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There has been an extraordinary change at the Kore Studios in the last month and we are hugely excited to share it with you. As we approached our ten-year anniversary we decided it was time to upgrade our console.The desk we have chosen is a beautiful 32 channel Api 1608.
I took quite some time over this decision. First and foremost in my mind was a desire to maintain and protect Kore’s strengths and appeal. Clients know us as a studio where everything works and sessions run uninterrupted. The 1608’s modular design and stunning build quality play into this. But as well as reliability we wanted a desk with the pedigree and ability to ensure Kore’s reputation as a destination studio. A place where you just have to make your record.
The combination of our live spaces and microphones with this console has been nothing short of astonishing. As well as its 32 mic amps, the console is loaded with eqs by Api & chandler. The sound is huge, with detail and depth, and is a joy to work on. We honestly can’t wait for you to hear it.
A lot of the work we do at Kore revolves around drum recording sessions. On this basis we thought it would be useful to provide visitors with a few samples to showcase the variety of sounds and set-ups that can be achieved. Our live room provides enormous flexibility, with the possibility of using the main space for an open sound, the booth for a tighter feel, or adding in the adjoining corridor for big ambience.
All of the below samples were recorded into Pro Tools at 24 bit / 96 kHz by Kore's owner and Chief Engineer George. We have provided the patch sheets to show the mics and outboard gear used, and for the drum enthusiasts amongst you, a breakdown of the kit elements. Many thanks to our good friend Elliott Henshaw, who was kind enough to provide us with his kits and incredible talent for the day.
The above samples were recorded with a traditional multi-mic set-up. The kit was set-up in the main live area, with the adjoining corridor miked up for ambience. We used a variety of dynamics for the close mics, with ribbons for the overheads and ambience. The Mic amps used were mainly Neve and Api. We have also included a version without the ambience to demonstrate the difference that adding in the corridor makes.
For this sound the kit was set-up in the main live area, but miked using the Glyn Johns 3 mic approach. The ambience mics were moved to the far end of the corridor, and the tape delays were added in afterwards with our Roland 501 space echo. The three close mics we used for this set-up include the very rare AKG D30 on kick, plus a pair of Neumann U67s over the top and side.
In order to achieve the dry sound we were going for here the kit was set up in the back drum booth. The room was then further dampened down using our taytrix stackable gobos. Only two mics were used, a vintage AKG d12 on kick, plus another AKG, the d19c, over the top. Both mics were compressed using our custom Fairchild 670 compressor.
We went right back to basics on this one! The kit was set up in the main live area and mic’ed with an old 1940’s ribbon mic, the extremely rare Melodium Type R. This was recorded with a tube pre-amp into our custom germanium eqs for grit and character. The plate reverb was added in at the mix.
This week’s blog post is about Ribbon microphones. We will be discussing both their merits and uses in the studio, and concluding with a selection of audio files of some of the models we offer.
First off, the science! Like its counterparts the dynamic and the condenser, a ribbon microphone is effectively a transducer, i.e. it converts one form of energy into another. In this case, a sound wave into an electrical current. In order to do this it relies upon a thin strip of corrugated aluminium, suspended within the magnetic field created by two magnets. The sound waves that arrive at the ribbon cause it to move within this electro-magnetic field, and this in turn creates an output voltage to be passed onto an amplifier.
(For a more detailed summary of these principals, the Royer labs website is worth a visit)
In recent years ribbon microphones have enjoyed a surge in popularity. There are a number of reasons for this, but the obvious one to start with is their sound. If we do away with all the usual superlatives, the qualities that people are drawn to in a ribbon mic are: reduced high frequency response, excellent handling of transients and a well defined low and mid range. All of the above characteristics make them well suited to modern production aesthetics. Many of todays engineers / producers are looking for ways to introduce some character into the perceived ‘cleanliness’ of digital recording. Sources that might be perceived as brash or harsh through other mics can easily be tempered and rounded off with a ribbon. Drum cymbals, horns and electric guitars are all good examples of this. Many ribbons offer an increased bass response when placed closer to the source. This is known as the proximity effect, and can be used to great advantage on vocals, guitar cabs etc.
Detail of Altec 639 'Birdcage' dual element dynamic / ribbon mic.
The ribbon’s appeal has been further enhanced by a number of dedicated modern manufacturers, looking to stretch the boundaries of the original designs and build upon the history. Both Royer Labs and AEA typify this approach, and have produced amazing products to advance the ribbon’s standing and relevance in modern production. Active electronics & improved impedance matching, higher output and better spl handling all mean that many modern ribbon mics are being employed in situations that would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. The Royer 121 is a great example of this, and is probably now widely considered a ‘go-to’ mic for recording loud electric guitar cabs. Older ribbon designs would not have enjoyed these volumes!
Kore Studios Melodium Ribbon Mics
Kore keeps a large stock of ribbon mics, viewable here. These range from common studio standards like Coles , Royer and AEA, to some more exotic finds that have been exhumed from the depths of ebay! Some of the more esoteric makes we offer include models by Melodium, a French manufacturer who produced mics for their national radio broadcasts in the 1940s, plus models by B&O from Denmark, Altecs from America, and Phillips from Holland. All of our mics are serviced and looked after by the fantastic Stewart Tavener of Xaudia Elektrik. He is one of the countries leading authorities on ribbons and his website is well worth a look. Another excellent resource for further research is Dr Coutants exhaustive directory, viewable here.
We have prepared a sample of 8 of our ribbons for you to check out at the bottom of this post.
They are as follows:
AEA R84: Data Sheet / Website.
Melodium Type R: Link.
Royer 121: Data Sheet / Website.
Melodium 42B: Data Sheet / Website.
Coles 4038: Data Sheet / Website.
Cascade Fathead 2: Data Sheet / Website.
B&O BM5: Data Sheet / Website.
Altec 639B: Data Sheet / Website.
The mics were placed as close together as possible on the horizontal axis, about 4ft in front of a drum kit, at level height to the top of the kick. They are recorded at 24 bit / 44.1 through Tweed c515 mic amps and level matched as closely as possible. It is interesting to note some very marked differences between them, specifically with regard to HF response between the newer and older models. It is also worth noting that distance to source plays a big part here, so you could expect an even more pronounced low end had we moved them closer in. Either way, we hope that this ‘level-playing field’ will provide some insight into the subjective qualities of each. We hope to see you here soon to plug them up in earnest!
Many thanks to our friend, drummer Geoff Dugmore, for providing us with sound.
I wanted to shed some light on the Tweed console we offer in our Studio B. This vintage broadcast console was built in 1978 and was originally used at Radio Forth in Scotland. Very little is known about the Tweed company, except for the fact that they share a connection with the well-known Neve boards of the day. For those in the know, Tweeds are very special, with all of the character and quality of their better-known cousins, except without the hefty price-tag! Tweed consoles have been put into service in great studios all over the world, with Delta Lab in Denmark and Mad Oak in the USA being well-known examples.
Tweed was started by Kursheed Mustafa, the former production manager of the Neve module factory in Kelso, Scotland. It is also rumored that David Rees, Rupert Neve’s cousin and designer of the 2253 / 2254 limiter compressors, had a hand in the design of their products. The company closed at some point in the early 80s.
We were lucky to find our Console on ebay a couple of years ago. It was in very good shape, but received a thorough service to ensure reliable use from our friend and well-known vintage gear specialist Pom. What is unique about this particular Tweed is that it employs Marinair transformers on the input channels, as opposed to the more commonly used Sowters. The desk is split in half, with 8 x c515 mic/eq modules on the left and 6 x c570 stereo modules on the right. The additional two mono fx returns allow for a total of 22 inputs to the mix buss. A handy producer desk, perfect for a screen, mouse and keyboard, forms the centre section.
The desk has four groups, and is configured such that Groups 1&2 are cascaded into Groups 3&4. This allows us two master faders. The first of these feeds the mix buss, while the second is patched into Pro Tools for mix printing. Like many vintage consoles, overloading the output allows you to add further character to the sound. This configuration allows us to achieve this whilst attenuating the (hot!) post mix buss signal feeding Pro Tools.
Mixing on this desk is a real pleasure, with a very obvious vintage character imparted to anything that passes through it. This acts as the ideal counterpoint to the cleaner Audient console we offer in Studio A. Pom was also able to build us an 8-way rack for the C515 mic-pre/eq modules, which means they can be called upon if more input channels are needed downstairs. I have included an old factory spec sheet of the c515, a gorgeous class a/b module, here.
Having used them on many occasions side-by-side our Neve 1081 /1073’s, I can comfortably say that I always favor the Tweeds. To my ear they have a grittier, bigger sound that is perfect for drums and guitars. Forgive the clumsy metaphor, but if the Neve were to be described as a heavy weight fighter, then the tweed would be a gypsy bare-knuckle boxer!
Below are a couple of audio files of a re-amped guitar signal, fed through a Neve 1081 and Tweed c515. You can let us know what you reckon!