TCM MASTERING: HOME MUSIC STUDIO – PART 2 GEAR

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 2 – Gear

There are so many choices for gear and so many options to consider, I’ve decided to devote a few blog posts to this subject.

Some pieces of kit are necessary for all Home Music Studios.

Either a good digital audio workstation (DAW) running appropriate software for your needs along with a selection of signal processors (compressors, reverbs, delays)…for example Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Acid Pro. Be aware that some software runs on Mac some on PC and some on both.


Or a ‘studio in a box’ system (SIAB) made by the likes of Roland, Fostex, Korg, Tascam or Yamaha incorporating virtual tracks, inputs and outputs, some EQ and processing with some faders for mixing. These SIABs can vary from quite simple to relatively sophisticated units, but nevertheless, still fall short of the depth and breadth of facilities provided by the best digital audio workstations.

Some musicians still prefer using analogue multitrack tape machines as their choice of recorder. They come in various track formats from 4, 8, 16 and 24 tracks. However, compared to a DAW they are very expensive and require specific skills in aligning tape heads properly, calibrating and maintaining them. Plus every time you copy an analogue tape the quality deteriorates a little.

In addition you’ll need a good quality microphone (preferably a few!) for capturing vocals and acoustic instruments, some sort of direct interface box for non-acoustic instruments such as keyboards, electric guitars etc, possibly a mixer or control surface, an external hard drive and a good pair of speakers/monitors along with the obvious cables for connecting everything together.

Here at TCM Mastering, we have specific equipment needs for the type of work we do.  As well as mastering, we handle audio restoration. So choosing the right gear was very important.

The sheer amount of choice available is staggering and this means that it is essential to make sure you choose the right equipment and software for your particular needs and budget. So make sure you research fully before parting with your hard earned cash.

Recording and editing in particular has changed beyond recognition in the last 30 years and today the process of recording is much more straight forward and efficient than ever. Having said that, the end result will always depend on the skill of the sound engineer and producer.

Though I consider myself to be a very experienced sound engineer, I’ve never made an album where I both produce and engineer. I personally prefer to always have a second pair of ears to bring another perspective to my project and it is a rule that has paid dividends over the years.

As I’ve mentioned, modern DAW workstations have made the editing process much easier. One of the first studio sessions I had, was for The Police. I was an assistant engineer at the time and they needed the order of their album tracks re-arranging. Essentially a very simple task, so being the junior I was given the job.

In those days (pre-digital technology) you got out your razor blade and block and physically cut the master tape. During the process, pieces of quarter-inch tape were everywhere. Fortunately, I got the tracks in the right order without causing any drop-outs or damage to the tape. More importantly, the band were very happy.

It was only after the session that I realised that if I had made a mistake – a slip of the razor – that I could have been in big, big trouble.

Today, if you make a mistake you can hit ‘undo’ and the problem is gone…..ready for you to try again.

Music technology has evolved at a rapid pace over the last several years and shows no sign of slowing down. On the one hand that is great, but it can also mean that by the time you take delivery of your newly improved digital workstation or software programme, the next great ‘must have’ piece of gear has been released. The key is to choose the right equipment for your needs and learn how to get the best out of it before spending money on something new.

Next Monday I will continue to discuss Gear, including the pros and cons of analogue multitracks against digital technology.

Do you want to be sure of receiving this series of blogs as they come out? Then why not subscribe to them. Just fill out your e-mail address in the box near the top on the right.

And if you have any specific questions regarding the recording or mastering process please feel free to contact us here.

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