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.
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.
"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.
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.
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
(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.
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 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.
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"
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.
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
, 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.
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.
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
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.