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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > May 2019 > CREATE CLASSIC STUDIO SOUNDS

CREATE CLASSIC STUDIO SOUNDS

There has never been a better time for aficionados of vintage audio. Much of today’s hardware is based on mid-20th-century designs and increased processing power has resulted in near-faultless software reproductions of classic gear. Here, we explain what those classic sounds are, and pick out the tools that will help you sound like the legends…

RECREATE VINTAGE STUDIO SOUNDS

In the world of music-making, looking backwards rather than forwards is by no means a bad thing. Guitarists have been using classic-gear designs from Fender, Marshall and Gibson – to name but three – for decades.

Yet it’s only in the past few years that producers and engineers of all levels have had access to the pioneering studio-hardware designs that defined music from the 1950s, 60s and 70s onwards.

Time was, if you wanted a classic Neve sound, you would have to hunt down original units, often costing astronomical amounts of money – especially in mint condition. Now you can buy an authentic reissue of the 1073 Mic Preamp & Equaliser from Neve, or take your pick from affordable similar products from Warm Audio, Golden Age Project and Black Lion Audio, among others.

The Neve 1073: it’s now possible to have one of these in your bedroom. Not the case in the 1970s
Studer’s tape machines are now easy to replicate in software form – eliminating the need to wheel them in and out of your studio

This trend for modern emulations of classic gear hasn’t completely killed off the genuine vintage market, though. Just as well-heeled guitar collectors will pay a fortune for a mint vintage Fender Stratocaster, there are people who will pay upwards of £20,000 for a 1960s Fairchild compressor/limiter.

FUTUREPROOF

In essence, the main difference between vintage and modern recording practice is the demise of analogue multi-track tape recording through large multi-channel mixing consoles. While the warm sound of analogue tape cannot be replicated simply by recording into your DAW, digital recording has evolved so much that most professional studios conduct the majority of their sessions in the digital domain. Nowadays, bedroom producers have access to the selfsame recording tools that are used to make the tracks that dominate the charts.

So while digital recording is here to stay, the sounds that were traditionally created using vintage analogue kit are now at the fingertips of everyone. Long-established companies such as Neve and Universal Audio offer brand-new examples of their classic designs, while newer manufacturers produce superb-sounding recreations at affordable prices. Digital modelling is now so good that not only can you use plug-in version of almost any piece of classic kit – from 1950s Pultec equalisers to 1970s Neve mic preamps – you can link together the right combination of equipment to emulate the signal chains of some of the most revered recording studios in history.

You want that 1960s Abbey Road sound as heard on The Beatles’ records? No problem! Waves’ Abbey Road Collection has all the period-correct mic pres, compressors and equalisers along with simulations of the Studer J37 four-track tape recorder and Abbey Road’s echo chambers and reverb plates.

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that there’s a difference between producing modern recordings with classic gear and producing deliberately retro-sounding recordings. That being said, using the aforementioned 1960s Abbey Road recording-chain simulations won’t automatically make you sound like The Beatles any more than playing a classic Fender Strat will make you sound like Jimi Hendrix. As the legendary Joe Meek once pointed out: “It’s not what you have, it’s the way that you use it.”

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About MusicTech

Many, many years ago, when pop music was in its infancy, artists would record at multi-purpose recording facilities that were typically designed simply to capture the live performances of the bands and artists. During the 1960s, when pop music had seized the mantle as the dominant entertainment medium in popular culture, bands such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys grew frustrated by the limitations imposed on them by the technology of the time. Their desire to sonically innovate (not to mention the genius-level work of the producers and engineers they worked with) spearheaded the advancement of multi-track recording technology, as well as several techniques and recording approaches that are still widely used today. In our cover feature, John Pickford examines how much of this classic technology was used – and how we can replicate those approaches today in our own home studios, using very faithful recreations of key kit from decades gone by. Elsewhere this issue, we learn more about the art of stem mastering from London’s Wired Masters; discover how an effective understanding of social media can hep you grow your audience; talk to a range of producers and engineers (including the Grammy-winning Darrell Thorp) and review all the latest hardware and software. I hope you enjoy the issue.