For more than 20 years now, colleagues & clients from all sides of the industry have been asking my advice with anything from recording, producing and mastering an entire project, to improving the sound of one aspect of their production, or simply being a second set of ears. I thought it might be worth sharing a recent chat in the form of a Q and A session:
Q Could you give me your opinion about RME or Apogee converters if you have had any experience with them and also your opinion about recording at higher sample rates?
GH I’ve heard them both in other studios, but there are so many variables as you know, that it’s hard to tell exactly how many individual elements combine to make the sound good. In terms of sample rates, if it’s REALLY exposed like solo sax or something, it might be worth taking the trouble to capture every nuance, but for every day general stuff 44100/24 bit is sufficient. If you’re doing very simple electronic production like dance music or pop and use ‘bit crusher‘ a lot, then anything more than 44100/16 bit would be a completely wasted exercise! Of course, if you’re going for HD mastering, you’ll need to use higher sample rates from the start of the project
Q I wanted to record sax at 192 and also piano to get the real fat. If it all gets mixed down to 44.1 is there any point of recording at these higher sample rates anyway though ?
GH Generally I would say no, but if I care more than usual about the quality of a recording, I will record at higher rates.
Q Do you use in-the-box plugins such as Waves or do you prefer outboard gear? Is the plugins thing like emulating an SSL 4000 desks analogue character just commercial hype, or are they getting closer to narrowing the disparity between ITB and outboard in your opinion?
GH I think it’s VERY close now, but personally I use a hybrid. I use in-the-box plugins all the way until the stereo bus, then feed out into my SSL mix compressor. I can hear way more clarity, definition, stereo width and even some tonal differences. Then I patch the SSL back into the DAW to print.
For ‘analogue character’ there are definitely some very good ITB plugins on the market. Personal favourites include the UAD Studer & Ampex plugins, the Waves NLS channel/bus and also the REDD emulations and the Soundtoys Decapitator.
Q Tony Maserati was on Dave Pensado‘s channel and said someone made him up a gold wired mike cable ..said the difference especially on the top end was like night and day. Says it radically transforms the sound. One of my colleagues is also obsessed with the power supply aspects.
GH Yeah I love those guys. My go to mastering guy is Andy Jackson www.tubemastering.com – he’s into expensive cabling and also swears by it. He uses quite a bit of Tim de Paravacini’s EAR gear too. I’d lay odds that he uses mains filters in his mastering suite, but if not, he DEFINITELY uses them at Dave Gilmour’s studio, which is where he works. I agree with a lot of these guys when they say, it’s not any ONE step that we take that greatly improves our sound, it’s a series of very small incremental steps culminating in a vastly improved end point. The same as mixing or mastering I guess! 😉