The core of our recording setup is a Universal Audio Apollo Quad. It is a beautiful sounding interface with converters on a par with the likes of Apogee and Lavry (see the review here).
What we really love about it though is that it allows us to run the suite of UA plugins live with near-zero latency when tracking. What the hell does that mean? Well, it means when you are singing or playing drums/guitar/whatever, what you hear in the headphones will have much of the processing on it that the final mixed version will have – compression, eq, reverb, all the things that make the recordings you love sound amazing. It makes for a much more pleasant and exciting recording experience, resulting in much better performances, which is what it is all about after all.
By default for recording and mixing we use Logic Pro 9, but we have Ableton Live 8 there for those that prefer it. We will also be providing a Native version of Pro Tools once we can afford it, and we can transfer raw audio to and from Pro Tools if that is required for mixing/tracking elsewhere.
What, no mixing desk?
Yep, we don’t use a conventional multi channel desk. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Because we are using the Apollo interface we can have as many [different] posh compressors, EQs and reverbs on our recording input channels as we like, just like an SSL or Neve desk, but unlike those desks we can save the settings and recall them, per session, days/months/years down the line.
- Instead of putting all our money into one particular desk and its flavour of preamp, EQ and compression, we chose to buy a variety of hardware units to give us flexibility in choosing compression type, preamp impedance, and EQ curve. Or to put it simply, we didn’t want to limit ourselves to one sound.
- When tracking and mixing we have access to best-in-class software emulations of the most famous analog desks, as well as the fabled Studer 2″ tape machine, so we can get that analog sound without the size, heat, and maintenance costs of the originals.
- Modern clients love the flexibility of being able to take away mixes to listen to them, then coming back with tweaks after listening on devices they are familiar with. The ability to recall a mix with 100% accuracy is only possible if you mix “in the box”, taking the desk out of the equation.
- The shorter the signal path, the better the sound.
- Our Mackie “Big Knob” handles everything the master section of a desk would do – headphone mixes, talkback, monitoring – so there’s one more thing we don’t need a desk for.
- We want to be able to allow clients to spread their recording time out as they see fit, and fully recall the recording setup [including headphone mix, compressor/EQ/reverb settings, even input gain] when they return. This is only possible with the Apollo.
So to sum up, there is nothing a desk does that our setup doesn’t do, and there are many things we can do that you can’t do if you are dependent on a desk.