Dr. AIX's POSTS — 08 February 2015

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AIX Studios has a couple of beautiful rooms. I designed the studio to be large and comfortable…more like a very nice home theater room than a typical control room. The reason was that I use the room to do a lot of demonstrations. Visitors are treated to a chair right behind the console amidst 5 B&W 801 Series III speakers (yes, I know they don’t actually qualify as HRA according to the JAS, which is why I’m seriously looking at alternatives) and view a JVC Reference Series 60 4K projected image on the perforated 146″ retractable Stewart Filmscreen I have in the front of the room. It’s really a great room and never fails to impress. But the truth is that I’ve never really done that many live sessions in my own studio.

Virtually all of my own projects have been recorded at the Colburn School for the Performing Arts in their Zipper Auditorium. It’s a terrific hall with just the right amount of ambiance AND a really outstanding Steinway Model D 9 foot grand piano. My concept of making records requires everyone to be present at the same time and be able to produce great music. Most commercial records are made by assembling various parts onto individual tracks, rearranged and replaced, mixed, mastered and output. It works and produces some great music but the fidelity isn’t usually up to my standards.

Dominic Robelotto, who is a former student and my long time engineer, designed and wired the AIX Records studio. I have photos of him sitting with a soldering iron at a table striping and tinning wires, building ELCO multipin connectors, and building the electrical panels. He did all of the work and therefore knew all of the interconnections between the studio panels, the patch bays (both digital and analog), and the console. He was my guy and I didn’t bother to get deep into the details because he was always available to set things up or answer any question I had.

But Dominic was very seriously injured in a freak motorcycle accident about 3 years ago. He left the studio late on a Tuesday and didn’t come back. He spent 6 weeks in a coma, they pulled a large chunk of his skull off (and kept in a refrigerator for 6 months) to relieve the brain swelling, and he slowly…very slowly…pulled things back together. He’s very fortunate to be alive. And I’m very pleased to report that he’s doing great these days.

In his absence, I figured out most of the general configuration stuff in the big room but I’ve never dug deeply into the room to room tie lines, the portable preamplifier and ELCO connections to the analog patch bay, or the right way to get monitoring to work in the iso booth. I just didn’t need to do that…until last week. I had Prince EA in the studio working on a UK social media spot and was confounded by some routing problems. I managed to get through the session using my laptop and an MBox I/O but it was a compromise. It was hardly a stellar showing.

However, after spending a few hours in the studio with Eva, one of the young associates here at the studio, I’m a happy guy. We sorted through all of the confusing labels, sent signals from room to room, and mocked up a typical voice over session. Everything worked…finally. It’s only taken me 9 years to get to the bottom of my own room…but there you have it. I’m feeling empowered.

I love solving problems. I love learning new things. Today, I got a healthy dose of both. Now it’s time to go home and catch some of the Grammys…maybe.

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. I’m very happy to hear of Dominic’s recovery, eventhough I don’t know him or you. Most escellent news!!

    • Thanks…he was the engineer on almost all of the AIX Records.

  2. Was this the Steinway featured in the Chopin: Four Ballades played by Dr. Chang? I enjoyed this recording – both artistically and technically.

    It is a shame that so few Hi-Res classical piano recordings exist. Perhaps there could be an ‘Educators Series’ from AIX….

    That is, Hi-Res recordings of music (piano) professors from various tier-1 universities who have chosen to educate rather than perform professionally… So much talent waiting to be heard using the very best recording techniques…

    I hope you do not mind the proposal?

    • Yes, it was. The Chang/Chopin project got a lot of very positive praise on the sound and the performance.

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