My home stuido : All Blues Studio
photo by Korean Joe
Since I was 20 years old, I have been dreaming of having my own studio. I used to spend hours standing on the street looking at open reel 4 track recorders and mixing consoles on display in music shops in London. After starting work as a lawyer, I bought my first 8 track multi-track recorder ( I never had the time to use it then). Eventually I moved on to 24 track analogue recording and now ended up with 16 track digital recordings. As to sound, I still prefer the analogue medium. In the computer age, it is all hard disc recording. I like that even less. As far as sound goes, I think ADAT sounds better than hard disc recording; it has more warmth and dimension. My home studio is certainly not the state-of-the-art thing, not by a long shot. Bu tmost the acoustic tracks on my recordings were recorded at home and the sound quality is to my ear very good indeed. This is what I am using :-
Speakers : Westlake BBSM4F Professional Series
These are the best close field studio monitors I have ever come across. The Westlake BBSM4Fs have only two 2 x 4' woofer and one 3/4" mid range tweeter. But the sound is power is phenomenal and the sound is simply the best for this speakers of this size. The sound quality rich and full without the usual hi-fi embellishmentss you find on many hi-fi speakers. It offers an accurate and fully balanced sound picture of what you have recorded. These speakers are not cheap by any standard. But they are worth every dime you pay.
I also have a pair of Tannoy SRM-12 and a pair of Yamaha NS-10 speakers. But ever since I acquired the Westlake speakers, I rarely use anything else for monitoring and listening to music.
Mixing desk : Tecam M-3500
This is an analogue 32 track 8 buzz mixing desk and is the most reliable equipment in the studio. This is no longer the state-of-the-art equipment, but it works well and is user-friendly. I have assinged all the outputs of the diaital recorders, MD player, CD player and DAT player to different tracks of the mixing desk. I can play along with any music. I have also patched the outputs of my drum machine to the mixing desk and I can practice and work out new parts any hour of the day with bass and drums.
Digital recorders : Alasis ADAT XT
I am running two 8 track ADAT XT machines with an Alasis remote control unit BRC. I was using an open reel 24 track Fostex analogue recording and had been very happy with it until spare parts of analgoue machines ran out and I was forced to go digital. To my ear, analogue recording always sound better, it is warmer and more human. The problem with the linking two ADAT machines together is the two machines upon rewinding and fast-forwarding takes quite a bit of time to synchronize and is not ideal for overdubs. Anyway, ADAT are suppose to be the poor man's version of the Sony digiatal recorders the price of which effectively prohibit home studio owners to even think about getting one.
Reverb unit : Yamaha REV5
This reverb unit is reliable and the provide realistic reverb, delay and other effects. It was at one time the top of the line of Yamaha. I have been using this for years and never saw the need to replace it.
This is what has been described as sound enhancement effect. The size is a standard 1-U. It has a contral for Space, Depth, Tune, Lift and Harmonics. There is a control for output as well. The effect is built for enhancing low quality recordings. It adds depth to recordings and reduce the "boxiness" of poor qulaity recordings. A very useful effect to have when listening to bootleg recordings.
BBE Sonic Maximizer
This is a 1-U effect and is very useful for post production work. The machine has been described as a 'sonic maximer". It only has a "Low Contour" and a "Process" button for each of the two channels. What is does is that it adds or remove bass and treble frequencey to the sound. Very often you have done a mix and compare it to recordings on CDs you find you mix a little dull, the bass doesn't really hit the floor and the high is not high enough. The BBE helps a lot in that department. What you do is you compare you final mix with a song on your favourite CD. The song on your favourite CD will be the benchmark of your soundscape. Use the BBE to fine-tune your recording. This is one very very useful effect to have.
CD Recroder : Marantz Professional Series CDR 630
Many years ago, I bought a Yamaha professional CD recorder. It was one of the first generation CD recorder. It has a massive remote control unit, the recorder it self is heavy like a ton of bricks and hugh in size. It cost over HK$100,000.00 and it was neither very stable nor reliable. With the advance of technology, CD recorders no longer weigh a ton and is much smaller in size and much better in quality. The CD recorder I am useing a Marantz Professional Series CDR 630, price range around HK$10,000.00 and works really well and the sound quality is also good. A word on recording CDs. If you make CD copies through your computer, you may often find that the CD you copied thorough your computer often can play on conventional CD players; the CD cannot read the information on the CD copy. I found that most of the time it is the blank CD that is causing the problem. Try blank CDs maked by TDK. These CDs will play on most CD players.
Recording electric guitars
A final word. You need a minimum amount of gadget to get a good recording at home. But having said that, you really don't need all the state-of-the-art stuff to do it. It is a question of understanding the nature and character and characteristic of the music you are doing and bring the best out of it. Remember, the music quality is only as good as the engineer. Experiment and try out different things. listen to your favorite tracks and work out why they sound so good. It takes time to learn, we are all doing that.