now at dbstudios we wouldn’t thinking of starting our day with an early morning pun; as in new sE Titan condenser microphones (matching pair) which we have just acquired & Jon Altman (scored large sections (alongside James Horner) of James Cameron’s Titanic) along with London based vocal star Pola Pospieszalska coming to spend a week with us at the studio next week…
“Lies, damn lies and statistics” is the old saying & certainly UB40 were not putting a pleasant spin on them when they penned “one in ten” but here at dbstudios we’re ever a ray of sunshine & so we when we say one in eight we’re in fact alluding to the fact that we have just one of the eight available in China (only 2,500 worldwide) Blackstar 5th. Anniversary combos just delivered and now hot out of the box gracing our live recording/rehearsal room.
And to use the correct technical term; it’s a beauty!!!
Sporting 2 x 10 Celestions (what else), footswitchable 1xECC83 and 1x12BH7 valves and a unique cosmetic workover (see the original HT-5R) it’s pure eye and ear candy rolled into one; but because we’re suitably shallow (& totally British) at dbstudios we most love the very cool “everything from USA to UK” ISF switch:
To quote from the Blackstar blurb: The patented ISF control works with the Bass, Middle and Treble controls to give you access to infinite new sound possibilities from the USA to the UK and everywhere in-between. This fully interactive control allows you to infinitely adjust the response of the tone control network between any of the traditional voicings. In this way you can design your own sound and truly find the sound in your head.
So now you know; want to come over and trial it just give me a call (very soon we’ll be uploading some samples from Shanghai guitar legend Luis Cuelho); but if i hear even a whisper & i mean even a whisper of that USA sound… your out on your ear!!!
When all is said and done, boys will be boys & none more so than studio heads; & what do boys like most of all in the world (well aside from the obvious) yeah the second most obvious (keep up) toys; & none more so than toys that bear a close resemblance to… well i’ve already said enough to paint the backdrop, today’s post is about microphones!!!
Now every studio engineer could fill a blog or two with microphone slaver & ask a 1,000 of us “what’s your favourite microphone?” & you would receive a 1,001 different answers; you would hear the revered names of AKG, Audix, Blue, Miktek, Neumann, Rode, Sennheiser, Sony it would even (for & from the cognoscenti) be reduced down to the model numbers (cos boys love obfuscating just as much as they love toys) the legendary C 414, the famed C800 G, the ever useful e609, the incomparable U87; but i can tell you right now if you put a gun against my head & even if that gun was loaded only with a BB cap or indeed the humble potato (if i was exiled to Elba herself & was obliged to have a microphone cupboard of only one microphone) i know just exactly which microphone i would be reaching for and perhaps more importantly why.
The Shure SM 58 (pictured above) is without doubt my absolute fave; & having bought a bundle of them over the years (two this week alone) i can tell you why, as for all live and many studio applications they are without compare.
Aside from their very rugged construction (not quite the armoured tank that is the SM 57 but pretty damn rugged) their unidirectional cardioid response (dramatically reducing feedback nightmares in the live setting) or their inbuilt “pop” filter; the key lies in its frequency response curve & a little (but poorly understood) phenomenon called the “proximity effect”.
Simply put (& i quote): “when the sound source is less than 6mm from the microphone, the microphone boosts bass frequencies (by 6-10 dB at 100 Hz) creating a warmer and richer bass sound than when farther away”; this means (given the above profile) & the 58′s unidirectionality the artist (& we are talking every singer you have ever heard of has used a 58) can achieve incredible control over this effect & we (the humble sound engineers) can place the vocal in a live mix more easily than you might ever imagine!!!
Writing today’s post in the wake of a series of very disturbing recent world events there can be little doubt that 2012 has lived up to it’s dragon year status; i’ll spare you the gory details (go on tell us i hear you say) but i for one in spite of all the challenges have had a blessed year; my beautiful son (charlie) turning 7 whilst our just delightful daughter (Catherine Alexandra) fast approaches 7 months & the studio fast approaching it’s 6th birthday!!!
We have marked the anniversary (& don’t studio buffs always find an excuse to get more gear) by really up-ending in particular our pre-amp cupboard; are you sitting comfortably… kleenex in hand… here we go:
- Focusrite ISA 828 – with both a studio boss (that would be me) & a senior engineer (that would be aho) trained in the UK (Manchester & London respectively) don’t be too surprised to find us focusrite-heads; there is nearly not an album in your record collection since 1985 (when Neve first established the company) that has not been touched by this company’s magic and with the ISA 828 you get 8 channels of Focusrite magic in a 2U strip, enough to run most of your drum kit through (for example) at one hit & for your extra 3 or 4 channels (or maybe a room mike) we would recommend the…
- Universal Audio 4-710D – quite literally to be heard is to be believed; with four 710 twin-finity circuits on board and 1176 based compression on four channels (plus limiters on the additional 4 digital channels (8 channels) in all) this “hybrid” pre-amp is fast carving itself a rather large niche in 21st century studios.
And if that wasn’t enough we are adding a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 to our studio 2 suite (& in time an Octo Pre MKII dynamic) giving a further 16 Focusrite flavoured channels in our downstairs studio.
Add to this our new pdp concept maple drum kit; Budda guitar rig and an Ampeg SVT 3PRO & it may just be time to record your Christmas Blues rather than indulge them; seasonal greeting from us all at dbstudios… where the only limitation is your imagination
M1NT cellars – chinese radio advert
Producing from start to finish a radio advertisement is one thing; producing it for a chinese radio station is quite another but with a lot of thankyou’s a great deal of team work & a few late nights it is done…
M1NT cellars (http://m1ntcellars.com) is another Alistair Paton brainchild; having grown out of the huge success of the global nightclub phenomenon M1NT it is selling high quality imported wines & spirits to the Chinese market at crazy low prices (I guarantee you will place a sneaky order or two after you’ve read this piece!!!); now when I say Chinese market i mean just that… over 300 cities & what better to penetrate that market than radio advertising… at a fraction of the cost of TV placement it still has been shown to be at least 1/3 as effective; evaluate your CPP (cost per point); (see http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/177002 if you don’t know what I’m talking about) & away you go.
What about from our studio-perspective; well it goes something like this… brainstorm (with client input)… generate script & tag-line (“the life and soul of everybody’s party”)… generate some music or “jingle” (ideally 2 or 3 variations)… pitch to client & modify accordingly… translate (not such an easy task as many nuances & idioms can be lost in the process)… review script in chinese… find voice talent… dub… edit/mix… master for radio… crack large bottles of champagne & get some well needed sleep.
All joking aside; as a studio one of the other things that you need to do is manage your budget… quality voice-over talent does not (& neither should it) come cheap!!!
Thankyou’s… well to Jim & Paul for help with the original script development… my man Aho for production, dubbing & the late night editing… Alfred & Elle for those sexy vocal tones & of course Alex & Audrey at M1NT cellars; the “life and soul of everybody’s party”!!!
A musical life is full of paradoxes; the white notes existing in tension with the black, the crashing sforzando to a pin drop pianissimo the elegant beauty of analogue vs. the white light clarity of 64 bit digital but nowhere is this dialectic more palpable than in the recording studio; the studio guys are endlessly craving the warmth and vitality of a bar room scenario the bar room guys are craving the separation and depth of a condenser mike driven studio ambience.
Well at dbstudios (where the “only limitation is your imagination” as you well remember) you can have the best of both worlds and I’m not going to slaver on about our funky 26-in live room nor extol our on-site recording abilities and facilities (just check our testimonial pages for that); I’m gonna talk about one very simple but vital ingredient to recording drums… the “room” mike; often poorly understood and certainly poorly placed it can be a key element in transforming a very average recording to a recording that will put a smile on everyone’s (and most importantly your client’s) face.
As with any microphone placement; there are only two questions of any significance… what & where; so let’s begin with “what”: I think this can be simply answered the best quality condenser or ribbon mike you have in your collection so on these days (slightly depending on the flavour we want to transmit) we might reach for a U87 a T103 or as you can see in this shot a Superlux R102; “where” is slightly trickier, your room will have a sweet spot or two but at dbstudios we don’t get too stuck in our ways. because if you think about it for a minute that sweet spot is not set in stone; a particular drum configuration, other equipment placement even humidity can & i would even go so far as to say will change that microphone’s ideal positioning.
So what do you do; well here we go #dbstudios tip of the week; solo up the chosen microphone… put on some headphones & walk around your room carrying said microphone (obviously with your drummer playing you muppet!!!) & then use the greatest of all God’s given instruments; (though some may beg to differ) your ears.
When it sounds sweet… that is the sweet spot… place microphone accordingly; that easy eh
The same is not quite true for external live recordings but we’ll come to that in later postings; we’ll be posting in samples from this particular session (Battle Cattle) at a later date.
Poised for full “hardness” (cos what else does a “soft opening” imply) by March 6th 2012 (of course bearing no relation to our esteemed CEO’s (that would be me) 51st birthday (but all contributions greatly received); dbstudios is i think quite justifiably very proud of itself (or should i say ourselves!!!) as our new live-room unfolds itself and the first sessions start to be produced and recorded (& that includes a huge nod to our resident engineer & producer Aho Tsoi).
And where better place to start than our new guitar rig; which of course (me being a Brit) has to be an Orange, a Dual Terror with a delightfully sounding British built 2 x 12 Orange cab (& believe me that extra 2000 RMB vs. a Chinese built speaker is completely noticeable); an Ashdown (ABM 500 EVO III) bass head with a Warwick (and more of Warwick later) 15 inch and a 4 x 10 stack (cos we are old school and like to hear our bass players moving air not just simulating moving air) & a new all maple Blast plus Sabian cymbals drum kit and with more cables than Medusa’s hair stylist we are ready to rock out.
rehearsal space: 75 RMB per hour
recording (live room): 3,000 RMB per day (8 recording hours)
recording (dubbing room): 450 RMB per hour
mixdown/mastering: 450 RMB per hour
And where better place to finish this piece than to recall that i was just seven years old when the Orange brand first saw the light of day; music entrepreneur Cliff Cooper originally setting up his Orange Recording Studio in 1968 in 3-4 Compton Street, where in spite of recording/co-producing such musical luminaries as Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones & Robin Gibb financial expedience forced him to sell off some of the studio’s gear in the shop window and the heady pathway to Orange Amplification was begun.
The future’s bright… the future’s dbstudios…
Those of you who regularly follow our dbstudios blog posts will know we have been following the revival of the ribbon microphone (see tie a yellow ribbon…) with considerable interest; meanwhile hoping that christmas would come early or that we would have a financial windfall (that bungled Bank of China heist last autumn had nothing to do with us but i wouldn’t suggest you leave your bank card in any ATMs in the tai kang lu district in the near future).
Nonetheless our commitment to you and all things audio is unrelenting so when a pair of SE R1 ribbon microphones became available in London for a very reasonable sum (plus as China-philes we get our/your VAT back) there was no stopping us and three weeks later (after several body searches at London Heathrow & Moscow Sheremetyevo airports) they are lovingly ensconced in studio 2′s tracking room as we are yet again reminded of what a 1.8 micron pure aluminium ribbon element plus sE’s uniquely modern take on microphone engineering (let’s be clear about it not everyone gets to collaborate with Rupert Neve) can produce… absolutely ribbon-tastic!!!
Have we completely lost the plot at DB studios?!? What the hell are the boys doing ripping out their perfectly good pane of glass and building some fancy looks-like-you-could-grow-cucumbers-under-it double paned contraption with one of the panes set at at an angle in their otherwise pretty handsome tracking room & what’s more instructing their slightly-puzzled (it must be said) contractors to include two small porcelain tea jars inside the frame!!!
Shanghai finally got to us?!? A pair of very small mini-me’s have just passed away and their ashes are going to be interred within studio 2′s window frame?!? We can’t stand you seeing us trying (yet inevitably failing) to smile as we say “take 374…” for the 374th time!!!
Well Belgium “nul points” & a quick glance at http://tinyurl.com/3oxe8uj or its equivalents will reveal all!!!
Sound waves are very similar to the waves that are generated in a pool of water when you for example throw a stone or perhaps grandma’s pet poodle into that tranquil lake district loch; & just as you experience when you hear an echo… they can come ‘right back at you”. This is why you hear drug-addled yet seasoned sound engineers talking about parallel surfaces as if they were the latest strain of HIV; a sound wave can be generated by a vocalist for example and then moments later bounce off a perpendicular surface (an observation window for example) to return to interfere with the sound waves that we are trying to capture through a high end vocal chain (referring to a microphone + preamp etc.)… net result an acoustic mess!!!
So that’s why we use a double paned window with the inner (facing the microphone) window set at a jaunty 10-15 degrees…
Aha well what about the two tea jars i hear you nearly forget… simple; desiccant (& i had to check that spelling a few times) so as to avoid any condensation between the window panes as the session unfolds & we patiently and always with a warm smile intone: