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New Beijing sound studio nearing completion

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Since I had to abandon my first studio in Beijing due to the building being damaged from electrical fire, I’ve had to build a new studio.
I’ve chosen the location where I originally planned to set up the studio when I first decided to open one in Beijing, Real Life at Hegezhuang village.
It’s an amazing idea that China would do well to support more. They are taking traditional Chinese courtyard homes and modernizing them by renovating the inside. I’ve chosen to add a soundproofed booth and control room to the courtyard area of mine and luckily have found a great acoustic design company in Beijing to help me do it. Thanks Wayne from Snipersounds for the referral.

This studio will be unlike any I’ve ever heard of. It will have a traditional yet modern feel, with lots of light, and glass skylight which would usually be impossible acoustically, but I’m determined to break new ground and do away with the studio in a box idea. This is possible due to the latest in acoustic materials,  software and hardware to tune the control room (no more cheezy egg carton foam!). Maybe I’ll elaborate more in future once it’s all done.
The recording room is a double walled room within a room of course to ensure quiet but comfortable recording of even a full live band.
You can get more of a sense of the space and cool vibe this place has going on from these photos:

 

Studio entrance with courtyard skylight visible

Studio entrance with courtyard skylight visible

Recording room entrance (second sound proof door is missing)

Recording room entrance (second sound proof door is missing)

View of the control room from the adjacent room

View of the control room from the adjacent room

 

first wall goes up inside the recording room

Front door looking into open control room door

Front door looking into open control room door

The place will also have a kitchen and lounge, and a few bedrooms so we can live there and I won’t have to commute. There’s even a little guest room if you want to come visit.

I’ve never built a studio to this level before, but thanks to affordability of Chinese labor and materials, here, it’s possible.
Thanks to the many people assisting me to make it all happen, without them and a few miracles, it would never have been possible.
A few more weeks to go and I think we’ll have one of the coolest sound studios in Beijing!

Opening new music studio in Beijing, China

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

As i mentioned in my last blog, I’m moving to Beijing China, and setting up a fantastic, world class studio there.
It will be called Pro Soul Studios Beijing, in affiliation with my record label, Pro Soul Alliance.

It’s large a 3 room facility, professionally built by foreign expertise flown into the country along with specialized materials to soundproof and acoustically treat the rooms properly. It has full false floors and walls with large air spaces for soundproofing, but still lots of light from tall windows.
There’s even a built in guest room and kitchen/lounge in the middle.

Here are a few photos, then I’ll get into the technical details below for the gear heads…

The studio is in a building in an area that is a cool artist live/work residence neighborhood with art studios, restaurants, a French bakery, and a nice lagoon:
Shangri-La Culture & Art Community, Feijia Village

The studio has a funky traditional Chinese courtyard style entrance:

Studio entrance

studio entrance

The largest recording room, Studio B.
Tall soundproofed windows allow lots of light in, but no outside sound.

Large room studio B

Large room Studio B windows

Entrance to control room and studio A

Entrance to control room and studio A

The control room, below, has a custom desk with outboard gear rack panels on the left and right, and a Mackie xBus 200 touch screen console. These photos are old now, fabric on panelling has been replaced:

studio control room

Control room window with Mackie xbus console

Control room window with Mackie xbus console

Unfortunately I don’t have a great photo of Studio A, the main recording room, but it is a nice spacious room with lots of light from windows on one side:

Studio A recording room

The studio even has a guest residence upstairs, a kitchen, and large outside patio if you want to visit China to work on your music project:

Studio guest residence

studio kitchen

On to the studio equipment setup. In addition to my existing range of classic analog and cutting edge digital equipment, the new studio in Beijing will have the following new equipment that will make it the most powerful, highest quality studio I’ve had in my 20 years as a music producer and audio engineer:

  • A Mackie xBus 200 HD touch screen mixing console and computer controller capable of 192kHz resolution, configurable I/O via rear panel cards, penny & giles motorized touch sensitive faders & surround outputs.
  • 2 RME Hammerfall PCI cards allowing 32 channel high quality digital audio /MIDI channels between the computer and the console with zero latency (no delays!)
  • Apple Mac Pro 2.66 Quad Core Intel Xeon computer with 1.5 Terrabyte drive and 8Gig ram
  • 2 LCD computer monitors, 22″ each
  • Enhanced surround monitoring system with new mogami cabling and other small additions.
MackieXbus200

Mackie Xbus 200 mixer console and computer interface

The hardware mentioned will allow an incredible amount of flexibility in input and output routing, monitoring, and expansion as needed.
I’m arranging all the special cabling and other details required, and bringing equipment to Beijing from Canada to get the studio operational in the next 2 months.

I’ve put a huge amount of time, trouble and great expense to make this one of the best, top quality music and sound design studios in Beijing.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of some of my Beijing friends, you know who you are, Thank you so much!

The studio should be open for production by sometime in August 2010.

I expect to soon be booked full time months in advance in the near future, so please contact me now if you want to work on a project.
Check back here for more details and updates.

Music production studio discoveries from my past

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

In moving the studio recently and consolidating things, preparing for a more mobile production setup, I discovered some interestng items from my past. Over the years, I’ve been so busy pretty much non stop that I haven’t had a chance to go through old boxes and files that have been laying around. Well over the last month I have, and I found some pretty interesting memorabilia:

Emax_Floppies_IMG_0849

Floppy Disks with song files & sounds from my first productions (now in some landfill)

I also found an original copy of a magazine with a full page feature, also mentioning me that I got for one of the first artists I professional produced, Emeline:

Emeline in Vancouver magazine (edited scan from original)

Emeline in Vancouver magazine (edited scan from original)

Found lots of other very interesting things maybe I’ll share when I have more time.

There are a lot of cables when you have a midi based studio, even though I’ve gotten rid of a lot of analog equipment, and still am selling now as part of this process…

StudioCables_IMG_0028

Audio, midi instrument, power, data, speaker cables for the studio

Great iPhone Music Apps, TechnoBox 808, 909, 303

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I’ve been checking out some of the music apps out there for the iPhone, and my first thought was wouldn’t it be cool if someone could create something to emulate amazing but expensive music hardware like the innovative Tenori-On, and the Roland TR series machines. Well I searched, and there they were!

For Tenori-On like music making, there is TonePad, and SoundGrid.

For you classic techno music kids out there – If you liked the Roland TR series machines, or ReBirth on the computer from Propellerhead, check out the impressive TechnoBox from Audiorealism: 808, 909, 303 machine emulation and a cool new graphic interface.

I just think it’s amazing that for $5, you can get the sound and abilities of 3 hardware devices that would cost thousands of dollars to buy used on a phone.

I love technology!

Herbie Hancock plays Fairlight CMI, Quincy Jones watches

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Music Legend Herbie Hancock plays Fairlight CMI, Quincy Jones watches. Great insights after the funky grooves about music and technology…

Poor Quality Sound: Now Standard!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

In my last post I talked about how the quality and natural dynamics of music is being destroyed through digital software technology that allows unnatural processing of audio.

But there is a much greater threat to the quality of audio that has been the subject of my thoughts for some time now: The way we listen to sound.

Back in the 1970’s the quality of sound recording technology, production techniques and playback systems reached a pinnacle with some of the most incredible music and sound humanity had ever known, and this became further fine tuned in the 1980’s. Brilliant, rich full spectrum sound that went beyond the range of human hearing, but influenced the richness of the sound through frequency harmonics that enhanced what we could hear with our ears.
Two things initiated the downward spiral that has led us to where we are today: The Walkman and the CD.
Very briefly, the walkman influenced music lovers to listen to music on crappy little earphones, and the CD chopped off audio at 20kHz without researching the influence of harmonics above that hearing range on sound we do hear. This is why vinyl records really are better sounding than CD’s in many ways.
From there, the convenience of sound gave way to clarity, and quality until we come to the present day world, of massively widespread use by the majority of music and audio listeners of terrible sounding MP3’s played on the worst possible sound producing devices humanity has ever experienced: earbud iPod headphones, computer laptop speakers, and cel phones! And this doesn’t even begin to cover the music and production tools and techniques prevalent with the trend of do it yourself computer production.

To a producer like myself who has spent over a decade mastering the subtle art of trying to perfect music and sound, this trend is devastating to say the least. And if you ever compared how music sounds on a really nice hi fi stereo system (you know like the ones they used in the 70’s) with a computer laptop speaker, it would make you nauseous. You lose something like 80% of the sound! But that introduces another problem- people don’t really know what sounds good and what doesn’t, maybe because they have become so used to listening to terribly reproduced sound, in my humble opinion and experience.
(Just as a benchmark, and cost is by no means an accurate measure, if your speakers cost less than $500, they are probably cheap garbage that sounds terrible!)

This has brought up all kinds of questions for me with regard to what I do as a profession… Why create great sounding 24 bit 96kHz audio if it is going to end up at 80% of what you created? For the 20% of people that like good sound?
My only answer is to become more involved in the film industry side of audio production as a sound designer, since at least sound is formatted and reproduced in higher fidelity than with music. So that is what I have gradually been doing. A film I worked on last year is hitting the theatres in September here…

I truly feel for the future of music in an environment where it is so under appreciated. It makes me wonder what the future holds for someone in a profession like myself and wether or not there will even be the need for professional producers and engineers if no one can really appreciate or notice their efforts.

For those of you reading this who don’t really know what I’m talking about, you don’t know what your missing!

The way audio was meant to be heard...

The Loudness Dilemma

Friday, August 15th, 2008

For some time now there has been a debate about how modern audio mastering techniques have created music that is louder than it usually would be at the expense of the normal dynamics of the music.
Andrew Dubber blogged about it here with a video that demonstrates the issue:

The process of making tracks louder than they usually would be without them distorting is called ‘Limiting‘.

This is something, as an audio engineer that also does mastering, that I have wrestled with for many years. I like music loud, and it bothers me when something sounds too quiet when listened to with other music. But as a producer and sound mixer, I also love dynamics in music. When others have mastered songs I’ve mixed using standard ompression, it has really ruined the song. But you don’t want the music to seem quiet compared to other music, and you want it to sound good on the lousy stereo systems most people listen to music on! Hence the Dilemma.

I think that in many ways, Dubbers argument may be pointless really. The majority of people in the world wouldn’t know good sound if their life depended on it! Even many of the talented artists I work with for whom music is their life struggle with this, and my production students certainly do as well.

I blogged more about this major issue of the poor quality audio so prevalent in the world here.

Alan Wilder of Recoil and formerly Depeche Mode wrote an excellent article about it and about other industry changes as well here

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Dusting off the 80’s synths

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Actually I never dust off my old hardware synthesizers, there’s something about an old electronic thing like that with dust on it that is appealing… It isn’t so good for the hardware thought, the dust gets in the pots and sliders and you get all kind of crackles and noise when you turn the knobs and use it.

What I mean is I am working on a new 80’s inspired pop album for artist Heather Dore. She’s a real sweetie, she even wrote a blog entry about me without even knowing how much I love being appreciated.
The interesting thing about Heather coming along and requesting I rejuvenate her music career by helping her create her favorite kind of music is that I have spent the last decade telling myself “the 80’s are over, things have to sound modern now, 21st century” (which is interesting as a producer in a way, because the production values and attention to detail on a record in the 80’s have never been equalled).
And now that I have finally almost mastered that, I have to go back to my roots that I love and forget discipline from using dated sounds for Heather’s 80’s inspired music. But we will be combining modern elements too, so stay tuned for that, it will be very interesting.

Anyway, it is cool to fire up this old hardware for her music because I have really been into virtual instruments lately in the computer because they save so much time. They aren’t better, they just save time and money. But the old synths have all kinds of crackles and buzzes and stuff that keeps things interesting (and technically challenging from the spoiled computer use). Today one old synth, the Roland MKS-50 that I used (which is a keyless Alpha Juno) started outputting this weird low frequency feedback drone noise which would come and go by itself when I wasn’t using it. Not surprising when using a device that is creating sound using real current generated oscillations. That’s the beauty of old analog hardware, it’s alive.
Now I just have to get these old beasts to behave long enough to capture their essence.

Dusty Old Synthesizer
ahhhh, dusty old synths…

a new way to perform and compose music

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Check out the latest and most popular design for electronic composers to perform music, it’s called the Monome:

What you can’t see in this video is he has it hooked up to a laptop with different instruments, loops and patterns prepared. I understood how it worked after seeing it because i have used step based sequencing, but that’s only one of many uses of this seemingly simple but extremely sophisticated device…


http://monome.org

Cool new audio technology

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Lately I’ve been making a lot of dark and intense non music related posts on here. What can I say, we’re living in the middle of the decline of the old world order… So here’s something more music and sound related!

There is lot’s of great new music and audio software out now, and I need to update in order to use the new version of my multi track host software (It uses multiple ‘plug in’ softwares that run within the main application to expand on it’s capabilities)

One of the most exciting is the new audio restoration software from iZotope, ‘RX’.
There has been a lot of amazing audio software that has blown my mind over the last 10 years, but this is something else – it can remove background sounds from audio without destroying the sound you want! Like removing a car beep from an interview, or filling in bits of sound that is missing from a recording! That’s right, it analyzes audio nearby the missing chunk and fills in the missing data. Like science fiction, but it’s real.

Listen for yourself to the RX Restoration video demo or the audio demos on the right if you have less time.

This is amazing stuff, and I am adding it to my arsenal in case you or those you love want some miracles worked with your audio.