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Fri 24 Dec 2010 12:00 AM

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Audio recording

Sound & Stage looks at the current trends and hot products in the audio recording market.

Audio recording

The transition from analogue to digital has revolutionised the
audio recording industry. Software investment has swiftly replaced hardware, and
the crisp sound of digital recording has taken over the airwaves. But has the transition
been at the expense of audio quality?

Not necessarily, according to Matt Faddy, partner and studio
manager at BKP Music in the UAE. “The change in technology has been amazing and
it’s been for the good,” he says, emphasising the benefits to post-production in
particular. He does, however, admit to some nostalgia when it comes to more old-school
methods. “I’ve just come back from the UK and I was listening to some of my
old mixes done on analogue tape and to be honest, they should better that than some
of the stuff I’m doing now in many ways.”

He’s says the rapid rise of digital recording has resulted in
somewhat of a backlash, with some studio’s no reverting to analogue methods to get
the best of both worlds.  “I know of a lot
of studio’s that are now track laying on tape and then dumping it into Pro Tools,”
he says.

A sound engineer since the 80s, Faddy joined BKP 10 years ago
and has seen the company grow significantly  in response to the growing demand in the region
for high-quality, in-house recording facilities. “Ten years ago we had one studio
and about four staff and now we’ve got seven studio’s, two edit suites and an office
in Abu Dhabi as
well,” he explains.

When it comes to tools of choice, studio mics need to be high-quality
and are need to be seen as a long-term investment, according to Faddy.

“Our choice of mic’s is pretty traditional, U87s or AKG C 414s
on vocals, Neumann 87’s. The 414 is my favourite all-round mic because it’s great
on vocals, its great on acoustic guitar – it’s a good all-rounder. We use other
mics as well but our preference is always either 414s or 87s.”

He is slightly less decisive when it comes to music and audio
creation tools. “I used to use Logic for music programming and then I came out here
[to the UAE] and was using Logic programming and then going across to Pro Tools
for audio recording.”

He says that despite some of the shortcomings of Avid’s Pro Tools
– “the midi and the programming side of Pro Tools isn’t perhaps up to same standards
as Logic” – for the sake of continuity, the firm, which covers recording, composing,
arranging and post-production spectrums, now uses Pro Tools almost exclusively.
“I love it and the audio side of Pro Tools is very hard to beat.”

Musically, he encourages Avid to plug away on the development
of better virtual instrument inclusions in the software. “Pro Tools don’t seem to
have got it quite right with virtual instruments – it’s better than it was but it
does get a little bit problematic if you’re trying to run lots of virtual instruments.”

And its virtual instruments that Faddy says have provided some
of the biggest changes to the industry outside the digital revolution, in recent

“Virtual instruments have really impacted the industry. We bought
three of the Vienna
symphonic Q, and I love that as an orchestral type of virtual instrument,” he says.
“Everyone is doing it now but I think Vienna
were the first. If you’re playing, say, a violin part, it’s monophonic so if you
play a C to a G, the sample it plays on that G note will be a sample of someone
playing a C to G on a violin so you don’t get the strings starting all the time.
It’s amazing the difference that’s made to the quality of orchestral samples. And
not just for strings, obviously.”

Recent additions the BKP’s studio and edit facilities include
the purchase of Omnisphere and Trilian virtual instruments from Spectrasonics. “These
days all our investment tends to be software based, it rarely seems to be hardware
anymore,” Faddy admits.

One of the hot-button topics of the recording world, thanks in
part to its disastrous use on Britain’s
x-Factor reality show, is the use of auto-tune. While some appreciate it for what
it is, an additional instrument and effect that can be used to spruce up a recording,
it’s often blatant misuse can serve as a permanent turn-off.

“I have quite strong views on auto-tuning in the industry,” says
Faddy. “Auto-tune is brilliant if you use it properly but the problem is people
don’t use it properly, they use the auto function, rather than the graphical mode,
which isn’t necessarily a good thing.”

He subscribes to an ‘everything in moderation’-type approach
to the tool. “People do use too much auto-tune, in graphic mood you can choose how
much you use it. I don’t think you’re cheating, I don’t think there’s anything wrong
with it. It’s as much cheating as using a really good quality vocal mic is cheating,
if used properly.”