Over the past 15 or 20 years, the recording industry has undergone a paradigm shift, in process and procedures. 

In the past, a truly professional recording studio required many large, expensive equipment choices: multitrack tape machines ($55,000 or more, each the size of a washing machine, weighing in at around 400 or so pounds), large format mixing consoles (from $50,000 to $800,000 and more, up to 15 feet long and weighing as much as a small car), racks and racks of outboard processing gear (EQ’s, compressors, reverbs, delays and more, each likely ranging in the thousands of dollars).  Not to mention the physical, “brick and mortar” building for the studio itself.  Recording procedures were limited by the constraints of the technology available.  The traditional setup involved a studio room where the majority of the musicians would perform, some isolation rooms for separating individual players and singers, and a control room to contain and isolate the enormous amount of gear required.  Every session was preceded by an hour or so of tape machine cleaning and calibration, in addition to cabling and microphone setup and placement. 

Every session was followed by an hour or so of tearing down that same setup, coiling cables, labeling tapes, clearing console settings, and more.  The next session, we would do it all again, even though no two sessions were ever the same.  The physical limitations of the equipment and required methods meant that the engineering production staff and basically remained in the control room, observing the artist through large glass windows and/or CCTV cameras, and communicating through microphones and speakers, similar to using a two way radio.  If you had a session to record a single vocal track on one song, ALL of the studio was required, except the mics and cables for other players.  Obviously, this worked effectively, in spite of the inherent awkwardness of the methods.

Fast Forward to today’s methods.  Recording equipment has become smaller, cheaper, more portable, and more scalable.  When you need to record a single vocal track on one song, you now only need a single microphone, a microphone preamp, and an audio interface connected to a computer with quality software for that purpose.  As long as you can find a nice sounding room to work in, you can do this anywhere, the gear will fit in the front seat of your car, and could conceivably cost less than the cost of one channel of the conventional analog recording console.  Recording has come to the masses!

After Tom and I sold our 56th street studio, we still had many projects we were working on.  We had some good friends still in the studio business that provided working spaces for tracking, overdubbing and mixing while we searched for a building of some sort that we could operate from.  While we were looking, we ended up setting up a mixing facility in a living room.  Needless to say, that can make home life awkward…….   We also spent quite a bit more time working from our clients home studios.  Dozens of them.  Anyone who has gone to the expense of setting up a professional quality home recording system can confirm that it can be tremendously versatile and fun, even with the inherent limitations of the equipment and acoustic space. 

As we searched for a location and then created the next generation of Morrisound, we decided to try to incorporate into our design some of the inherent freedoms of the home recording revolution, while maintaining the technological sophistication required to provide the audio quality our clients have come to expect from us.  The result is what we believe is a great synergy of technology and relaxed comfort.  We still use a state of the art recording console, in this case, our Solid State Logic Duality, an extensive ProTools HDX system, and an extensive collection of outboard processing, but instead of completely isolating people from each other during the recording session, we placed the SSL directly in the main recording space.  Immediately, you can feel that communication, so important in today’s collaborative environment, is natural and comfortable.  Everyone involved in the session is in the same space, working towards the same goal: a great product.  We did still include several isolation areas in the interest of audio fidelity during larger sessions, but the results of this overall design, that we like to call “Immersive Recording” have been fantastic.  The old school “us versus them” recording studio setup has yielded to “We are all in this Together”.

One side benefit we didn’t really expect, is the advantage of mixing in a very large, great sounding space, substantially larger than the control rooms at almost every other studio we have ever recorded in, including our own 56th Street facility.  Mixes have been translating extremely well to real-world listening environments, from car stereos to earbuds.

I know I will always have a fondness and perhaps a certain nostalgia for “the way we used to do it”, but this new design has been invigorating and quite frankly, tremendously FUN!  We are really proud of the new Morrisound.  Make sure you give us a shout, come by and see our new, “Immersive Recording” facility.

The Neumann U 47 is without a doubt the most sought-after, legendary, and unfortunately rare microphone in the history of the recording arts.  Known primarily as a vocal mic, it is equally impressive at a wide variety of tasks: from acoustic guitar to upright bass to room sounds for everything from orchestration to drums.  The high end response is silky-smooth and the low frequency reproduction must be heard to be believed.

The history of these amazing mics begins at Georg Neumann GmbH as far back as 1928 with the production of the CVM 3 microphone, sometimes refered to as the “Neumann Bottle” mic and seen in historical films of speeches from that era.  During World War Two, the Neumann factory was bombed and they were forced to move to Thueringen, while their offices stayed in Berlin.  Eventually, in the 1950′s, the East German Government seized the factory and produced microphones there, at first under the “Neumann” name and then under the name “Microtech Gefell”.

Back in Berlin, the “actual” Neumann company, with the financial help of AEG Telefunken, was back inbusiness and began development of the U 47 in 1945.  The design was completed in time for the Berlin Radio trade show in 1947.  Early models have a Telefunken logo, while others were distributed by Siemens.  Eventually, Neumann took over sales and put their own name on the mics.

Before the U 47 appeared, the most popular mics for recording or broadcast were the RCA Ribbon style (more on Morrisound’s RCA Ribbon mics in another article!).  The U 47 had unmatched fidelity and presence, making it ideal for a recording and broadcast market with rapidly improving sound quality standards.

The letter “U” was used in the model name to represent a “plug-in” style vacuum tube, as opposed to “M” for a “soldered-in” type.   The U 47 was based on Telefunken’s VF-14 pentode steel tube developed for German field radios in World War Two and uses a single supply voltage.  The only similar replacement tube would be the EF-14 which uses the more common two-supply voltage design.  To use these tubes, a new power supply would need to be manufactured, meaning incompatibility with the supply for the standard U 47.  Telefunken kept the VF-14 in production until sometime in 1958.  By that time, Neumann was the only customer for these parts, so as Neumann ran through their stock of tubes, they began the design of the eventual successor, the U 67, in 1960.

The dbx company grew out of the need to reduce tape machine noise.  It was founded by David Blackmer and the first products used a solid-state voltage control amplifier (VCA) coupled with a RMS based detection and control circuit.  The idea was essentially to compress the dynamic range of the incoming audio signal, then record the result on tape.  At this point, the audio would exist on the tape as well as the inherent tape noise.  However, since the audio signal was compressed before it was recorded, the volume of the signal on tape was always relatively high.  Upon playback, the dbx system would “expand” the entire replay signal (noise included now) with essentially the reverse of the compression curve.  Now when the signal was quiet, the noise was expanded downward.  During louder passages, the noise was for all practical purposes “drowned out” by the original audio signal.  The system did not require elaborate input and output calibration, making it easier to use than the popular Dolby system.  Unfortunately, I have always felt that the dbx noise reduction system created too many noticeable artifacts, such as “pumping” and unnatural attack transients.

In 1976 someone must have convinced Mr. Blackmer to create a single ended compressor system.  This was probably offensive to his sensibilities, as he had created the company to make it possible to improve or at least maintain dynamic range in source material, and now he was trying to develop a system for squashing the dynamics.  His first product in this regard was the dbx 160.  This was a half wide rack piece with a VU meter for monitoring signal strength or gain reduction.  The only controls available were threshold, ratio and output gain.  We have several of these here at Morrisound and I find them powerful for drums and guitars.  They definitely impart a certain color and character to fast transient style material that I think is very cool.  I suppose my most common use for the 160 is to punch up a snare drum.  Must be heard!!!

The AKG C 414 condenser microphone has been in production since 1971. It evolved from the tube classic C 12 which first appeared in 1953. The C 12 and its close sibling, the Telefunken 250/251, are still coveted by recording engineers around the world. The Telefunken 250/251 were manufactured by AKG and sold by Telefunken with their nameplate and used the same capsule and, in some models, the same tube and transformer.

The C 12 had two models, the C 12 in 1953 and the C 12 A in 1962. The C 414 came about with the introduction of solid-state amplifier technology powered by a DC voltage ranging from+12 to +52 instead of an external supply.

Many more versions have been produced over the years; here are some highlights:

  • 1971: C 414. Used a permanently-attached cable.
  • 1976: C 414 EB. Used a standard 3-pin XLR-type connector. At some point, the classic “CK12 capsule” was replaced with a nylon-backed version that sounded “different”. YMMV.
  • 1980: C 414 EB-P48. Standardized for +48 V phantom power, lower self-noise, improved sensitivity and headroom.
  • 1986: C 414 B-ULS. Introduced a totally new amplifier design utilizing 17 transistors instead of 4. As the longest-living C 414 model, it was in production for 18 years.
  • 1993: C 414B TL. The first transformerless 414.
  • 1993: C 414 B-TL II. A new capsule design fitted to the C414B TL. The same capsule would later be used in the C12VR.
  • 2004: C 414 B-XLS / C 414 B-XL II. Used an internal capsule elastic suspension system for the first time. Also introduced a 5th polar pattern: Soft Cardiod.
  • 2009: C 414 XLS / C 414 XL II. The latest versions, featuring nine pickup patterns controlled by electronic switching.

Although these mics have changed quite a bit since the first pair of C414EB’s that we had, I still find them to be very powerful tools. It is still my favorite acoustic guitar mic. I also use them for certain singers, drum overheads, saxophones and flutes, guitar cabs (in conjunction with other mics), and even bass cabs and Leslie speaker upper rotors. Not bad for a design first evolved from the tube designs of the early 1950′s!!