Listen Here

9 Oct 2020

A few of my favourite things

by Andy Stewart


All self-respecting studio owners want something. There’s always another bit of gear worth owning, yet another object of desire worth pursuing. We’re never satisfied with what we have, and we’re jealous of everyone else’s stuff, particularly if we don’t own it ourselves. It’s pathetic really. Here’s my Top 10 list of professional audio gear I either own, or want.

In no particular order of value or consequence, here are some of my favourite pieces of audio gear, why I’m so fond of them and why I could never see myself parting with any of it.

Here, also, is an attempted short-list of my current objects of desire (in audio), which is difficult because, like most of you reading this, I want everything (within reason), mainly because I feel so bloody entitled.

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To illustrate what I mean, you’ve surely heard yourself say this: “Yeah, I could really use one of those on the record I’m working on right now.”

Use it on the record you’re recording right now? Surely, this is actually code for: ‘I want it because I just can’t stop acquiring stuff, even though I have 10 other bits of gear that would easily do the job.’

You probably don’t need that bit of aspirational gear, you’re almost certainly not entitled to it, but hey, you want it… and that’s what matters! Or maybe, like me, you say this: “I can’t really see myself recording that way again until I get an [insert object of desire here].

This statement is, of course, almost never about the next job being impossible to perform in the absence of a certain piece of gear (that just so happens to be the current object of your desire), and nearly always about your incapacity to differentiate between what you need and what you want.

It’s all about trading up, searching for something better, and never feeling satisfied with the gear you have.

Or maybe I’m wrong here. Maybe it’s different for us studio owner/producers. Maybe we are entitled to own everything. We want everything, sure, but perhaps we also need everything, particularly if it’s the best of the best.

Perhaps we should think of this selfish pursuit as more of a service to the community. I may be onto something here. But anyway, to my Top 10 list…

The Mill U67

MY NEUMANN U67

I have lots of mics, I’ve used lots of mics, and I desire endless others, but my favourite is my Neumann U67. If I were forced to describe this legendary mic I would say this: it’s perfectly balanced, smooth and rich, reluctant to get harsh, reluctant to get sibilant, and good in front of almost everything.

It’s 50 years old at least, has had a few issues over the years, but when it’s working well (which it currently is) I absolutely love it. Do I think there’s a better mic out there? Probably not, but will I spend the rest of my life trying to find out anyway? Yep.

But before I do, I also want at least one more 67…

A special mention must also be made of my U47fet here, which used to be Billy Thorpe’s old vocal mic (although no doubt he had a few). This is a great vocal mic too: a very immediate and desirable sound.

From memory, it was the first bit of ‘vintage’ gear I ever bought, and in many ways this mic represents the beginning of the end of me ever having savings in my bank account. It’s also the best kick drum mic I’ve ever heard.

The Mill U47fet on Kick



MY NEVE 5104

This 56-input Neve console has been with me for a while now. I became its owner almost by accident about 20 years ago when a mate of mine, to whom I loaned money for its purchase, couldn’t on-sell it… eventually I became its owner by default.

Neve 5104

It’s not the most desirable member of the Neve family, but I love its tone. It’s incredibly quiet, has great preamps, great EQ and punch for days. I love its size – not too enormous – and I couldn’t imagine parting with it… unless I got an 80-Series Neve.


MY EVENT OPALS
I’ve had my Opals for at least 10 years I reckon – since Peter Freedman and co first developed them in Sydney. In the time I’ve had them, many engineers I know have gone through several sets of monitors of differing brands and price-points.

What I love about these monitors is their full tone, their incredible power (they go loud without any effort) and their utter reliability. I get up in the morning, go to work, listen to them all day, and then power down.

I never think twice about them: never question their durability, or wonder what part of a sound’s tone might be missing. They fit my ears, my taste and my room perfectly, it seems.

I have other speakers: Genelec 8260s, Yamaha NS10s, Quested 2108s (somewhere in the building) but none of them work as hard, or as often, as the Opals.

Neve 32254e

MY NEVE 32254e STEREO COMPRESSOR

I own a stack of compressors, most of which are awesome. My Al Smart C2 works hard every day and is a great lock-down mix bus compressor. My Retro 176 and UA 1176 compressors are staple in most of my recording chains, as is the LA-2A, my Fairchild 600, ELI Distressors and my JLM Mac Opto Compressor.

Other notables that don’t get much global attention anymore are a bunch of dbx 903 compressors, four stereo Calrec CY2662s, and even my Amek 9098.


But the granddaddy is my Neve 32254e. This thing is an iron fist, not just because it’s so good at compressing and limiting audio signals, but because when it does it makes things sound bigger, clearer and tougher.

It’s ironic that sometimes the sound emanating from this unit feels more dynamic and alive than it did going in. I’ve never known any other gear to punch quite like Neve equipment, and in the case of the 32254e specifically, it’s the Mike Tyson haymaker of audio. I love it.


MY SPACE – THE MILL

It’s by far my biggest bit of gear and it’s also the most crucial. If I didn’t have this space, I simply couldn’t do what I do. I’m lucky to have it, lucky that it has epic views of the ocean and lucky that I’ve been able to develop it over time without the pressure of having to rent expensive real estate in the city.


FIVE OBJECTS OF AUDIO DESIRE

This list could fill CX Magazine for the next few issues at least if I had permission from its editor, although I’m not sure anyone would survive the utter tedium of the long version. So here’s the absurdly short version, which doubles as an insight into my dissatisfied mind.

Firstly, I’m obsessed with vocal mics at the moment, so I’m keen to listen to a bunch of U47 ‘sound-alikes’ to see if any of them are worth shelling out for, or if they’re markedly different from the Neumann U47fet or Warm Audio 47 I have here already.

A few companies make a valve condenser that claim some level of authenticity with the original, but often these don’t stack up. This is an ongoing pursuit… enjoyable, frustrating and laborious, but worth it.

Then there’s the small matter of acquiring a Hammond C3 with a 122 Leslie. I have both here now, funnily enough, but they’re on loan. The sound of this particular C3/Leslie combo is quite stunning.

Hammond C3

Apart from its huge sound, totally epic drive and distortion levels, and the interesting feature of an insert point across its output, the Hammond C3 is just a fantastically versatile production tool.

I want/need/deserve/require one of these, for sure.

I also need more preamps (says the guy with 21 channels of Neves, some Telefunkens, Quad 8s and a host of others). I’ve looked into getting some CAPI Heider FD312s – they come highly recommended, but haven’t had the time lately to get serious about them.

Do I want them just because there are two spare spaces in my 500-series rack? Probably. Could I instead buy an AMS RMX16 module to slot in there? Yes, I’d have one of those too, for sure! Can I afford any of them? No.

Retros in 500-series racks

Speaking of digital reverbs, I’d also like to get a Bricasti M7 hardware reverb unit and its associated remote.

This reverb unit has been around a while now. In short, it’s superb. They don’t come cheap of course, especially if you’ve grown accustomed to the price of digital reverb plug-ins. From that angle they look preposterously pricey. But I want one regardless.

Hardware reverbs are hard to justify at the best of times, but logic doesn’t really apply here (does it anywhere?). I just love the way the M7 sounds!

I’d also like to get a large format SSL 4000 series… maybe 64-channel. But where would I put it? In the paddock next door? Maybe…

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Andy Stewart owns and operates The Mill in the hills of Bass Coast Shire in Victoria. He’s happy to respond to any pleas for recording, mixing or mastering help… contact him at: andy@themill.net.au






CX MAGAZINE – OCTOBER 2020     

LIGHTING  |  AUDIO  |  VIDEO  |  STAGING  |  INTEGRATION
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