mixes of the same song, I felt that I could hear the
Dual Concentric speakers are unique in that they employ a SuperTweeter’s crossover, which is passive and post- interaction between certain tracks at 96 kHz—especially
precisely-shaped Tulip Waveguide for the tweeter within the amplification). I found that both the high and low filters ride-cymbal bleed—better with the Tannoys than with my
woofer, and the molded polypropylene woofer is now shaped sound quite smooth, and their slope seems to vary as you ADAMs. But honestly, I can’t tell you if this was a result of
to stay out of the tweeter’s way. The result? Time-aligned, increase or decrease energy; maximum change is 6 dB up or the SuperTweeter or the Dual Concentric design—or both.
point-source imaging with very little interaction between the down. Keep in mind that the filters are not there to fix In any case, it’s clear that the system as a whole works
two drivers and consistent dispersion throughout the whole extreme anomalies in your room’s acoustics, and without the extremely well.
frequency spectrum. optional PC-iP installer software, there are no sharp filters to I should note that I tried both the analog and digital
The pair of Ellipse 8 iDP monitors and a matching get you in trouble. Predefined scenes are available for inputs to the master Ellipse 8 iDP. Obviously, there’s an A-D
TS212 iDP subwoofer that Tannoy sent me arrived on a situations like “Console”, “Wall”, “Corner”, etc.; but there’s converter inside since all the processing and distribution is
shipping pallet. Unpacking these heavyweights was quite a no explanation of how these change the filters. Presets in the digital domain. I started with the analog inputs, and
chore. Tannoy could take a cue from companies like allow you to store up to fifteen setups; saved parameters of course, the benefits of Dual Concentric made for a great
Panasonic and Sony, who offer sturdy, multilayer, reusable include filter and relative-level settings, as well as bass listening experience. Next I tried the digital output of my
boxes that disassemble around the product, leaving the management, mute status, and X-Curve. The latter refers to DMX-R100 console, and the soundstage actually collapsed a
unpacked product unencumbered and easy to lift. Even with an ANSI/SMTPE specification for mixing in a small room. bit! But I’ll conjecture that the DMX-R100’s digital outs
two long-armed people, it was impossible to lift the Also, seventeen factory presets are included. I’m glad that I suffer from a poorly-shaped signal just like its WC output
subwoofer out of the box. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the had my hearing protectors on when I employed the pink- does (as noted in my review of the Drawmer M-Clock in Tape
option of cutting apart the box, so we had to tip the box noise generator for the first time—very loud at its default Op #51). I then tried locking the 8 iDP to its WC input (using
over, which meant the subwoofer would be sliding out on setting. Turning it down was more difficult than it had to the M-Clock that was also clocking the console). Woah!
one of its fabric covers. (The speaker has fabric covers on be because you have to navigate to a different area of the Huge difference! And that’s what I stuck with.
three sides, while the uncovered rear side has protruding menu structure to change level; a level control should be These are definitely the smoothest-sounding speakers
heat fins.) Notwithstanding a sub-par box, Tannoy could placed right next to on/off. And without either the optional I’ve had in my studio, especially in the upper mids, in and
have designed the internal foam packing so that speaker hardware or software remote, it’s laborious to make changes near the crossover region. Plus, the subwoofer’s variable
and packaging could be slid out together without fear of using the speaker’s side-mounted control panel, especially if phase control and 4th-order low-pass filter made certain
damage. While not quite as difficult to unpack, the Ellipse there’s a recording console in the way between your that the transition to the sub was also seamless. Everything
monitor, because of its rounded form, required dry hands listening position and the speaker! Also, effective about the iDP monitors and subwoofer—even down to the
and extra care. Plus, I was tempted to use the top-mounted subwoofer placement requires moving the subwoofer around well-written setup guides in the manual—make for an
SuperTweeter pod as a handhold, but a big-lettered warning to find its optimal spot. Unlike handle-equipped Genelec extremely coherent system, and the result is extremely
strategically placed inside the box warned me against it. subs, which are obviously designed for professional coherent tonality and imaging. These speakers even
Once unpacked, I found the system easy—and quite environments, the Tannoy is meant to look pretty—in a prompted me to pull out my Rega turntable and listen to
fun—for a geek like me to set up. The iDP in each moniker contemporary furniture kind of way—so it’s almost as hard some old vinyl (via my Apogee AD-16X at 96 kHz), and wow,
refers to Interactive Digital Programming. In a multi-speaker to move as it is to unpack; there’s nothing to grab hold of. what a soundstage. (Ellipse 8 iDP Master $2500 MSRP, Slave
configuration, one monitor is the master and sends digital The TS212 iDP does have both a polarity switch and a $2200; TS212 iDP $3095; www.tannoy.com) –AH
audio and control information to all the other monitors via variable phase control, alleviating some of the pain of
placing it. To phase-align the subwoofer to the main
70/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews/(continues on page 72)
Tannoy
Reveal 6D active nearfields
When Andy first asked me to take a listen to the new Tannoy
Reveal 6D studio monitors, I was eager to hear what improvements
had been made from its predecessor the Reveal Active, a speaker
that I wasn’t too impressed with but with which I was already
familiar. After working with the Tannoy Reveal 6D for about two
months, I can say that it does sound better.
The most useful and impressive improvement is the ability
to tune your monitors to the room. Having recently tested JBL’s
room-tuning system, I was a bit wary about the reliability and
feasibility of any speaker properly tuning itself to an
environment. However, I found that Tannoy’s system was not
only more straightforward, but left me with more information
about the acoustics of the room. Using the included Activ Assist
software, I was able to plug in the microphone and cables
(included) to a laptop, and within seconds, get a bandwidth
reading on what the speaker was outputting. The software was
then able to interpret and make correction recommendations
from a selection of over 2000 possibilities. Making the
adjustments required setting the two banks of DIP switches on
the rear of each speaker to what the software suggested. The
first bank of ten DIP switches controls low-frequency alignment,
mid/near/close–field, and half/quarter and eighth–space
compensation, while the second bank controls mid-band and
high-frequency shelving trim.
Once I was properly calibrated to the room, I found my
mixes came out sounding honest and the way they were
intended to sound—which I rate as a huge success for a speaker.
If I had nitpick, I found the high mids to be a bit brittle for my
taste, leaving a mix sounding slightly less shimmery if I wasn’t
careful to push the top end slightly more than I was used to.
(I’ve worked extensively with Dynaudio BM15A monitors, and I
found them to have more warmth and definition than the
Tannoys, but these are much bigger speakers (with a 10’’ woofer)
that cost over twice as much.) Overall, I noticed a much fuller
and richer sound from the Reveal 6D compared to Tannoy’s
previous models. But like most gear decisions, it comes down to
preference. ($629 MSRP each; www.tannoy.com)
–Josh Peck <josh@thelodge.com>

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Gear Reviews(continued on page 72)/Tape Op#60/71


Dangerous Music SE Electronics Telefunken | USA
Monitor ST R-1 ribbon mic RM-5C ribbon mic
Probably more than ever, recording studios have seen a need for My guess is that a lot of people considering the Students enrolled in the Audio Production program
monitoring different inputs and routing these signals to a variety of purchase of the SE R-1 will wonder how it compares to at Webster University, St. Louis and I had the great
speakers. In my studio, we monitor the DAW, console LR, console the Royer R-121. Both feature a rectangular ribbon experience of evaluating the new Telefunken USA ribbon
control room out, CD, iPod, and computer outputs. We listen through that’s offset-mounted within the magnet structure (a microphone, the RM-5C. The students participated as
three different speaker/amp combos plus a subwoofer. Our old Allen & Royer innovation) to allow greater ribbon excursion, engineers, listeners and musicians. The setup was quick
Heath console from the ‘80s is fine but only allows for two speaker which equates to higher SPL capability and less chance and not at all scientific, but informative anyway. We used
selects and two stereo inputs. Routing had become tedious, and after of ribbon damage when pointed in one direction, and only two microphones, a classic Coles 4038 and the
looking at all the capacitors and crap in the signal path, I was starting a brighter sound in the other direction. The first thing RM-5C. As I suspected, these mics are pretty much polar
to guess that I wasn’t hearing all the music. When Dangerous unveiled I noticed was that the SE R-1 reveals greater proximity opposites. The sound sources were male voice, female
the Monitor ST, I knew it was what I was looking for. There’s a 1RU- effect than the R-121, especially at distances of 5’’ or voice, acoustic guitar, tenor saxophone, and a pair of
height main unit with two DB-25 connectors on the rear for I/O, and a less. I can get it to sound “tubby” very easily by congas. The signal path was simple—microphone to
pair of XLR jacks for the Aux Input. On the front is a talkback mic, along moving it closer to the source. Great for changing the Gordon Instruments Model 5 preamp to RADAR 24
with jacks for a remote talkback mic and headphones, as well as level tone of a guitar amp. But for vocals, depending on the running at 24 bits, 96 kHz.
knobs for headphones, talkback, main out to the cue outputs, aux input skill of the singer, this can be a good thing or a bad Listening to male and female voice, the RM-5C gave
to cue, aux to main, and Input 4 (great for the CD player). The remote, thing; a talented singer will use mic’ing distance and a good sound right off. With a student speaking 4’’ away
which communicates with the main unit via CAT5 cable, is a handsome, therefore proximity effect to his or her advantage. The from the microphone, the bass was full. Proximity effect
aluminum, bridge-shaped block that can sit well on a console or next thing I noticed was how the SE R-1 reacts to my was well controlled even at that distance. The bass was
desktop. The switches—and in particular the main volume knob—send Great River MP-2NV preamp’s input impedance switch. tight—never muffled or muddy. Characteristic of the
info to the rack unit where routing and gain is adjusted via Engaging the switch and thus lowering the input microphone is a rise in the mid and high frequencies.
microprocessor-controlled relays—real step attenuation instead of impedance to 300 Ohms really opens up the sound of Speech sibilance was highlighted but not out of balance.
cheap VCAs. You can hear the relays in the main unit physically click as the SE R-1 without making it too thin. When I’m mixing The bass bump at 200 Hz creates some bottom,
you adjust volume (which seemed odd at first, but now it’s a familiar guitar amps recorded with an R-121, I find that in most preventing the mic from being too bright overall. I think
audible cue for me when I’m changing levels). Backlit pushbuttons cases, I have to peel away some lower midrange to it’s important for me to stress that in no circumstance did
allow for speaker and input selection, speaker muting, talkback, mono make room for bass and drums and to generally clear the RM-5C ever sound harsh, strident, or unpleasant. It
collapse, dim, and programming. Programming allows for adjusting up the mix. But in general, when I record Fender amps maintains its appeal with a smooth sound even though
level of the inputs and speaker outputs, compensating for –10 dBV through an R-121 with the MP-2NV’s impedance switch its frequency response is “tipped up”. The Coles offered it
consumer gear, and even changing the mute dim mode. engaged, the sound seems a little too thin for me as classic warmth and smoothness, but was dull without
The ST is a dream. With the ability to route four sources to three there’s too much high-freq lift and the low-end slopes some equalization. The 4038’s proximity effect also made
speaker outputs, plus control the sub, it allows us to easily jump between away too much. With the SE R-1, the MP-2NV’s lower it sound tubby. The RM-5C has a very tight cardioid
monitors and input sources for referencing mixes, moving between the input impedance setting is “just right” for me; the pattern with some tonal change at 90 and 270 degrees.
console and Pro Tools, and such. From the minute we had it wired up and guitar sits forward in the mix without sounding overly The rejection at 180 degrees was excellent. What was
turned on, it felt natural and easy to use. After a little P-touch labeling, EQ’ed. On the other hand, if you want a crunchier top heard from that angle still sounded quite good.
freelance engineers jumped right into using the ST without any questions. end, the SE R-1 is probably not the right mic as it tends For the instruments, we placed the RM-5C for “best
Audio quality is clearer than our console ever let us hear before. Being to soften the highs more than the R-121 does (and sound”. The mic’s 200 Hz bump is large enough to add
able to drag the remote around the listening area instead of being there’s an associated loss of detail), which makes the some sense of bass for voice. However, it didn’t give the
chained to the console allowed better ergonomic setups and less weird R-1 a great choice for recording singers or instruments necessary bottom to the tenor sax (as a jazz instrument)
arm stretching. The talkback (as well as the other buttons too) features that tend toward sibilance or screechiness. And that the Coles did. The RM-5C was certainly a good choice
a unique operation: hold the button down and talk (like on most speaking of crunchy, I’ve never been successful for guitar. As I listened to the guitar in the control room
consoles), and the TB unlatches when done; tap the button, and the TB recording distorted rhythm parts on my Marshall and then again in the studio, the RM-5C was giving us the
stays latched while you talk and edit tracks at the same time; hit it again JCM800 Model 4210 combo with an R-121. On the guitar pretty much as it sounded in the studio. The
to unlatch. Perfect. The Slate output on the rear of the main unit can be other hand, the SE R-1 in front of the 4210 going Telefunken was an instant winner for congas. The skin
brought out to the patchbay and then sent to headphones (in our case, through a Hamptone Silverbox 4 sounds great. The low and “thunk” of the drums were wonderfully captured by
the Furman HDS-16 system reviewed in Tape Op #55) so that the players end is right where I want it, and the 4210’s tendency the mic. Transient response was very good. The 4038
can hear you through the talkback. There’s a jack for a secondary remote to go thin when it goes into extreme distortion isn’t simply couldn’t match that character.
TB, so we built a little pushbutton/XLR switch; now we can use regular accentuated as it sometimes is when I use an R-121. I The RM-5C is well-made, handsome, and stylish. It is
mic cables to put the remote TB switch as far from the console as needed. also used the SE R-1 to great effect recording a microphone worth owning. I would like to see a
(Note that this remote TB jack doesn’t dim the monitors.) There’s even an tambourine. This is an instrument that can really sound wooden box for the mic; I think that is necessary. I would
input for a remote TB mic, handy if the main unit is not racked nearby. harsh and spikey if recorded improperly. With the SE, I like to see a better shockmount, if only as an option, but
[Unfortunately, the jack for the remote mic is on the front while the jack got a nice, consistent sound by aiming the dark side of the current one is acceptable. The Audio Production
for the remote switch is on the back! Kludgy wiring if you want to connect the mic at the tambourine and letting the bright side students and I were quite impressed with this new
a purpose-built TB mic with a built-in switch. –AH] pick up reflections off the wall, limiting (clipping) with microphone. ($TBA; www.telefunkenusa.com)
The ST can be combined with the SR expansion (another 1RU- a Radius 30, and then squashing with a FATSO Jr. To –Barry Hufker, www.hufkerrecording.com
height device) so that surround speakers and inputs can be controlled sum it up, the SE R-1 and the R-121 have very similar
in the same way, and calibrated accurately as well. Not bad for only voicing, but there are notable differences. SE has a
$1499 MSRP for the SR. generous try-before-buy policy. If you’re in the market
Tape Op is made
Got more than one set of speakers? Want the assurance that your for a ribbon, check out the SE website for details on the possible by our
sources are getting to the speakers uncolored by your console? Got a 7-day loan program. advertisers.
few different sources to compare at mixdown? For its quality, features ($999 MSRP; www.seelectronics.com) –AH Please support them and tell them
you saw their ad in Tape Op.
and thoughtful design, the ST can’t be beat, and I’m having a hard time
remembering how I got by without it.
($2,199 MSRP; www.dangerousmusic.com) –LC
72/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews/(continues on page 74)
Chameleon Labs I do have, and love madly, a custom-built tube LDC also
designed by Professor Terry Setter (the TS) of Evergreen
not too much high end; nor was it harsh. Very natural
sounding. The next time I heard the TS-1 on a track was when
TS-1 small-diaphragm State College in Olympia, Washington—an excellent human engineer, and Tape Op’s pre-press dude, Scott McChane used
condenser mic being who some of you may have met at past TapeOpCons. them on an acoustic guitar track for Alaska based artist, Matt
The sonic combination of a small-capsule microphone Terry also designed the large-capsule Chameleon TS-2 Hopper. Again, the mic just sounded great - really natural
diaphragm with a tube amplifier can be a thoroughly microphone, whose power supply features a variable heater with just the right amount of low mids and a nice, natural top
pleasing one for many applications. The high-frequency voltage; it will be interesting to see how the TS-1’s sound end. On a session for the band Say No More on Drive Thru
definition and quick transient-response of the small might be varied using it. Records, engineer Robert Cheek used the TS-1s for top and
diaphragm coupled with the moderating and sweetening The shockmount works well and holds the microphones bottom snare mics (in conjunction with a Heil PR-20) and
response of a well-designed tube circuit can be magical, and snugly. The cable between the PS and mic is rugged and kept them up for the entire record. The snare had that perfect
sounds like nothing else. I’ve got a bunch of Altec “lipstick makes a good connection. In the six months that I have pop/punk snare tone that only got better when Robert ran it
tube” microphones, both omni and cardioid, and love them been using a pair of TS-1s, I have had no problems with through the Chandler/EMI TG 12413 limiter and TG12345 EQ.
for overheads and acoustic guitar. More recently, we’ve been them—nary a sputter. They do carry a one-year warranty. Engineer Eric Broyhill has also been using the TS-1s as
lucky to own a Telefunken KM 256C, which rules on acoustic The TS-1 has no internal shockmount or pop filter, and so overheads, and his comment was, “They sound awesome.
guitar and piano top end, and a Telefunken SM 2 stereo tube should be used with the supplied mount, and with a Warm but with an extended top end. I could really see each
SDC, which is equally lovely on strings and as a drum-kit windscreen if used as a vocal microphone or outdoors. I cymbal without it being washy. I had them placed pretty high
overhead. These days, those microphones, for all their have used it as a vocal mic, with great results from some too, about eight feet above the kit.” This mic seems to excel
beauties, are costly both to purchase and to maintain. singers, though it wouldn’t be my usual first choice just at capturing sources with potentially challenging top-end
When I first got involved in recording (during the based on its type. transients as noted in the examples here.
Cretaceous or was it the Mesozoic Era?), it seems that there The Chameleon Labs TS-1 is a marvelous instrument. I’ve always really liked SDC’s as used above, but I’ve
were only two classes of microphones: mundane and They have been used on nearly every project in the time heard some that are brittle and harsh from over-hyped top
moderately priced; and great but expensive. It is wonderful they’ve been here. They excel particularly as drum end. Or, the preamp section seems to be less than flattering
to see good affordable alternatives becoming available—a overheads, on acoustic guitar, string bass and other above 8 kHz or so, adding an unpleasant distortion that
stellar example being the Chameleon Labs TS-1 small- stringed instruments, on percussion, and piano. They have sounds great on really shitty worn-out acoustic guitar strings,
diaphragm tube mic. Chameleon makes products available a sweet top-end but are not strident. I love our beat-up snare heads, and filthy cymbals, but not so nice on
that are very strong in the bang-for-the-buck category, with aforementioned Telefunken SM 2 for overheads and the good instruments with good players. And who amongst us
good craftsmanship and warranties. They often poll people velvety bell-like quality that it imparts. The Chameleons to really wants to buy mics that only sound good on shitty
as to what they would like to have available. In fact, at me sound bolder and more sharply etched, and I have to say sources? For me, the holy grail of SDC’s is the Neumann
TapeOpCon 2007, they had a drawing for a free TS-1, and on are my new favorites for this application. I find that they KM 84, a mic I’ve used extensively over the years but don’t
the entry form was a big space for “what would you like us tend to need little to no equalization when used as drum currently own due to its cost. Of course, I’ve always wanted
to offer next?” overheads or on acoustic instruments and percussion. to hear, but have not yet been fortunate enough to hear, the
The pencil-type TS-1 has a 3 micron diaphragm and It’s cool that the TS-1 comes with both cardioid and tube-based Neumann KM 54, a mic that is essentially the
uses a 5840 pentode tube, strapped for triode operation. omnidirectional capsules. It is very much worth outgrowing same type as the TS-1. I’ve found the Audio Technica Pro 37
This tube is also used in the amplified Royer ribbon mics, the sound reinforcement habit of always using directional to be a very nice and affordably priced SDC. But, the mic that
and is the same as the European EF732 used in some of the mics and experimenting with omnis. When using the TS-1 as has kept me from buying a costly pair of KM 84s on eBay is
Telefunken USA re-issues. It looks nice with its little vents a drum mic, especially when the mics are farther away, the the THE KA-04 body with the THE cardioid capsule. This mic
for the tube and gets pleasantly warm when in use. The omni capsule can open up the room nicely and eliminate or is so close to what I remember the KM-84 sounding like, that
circuit is “plate loaded” with a high-ratio transformer inside reduce the coloration that can come from off-axis pickup. whatever differences there are, I’m going to just chalk them
the microphone body, and the power supply has seven Likewise, omnis are underused, in my opinion, on acoustic up to my auditory-brain interface and my wallet-brain
stages of R/C filtering on the non-regulated B+, four stages guitars. Since they don’t exhibit the rising bass from interface keeping a happy balance. I, and all of the engineers
of filtering on the regulated heater voltage, and a toroidal proximity that cardioid and other directional mics do, they above, have been using the THEs for the past three years, and
transformer. Translation? It’s quiet. can be very useful for guitarists who move around a lot. You they are universally regarded as sounding pretty much
Included in the snazzy, lockable aluminum suitcase are can control the varying volume easily with compression or excellent on whatever source they’re put on.
the 115/230 V power supply, tube microphone body, both gain riding as needed, but it’s very useful to have the timbre So, as a final test of the TS-1, I thought it would be
cardioid and omni capsules, a 25 ft seven-pin cable, foam remain the same—the guitar sits more stably in the mix. interesting to compare them to the THEs that we all know
windscreen, and shockmount with spare elastics. This last Though the TS-1 has no pad, it doesn’t seem to need and love around The Hangar. Scott, Bryce Gonzales, and I
inclusion may sound small, but consider that I just spent one. It’s rated at a maximum of 130 dB SPL, and I haven’t made two short recordings with both mics: a Guild steel
$60 on elastics for three Neumann suspension mounts. detected distortion even from loud drummers. It’s pretty string acoustic both strummed and finger picked; and a hi-
Available options for the TS-1 include a hypercardioid great on snare drum too—I need a third one! The TS-1 hat cymbal both open and closed. On both sources, both mics
capsule ($62), and the ADP-1 adapter ($42) for AKG CK seems to sell for not much less than MSRP—rightfully so. sounded excellent and remarkably close to each other,
series capsules (though not the CK 5). So, C 451 lovers can It’s totally worth it. –Mark Rubel, www.pogostudio.net especially below 8 kHz or so. But, the THE had a bit more
“tube” their capsules! We’ve had a pair of TS-1’s at The Hangar for the last six extended top end and better transient response. I couldn’t
The power supply is interesting in that it has both a months or so, and they’ve seen a fair amount of use in that really say that one or the other mic sounded better, they both
power switch and a standby switch, like a tube guitar amp. time. It seems that almost every time I walk back to the sounded great. The THE has had years of successful use on
It’s recommended to turn the power switch on first, then lift studio, there’s at least one TS-1 out on the floor. I’ve made a tracks here by all of the above engineers, and I think the TS-1
the standby switch after ten or fifteen seconds, allowing point of asking the engineers what they thought about the will soon be joining it. The main difference is in the top end
the plate (B+) voltage to be turned on after the tube has TS-1 and listening to the track. One of the TS-1’s first sessions as noted. If I were recording to analog tape, I’d probably put
heated to full temperature; this extends the life of the tube. was with engineer Ralph Stover. I’ve always loved the drum up the THE first, whereas if I was recording to digital, I’d
Generally, it’s a good idea to let tube microphones stabilize sounds Ralph gets here. A near perfect mix of close-mic’ing probably go with the TS-1. If I wanted an acoustic guitar to
for fifteen minutes or more before use; the same goes for and room sound-commercial but not at all sterile sounding. really cut through a dense track, I’d go with the THE, but if I
tube instrument amplifiers, compressors, and equalizers. He always seems to get set up very quickly, using essentially were looking for a guitar track to sit a little bit more in the
The TS-1 can also be put into standby mode when taking a the same mics and preamps each session, going for what he background, or if the track was pretty open, I might go with
break, leaving it thermally stabilized and ready to use, knows will work. That’s why I was a bit surprised to see the the TS-1 first. Bottom line, every recordist should have at
though the manual recommends not leaving it in standby TS-1 as the snare mic. “Sounds amazing,” was Ralph’s least one SDC in their mic locker, and the TS-1 is a versatile
for more than a half hour. comment, and I had to agree. Everything you wanted from and excellent sounding mic. If this were your only SDC, you’d
the snare, solid body – not too woofy - and nice top end, but be in great shape. ($499 MSRP; www.chameleonlabs.com) -JB

74/Tape Op#60/Gear Reviews/(Fin.) One more review on page 78>>>


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Here are some short reviews of a handful of the new releases that we’ve
been enjoying down here at Tape Op headquarters. Many of these artists Sounds Like Drums
are the ones who will be making the cool sounds of tomorrow, so support SLD Total 44.1 ReFill
them! -LC Michael Moushon and Glenn Forsythe are Boston-based musicians
Victor Krummenacher The Cock Crows at Sunrise My pal Victor with lengthy studio tenures and expertise in development of music
is known as the bassist for Camper Van Beethoven, Monks of Doom production tools. The pair undertook a major endeavor with Sounds Like
and sometimes with Cracker, but here he presents his fifth solo album. Drums, which was initially available as a ReFill for Propellerhead Reason.
This album, produced by Bay Area mainstay and excellent pedal steel The audio content is now also formatted for use with Native Instruments
player Bruce Kaphan, strikes me as Victor’s finest solo outing. Why? His KONTAKT 2, iZotope iDrum, and Ableton Live as 24-bit samples at either
voice is more assured than ever, reminding me of an Americana-tinged John 44.1 kHz or 96 kHz rates.
Cale. The playing has a spontaneous, slightly loose (but not sloppy) feel that is The heart of SLD was the effort to capture as much depth and nuance
inviting, and in some cases very Band-influenced. It turns out that much of the album was as possible from both a classic 1960s Rogers five-piece drum kit and a
recorded live in the studio with few overdubs - ah ha. The sound of this record is superb as well high-end, modern DW kit. Moushon and Forsythe filled over a dozen reels
- everything seems to have the right place to sit, even when the mix is busier. The band features of Quantegy GP9 analog tape at a Boston studio, recording drummer Greg
Kaphan, drummer John Hanes, David Immergluck and Tape Op’s buddy, Chris Xefos - as well as a Kitto and other local session players. Kitto tracked the Rogers kit with a
huge collection of other players. Sessions were tracked at Fantasy Studios. A big hats off to Victor variety of snare drums, using wood sticks, hot rods, brushes, mallets, and
and Bruce for a job well done. (www.victorkrummenacher.com) -LC his bare hands. The kits were captured with a collection of premium mics
Robert Forster and Grant McLennan Intermission - The Best Of The Solo Recordings One (Neumann, Royer, AEA, etc.) and preamps (Neve, Telefunken, Universal
of my favorite experiences was recording the Go-Betweens’ “comeback” album, in 2000, soon after Audio, etc.). An additional partner, Randall Robbins, was instrumental in
interviewing Robert for issue #14. The band had been defunct for 11 years, but these two developing SLD for KONTAKT 2.
tremendous songwriters had put out four solo albums each during that time. This collection is SLD appeals chiefly to rock/pop producers or desktop musicians who
culled from those albums, hand picked by Robert and Grant prior to Grant’s untimely passing last would prefer a live drummer but simply don’t have access or means to
year. If you’re a Go-Betweens fan like myself I highly recommend finding all the albums, but for accommodate one. These aren’t dry, isolated samples. All mics capture
the casual fan this double CD is a great place to start. It’s also fascinating to compare the tracks the character of the studio’s live room in addition to performance quirks
from different albums - like how Robert’s Mick Harvey-produced Danger in the Past material (large and the characters of the kits themselves. The result is a much more
and spacious) differs from the Edwyn Collins-produced Warm Nights tracks (close and dark convincing “performance” straight out of the box. Forsythe and others
sounding). All in all this is a fine collection from a pair of always-underrated songwriters, one of assembled painstaking demos in styles ranging from driving, Beatles-
whom is sadly no longer with us. (www.beggars.com) -LC esque pop to hot raga, with impressive results. With velocity mapping of
The Stooges The Weirdness Some 33 years on, the core Stooges (Iggy and the Ashton thirteen layers on the Rogers kit, very authentic sounding performances
brothers) reunite to record their fourth album. Can people hitting sixty still rock out as dumb are possible, depending upon the time invested.
and primal as ever? Yup, sort of. Steve Albini (issue #10) recorded them (with Mike Watt filling My mixing and mastering room at The Happy Club is built around
in on bass and Funhouse sax player Steve MacKay) at his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago. Logic Pro. Logic users unfamiliar with the process of ReWiring Reason
It’s raw, and loose, with basics and most vocals tracked live, yet it’s totally different sounding into Logic are welcome to email me for a useful tutorial I found online
than its closest relative, the legendary “off the floor” Funhouse. Albini gets his usual “drums and some personal notes. Essentially, Logic requires creation of an Audio
in the room” sound, and that seems to stay the same through the whole album. The guitars Instrument for sending MIDI data to Reason and a pair of Audio Objects
appear to have the same panning and overdubs on every song. There’s a claustrophobic sound for stereo playback. Or you can use the Logic/ReWire/Reason templates
to Iggy’s vocals, like he’s eating the mic while the band is back in the room with the drums. I included with SLD. Default Reason rack configurations are also included
guess my beef with the record is the “sameness” that permeates every song. I keep going back in order to get you programming beats quickly. Users can use Reason’s
to Funhouse, and wondering what’s different. Those tracks have a different kind of sameness NN-XT sampler to customize the kits by swapping snares/sticks and
(more reverb, more openness to the sound), so maybe it’s just down to the songwriting and “moving” room mics or altering the amount of microphone bleed.
the band’s own dynamics - they don’t really play with the same subtlety that worked on the I used SLD to demo new songs for a short tour by my band Ping.
Funhouse sessions. But shit, there’s also something here that works - the rawness being a better Once I had the ReWire process sorted (a personal first), sequencing was
option than the slick, commercial punk style recordings (think Blink-182) that could have been as easy with the ReFill as using my old Steinberg LM-4 bank, the creaky
applied to this to no good end. Mastered at Abbey Road. (www.iggypop.com) -LC old Alesis HR-16, or Logic’s own UltraBeat; and for rock and roll, it
Scott Bomar Black Snake Moan OST/DVD I thought this was a really great movie on just sounded better than any of those. I also saw great results using SLD
about every level, a very soulful character driven story, so check it out if you haven’t yet seen when tracking a guitarist who wasn’t playing well to a click track.
it. Tape Op readers may remember Scott from issue 44 when we traveled to Memphis, Tennessee Others may be available, but SLD is the first multisampled drum
to check out the recording scene there. Since that piece was published, Scott did the library I’ve encountered with all samples tracked analog to tape. If you’re
soundtrack to Hustle and Flow and now Black Snake Moan, his second close collaboration with really hunting for artifacts of the analog process, a few can be found.
director Craig Brewer. This DVD is still worth watching even if you saw the movie when it was Crank the volume and overcompress an isolated cymbal crash, and maybe
in the theatre. There are several short bonus features on the making of the film, including one you’ll hear a ghost tap on the snare. I heard some vocal chatter at the
solely focused on the soundtrack with lots of great studio footage at Ardent and interview tail of one kick drum sample. But given that this package includes over
segments with Scott. The soundtrack was recorded at Ardent (issue 58) with musicians primarily 10,000 samples, the attention to detail is pretty staggering. Sounds Like
from Memphis. Jim Dickinson (issue 19) plays keyboards while his sons, Luther and Cody (North Drums takes advantage of traditional analog recording methods and puts
Mississippi All Stars), play guitar and drums on some tracks. The film is dedicated to the late them in the hands of both non-traditional desktop musicians and pros
R.L. Burnside, so it’s only fitting that R.L.’s grandson Cedric plays drums and his adopted son, alike. I’ll always prefer live drummers, but I’m sure I’ll use SLD for keeper
Kenny Brown, plays guitar on one key track (issue 40 has an interview with Bruce Watson, who’s tracks before long. ($85 MSRP for SLD Total 44.1, $100 for Total 96, other
worked with R.L. and lots of other artists on the Fat Possum label.) Charlie Musselwhite adds packages available for $20-$350; www.soundslikedrums.com)
some nice atmospheric harmonica, while the Spirit of Memphis Gospel Group lend their voices –Jeff Elbel, www.marathonrecords.com/ping
to the soundtrack. The list of great musicians from Memphis and the surrounding area just keeps
going: Jason Freeman, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Big Jack Johnson all figure prominently into
the movie’s score. In one of the featurettes, director Brewer comments that he and Scott have www.tapeop.com
three more movies they want to make, in which the music of Memphis is a key element to the free subscriptions online!
film. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing what they do next. -JB
78/Tape Op#60/music Reviews/
Mastering Services/Tape Op#60/79
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Our Fantasy Gear Wish List
by Larry Crane, John Baccigaluppi and Andy Hong

Here’s a list of things that would make our recording lives easier.

82/Tape Op#60/The End Rant