So, a while back we decided not to put a “Gear List” on our site. The main reason for this is that studio equipment gets bought and sold, falls into disrepair and is generally a fairly fluid thing. Also, we don’t think people should choose a studio based on gear when you can listen to the records that have been made there and talk to the engineers about what you want to achieve from a session.
All that being said, sometimes we do just like to geek out about the tools we use and why we love them. So here’s a bit of that. We’ll try and do some regular posts like this, looking at a couple of things we find inspirational each time. First up, it’s the…
Neve 33609 Compressor
I remember when we first got this unit in to try out - we did a comparison between this and the UAD plugin version. The difference was big enough for us to know we had to go for it. Testing it out on the drum buss brought the low end of the kick to life and didn’t take anything from the high end like some compressors will do. It’ll often sit as an insert on our stereo bus from the start of a mix and allow us to dig into it slightly. When people talk about “Glue” in the context of a mix, I think a better way to put it is this. Different elements of a song will trigger a compressor in different ways, but the compressor will still react and effect the entire mix. So when your kick drum hits a little harder, the whole mix reacts. It places those instruments into the same sonic “world” as each other. You need to use this stuff sparingly most of the time, but the results you get can make a huge difference. On the other hand, you can also have a lot of fun sending the drums to the Neve, pushing the compression and limiter sections to the extreme and blending it back in with the dry signal. This unit can be as dramatic or as subtle as the song requires.
Watkins Copicat Tape Echo
Ours is a 1970’s, solid state edition of the Watkins Copicat - a lovely tape delay unit that can produce a range of delay effects from early rock-n-roll style slapback through to longer, rhythmic echoes. This solid state version has arguably better headroom for processing things like vocals, which we did recently on the recordings we did with garage/surf rock lovelies, Pet Crow. Our unit has also been modified with a “wet out”, which means we can send a signal into it and just get the delayed signal coming back out, rather than having the original signal mixed in with it. This works great in a studio environment where we will often add an effect like this after the instrument/vocal has been recorded. We also have a few different tape loops we can use, some of which have been well used and will give a different sound quality to a fresh loop. Basically, it’s a great unit to evoke something a little more interesting and tactile than a traditional delay pedal or a plugin might produce. Great gear should always inspire you and your collaborators to better sounds, better performances and more fun. This does that in spades.
We’ll do a bit more writing on some more gear soon. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to know about, please let us know in the comments.