The Studio & the Gear

  • We have several digital audio workstations operating at Dub Studio. We use Logic Pro for our mixing work, and then Reaper for mastering on the Mac, and Pyramix for mastering on the PC.
  • The signal is passed from the DAW to the Crookwood mastering console for monitoring and processing. This state of the art system handles the volume control for the monitors, and allows us to perform trimmed A/B testing with equal loudness in both wet and dry signal paths, allowing us to make very accurate comparisons and judgements based on the sound, without the relative loudness skewing the results.

    The Crookwood also routes the signal through all the analog and digital inserts, and allows use to rearrange the signal chain depending on the task we are performing, without having to remove a single cable! We can also monitor the mid and side signals for stereo work, and send the signal to alternative monitors and headphones to get a good range of listening modes. Once that's done, the signal gets sent back into the DAW for bouncing down to digital, or on to the lathe for cutting to disc.
  • Before being bounced to digital or cut to disc, the signal is first sent to an A/D converter for analog processing. First we send the signal through an M/S matrix and out to the Cransesong HEDD for conversion to analogue. Then the signal flows into a Millennia Media TCL-2 twin topology compressor. This allows us to control the stereo field dynamically, and we can choose either Class A Vacuum tube or Solid State circuitry. Then the signal flows back into the HEDD and because its a harmonically enhanced device we can add measured amounts of warmth.

    We then convert the signal back from M/S to L/R for further processing in the box. That way we get the best of both analog and digital processing tools.
  • Stereo processing is essential for working with vinyl, so we developed an extremely accurate M/S matrix which never overloads and allows us to process the mid and side signals before decoding them back to L/R for cutting to disc.

    Vinyl can provide a very nice stereo field, but there are some problematic sounds, especially low frequencies and very fast transients, that can cause the stylus to be shaken out of the groove. We use a hi-pass filter to center the signal gradually from about 400hz downwards, and the Millennia Media TCL-2 to center problematic transients, just like a Fairchild 670 would do in lat/vert mode.

    Once the signal passes through this matrix, its very unlikely that the record will skip.
  • The tonal balance has to be exactly right, and the tools we use have to be extremely transparent. Equilibrium from DMG Audio is without a doubt one of the finest digital EQs ever made. No other EQ has this level of modularity and customisation. We use it not only during high resolution mastering, but also during mixing when latency and CPU is more critical.

    Equilibrium features just about every type of filter imaginable, and they can be set up in any combination we want. It allows us to process in L/R or M/S, and we can solo the band we are tweaking so we know exactly what effect the process is having.

  • Although digital compression is a dirty word in some circles, most mixes need at least some dynamic processing. We use an analog compressor for gentle gain reduction and character, but when we need a more surgical approach, we draw for the Compassion from DMG Audio.

    It has a split-band design, that allows us to home in on certain frequency ranges that might have a troublesome dynamic range, and treat just that range alone. Parallel compression comes built into the topology so we can balance the amount of wet and dry signal easily, and the automatic release works wonders for more complex mixes.
  • Occasionally we need to clean up some material before using it, either because its an old recording that is being re-released, or because some unwanted artifacts have found their way into the mix and they need to be removed.

    Thankfully we have a range of tools at our disposal to remedy the situation. Izotope's RX4 range includes a de-clicker, de-clipper, hum removal and several other specialist restoration modules, so no matter what the problem is, we can usually fix it.
  • Peak limiting is a necessary tool in any mastering engineer's arsenal, and Dub Studio is no exception, so we use the Sonnox Oxford Limiter (formerly Sony Oxford). We think its a nice subtle, and highly adaptable tool for raising the overall level of a track.

    In the vinyl world, peak limiting is not as necessary, so we usually leave the limiter out of the signal chain and let the full dynamic range through onto the disc. But with today's competitive loudness levels in the digital domain, we often find that we need to give the signal a few dB of boost above 0dB, and this simply isn't possible without using a limiter. We try to keep limiting to an absolute minimum though, only treating the peaks that are largely inaudible.
  • DAWs
  • Console
  • Analog
  • M/S
  • EQ
  • Compression
  • Restoration
  • Limiting