Leigh-on-Sea Location Recording

I was recently invited to travel to Leigh-on-Sea near Southend to record a small baroque quartet who wished to record a song cycle of 9 German arias by George Frideric Handel. The quartet contained a Harpsichord which was the main reason for doing this recording on location – they are difficult things to move! I agreed to meet at the house at 10am and setup before the rest of the performers arrived at 11.30, giving me plenty of time to get ready. The Leigh-on-Sea Quartet The “Leigh-on-Sea Baroque Quartet” that I was tasked with recording; consisting of Harpsichord, Cello, Flute and solo Soprano. Location recording was requested due to the inability to move the harpsichord. This, however worked in my favour as the room lent itself to recording – lots of soft furnishings that meant that the acoustic was musical but fairly dry. Not knowing what to expect, I inevitably packed more much more equipment than I ended up using but this afforded a certain amount of options during the recording. The musicians were set up in the music room towards the rear of the house – affording some distance from road noise – and I set up in the front room. I ran a small 8-channel multicore between the rooms which afforded me some acoustic separation. This is really beneficial as monitoring on headphones when tracking without any speakers can be rather troublesome. Control RoomMy makeshift control room for the recording. I used my trusty Presonus Studiolive 16:4:2 digital desk which fed my Macbook running Logic 9. A pair of PC speakers were utilised for playback duties. Once setup...

Studio Upgrade to 64 Bit

The wait is finally over – Threecircles Recording Studio has finally upgraded to 64Bit! “A bit late?” I hear you cry? Well I subscribe to the old adage of “If it ain’t broke….” My system was moving along quite nicely on relatively old Mac OS (10.5 – Leopard) and I didn’t want to rock the boat. Upgrading the OS of a studio computer usually means a lot of down-time while you check every plugin and combination to make sure that you won’t face a crash during a session (not cool!). Upgrades came and went and I couldn’t see the point in upgrading as I never really stressed out the machine when running fairly heavy arrangements and the potential benefits were small. The main problem with NOT upgrading was that there was a 4Gb ceiling on Logic when running at 32 bit – meaning that any processor-hungry plugins or software instruments would hog system resources and crash or slow-down sessions. With a 64-Bit system, the ceiling of 4Gb goes away meaning that you are free to utilise however much RAM you have in your system. [framed_box rounded=”true”] [image title=”Threecircles recording Studio – Apogee Symphony 64 Card” link=”http://www.threecircles.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/20140311-231218.jpg” lightbox=”true” box=”full-one-third” align=”left”]http://www.threecircles.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/20140311-231218.jpg[/image]Thankyou eBay – a mint condition 64-Bit Apogee symphony card from only £121 delivered, instead of £900! The card is also half the length of the 32-Bit card, meaning fitting it in the PCI chassis is much easier! [/framed_box] The main issue was that my Apogee Symphony card was 32-Bit only and could only run up to OSX 10.6.7 – not good if I wanted to upgrade to the latest versions of...

Eventide H-3000 upgrade

You may have seen on our Facebook page that I recently managed to get my grubby hands on an Eventide H-3000. “A what?” I hear you cry… The Eventide H-3000 is what’s known as a Harmonizer – a unit capable of effects like flanging, phasing and chorus by splitting the incoming signal and applying varying degrees of detune and delay to create a thickened sound. The units is synonymous with the wide 80’s guitar sounds from Eddie van Halen and many, many others and that sound is making a comeback….. In fact my most popular videos on YouTube (over 60,000 views and counting!) is a tutorial on how to create a split harmonizer effect using software. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jKOwNw9U4lE The unit I have is the original from 1988 and has seen various upgrades in the past two decades – the problem being that the upgrades are usually on the rather expensive side – the newest model – the H-8000, retails for around £4,500…… The is where eBay comes in. For around $60 and a two-week wait you can get hold of the upgrade chips to convert your unit into one of its newer siblings in all but the name. The units all contain the same algorithms – it’s just the presets that change. [framed_box rounded=”true”][image title=”Threecircles Recording Studio – H3000 Inside” link=”http://www.threecircles.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/IMG_0526.jpg” lightbox=”true” box=”full-one-third” align=”left”]http://www.threecircles.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/IMG_0526.jpg[/image]Here you can see what the H-3000 looks like on the inside – pretty daunting! the area for modification is in the top right near the power switch. A PCB trace needs cutting and the ePROM chips needs swapping over – made a...

New studio gear!

I thought it was about time to add some gear to the studio equipment list and there was some spare cash in the bank account so I decided on a bit of a splurge! First off is the TC Electronic Powercore, a DSP effects engine that has, unfortunately, been discontinued. Why get one then? I hear you ask….. Well, we used to have the PCI version years ago and ever since getting rid of it I have missed one reverb plugin that I just haven’t been able to replace – plus being discontinued means they are going dead cheap on eBay right now! The item gives you 14 bundled plugins including the awesome Classicverb as well as Character and a rather nifty dynamic EQ that no other native plugins come close to. The next item is the Cloudlifter CL-2, a pre-preamp that raises the level of dynamic and passive ribbon microphones by around 25dB, allowing a lot more level for these quiet mics. One of my best mics is the Electrovoice RE-20 but it has a low output, meaning that you have to use loads of gain on the preamp. Look out for me using a lot more dynamic microphones for vocal recording duties from now on!! I got a cracking deal on the unit as well by shopping locally at Unity Audio – check them out. Also in the list were some plugins in the UAD sale: we now have the EMT 140 plate plugin for more juicy reverb, the SPL Transient Designer and also the Little Labs IBP phase plugin. Finally is the créme de la créme:...

Eight Ash Green Festival 2013

We were asked to provide sound for the Eight Ash Green Festival again this year – the 5th year running. The festival, situated just outside Colchester, has grown a lot over the previous few years – what started as a day-long open-air music festival has mutated into a 2-day extravaganza with classic cars, bouncy castles, great food stalls, an acoustic tent and also music on the main stage (alright – articulated lorry!) spread over 2 days. We were delighted to be asked back again this year. The music acts were varied and interesting and great fun was had by all. We also changed things around a bit this year – working the sound from the stage rather than a gazebo in the middle of the crowd which is how we’ve done things before. The main reason for this was the proximity to the bands – allowing us to look after their monitor levels and stage setup a bit easier as well as making sure that changes between bands were as quick as possible – sometimes only 10 minutes! Here you can see the stage setup for the festival – not much room in front of the drumkit for a kick mic! The setup we used was fairly straightforward and allowed for different band setups with minimal stress. There were 3 vocal mics along the front of the stage – all routing through a compressor set for quick, 2:1 level control to avoid distortion if someone decided to suddenly shout! The compressors can be seen below:   You can also see the FX unit I used in this shot –...

New stereo LA-3A compressor

Threecircles Recording Studio is now the proud owner of a stereo LA-3A compressor clone – the Serpent Audio SA-3A. This is a unit based on the revered levelling amplifiers originally made by UREI and now released by Universal Audio. We have various plugin versions of this famous compressor, most notably the Waves CLA-3A from Chris Lord-Alge and also Universal Audio’s own emulation on our UAD 2 DSP processor card. “So why build a hardware version then?” I hear you ask……. Well, first and foremost, it allows me to track instruments through the unit, adding tone and vibe on the way in. Secondly the LA-3A tends to be one of the plugins I use more than any other – it does wonderful things to guitars – so now I can save lots of time getting the sound I want on the way in! The build itself was fairly straight forward – two PCBs, the majority of the  components and the faceplate all came from Serpent Audio in the USA. The hardest part was waiting for everything to turn up: the rest of the chassis came from Collective Cases, as well as a matched stereo pair of T4B optical attenuators from Kenetek Audio. I also needed to get some decent 22 guage hookup wire, 14 switches, an LED and the pots and VU meters from the guys at Hairball Audio. Once everything arrived and import taxes were paid – the only real annoyance of not being able to easily source some of the parts in the UK – I went about stuffing the PCBs with the components: The above pictures shows...