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The Creative Music Recording Magazine

Greg Wells
Katy Perry, Adele, Mika, Team Sleep, Deftones
Terry Date
Soundgarden, Pantera, Deftones
Chino Moreno

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Deftones, Team Sleep, Greg Wells, Terry Date
Tycho .c
Scott Hansen on Sound + Vision
Jonathan Rado
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Foxygen, Tim Heidecker, Lemon Twigs
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Gear Reviews
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Issue No. 123


Jan/Feb 2018
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Hello and
welcome to
Tape Op
#123!
10 Letters
14 Jonathan Rado
20 Greg Wells
30 Tycho
36 Chino Moreno
p a g e

38 Terry Date
44 Gear Reviews
74 Larry’s End Rant
Many years ago, I was the one onstage, performing songs I’d written with my friends in our band, and
hoping that audiences would care about what we were doing. We traveled around the country, and played
with all sorts of other groups – some of whom eventually became underground icons, and even household

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names. We had fans, and even had the honor of inspiring others at times; it was rewarding, for sure. But now
I spend most of my time producing bands, songwriters, and mixing albums. I’m not the one onstage putting
my art in front of others anymore.
But I do go see performances by many of the artists I work with. Living vicariously through
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their shows, I feel proud when I hear a song that I helped form in the
studio performed for a crowd. I blush and say, “Aww, shucks,” when I get a shout out from the stage for
work well done, but inside I am always elated by the recognition. I love being part of the team, helping people
take their art further in the studio, and presenting it to the world in the best ways I know how. And it’s still
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the most rewarding work in my life.
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Larry Crane, Editor


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Vomit Launch on stage in Chico, CA 1988.


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L to R: Lindsey Thrasher, Trish Rowland, Steve Bragg, and Larry Crane

c James Johnston
The Creative Music Recording Magazine

Editor
Larry Crane
Publisher &!Graphic Design
John Baccigaluppi
Online Publisher
Geoff Stanfield
CTO & Digital Director
Anthony Sarti
Gear Reviews Editor
Andy “Gear Geek” Hong
Production Manager & Assistant Gear Reviews Editor
Scott McChane
Contributing Writers &!Photographers
Cover art by Scott Hansen (Tycho) instagram.com/tychomusic
Aaron Mullan, Ben Berke, Jonathan Chu, Jake Brown, Andrew Stuart,
Adam Kagan, Scott McDowell, Thom Monahan, Garrett Haines, Dana Gumbiner,
Scott Evans, Ben Bernstein, Pete Weiss, and Jenna Zine
Editorial and Office Assistants
Jenna Crane (editorial copy editor), Thomas Danner (transcription),
Maria Baker (admin, accounting), Jay Ribadeneyra (online)
Tape Op Book distribution
c/o www.halleonard.com

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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
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(For submissions, letters, music for review. Music for review is also
reviewed in the San Rafael office, address below)
P.O. Box 86409, Portland, OR 97286 voicemail 503-208-4033
All unsolicited submissions and letters sent to us become the property of Tape Op.
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Advertising
John Baccigaluppi
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916-444-5241, (john@tapeop.com)
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512-529-1032, (laura@tapeop.com)
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415-420-7273, (marsha@tapeop.com)
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Tape Op Magazine, PO Box 151079, San Rafael, CA 94915


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Tape Op is published by Single Fin, Inc. (publishing services)
and Jackpot! Recording Studio, Inc. (editorial services)
www.tapeop.com
8 /Tape Op#123/Masthead
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In order to see over We always want to feature more women in the audio
them and into the live field in Tape Op, and we have some great interviews
room I’m facing, I need coming up. To me, showing examples of all sorts of people
to lay my [Yamaha] HS5 working on a wide variety of genres is the key to a
monitors on their side wonderful future, full of great, creative folks and more
with my current setup. music to enjoy. -LC
I’m thinking that this With regards to Aaron Mullan’s recent article,
may cause timing/ “Monitor at a Consistent Volume When Mixing” [Tape Op
phasing issues. Is that #121], and his “advice” on how to soundcheck a band
I just read Larry’s remarkably succinct historical true? I assume the tweeters should face outward, and based around the kick drum, I ask: is it not the band’s
encapsulation of what it means to be a producer, from the woofers in? name listed on the marquee? Why then do so many
our perspective. [When Does the Production Happen?, Tim <evilbarcodes@gmail.com> engineers have a gross amount of kick drum defining
Tape Op #120] To me, this is the best End Rant yet, I’ve been told that there are some monitors that will their mix, whilst the vocals go unheard, or are
because it’s not about one aspect of creative recording, perform basically the same on their side or vertical, but unintelligible? The marquee does not say, “Kick drum,
it’s about all of it. I’ve had the good fortune to be around from experience I know that not all of them will. First of starring the rest of the instruments, and lastly, the
some pretty amazing producers and engineers, and I’ve all, the tweeter may have a waveguide integrated into the vocal.” Someone is up on stage, and they
produced some pretty rad CDs myself. But the simplest design of the speaker that disperses more signal left and are saying something. An engineer’s job
definition of a record producer’s role I can come up with right, rather than up or down, to help the sound in a is to let them be heard. Drums sounds don’t sell
is that it’s like a director making a movie. People seem typical control room (with a console/work surface below tickets. This is a bad trend; any dummy can turn up the
to understand that, for some reason, but it is still an and ceiling above). In this case, the high-end is not kick drum until it dominates the sound system. Perhaps
unsatisfactory description. To me, the magic of producing dispersing properly to your listening position. Another trying to create a powerful mix, with proper balance and
is looking like you are doing nothing while everything is factor is the low driver and tweeter are likely placed to dynamics, can someday take the place of man’s fetish
flowing optimally on all levels. This is what Bill Laswell work vertically and arrive at your ears at the same time. with a loud kick drum, as well as how it equates to a,
[Tape Op #93] sessions usually looked like to me. He If this is the case, frequencies that exist in both drivers “Killer-sounding show, dude!” Yawn.
would typically be sitting somewhere on the side, will have phase errors once they reach your ears. On top Andrew Worzella <abstractfolk@gmail.com>
reading some esoteric book, and the record was getting of all of these problems, if you put the tweeters on the
The point I was trying to make in the article was not
made. As we know, it’s an abstract alchemy of technology outside, or inside relative to each other, you should be
about how loud the kick drum should be in the mix; I was
and vibrationology; making spiritual energy physical for doing so to create an equilateral triangle based around
others to enjoy. It gets into Taoist Zen dispersion of the high-end. But you could be setting up a trying to get across the concept that it can be a good idea
quickly, in terms of ideas of action and non-action, problematic situation where the lows are now early or to calibrate your systems in advance so that you can use

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your ears to make good mixes that are consistent, and
harmony, and flow. My greatest sense of satisfaction in late. And remember, a tiny nearfield like this carries a
which translate well. For what it’s worth, I obviously
the studio has always seemed to coincide with the artists significant portion of the sound in the larger driver, not
feeling like they were doing great (and therefore, I wasn’t just deep lows (by any stretch). -LC totally agree that having one element out of balance from
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doing anything, as far as they could tell). So who can what the band desires is not a good mix! And I love it
come up with a one or two-sentence encapsulation of I love Tape Op! I took recording classes with Mark
when an engineer (like Mike Bones, mixing the band
what it means to be a producer? Rubel in Champaign, Illinois, where I found out about
Endless Boogie) simply turns off the subs entirely to fit
this great magazine and have been a reader ever since.
the band’s aesthetic better, as well as creating a unique
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Peter Wetherbee <peter_wetherbee@yahoo.com>
I’m just getting moved into my new place and will have
soundspace for them to live in, compared to other bands
I just wanted to say thank you for Tape Op. It has been room for band rehearsal and recording. I can’t wait to
on a festival bill. The concept of using the marquee is an
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a huge help to me in figuring out what gear to buy, as get back to playing my drums and recording! oversimplification, in an attempt to create a humorous
well as how to use it, over the past few years. I’ve now Dave Huffman <dhuf590455@aol.com> effect, but it is funny because there’s some truth in there.
engineered/produced two full-length major label records I’ve mixed a lot of different types of bands in the studio
I read your mag for the first time a little over a month
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for our band, Joywave. I don’t think I would’ve known and on stages. When it’s a singer’s name on the marquee,
where to start without Tape Op! Keep up the great work! ago. There’s a professor of audio recording at Evergreen
the singer is in charge and I am there to do their bidding,
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Daniel Armbruster <joywavemusic.com> State College who keeps stacks of past issues outside his
which is usually to make their voice heard. In my
office. I learned on the job, editing libraries of binaural
As a newer engineer, it’s awesome to read about these nature recordings in a trailer in the woods, on the north
experience, many bands either actively do not want their
recording legends, in all of their failure and Olympic Peninsula, which was quiet enough to provide vocals to be intelligible, or have vocal intelligibility way
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accomplishments. Most notably, in #121, reading about a natural studio space, as long as I stayed dry. Now I’m
down on their list of priorities. I’m there, at the service of
how Steve Addabbo chronicles his successes and failures formally studying audio engineering, which feels likethe artist, to do my best to get their vision across to the
is astounding. You usually hear about how great the stumbling into a goldmine of nerds and gear. I’ve heard audience; therefore I always talk to the artist and try to
engineers are; such little effort ever goes into from quite a few women that there aren’t many women understand their intentions. Once, years ago, when I was
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documenting the sense of anxiety they have along the in audio engineering, but I think that this is doing club sound, I was mixing the Wharton Tiers
way. It’s cool, and highly inspiring, to feel that I’m not a self-perpetuating myth regarding Ensemble [Tape Op #17], which had about ten guitars
doing anything wrong by stressing. Even the legendary the contemporary recording industry – and one saxophone. Wharton, very expressly, told me
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Bob Rock has questioned where his next gig is coming no disrespect intended towards any women that fought before the show, “The sax is equal to one guitar. It cannot
from, which leaves me feeling like I may have made the their way through in the past. It’ll be good to hear more
be louder than any single guitar. Someone in the
wrong career choice. Thanks for the inspiration! audience will ask you to turn the sax up. Don’t do it.” I
about that from the people I study and work with – this
Tony Hamoui <anthony.hamoui@gmail.com> did what I was told, and, sure enough, someone spent
is my impression as someone new to the scene. The
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You guys rock. I have so much knowledge I’ve gained recent interview with Annette Cisneros [Tape Op #115] half the set begging me to turn up the sax. Finally, I just
from your fine product and observations. Thank you is great. I got signed up today and I am stoked to be a had to say to him, “I’m doing what the band wants.”
dearly for hard copy subscriptions, as we reference your regular reader now! Thanks for taking the time to write.
magazine daily. A giant thank you. Laura <laura@pitchwoodsfx.com> Aaron Mullan <aaroncmullan@gmail.com>
PG <pgray@pssamerica.com>
10 /Tape Op#123/Letters/(continued on page 12)
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Aaron Mullan’s article doesn’t mention the word
“amplitude.” Amplitude is always empirical and objective.
Volume is perceived by the human ear, making it
subjective because everyone hears differently. Maybe the
title of the article should be “Monitor at a Consistent
Amplitude When Mixing”? Let me know if I’m wrong?
Matt Klotz <mattklotz@outlook.com>
I actually think that “Monitor at a Consistent Gain When
Mixing” might better describe what I’m talking about.
Volume can be measured empirically with a dB meter, right?
That’s how we calibrate monitor gain. I just did an internet
search for “calibrate monitor amplitude” and came up with
nothing related to what I’m talking about. Whereas
“calibrate monitor volume” came up with a lot of related
issues. But, admittedly, I may be totally wrong about my
word choice.
Aaron Mullan <aaroncmullan@gmail.com>
Regarding Larry’s intro about “magic” in #120, well said.
I’ve lost count of the times I play my music for people, and
they point out what the “mistakes” are. You can’t recreate
a passionate performance. “Mistakes” are the warp and
woof of the musical cloth musicians create. Tape Op is a
gift to us worker ants toiling in the salt mines, creating
regardless of our career prospects. Thanks for
reminding people that it’s the
moment, not the machinery.
Ron Kopald <rkopald@gmail.com>
I really appreciate Tape Op. It’s unique, and fills a real

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need for quality recording information where others fall
short. I’m always glad to see new issues and articles, and
I’ll support it any way I can – I’ve been a fan for at least
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unequivocally that Tape Op stands alone in its unique
focus and obvious regard for its readers. Reading Tape Op
makes me feel like I’m part of a community of pro audio
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enthusiasts, not just observing the field and related
developments from the outside. That’s unique, and pretty
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critical today, when one can basically get by in the world


without interacting with anyone else. Tape Op has
succeeded in building a community of connectedness in
audio recording that no other mere “rag” would have the
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ability to do. I really appreciate that.


Jason Harvey <jharvey@library.rochester.edu>
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Send Letters & Questions


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to: editor@tapeop.com
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12/Tape Op#123/Letters/(Fin.)
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Jonathan
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Rado
st Century Ambassador Through close encounters with Motown machinery, Ken Caillat
[Tape Op #96], and Hal Blaine’s drum kit, Foxygen’s
by Ben Berke Jonathan Rado has established himself as a modern
manipulator of the Nixon-era studio palette. His Richard Swift
photo by Jonathan Chu [#120]-assisted effort, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of
Peace and Magic, Foxygen’s second album, followed through on
its promise of mid-century sonic diplomacy, and 2015’s self-
produced ...And Star Power outed him as a devoted pupil in the
Todd Rundgren school of studio wizardry.
Rado discusses the development of the Foxygen model and its
modern-day applications, plus recording the music of
Tim Heidecker, Whitney, and The Lemon Twigs.

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You started making records at home in and put overdubs on it. It blew me away. I had never If we had had the means to record on a 24-track tape
high school. What kind of equipment overdubbed, beyond two or three tracks. And that was machine, we would have. In the beginning, we got
did you get started on? the idea behind Foxygen – that it would just be the seduced by the ease of the computer, but we were
I started on a boombox – I had two boomboxes that two of us, and that we would do everything. The early always using tape in some capacity. We’d take what we
would record audio to cassette. I would record on one, recordings were made on my PC, in a program called had on cassette and send it through a 1/4-inch [jack]
then play it back and overdub at the same time onto Acid [Sonic Foundry, later Sony]. I think it was meant into the back of the computer. Really, really janky. I
another one. So it was a weird, early bouncing thing. for looping. I bought it for $30 from an electronics used to work at Gibson Guitars in New York. The Hit
That must’ve sounded ugly quick. store. I think I bought it because it came with a little Factory had been turned into condominiums in 2005,
Yeah. I had a band with this kid, Jeff, called Sharp Razor. gooseneck computer microphone. Kill Art (2009) was but they left the bottom floor intact. Gibson bought it
We did a lot of recording onto this early PC program, made on GarageBand, before either one of us had a and turned it into their showroom, which I had a key
Funny Movie Maker, that was meant for animating. You laptop. Sam would drag his family’s Mac over to my to. The gear was stripped out, but all the live rooms
could essentially record your voice into the program; it house to record, and then he would drag it back. were left intact. I went in there and recorded all the
would roughly approximate you speaking with these Was the computer really easier to move drums for Take the Kids Off Broadway into GarageBand,
animated characters. We recorded audio into that than the instruments? How much with a USB mixer and one [Shure] SM57. So we
program because it was the only thing that would take equipment did you have? recorded the drums where they recorded [Bruce
audio. I had an early eBay addiction. In high school I would buy Springsteen’s] Born in the U.S.A. A multi-million dollar
When did you start Foxygen? xylophones, melodicas, and anything cheap that could studio… straight into GarageBand.
We started the band in ninth grade. We had made these make noise. I also had a drum set, an organ, and a What did you play into the 4-track, and
recordings that were just the band jamming. It piano. My bedroom was pretty far from my parents’ what did you put right into the
sounded like The Doors. Sam [France] took them home bedroom, the way our house was arranged, so we could computer?
make a lot of noise and it wouldn’t bug them. Most of it was done right into the computer. I ran some
How many records did you make in high whole mixes through tape at the end. I listen to that
school that wound up at bona fide LP record now and it sounds like GarageBand; like a lot of
length? GarageBand reverb.
I’d say we made six or seven legitimate, long albums in And what was your job at Gibson?
high school. One of them was really long, like two hours. I delivered guitars around town. Their job at that building
That was called the Jurrassic Exxplosion Philippic, and was to place Gibson guitars in the hands of people
was also recorded straight into Acid. We made six or playing on [late night television]. The building was in
seven albums; then Sam went to college in Olympia, Hell’s Kitchen, so I would run up to [Late Night With

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Washington, and I went to college at the School of David] Letterman and bring a guitar, or go to
Visual Arts in New York for screenwriting. I didn’t like it The Colbert Report.
very much, but it was a good excuse to live in New York You probably met some interesting
and try to make albums. Sam dropped out of Evergreen people.
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[State College] after a year and we moved to Queens. We I didn’t really do any hanging out. One time I delivered a
intended to make albums and play shows. We ended up guitar to a Lady Gaga rehearsal, and I saw them
making just the one album, and we played one show in rehearsing.
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the basement of the Gibson showroom at a CMJ event. Did you at least get a free guitar?
There was nobody there. I got a reverse flying V that nobody wanted. Sam has
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Did you graduate college? played it live, and it’s on some records.
No. I went for three years and almost graduated. But we We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of
got a record deal, and that was a better position than Peace and Magic sounds a lot better
wherever I would’ve ended up with a degree in than Take the Kids Off Broadway. Did
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screenwriting. Realistically, I just wanted to be a you engineer it?


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[record] producer anyway. I had no real interest in We recorded that with Richard Swift at his home studio.
graduating from film school. He was a big inspiration for us on Take the Kids Off
You got the record deal for Take the Kids Broadway. He’s a genius – one of only a few people I’ve
Off Broadway. How did you make that worked with closely. I’ve remained blown away by
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record? everything he’s been doing. I’d learned a lot from his
In my freshman year of college I was having a weird, records before I even met him. The first time I heard a
early-20s crisis and was making shit that sounded like Richard Swift album, I couldn’t believe that I’d never
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The Magnetic Fields [Tape Op #38]. My dorm was the heard it before and that it existed in the world. I just
size of a closet, and I was going completely nuts in drove around all night and listened to it. The last track
there. I went out to Jackson Heights and bought a 4- on [Take the Kids Off Broadway] is called “Middle
track, a little drum machine, and some tiny Casio School Dance (Song for Richard Swift)”. He was playing
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keyboards. So [in Queens] Sam and I had all that shit, [in New York City] with a band called the Mynah Birds.
a USB mixer, and GarageBand. We discovered that if We had finished the album earlier that day. We knew
you plug the output of a mixer into the input of the Swift was coming to town, and we knew this would be
same mixer, you can make a synthesizer by turning the our only chance to give him this album because he
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volume up on that channel. It can self-oscillate. It’s all never really toured. We gave him that CD, and that’s
over the record. sort of how we got a record deal. He really liked it.
I was going to say that Take the Kids Off What label did he sign you to?
Broadway is the Foxygen album with the Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar. They’re owned by the
least nostalgic production aesthetic. same people.
Mr. Rado/(continued on page 16)/Tape Op#123/15
Did you pay Richard Swift to record literally the most expensive-to- You organized the songs into a double-
…21st Century Ambassadors? produce record, of all time. Did you LP with named sides, which is an old-
The label paid him. They gave us $5,000 to make the even end up reaching out to Ken? school model. I’m curious what the
record, without signing us. We made it in nine days – No, I don’t think we ever got in touch. We did the impulse behind that was.
a song a day. It was crazy. second record – …And Star Power – by ourselves. We Foxygen’s always been a very conceptual band, and so
Were you nervous to work with him? recorded a lot of the basic tracks in my garage, in Los every record was a concept. Like 21st Century was,
Absolutely. But then we went up, and I was like, “Oh, Angeles. I bought a cheap house in the Valley and “What if this was a ‘60s record?” ...And Star Power
he’s kind of doing things the same way that me and converted the garage into a soundproof room. I put was, “What if it’s 1972 and these guys have a slightly
Sam do things.” in a layer of drywall that doesn’t touch the other wall bigger record advance? Then they get in too deep and
Did you pick up any techniques or – technically what you’re supposed to do when you try to make some insane record that they actually
equipment preferences from him? soundproof a room – but it was done very cheaply. I can’t fully achieve.” We were trying to make it sound
We recorded that album on Pro Tools. I’d never used Pro did it with my girlfriend’s dad. The neighbors still like [Todd Rundgren’s] Something/Anything? and
Tools before. I wanted to record on tape, but he said, complain. It was unsuccessful soundproofing. A Wizard, A True Star. The first side is all the singles.
“Honestly, we have nine days and it’s going to be a Did you get money from your label to The second side is a big suite. The third side’s
longer process to record on tape.” He was super build out the studio? complete hell. The end is just two more songs.
confident that he could get it to sound as good on We had a record advance. I bought a [Urei] 1178. By It was overly conceptual.
Pro Tools, and I’m pretty sure he did. Nobody thinks that point, I already had a Tascam 16-track, 1/2-inch After ...And Star Power, you started
that that album’s recorded in Pro Tools. He has a deck – the Tascam MSR-16 – and a Tascam board that producing other people’s records,
similar approach [to Foxygen], in that he mic’d all the came with it. A lot of that album was recorded with including Tim Heidecker’s In Glendale.
drums with one mic. At that point, he didn’t have this dictation microphone – just a crappy microphone How did you two get hooked up?
expensive gear. He had Tascam gear, and I was like, that would’ve come with a journalist’s recording kit. That was through Secretly [Canadian]. He’d reached out
“I have Tascam.” I guess what I took most from that Why would you record music with that? to them about wanting to make a proper record. For
experience was that it’s not really about the gear. It’s I liked the sound of that mic – it sounded really thin. I some reason, they thought of me to do it. I didn’t
more about how the music sounds in the room. I think that album, as a recording engineer, was a huge actually end up recording the album, but we demo’d
remember going in and thinking, “Wow, his drum set learning experience for me. I didn’t really know what a lot at my place. One of the demos is out there –
sounds incredible.” It’s just tuned really well, and it I was doing at the time, which often led to “Work from Home.” I hope someday he puts them out,
sounds great in the room. interesting results. because they have a really special quality to them. I
I feel like that’s the record where For example? didn’t end up recording that record, but I released it
people start to describe you guys as I was really into Todd Rundgren, and I read that he on my Secretly Canadian imprint. It’s the only release

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‘60s or ‘70s revivalist types. Do you loved using his [Universal Audio] 1176 with all the on Rado Records. Now [Tim’s] doing a Trump album
find that characterization accurate? buttons in – you know, pushing all of the ratios on [Too Dumb For Suicide: Tim Heidecker’s Trump Songs].
Not really. We didn’t want to portray ourselves as little a compressor in at the same time. I was recording I did a few songs on that too.
hippie kids. That was never our intention, in any way. with this crappy mic, into a [Roland] Space Echo Where’d you make the Whitney record
It was just like, “We like ’60s music, so why not make
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preamp, into this compressor with all the buttons [Light Upon the Lake]?
an album that sounds like that?” in. It just sounded super thin and fucked. I did that In my garage. Right after …Star Power I figured out how
I think the title didn’t do you guys any for every instrument. Then we got to the mixing to record music. A lot of things clicked for me.
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favors. process and realized that everything was insanely Did it require buying more equipment?
Right. We sort of knew what we were doing. We knew we recorded. But the album, I think, benefited from The Whitney album is interesting because I kind of
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were making an album that maybe could’ve come out that. That record is such a nice little capsule of me went overboard. I heard the Whitney demos and I
in the ‘60s. We didn’t know it was going to define our learning how to record something. By the end of it, thought, “This band is so good, I want to do this
career. I had figured out that you don’t need to go four album on 2-inch, 16-track. I want to do it like The
Do you feel like it has? buttons in on the 1176 for everything. I started Band.” My friend was selling this Ampex [MM 1200]
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I feel like, in some way, people will always think of us realizing things about gain structure. that was in the Motown studios. It was used to
I read that you recorded tracks for that
@g

as ‘60s revivalists. But at this point in my life, I don’t record the Jackson 5.
like listening to psychedelic music. Things that are album at some hotels. How did your friend get it?
“psychedelic” really turn me off. We did a lot of the basic tracks in my garage, but there’re It’s an insane story. He got it through some billionaire’s
I watched a video from 2013 where no windows in my garage and we were in there for like kid who wanted to open a recording studio and bought
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you’re being interviewed in the four months. We just had to get out. So we spent the all this historic gear. Then the kid decided to join a
record store I grew up buying records remainder of our record advance on expensive hotel cult or something, and sold all his gear for nothing
at – In Your Ear, in Boston. You’re rooms in L.A. and dragged around my little Tascam because he didn’t need the money. My friend bought
holding a copy of [Fleetwood Mac’s]
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488 [Portastudio]. it and then I bought it, but it got fucked up during the
Tusk, and you mention that Ken Why? moving process. A bunch of the cards were cracked
Caillat is going to work on your next To do the vocals. and it was massive. So I got it for this Whitney record;
record. Did that happen? No, why a hotel room? it took up half the room, but it didn’t work. I recorded
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No, but we met him. He did a book signing for Making I don’t know, it just seemed like this very L.A., the Whitney record to my Tascam, the same 16-track
Rumors [:The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac glamorous thing to do. The whole record was about I’d always been using. But it was right next to this
Album]; we gave him a copy of Take the Kids Off excess. Everything about that record is excessive. massive, historic Motown machine. I ended up selling
Broadway and got his email. We had this idea, “Oh, And it’s all about L.A., and it sort of has this it back – I didn’t want to deal with it.
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we’re going to make Tusk with Ken Caillat.” It seemed “cocaine” quality to it that’s very extravagant. I read an interview with Whitney’s
like not a great idea after a while. At the time, it seemed like a really good idea to Julien Ehrlich where he said that his
Yeah, I guess it’s funny that Tusk has record all the vocals in different expensive hotel vocals had been intentionally mixed
become this totem in indie rock rooms. We did it at the Chateau Marmont and to sound like a girl’s vocals. What is a
circles, considering that it was the Beverly Hills Hotel. gendered vocal effect?
16/Tape Op#123/Mr. Rado/(continued on page 18)
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Varispeed [pitch control]. I think we might’ve recorded It was impractical. I feel like everything that I’ve ever
some things slower than they were supposed to be so done is impractical. I live for impracticality and trying
it could be varisped up. [Julian] did all his vocals into to do things 110%. There were six drum sets, but
a Sennheiser [MD 421]. The first day we were doing they said, “Those are Hal Blaine’s drums.” It’s a 7-tom
vocals I put up a mic stand, and he said, “Oh, I don’t kit and I said, “That’s the sound of the record, right
use mic stands.” He just sat on the piano bench with there. Let’s do that.” I don’t think Michael had ever
a pop filter attached to the bottom of the mic. played a kit that big before. He’s just such a good
So I guess you finally bought some mics drummer. My favorite drummers are Hal Blaine,
before you made that record? Richard Swift, Michael D’Addario, and Steven Drozd
Yeah. I still had a 57 on the kick [drum]. I had this [The Flaming Lips].
overhead… What the hell did I use as an overhead? Steven Drozd is on Hang too, right?
I don’t have any kind of system, so I don’t always There’s a song, “Mrs. Adams,” and a song, “Trauma,”
remember what I used, song to song. I don’t like it that both have two drummers – Steven Drozd and
when I listen to an album and it sounds like they set Michael D’Addario – facing each other, on different
up the band and the band just played. I like the kits, just locked in. It was like having this legend on
recording studio as a tool, as an instrument. I like to your record, and also the future of music.
change the drum mic’ing for every song. The strings on that record sound really
Before Whitney, you recorded The good. How involved were you in that
Lemon Twigs’ Do Hollywood. They side of the recording?
were going to high school in Long I was there at every step of the process for that record.
Island at the time. How did that Trey Pollard and Matt White, who work for Spacebomb
session even come to be? Studios, did all the arrangements and we recorded at
They emailed me a year before we made that record. a place out there called Mantra [Recording Studio].
They were like, “Rado, check out our music.” Sam and I wrote out a bible of what we wanted.
You actually listen to unsolicited demos? Verbal breakdowns, like, “Twenty seconds to one
I feel like I have to listen to projects people send me, minute: this part is supposed to sound like an old
because I gave my demo to Swift and Swift listened Hollywood film.” It was lots of vague direction like
to it. I feel like I owe my career to someone randomly that. “George Gershwin.” “Ragtime.” There were no
listening to a record of mine. I heard their first record changes to what they did. Maybe one or two. Now I

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and it sounded like Tame Impala, but they both had have Trey on tour. He wrote out all the horn
amazing voices and they were so good at their arrangements for the live show as well.
instruments. I met them in New York; we talked and What projects do you have on deck?
I asked, “What do you guys like?” They like the Beach
.c I’m co-producing a record with Shawn Everett [Tape Op
Boys and The Beatles, so I said, “You should make #115] for the band Houndmouth. It’s on Warner Bros,
music that’s more influenced by the music that you so it’s a bit of a bigger budget than I’m used to
like.” Over the next year, they wrote all those songs working with. We’re working out of studios and doing
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and sent them to me. We found two weeks during these large-scale experiments.
their school’s winter break, and we recorded it in my Like what?
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garage with the Tascam board and Tascam machine. I We made a 24-track tape loop. We had a drummer play
had this Allen & Heath mixer, with a 4-channel USB for a minute, found a good bar, cut the tape, and
[interface]. I’d do four mics into the Allen & Heath looped it. As the tape was looping, I went out in the
[ZED-10], get a mix, and then print it to one track of live room and played percussion onto different tracks
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the tape machine. of the looping tape, which was being held up by four
Did they pay you? people holding a mic stand for tension. The tape
@g

Eventually. I just really wanted to do it. I thought, would flutter on the tape head so everything I
“When someone decides to put this out, I’ll deal with recorded had a natural vibrato. It’s literally the best
that.” They’re some of my best friends, still. I talk to drum sound I’ve ever heard.
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them pretty much every day. What about plans for Foxygen?
You ended up bringing them in to do the I think we’re going to do a new Foxygen record in
last Foxygen record, Hang. You didn’t January [2018]. We’ve got six or seven songs written.
make Hang in the garage, did you? I’m going to work with Shawn as an engineer. We’re
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We did it in Vox Recording Studio, in L.A. I haven’t going to do drums at Electric Lady Studios, and I’m
recorded anything in my garage in a while. Whitney renting out this studio in L.A. called Sonora
didn’t have a big budget for their record, and The Recorders. I’m locking it up indefinitely. r
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Lemon Twigs didn’t have any budget, so it’s good for <www.foxygentheband.com>
really low-budget projects, but it’s limiting.
Michael D’Addario from The Lemon
Twigs played Hal Blaine’s drums on Tape Op is made
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the new record. Was that just hero possible by our


worship, or was there a practical advertisers.
reason for it? Please support them and tell them
you saw their ad in Tape Op.

18 /Tape Op#123/Mr. Rado/(Fin.)


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Greg Wells
Save The Song

I first met Greg Wells over the phone in 2004 when we


were both working on a Team Sleep record, a band put
together by Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno. Chino and
the guys in the band at the time (Todd Wilkinson, Zach
Hill, Rick Verrett, and DJ Crook) were talking about how

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Greg was really great to work with. Over the years I’d see
Greg’s name pop up on more and more records, and he
went on to have a fair bit of success with artists like
Katy Perry, Adele, Deftones, and Twenty One Pilots to
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name just a few. His discography is vast and stylistically
varied. A few years ago I started bumping into Greg at
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trade shows and we reconnected a bit. We finally got a
chance to sit down and talk at his Culver City studio.
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If there’s one thing about Greg that is immediately


apparent, it’s his unbridled passion and enthusiasm for
music. It’s a trait that’s no small part of his success.
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@g

What is it about Canada? It seems like living in Los Angeles. It was already one of the shortwave on. It had this little mono earpiece, and it
lately we’re interviewing all these biggest Canadian expat cities. I have to imagine it’s was from like the ‘40s or ‘50s. Really antiquated. So
people who have moved to L.A. from significantly more now. If you look at a map of I’d listen to the local AM station, and I really started
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Canada and are making all these Canada, Edmonton looks like it’s close to the border to pay attention to the record making. I think a lot
great records, like Sean Everett [Tape but it’s actually quite north, so the winters are of Canadians did that. This is pre-internet and pre-
Op #115] for example. intense. I’m from the East, two hours northeast of cable TV. There were very few distractions. When the
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I’m working with a young producer right now from Toronto. There are a lot of great musicians that come weather’s that shitty, you have to turn inward, unless
Norway. We were talking about Scandinavia. My wife out of Edmonton and Montreal. The winters are just you’re doing something outside. When you and I were
is Swedish. We were just talking about the brutal there. Where I’m from, a little town called kids, the amount of time for imagination was almost
phenomenon of tiny countries, tinier even than Peterborough, the snow banks were taller than my too much. I was so bored growing up; just
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Canada. Norway’s population is five million, Sweden’s dad, who is 6’ 3”. I remember walking home unbelievably, crushingly bored. In retrospect, I
nine. But the impact that those two countries, along diagonally in blizzards. I had the music bug, but I wouldn’t change that at all. At the time I wanted to
with Denmark, have had on the world is kind of nuts. didn’t have the sports bug. Then I had a hip that went be in the middle of Manhattan, watching Richard Hell
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I remember when I moved here 26 years ago, I had a south on me, when I was 11. I got a disease. My left or Laurie Anderson at CBGBs; the things I would get
very small grant from the Canadian government to hip is fine, but my right hip fell apart. I had to be in little glimpses of on television. But it was very
study with this guy named Clare Fischer. I had to and out of a wheelchair for two years. At that point, boring, very redneck, very conservative, and very non-
contact the Canadian consulate in downtown L.A. as it was only music. I had all this free time then and I musical. I think a lot of Canadians who went into
part of the government grant. They told me then, and did a lot of listening. I had this old, crappy radio that music have probably had similar parallel experience.
this was 1990, that there were one million Canadians used to belong to my dad’s father that you could get
20 /Tape Op#123/Mr. Wells/
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The incident when you were 11 sounds living.” It’s all I wanted to do. I could kind of sense analysis of it, at that point. When I was younger I
a little bit like the famous Brian Eno that I was going to need to figure out what my job would listen to music with less analysis of the
[Tape Op #85] situation where he was would be, but it was not on the menu that I could be composition and structure. Ironically, this is how I try
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hit by a car and invented ambient creative or musical as a profession, other than maybe to listen to music now, where I just know that I like
music from his hospital bed. You being a piano teacher. That’s something my mom it, or I don’t like it, and that is all that matters.
weren’t quite hospitalized though. kicked around a lot, that I’d be a good piano teacher. It’s very limited what you could get on a
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I was, actually. I hadn’t heard about Eno though. I was composing and starting to hear music in my radio back then, compared to what
Was there a similar kind of epiphany head. I had been playing piano for years. You can you can get on the internet now.
moment for you when you were imagine the piano in front of you when you’ve been My oldest son just taught himself to play guitar from a
hospitalized, or was it part of a longer doing it for a long time. I would start writing things website, and he’s playing chords that I can’t play. He
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gestation? down and composing pieces, just lying in bed being so just got it. The access; my god! If I could have
Well, the way my children are growing up now, people are bored. When I was hospitalized in Toronto, for a while subscribed to Mix With The Masters, even ten years
doing creative things and modeling it for them. With the radio selection was much better. I could check out ago! It does make me a little bit jealous of the
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my two oldest kids, their mother’s a musician, I’m a all kinds of different music. But being in the hospital younger generation. I’ve been working with this
musician, and so they’re seeing it a lot. I didn’t see any just sucks more than I can describe. I get why Eno young Danish producer. He’s working on Ableton, and
of that, at all. What I’m trying to say is that I had no would be like, “I’m going to make some lemonade out I’ve been on Pro Tools for years. I’m not going to
idea that this was even a job. There was no exposure of this.” For me, it was more of a focus on composition change, at this point. I’m 48, but I’m so envious when
to it. For me, it was just that I really like this. That was and the building blocks of what I would listen to I see people who just keep the track going. They don’t
it. There was no penny drop of, “I should do this for a musically. I became a bit more interested in the have to stop the track. They pull in other elements
Mr. Wells/(continued on page 22)/Tape Op#123/21
and change everything. The music keeps going; it’s a lot of people don’t talk about. We wound up working student, but I didn’t even have a student visa. I had
fast, and it’s seamless. In Pro Tools, you have to stop together on a Christian rock band out of Nashville in a businessman’s traveling visa. I had tons of free time
every time to add one plug-in. You have to hit stop, the late ‘90s called Jars of Clay. Adrian Belew produced after being really, really active. I had moved to
open up the item, and then load the thing. Pro Tools their first [self-titled] record and had a big hit called Toronto in my late teens and was very active,
is still my favorite software. I’d be screwed without it, “Flood.” I met them at a writing event, really clicked continuing to say yes to everything musical. I was
and apparently tracking vocals in Ableton is really with them musically, and I wrote a bunch of songs with doing everything, from playing on beer jingles to
awful. But in terms of the music-making, it makes a them. They said, “We don’t have a bass player or a cover bands in bars, as well as playing lots of jazz.
lot of sense. Most of my competition are kids with a drummer in our band. We’re making a new record in Then I came here and everything just stopped. Some
laptop who spent $200 on Logic. My first keyboard Nashville, so why don’t you come and be the bass of these people in Canada were pretty acclaimed. It
only made a few sounds, and it cost a fortune. Oh, my player and the drummer on our record? And, by the was really humbling and thrilling to be working with
god. I’m such an old man now. way, we’re going to record the three or four songs we’ve them. When I came here, no one had heard of any of
So you moved to L.A. to study with Clare written with you.” I asked who was producing it and them. So I really started listening to records with two
Fischer. You were a composer first, they said, “Steve Lipson.” I got nervous because I was things in mind: the production, which includes the
right? already a big fan. So we met and we clicked. He used sonics, like the mixes, but also the production
No, that came much later. You have to realize, I lived in to fly me over to London to be in the band on projects choices, and then songs. Song structure. Songwriting.
such an ignorant bubble. I didn’t know if I was good he was producing about once a year. We’re still friendly. I just listened, and listened, and listened. I
or bad at music; I had no clue. I just knew I was He did that amazing Grace Jones record with Trevor internalized and tried to absorb, even music that I
obsessed with it. I would borrow the bass from the Horn [Tape Op #89], Slave to the Rhythm. didn’t really like that much. “How does it tick?” It’s
high school. Or this guy at my dad’s church had an He’s on our list of people we want to like a Rubik’s Cube. I listened and watched a lot of
early ‘70s Telecaster that he would lend to me. We had interview. MTV. There was this amazing channel called The Box.
a piano, and eventually I got my own drums. I was He would be a very fun interview. He’s very irreverent, They’d play all kinds of shit that you wouldn’t see on
taking piano lessons from a really good teacher, but I very English, very bright, and very funny. He was my MTV, like amazing, cool, weird underground rap music.
taught myself to play everything else. I was so excited favorite producer. Then there was a long list of people More fringe stuff. That was another period of real
getting to play an instrument that I said “yes” to any you would have heard of who just made mincemeat study and analysis, and trying to stretch myself
music opportunity that presented itself, from the out of songs. I don’t know what was going on. Not beyond being a musician who picks up the phone and
local concert marching band, to punk bands, to this that I have any kind of monopoly on what I feel like says, “Yes, I’ll come play with you.”
local symphony orchestra, to accompanying choirs, to is going to connect with the marketplace, because I You went from playing just about
playing in church, to crazy local amateur actors doing usually have no clue. But it was never successful when any instrument to composing, to
performance art who wanted some interesting musical I felt the song got destroyed; it just died. That’s hard producing, to engineering, and you

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accompaniment. Anything. I took on the identity of, when you’re crafting a song. It’s like watching one of often mix your own projects as well.
“I am a musician.” An older guitar player I knew your kids turn the wrong way. That more was why I Not always. I love working with mixers that I like.
suggested I think about songwriting, but it felt so wanted to try to steer the ship, and not have the song But you’re comfortable mixing.
boring to me. I don’t want to sit down and write a hit the rocks. Yes, if I have the time, and if it feels like something I
song. I was occasionally composing things on piano How did you end up doing all your own
.c need to mix, I love it. I find it hard, and I like that.
that sounded like bad prog rock. I’d taken all my engineering? I don’t like doing projects that feel easy, which I think
classical training and blended that with my I enjoy working with a great engineer when there’s a is why my discography is so nuts. I like working on
l
improvising, in this sort of naive desire to play jazz budget for it. I finally look my age now, but I was things that I find mysterious and that I don’t fully
music even though I’d never been exposed to jazz cursed for most of my life looking like a very young understand. Mixing is really like that for me. I don’t
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music, at that point. I just kept playing other peoples’ girl. I couldn’t get anybody to listen to me in the like any of my mixes, and I get very inspired listening
songs. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I started trying studio. These really great engineers, nice guys and all, to other peoples’ mixes. For that reason, I really like
to write something. Then I got serious about but nobody listened to me. I get it. But because working with other mixers.
songwriting three or four years later. hardly anybody listened to me, I thought, “I’m going What’s the balance? Do you prefer to
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So looking at your discography in reverse to have to learn how to do this.” I had a couple of have other people mix, or do you end
order, all of your early credits are as a up in a situation where you feel you
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experiences with some big mixers when I was young,


composer. It’s interesting how diverse and I couldn’t get them to do what I wanted to do. have to mix a track because no one
you are, in terms of your credits. They just said, “No, I’ve got this.” It wasn’t else is going to get it right?
The earliest work would be as a session musician. Once I collaborative, although I still learned a lot from it. If I have that feeling, then that’s what I have to do. It is
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wasn’t playing on sessions so much, my first action, in Watching them work was really inspiring to me, and I frustrating, especially early in my career when I had no
terms of released music on a major label, was as a got the bug to do it. It all started with a Fostex 4- juice as a producer or mixer. It would get farmed out to
songwriter. I wasn’t “producing” anything for ages. It track cassette recorder, which I still have here to other people who had plenty of track record. Sometimes
was much easier to get in the door as a writer, and then remind me. That was my first studio for years: a little they would nail it, and other times they would fucking
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the labels would have whoever was hot at the time Alesis MicroVerb, and a Mac Plus with no internal hard destroy it. It was so depressing. There’s no undo button
produce it. I remember there were only a couple of drive. Terrible sounds. I had a little Roland drum for that. When the record label was like, “But they’ve
producers who would really do a nice job, staying true machine, one compressor, and one weird copy of a mixed big hit records! It has to be good!” And I would
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to the spirit of the song. So many producers would just [Shure SM]58 mic. I did a lot on that and just slowly, say, “It’s not right.” It’s the same symptom I had with
wreck it. That, more than anything, is what inspired me slowly, slowly built out from there. What we’re sitting producers as a songwriter. Again, I felt like, “I’ve gotta
to become a record producer; to save the song. in right now [Greg’s very well-equipped studio] is a figure this out.” An interesting thing happened, which
Who were the producers you liked total extension of that first studio in the second really pushed me towards mixing a lot of my work. I
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working with who didn’t wreck bedroom of my little rent-controlled apartment in wanted Spike Stent to mix the first album of an artist I
things? Santa Monica. It’s always morphing and changing. I wound up working with a lot; a European artist named
The first one was Steve Lipson out of London. He just learned a lot engineering on that little Fostex, like Mika. He didn’t sell many records here, but sold a ton of
made the songs so much better. He’s amazing, and a basic EQ and balances. Then, when I moved to L.A., I records in Asia and Europe. He had a budget because
real inspiration to me. He is an amazing musician who couldn’t work. I had no visa to work. I was here as a he’s sort of a flamboyant, Freddie Mercury-ish character.
22/Tape Op#123/Mr. Wells/(continued on page 24)
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Spike was up for it; he loved the music and wanted to can be all kinds of different styles. While you’re mixing, thing that they can be proud of for the rest of their
mix it. Mika and I had breakfast with Spike at the Sunset flip your input to that playlist and it will punch you in career. I am like a big, spastic nerve ending, but I can
Marquis Hotel in Hollywood. Spike wasn’t living here the face. It’s merciless. You will feel that you don’t know manage it a little bit and I’ve done this a long time.
yet, but he had just gotten hired to produce Maroon 5’s what you’re doing. Every once in a while you’ll feel like, This is all an extension of me playing piano for singers
second album [It Won’t Be Soon Before Long]. He said, “Oh, that’s kind of close.” But that helped me so much. at my dad’s church when I was a little boy. I’m
“I don’t know how much longer this record’s going to go I feel like if kids did that today, their mixes would accompanying them. I’m an accompanist. That’s the
on for. It could be another half of a year. If you can wait improve a thousand percent. I can immediately tell role I take. Terry Date [see interview on page 38] is a
until I’m done, then I’ll mix the record. But I don’t think when they’re not doing it. I still do it, and it always gets very smart guy, as well as a very talented record-
you’ll want to.” He knew we were done at that point. He better. I had a weird issue with bass for years. When I maker and someone that I learned from. We were both
said, “Greg, these rough mixes sound almost done. Why heard a song a lot, I’d think there was plenty of bass, working on a Deftones record when you and I first
don’t you just finish it?” I didn’t want to. I wanted to but there really wasn’t nearly enough bass. Now, I put met. I was working with Team Sleep first.
bring someone else in because I wanted to bring in too much bass in, and I think that that’s right. I like it I remember I picked up that project
another set of ears. I didn’t want the people that signed really full, like there’s a band in front of me. But then, towards the end. I was tasked with
Mika beating me up about mixes, because I’m too when I go to my mix reality playlist, my perception of getting the record finished in two
sensitive for that. I wanted to raise the bar to an even what the bottom-end should be is the one thing that’s weeks and getting something the
higher place I couldn’t see. Spike said, “No, no, no. I fucked up. I put way too much in, and I’m always label would sign off on, which we did
think you’ve got this. I’ll tell you what, if you get stuck surprised by how contained and not bottom-y my and I think you ended up remixing it
on a mix, send it to me and I’ll give you some pointers.” playlist is. I’m constantly like, “Okay, I should be after that.
We had worked a bit together before that and were very pointing that way.” It’s crazy how you can so quickly We did a lot of that record here. I remember Zach Hill,
friendly. Ironically, Spike now lives directly across the think that your mix is right. the drummer.
road from me. He’s the coolest, most You did all the drum tracks for that?
down-to-earth guy. I sent him a “It’s so hard to make records, because all we Those drums sounded great.
couple mixes in progress, and he have are speakers. We don’t have the visual of We did those in my tracking room [a fairly small room
would just say little things, like, “The
snare’s a little bit too dark,” or,
watching a band play. We don’t have that –ed.]. I couldn’t believe what was going on. I
couldn’t believe the stuff he was doing. I’d go in
“There’s a little bit too much low-end energy exchange, that sort of reciprocal chain there and watch him play. Then Chino [Moreno] said,
on the toms.” Tiny little things, but it reaction that happens on a good gig where the “Maybe you should come work with my other band,
would really rebalance the mix; those the Deftones.” I flew up to Sacramento and met
things make a big difference. I took a audience is reacting, the performer feels that, everybody, then they invited me to get involved in
and it comes back to the audience

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long time to mix that first album, the production of the record. I was like, “Wait a
about a month. I would come in here
and mix. Then I would go down the
and the performer.” minute; Terry Date is your producer. You have to
check with him.” Terry, to his credit, said, “Hey, it’s
hallway to the lounge in front, sit there, and listen to it It’s the forest for the trees. .c okay. Let’s do this together.” So we did. We tried for
going down the hallway. It was just me, alone. I’d make You’re staring at one thing forever. It’s so hard to make three and a half months. I had to leave the project
notes, come back, and make the changes. Then I’d turn records, because all we have are speakers. We don’t because I had a second child coming and I was out
it up again, go down the hall, try to listen like I was have the visual of watching a band play. We don’t of town, and they record unbelievably slow. Terry
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somebody else, make more notes, and go make the have that energy exchange, that sort of reciprocal told me some really cool things at the time. He said,
changes. That worked, and Spike’s input helped. But I chain reaction that happens on a good gig where the “Remember, this is a service industry that we’re in,
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wound up getting a Grammy nomination for a song off audience is reacting, the performer feels that, and it as facilitators in the record-making process. Don’t
that record as a mixer and producer. Then it was like, comes back to the audience and the performer. When draw attention to yourself. You’ve gotta make it
“Oh, I’m a mixer.” But it’s case-specific for me. I love you take all that away and all you’ve got are these about the artist. It’s a professional situation, and
the process, but I hate all my own mixes. I like the merciless speakers, who could give a shit what’s in we’re not hanging out to be friends.” It’s nice to be
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chase of it, and I feel like I am getting better. I feel like the room? That’s the hardest thing for me: trying to friendly, of course, but there’s potentially millions
my mixes aren’t getting worse. I’m learning by failing, capture the impact of watching a great live gig and millions of dollars at stake if the record becomes
@g

which is the best way to learn. coming through the speakers. How many times have a success. Maybe the record will not make a penny,
I like to listen to mixes in the kitchen you seen a great performance, then that performer, or but we’re talking about peoples’ families being fed
when I’m cooking breakfast with the group of performers, goes into the studio and makes and the longevity of a career. You’re there to help
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stereo in the other room. something that’s a snooze-fest? That’s what we’re these peoples’ dreams become a reality. He also said,
As record makers what we need more than anything is battling with all the time. You can’t stop it. Your idea “Let them come up with the idea first. Once they
objectivity. It’s the first thing that you lose, like a big of listening while making breakfast in your kitchen, come up with the idea, you can jump on it, massage
hole in your pocket, the minute you hear a piece of that’s brilliant. You actually have other noises it, and reshape it if you need to. But let it come
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music more than once. You’re not going to react the happening at the same time. from them first.” Let the artist think that it came
same way that someone out in the world is going to You’ve mentioned that you’re kind of from them first, if you’re clever enough to figure
when they hear it the first time, but that’s who we’re shy and sensitive. How do you inhabit that out, which I’m not! I had a real trouble with
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making records for. We’re trying to trick our very capable the room with these larger-than-life that, because unlike Terry, who’s more an engineer,
brains. The brain is so helpful, but the brain is also the personalities, like Elton John, Katy I’m very much a musician. I’m like a monkey,
enemy. You can learn it wrong very fast and think that Perry, and Adele? running around playing all these different
it’s right. Jack Joseph Puig was in the running to mix Well, to their credit, they’re all really sweet, cool people. instruments. I think people want me to be more
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the first single from the Mika record; although we didn’t It’s a pleasure being in the room with them. As collaborative, musically. Terry and I are different
finish it with him, I did get to spend some time with artists, they also need something from the people animals. But I find that really helpful, because
him. I love his whole passion for music. He told me that they’re in the studio with. The last thing they want to before I met Terry I was drawing too much attention
the biggest help for him is to make a playlist of your do is de-incentivize the musicians in the room or their to myself. I was so excited to be in the studio, and
favorite mixes of other records that other people did. It collaborators. I feel that they’re trying to build a probably had some unresolved issues of wanting to
24/Tape Op#123/Mr. Wells/(continued on page 26)
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be the artist too. Every once in a while I’d really say that the problem was in the writing. It wasn’t bad It wound up becoming the single, which I didn’t know was
the wrong thing. I was young and I just didn’t know. musicians. But everything else would get blamed. We going to happen. Jerry Harrison produced most of the
But that helped frame how to be more helpful, and had the wrong coffee, the wrong console, the wrong record. He’s a lovely guy, and he did a great job on the
more professional, in this environment. I’ve taken producer, the wrong cabling, the wrong studio, record. I was brought in at the end of the day – to help
Terry’s nuggets of advice and morphed it into my Mercury’s in fuck-you grade, or whatever. But I swear them do a couple more songs – and that song showed
own thing. I want artists to feel like they’re at a it was the writing. That was a big lesson that I took up. I don’t know why they hadn’t recorded it before, but
three-star Michelin restaurant when they’re here. I from my days as a studio musician, where I felt like, most of the record was done when I got to work on
can’t always pull it off, but I want them to feel the “I wish I could be more in control here and actually “Wrecking Ball,” as well as a couple other songs.
same way as if you take a date, or your partner, to say, ‘Can you re-write this a bit?’” It was very Did you interact with Jerry much?
a nice restaurant and you know you’re going to drop informative, working with other producers. My Not on that record. We interacted with some other artists
a couple hundred dollars on dinner. In that experience as a musician is almost bizarrely extensive. later. He was really sweet to me. I hadn’t really
situation, do you want the waiter coming over to I’m terrible at everything else in life. I cannot figure produced anything, and he was very established at that
you at the beginning of the meal and saying, “I got out the tip in a restaurant. I never know what day of point. Creeper Lagoon was a great band. Ian hated
the weirdest phone call from my mom last week, and the week it is. I don’t know what my bank balance is. being in the spotlight, and now he’s a mastering
she laid some heavy shit on me. Can I tell you about I really don’t even know what I’m doing the next day. engineer at Capitol Studios. I’ve had that experience so
it?” You want the opposite. It’s totally narcissistic. I I just don’t think that way. But music I have a real many times. Even people whose music I didn’t like
feel like every artist, to varying degrees, is a focus on, and I think about it a lot. I’ve had so many necessarily, but when I got to work with them, I
narcissistic sociopath. failures that have taught me so many things. couldn’t believe how high the bar actually was. I always
The good ones. liked Pink’s music a lot. The first time I worked with
The best ones are the most that way. They’re her, I knew she was a good singer; but I never thought
having the best time in the studio when the
“Being a producer is this funny, weird thing that she was one of the best singers ever until I heard
focus is on helping them. Sometimes that where you’re in charge, but the artist can her stand there and sing. Everybody in the room was
takes some tough love, but it has to always
be that focus. I’ve been to Paris a lot, and
fire you at any point in time. It’s almost thinking, “What’s going on?” It’s crazy how good you
have to be just to show up on the radar, to be where
every once in a while my wife and I will like you’ve been hired to be the captain of people can say, “Yeah, I like that song.” I remind
splurge on a nice meal there. The rollout and the yacht that they own, but you have to myself that all the shitty songs that are on radio, the
presentation of the food and everything, fact that they have made it onto radio, by whatever
even the choreography of the waiters, is so
decide how to steer that yacht.” means – whether payola or however – that there are
smooth you don’t even know it’s happening. thousands of shittier versions of that song that aren’t
I love that last Creeper Lagoon record

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Of course we want to go back there. I want people to on the radio. They still hit a certain level. Even the
want to come back, and I have a lot of repeat you worked on, Take Back the worst crap that I despise, I still recognize that it’s
business here. Being a producer is this funny, weird Universe and Give Me Yesterday. probably the better to best version of that song.
thing where you’re in charge, but the artist can fire I love them so much. That was their last major label Y o u r d i s c o g r a p h y ’ s p r e t t y v a s t
.c
you at any point in time. It’s almost like you’ve been record. We did a song I’ll never forget, called “Wrecking stylistically. We’ve got Lindsay Lohan,
hired to be the captain of the yacht that they own, Ball.” I was thinking about “Wrecking Ball” this Timbaland, Hannah Montana, Miley
but you have to decide how to steer that yacht. I morning. I remember the first time I heard their singer, Cyrus, Hilary Duff, and Katy Perry.
l
don’t want anybody else’s hands on the steering Ian Sefchick, start singing takes on that. They made it Yeah, those young Nickelodeon Disney channel kids who
wheel. I’ll say this to artists all the time, “You can fire really clear to me, and the label said this too, “Greg, we ended up getting record deals. They did a lot of that in
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me at any point, but I have to drive the way I feel know you’re a songwriter, and this is one of your first the early 2000s. It’s painful to look at my discography
like this should go.” I can defer to the artist when productions, but the band doesn’t want you coming in and see those there. When I look at my friend, Paul
they’re super talented. When they know so much more as a songwriter.” I’m not that kind of producer anyway; Epworth, there’s nothing but the coolest shit possible.
than I ever will about their music, then it’s the best I never elbow my way in. I remember the chorus of There’s not one “whoops.”
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idea in the world to keep checking in with them. “Wrecking Ball.” It starts on an E-major and goes to C#- I didn’t throw that out there to point a
When they’re not talented, then it’s a shit show, and minor and then A-major and then slides down to the finger!
@g

no approach really works. I wind up with something I F#-minor and back to the A. The way they originally Oh, no; it’s an internal battle of mine.
wish I hadn’t done. wrote it was that chord progression repeated. E-major, Those are big records that a lot of people
I’m getting the sense, listening to you, C#-minor to the F#-minor to the A. The second time it heard, and a lot of people like. My
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that it seems like your approach has repeated I said, “Why don’t you flip the first two chords discography’s mostly weird stuff that
been informed largely because, as a instead?” That’s all I said. And they said, “We like that. no one’s ever heard.
player, you’ve been on the other side We’ll try that.” Then I heard him sing. It was at that I don’t mind things being a success. Music in a vacuum
of the glass, so to speak. moment, after I’d made my terrible solo record a few isn’t music. It’s gotta be shared. I’ll go months
21

For years. I remember what worked for me as a studio years before that, when I saw Ian and heard him sing, sometimes without income because I say “no” more
musician, and I remember what didn’t work for me. In I thought, “Oh, fuck. That’s what a singer should sound than “yes” at this point. When I work on something I
the ‘90s there were lots of live sessions here in town; like.” His voice was just so unique and his lyrics were don’t feel inspired by, I suck. It’s like trying to kiss
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there was still a studio scene. I’d be in the room with so good. I realized, “Oh, my god; yes. That’s why I’m somebody you’re not attracted to. I used to say “yes”
musicians I’d been reading about since I was a producing, and that’s why I’m not the artist, because I to things that I didn’t necessarily feel a call or a pull
teenager, because those were the local session guys, can’t do that at all. If I can do anything, I can help him towards, but now I only work on things I really love. I
like Lee Sklar and Jeff Porcaro on bass and drums. realize his vision and the band’s vision.” His bandmate, have to; I’m an awful liar. I feel this enormous urge to
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Whenever we had it in a couple of takes and we were Sharky [Laguana], is also crazy talented. be really forthcoming about how I feel about things,
done, nobody ever talked about the song being great. I’ve seen those guys live quite a few especially music. In retrospect, I wish I had found a
That was never mentioned by anybody, including the times; such a good band. That song is a different way to pay the rent rather than work on music
producers. When it was a day where 10 or 12 hours standout track on that record, and the I didn’t have that gut feeling about, because I wasn’t
later we were still on the same song, I can tell now whole album is really great. good at it. I was good enough to get the job and not
26/Tape Op#123/Mr. Wells/(continued on page 28)
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get fired, but I was still coming from this sort of naive
place where I was just thrilled to be asked to produce
something. I’ve always been fascinated by pop culture,
even though I really despise most of it. Even as a
teenager I’d read the liner credits of a Sheena Easton
record that I hated but still wanted to know who was
making the album, where they did it, and what their
choices were. I asked Paul Epworth, “How’s your
discography so immaculately cool?” He said, “It’s my
wife. She won’t let me work on anything unless it’s
something she could really love. She’s been a real buffer
for me.” I didn’t have that. I didn’t grow up knowing
much of anything. It was Mika’s first record [Life in
Cartoon Motion] that did it. Just he and I sitting in this
room for six months. After it became quite a success for
him, I thought, “This is what I have to do now. This is
the change I have to make.” I was told to quit his record
after two songs, by some very talented, smart people who
were managing me at the time. They said, “He’s too
weird. Get out. Do two songs. You’re on the record, that’s
fine. Then get out.” I was like, “No!” I wound up
eventually firing that management team, and they made
a ridiculous amount of commission from the money that
came in from that record. But regardless of whatever
remuneration showed up, I’m creatively proud of that
record. I know that’s a record I’ll be able to play until I’m
dead that I’m not embarrassed by. That’s a nice feeling.
There’s a lot of early work I’d be embarrassed to show
people, including some of the names you unfortunately

om
just read out. But they’re all nice people.
I’m sorry! It just seemed interesting to
work backwards.
.c I think it helped define me being able to say “no” more
effectively.
So that was the record that was sort of an
epiphany for you?
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Oh, my god; yes. We made that record in 2006, and it
didn’t come out until a year later in the summer of
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2007. Joe Chiccarelli [Tape Op #14] engineered that


record, so I very, very fortunately got to spend half a
year, every day of the week, with Joe, watching him and
pummeling him with questions. “How are you getting
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that vocal sound? How are you getting that snare


sound? Why are you taking four hours to get a drum
@g

sound? Why are you taking four hours to get a vocal


sound? Why is this taking so long?” At first, in my
ignorance, I thought maybe he was a bit nuts. Then I
34

started hearing the results and I realized that Joe has


this uncanny ability to get drum sounds before the
song’s even recorded. When he puts the faders up in the
mix stage, they still sound exactly like you want the
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drums to sound. How often do we get good drum


sounds, but don’t know what you’re going to need the
drums to do at the end of the day when the track is
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done? I don’t know how he does it. It doesn’t sound


overly weird or tweaked. But when you put it up, with
a full, finished track with the vocals and everything, it’s
like you hardly have to do anything to the drums. I
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learned so much from Joe. He’s very generous with his


information. That was amazing. r
<gregwells.net>

28 /Tape Op#123/Mr. Wells/(Fin.)


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Tycho’s Scott Hansen is a busy man. As the
frontman, principle songwriter, producer, as well
as the creator of the band’s album art and live .c
visuals, he has no shortage of things on his plate.
It’s the sound of the future that owes so much to
the past. I sat down with Scott on a morning before
a show in Seattle to talk about his process,
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translating his brand of ambient/electronic music
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into a compelling live show, and the intersection


of music and visual art.

What were your first early forays and entries into making On Epoch, your latest record, what was the process like? How
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music? do you start?


@g

When I came back from San Francisco, and moved back to downtown Sacramento, With this one, I worked with Zac Brown a lot. He’s from Sacramento too. Usually I
that’s when I started messing around with drum machines and synthesizers. I work up some ideas, then I spend a few months with them, turning them into
finally got a sampler, and that’s when it took off for me because I realized I could something I would consider a demo. Then Zac will come in and we’ll start playing
record back into it. That’s when the concept of chopping things up and moving with the idea. I’ll take it back for a while and do the full production and
34

them around occurred to me. That was the first thing that made me think, “Okay, arrangement. Then he’ll come back and we’ll basically strip it down, try to figure
this is something I can do. I can make musical compositions instead of just play out what it’s about, take out everything that doesn’t need to be there, and make
with this gear.” it cleaner for the final version. We actually started [working together] on the
Besides the sampler, were you using a 4-track cassette
21

previous record [Awake]. We went to Lake Tahoe for the first couple weeks on both
recorder? of those; we just tried to jam and figure it out. That’s the first time I’ve gone about
No. I never used any recording medium before that. I transferred music to tape and it that way, and that was pretty fun. Some of it worked out, some of it didn’t. But
MiniDisc once it was done, but when it came to composing, I never used anything it was good because it lays a nice foundation for the rest.
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before that sampler. Eventually I got a computer. I never realized computers could Are you inspired by a melody? Or is there a sound you’re
record audio at the time, because mine was so old. starting with, like sitting down with the guitar or the
Were you always drawn to instrumental music? synth, translating a melody that was in your head?
I listened to rock, folk, and singer/songwriters. But when I went away to college in Yeah, it’s probably half and half now for guitar and synths. I’ve really gotten into
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San Francisco, I started going to electronic shows. It was unlike music I’d heard guitar over the last ten years. I’d really gotten into keyboards, and I felt like I was
before, and that’s what piqued my interest. That was the only music I’d ever heard playing the same thing over and over again. The things that really inspire me at
that I felt I could at least begin to dissect. I didn’t play guitar or any [traditional] the beginning, the initial sparks, are the textures, the effects, and all of that. That
instruments at the time, so “normal music” seemed really foreign, and basically usually writes itself, at that point. I’ll start playing a synth patch that’s really
impossible to break into. interesting and then this melody just comes out of it. That’s usually the basis. Or
30 /Tape Op#123/Tycho/
I’ll start playing into a chain and think, “Whoa.” I’ll hear this echo and it makes me think,
“Oh, maybe this should go that way.” The real spark is the initial sound, then the melodies
come out of that.
Right. There’s such a visual aspect to your music, and you’re a
visual artist as well. Does the visual inform your writing?
I wouldn’t say that either informs the other. I think they come from the same place; it’s two
different sides of the same coin. I think there’s definitely a lot of overlap, and there are
instances where – especially lately – that I create the artwork after the fact. I’m definitely
trying to create something that captures the spirit of what I think the music is about.
But, at the same time, it’s never a one to one translation. It’s more like filling in the gaps.
How do the sounds and the composition translate into a story?
I think there are two different types of songs that end up on the records. The first ones
would be the personal, emotional kind of spaces. Maybe not an event, or a specific thing,
but an emotional space. Those don’t really have a story for me. They just kind of hit me
in the gut and I get taken back to this feeling. But there are others that are open-ended
soundscapes. When I’m making them I just think, “Wow, this is really interesting.” And
I keep following that path and taking the turns. By the end of it, after I’ve listened to
it a million times, it becomes kind of numb. But after the album is done and I’ve had
some space, I’ll come back to it because I have to do the visuals for the show. So the
visuals don’t always reflect exactly what I am hearing, but that’s when the songs start
to take on a narrative and you can see this movie being played along to them. I actually
have storyboarded them up. I haven’t had the time or the resources to make a true
narrative film, but it’s something I hope to be able to do eventually. There are some
songs, like “Montana,” “Rings,” or “Epoch,” that have a very solid narrative element to
them. For me, at least.
You talk about nostalgia, longing, childhood, and environment.
How do you work to translate those emotions into a narrative of
sound? One thing I noticed, following your social media, is that
you’re often posting beautiful landscape images. How much
does the natural world influence your writing?

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They are inextricable. I’m not sitting there thinking, “Oh, I’m writing about the beach!” But
I think the natural and the rural was my childhood. That’s something that was always
core to my existence; the whole world to me. That’s where this is coming from, whether
.c
I’m trying or not. But I do think it’s becoming more that that’s the palette. And now
these emotional spaces are becoming more of the content, because I feel as I get older
– and I’ve gone through this process of speaking to all of these elements that were
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inspiring me at the time – I’ve turned more inward and tried to work through some more
personal themes. An internal space. I don’t think that’s been a conscious choice, that’s
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just what’s happened over the last couple of records. So, those spaces still inspire me,
but it used to be, “Okay, how do I invoke this idea?” I think Epoch might’ve been the
end of that path. Now it will be some different formula or mix of those two things. That’s
the way I’ve been turning.
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It’s a unique challenge because you’re not playing vocal music.


How do you present new ideas?
@g

For me, it’s back to the sound and the texture. It’s not all about the notes. I’m sure if you
broke the music down, it’s not the most complex music in the world. A music PhD would
think it’s pretty simple! But, for me, it’s about the engineering and the sound design.
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There’s music, like Boards of Canada and Ulrich Schnauss, that inspired me. Photek [Rupert
Parkes] was the first person that inspired me where I was like, “What is that sound? I’ve
never heard anything like that.” I’d hear these bass tones and textures behind him. There
would be one chord for five minutes, but it was so interesting, and moved in such an
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interesting way, that it was really powerful.


How do you pull your music off live?
It used to just be me, a laptop, and a keyboard, and it was not something I was really proud
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of on a nightly basis. I wasn’t like, “That was cool.” I think, back in the day, with the
artists I was into, I would go see them live and be like, “Okay, it’s just the guy there.” It
didn’t matter, because I just wanted to hear the music on a loud sound system. The guy
was actually there, and there was something about that that was enough for me. But then
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I saw Roni Size’s Reprazent in 1996. They came to San Francisco and played at Bimbo’s.
He had a drummer, and a bassist, and it just blew my mind. The other artist was Caribou
[Tape Op #37]. I’d seen him a few times and was like, “Man, that’s so engaging.” I think
that planted the seed. It wasn’t until a decade later that I hooked up with Zac. I asked
him to come over and open-end riff. We didn’t even have songs then; he was just playing
Tycho/(continued on page 32)/Tape Op#123/31
over them. Then I slowly started having him play on studio but have that live element to them. We just a muddy wall of sound anymore. It’s like he puts
demos for the records. When we first got offered a switched our whole front of house system to analog; the glasses on the mix and then I’m like, “Okay, we’ve
tour opening up for Little Dragons in 2011, we hired we’ve tried to break as much as we can out of the box, got two more weeks of work fixing this shit!” It’s kind
a drummer and it evolved from there. We use SMPTE and we have also done a lot of things to make it be a of a back and forth. That’s the cool thing about him
[timecode] as the core timer, and that sends signals much closer connection to us on stage. I think that working in Reaper: I can take that computer back
out to all of our ears, and [drummer] Rory [O’Connor] was the problem; there was a disconnect where we home, work on the exact same session with the mix
is obviously the timekeeper of the whole thing. I tried were playing through these super saturated reverb in place, and then take it back over to his place.
to focus on the elements that were most important channels. If you’re not feeling it, and you’re not What part does software play in your
from the songs, take those, and push them to the feeling that visceral connection, then the audience recording? I know you use a lot of
forefront. I think this kind of music is headphone isn’t either. So he’s helped me unravel things and make analog synths, and we just talked
music, at a certain point. It doesn’t have to be, but it drier and more live. about getting back to a more analog
it can serve the purpose of being background music And is he actually participating in process in your live show.
very well. That’s obviously not what you want in a live the mix of the show like a dub Software is definitely by far the biggest element of the
context, so I try to take it and punch out these mixer would? whole process. I always use an analog front-end. I
elements. “Here’re the drums. Put them right up front. Absolutely. It’s so fun to be on stage and see him look mean obviously you have to use some sort of analog!
Here’re the guitars, and here’s the melody. Make it so into it. It makes us feel like, “Oh, this sounds [laughter] For the most part, dynamics, EQ, and the
way louder than the record.” That’s what the show is amazing. This is in the moment, and the show is never preamp are all analog, and then I use an Aurora
about: taking the songs, driving the energy with going to sound like it does right now.” He’s really converter. For the last two records, other than
them, and driving them a little bit harder when it pushing things. We used to have everything totally interesting effects like an Ursa Major [Space Station]
comes to sound. We’re driving the preamps harder, automated and we were going through digital mixers reverb or something, there’s pretty much no going out
and we’re using tones we wouldn’t use on the record. with full automation. We used to mix in the box, in of the box at that point. We’re using all kinds of plug-
If you look back at Dive [2011], really that wasn’t a Reaper [DAW]. All you’d hear in front of house was a ins; SoundToys, Waves, PSP, and UAD. I also use a ton
live [performance] record. I made all that just by two-channel mix with the drums. Now, it feels like it’s of soft synths, actually. I’ll play the initial melodies;
playing little parts and chopping them together. But a lot more in your face, and I think he pushes the right the meat of it is there, and then it’s like, “This should
then on Awake the idea was, “Let’s try to capture that elements, at the right times. And he makes up for us have a pad.” Especially during the later phases. If
[live show energy].” So Rory was playing drums from not sounding great that night, or whatever! You know there’s something needed I’ll try to use a VST [Virtual
the very beginning. Zach and I were playing the that whatever is going on onstage, he’s make it sound Studio Technology] so I can keep them open-ended
whole parts and trying to make it feel live. And so the at least decent. [laughter] So that’s been cool; he’s and edit them. At the end, we do analog summing
records slowly caught up with the live show. And now, been like the fifth member of the band. and use analog bus compression sometimes, but it’s
On this last record you had Count [Tape

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with the new record, I feel like “Division” and “Slack” pretty rare. We mostly just do the summing, so we go
are basically live songs. So that’s the end where I’ve Op #59] mix it. What do you feel that out through that and come back into the master bus
pushed the drums and all these elements up to the brings to the table? reverb. But the core of it is Reaper, which is kind of
forefront that used to hang in the back to make it this It was really difficult. The first test of that was with Dive.
.c the Swiss Army knife for audio.
more visceral “in your face” experience. I don’t think I’d met him at a show right before that album was You reference Boards of Canada.
“in your face” would be how people would describe finished up. He was like, “Oh, I can help you out with Texturally and sonically you’re using
the music or the shows, but that’s the idea! [laughter] this. This is what I do; I mix.” That’s what I was some of the same “voices,” I guess is a
It’s cool to get something different. good term.
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looking for at the time, because I felt like I’d hit the
Maybe people don’t want the live show limits of my abilities on that level. By the time you’re Totally, yeah.
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to just be the record playing. that deep into a project, you have no reference point It’s just the saddest sound I’ve ever
Some people do. Tame Impala [Tape Op #95] has always and you’re not able to be objective about your own heard. [laughter] And I hear it on all
been an interesting reference point to me, and it’s work. Plus, I just didn’t have the technical skills to your records, and certainly the
been interesting to see their progression. It seems like pull it off. So we started working on it. But he wanted Boards of Canada vibe as well.
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they’ve gone on this cyclical “it sounds like the record, to put it in Pro Tools and I use Reaper. So we did that It’s probably not a particular synth. I use the Minimoog
now it sounds live.” It’s been interesting to gauge, and we spit it out, and it was just too different. There a ton on everything. I’m sure Boards of Canada use
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based on what I want, and what I personally wanted were all these relationships with side-chaining, and that, or something similar. But yeah, I think it’s that
out of a live show, to see bands do both things busses, and all this mixing in Reaper that was going VHS kind of tape wobble. It sounds like old memories;
multiple times. I try to keep a balance with this. I on that kind of got blown out of the water. So I was like when you’re a kid listening to your parents 8-
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want to satisfy the people who want textures and all like, “This isn’t going to work.” I think a few of the track. I think there’s something to that, there’s a
those interesting elements in a big, larger than life songs ended up making the record that were done in patina or a texture that I try to put on. It’s the same
space, but I also want it to feel live and have there be Pro Tools. But basically the bulk of it, we took it back as graphic design, where you can design something
a connection between what you’re seeing and what into Reaper. I just sat there with him and he told me in Illustrator with these perfect lines and create these
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you’re hearing. There’re a lot of sounds where I’m what to do, and then slowly he learned it enough to posters where there’s all this stark contrast and it
playing a keyboard or guitar with a 100 percent wet use it. And then with Awake it was the same thing. looks like it was created by a computer. But then I’ll
reverb and delay, and you really would not even know With this one he’s pretty good at Reaper now, so I take it into Photoshop and blur the edges, or layer
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what’s going on. All you hear is a giant swell. A lot of just take my computer over to his studio, we set some paper over it and use some sort of process to
the “synth” parts aren’t even synths; they’re guitars. everything up, and work through everything together. make it feel like a photo of an old poster, which is
Or they’re synths that sound like guitars. But right now At this point it’s become a really smooth process. I kind of what I want the music to be. I want it to
we tend towards live sounds, especially working with have these songs – it’s not a negative thing, because sound like samples. I want to make my own playing
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Peter Franco, the front of house engineer. He worked actually it’s a very positive thing – but at the end of sound like it was a sampled record. But I think that’s
with Daft Punk for a long time, so from the studio to it, I’m so ready for these songs to be done. He does becoming less and less. I think I’m trying to capture
the stage he knows the process of making something all this work, and all of a sudden these elements come what the element of that is that’s hitting people and
feel live. He’s taught me a lot about what people are out. And all these problems and places where I having some sort of emotional response. [I want to]
looking for, as well as how things can sound like a screwed up become so apparent. [laughing] It’s not focus in on that, but take away the dirty artifacts of
32/Tape Op#123/Tycho/(continued on page 34)
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that process. There was a time and place where I
enjoyed that kind of filtered sound, but more and
more, especially with the latest record, I’m trying to
get this hi-fi sound while still maintaining those
nostalgic, familiar elements while stripping away the
ugly things that come along with it.
How has the sound of Tycho evolved in
other ways?
At the beginning I was definitely going for that Boards
of Canada “thing,” where it’s super saturated. Almost
like a Polaroid vibe. And, like I was saying, there’s
going to be this blur, and fading, and color shift
when you do that. But, over time, I think I became
more and more interested in the engineering side of
it. Definitely Count enabled me to think about that
and achieve the vision of sharpening all those
sounds, while maintaining the good elements. That’s
a part of it; the true texture of the sound. The core
of what it sounds like has evolved to be cleaner and
more focused. And the writing has evolved in a way
that I’ve worked more and more closely with Zac, and
then on the last record Rory was involved as well. He
played drums on Awake, but he was involved with
songwriting with a couple of songs on the latest
record. So I think, in that way, it’s become more open
to other people’s perspectives. It’s been an evolution
for me. At the end of the day, these songs are the
sum total of a lot of people’s ideas, instead of just
this one thing that could become, over 10 or 12

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tracks, a little “one note.” I can step into a producer
role at times where I am here to shepherd these
sounds and these ideas, and push them into the
.c Tycho sphere, and bring them into that space and put
my own textures on them. But, at the same time, the
original idea “not being mine” is sort of interesting
to me. I think that might be the next phase – going
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more and more into a band space, as far as where the
ideas come from.
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Contributions are always nice.


Doing a lot of remixes taught me that working with an
existing idea will inspire something. I’ll come up with
an original idea, but I’ll throw this framework that I
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built the idea around, and that’s probably more


interesting than something I would’ve come up with
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right away. That’s how I’ve always looked at music,


even when it’s 100 percent my own song, is to try to
remix my own music so that by the time whatever
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makes it on the record, it’s hopefully two steps


removed from my original idea. There are some things
where a piano part is always going to be there, but I
like to keep changing the rest of the song. “What is
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the cool part of the song? Let’s just do that again,


but strip everything else away.” I think that might
become a quicker process when dealing with an
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initial idea by somebody else. r


<www.tychomusic.com>
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34/Tape Op#123/Tycho/(Fin.)
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Chino Moreno of Deftones What made you decide to work with Terry on three records
and Team Sleep on working in a row?
with Terry Date and Greg Wells I was a young, naive kid and I trusted him. He was fatherly in a good way. He was
by John Baccigaluppi nurturing, but not condescending, and he made us feel comfortable right away. Terry’s
We did three and a half records with Terry. When we first a producer, but he doesn’t rip your songs apart the way some producers do. He’s an
got signed in the mid ‘90s, our label [Maverick] asked us engineer first; he’s very hands on and is doing all the EQs, turning knobs, and placing
who we wanted to produce our debut album. We and adjusting the microphones. He’s very into the sonics, and so were we. We were
didn’t know at first; we were just kids from Sacto. I excited about the recording techniques. Sometimes the label people didn’t like that and
think I was 20 at the time. Stephen [Carpenter] was tried to pull us away from him to work with someone more song-oriented, which is
the one who brought up Terry. He had done a lot of crazy in retrospect because we did some of our most pop songs with him. Terry’s not
records we liked, especially Pantera, but he also contrived. He rarely made musical critiques, so when he did I really listened – he
had done Soundgarden and Sir Mix-a-Lot. All the fucking knows what he’s talking about. I’d love to do another record with Terry. He’s
bands he did sounded different. The newest someone I feel like I’ll know for as long as I’m here. I’m privileged to know him.
Pantera album at the time [Far Beyond Driven] How did you end up working with Greg Wells?
was heavy as shit and we were into it. But we The Team Sleep project [with DJ Crook, Todd Wilkinson, Rick Verrett, and Zach Hill] was
kind of tied Terry’s hands behind his back on that kind of an escape from Deftones. No pressure. I wanted it to be raw and kind of lo-fi,
first album, because we told him, “We don’t want but Maverick had to approve it under the terms of our deal with them. I did the record
to sound like Pantera.” He was just getting into with Crook on his Roland VS-880, and personally took it to the label in L.A. and played
some of the newer technology at the time, like Pro it for our A&R person, Guy Oseary. He said it wasn’t good and he wouldn’t release it. I
Tools. He’d just done the White Zombie record was really upset; I actually started crying in his office. He suggested I meet with this
[Astro Creep: 2000], which had lots of samples, “song guy,” Greg Wells, and see if he could help make the record sound better. At first
triggered drums, and stuff, and we didn’t want to do I was reluctant. I was like, “No way, this is punk rock.” Well, not punk rock, but not
that. We wanted to sound raw, we wanted to record pop! It was supposed to be more lo fi. So at first I was reluctant, but I totally vibed
to 2-inch tape, and we didn’t want the technology. with him. He took the songs to another level. He recorded all of Zach [Hill]’s drums,
As a result, I think that first record [Adrenaline] is my which was no small feat. He got really good takes out of Zach and worked really well
least favorite sonically. For the second record we let him with him. That was a good experience, so then I went to the label and said, “What
do what he wanted. We had confidence then and we didn’t about getting Greg and Terry together and have them both do the next Deftones
set any guidelines. I think that the second and third records album?” The label was into it, so I talked to Greg and Terry and they both agreed, and

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we did with Terry are our best sounding. Around The Fur is we did the self-titled [fourth] record with them. We call that record the “dark days
my favorite sonically, but I think the third record, [White record” but that was because of what we were going through at the time. Working with
Pony] is maybe the best sounding. Greg and Terry together was great. r
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36/Tape Op#123/Mr. Moreno/


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Over the past four decades, Early in your career you produced him sing the song three or four times, and record all
producer/engineer Terry Date has Mother Love Bone’s Apple. What was it three takes. When we felt we had something, I’d have
like working with the vocalist, the him come in the control room, and he and I would sit
racked up a gallery of multi-platinum late Andrew Wood?
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together and comp the final vocal take. With Andy, I


monuments to his golden ears. I remember a number of things we did with Andy during would put some delay and reverb in his headphones
Unforgettable moments from his that record. When we were doing his vocals, I’d set while he was singing, just to get the performance. I
catalog include the important role he him up in this old ‘70s kind of room – with a drum tried to make the headphones sound as live and
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had in shaping the sonic direction of booth off the side of the live room. Since it was a ‘70s inspiring as I could. All these guys – like Andy and
rock through his groundbreaking work studio, they always put the drums in a dry area and Chris [Cornell, of Soundgarden] – were used to
with Soundgarden, Pantera, had the big live room for everybody else. Andy always playing live. They tended to play medium-sized clubs
at that time, so I tried to make it sound somewhere
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White Zombie, Mother Love Bone, had his keyboard set up in front of him, because he
felt comfortable having either his hands on it as he between a medium-sized club and a larger arena.
Limp Bizkit, Korn, Deftones, Prong, was singing, or hitting a key for a note, from time to Something to be inspiring when they were singing,
Staind, Metal Church, Dream Theater, time. I put Andy in that little corner alcove, with his [in order] to make the performance come out. Andy’s
and Smashing Pumpkins, among keyboard and a microphone, and he always had vocal style was somewhere between David Lee Roth
countless other heavy classics. candles set up on the keyboard for a vibe. I’d have and Freddie Mercury, and his personality was too. I
38 /Tape Op#123/Mr. Date/
Avoiding a Signature Sound?

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by Jake Brown
photo by Andrew Stuart
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think more than his singing voice, my memories are hours ago. You’re just now leaving?” He replied, with him, but their amps were separated. There
of his personality, and his charisma as a person. He “Yeah, I stayed a little longer because I wrote wasn’t any place for Chris to be, because his voice is
had this “little kid” quality that was really magnetic. another album.” That’s the way he was. He was so so loud it would have gotten into the drum mics. So
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I remember on one particular song we were sitting in prolific; he lived for it. Chris was in the control room with me, playing and
the control room listening to vocals, deciding which Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger helped singing when the band played live.
parts of which takes were the best, when all of a kick off a new sound and era for rock. What mics would you use on an intense
sudden he jumped up and ran out of the room. I was What was it like in the control room, drummer like Matt Cameron?
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thinking, “What the fuck?” He ran into the vocal capturing the power of that band live My drum set up for Matt would have been very similar
booth and there were three-foot flames coming up off to tape? to what I did all the time, and still do, which is very
the carpet! I guess one of his candles had fallen over, Well, the funny thing was Chris was in the control with basic: a [Shure SM]57 on the snare drum, standard
hit the carpet, and started it on fire, so we had a me, recording! We recorded Badmotorfinger at Studio positioning, nothing fancy at all. Typically, I wouldn’t
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bonfire coming up underneath his keyboard. [laughs] D Recording in Sausalito, California. It was basically use a bottom mic on the snare drum, because I never
I remember my wife and I driving once, after a Mother a one-room studio; one big live room, with a couple liked the sound of it; I like more of the crack at the
Love Bone rehearsal, and we saw Andy walking down of little iso-booths. I had Matt [Cameron, drums] in top. Then usually something like a [Neumann] KM 84
the street with his keyboard under his arm. We slowed the middle of the room, and then I had Ben on the hi-hat, and Sennheiser [MD] 421s on the
down, and I said to him, “Andy, rehearsal ended two [Shepherd, bass] and Kim [Thayil, guitar] in the room individual toms up top, double-head. For the kick
Mr. Date/(continued on page 40)/Tape Op#123/39
drum, it was a double-head, because Matt was much particular way. There was always an MXR foot pedal get a grip on what you guys are doing, let’s sit down
more of a jazz-influenced drummer, so we went for a EQ [six band graphic equalizer] in front of everything, with these songs, chart these things out, and make
little bit more tone in the double-head. Usually in mainly to bump up a little extra overdrive on the front some arrangement notes so I can keep up with you
those days I used an [AKG] D12 on the inside, and a side of the amp head. We always experimented on guys.” We grabbed the first song, and I said, “Just
[Neumann U]47fet outside, on the front. As far as every record, trying different tube heads, but we give me time signatures so I know the song is in
overheads, it was [Neumann U] 87s back in those never really used one; it always ended up being the whatever time signature it’s in.” And he replies,
days, basically splitting the top of the kit, as well as Randall amplifiers [RG100H and Century 200]. As far “Okay, the first bar of the intro is in 3/4, the second
the room mics, where I tried to get the best large as the mic’ing goes, we did a lot of things early on. I bar of the intro is in 6/8, the 3rd bar is in 4/4.” [It
diaphragm mic that the studio had. used a technique, for a time, where I would put up turns out] every bar was a different time signature!
What was capturing Chris Cornell’s four microphones – a microphone on each speaker – [laughs] So after about 5 minutes of that, I said,
singing like? it usually was a 57. I’d leave the amp hiss going, put “Mike, forget about it...” In rehearsal, Mike used to
Chris did like to have a lot of effects in his headphones on headphones with a mic through it, and would chew sunflower seeds while he played, and his drum
while he sang. Not for the final product so much, but move the mic until the hiss was as loud as it could be set was caked with sunflower seeds – all around the
it gave him a little bit more confidence with all that on each individual speaker. I’d end up with four mics rims – and the heads had been on there for years. The
reverb and delay. It’s like a guitar player having a on the four speaker cabinets, each one placed to last day of rehearsal we were going to grab the gear
little extra sustain or overdrive on their guitar; it where it was the loudest it could possibly be, so I and head to the studio, and I said, “So, Mike, you
makes everything easier to play. He liked to have knew they were all in sync. We would record all the have heads for these?” And he goes, “What?” He
some of that in his ears. Those two records – rhythm guitars for the whole album like that. There hadn’t changed his drum heads in years, and was
Badmotorfinger and Louder Than Love – were a lot of were other times when I would take a 57, put it going to record the album with those drum heads! I
work for him, because it was physically demanding straight onto one cone on one speaker, and then take thought that was funny, but it goes to show you he
and really hard to hit those high notes. The intensity another one and put it at a 45-degree angle [to the gets good tone and good sound out of his playing. We
and difficulty of what he was singing was really hard first mic] to create a little phase scoop out of it. We did put new heads on, by the way. But those guys
and [consisted of] high vocals, so it was definitely a would spend a lot of time at the beginning of a record practiced non-stop. The bass player, John Myung,
process to get those right. He was his own worst trying these different mic’ing techniques, then we’d would go to the studio at six in the morning. The door
critic. He’d know when he had it on certain days, and settle on something and record the record. But here’s heading into the lounge had a little loft that was for
when he wouldn’t. We’d come in on some days, he’d a lesson that I learned early on: we’d record all the storage; he would throw a cushion or pillow up there
start singing, and within a half-hour he would say, rhythm guitars, tear everything down, and then, and practice his bass for hours before everybody else
“It’s not there today,” and we’d go on to something towards the end of the record, Dime would go, “I’ve showed up. By the time I’d come in, his fingers would
else. He knew what he wanted more than I knew what got one more part I hear in my head that I want to be bleeding from practicing. He was just insane that

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he wanted; I was there for moral support more than put on a song or two.” We would throw up one way! John Petrucci [guitar] was the same way. He
anything else, as well as to give him what he needed cabinet, and I’d put a 57 on it – because it was a practiced all the time, and because of that
technically. So – especially on Badmotorfinger – it secondary part he was going to throw in. Then we’d preparation that record took us three weeks, from
was a very difficult exercise for him. He pulled it off listen to it, and it usually sounded better than the
.c start through the mix!
great, but it was a lot of work for all of us. I like rhythm guitars we’d spent all this time mic’ing, in all Rob Zombie practically invented a new
[Neumann U] 87s, but I do remember having a these exotic ways. I realized that you don’t need a genre with White Zombie’s Astro-
[Neumann U] 67 on him, which has always been one whole lot of fancy stuff with him; just get a mic on Creep: 2000 album and the song
“More Human than Human.”
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of my favorite vocal mics for either a female or high him. Keep it simple, and it sounds better. One trick
male vocal. At the time when I was working with that I picked up from working with Metal Church is Rob is very involved. White Zombie was a band project,
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Soundgarden, Chris was still primarily singing in that that they used to take their picks and scrape them on but Rob had control of what was going on. That record
full-voice falsetto; that very high, intense voice. He the sidewalk before they came into the studio – the started out where we were going to use samples; up
wasn’t doing the lower, quieter vocals as much. With flat edge – to rough them up and make the picking to that point, I had never used samples on a record at
bands like Soundgarden and Dream Theater, I didn’t edges sharper, so that it’s like an ice-skate. You all. I was not really that interested in doing it, but Rob
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get involved with tunings or arrangements so much. flatten the bottom to make the edges sharper. You wanted to use some loops – as more of a click track
I would try and capture them as live as I possibly get more attack across the strings by doing that, and than anything else – from the start. I was a little bit
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could. I’d try to capture the vitality of the live show. that was one thing I actually used to do with hesitant about it, because I was still thinking in terms
I wanted them to feel like what they had done on Dimebag. We’d take a razor blade and sharpen the flat of a “band playing rock.” They were using John
their own was valid, and really good. Then it came edge of the pick so we’d get a little bit more attack Tempesta on drums for the first time; he’s great
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down to performance issues and whether or not they on the pick when he was playing. drummer. I was just hesitant about having any time
were pulling something off in a convincing way. But Recording Dream Theater’s debut, base going on at all. Rob wanted to try it, so we talked
I didn’t get too involved with micro-managing what When Dream and Day Unite, must about it and used a loop as another member of the
they were doing. have been a completely different band, basically. That way it could feel like John was
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Your work with Pantera on Cowboys experience. playing with another band member, instead of a little
from Hell and Vulgar Display of We did it at a studio outside of Philadelphia beat going on in his headphones. Charlie Clouser was
Power broke ground with a new [Kajem/Victory Studios]. I went out to New York to doing those loops for us, so we had an initial loop to
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hybrid of metal. How did you track meet with them a week or two before we started, and do the basic tracks with, as a click track. Then we
Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott’s monster stayed with Mike Portnoy [drums]. We’d go into started realizing that the room we recorded the drums
guitar sound? rehearsal in a basement underneath a beauty salon; in was not incredibly live, so we decided to start using
I get this question a lot from people. The first thing I’m we couldn’t start ‘til nighttime. I don’t make a lot of those loops as the ambience, to create the size that a
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going to say about him, and it’s really true, is you comments or suggestions during rehearsals. I observe live drum room would normally create. It grew into us
can’t get his sound unless you have his hands, his the band and see who the dominant person is; who sending the drum tracks back to Charlie – this was the
head, and his heart. He’d always have two amp likes to make decisions. I look at those dynamics. So, very early days of Pro Tools – so his method would be
stacks. One stack was straight and the other ran after about three days of rehearsal, I was with Mike to take the drums and cut them to the loop. I told him
through an MXR flanger/doubler that was set in a all day before we went in. I said, “Mike, just so I can after I heard the first one, “No, John is a human. Why
40 /Tape Op#123/Mr. Date/(continued on page 42)
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don’t you cut the loops to John?” We decided we liked then bring them to me to do some vocals, and I’d mix I have to treat all these records like my kids. I can’t
where this was going, so more loops were created it for him. I did that record with Mix, and that was show any favorites, but some I’m more proud of than
based on rough mixes I would send – of the drums, really important to the Deftones in high school. They others. My time with Deftones, Pantera, Soundgarden,
guitar overdubs, and vocals – and Charlie would create have a huge, wide variety of influences. Coming out of Limp Bizkit, and Metal Church stands out. I can’t say
more specific loops based on how the record was the Pantera days, sonically, music was all about high- one over the other, because they’re all important to
developing. We ended up with three 24-track tape end, upper midrange, and aggression. They wanted to me. Prong was another one of my favorites; I did two
machines synched together for that record. One group introduce a lot more low-end; a lot more of a hip-hop records with them [Rude Awakening and Cleansing].
of 24 tracks had the band – drums, bass, and guitars. bass sort of sound. I was still hearing a more metal Tommy Victor [guitar/vocals] was, and still is, a
The next one had vocals, and the third 24-track was sound, and on Adrenaline I don’t think I got the low- special friend. Those were super-fun records to make.
all stereo loops going constantly. Charlie gave us a end issue quite as well as I could have; but it was a The second record I made with Prong was right after
whole bunch, and we had to decide what loops we great record, with great performances. When we did the White Zombie record, and it’s still one of my
wanted to keep. Rob was very involved with Around the Fur I was a lot more in tune with what they favorite records I’ve made. In the moment, with all
everything. When Jay [Yuenger, guitar] and Sean wanted on that record. White Pony was recorded in the those records, you don’t really think that it’s going to
[Yseult, bass] did their parts, he let everybody do their same studio as Mother Love Bone, at The Plant in be something that’s going to be looked at 20 years
thing, but other than that he was involved heavily Sausalito, and it was always a joy to work with them, from then, and be as good as it was. You’re trying to
with everything else. What I did with Rob, when we even though White Pony was a difficult record for all of get it as good as you can, in the moment.
were tracking his vocals – this is something I was us to make because of where the band was at the time. What advice would you give a young
doing a lot during that time period – was to set up a There was some darkness going on there – but I think engineer these days?
little vocal booth out in the live room, add some little that contributed to what I think is their best record. I totally respect the level of ability it takes to get on a
gobos and made a little environment, plus throw two You produced Limp Bizkit’s hit computer and get the plug-ins and sounds to sound
big stage monitors on the floor in front of him. I gave “Nookie.” How was a song like that real, but until you have learned how to put a mic in
him a [Shure SM]58 and no headphones, and I tracked? front of a drum set, put a mic in front of a singer or
pumped the music out of those floor monitors at stage The funny thing about “Nookie” is that song was written guitar player, and get them to actually perform based
volume. That’s how he did his vocals. I compressed the and recorded in 20 minutes! We had finished all the on the sounds that they’re hearing and the vibrations
crap out of the mic, so that when he was singing you songs for the record, and Fred [Durst, vocals] was like, they’re feeling while they’re playing, it’s really hard to
wouldn’t hear any of the leakage; but of course when “I don’t think we have a first single yet.” Everyone make a record that separates from everything else.
he wasn’t singing there’d be tons of leakage. When I was in the studio; DJ Lethal was in the back of the Learn how to use a microphone and to mic air. The
was mixing, I had to go through and mute out room with his DJ gear, and we’re all scratching our valuable thing is that personal relationship between
everything in between his vocals with the automation heads. He said, “I have this loop I was going to put the artist and the sound coming out of the speakers.

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on the board. That’s how we got the attitude. I use on my solo record. Maybe we can use that?” It was I still think putting a mic on something that sits in
that same technique with Deftones, because to me, some loop from an Italian porno movie; Lethal the room is the most pleasing thing to listen to,
when a guy is used to playing and performing live, I started playing that, and Wes [Borland] started however you accomplish that. I totally appreciate the
think that helps create some of the attitude. I’ll give playing the guitar part to it that the whole song
.c sounds that are coming out of the computer, but they
up a little bit of sonic quality to gain attitude. starts out with. Then Fred started singing his thing. all have to be used correctly. If you combine the two
You produced four classic albums for They went out into the live room and it came techniques with the ability to connect with a human
Deftones. What have been some of together. It was like, “Boom!” When it was done, being, then that’s the most important thing. The
your favorite highlights from
l
everyone was like, “Wow, that was easy!” [laughs] communication between the two human beings is
making records with the band as Happy accidents like that are rare. It’s just something what’s going to make it sound the best.
ai

their producer? that happens. I always try to leave a little bit of room When you look ahead, what gets you
One of the beauties of that band is that their influences in the studio for stuff like that to happen. If a band most excited about making records
are so wide. I got a call out of the blue from a guy I has 12 songs to put on a record, I always leave some after so many years in the studio?
wasn’t familiar with at the time, and he said to me, “I time, in case there’s a riff somebody comes up with I still haven’t made the perfect record yet. To me, there’s
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have a band in Sacramento. I want you on a plane to during basic tracks. But it’s rare, especially for a song still that sound, or combination of sounds, that I
come down and check out our rehearsal tomorrow.” I to get as big as that one got. You don’t see them haven’t found. Every day that I come into the studio,
@g

was like, “Who is this?” It turned out to be Guy Oseary, come out of thin air like that very often. I think, “Maybe today’s the day I’m going to get that
who has gone on to become U2’s manager, and he was Some record producers seek to carve out perfect storm of everything working together in the
working for Madonna’s label [Maverick] at the time. a signature sound. Where have you right way.” That’s part of it, but the most satisfying
34

They had done some recording, but I don’t think there sought to head throughout your thing is these personal relationships I’ve made over
were any other releases, other than a song on a career, in that respect? the years. They’re transitory, they’re short-term in the
compilation. But the first record I did with them, I’ve tried to be as invisible as possible, because I always big picture, and they’re two and three months at a
Adrenaline, was their first recording. They were all in wanted a lot of the band sound to be front and time; but it’s the experiences that I’ve had with those
21

their early twenties, and used to ride their bicycles to center. I think that’s why a lot of the records I did – kinds of people that, to me, are the most valuable.
rehearsal. They’re like family to me; my kids grew up especially during those days – were very different Hopefully the people I work with feel the same way.
with them. From day one to now, it’s always been sounding, because I really tried to avoid having any We’ve had a lot of people dying here lately, but those
ki

about trying to make a record that, when you listen to stamp of mine on the record – other than the fact personal relationships are so valuable. I get to know
it, you think you’re at their show. Adrenaline was a very that it captured the vitality of the band. I didn’t want those people a little bit, some of them deeper than
interesting record for me, because it was a transition to have somebody hear a record of mine and others, but you get some level of friendship with
record from straight thrash metal with punk influence, recognize it as something that I did. I’d much rather these people that sticks with you the rest of your life.
ti

to bands that were influenced by that music, as well as have somebody go through the credits, see that I did That really is the gold record on the wall to me. r
hip-hop. When I first met them, I found out that one it, and be surprised. It was more important to me that <www.terrydaterecording.com>
of their most influential records growing up was Sir the band took front and center.
Mix-a-Lot’s Swass album, which I worked on back in Do you have any favorite records of the
the early ‘80s. Mix would produce his own projects, ones you have worked on?
42/Tape Op#123/Mr. Date/(Fin.)
ti
ki
21
34
@g
mai
l.c
om
After listening to several reference tracks and some current
masters that I was working on, I found the ADAMs to have Audio-Technica
excellent imaging, especially around the high-mids on electric ATM230 dynamic mic
guitars and background vocals. Pianos and pads in pop songs Audio-Technica has knocked it out of the park with this
were easy to hear, which speaks well of the midrange clarity, hypercardioid dynamic instrument mic. This is definitely my
and the bottom end felt solid and weighty. On some material, new go-to mic for toms and even kick drum. I tried out a
the vocals sat a bit further back in the mix than I’m used to, three-pack of the ATM230 on several sessions, with different
and the 80–100 Hz thump of the kick drum felt a little styles of music. Each time, the mic delivered wonderfully. I
subdued. The clarity is there, but some of the forwardness that was so impressed, I decided to do a shootout to make sure I
I’m accustomed to hearing is tamed by the S3V. I decided to wasn’t imagining things.
set a “house curve” EQ using S Control and ADAM’s onboard During some downtime, my studio partner and I set up our
DSP. The software installed easily on my MacBook Pro and three favorite dynamic mics for toms, alongside an ATM230.
launched a very good-looking and easy-to-navigate EQ plug- We sent all four mics into Vintech X73i preamps [Tape Op
in window. S Control’s photorealistic GUI allows setup of the #47]. The Audio-Technica blew them all away! We were so

ADAM Audio speaker, including analog/digital input selection, volume


adjustment (−60 dB to +12 dB), and delay time (up to 5 ms).
surprised that we raced back into the live room to double-
check the mic positioning to make sure something funny
S3V active 3-way monitor Also, two factory and two user EQ presets can be recalled. wasn’t going on. The ATM230 sounded deep and punchy, with
German speaker manufacturer ADAM Audio recently S Control’s EQ provides low and high–shelves, plus six just the right amount of stick attack, without EQ. My partner
introduced its S-series speakers, including the S2V, S3V, S3H, parametric bands. Interestingly, all eight bands offer 20 Hz – pointed out how lifelike the bottom end felt on different hits.
S5V, and S5H. These speakers represent the newest advances 20 kHz, ±12 dB of control. I found that, with ADAM’s software, In comparison, some of the other mics almost sounded like
in technology from ADAM and include updates in driver, you don’t hear the EQ until you load the setting into the drum samples with the low-end resonance feeling almost
porting, and cabinet design. As many of you know, ADAM speaker, and the speaker mutes for about 30 seconds before it static and less dynamic in comparison. The stick sound from
speakers use a proprietary folded-ribbon tweeter and fires back up with the new EQ preset — a tedious process that the ATM230 also felt clearer, and more open and natural. Next,
waveguide. doesn’t allow for real-time trials. My workaround was to put an I tried crashing some cymbals off-axis, and this time, the
Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to test EQ plug-in on my master fader, dial in a curve with the plug- ATM230 really blew all the others away by having the best off-
drive the S3V, the mid-priced model of the line, in my studio. in, and then copy the EQ settings into S Control to load into axis rejection. The cymbals were both darker and quieter than
It employs a 9’’ woofer, 4’’ midrange, and an S-ART folded- each speaker. I eventually settled on a wide bell cut of about in all other mics. That’s exactly what you want out of a tom
ribbon tweeter. Each S3V is DSP-controlled, with a dedicated −4 dB around 50 Hz. That EQ, to my ears, gave the S3V pair a mic. I wanted to be certain I hadn’t just grabbed the lucky
power amp for each driver — 500 W, 300 W, and 50 W, solid, but not overly hyped, low end that left room for a bit mic, so I put all three of the ATM230 mics up and compared
respectively. With all that horsepower, these full-range, high- more clarity across the rest of the spectrum. them. They were all perfectly matched and indistinguishable.
powered studio monitors offer a maximum SPL of 124 dBA at Over several weeks, I found the S3V enjoyable to listen to, This is a really great product!

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1 m, with a frequency response of 32 Hz – 50 kHz. On the rear with its genre sweet-spots being pop R&B and modern-rock Then I spent the next few days using two of the ATM230
panel of the speakers, one XLR jack is for analog input, and a music, where the S3V exhibited a clean transient response, mics for toms and the third on kick drum. The first day, I had
separate pair of male and female XLR jacks provide digital with punchy lows and a clear presentation of vocals and
.c a very large kick with no sound hole. The ATM230 delivered a
(AES3) input and thru. A USB Type-B connector allows access ambience. On some heavy blues-rock, the guitars sounded tight, focused, and punchy bottom end, with just enough
to the onboard DSP through a computer running ADAM’s great, while the S3V’s laid-back mid-bass left the bass guitar beater presence to cut through the mix without sounding silly
downloadable S Control software (macOS or Windows) for EQ feeling a little distant. I had been mixing an audiophile or forced. The second day, I had a smaller 22’’ drum, and I
and room correction. Alternatively, a physical rotary encoder country album, and with the S3V I could easily hear the subtle placed the mic just inside the hole, pointing towards the
l
and OLED display on the rear panel can be used. On the front differences between different reverbs. While mixing some beater. I think I’m in love.
panel of the cabinet is an LED indicating power status, and modern EDM and R&B vocals, I found that I had a wide range Beyond just the sound, these are incredibly well-designed
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the bottom front of the cabinet sports two triangular ports. of acceptable high-frequency EQ settings that all sounded mics. They are super small and compact, which makes them
In my mix room, I placed the speakers about 65’’ from mix good. That caused me to shy away from any extreme EQ much easier to maneuver around really tight setups. They are
position, in the typical equilateral configuration, and set the changes, since the speakers seemed to smooth out some of also much less likely to be hit by a stick in the middle of an
speakers to the “Pure” (flat) factory preset using the rear- the EQ changes I made. The S3V worked great for acoustic- overly passionate drum fill (but they are tough enough to
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mounted encoder and screen. I also plugged a USB cable into music mixes and even for mastering fusion and chamber survive a hit). I also like the mic’s integral stand mount, so I
each speaker so that further EQ tweaks could be made from don’t have to search for a mic clip. Anything that helps speed
@g

music. For dense pop and rock mixes, my passive speakers


the comfort of my mix position, via S Control on my laptop. provided a bit more detail, especially in the bass tones around the setup time in my studio is welcome by me.
To break in the S3V pair, I put on an iTunes playlist at a 100–300 Hz. I’m sure with some more time, I could become The ATM230 also comes with an AT8665 drum mount that
moderate level and let the S3Vs play overnight for about a comfortable with the S3V pair as my main monitors. attaches to the rim of a drum. I would only call this mount
34

week. (I have found many speakers change drastically in the The S3Vs filled my control room evenly and presented a satisfactory. It gets the job done, but doesn’t have quite as
first 20–30 hours of use, and I wanted to give the S3Vs an nice, wide sweet-spot. I think a client sitting off to one side much range as similar mounts I’ve seen from other
honest first listen.) In my mix studio, I run Sonarworks would be able to make informed mix decisions. The amount of manufacturers. [On the contrary, I purchased four AT8665
Reference 3 software [Tape Op #103] to tune my monitors. onboard amplifier power and the wide sweet-spot make the mounts because I prefer them over the many rim mounts I
21

Before applying any corrective EQ, I wanted to establish a S3V an effective midfield monitor for large control rooms. I own from other manufacturers, including the ones that came
baseline for the S3V, so I ran some tests using Room EQ would recommend a listening distance of at least 6 ft from with my Sennheiser MD 504 and e 604 drum mics. –AH] I
Wizard [#111] and FuzzMeasure [#111], and found the each speaker to allow the 3-way configuration to develop a almost never use any of these rim mounts though, because my
response of the S3V to be almost identical to that of my main cohesive sound and image, which may make these speakers experiences have taught me that drum mics sound noticeably
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monitors, which happen to be a pair of vintage 12’’ Tannoy too large for control rooms less than 15 ft deep. The S3V better to me when I put them on standard mic stands. So, I
Little Golds with Tannoy TS-10 subs. The frequency response provides a much larger sound than one would expect from this see this addition as a small bonus that hardly has a bearing
measured flat down to 40 Hz, with a −8 dB roll-off at 30 Hz. size cabinet, and the sound is refined and detailed. With a on my opinion of the mic.
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From 2 kHz on up, there was a gentle slope down to about street price of $5,999 per pair, the ADAM Audio S3V has some The ATM230 is a great-sounding mic. Call me a convert.
−3 dB at 20 kHz. The overall small dips and bumps of the S3V’s stiff competition, but its feature set and overall quality put it Audio-Technica might have just set a new standard for drum
frequency response matched my main monitors’ measured in a good position to compete well with other speakers at this mics! (Each $139 street, 3-Pack $349; www.audio-
curve, which effectively shows my room’s acoustic signature, price point. (Pair $5,999 street; www.adam-audio.com) technica.com) –Scott McDowell <fadersolo.com>
so it’s fair to say the S3V has a generally flat response between –Adam Kagan <www.mixer.ninja>
40 Hz and 20 kHz.
44/Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/
Soundelux USA Eventide
U99 large-diaphragm tube mic Fission Structural Effects plug-in
The boutique microphone landscape was very different I reviewed the Bock Audio 195 [Tape Op #84] back in 2011, Way back in 1998, we interviewed Dan Rathbun [Tape Op
16 years ago, when I bought an original Soundelux and the new U99 features a “Fat” switch introduced with the #10]. One of his techniques for mixing was something he called
Microphones U99 in 2001 — serial number 017. It was my 195. In practical use, engaging Fat increases the amount of low “Split-Spectrum Compression.” Simply put, this is the idea of
first multipattern large-diaphragm tube condenser. With end, and utilizing Fat together with the pad makes the U99 a using a crossover to split an instrument into two or more
sketchy vintage dealers offering very few options, buying a fantastic choice for bass-leaning sources and guitar amps. The frequency bands to gain more control over its sound. A bass
high-end tube mic back then was a tricky affair. I knew I U99’s low end is already generous and particularly harmonic, so guitar, for example, can be divided into high, mid, and low
needed a solid instrument to bring more fidelity and focus to sources with an abundance of lows tracked with this switch bands in order to compress — or apply other effects — to each
the recordings I was making. I was traveling a lot, recording engaged can exhibit a great deal of musical motion that seems band separately, before blending together the results using a
in larger studios, and then dragging what little gear I owned to translate well, even on smaller speakers. The tonal-shaping mixer. This concept blew my mind at the time. These days,
into homes, rehearsal spaces, and other makeshift spaces. options continue with a three-position switch that lifts or multiband compressors are ubiquitous, especially in the digital
The mic had to be reliable and work in many situations, and attenuates treble, and a Hi/Lo switch that essentially shifts the realm, but the crossover technique allows me to use a different
I hoped to make the right choice if I could find something high-frequency personality of the U99 upwards or downwards processing chain for each frequency band. I’ve used variants of
affordable. Fortunately, David Bock was already there in that a bit. In a world of virtualized modeled mics, all these switches this approach to help with my mixing sessions and shared many
landscape with Soundelux, hand-building and tuning designs don’t radically reshape the voice of the U99, but they do of them in my Lynda.com video courses.
with the knowledge of what made a classic a classic. I had provide significant advantages during placement that may Along the way, the other aspect of sound I wished to have
researched Soundelux and David Bock, with his many years of have you reaching for less processing on the tracks. I generally more control over was transients. When the SPL Transient
experience maintaining the vintage mics that filled the like the highs flat or attenuated with the mic set to Lo, which Designer hardware [Tape Op #21] came around, followed by the
lockers of busy studios, and he was just starting to build new makes the mic feel more U 67–like. UAD-2 software plug-in [#67], I was an immediate adopter.
ones that referenced those venerated stalwarts. I knew the With the tone switches set appropriately, I compared the old Now, I could control how quickly a source entered and left the
U99 was based around the Neumann U 67, my favorite mic and new U99 mics on upright piano. The two were each set up mix. Other plug-ins, notably Sonnox Oxford Envolution [#113],
then and now. Trust me — prices were going up on old as a mono room mic — placed side-by-side, just above player’s have added a higher degree of control to transient vs. tonal
Neumanns even then. Buying new would mean higher head level. After adjusting slightly for gain, the similarity was information, and I have been using Envolution quite a bit
reliability, and the U99 was just within my reach. I didn’t shocking. Panning the two mics hard left and right, the mono lately to restore energy in poorly recorded drums, and reduce
quite have the cash, but stretched and went for it. It was one image was strong and stable — up and down the keyboard. This hi-hat bleed and ring in snare mics. But now, the innovative
of the smartest things I’ve ever done. similarity diverged as soon as I started diving into the multitude minds at Eventide have introduced their Structural Effects
The results were immediate and I kind of fell in love. The U99 of tone switches, and I was able to adjust the new U99 for technology via the Fission plug-in. They claim this process
became the heart and soul of so many recordings — the greater high-frequency extension and increased sensitivity to “separates a sound into its transient (impact/
inspiration on vocals, the spine of drum tracks, the angular midrange. On subsequent recordings of acoustic guitars, unpredictable/jagged) and tonal (sustaining/ stable/smooth)

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shimmer and jangle of guitar amps. It just worked, never percussion, and vocals, I used the tone switches to bring out a parts more effectively and accurately than previous methods.”
complained, and was always ready to go. And it was my mic. pleasing level of detail, especially when recording at greater From what I can tell, this is very true.
I’ve continued to admire the authority of old Neumanns and distances, without the U99 ever sounding strident. Like the
.c Simply put, Fission is a plug-in that can split a mono or
appreciate their ownership from a distance, but I never felt venerated U 67, it always seemed to remain open and musical. stereo track into transient and tonal components, and then
disadvantaged by their absence when I got back to my own Layered vocals are always fun to record, but problematic process these two elements separately within the plug-in.
spot. Like the U 67, the U99 is a flexible general-instrument resonances in the mic or source pile up really quickly. I tend to Processing includes many spatial effects (something Eventide
mic — killer for close-mic duties, which is a critical trait switch mics to get the harmonics to interweave nicely with the is well known for), as well as EQ and dynamics, with pitch and
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considering I was in odd, unfriendly sounding spaces a lot of lead vocal. With that in mind, tracking doubled female vocals tremolo effects further available for tonal processing. In my
the time. (I’m probably describing my old boing-ey Living with the U99 was a joy, bringing out desirable upper-octave experience, learning how to use Fission took a little bit of work.
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Room in Northampton, MA, more than anyplace else!) Well effects and luscious feathery highs. Once again, like my old I tried popping it on some drum tracks during a session, but I
rounded, full and forgiving, exceptionally flexible to a fault, the friend, the newer reissue became the heart and soul of the track. didn’t quite “get it” out the gate and ended up not using the
U99 was used on everything; and with it, I managed to make In day-to-day use, the recessed tonal-shaping switches, while plug-in. What a mistake. At home, and off the client’s clock, I
a life out of recording. I owe quite a bit to that mic and David a thoughtful addition, are a little tricky to access quickly when tried out Fission on the same troublesome kick drum and was
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Bock’s thoughtful musical design. the mic is in position. They were something I generally tended able to gain the control I had needed over the dynamics of the
Today, my U99 is still in constant use, and I was thrilled to to set when initially prepping placement, and then I resorted to transient and tonal components.
@g

hear that some years after the original Soundelux Microphones mic position and pattern tweaking to tailor sounds once in My approach was to use Fission like I would an external
company was shut down, Bock’s revitalized Soundelux USA was place. When learning how these options change the U99’s crossover, except for splitting transients instead of frequencies.
reissuing what is undoubtedly one of my favorite microphones. response, I’d say just keep a small screwdriver close on hand and I duplicated the kick track and applied Fission to both, setting
34

I’m happy to report that this new version lives up to that you’ll be fine, as there are a ton of possibilities — almost too one to solo transients, and the other to solo tone. In this way,
legacy of great value, build quality, and exceptional sonics, many! Committing to a sound during mic placement is always I was able to process these two elements of the kick sound
while bringing several new features that help extend the fluid important for me, because I generally don’t reach for a ton of separately, using non-Fission plug-ins for EQ and
positioning that has been my experience with the original U99. EQ during tracking if I can fix what I need through mic choice compression — which gave me an even wider control over the
21

The new Soundelux USA U99 ships with a custom-made and a quick repositioning. The U99 is a fantastic mic for that dynamically challenged kick drum than if I had relied solely on
power supply featuring a fully variable polar-pattern control, a approach, and I did run into mic placements, especially at Fission’s built-in effects. This method opens up the thought of
six-pin cable to connect the microphone, and a threaded greater distance, where the ability to call upon more treble what may come next with Eventide’s Structural Effects. I would
shockmount. It is still built around Bock’s take on the K 67 brought additional focus, while the mic’s low self-noise meant love to see a “simpler” version — one that would split audio
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capsule, is paired with a large custom transformer and NOS that I could easily compress its output to bring out more detail. into transient and tonal components and send to aux tracks,
tube, and now has several tonal-shaping switches not found on 16 years later, but it’s still the same story: The Soundelux much like Avid’s unheralded Pro Multiband Splitter plug-in does
the original version. The original was already a phenomenal USA U99 is a lot of microphone for the price. You’re getting an for separating frequencies. Come to think of it, integrating a
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close mic, but these new additions greatly expand the mic’s everyday workhorse, designed by someone with a lifetime of band-splitter with a transient/tonal–splitter would allow
usable placements and tonal colors. With the original mic, I experience, and built in a shop that’s cementing its legacy by ridiculous control over many sounds!
learned to dial in different polar patterns to control the lows, turning out incredible tools for recordists. With all of its While messing with the drums, I also learned how to isolate
but this new version has a welcome −20 dB pad and a high- flexibility, this mic is a great value. You could buy two for the transient, leave it alone, and pitch just the tonal part.
pass rolloff, so such concerns can now be easily remedied below the cost of what is becoming the upper range of bespoke Imagine being able to “tune” toms or snare while mixing.
without having to change the pickup pattern. tube mics these days. ($2,599 street; www.bockaudio.com) Crazy. Then I tried out Fission on other sources besides drums.
–Thom Monahan <www.goldenvoidstudio.com> Gear Reviews/(continued on page 46)/45
On electric guitar and bass, it allowed me to separate the pick will likely change in the very near future. Because the platform is
attack from the sustained notes — and either create a more open-source, there are a lot of third-party developers. An Ableton
driving, percussive tone, or soften the attack and create organ- Link plug-in is already available, although I was not able to test
ish tones from guitar chords. Fission can supremely control the it. VST/AU support is also planned with a VCV Bridge module
level of electric bass clacks, and conversely add attack to bass coming soon, although this will be a cross-application
recordings that sound too mellow. When I went back to a synth connection, not a plug-in running inside your DAW. For now,
patch I had dealt with in a mix the previous day, I quickly there are workarounds. For example, because VCV Rack is modular,
realized I could have easily used Fission to reduce the nasty, I was able to patch in two audio interfaces — a Universal Audio
distorted attack of the keyboard to fit it into the mix better. Apollo Twin and my MacBook Pro’s headphone jack — so that I
Damn — might be time for a quick mix revision. could route audio out of Pro Tools into VCV Rack, and then back
Are there any downsides to Fission? When pushing sounds into Pro Tools. Doing this was a bit tricky (and I had to be careful
extremely hard, yes you can get some artifacts, but this should of feedback loops), but it otherwise worked fine, and I was able
be expected and was never a problem when I was restoring to process Pro Tools audio tracks through the Mutable
drums. My personal feeling is the product is being sold more as Instruments Clouds module in VCV Rack, for instance. I had a little
a “whiz-bang” effects unit, but that part didn’t interest me nearly less luck with MIDI, but I think if I had a multichannel MIDI
as much as the Structural Effects process itself. There are a lot of interface, I could make it work. (I got some pretty crazy MIDI
presets, some by “name” engineers and producers — such as feedback loops going with my single-channel interface!)
Suzanne Ciani (see the review of A Life In Waves documentary The Clouds module is interesting to discuss for two reasons.
this issue) — but I found myself using Fission more to control One, like a lot of the popular Mutable modules (and a growing
and restore sounds, and the presets either were for specific number of Eurorack modules in general), it’s implemented in
sources, or other times resulted in crazy, overt sounds. DSP — so the hardware version and the VCV Rack version are
Am I excited to where this technology will lead? Hell yes. running the same open-source code. Besides the sonic differences
I can’t wait to have a “standalone” version of just the due to A/D and D/A conversion, the physical and virtual modules
Structural Effects splitter for use with other plug-ins and sound pretty close to identical. The other interesting thing about
effects — or an advanced version that offers both envelope Clouds is that it was one of Mutable’s best-selling modules, but it’s
and frequency division. Controlling how sounds enter and no longer in production, so if you missed out on it or can’t find a
leave the picture is key to getting great mixes, and, as an used one, VCV Rack gets you pretty damn close — for free. The
example, I can imagine new ways to tailor the attack and cost of just the Mutable modules alone in VCV Rack would be a few
decay of a kick drum at several different frequencies. I feel thousand dollars if purchased as hardware, so to be able to use
like we are in an age where we are seeing the true power of the virtual versions with the same algorithms for free is pretty
digital audio technology coming into focus, and I think this great. I like that the modular synth community is very open and

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is a good thing. ($179; www.eventideaudio.com) –LC sharing in general, and it’s nice to see that guys like Olivier Gillet,

VCV the principle developer at Mutable Instruments, are willing to


contribute to the VCV Rack project.
Rack v0.5 virtual modular synth
.c
Wow! This is one of the coolest pieces of software I’ve ever
The other great thing about this being open-source is that,
even though VCV Rack is only a few months old, there’s already
seen, and it’s free! VCV Rack is an open-source, modular a pretty extensive library of modules available, and it will only
synthesizer software platform developed by Andrew Belt. It keep growing. For instance, once I reached the point of getting
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sounds great, and it’s the most intuitive virtual modular synth I’ve pretty complex patches going, I was a bit frustrated with being
ever used. The downloadable installation file is small, and it’s a unable to pan anything, and I was hitting limitations with mults
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breeze to get running on macOS (10.7+), Windows (64-bit), or as the only way to combine signals. On the Switched On Rack
Linux (64-bit). I was digging in and making music in a matter of blog <www.switchedonrack.com/modules-monitor.html>, I
minutes, and I only had to reference the online manual once. found a free 8-channel mixer from Hora Music with pan and
VCV Rack’s GUI is straightforward — just patch together mute controls. A few minutes later, I was up and running with
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modules with virtual patch cords, and you’re off and running. panning and better level controls. Hora Music also makes some
The system will only allow you to patch things that work
@g

larger mixers with aux sends, and I ended up buying those for
together, and as soon as you’re near an input or output, the €15 EUR. I also found some cool modules from Vult, Gratrix, and
virtual cables snap to their virtual jacks. With other modular Sonus Modular that I integrated into my VCV Rack. And to give
synth software, I’ve quickly became frustrated by the difficulty you an idea of how fast this ecosystem is growing, several days
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in connecting the virtual patch cables, so I appreciate what after I wrote the first draft of this review, VCV released a nice
Andrew has accomplished with VCV Rack. The virtual knobs and mixer module for $15 that was a bit closer to what I needed.
switches are also easy to manipulate. In general, I’m not a big Even if you have no interest in electronic music, keep in mind
fan of using a mouse or trackpad to manipulate instruments, that you can easily run audio into VCV Rack to do lots of creative
21

but VCV Rack is so easy to use and is so powerful right out of processing using filters, delays, wave shapers, and grain
the gate, that I really had fun with it! The virtual rack itself, delays — and it’s all modular, patchable, and save/recallable too.
unlike real physical racks, just keeps growing horizontally and If you read my review of Automatonism [Tape Op #121] last
vertically as you add modules, and you can scroll up/down and year, but were perhaps intimated by its underpinnings in the
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left/right. I wish I could magically make my real racks do this! Pure Data programming environment, then you’ll find VCV Rack
VCV Rack has no CPU meter, but the file sizes of the much more accessible. I think VCV Rack is a great fit for anyone
application and its plug-ins are tiny. I put together some interested in audio processing or synthesis — whether you’re
ti

complex patches on my 2012 MacBook Pro running macOS just learning and you’re not sure where to start, or you already
10.8.5, with no glitches at all. And in all my use of VCV Rack, have a bunch of hardware and software synths. Beginners and
it has yet to crash even once! I wish I could say the same thing seasoned synth nerds alike will find something to love about VCV
about some commercial software I’ve purchased. Rack. It’s hard to believe that it’s free, because it feels like
At the time of this review, VCV Rack is a standalone something that should cost several hundred dollars!
application, so it won’t work with your DAW — although this (Free download; www.vcvrack.com) –JB
46/Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 48)
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@g
mai
l.c
om
Soundtoys iZotope
Little Plate RX 6 Advanced restoration suite
Electromechanical Reverb plug-in I’ve previously reviewed RX 3 [Tape Op #100] and RX 4
Not only am I a huge fan of plate reverb, Soundtoys is [#105], and with iZotope’s update to RX 6 last year, I think
also one of my favorite companies. They offer up a it’s time to once again point out what a powerful set of tools
consistently unique and vibe-y catalog of inspiring plug- this application and plug-in suite is. Of all the software and
ins that I can’t help but use on a regular basis — EchoBoy plug-ins I use, at this point in time, RX 6 is the one that I
[Tape Op #62], Crystallizer [#62], and Decapitator [Tape Op cannot live without. If a studio I am working in doesn’t have
#105] being some of my favorite go-to choices. In fact, I it, I will install it (it’s easy to authorize), or I will set aside
have a friendly bet going with another engineer over who “tasks” to perform with it later on my laptop. I have also
can get through a mix without using Decapitator. employed (and extolled the virtues of) RX in many of my
Inevitably, we both lose! Soundtoys just has a knack for Lynda.com instructional videos over the years. So how do I
going beyond a straightforward hardware replication, and use it? Quite simply, RX 6 allows me to tailor audio tracks (in
it’s my opinion that they are the gold standard for creative the recording or mixing stage) to what I really want to hear.
effects plug-in development. Importing audio into the standalone application (linked to
Instead of modeling Little Plate from a single hardware Pro Tools or other DAW sessions via the RX Connect and RX
unit, apparently Soundtoys collected five vintage EMT 140 Monitor plug-ins), a spectral view of the audio is presented
plate reverbs to gather inspiration. Excitedly, I snagged my on-screen, with time, frequency, and amplitude in one view.
free download (offered to all Soundtoys 5 suite owners) and I can use Mouth De-click (new!) to easily and accurately
started using it immediately. The first thing I noticed is how remove distracting mouth sounds I don’t want to hear on
simple Little Plate is. I love tools that do one thing really vocalists. I can select certain frequencies on a bass guitar,
well with limited tweaking — turn it on, and it just works. and cut or boost them with Gain — in specific parts of the
Sometimes (but not always), too many configurable song — for an evenly leveled signal to mix from. I can erase
parameters can cloud the vibe and slow down momentum. guitar and amplifier hum with Spectral De-noise. I can
Little Plate has exactly four controls: Low Cut (20 Hz — sample the unwanted ring of a kick or snare drum and
1 kHz), Decay, Mod (“Space Modulator”), and Wet/Dry Mix. remove the ring from drum tracks by using Spectral De-noise
As with most plate reverbs, Little Plate’s Low Cut really in a way its inventors probably didn’t imagine. With Spectral
helps clean up the mucky-muck. I like the simplicity of the Repair, or Gain, I can eliminate vocal plosives and mic stand
large, continuously variable Low Cut knob, but if I had just rumble without affecting frequencies above it — far better
sonically than the old “high-pass EQ” trick. I can use De-ess

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one beef with Little Plate, I’d prefer the steps found on many
filters. Fortunately, that’s not even close to a deal-breaker for in the standard way on vocals, or I can use its Tame Harsh
me — I can just open an automation lane in my DAW to Master preset to make a Shure SM57 sound more like a
select exact parameters and then save them at different cuts
.c Neumann U 47 on a bedroom vocalist.
as presets. No big deal. In other words, iZotope RX 6 allows me to control my
Little Plate’s Decay setting goes way past the maximum tracking, and prepare mixes, with a power I never had before.
5 second decay time of an original EMT 140, reaching beyond Every “compromise” I used to experience, where I could only
32 seconds into an “Infinity” mode, which is both spooky and get a track to sound “good enough,” is now a juncture where
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heavenly at the same time — the reverb tail never ends! I’ve I can go a step further and pull off the previously impossible.
had a ton of fun automating the Wet/Dry Mix settings while I tell all my recording peers about what this can do for them,
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dialing in and out of Infinity mode to creatively shave the and many give a wink and a thumb’s up as they already know.
reverb tail’s presence on background vocals and piano while But many others think I’m talking about some science fiction
using Little Plate as a channel insert — turns out you can get fantasy, or an unneeded amount of extra work during
sessions. They will wake up one day, as this type of control is
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really crazy results with just three knobs and a switch!


Hands down, my favorite feature of Little Plate is its Mod the future of audio mixing. Equalization and compression
have become simply flavors in my toolkit, and are no longer
@g

switch that incorporates a hint of modulation to the reverb


tail — adding a dreamy, thickening character that results in the corrective necessities they once were.
a super-rich vibe that you just won’t find with faithful plate As I took too long to write about it, RX 6 will undoubtedly
reverb recreations. The Mod switch is what really makes Little be updated to its next version soon. Just like this update,
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Plate stand out in my opinion. we will once again see some new features and a smarter
Though I love the “true” sound of a real EMT 140 plate application. Every update of RX seems capable of identifying
reverb, Soundtoys offers not only another color to the and fixing problematic sounds with more finesse and less
palette, but an inspiring change to an expected classic. artifacts. It also becomes easier to use, and as more modules
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Whether it’s applied as an insert effect or on a bus, Little are added, they all seem to fulfill specific needs of users,
Plate’s simplicity of use has made for confident decision- which I find encouraging. I’m in for life; you should be too.
making, while its original flavor has notched up the depth One tip: Sign up for iZotope’s email list. They constantly
host special sales on RX and many of their other fine
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and character of my mixes. Well done Soundtoys — another


plug-in I can’t live without. ($99 direct; free for Soundtoys 5 software products. (RX Elements $129, Standard $399,
owners; www.soundtoys.com) –SM <scottmcchane.com> Advanced $1,199; www.izotope.com) –LC
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48 /Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/


Sonnox My comments above are from my use of Oxford Dynamic
EQ in a mastering context. Let me now hand over the review
Oxford Dynamic EQ plug-in to recording and mix engineer Don Gunn, who discusses
Dynamic equalizers have been around for a while. Historically, how he employed the plug-in for mixing.
they were outboard units, making them expensive and limited to –Garrett Haines
one stereo track at a time. When plug-ins of this type appeared, I love EQ, and I love compression; mangling sounds into
most were confusing to my eyes and sounded artificial or hyped to something they weren’t before, is fun and can add
my ears. Fortunately, that’s not the case with the recently released excitement to music. These tools can also be used subtly to
Sonnox Oxford Dynamic EQ. gently fix problems. (Fixing is not as much fun as
Oxford Dynamic EQ’s GUI is the most elegant Sonnox representation mangling — but we gotta do what’s right for the job,
ever, with controls that allow novice users to start getting sounds right?) As much as I love something like a Neve 1073 or API
without opening the manual. The frequency display may look like that 550b for colorful, broad-stroke EQ, they generally aren’t the
of a standard EQ, complete with real-time response curves. But tools I reach for when problems arise. Enter Oxford Dynamic
clicking on one of the bands gives you access to more than just the EQ. I’ve used almost all of Sonnox’s other plug-ins for years
standard frequency, Q, bell/shelf mode, solo, and mute controls. You’ll (Oxford EQ has been my go-to utility equalizer for years), so
also find Dynamics, Threshold, and Target Gain. What this means is I had high expectations for the company’s first all-new
that the band can boost or cut toward the Target Gain, based upon product in quite some time.
Dynamics ratio and Threshold level. Hence, a chosen band of a kick While I track a number of the projects I produce and/or
drum could be boosted only on big hits, or a band on a hi-hat could mix, I also get sent many sessions to mix only, so the
be reduced when it’s too loud. Each band also has an Offset Gain (the tracking end of things is out of my control; this sometimes
static level of the band before dynamics are triggered), which works reveals problems with the source tracks, due either to
in conjunction with Target Gain to adjust the amount of dynamic gain incorrect recording techniques, or to poor/questionable
change available to the specific band. Digging deeper, you’ll also find monitoring where these issues remained hidden. These are
controls for Attack, Release, and sidechain selection/EQ, among many exactly the situations in which Oxford Dynamic EQ shines.
other advanced parameters. When a source sounds “dark” or “wooly,” rather than
Oxford Dynamic EQ has a very natural sound. It can correct an issue automatically reaching for the boost on the upper-mids
without distracting the listener with pumping or artifacts. Although (let’s face it, I’m a booster, and it’s more fun to turn things
numerous factors go into sound quality, one of the main reasons it up than down), applying Oxford Dynamic EQ to dynamically
sounds so smooth is due to its Q implementation. The manual explains cut the particular frequency range that’s causing the mud
that the plug-in leverages the Type 3 algorithm from the legendary can suddenly make the track feel appropriately brighter,
Oxford R3 EQ [Tape Op #26, #32]. Type 3 is proportional-Q, which without having to boost anything. Applying “normal” EQ

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means that low amounts of cut or boost use a relatively broad filter, after the Oxford feels like I’m starting from a more level
but as the boost or cut is increased, the Q becomes narrower — a playing field, as the problem areas have already been
more natural-sounding effect to the human ear. addressed, and now I can focus on shaping the instrument
.c
To the casual observer, a dynamic EQ looks like a multiband into the mix.
compressor. And it would be reasonable to question if there is even Each band’s dynamic detection can be either internal or
a need for a dynamic EQ, given that a multi-band dynamics processor external; internal is based on the signal of the source track,
can do similar things. But they’re not exactly interchangeable, and while external is a sidechain from another track or bus.
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even when they both could be used to tackle the same problem, the Want to push down the fundamental of a bass each time the
results can be very different. I like to explain that a dynamic EQ is a kick drum hits? Easy!
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little mixing engineer who sits inside the workstation and rides the Oxford Dynamic EQ is the perfect tool for screechy strings
gains of an equalizer, as little or as often as needed. or too-brash horns, and being able to solo bands is
De-essing during the mastering stage is tough. The best attack is immeasurably helpful to zero in on problem frequencies and
usually a manual process — either spectral editing or individually set appropriate amounts of reduction. Un-solo the band and
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adjusting the gain on each offending syllable. But this is very time listen to your now-smooth string or horn part. Similarly,
consuming. With Oxford Dynamic EQ, I am able to come closer to the
@g

many bass guitars have dead spots on the fretboard, or


results I can achieve through manual editing. Another use is to seat conversely, notes that jump out. Find those notes and use
the plug-in on harsh moments of guitar or cymbals during dense Oxford Dynamic EQ to either cut the boomy ones or boost
sections. On the single “Vesper Bells” by Delicious Pastries, I was the weak ones when they occur, without affecting the
34

able to tuck in two problem frequencies in the upper midrange that overall tone of the instrument like a static EQ would.
were poking out during two sections of the song. Cutting those Vocals are especially well-handled by Oxford Dynamic EQ.
frequencies with a full-time EQ was taking away too much energy, Too much proximity effect? Use the low-shelf to help push
and using a sidechained compressor just made them more dense. down those boomy chest-notes, without neutering the lows
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Most of my examples have dealt with cutting or limiting certain all of the time. Sibilance an issue? Solo the highest peaking
frequencies. But the ability to boost a mix element can also be a band and find the worst of the harshness, give it a tight Q,
lifesaver. Suppose the artist wants the snare to crack a little louder and cut until those pesky esses are gone. Can you tell I love
on the chorus. When the Trigger mode is set to “Above,” dynamic this thing, and I’m finding plenty of uses for it?
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gain change takes place when the signal goes beyond the On a stereo track, the individual bands can be set to act
Threshold level. That means no boost is added until the band’s on the stereo signal, the left or right separately, or even the
level reaches the threshold. This avoids putting a full-time boost Mid or Side for M/S processing. This is brilliant for synth
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across the track. Just find the snare fundamental, set the trigger pads that are clouding up the center, but you want to boost
to Above, and add that 0.5 dB that makes it poke out at key times. the airy sides. Set a low-mid band in Mid mode to
It’s almost like cheating. dynamically cut the muddiness, and use the high shelf on
the Side channel to open it all up.
–Don Gunn

Gear Reviews/(continued on page 50)/Tape Op#123/49


Gear Geeking w/ Andy… We truly live in a time with an embarrassment of riches;
there are plenty of choices for all of our processing needs.
Joel Edinberg is a staff engineer at Q Division
Sonnox Oxford Dynamic EQ isn’t the least expensive, nor is
<qdivisionstudios.com>, one of the nicest studios in the
it the most full-featured dynamic EQ available. But after
Boston Area. He’s also a gigging saxophonist, a music
using it on real projects, we both believe you get what you
instructor, and the leader of gypsy-punk band Somerville
pay for. Sonnox has always released top-quality titles, but
Symphony Orkestar, as well as a composer with numerous TV
the combination of workflow and sound quality offered by
credits. Before committing to music full-time, Joel was
Oxford Dynamic EQ may make this the company’s best plug-
designing dual-polarization quadrature phase-shift keying
in to date. (£200; www.sonnox.com)
transponders, with a graduate degree in Engineering Physics
–Garrett Haines <www.treelady.com>
from Cornell University in hand. In other words, Joel is a
& Don Gunn <www.dongunn.com>
smart and creative guy. Joel is also the co-founder of Vindor
Music <vindormusic.com>, manufacturer of the Vindor ES1. MXL
To put it simply, the ES1 is a $219 digital saxophone. In lieu
DX-2 dynamic mic
of the usual holes, pad cups, and levers found on a real sax,
Touted as “the world’s first variable dual dynamic capsule
the ES1 relies on button-sized, capacitive sensors for
microphone,” this odd looking, half-cylindrical mic sports
fingering notes. Instead of a vibrating reed making the
two phase-aligned dynamic mic elements, which are voiced
sounds, an onboard synthesis engine generates tones,
differently, and a simple balance knob that can change the
controlled by an air pressure sensor below the mouthpiece
blend between the two capsules. Despite one side of the
and a touch-strip for your thumb. There’s a 3.5 mm jack for
MXL looking like a Royer R-101 [Tape Op #80] that’s been
headphones, and a 1/4’’ jack lets you plug the ES1 directly
sliced lengthwise, this rounded, vented side is the back of
into a guitar amp, effects pedal, DI, or home stereo. A Micro
the MXL, and the other, flat side of the mic is where the
USB port is used for charging the battery, and it also
capsules reside, nestled in foam. This shape is actually really
supports MIDI over USB communication with Windows,
useful, and it’s easy to get the mic in close on guitar amps
macOS, and iOS — which means the ES1’s sound capabilities
(it’s ready for high SPL sources) and out of the way if used
are endless. Importantly, unlike a real sax, the ES1 doesn’t
on stage, while the blend knob remains easily accessible on
screech and squeal (unless you’re using a sound library of
the back of the mic. Also, the old trick of hanging the mic
such noises), even if you’re a first-time novice. This last
off the amp’s handle would work well if needed. On guitar
point is what interested me the most. Rewinding a few
amps, this mic was an instant hit. I frequently use two mics
years — my son loved making music, but that passion
on amps, and setting up a single DX-2 was so much faster
quickly faded when he was forced to play violin at school,
and seemed to get some of the fullness I like from a double-

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starting at grade 2. Sure, there are children in this world
mic’ing scenario.
that enjoy the challenge of learning how to play a bowed
On a Fender Concert combo amp, set to an even blend of
instrument, but I wouldn’t be the first parent to say that my
the two elements, the DX-2 sounded a bit brighter overall
child absolutely hated it. I’ll go even further to say that
.c
grade-school violin programs turn children away from music,
than the standard Shure SM57 it was up against, and with
less of the low rumble from the SM57. In some ways, this
which was certainly the case with most of the students at
seemed a good thing, as the guitar tones popped out in the
my kid’s school. For many reasons, violin is a far from ideal
brighter midrange more, with less junk in the bottom end.
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introduction to music — beginning with the difficulty of
When I used the DX-2 on electric guitar on a band’s entire
mastering the techniques to make sounds that aren’t nasty
EP session (set at center blend), at mixing time, I felt that
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and hideous. Moreover, even if the student is able to play


a few times shriller parts jumped out and had to be
notes that aren’t abrasive and out of tune, taking a year to
addressed with EQ. That’s something I don’t get a lot with
learn two notes of Pachelbel’s Canon, and then another year
ribbons or other dynamic mics I use. But it can also be a
to master the whole of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” isn’t
good thing when working with duller sounding amps or
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exactly inspiring. Luckily, my wife discovered that


guitars; and overall, most of the tracks worked in the mix
Mmmmaven <mmmmaven.com>, a DJ and music production
@g

very well. Checking out the two capsules, I quickly


school just ten minutes by foot from my studio, offered
determined that element 1 is the brighter one, and 2 sounds
electronic music classes for children. Fast forward to
darker and more nasally to my ear — contradicting what’s
today — my son loves making music, he knows more about
stated in the mic’s literature. Blending between them, the
sound-mangling plug-ins than I do, and he loves to perform
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sound gets quieter as you dial in more 2 than 1, perhaps due


live. Plus, he’s encouraged many of his friends to learn
to some internal phase cancellation or to the tapers of the
electronic music production too. All that is a long way of
dual-gang blend potentiometer, but at the extremes, the
saying that the Vindor ES1 is an ideal tool for music
signal is louder than center. On a snare drum, the DX-2 just
21

education. It’s an instrument that can quickly capture the


didn’t work well. Placing it on the snare, I felt like it would
imaginations of children and adults alike. Out of the box, it’s
get hit easily. The lighter low end didn’t impart the thwack
capable of sounding like a sax, clarinet, flute, trumpet, and
of the SM57, and the brighter element imparted a bit of
other common acoustic instruments — and with different
unruly harshness.
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transpositions too. With a little more effort, it can also make


Is the DX-2 gonna keep me from having to put up two
the same kinds of sounds you hear in all sorts of
different mics on guitar cabs ever again? No, it’s just not
contemporary music. Plus, it’s expressive enough that
that good, especially when compared to the ribbon mics
seasoned musicians will find that the ES1 is a great MIDI
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paired with dynamics (or condensers) that I tend to fall back


controller for studio and live use, at a significantly lower
on. But those combos can cost up to $2000 total, and this
price than competing wind controllers. My engineering
unique little bugger is only $99, and easy to throw on an
colleague Kate Siefker and I spent an evening at Q with Joel,
amp. At that price, I’m keeping it in my mic cabinet, and I’ll
taking turns playing the ES1 through a variety of guitar
use it every once in a while when I think it’ll help out.
pedals. We had a blast. –AH
($99 street; www.mxlmics.com) –LC
50 /Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 52)
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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#123/51


Focal Professional Passive radiators on each side of the monitor make the
Shape 65s very forgiving of low-end buildup when placed near
the standard 1/4’’ ones, or the super-practical USB hub. Or
the little button that, when pressed, automatically launches
Shape 65 active monitor corners and walls. Monitors with radiators may take some the Control Center application on your computer. Just lovely
Buying speakers can be a daunting, deeply personal, and getting used to for some, but for me, they seem to deliver little workflow-related touches that I haven’t seen from
financially speculative venture. Many of us play the odds when more realism and evenness in bass frequencies than ported other manufacturers. Similarly, I appreciate the AudioFuse
choosing a playback system for our spaces. Perhaps we’ve designs. Due to personal preference, I preferred running the cover, also machined aluminum, which fits snugly over the
demoed specific monitors in other spaces that blew us away, Shape 65 with a calibrated subwoofer, but the Focal’s low-end top half, sheltering the controls while leaving the primary
only to be disappointed when we brought them into our own did reference very well without one too. Published frequency audio connections exposed — a nice (and well-designed)
rooms. Some of us seek recommendations from trusted peers response of the Shape 65 is 40 Hz – 35 kHz. touch. The layout of the multitude of controls, while
while others simply buy the most expensive monitors budget Focal continues to push harder with new developments in somewhat dense, is easily scannable — everything is clear
will allow. When turning our listening world upside down with speaker technology while it designs and manufactures all of and easy to access/manipulate, even with my bass-player
a new set of monitors, I think we all tend to do what research its major components “in house.” The Shape 65 is neither meat-hooks. Backlit, labeled buttons are dim when inactive,
we can, hedge our bets, and hope for the best. I’ve rolled the overt nor hyped in sound, but is accurate as all hell for a mid- and brightly lit when activated. The AudioFuse comes in
dice once already with high-fidelity speaker manufacturer sized, mid-priced nearfield monitor. Clean. Classy. Elevated. I three finishes: deep black, space grey, and classic silver. My
Focal, and since then, I haven’t looked back. can hear what I’m reaching for... it’s my wallet. review unit, in silver, has surface printing throughout that
Recently, Focal released its Shape series of active (Pair $1798 street; www.focal.com) –SM <scottmcchane.com> isn’t high-contrast — a little challenging for me to read from
professional audio monitors, featuring an updated version of
their acclaimed inverted-dome tweeter, paired to a woofer
Arturia across the desk in low light. If I had a choice, I’d probably
go with one of the darker finishes with higher-contrast
that incorporates NIC (Neutral Inductance Coil) technology. AudioFuse desktop USB interface labels. But this lack of legibility didn’t detract from my
Though I’m no scientist, I’m about to get a little nerdy here. Arturia has been building stellar hardware and software ability to identify levels and controls, thanks to the logical
According to Focal, its Shape woofers incorporate a instruments for years now, and the AudioFuse is their first layout and backlit buttons.
customized “Faraday ring whose dimensions, materials, and ingress into the competitive world of audio interfaces. I was Initially, with the first iterations of the firmware, I was
positioning were optimized to make the magnetic field no a little uncertain at first what would differentiate this small somewhat unimpressed by the roundtrip latency of the
longer affected by the position of the voice coil, by the wonder — which Arturia markets as a future-proof and AudioFuse, but the recent release of firmware v1.1 seems to
amperage or the frequency of the current passing through it.” mobile next-gen audio toolbox with excellent preamps — have significantly reduced the latency down to what I would
Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction in from the crop of portable USB interfaces available in the expect from other portable interfaces. Which is to say, it’s
1831. The “ring” (or induction coil) that bears his name is current market. Well, after a pleasant, minimalist unboxing manageable now. To combat latency issues, Arturia
placed around the voice coil, inside the magnet, which helps experience, one of the most immediate differences between implemented a direct/computer mix knob to blend the signal
to stabilize the voice coil and other elements of the driver AudioFuse and the rest of the crowd was made abundantly you’re recording with a mix coming from your computer. I
assembly that move. Additionally, the Shape woofers utilize clear. This thing has knobs and buttons and I/O for days! found myself sticking to a 50/50 blend for most of my
lightweight flax fiber cones with high rigidity, which offer Let’s start with the abundance of physical controls. tracking. The class-compliant drivers mean that the

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improved internal damping over traditional paper cones, in “Control per function” is rarely a design principle that AudioFuse can be used in a virtually platform-agnostic
turn resulting in a focused low end and a truer midrange applies to modern compact interfaces, and often, users are manner, from desktop (macOS, Windows, and Linux) to
representation. The front baffle of the monitor curves over the unable to perform certain functions without a bit of menu- mobile (iOS and Android, if you add a power source).
diving in an admin app. AudioFuse follows a different
top and is covered in a beautiful walnut veneer. Double
passive radiators (instead of ports) are on both sides. approach in that almost every single function of the
.c The AudioFuse sounds much better than I had expected,
given its affordable price. To my ears, the quality of its A/D
After unpacking the pair of Shape 65 monitors I was sent, hardware correlates to a physical control. AudioFuse can and D/A conversion is on par with what I heard from the
I followed the user manual’s voicing suggestions to set the even be used in standalone fashion to monitor attached Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII [Tape Op #121] and RME
l
corrective EQ controls in the rear (to account for speaker instruments when not attached to a computer. And the I/O! Babyface Pro [#118]. And the two onboard DiscretePRO
position in the room), then tweaked slightly from there. Good lord. There are four analog inputs (two preamps sound incredible, justifying all of the hype in the
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Placement on my speaker shelf was easily customizable due mic/instrument/line–level via combo XLR and two line-level marketing literature. I also like that Arturia takes the time
to the four independently adjustable decoupling TRS); two separate headphone outs (both offer 3.5 mm and and energy to generate a measurement chart for each
spikes/thumbscrews located underneath the monitors — a 1/4’’); a stereo RCA phono/line in (with a separate ground AudioFuse that passes inspection at the factory, including
great feature! Focal recommends an ideal listening distance plug); ADAT/TOSLINK optical I/O; selectable S/PDIF or word- the preamp’s equivalent input noise, gain range, and
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of 3 ft, which works well for small mix spaces like mine, and clock I/O; two stereo pairs of switchable speaker outs (TRS); frequency response. There’s enough gain available to capture
the resulting stereo image was very wide, even with such two insert points (TRS) for attaching outboard gear into the
@g

delicate acoustic and ambient sources with very little noise,


tight placement. analog signal path; MIDI... I could go on — and I will. One even with passive ribbon mics. Note that bus power mode
Soundwise, the Shape 65 can be groovy, but are more pure of the speaker outputs can send an impedance-corrected will reduce the maximum input and output levels to
and accurate in my opinion. The woofer has a seemingly signal out for re-amping. Plus, Arturia even wedged a three- +18 dBu, down from +24 dBu. A minor gripe — I wish
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undistorted midrange honesty that articulates well, while port USB Type-A hub into the damn thing; so yeah, you go Arturia would have included a locking barrel end for the PSU,
maintaining that honesty at different monitoring levels. I right ahead and hook up your iLok or USB keyboard directly as the PSU’s DC plug didn’t seem snugly connected to the
heard excellent transient response and definition, with to the interface — no prob. Sheesh! back of the AudioFuse. One more wishlist item — I love that
detailed differentiation between midrange frequencies. While All of this tactile control and connectivity is packed into talkback is available, but I would have liked it better if it
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mixing, I could easily pick out midrange conflicts between a weighty, handsome, aluminum brick that’s smaller than a had an option to latch on, and if the talkback mic also
different instruments, which helped me to identify buildup bento box. Said brick can be bus-powered via the included worked at sample-rates above 96 kHz.
when two midrange sources (like a mellow electric guitar and custom USB cable that fans out to dual USB Type-A ends, This tiny toolbox is stellar. It’s perfect for musicians and
a Fender Rhodes, for example) blurred or competed for the which draws power from two USB ports on your computer engineers on the go, and particularly well-suited for
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same tonal real-estate. The Shape 65 (and all Focal or powered hub. Or it can be powered with the included musicians who enjoy collaborating with others, or who work
Professional’s monitors) incorporate inverted dome tweeters wall-wart PSU. in a variety of studio environments where compatibility and
that are less fatiguing than most standard drivers, in my Primarily, two things struck me about this box. First, it flexibility are of demand. It’s stable and sturdy, and its
sounds excellent (more on that in a bit), and second, it feels
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experience. They’re accurate and smooth, with more preamps and conversion go toe-to-toe with far more
aggression than a ribbon tweeter but less coarseness than a like it wants to work with me. What I mean by that is that expensive interfaces. Long live knobs and buttons and stuff!
standard dome. In my opinion, the inverted domes are the a number of little fit-and-finish details were apparently ($599 street; www.arturia.com)
hallmark of Focal’s sound. added because some musician or engineer said, “You know –Dana Gumbiner <danagumbiner.com>
what I’d like to have available? This thing.” For instance, the
inclusion of mini-jack 3.5 mm headphone ports right next to
52/Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 54)
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Coleman Audio
CA500EQ 2-channel rackmount EQ
How often do we get the opportunity to revisit something lot of ground, from 150 Hz to 8.5 kHz, and their frequencies are
we created early in our careers, with the aim of refining it for offset from one another. For instance, Mid 1 covers 200, 300,
new audiences? With the release of the CA500EQ, Coleman and 400 Hz, while Mid 2 does 250, 350, and 500 Hz. In
Audio founder Glenn Coleman [Tape Op #88] reached back to addition, there’s a variable high-pass filter that goes from
his early days. Glenn’s history in pro audio is well known. He 30 Hz, all the way up to 300 Hz. Construction is quite good.
worked for MCI in the 1970s when the company designed the

www.colemanaudio.com | NAMM Booth #16311 ACC North Level #1


Inside, there are two simple, cleanly laid-out PCBs; a bunch of
JH-500 series console. Back then, everything was done in resistors per band; a couple of op-amps; and a custom coil for
house, and Coleman has carried that build-by-hand mindset the low band. The front panel has that “designed by a tech”
into his own company. He literally assembles each CA500EQ look. For example, there are buttons and LED indicators labeled
by hand in his upstate New York shop. “SHELF PEAK” that don’t make clear which in/out state is
His aim with the CA500EQ was to achieve as close as possible which — that kind of thing. With that said, the same
the sound of the MCI JH-500 console EQ. His design is a clone, button/indicator scheme was used on the original MCI consoles.
but with a few refinements. The low-frequency coil, for After squinting at a lot of 500-series gear (as in the module spec
example, was a custom-made part back in the 1970s. When introduced by API, which is unrelated to the MCI JH-500
Coleman set out to replicate that circuitry, it took a few swings console design), I’m just happy to have something with big
and misses, before he could find a company that could reverse lettering on the faceplate.
engineer and manufacture it at a quantity that makes sense for Ergonomically, I found the CA500EQ pleasant to use. The big,
a boutique pro audio product. He eventually found a company solid switches feel great, and the knobs are big enough to easily
to produce those coils to his exact specs. As luck would have tell at a glance what’s set to what. Each channel has a bypass
it, Grayhill, the company that built the original switches, is still button, as well as input and output controls, so it’s fast and
in business, so Coleman uses Grayhill’s PCB-mount switches, easy to manage headroom and match levels against the
instead of the originals that mounted the resistors on the bypassed signal. The input and output pots aren’t stepped, so
switch itself. This makes it easier to change resistors (or for perfectly matching stereo levels is tough — use your ears or run
redesign). Coleman went with metal-film capacitors instead of tones. Each stepped control has 2 dB divisions — too much for
ceramic caps in the high-frequency circuit (and in a few other mastering, as Jessica already explained, but fine by me for
places) because, aesthetically, he preferred the sound. In the tracking and mixing. The gentle Q is too wide for surgery
end, except for the aforementioned parts and a few capacitors, anyway, so if I’m turning knobs, I might as well go for it. One
nearly all of the components in the CA500EQ are the same as

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detail that takes some getting used to is the midrange
in the original design. boost/cut functionality. The midrange bands each have a single
And the sound? When the JH-500 console was envisioned in 0–14 dB gain control that can be switched between boosting
the 1970s, the designers were attempting to emulate Pultec .c and cutting. Not a bad idea when you get used it — for cuts,
EQs, using those EQ curves as a road map. The CA500EQ follows it’s fast to find an unpleasant frequency then cut it — but still
suit with frequencies selected at half-octaves for their an unusual approach. Also, the panel may feel backwards to
musicality. You can use it as you would a console EQ after the some folks; from left to right, it’s output level, high band, mid
mic preamp and before limiting, to equalize your analog signal bands, low band, then input level. I know Jessica really didn’t
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before it hits the A/D converter. Of course, you could use it as like this, but funny enough, it didn’t bother me. [You guitarists
an outboard EQ too, and in fact, my original plan was to test it with your right-to-left signal chains! –AH] Dakings and Neves,
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in my mastering room. I wound up handing off the review unit as well as channel strips turned sideways after being pulled from
to Scott Evans because, as much as I like to try new gear, those a console, are laid out similarly (at least in their EQ sections).
2 dB steps were pretty impractical in most mastering situations. Every piece of gear has quirks, and this is one of ‘em.
Also, it turns out Coleman will be debuting a mastering version
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I didn’t have my review unit for as long as I would have


of the CA500EQ, with 1 dB steps on the high and low bands, liked, but I had some time to mix with it, and try it in a couple
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and 0.5 dB steps on both midrange bands. of tracking sessions. Sonically, I found it solid, and if it makes
–Jessica Thompson <www.jessicathompsonaudio.com> sense, light-handed. This isn’t one of those EQs where you turn
MCI consoles aren’t spoken about in the same revered tones a knob and say, “Whoa!” But I thought to myself, “If I had
as many other classic consoles, but these US-built beasts were one of these per channel, I’d be pretty happy.” The high band
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ubiquitous in the ‘70s, and tons of great records were made on sounded nice on overheads and vocals; the low band was
them. Pink Floyd’s Animals (probably my favorite album of all beefy and sounded really good on kick drums; and I loved
time — rumor is that Roger Waters commissioned the console having a four-band EQ for drums or just about anything.
with a custom set of EQ frequencies) and AC/DC’s Back in Black, Midrange cutting felt too broad for me; I strongly preferred
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for instance. But I didn’t know of any modern clones of MCI using the mid bands for boosting.
preamps or EQs — until now. As an MCI tech for years, Coleman The CAE500EQ ain’t cheap. $2,600 can get you a pair of
is certainly well-qualified to build the CA500EQ. He’s best 500-series EQs and a rack to put them in, or a number of very nice
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known for utilitarian tools like speaker switchers, monitor 19’’ units. Coleman’s explanation is that his use of high-quality
controllers, and VU meters; the CA500EQ is his first signal- parts and his hours of careful assembly all add up to a price that
processing product. compares favorably with that of EQs from other boutique
The CA500EQ is a full-featured, 2RU-height, two-channel, manufacturers. If you love vintage MCI consoles, or you want an
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four-band EQ — with chunky, dual-gang, stepped switches that EQ that most studios won’t be running, find a Coleman CAE500EQ
cover a dozen frequency points each on the two midrange to audition. Unlike most anything else you’ll buy, this unit is
bands, and four points apiece on the high and low bands. The handmade in the US by the designer himself, and I expect you’ll
high band is switchable between shelving and peak modes, get unparalleled customer support as well. ($2,600 street;
while the low is shelving only. The two midrange bands cover a www.colemanaudio.com)
–Scott Evans <antisleep.com>
54/Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 56)
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Please Support Our Advertisers/Tape Op#123/55


TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik
TDP & TDA DI boxes
Who needs another DI box? A quick online search turns up dozens of models — from units
under $20, to high-end tube DIs like the Tonecraft 363 [Tape Op #103] for $1,495. And now,
TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik (South Windsor, CT) has thrown its hat into this crowded ring
with four U.S.–made models. What sets these T-Funk DIs apart? Transformers. With decades
of manufacturing high-end microphones, TELEFUNKEN has built up a fair degree of expertise
in transformers.
Let’s start with the two passive models — TDP-1 mono and TDP-2 stereo — for those of
you who prefer the simplicity and isolation of passive transformer DIs. These use a custom-
wound, large-format, nickel-iron OEP/Carnhill transformer. Tranny geeks will recognize the
Carnhill name as the brand used in vintage and newer Neve consoles and gear. Next, the T-
Funksters decided to build a high-quality and durable enclosure that could handle tons of
daily abuse. I’m pretty sure you could drive a car over these super-rugged aluminum boxes,
and they’d work just fine. The components inside are also no compromise — ENIG circuit
boards with through-hole components from Amphenol, WIMA, and Nichicon. All the switches
and jacks are metal, instead of plastic; and each unit is soldered and assembled by hand —
and individually tested to meet spec before leaving the Connecticut factory. Input
impedance of the TDP DIs is 20 kΩ, so they won’t load down passive pickups. All this
attention to detail results in a frequency response of 10 Hz – 70 kHz ±1 dB.
The active TDA-1 mono and TDA-2 stereo DI boxes share all the high-quality components
of their passive siblings, but rely on a phantom powered, discrete, Class A, FET input stage
that is based on the design of the company’s M60 FET mic. But what sets the TDA boxes
apart from most active DIs is the use of an output transformer — also an OEP/Carnhill. The
TDA boxes have a higher input impedance of 30 kΩ, and a less extended frequency response
of 20 Hz – 50 kHz ±1 dB. Each TDA unit is hand-tuned for lowest THD before it leaves the
factory. All four models have beefy Amphenol XLR jacks for their mic-level outputs, and
recessed switches for ground-lift and −15 dB pad; and they all benefit from the transformers
adding some harmonic saturation if you push them hard.
To evaluate the sound of these DIs, I used a MIDI-sequenced Minimoog bass line, with a

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little bit of filter attack dialed in, so I would have some highs in the signal. Because the
bass part was sequenced, each performance was identical, eliminating any variation in
playing technique. I recorded the same bass part four times through the TDP-1, the TDA-1,
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an ACME Motown DI [Tape Op #116], and a DIY box I built from a vintage Triad A-10 J
transformer. Once the four tracks were recorded and level-matched in Pro Tools, I used X-Or
solo mode to carefully listen to each track.
The Motown DI has been getting good feedback from engineers here at Panoramic House.
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Both the Motown and Triad DIs were very similar in sound, with a slightly more robust lower
midrange, and a tiny bit less extension in the lows and highs. The passive TDP-1 was similar in
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the midrange to the Motown DI, but it felt slightly fuller in the sub-bass area, and it definitely
had a bit more top end. The active TDA-1 was in a completely different class, as expected. It
had way more gain, and even with the −15 dB pad engaged, I had to significantly turn down
the synth’s output to keep it from overloading the signal chain. The TDA-1 was also the highest
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fidelity of the group, with a greater amount of highs, as well as deeper and fuller lows.
Bottom line? All these DIs sounded really good, and I could use any one of them to record
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a great-sounding bass part. Plus, they are competitively priced and super durable. I
recommend the TDP models if you are looking for a vintage transformer vibe. On the other
hand, if you need a transformer-output DI with high gain and low SNR, the active TDA
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models are an obvious choice.


(TDP-1 $199, TDP-2 $299, TDA-1 $249, TDA-2 $349; telefunken-elektroakustik.com) –JB

Aston Microphones
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Starlight small-diaphragm condenser mic


Let me start off by saying that I love this mic! It is well-designed, with a number of
standout features; and if you buy the stereo kit, it comes with everything you need to get
rolling, including a matched pair of the mics. The Starlight is a small-diaphragm pencil
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condenser with three filter modes, two padding levels, two high-pass settings — and a laser
finder that is super convenient. At first, I didn’t think I’d use the pointer, but then I found
myself turning it on just for kicks and realizing, “Oh my God, the mic is not even pointed
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where I thought it was!” So now, I think it’s a great tool to have onboard — and not just
for making sure you aim the mic at the sweet-spot, but also for recall! Another unique
feature is the mic’s sintered head, made of tiny brass beads formed together. According to
Aston, in contrast to a traditional headbasket, the sintered head offers greater acoustic
transparency, with fewer basket-borne resonances, more predictable high-frequency response
(especially off-axis), and a stronger defense from plosives.
58 /Tape Op#123/Gear
56 Op#122/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 58)
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The stereo kit includes a stereo bar, two windscreens, a
pair of Rycote shockmounts, and a pair of standard mic clips. Overstayer
Everything comes very handsomely packaged in recycled Stereo Voltage Control
materials, which is awesome. One thing you might want to Model 3722 compressor
do is get a hard-case that’s about the same dimensions as “Compressor Tone-Shaper Mix-Inflator Mojo-Maker” — I
the packaging, take all the foam out, and slip it in the hard- guess that was too much to put on the front panel, so
case. Then you’ll have a nice sturdy box as the cardboard one Overstayer called it Stereo Voltage Control instead. Contrary to
isn’t going to hold up forever. the company’s name, the Overstayer SVC couldn’t arrive too
The Starlight is a rugged mic with a stylish, tumbled early, and it’s welcome to stay permanently.
stainless-steel chassis. It features a 20 mm cardioid capsule I was turned on to Overstayer Recording Equipment by
and, according to Aston, “employs an extremely fine-tuned fellow Tape Op contributor Thom Monahan. Whenever I am in
discrete mic amp circuit with high-spec components, to L.A., I get together with Thom for a coffee, and inevitably, we
achieve an extremely sensitive, low-noise design with loads of talk about new gear that has been catching our eye. On one
headroom.” I found these mics to respond well to subtle of these occasions, Thom said to me, “You have to talk to Jeff
changes in proximity and volume when tracking acoustic Turzo from Overstayer. You guys will get along famously.” Calls
guitars. I could actually “work” the mic to achieve different and conversations with Jeff followed, and I soon had a couple
levels of emotion in the performance. of Overstayer boxes in my mitts. Thom had recommended the
The mic’s three filter modes choose between Vintage, Stereo Voltage Control, but Jeff also insisted I take the Stereo
Modern, and Hybrid voicings. Basically, as you go from Vintage Field Effect compressor for a spin as well. Here I will give you
towards Modern, you get high-frequency lift. For example, if the skinny on the SVC.
you are recording acoustic guitar, the Modern or Hybrid It is impossible to succinctly describe the Overstayer Stereo
settings may be desirable to emphasize highs. On the other Voltage Control. Even if I went deep on each section, my
hand, recording a guitar amp that is super bright might call writing could not supplant what you would understand if you
for Vintage mode to tame the highs. I think the Starlight spent just 15 minutes with the device in hand. But, I will take
sounds great on electric guitar, especially in Vintage mode, a deep breath and try. The SVC is a VCA compressor. “Oh, like
which gives the amp a warm but clear sound. an SSL Quad comp! I get it!” No, you do not. The use of VCAs
I found the −10 dB and −20 dB pads super useful, is about where the similarities end. Jeff has done some serious
especially for tracking drums. I tried the Starlights as tweaking to make VCAs behave — or misbehave — in unique
overheads, as well as on snare top, to get a bit of a brighter ways. I asked Jeff to give a quick overview of the unit in his
sound than the typical dynamic. I must say, it sounded cool own words:
on snare, especially in tandem with a Shure SM7 [Tape Op

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“On the SVC, the VCA section is one part of the system. It’s
#36] blended in. The high-pass switch allows for your choice implemented so that you have control over how much you
of moderate or steep cuts. This is definitely cool for drive the VCA itself, and in turn drive the EQ and Harmonics
removing the typical “rumble” frequencies, or for tracking in
.c stages downstream. This allows for compression and limiting
a live room where you might not want a ton of low-end kick envelopes that can be pushed into peak-rounding and
in your snare or overhead tracks. I will add that these mics distortion. The Behavior knob gives a deeper level of control
are super live and may not be the best in a situation where over the intensity of the dynamics envelope. It essentially
you’re trying to avoid bleed. magnifies the range of the envelope — controlling the ratio,
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The Starlight mics really shine for tracking acoustic maximum gain, and timing simultaneously.”
guitars. When I set the pair up in an X-Y configuration and Got it? Yeah, me either. So, as I said, you just need to plug
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flipped the polarity on one of the mics, the center image it in and start turning knobs. Speaking of knobs, there are the
almost completely canceled out. Switching back to normal usual ones for Threshold, Attack, Release, and Output, as well
polarity, I found the stereo image to be very true to what I as a Blend knob for parallel processing. Pulling the Release knob
was hearing in the room, and the filter and voicing switches
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enables auto-release, and pulling Attack turns on RMS mode.


allowed me to sculpt the sound without patching in an EQ Two pushbuttons choose between starting ratios of 2:1 soft-
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for tracking. knee, 4:1 medium-knee, and 10:1 limiting. Two more
The Starlight stereo kit is a versatile set of mics and pushbuttons engage a 220 Hz HPF on the sidechain, or let you
accessories for someone who’s looking for a pair of SDCs with patch in an external sidechain loop of your choice. Enabling the
a ton of vibe and that aren’t one-trick ponies. The mics are external sidechain with nothing connected to the rear inserts
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solid and have a lot built-in to get you recording quickly, and effectively sets the compression ratio to 1:1. Additionally, there
as I mentioned, the laser finder is super handy. One note are pots for low and high–shelf boosts, Behavior, and Level, as
about the laser — it uses phantom power, so the mic does not well as pushbuttons that engage a resonant 50 Hz HPF and a
really pass signal when the pointers are on. The Starlights are post-compression Harmonics module. These latter pots and
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great mics, and they are now my primary pair of small- buttons are very interactive — with each other and with the
diaphragm condensers. other controls — offering up a huge range of dynamics
(Stereo kit $699 street; www.astonmics.com) processing and an extensive palette of sounds.
–Ben Bernstein <www.benbernsteinmusic.com>
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You can certainly use the SVC as a bus compressor to


excellent ends. It is musical, highly tweakable, and capable of

www.tapeop.com inflating and adding teeth to whatever it is being sent.


Furthermore, I really like the ability to restore and sculpt
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see more of our frequencies that may have lost some energy during
compression. When used subtly, the SVC is capable of taming
bonus/archived your mix, but there is also a ton of room to get yourself into
reviews online! all sorts of trouble, in the best sort of way. You can blow a mix
out of the water by cranking the Harmonics control, or blend

58 /Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/


Hooke Audio
Hooke Verse Bluetooth
headphones w/ binaural mics
just a taste of it in, to give what you are processing some 3D audio was all the rage at the 2017 AES Show. The
hair. As feature-packed as the SVC is, it is actually quite demand for immersive audio is being driven by the gaming
simple to get your head around it. Start turning knobs, and and virtual reality markets. There are even 7-channel mics
you will arrive at places you would have never imagined. available now that look like medieval clubs ready to kill an
While recording Beat Connection here in Seattle, we set aggressive orc in your next LARPing adventure. Meanwhile,
up the Overstayer SVC on an aux so that we could send if you want to venture into binaural recording — a simpler
elements of the drum kit to it, and then record the form of immersive audio that’s been around for ages — you
processed signal back into Pro Tools. Because we desired up have a number of options. For example, you can buy a
to three different kit feels/personalities on some of the binaural recording head with integrated mics, like the
tunes, and we wanted to capture these as they were going $8,000 Neumann KU 100; add mics to a bare head, like the
down, our drum mic setup started with a very tight ‘70s $415 Binaural Enthusiast B1-E; make your own head from a
sound, augmented with a variety of spot mics available for mannequin or even just a head-sized sphere; or buy one of
various levels of crunch and aggression. Engineer Sam several new products that use mic-equipped earbuds. It is
Hofstedt had hand-built some of the mics that he put close- great that all these methods exist, but the simplest solution
in for capturing mono portraits of the kit, and these I have found for capturing immersive audio on the go is the
provided a very focused but blown-up sound that worked Hooke Verse binaural Bluetooth in-ear headphones from
great for some sections and cut-ins. For the times we really Hooke Audio.
wanted to push the drums off a cliff, we sent an aux mix of Hooke’s pitch is that you can record and playback
the kick, snare, and one of the already compressed spot mics binaural soundfiles on an iOS or Android device wirelessly
to the SVC, and within 5 minutes of fiddling around, we via Bluetooth using the company’s 3D Audio app, or you can
arrived at a sound that was, as I like to say, “exploding wire the Hook Verse to a GoPro or other camera directly
robot dinosaur” — with an almost sidechained “backwards” using the supplied retractable 3.5 mm to Micro USB cable.
effect that, when blended with the very focused drum The Hook Verse can also be used for normal wireless
tracks, gave the groove a desirable push/pull motion and listening. Using the Hooke Verse for the first time confirmed
excitement. I like getting sounds like this from the get-go, what I already knew but maybe forgot — binaural recording
to maintain the right vibe while recording. Plus, there is no is F%^&*#@ cool! If you are unfamiliar with this

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second-guessing come mix time. Everyone in the room liked technique, put on your headphones and watch this
what they were hearing, and beyond that, it informed how documentary of Tchad Blake [Tape Op #16] using a binaural
other overdubs were approached and played. Check! headset to gather sounds <vimeo.com/143727933>.
So, come mix time, do you think I was going to leave the Initially, I tested the Hooke Verse with my Sony α6300
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SVC all alone in the cold? Hell no! I wanted some of that digital camera using the supplied cable. I have started to
magic on the mix, so I patched the mix-bus out of the film more video content during Tape Op interviews, and this
console into the SVC, followed by a TK Audio BC1-S seemed like a cool application. The Hooke Verse was a huge
compressor [Tape Op #106] and a Crane Song IBIS EQ. A improvement over the Sony’s built-in mics. Walking around
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Crane Song Spider handled conversion for printing back into the neighborhood, I captured birds overhead, airplanes in
Pro Tools. On the SVC, I enabled the Harmonics section and the sky, sirens in the distance, and cars approaching from
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started to fiddle with the Behavior and Level controls. behind and then appearing in the frame — all with a great
Behavior pushed things forward and inflated elements of sense of space and depth that really raised the video to the
the mix, and it was certainly interactive with the Level knob next level. The listening experience is undoubtedly best had
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driving the Harmonics module. After dialing in what felt on headphones, as you can really focus on the position of
right in terms of overall inflation, and then dialing back the sounds, whether they remain stationary, or they move
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Blend control to a reasonable amount for each song, the around you. Without the accompanying video image, the
mixes gained width and depth, along with some solidifying audio was still three-dimensional, but unsurprisingly, the
of the low end. Whenever I temporarily popped the SVC out experience was more effective when married to video —
of the chain, the mixes fell flat and lost excitement. These with more of the sense that you are “there.”
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were songs leaning in the direction of pop music, so a Imagine riding your bike with your GoPro attached to
gentle touch from the SVC was appropriate. With heavy your helmet and recording all the passing and surrounding
music, you could really go to town with the SVC. sounds as you pedal along. Or walk through a market, along
In addition to drums and mix-bus, the SVC excelled on a stream, or down the middle of Broadway. In the studio or
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stereo submixes of guitars, keyboards, and background practice space, wear it in the middle of the room to capture
vocals. This box is also a godsend for processing soft-synths a nice sense of space all around you. When worn by the
and bringing them to life. These days, many folks are drummer, you can hear the sounds reflecting off the walls,
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making music on their laptops, and more and more of my such that the size and shape of the room can be felt, just
work is mixing projects where the music is great, and the from hearing the audio recording. Keep in mind that when
level of creativity is off the charts, but the production is not the Hooke Verse is on your head, you need to be conscious
quite hitting the mark, or many of the sounds are a little of the fact that any turning of your head will change the
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flat. In this regard, having a good set of audio tools to bring relative position of any sound sources (or reflective
things to life is essential, and I could easily use several surfaces) during playback for the listener.
Overstayer SVCs to tackle a variety of lifesaving tasks. Cleverly, with a few folds and pop-outs, the packaging for
($1777.50 street; www.overstayeraudio.com) –GS the Hook Verse becomes a sort of binaural stand. A slot to
hold your smartphone is even included, so you can use it to

Gear Reviews/(continued on page 60)/Tape Op#123/59


record the video. Think Google Cardboard for binaural The front panel of the 500TDI is dominated by two large,
recording. It’s fun to use for the first time, but if I really brushed aluminum knobs, one labeled “Tube Drive” for
wanted to make a decent recording from a stationary point, I setting input level, and another for output level. They both
would skip the cardboard mount altogether and just take a turn detented pots that feel great in the hand. There are two
drill to a used mannequin head. 1/4’’ jacks, held captive with metal nuts. The high-Z Input
I used the Hook Verse with the 3D Audio app for iOS. It’s very jack is suitable for any instrument-level source, active or
straightforward, and anyone who has paired a Bluetooth device passive, while the Thru jack can be used either as an output
should have no problem connecting the headset to a phone. to feed an amp, or as a low-Z input for additional variance in
The app allows you to share your recordings with others through tone. A high-pass filter is engaged by a metal toggle that
email, MMS, and social media — the recipients need only feels solid. Interestingly, the HPF, which is implemented after
regular headphones to experience the immersive audio. the first gain stage, has its −3 dB point at 65 Hz when Tube
The 3D Audio app is free, and “Filters” are available as in- Drive is at maximum, but it shifts semi-proportionately with
app purchases. I expected these to be Instagram-style visual the level of Tube Drive. A small bar assists in the insertion
filters, but they are for audio manipulation. I’m not sure why and removal of the module — which may sound
they didn’t just call them what everyone else calls them — inconsequential, but I am often surprised by how challenging
audio effects or plug-ins. Examples are Delaytor (delay/echo), it can be to pull a module out of a 500-series frame when
Verbamon (reverb), Stereoscoper (stereo field enhancement), there is nothing to grab other than a control knob. Inside is
Interview (background noise reduction), and Concert a 12DW7 tube operating at 250 V.
(supposed to reduced distortion). With all of them, the only The 500TDI is capable of producing a nice, pristine output
parameter you can change is the amount of effect. signal, and there are many situations where that is what you
The Hooke Verse records at 16-bit, 48 kHz. Over Bluetooth 4.1, need for the job. But the real fun starts with cranking on Tube
it uses the A2DP profile and AAC encoding. Claimed battery life Drive. Harmonic saturation is a result of increasing the input
is 9 hours of playback or 8 hours of recording. A full charge cycle level, and it is quite effective in bringing flat sources to life
takes 3 hours. On Android, the headset can also be used for and making them stand out in a mix.
hands-free calling. For professional use, I wish this device were Through the 500TDI, a vintage Rickenbacker bass with flat
available with balanced cables, or even a bodypack to clip onto wound strings sounded very focused, with every bit of note
your belt. With a series of adapters, you can get there, but with you could hope for. The lows were meaty, and there was plenty
multiple connections comes multiple opportunities for failure. of articulation in the mids and highs. When I plugged in my
My goal over the next few months is to produce an ambient trusty old P-Bass, the 500TDI delivered all the character of the
piece — with textures and sounds from the field, courtesy of bass, and I was able to accentuate some of the growl with
Hooke Verse. Interestingly, when I wore the Hooke Verse while Tube Drive cranked up a bit. The low end was never tubby, but

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walking around recording, I was more tuned-in to my it was extended and robust. On guitar, Tube Drive could be
surroundings, and I listened in a different way. After 20+ years tweaked for grit; and when driven harder, the 500TDI offered
of making recordings, it is nice to have a new perspective and
.c some degree of tube compression, which sounded great. We
re-engage with the sonic environment in a new way. also used the 500TDI to record a Moog Sub Phatty. Not only
I did have a few minor issues with the 3D Audio app on an were we able to capture all the super-low character of the
iPhone 6s. When I went from recording in the app, to listening synth, but we were also able to add in a little hair to give it
to music in iTunes, and then tried to go back to record in the some definition.
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app, the app seemed to lose some functionality. It displayed As classy as the LaChapell 500TDI looks, when pushed, it is
as recording, but the level-setting function did not work, and capable of some superbly aggressive tones, but that’s not to
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once I attempted to terminate a recording, it either continued say it cannot play nice as well. Having a tube DI in your
or ended, but gave me no indication for playback of what I arsenal is like having another color in the paintbox, and with
had just recorded. I had to restart the phone and pair again the option of driving the tube, it’s like getting the big box of
over Bluetooth to regain full functionality. Crayolas with the sharpener on the side.
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The Hooke Verse comes with a padded travel case, ($700 street; www.lachapellaudio.com) –GS

ART
@g

windscreens, Micro USB cables required for charging and wired


recording, and plenty of foam and rubber eartips for different
fits. At a lower-cost entry point compared to many other Tube Mix 5-channel tube mixer
binaural options, the Hooke Verse is a great way to add It seems like most of us own or have owned a piece of ART
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something special to your recordings or video productions, gear at one time or another, and Tape Op has reviewed many of
without breaking the bank. the company’s recording products. The Tube Mix falls right in
($239.99 street; www.hookeaudio.com) –GS line with ART’s ethos of purveying practical gear at attainable,

LaChapell Audio realistic prices, while it offers a fun and ideal solution for home
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recording, podcasting, DJ work, basic live sound, and more —


500TDI 500-series tube DI with the bonus of some vacuum tube mojo!
When I reviewed the LaChapell Audio 583S mk2 tube preamp The Tube Mix is a five-channel mixer and two-channel USB
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[Tape Op #104], I learned that it is a fantastic mic preamp with interface, offering two mic/line preamps, a stereo line-level
lots of tone and personality, and it is the only 500-series preamp input, and a single hi-Z instrument input with a built-in “Amp
that I know of that provides a full 250 V to its 12AX7 tube. The Simulator” circuit that can be switched in. Each channel
500TDI is a 500-series tube DI inspired by the 583S mk2, born incorporates a three-band EQ as well as a pair of prefader aux
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out of a need for a great DI. The 500TDI generates a mic-level sends that can be used for recording, effects, or monitoring.
output signal, ready to be fed into a 583S mk2, or any other The internal 12AX7 tube circuit can be assigned to channels
preamp of your choosing. Conveniently, my review unit arrived a 1 and 2 simultaneously, or just to channel 5’s DI input. A
couple days prior to a tracking session with The Beat Connection single switch provides phantom power for the XLR inputs on
here in Seattle, and I immediately noted that this DI module is channels 1 and 2.
every bit as robust and well-built as its preamp sibling.
60 /Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 62)
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Upon first use, the Tube Mix immediately struck me with its versatility, build quality, and pseudo-
vintage look. The mixer’s footprint is a little smaller than a standard notepad, and it sports a pair
of analog VU meters nestled in a black, powder-coated chassis, with easy-to-read controls and
natural-finish wood sides. It’s heavier than some portable mixers twice its size and built like a
tank, yet it fits easily into a computer bag or backpack.
Recording with the Tube Mix as a USB interface is a blast. It’s a fun, portable solution for
capturing ideas and tracking demos. The Tube Mix is USB 2.0 class-compliant, so driver installation
is unnecessary for modern versions of Windows, macOS, Linux, and iOS. But some DAWs have
limited support for class-compliant USB interfaces, and the Tube Mix maxes out at 16-bit, 48 kHz
operation, so in my opinion, it’s unsuitable for professional recording. With that said, I found the
Tube Mix’s two mic preamps to be surprisingly good, with decent headroom for its price point and
size. I was anxious to try the tube, which inserts after the solid-state preamp and before the EQ
section. I found this configuration to add some really nice harmonic character (and a tiny bit of
additional noise), especially when pushing the EQs hard.
Because of the tube’s location in the signal chain, it’s not suited for distortion or “driving” of
the preamp. (For that kind of use, you’ll have better luck with the portable Tube MP [Tape Op #53].)
As the manufacturer states, “The tube circuit does not add much gain. It is optimized for adding
warmth, not distortion.” The EQ offers three bands (±15 dB): a high shelf (12 kHz), a midrange
bell (2.5 kHz), and a low shelf (80 Hz). Midrange boost sounds great on electric guitar, but be
careful with the low shelf as there’s no high-pass filter.
Most of my testing of the Tube Mix revolved around singer/songwriter demos in my living room.
We tracked electric guitar amp, acoustic guitar, voice, and percussion through the mic preamps.
We also DI’d guitar through channel 5 with the tube assigned to it and Amp Simulator engaged.
This gave us the opportunity to really sculpt the signal for usable, robust tones that were not
achievable with a basic DI. I also played some electric bass and an old Casio keyboard through the
DI with great results.
Spec-wise, the two mic preamps are what you’d expect from a mixer at this price point, but the
ability to add tube saturation, and EQ it, puts the Tube Mix in a class of its own. Its output section
is versatile for a mixer of this size, making it a handy tool for digital or analog recording/playback,
live sound, digital broadcast, and home listening/entertainment. Despite its bitrate limitations,
the Tube Mix is otherwise very flexible and portable, and its onboard preamps and DI are worth

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the price alone! Congratulations to ART on another great addition to their affordable line of audio
tools. ($199 street; www.artproaudio.com) –SM <scottmcchane.com>

Audiority .c
Echoes T7E magnetic echo plug-in
Last year, I reviewed Audiority GrainSpace [Tape Op #121], a very cool plug-in that is doing
something fairly new in the DSP world. Now, in total contrast to GrainSpace, Audiority has released
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Echoes T7E, a recreation of the vintage Binson Echorec. While it isn’t as innovative as GrainSpace, I
couldn’t resist buying this plug-in during its discounted introductory sales period. First off, Pink Floyd
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used the Echorec, and I’m a fan. With presets like “Pink Guitar,” “Shiny Diamond,” and “Brick Solo,”
this plug-in is a no-brainer for David Gilmour fans. Secondly, I love delay and echo. Lastly, I’m of Italian
descent, and the original was made in Italy. How could I resist? Before I dig in further, I should
mention that Soundtoys EchoBoy [#62] also has a model of the Binson, so if you already own EchoBoy,
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this plug-in might seem redundant and is certainly less versatile than EchoBoy. Echoes T7E is a faithful
recreation of the Echorec, but with a few updates to make it more useful than the original. The Echorec
@g

was unique in its use of a stainless-steel wire, precisely wound around a spinning drum — which was
supposedly more reliable and less susceptible to wow & flutter, compared to a tape loop. Similar to
the Roland Space Echo tape-based units, the Echorec has multiple playback heads (four compared to
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the Space Echo’s three), along with a single record head. A rotary switch, simply labeled “Switch,”
allows you to enable individual heads or various combinations (including all four heads) for different
delay times and effects. A “Selector” switch enables “Echo” slap-back delay, “Rep” delay with feedback,
or “Swell” mode, which mixes the heads and adds feedback according to which heads are enabled. The
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original Echorec was limited to one speed, but Echoes T7E has two added modes — one to vary the
speed (and therefore delay time), and another to sync to the DAW’s tempo. The original hardware had
a maximum delay of 310 ms, but Echoes T7E is capable of 1100 ms. There are also tone controls as on
the original. In addition, Echoes T7E has some very useful settings “under the hood” of its polymorphic
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GUI. For each head, you can adjust volume, tone, and positional “Error.” You can also fine-tune overall
feedback level. Lastly, “Age” and “Noise” controls can make your virtual Echorec sound older and
noisier, or nearly new — you decide. Noise is actually useful for getting Echoes T7E to self-oscillate for
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fun feedback effects. Playing with the feedback, noise, and speed controls is really fun, as the plug-
in reacts to all the abuse in a very believable way — creating all sorts of crazy feedback and pitch-
shifting effects that don’t glitch out, and sound pretty damn analog! In general, the sound of Echoes
T7E is on the darker side, as you might expect from a wire recorder, but the combo of four heads allows
for some cool effects you can’t realize with a standard delay line. If you’re an echo geek like me, Echoes
T7E is worth checking out. ($45 download; www.audiority.com) –JB
62/Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 64)
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Meris
Ottobit Jr. & Mercury7 effects pedals
Meris, the relatively new L.A.-origin company founded by hardware and software engineers
formerly of Strymon and Line 6, has jumped into the world of floor pedals with what may very
well be “The Bit Crusher To End All Bit Crushers,” as well as a very hi-fi, cinematic-sounding
reverb unit.
Ottobit Jr., a pedal variant of the Meris Ottobit 500-series module [Tape Op #109], is a
deceptively deep device that comprehensively crushes bits and sequences, all with just six knobs,
a handful of microswitches, and a pair of main footswitches. Controls include knobs for
continuously variable bit-depth (1–24 bits) and sample-rate (48 Hz – 48 kHz). Depending on
settings and how they are combined, these are capable of rendering subtle “warming,” unsubtle
distortion, robotic ring modulation, low-bit video game glitchiness, and way more. A Filter
control is supremely musical (very Moog-like) and can mediate a lot of the wispier bit-crushing
artifacts. I wish the Filter knob were bigger, for easier access during live performance, but of
course, it is assignable to an expression pedal, so there’s that.
Ottobit Jr. would already be a heck of a cool pedal if it stopped there. But the next three knobs
operate a six-step sequencer! With a couple of illuminated microswitches, you can choose
between pitch sequencing (which can emit melodic, synth-like arpeggios), filter sequencing
(seek-wah and tremolo–like patterns), and sample-rate sequencing (which can result in a sort
of distorted tremolo). A dedicated Tap footswitch controls the tempo. On top of that, there is a
Stutter knob, that sort of “grabs” audio and spits it back out in rhythmic bunches. It can get
pretty crazy, and when turned fully clockwise, goes into a very fun “random” mode. Cleverly, an
Alt button gives all the pedal’s knobs a secondary function when it is held down, enabling
specific tuning and programming of the sequencer. Very powerful and space-saving, it allows for
infinite tweak possibilities.
I feel a bit handcuffed trying to describe in words some of the sounds and effects that are
obtainable with this pedal. Please do yourself a favor and check out any number of demo videos
on YouTube to see and hear some of the astonishing things that are possible. It’s sometimes
difficult to make source audio sound even remotely “normal” with the Ottobit Jr., which of course
is part of the fun! I guess the only thing I wish the device had was a “wet/dry” mix control, to

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allow mixing in a bit of “regular” sound. Easy enough to achieve, of course, with an A/B/Y box,
but maybe this seventh knob could go on a wish list for a version 2.0.
Inspired by the iconic soundtrack of the original Blade Runner film, the Mercury7 reverb pedal,
.c
based on the company’s Mercury7 500-series module [Tape Op #115], is capable of dramatic,
shimmering reverbs — ranging from realistic plate emulations, to slow-build cathedral-like
atmospheres, to wobbly pitch bending sci-fi drones. There are basically two reverb “starting
points” — Ultraplate and Cathedra — selectable with micro buttons near the bypass footswitch.
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Both can sound like conventional reverbs, but with the addition of pre-send pitch alteration and
modulation, some very otherwordly sounds are achievable. You can toggle between one octave
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down to one octave up, with various intervals in between. Low and high–frequency knobs
control the tone and character of the wet signal’s decay.
A Swell footswitch enables a slow-attack, reverby effect which is quite beautiful and
expressive. Variations of classic backwards effects are possible. And when held down, Swell acts
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as an infinite sustain; step on the switch and the reverb continues as long as you hold it down.
I had fun messing with the other controls in real-time, while holding down Swell. And like
@g

Ottobit Jr., Mercury7 has an Alt microswitch that gives all the controls secondary functions, such
as pre-delay, vibrato depth, attack time, etc. While Mercury7 can certainly be used in a subtle
way, it is geared less toward, say, a conventional pop/rock guitarist (as many reverb pedals are),
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and more toward a multi-instrumental soundscapist.


Both Ottobit Jr. and Mercury7 are very well made, and sound super-clean and noise-free. Both
have stereo inputs and outputs that can handle guitar, keyboard, and line–level. I mostly played
guitar when auditioning these units, but certainly bass, synth, drum machine, samples, etc. all
21

work well. Meris plans to have additional MIDI breakout hardware as well as a preset-selector
footswitch available for all of its pedals in the near future. This is exciting news, as these options
will greatly expand the already vast creative capability, particularly in live performance.
(Each $299 street; www.meris.us) –Pete Weiss <www.weissy.com>
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Hammer Audio
HA-872 large-diaphragm condenser mic
As engineers and music producers, we have a special relationship with our microphones,
as they are the lenses through which we hear the world. We desire a certain accurate sonic
reproduction, but also just the right amount of flattery for a given purpose. Through
experience, we learn just how much we can equalize and process a given mic’s output to
achieve the magic sound, without adding too many artifacts and distortions.
Hammer Audio, based in the U.K., was founded by Max Gale and Ed Marks, the owners
and in-house music team at SilverHammer Productions. Like so many producers, these two
gentlemen found themselves struggling to find the right microphone for their recording
duties, which eventually led them to think about designing their own microphone. A FET-
based design was chosen, with the original Neumann U 87 i (the original 1972 version) in
mind. The Hammer Audio HA-872 imagines itself to be a modern, hand-built incarnation of
the revered 1972 U 87 i, with some clever updates for added versatility in a wider range
of applications.
Physically, the HA-872 is very slightly larger and heavier than the U 87, but has a similar
shape and classic appearance. The HA-872 sports a hand-plated bronze finish, which gives
each mic a unique look. The supplied shockmount is of the classic elastic-suspension type,
and the mic ships in an aluminum briefcase with a 3 m long XLR cable. Inside the mic,
premium through-hole components populate the hand-wired circuit board; and the most
critical components, including the FET amplifier, custom Sowter output transformer, and
Peluso K87i capsule, have been carefully selected for their audio properties. The mic
provides a switch for cardioid, omni, and figure-8 patterns, as well as a three-position bass
rolloff selector (flat, 80 Hz, and 180 Hz), and has been updated with a three-layer mesh
basket, which provides superior wind-blast protection for use without a pop filter.
The original U 87 i is known for a certain midrange presence, which is forward-
sounding yet without any peaky or harsh high-mid frequencies. The HA-872 has a built-
in “de-emphasis” curve that provides a similarly smooth frequency response. A switch on
the mic’s body can defeat this de-emphasis curve, resulting in a more modern and airy
tone, without having to resort to additional outboard EQ. By using premium

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components, a custom transformer, and the Peluso capsule, the HA-872 avoids the
artifacts that plague many modern mass-produced mics, like harsh, ringy highs, and
forward, strident high-mids.
.c
In the studio, I was able to put the HA-872 to work recording a wide range of vocals and
instruments for a variety of musical productions. On vocals, I found male singers to sound
best about 15 cm from the mic, where the sound was natural and present, without any
sizzly highs or boomy lows. The HA-872 rolls off the bottom about 6 dB at 50 Hz, so a
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high-pass filter was not necessary on most vocals or voiceovers. On group vocals, both
omni and figure-8 modes sounded tonally similar to the cardioid setting, and placing
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singers at a distance of a few feet away from the mic provided a present and crisp tone.
On female voice for pop songs, I leaned towards using the mic with the de-emphasis switch
off — in the more airy position. I wouldn’t say the tonal change between modes is drastic,
but the switch allows a bit more open top-end ambience into the signal, which sounds
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slightly more pop and modern to my ears.


I used the mic on several different singers, and each one commented on how they
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liked the sound of their voices on this mic. I usually put up two or three mic choices to
audition on a given singer, but after a few sessions, I became confident that the HA-872
would be a fine choice in almost every situation. Also of note, the HA-872 sounded
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extremely consistent between preamp selections. Neve, API, SSL, and Chandler models
imparted their signature color, but the mic still maintained its own character regardless
of the preamp.
On acoustic guitar, with the HA-872 placed about 12’’ in front of the guitar and the de-
21

emphasis switch off (more open), the mic presented a detailed and classic-sounding rock
strum. The low-frequency rolloff positions enabled shaping of the lows, without having to
resort to EQ after tracking. On drum room, the mic sounded punchy and focused in cardioid
mode, and more open and natural in omni mode — both useful settings depending on the
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production. For grand piano recording, I often use an X-Y pair over the hammers (usually
Royer R-121) and gently augment the low end with a single U 87 placed over the bass
strings. The HA-872 performed well in this situation, with a solid and tight low-end that
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gave the bottom of the piano weight and a little extra bite.
Good microphones tend to be expensive, but the HA-872 is modestly priced and fits the
bill as both the main mic for smaller studios or a featured mic in a large mic locker. Any
time you would reach for a U 87, especially for vocals or guitar, the Hammer Audio HA-872
will provide a similar sound with some added tonal options and flexibility.
($1,695 street; www.hammeraudio.co.uk) –Adam Kagan <www.mixer.ninja>
66/Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/(continued on page 68)
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Brett Whitcomb, director
A Life In Waves (film)
One cannot mention Suzanne Ciani’s name without following it up with the word
“trailblazer.” This documentary film follows Ciani as she creates a world that basically didn’t
exist before she came along, by taking her passion for synthesizers and transforming it into
a multi-layered business, including creating award-winning commercials for Coca-Cola,
Atari, Merrill Lynch, AT&T, General Electric, and more.
A Life In Waves follows Ciani’s fascinating life story, from her early love affair with
electronic music (before it was ever classified as such) to her recent 2016 release, Sunergy.
As a bright young woman, unique in her field, Suzanne was told she was different, so that’s
exactly what she aimed to be. As she says in the film, “I want to do what only I can do.”
When her father revealed that he didn’t hold high hopes for her, she only saw opportunity,
saying, “[I had the] freedom to pursue music, because nothing was expected of me.” She
soon earned a job working with Don Buchla (creator of the famed Buchla analog modular
synthesizer), who once tried to fire her for a cold soldering point. Knowing she was not at
fault, she staunchly refused to be terminated and simply showed up for work the next day.
Her employment with the company, as well as her mentorship and friendship with Don,
went on to last for decades. Along the way, Ciani also formed her own company,
Ciani/Musica, created the sound effects for Meco’s disco version of the Star Wars “Title
Theme” and soundtrack (Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk), made countless jingles for
high-profile companies, toured the world performing her own new age music, founded a
music label, Seventh Wave, and earned numerous Grammy nominations and awards.
Suzanne’s passion for her life’s work cannot be overstated – her whole being is infused
with an inescapable love for creating, with a huge drive to make passionate and emotional
music. Her unique take of wanting technology to be sensual allowed for breakthroughs in
a field that few others could even imagine. She’s irrevocably interwoven into pop culture
– you’ve heard Ciani’s music and sound effects, even if you think you haven’t. A Life In
Waves is well worth viewing and sharing with friends – a small way to pay tribute to a
wildly talented woman finally getting her due.
(www.alifeinwaves.com) –Jenna Zine <jennazine.com>

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See also Tape Op editor Larry Crane’s companion review:
<movieboozer.com/movie-review/life-waves-2017>
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Cloud Microphones
Cloudlifter Zi
Instrument/Mic Activator
If you read my previous review of the Cloudlifter Z Mic
Activator [Tape Op #115], then you know I’m a big fan of
the Cloudlifter series. The Cloudlifter Zi builds on the
success of the CL-Z, but adds a whole new dimension by
including a high-Z instrument-level input. Visually, this box
looks just like the CL-Z, which can be confusing when you
have them side-by-side on a shelf. If you look closer
though, you notice that the CL-Zi has a Neutrik Combo
input. The other big change is in the switches, which have
changed from tiny chrome switches to black plastic sliders.
The new switches aren’t as sexy looking, but they’re
definitely much sturdier. I’m a lot less worried about them
breaking when I throw this thing into my backpack. This is
such a handy tool, you’ll definitely want to bring it with you
to other studios.
When you use the CL-Zi with a mic, it performs exactly like
the CL-Z; it adds up to +25 dB of quiet gain before your
preamp. When you turn the big knob, it adjusts the
impedance, which dramatically changes the tone of passive
mics. There is one tiny upgrade; the gain switch now has
three options: Min, More, and Max. This solves the only tiny
gripe I’ve discovered about my older CL-Z. When I’m
working really quickly, my brain can’t always remember
which gives the most gain, More or Max. Sure, it only takes
a second to toggle the switch and find out, but the addition
of Min clears this up instantly.

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Now, what makes this new box interesting, is the
instrument input. It uses a CineMag transformer to
convert from high-Z before the mic preamp. This allows
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sweepable impedance knob, which ranges from 15 kΩ to
over 1 MΩ (roughly 100× the 150 Ω – 15 kΩ values
marked around the knob for low-Z use). I first tried the
CL-Zi on a Fender Rhodes, and while its impedance knob
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was interesting, I decided it was way too clinical for the
bluesy song we were recording. I’m sure I could have
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trashed it up with a plug-in, but decided to use


something else. Next, I used it on bass, where it fared
much better for my needs. I had it up against a really
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expensive tube DI that everyone at my studio loves. Both


DIs sounded amazing, but the CL-Zi really had a presence
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to it that was perfect for songs where the bass featured


out front of other instruments. We ended up switching
back-and-forth from song-to-song, basing our decision on
the character of each tune.
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Where this box gets the most use for me is with guitars
and amp simulators. A lot of times, when I’m cutting
basics with a full band and I need isolation for a scratch
guitar part, I’ve found using various plug-in amp
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simulators is quick and easy and allows me to focus my


time and energy on the rest of the recording. In those
situations, this is my go-to DI. It’s so fun to sweep
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around the different impedance settings. I can get a


really vintage midrange tone, or a bright chirpy one.
Especially if I engage the HPF, I can get really extreme
sounds. Seriously, if amp simulators are your bag, this is
The Panoramic House is the ultimate VRBO for musicians. A live-in residential studio in West Marin, CA
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a DI that you need to try. My only complaint is that there


overlooking the Pacific Ocean with API & Neve consoles, 2” tape, Pro Tools HD, and an echo chamber.
Each room of the house is filled with musical instruments except for the gourmet kitchen with a Wolf range. isn’t a 1/4’’ thru jack.
Plenty of room and solitude to get into a creative space but only 30 minutes from San Francisco. ($379 street; www.cloudmicrophones.com)
Rates start at $350 a day. –Scott McDowell <fadersolo.com>
panoramic-house.com • john@onefinmanagement.com • 916-444-5241
70 /Tape Op#123/Gear Reviews/(Fin.)
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The Lasting Power of Music
by John Baccigaluppi

During the past few years I’ve been thinking a lot


about music and why it still feels so important to me.
I believe in the long-term, far-reaching power of music in our lives, and I feel that
many others do as well.

Answer these questions below. Pretend you are taking one of those online surveys,
where each question has to be answered before you get to the next screen:

1. What is your favorite movie?


2. How many times have you watched it?
3. What is your favorite book?
4. How many times have you read it?
5. What is your favorite album or song?
6. How many times have you listened to it?
Chances are the answers to questions 2 and 4 vary between 1 to 9 times, while the
answer to question 6 is a number above 100, or even possibly above 1000 listens.

Music is unlike every other “popular” art form. One can continue to discover new

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depth and meaning in a song in ways that we often don’t in a movie or book. Maybe
it’s because it takes several hours to watch a movie, or three days to read a book, but
only three minutes to hear a song. That a work of art that’s only three minutes long .c
can hold your attention for years, or decades, in ways that movies and books typically
don’t is telling. Only visual art – painting, photography, etc. – has the same staying
power as music in our lives.*
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Music is also unique in that it can be shared with other people at a live performance
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as a group experience, or absorbed alone on headphones in isolation. Either experience


can be revelatory to the listener.

When I was ten years old, Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” came on
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the portable radio that belonged to a carpenter working at our house, and I remember
being instantly struck by the song. This was quite different than all the music I’d
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heard during my first decade as a kid. I rode my bike down to Tower Records and
bought the seven-inch single that same day. Ten years later, I was playing in bands
and learning how to get around a 24-track recording studio. To this day I still find
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myself enraptured by great music, with the same feeling I had when I first heard
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”.

What we do as creators and documentarians of music really does matter; even if our
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culture, technology, and the media industry has allowed music to be devalued into an
often low-paying endeavor. But for those of us who believe in the power of music,
being a part of fostering the creativity is a reward in and of itself. No other art form
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has the lasting power in our lives that music does. Support the art you care about, and
it will support you back. r

*It’s worth noting that at the peak of recorded music sales, music used to be exclusively
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packaged with, and accompanied by, a strong visual statement: i.e. the album cover.

74/Tape Op#123/End Rant/


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