By Francis Preve
This month, we asked our ever-evolving team of pop and dance music production experts what sorts of signal chains they use to record their synths and other signals. Quite a few of our usual crew of producers are entirely software-based, but from those who still record audio in one form or another, we got some interesting responses. Got a question for our panel? Email me at email@example.com.
I’m very militant about keeping things as simple as possible in my setup, as this means more creativity and increased productivity. So in the last few years I’ve gotten rid of most of my outboard gear and do most of my processing in [Apple] Logic. What I use now is a Roland TR-909 for the boom, a Dave Smith Poly Evolver Keyboard for the squelch, and an M-Audio Sputnik mic for whatever strikes my fancy, all going into a TC Electronic Konnekt Live interface. I also sample a lot of stuff from vinyl on a Technics SL1210 turntable going into an Allen & Heath Xone 32 DJ mixer. Even when I had more outboard, I’d never record anything with any compression, EQ, or effects, preferring to go for the shortest and cleanest signal path possible.
I record pretty much all vocals via an M-Audio Sputnik mic into an Avalon VT-737SP channel strip, Purple Audio MC77 limiter, then Prism and Avid converters. Everything is composed, edited, and mixed in Pro Tools. I use Waves Artist Signature series plug-ins for vocal processing. I record all my hardware keyboards, such as my Moog Voyager and Dave Smith Prophet ’08, via Avalon U5 direct boxes. Finally, I place a clone of an SSL bus compressor on the master bus in Pro Tools for a bit of transformer-like warmth.
When I record audio, I go into a Chandler Germanium preamp/DI, which goes right into one of the line inputs on my Apogee Ensemble interface. The DI sounds great for guitars and synths. My main microphones are a Røde NTK and a pair of Peluso CEM-C6. Generally, I don’t track with any compression—I just watch my levels and enable the Apogee’s soft-limit feature just in case. The Chandler is a really interesting preamp because instead of just having a gain control, it also has a Feedback knob that acts like a “master volume.” This lets me adjust the gain for varying amounts of saturation while using the Feedback to control the overall output without going through another piece of gear. If I want a really neutral sound, I just go directly into the Apogee Ensemble.