The Art of the Live Room Recording Rack

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The signal path reigns supreme. In recording, mixing or mastering, the gear you choose to get your sound from Point A to Point B makes a big difference.

 We’re selective about everything that carries signal at BB4. This month we’re breaking down what goes into one of our prized possessions: our live room recording rack. The pieces encapsulated within this maple wood beauty, custom designed by Ken Capton of Solar 2, all have their purpose, namely to allow the musicians who work here to sound their very best.

What did we choose to turn on terrific recording of vocals, bass, guitar, drums, percussion and more? Here’s what artists find at their fingertips, from top to bottom:

Rane MH4 Stereo Headphone Amp – equipped with four channels, each headphone output allows talent to set their own individual levels. “The headphone mix is often overlooked, but it absolutely matters,” says BB4 Studio Manager/House Engineer Kiara Mudd. “How the music is levelled in the headphones can make all the difference for a great performance.”

Radial JD7 Injector – yet another clever device from Radial Engineering, the JD7 is a guitar signal splitter capable of driving up to seven amplifiers simultaneously. We love this for reamping, or as a way of allowing guitarists to rock out in our spacious control room – using our patch bay, we can use the JD7 to direct the signal to a mighty miked Marshall amp in the live room. “The JD7 gives us total control over the recording,” Mudd explains. “A lot of our clients like to play this way, performing in our larger control space which has AC and plenty of room to move, while the amps get loud in the live room.”

Avalon VT-737sp – this channel strip featuring a Class A preamp, opto-compressor, and sweepable EQ requires no introduction. Like so many other studios before us, BB4 has fallen under the spell of its sound. “There’s a smoothness and warmth to the Avalon that people love, especially for vocals,” Mudd observes. “We especially like pairing it with large diaphragm condenser microphones. If you choose to add EQ or compression on the way in, you can perfect your sound from the Avalon alone. That means less work later on when you’re mixing.”

Tube Tech CL 2A Dual Opto Compressor – now here’s gear that carries some WEIGHT: an all-tube optical compressor with two independent, linkable channels. It’s another classic unit that we’re very proud to have on hand. “The CL-2A levels out the signal very well without it sounding too squashed,” says Mudd. “It’s great for vocals, strings and big dramatic synths – anything where there’s long, sustained notes. It’s another way of bringing smoothness to the signal. I pretty much fell in love with that unit.”

Vintech Audio 473 Mic Preamp – four gorgeous channels of Neve 1073-style mic pres. Mmmmmmm, so tasty, and seeing heavy-duty action at BB4. “We use it for virtually everything that we record here,” Mudd states. “It sounds like a Neve, with very clean characteristics. It can give you a precise bump in the midrange, if you want, at 1.2kHz and 3.2kHz. For vocals, we love the Vintech in conjunction with the Tube Tech compressor – that’s a perfect combination.

Great River MP-2NV Preamp – we don’t go to this dual mic pre as often as the previous units, but when we do…stand back! This is our #1 for drums. “I like the sound that it gives for our overhead microphones,” says Mudd. “It has that crispy sound when you hit the high hat. It’s a pretty uncomplicated piece of gear: You adjust the gain and that’s about it. Sometimes, it’s good to keep it simple.”

Roll with us and this lovely rack when you record at BB4.

David Weiss