Last weekend my friend (I’ll call him NM) and I recorded a band (he also played drums on the recording) at EA’s studio B. We were both interns at Electrical, so we’re familiar with the studio and feel comfortable running sessions, my internship ended almost two years ago, so I had to refresh my memory on the signal flow in B.
The Neotek Series II in B was modified to have a fader reverse function, which makes the transition from recording to mixing smooth. This schematic (which is also hosted on Electrical’s website) shows it:
Steve himself explains the mod very well in this recent thread.
Basically, with the “mixdown” switch in the up position, the mic signal (or line if “line” is pressed) goes through the channel strip (Phase, EQ, Gain) and comes to the “monitor” pot. The monitor pot controls the output signal to both the output buses and the direct out. By the way, set to 7 on the dial the monitor pot is at unity gain.
In this situation with the mixdown switch up, the tape returns come up at the faders. As can be seen from the schematic, the Cue sends are fed from those line returns (i.e. the signal coming to the fader). On the other hand, the Echo sends are post-fader, and while E2 can be switched to pre-fader, it actually takes the signal from output of the channel strip.
When “mixdown” is pressed, the tape return signal goes only to the “line” switch at the top of the channel strip, and then pass through the channel strip to the fader and pan (and bus assign). In this instance, the monitor pot does nothing.
The console has 8 output buses and those are normalled to inputs 1-8, then 9-16, then 17-24 on the multitrack. So let’s say if the kick is bused to bus 1, it’ll show up on tracks 1, 9, and 17. This means that the direct outs aren’t normalled anywhere, so to use the direct outs, the engineer has to manually patch them to the tape inputs. This is very important and got me stumped for a little bit.
Headphone mixes are done using a Furman system so each musician can set up their own mix. The drum mix should be made using the Cue sends (remember, those are real pre-fader), and the engineer can hear the Cue sends mix by pressing the “solo” switches in each Cue section. Everything else (like guitar, bass, vocals, etc.) should be patched from the tape outs. The tape outs are half (full?) normalled, so doing that doesn’t override where the tape outs are going.
As far as microphones and preamps, it was all very standard. We tried an AKG D112 on the kick reso head and a Senn MD421 on the beater side, and they didn’t capture enough attack and “oomf”, so we swapped the D112 for an EV RE20 and the MD421 for a Shure SM98.
We used Josephson e22s on the toms (both top and bottom) going through the Neotek preamps, but when NM used mallets on some songs, the preamps were clipping. I don’t think it was audible, but I ended up swapping things around and passing the e22s through the MX-35s because that was the only thing I had left with a pad. I’m not sure it was a better choice, but I didn’t want to take any risks. I tried listening to the toms and see if they sound distorted as I was getting levels, but NM has crazy dynamics, and his playing was always getting more excited while recording. So even though I wasn’t hearing any distortion while getting levels, it was possible that it would distort as they were recording, and then the take is ruined. With that being said, I think I should have been more sonic-ly vigilant – I was watching the levels, but I should have been listening more.
My biggest misstep was not taking better notes of the signal flow. It wasn’t so bad when we were tracking basics, but when we started overdubbing and I had to change inputs in Pro Tools, I found myself following patch cords on the patchbay. I should have used a track sheet, labeled the preamps, and just write where everything was going. Another important thing is to keep a table of what’s being fed into the Furman system inputs. I fumbled with that a bit too. Lastly, I kept bringing back the overdubs to the first 24 tracks on the console, but it really would have made a lot more sense to just bring them up on the 24 and above faders. It’s a 36 channel console!
We’re going to record in studio B again in July, so I’m going to implement all these things then.
Oh, and here are some pictures: