Studio Equipment

The professional recording studio is an althogether different world involving higher priced gear, complex machines, over-emphasised hype but also genuine world-class equipment. The abundance of custom-made or esoteric devices and apparatus makes it a fantastic playground for the enthusisastic engineer. Here are some interesting machines I have had the pleasure to work on.


DBX has gone very far to make this compressor pretty: aluminium knobs, multicolor leds and a flashy purple aluminium panel. This particular unit has been dropped, or more likely thrown by some angry carrier guy. And while the unit is on the whole pretty well made, the fragile ALPS pots didn't resist the postman's rage. Even the output transformers were damaged.

Now in perfect working order, this 162SL offers all the bells and whistles that a studio compressor could offer, including the famous "Overeasy" mode from DBX. The various LEDs are a great help for setting up the unit and the results are everything you would expect form a high quality DBX unit.

Bricasti M7

Bricasti est un producteur américain de réverbes numériques haut-de-gamme, dont la M7 est le produit phare. Cette M7 version US 110V ayant été branchée en direct sur notre 230V local, sa section analogique était en panne, bien que toujours opérationnelle en mode 100% numérique.

Grâce à l’aide du staff très efficace de Bricasti, elle a pu être réparée, convertie en 230V et upgradée avec le dernier firmware en moins de temps qu’il n’en faut pour dire « surf ». Elle est à présent confortablement installée en insert de master sur la console SSL nouvellement installée du Lock Groove Studio.

Tube Tech SSA 2A

The rapid growth of the single mic preamp market was bound to generate the need for summing amplifiers such as this TubeTech SSA 2A. This well-built unit can sum up to 4 mono and 8 stereo inputs into a stereo bus, allowing you to build a first class modular mixing console (provided you have the 12 stand-alone preamps to go with it). As with most Tube Tech products, the design is based around input and output custom transformers and a hi-fi type tube circuit. Here, the circuit is fully balanced allowing for a low signal-to-noise ratio and it employs readily-available tube models.

The SSA 2A very successfully does what it is meant to, with a present but moderate coloration. Given the amount of local feedback, it could also be argued that a well-designed solid-state unit could do the job just as well. But wether you want tubes or transistors in your signal path, the SSA 2A is a high-performance piece of gear benefiting from first class design and manufacturing.

Lafont Audio Labs Producer In Line

There aren't many famous French manufacturers in the music equipment world, but Lafont Audio Labs is one of them. Although Lafont doesn't produce studio consoles any more, the name lives on with a mythical aura in France and its neighboring countries. The Producer In Line offers pretty much anything a small professional studio needs while still keeping a certain simplicity. Its channels eq are much appreciated by sound engineers and its routing options are limited but efficient.

While the construction is of a high standard, this particular Lafont Producer was in need of much work due to a lack of maintenance, a fire in a nearby room and a fairly tough electrical environment. Equipment like this console requires a continuous attention but thanks to high quality components, the failures are often limited and localized.

Orban 642B Parametric EQ

The Orban brand is specialized in studio peripherals since the 70's and we have here one of their eigth-band parametric equalizers. This unit is well made with a modular circuit and a clean layout. It can be used as a stereo processor or both sides are linkable in order to use all of the eight bands on the signal. It has a good signal-to-noise ratio and is more specifically designed to target offending frequencies on recorded material. Alhtough it could perform a global equalization on a finished mix, the very precise control over the filters parameters (frequencies, Q and depth) makes it a good tool for surgical touches.

This particular unit suffered from a blown power supply module which luckily didn't damage the rest of the electronics.

Airedale Mixing Console

Airedale is an Enlish brand that used to produce studio equipment based on reknowned classics. This mixing console is a copy of a Trident 80 desk. It features 32 preamps, 24 sends and a comprehensive patch bay. All channel inputs are equipped with input transformers and the overall construction is fairly clear and weel-laid out, if not bomb-proof. The horizontal patch bay always brings its own set of problems with age and this particular mixer shows signs of fatigue due to a seemingly intensive usage (which is always the sign of a good sounding piece of kit). Some modules have also been modified in a not-so-professional way and this is why this Airedale was and is in need of some intensive maintenance.

Culture Vulture from Thermïonic Culture

There was a time when all sound engineers wanted was to have the cleanest sound possible. Not so these days. The Culture Vulture is one of those units that is designed to introduce tube saturation in your digitally clean tracks or mixes. It is funny to consider that Peavey offered such a unit back in the 90's with the Tube Sweetener. It never reached the kind of commercial success or fame as this device. Was it because of tone inferiority, lack of appropriate marketing, brand's un-trendiness? You decide...

The Culture Vulture's tone signature seems to be geared towards that of an Ampeg SVT, but it uses a totally different circuit based on two types of tube pentodes: the common EF86 and the rarer 6AS6. Many different effects can be obtained with the few available controls, from subtle to frankly rude. I personally prefer the conservative settings on single tracks or groups, but I can imagine some clever studio geeks pushing it to great ear-catching effects.