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New studio gear!

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

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

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! LA-3A PCB & Components This picture shows all the components that came with the kit, including the input transformer on the left, intermediary transformer on the right and output transformer at the back. The 8-socket ring to the right in the socket for the T4Bs. 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 www.cutterweldermaestro.com, 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...
What’s in your API lunchbox?

What’s in your API lunchbox?

Threecircles Recording Studio is now the proud owner of an API 6B 500-series lunchbox. So what’s that all about then?? The lunchbox system was developed by API to house their series of modules, including famous EQs and compressors such as the API 550a, 550b & 560 EQs and the 527 compressor. The great thing is that you can mix and match which modules you want, to create your own collection of processors in a convenient, portable, powered rack unit. The choice of modules available is staggering, with heavyweights such as Neve and SSL getting involved with their own 500-series modules such as the famous 1073 preamp from Neve and the SSL series EQ and dynamics. The first module I chose was the Elysia Xpressor, a Mono/Stereo compressor that is getting a whole lot of love online, especially on the Gearslutz forum for it’s transparent compression and high-end sound. The unit is a workhorse bus-compressor from www.cutterweldermaestro.com, meaning it will sound great on a drum sub-mix and even on the whole stereo mix thanks to it’s built-in high-pass filter meaning that the compressor doesn’t over-react to low-end material such as kick drums and bass guitar. The Xpressor also has a blend control so you can choose between a mixture of dry sound or compressed sound giving you access to instant parallel compression – real mix glue potential! So what’s next to fill the 4 empty spaces? I have my eye on several potential candidates – the problem is that I can see myself soon needing another lunchbox rack…hmmmmm….. Lindell Audio make a rather nice Pultec-style passive EQ for a very...
New studio plugins

New studio plugins

So I finally took the plunge and invested in a new UAD 2 Quad PCI card. “A What?” I hear you say? Its a processor that sits in my Mac Pro and allows me to use lots of lovely plugins! More importantly it takes all the heavy lifting away from the native system so you can run many more plugins without taxing the computer’s CPU. This means that I can run biger mixes with higher track counts and more processing – a good thing! The UAD comes bundled with 1176, LA-2A and Pultec plugins – all very nice (I have 3 hardware 1176s – very nice!) but I have also purchased the Classic Compressor Bundle – emulations of the dbx 160 VU, the LA-3A – just about my favourite compressor, and the revered Fairchild 670. “The What?” I hear you say? The Fairchild 670 is a vintage mono compressor from ye olde studio days that was used extensively at EMI studios (Abbey Road to you and me) by the Beatles amongst others. The units weigh in at a gut-busting 65lbs and cost around £30,000 on the used market so I’m not likely to be buying a real unit anytime soon. The good thing now is that I can use as many emulations of the Fairchild as the UAD will allow – 88 according to UAD’s website! The Fairchild 670 from UAD is modelled on the unit housed at Ocean Way Recording in LA as well so sounds pretty good… The other plugins I have invested in recently are the VTM – Virtual Tape Machine – emulations from Slate Digital....

2012 here we come…..

It is nearing the end of 2011, and what a year for us it has been! It has been one of our busiest years yet, working with clients both old and new and creating some wonderful music along the way. So what has happened since the last update? July We saw Echo Echo return to the studio, for 5 days this time to record 3 new tracks, check them out on their demos page. We also welcomed back studio regular Sue Heath and also got underway with the Little Raven sessions, recording 3 songs for their EP. The sessions were long but fruitful, with a lovely organic sound. We also managed to squeeze in a free day for prize winner Dan Ketteridge, as well as a chior recording for Stansted-based U3A. August Much of this month was taken over by Kaine and the sessions to record their debut Album. The first 5-day session was taken up solely by tracking drums and the second 5-day session carried on in much the same vein, however we did find some time to start tracking rhythm guitars and bass. Rhythm guitarist Dave “Rage” Sadler didn’t mind the time spent on drums too much though, as it gave him time to explore all the Super Nintendo games…. Chris was away on a 5-week trip to Mongolia so Ade essentially covered all work this month, which just so happened to be one of the busiest on record! Little Raven kept booking in to mix their tracks as well as another 5-day stint with Kaine and a weekend booking from regular clients The 87. We also managed...