Bjorn's (admittedly out-of-date) studio page

 

Welcome to my studio, now updated and Dolby Surround capable! This is where I create all my music and also create sound effects for animation and games, in Dolby Surround 5.1. On the picture below you can see the surround setup. Notice I have two speakers for each speaker - one "real" speaker and one small multimedia speaker placed on top of the "real" speaker. I can switch between these speakers while monitoring, so I get an impression of what it will sound like on different end-user sound systems.




The "centerpiece" of my relatively small production studio is probably this Korg 168RC digital recording console. It takes 16 digital ins/outs in ADAT format, plus 10 analogue ins/outs. This console is connected via optical cables to the ADAT recorder as well as the PC with the digital Aardvark Aark24 soundcard - and of course to the DAT master recorder. The Korg 168RC also has 2 built-in effects processors, 2 aux sends, and a neat digital architecture with 8 ouput busses.


 

This Soundcraft Spirit Folio Si mixing desk is used mostly as a submixer for the synths and soundcards. It's perfect for the job, because most of the inputs are paired for stereo inputs, so while it's only got 10 faders, it actually has 18 inputs, most of them paired together as stereo inputs. This keeps things nice and tidy with the various stereo signals coming from the synthesizers. It also has a couple of balanced inputs and phantom power for microphones. It also sounds great - nice and warm.

 

My "main" synthesizer is a Kurzweil K2500 with 76-keys semi-weighted keyboard, SMP-2K advanced digital/analog sampling option, 64 MB of RAM, all 3 optional ROM-boards (piano, contemporary & orchestral), a 2GB SCSI harddrive. The K2500 is also linked with UltraSCSI to the PC, so I can edit the samples on the PC and then just transfer them to the K2500 when it's done. Or the other way around - I sometimes use the K2500 sample editing features for things like crossfade-looping, because the K2500 software actually does it better than SoundForge. This synth has been with me for a long time, she's a real work-horse, and I call her "Mama". :-) She has been the most used sound source on all my CD albums since about 1997.

No, this is not a pair of headphones with microphone. This is one of my favourite toys in the whole world, a Yamaha BC-3 Breath Controller! I use this for realtime control over a lot of synth sounds, and of course especially wind sounds like flutes, oboes, and so on. Also, when assigned to a low-pass filter on brass sounds, it can make the brass sound a whole lot more realistic, so I use it also when I emulate orchestra with synths. But even on totally synthetic sounds, it can make a very interesting impact. It takes a little practice, but I have learned to play this thing while I'm playing keyboards, and this is the source of my special flute sound (check out for example, "Wizard of the Winds"). This little baby is especially effective when used together with the Yamaha VL-70m. More about that later.

Here's my "other" main synth, a Novation Supernova, using analogue sound modelling. This is a great synth, lovely warm sound, arpeggiators, and 5 different effect-engines for each of the 8 multitimbral parts - totally independent of each other. It really means that you have 40 independent effects engines in this little monster. There are two versions of this synth available; a 16-voice version and a 32-voice version. This is the 32-voice version.

In this rack; top to bottom:

(1) The Soundcraft Spirit Folio Si

(2) the Novation Supernova (both of which we have talked about above). Under that:

(3) A Digitech Studio Quad effects processor. Reverb, chorus, delay, tremolo, pitch-shifting, etc. Can operate as two separate stereo-processors, or four separate mono-processors.

(4) A Behringer Ultrafex II multiband sound enhancer and surround processor. One of those "magic" boxes that makes the music sound more "lively" and fresh. I've started to get a little tired of it's sound, so to be honest, I don't use it much any more.

(5) an Alesis 3630 Stereo Compressor / Limiter / Gate. Not a whole lot to say about this - just a normal compressor, very useful for recording guitar, bass guitar vocals, etc. It "evens out" the sound, takes down nasty "spikes" in the sound and just makes it all sound more commercial and radio-friendly.

(6) A Fostex D-5 Digital DAT Master Recorder. This is my main master recorder, where everything goes when it's finished. I really like this one, it has analog and digital inputs and outputs, professional standard XLR connectors, and a very sturdy/solid build quality.

(7) A Lexicon MPX 100 dual effect processor. I actually won this baby in the "Best Band on the Net" contest. I entered with my song "Demon Moon", and won lots of great prizes! Many thanks to Kaman Music, who hosted the contest, and to Lexicon, who not only gave me the unit itself, but they also went to the extra trouble of getting me a UK compatible power supply for it. I love Lexicon - superb quality products, and very friendly people. The unit itself is more reverb, delay, chorus, echo, flange, pitch shifting, etc. Great, superb Lexicon sound quality and even a digital SP/DIF output.

Here is a closer look at the other rack, above the PC's. Top to bottom:

(1) A Yamaha VL-70m "Virtual Acoustic Tone Generator". Great little toy for some rather unique synth sounds, pretty good emulation of real wind instruments, and lots of realtime control. Especially effective together with the breath controller (above).

(2) My trusty old Technics SV-DA10 Digital tape (DAT) recorder. Unfortunately, it has started to eat tapes (!), so now I only use it as a Digital to Analog converter for the digital SPDIF output of the Soundblaster Live.

(3) An Ensoniq SQ-R Plus synth. This is really the rack-version of their "SQ1" model, the "Plus" is because it has a bigger polyphony, I think. I have had this synth for a very long time - it was used a lot on my first two CD albums "Hobbits & Spaceships" and "Montage" (1992 & 1994 respectively). Nowadays, I keep it mostly for the memories and because it was so good to me in those early days, when this synth was almost my whole studio. :-). But the fact is, even today, this synth sounds pretty cool! I must try to remember to use it a bit more.

(4) A Novation BassStation Rack analogue synth. Simply superb for clean, clear and unique synth-bass and lead-synth sounds that really stand out in the mix, without being too pushy. Even after I got my Supernova synth, I stil love my BassStation.

Here's my old Roland JX-8P analogue synthesizer. To be honest, after I got the Supernova, I haven't used it much. But I used it quite a lot in the past, it's got some wonderfully smooth and warm synth-pad / synth-strings sounds. I tried to sell this synth a while back, but when I couldn't get the price for it that I wanted, I decided to keep it instead. Now I'm really happy about that! I love the way it sounds and I use it more often now than I did a couple of years ago.

Axes! From left to right; (1) a nice acoustic from Crafter, (2) a Fender Squier Stratocaster, (3) a Gibson Epiphone Les Paul, (4) a Yamaha 5-string active bass guitar, (5) a hand-built Crafter "jumbo-body" acoustic.


Here is my genuine hand-built african Djembe drum. I love the sound that it produces - very versatile, warm and clear. I actually use it quite a lot on my recordings, especially on my "Wolves of the Gods" and "Isms" albums. You can't beat the sound of some real live percussion. I also use shakers, tambourines, etc. The more live stuff on the track, the better.


And then there is this funny looking fella, this is a Pod v2.0 which is a guitar effect processor similar to the Zoom above, but this one sounds a lot better. The guitar sounds it produces are in fact remarkably "alive" and warm. If you haven't got the possibility (because of space or noise-limitations) to record with a real guitar amp, then I can recommend this baby - it sounds good. For an example of what it sounds like, go to my mp3 page , download the track "The Fairy Woods - new version 2000", and check out the guitar solo at about 4 minutes. That's me playing the Pod.

But usually when I do my serious recording, I pull out all the stops and turn on this beast.. a Peavey "Sheffield" Express 112 guitar amp. As you can see, I simply place a microphone in front of the amp, and crank it up! It sounds much cooler than the effect pedals. The microphone is plugged into the Korg mixing desk, and from there, it goes straight into Cakewalk Pro Audio.

A good pair of headphones is important, so I have this pair of Sennheiser HD 265. However, even though it's important to have good sounding and comfortable headphones, it's even more important to not over-estimate the accuracy of headphones - one should never completely trust headphones, and always do the real mixing over proper speakers.

Good software is an important part of any digital recording studio, and personally I go for Cakewalk SONAR v2.2 combined MIDI and Audio harddisk recorder. I use the 3 separate MIDI outputs, giving me a total of 48 independent MIDI channels for outboard gear - plus, of course, the software synthesizers.

 


For sample-editing, I use Sonic Foundry's SoundForge, except certain operations which I do with the built-in sample editing software in the Kurzweil K2500 synth/sampler.

I hope you've enjoyed your visit to my studio!


 

 




All text, music, photos copyright Bjørn Lynne.