The Studio
March 2008

Mac Desk
When we moved out of Firecrest two years ago, the studio didn't move into as big a space as it even had there. At least in Firecrest the space was square. This is a lot narrower, and is much more cozy. Nonetheless, the studio has got some new kit and continues to grow.

Those are K-ROC reference monitors, between them is an Apple 20" LCD which is connected to a G5 dual 2.5GHz beast under the desk. To the right of the mixing desk, kind of hidden, is a Sony minidisk with programmer.

The mixing console is a Roland VM-C7200. This was built in the early part of this decade and was arguably the most feature-rich digital mixing console system in its price range. The feature list is ridiculous, starting with 94 mix channels, 14 busses, control room mix out as well as monitor mix out, built in effects, 5 pages of mixing parameters per channel, 24 bit digital, and full (and I mean full) automation. It uses a pagination system to navigate around. The faders are all powered, and the display can show you alternate pages. The little mixer on top is a tiny Behringer I got just to handle some effects returns, as I used up most of the 94 channels. VM-C7200

On top is a Moog Voyager. This is the new generation of analog synthesizers Moog Music is building. It sounds a lot like an old Minimoog, which makes sense since it has a lot of the same circuit design. Better parts, though. It has all of the expansion options and I got the CP-251 CV source which will come in useful someday, if not now. A Dave Smith Instruments Poly-Evolver Keyboard is next. This is a new breed of hybrid analog/digital. 4 voice. Dave Smith used to be the man behind Sequential Circuits, the Prophet guy. I am completely besotted with this keyboard, even if the documentation is less than descriptive. Then there is a Hartmann Neuron keyboard in the middle. It is a rather esoteric sound generator. It apparently works via neural networks, but I think it is more of a resynthesis based machine, and the designers aren't actually explaining much. Axel Hartmann designed for Waldorf, among other companies. Hartmann's company went bankrupt the week I bought it, apparently. It is still an awesome machine, which tells us the lesson that all great ideas come from bankrupt companies. The Ensoniq TS-12 is now 13 years old. 16 meg of memory. Ensoniq was bought by Creative Labs years ago, speaking of great ideas gone away. And the Nord Lead under all of them is now 9 years old. I use it a lot still. It's an original Nord Lead 1. I think it got an OS update like 6 years ago. Yes there are too many keyboards but it happens. If you want knobs, you will probably have to put up with keys too. It's not as imposing once you sit in the studio.
S-1000 Wretch

The S-1000 Wretch Machine is new. It's built by a guy in California who builds tube based kit. This synthesizer is tube based, and is pretty different, even considering how odd my studio is. There's a Kenton to control it, and the Moog CV breakout box along with a CP-251 voltage source under it. The 'scope on top has suddenly come in handy again. A dual trace is even handier.

SE-1X

The Studio Electronics SE-1X is another monophonic analog synthesizer. It also resembles a Minimoog, but it is built by some (other) folks in California who are making analogue instruments to their own specs. It does have long term tuning problems but it is a bitchin bass line instrument. The Effectron 1024 below it is the oldest piece of equipment in the studio. I am using it again, it had a rest for a few years but I like the sound. I can't find any other piece of equipement to duplicate that sound. 1983 I got that. It's funny, in 1983 no studio would let me bring it in, they all thought it was too noisy. There is a Behringer Ultrafex II below there, my Power and Glory modulator. It does add depth to a source. Next rack down, top left is a Voce Micro-B which serves as the local Hammond source. To the right is a Roland P-55 which is the basic pianos, although I get pianos from most everything now.

Main Rack
 
That Super JV has 4 expansions in it. Orchestral and Basses/Drums, Jazz and Funk. It's a swiss army knife, which is used when needed. The studio has enough variety so that I don't have to rely on one instrument to provide all the sounds. The top MOTU thing is a Midi Express 128. It provides 16 channels of MIDI to 8 separate ports. Some of my ports have chains of 5 on them, namely the analog synth chain. I had to get rid of my old MTPII because, well, new Macs don't support them anymore.Thanks MOTU and Apple. And they never ran on PCs. Oh well.

The EMU Morpheus (below the Midi Express) is a great synthesizer module with a very weird filter arrangement, it lets you change between whole wavesets. You can "morph" between waveforms, using modulation. It's just an awesome sounding thing. The closest other system is the Neuron, but it isn't close in architecture. I don't think a lot of people ever really understood it. Below that there is a EMU Procussion. It provides garden variety percussion, which is fine, although I tend to shy away from it's dated cymbals now (you can recognise the cymbals in my music from past years). Then of course there is the S-6000, with its big LCD panel and so many features I cannot describe it on its own. I have a lot of samples now for the S-6000 since I have ported all of the good ones from the old ASR-10, and I have bought some too. The S-6000 is arguably the most versatile sampler around, certainly in its price range. Below that is a Behringer Ultramatch digital convertor. This thing takes the digital signals from the various digital ins and outs, and converts them to the other various ins and outs, so my pro gear and my consumer gear work together. This is a very good thing, because otherwise the consumer gear would be useless. Below the Behringer, is the MOTU 2408 24-channel digital audio channel bank. This is what does a lot (actually, all) of the signal processing for the Mac. And the interfaces below it are DIF-ATs for the Roland VM mixer, which is located below with all the cables. All in all, with effects returns, I use about 86 channels on a 94 channel board. If I had another DIF-AT, I'd definitely use the other 8. AudioGroup

On the Mac, I am running OSX 1.4.2 Tiger. The software being used is:

- Mark of the Unicorn Digital Performer 4.6. This is the core of the whole studio. I cannot being to describe the features of this software, but if you have never experienced Digital Performer, you should visit their website at least. There is a reason most professional studios use it.

- Cycling 74's Pluggo and Hypno addins for FX help out in the DP world. They are a large collection of plugins which do, well, most anything you can think of, and a lot of things you probably never thought of. Is it musical? sometimes. In any case, I have been so entranced by the Pluggo and Hypno set I ended up going back to Cycling 74 and buying:

- Max/MSP 4.5. MAX is a programming language for MIDI, object oriented of course. To be fair, it is more an environment for building MIDI processing situations. MSP is the audio complement to it. I have not decided to go for Jitter, the video side yet. Although I might since I have been doing video too.

- My one virtual synth is an Arctura 2600V AU plugin. Although I own a real one, it isn't here. It is in storage and this takes less space. I know my way around a 2600 and this will help to educate the kids, who do spend a lot of time in Dad's weird and wonderful space with all the knobs and sliders.

- I have also got Sound Studio, AkSys, Audacity, and some other minor tools to help with audio. Plus, Motion and Final Cut to do video compositing and title/effect generation, and I can produce SMPTE synched audio to video production.

On the PC, next to the Mac, I have XP Home. It has some tricks of its own.

- an Osprey digital capture card can do vidcaps from older analogue video, both NTSC and PAL. And the audio too.

- The Moog Voyager editor lives on this system. Even with all the knobs, getting backups is easier with an editor, plus it has some interesting patch manipulators which give progressive patch generation.

- I have ReBirth RB-388. I used to use it on the Mac until we hit OSX came and stopped that. It runs on the PC fine, I did write a bunch of things on ReBirth, and it is so much fun to play with.

- I also have Reason. I do not use Reason as much, but should you wander in to my studio and want to synch a Reason performance with anything else, it would be totally possible here. With all the real life toys I have, Reason is just that much more to confuse me. I originally got it to put on my laptop for when I was traveling, but I never traveled enough, and the laptop got stolen.

The monitoring and mastering equipement is:

- Carver preamp, Samson amp, K-ROC monitors. There is a DOD Sr-460H headphone amp, for late night work.

- Numark CDN-34S CD player. 2 CD players, DJ style, digital outs, very useful.

- Sony A6 DAT, for mixdowns. Direct to Digtal. What more do you want.

- Tascam 202 MkIII dual cassette. I don't use cassettes much, but when you need one, this is a good deck to help get them to digital.

- Sony Minidisc MZS-R5ST walkman and programming station. I do my remote sampling with this, and dump it back via the digital ports. I could spring for a HD recorder but why?

The studio produces my music, it will be producing Colin's video series, and I'll do the occasional production gig, when someone actually asks. You can listen to my music, there is certainly a lot of it, and you can see our videos on this site. I am doing more experimental sound compositing as well as a new wave of music composing, isn't this what a studio is for?

Go Back