I briefly thumbed through the latest issue of MIX magazine this morning. My relationship with MIX magazine goes back a long way…since before it was actually a magazine. When I was a second engineer at Moma Jo’s Studio in North Hollywood, California (the home of the band Ambrosia), MIX magazine was printed on newsprint. It grew in importance and style and eventually became a thick glossy rag that everyone in the recording industry read. MIX was the place that you got information about sessions, equipment, music reviews, tech notes, and interviews with the celebrity audio engineers. When the studio business was big business, MIX magazine was a single source.
Now it’s a mere shadow of itself. With the arrival of the Internet, publishing magazines is much more challenging…and not just in this marketplace. But still MIX magazine holds on…and I still get my copy at the house to read over breakfast.
This month’s issue had a photo and brief story about NRG studios in the San Fernando Valley. It’s a studio that caters to commercial rock ‘n roll. Many of my former students have gotten work at NRG and have learned a lot from the heavy traffic and variety of artists that record there. According to the article, they been acquiring lots of vintage instruments and recording equipment. My friend Brian Kehew has made his way through the music industry as one of the go to guys when it comes to vintage instruments. It seems everything old is new again.
And there is a very compelling reason to seek out and acquire vintage instruments and recording gear as long as you know what you’re doing. The sound of a 1962 seafoam green Fender Stratocaster is worth the investment (and it takes quite an investment to get a vintage guitar…$25K to 250K and more). Getting your hands on a classic Neve console or Fairchild Signal Processor is also a major find and will only increase in value…provided you can find a technician to service them.
Vintage instruments produce a particular sound that musicians, engineers and producers appreciate…whether it’s the warm sound of tubes or the gritty edge of a particular delay box. I know, for example, that Albert Lee uses a Lexicon PCM 42 DDL…he cherishes the units that he has. When asked about this particular processor, “I don’t really know why…it just gives me the sound that I want.”
The studio next door is full of leased vintage gear. They have an Echoplex, a Teletronix Compressor/Limiter, a Pultec EQ or two and lots of other rack mountable pieces. They don’t own them…another guy actually holds title to the gear…but Astound Sound leases them. And it’s worth it because it makes their room more desirable than the next guy down the street the uses only plug ins for their Pro Tools rig.
All of this equipment produces and/or process analog sound. The rare guitars, Fender tweed amp or Hammond B3 organ with Leslie all produce analog sound. And it’s up to audio engineers to use their knowledge of microphones to capture that analog sound…with as much accuracy as possible. And the best way to do that is with recording devices that don’t add any “sound” of their own. For me, that’s 96 kHz/24-bit PCM. I can always muck up the sound later but if you don’t capture the best sound possible when the musicians are playing, you don’t get a do over.
See you in Vegas.