Skip to main content

Bedtime reading for visiting musicians and engineers.

The Fold back and monitoring system

The Beringer Powerplay 16 is our choice of foldback solution for musicians and studio engineers and is a personal 16 track digital mixer which you can individually set to receive the headphone mix you want. It is versatile, easy to use, and knowing how it functions will help you get the most out of your experience as a musician or an engineer at Sound House on the day.

Here’s how it works generally but please ask for the full user guide on arrival:-

  • The front layout of the unit is logical/self explanatory and you will immediately note the 16 selectors across the unit with additional controls for Pan (left-right) Bass/Mid/Treble pots to adjust the sounds, and mute and solo thrown in for good measure. 
  • There is a main volume as well as a channel volume pot and a selector that gets you onto main volume. (I’ve been caught out now and again not realising I need to adjust individual levels in addition to having the main volume up and running.) Additions like a mute and solo button add to your decision making process and frankly take the heat off the engineer trying to find headphone mixes that suites everyone on the day (which from personal experience was my worst nightmare but which is so important if you want musicians to be comfortable and giving of their best)

Where it receives its signal is important for the musician and engineer so here goes on the explanation:-

  • We decided to use dedicated sends direct from our Pro Tools channels (our chosen recording media) via the optical outs of our spare Avid 96 I/O hardware to supply the inputs for the fold back system. This for the most part replaces the cue sends on the SSL desk which had a maximum number of 5 and could not be individually tailored in such fine detail  
  • In simple terms the engineer selects a channel in Pro Tools to record/replay, adds a send (which is already named and set up from our session template and easily copied) which will then output sound running through that channel into the headphone distribution box. NB. We are only using 8 channels of digital send via Pro Tools because we needed the second bank of 8 to remain analog. This is to allow for the main bus out of the SSL desk – including talkback and the ability to choose other external sources-  to be available on the headphone system as a main mix to build on. 
  • The 8 channels derived directly from Pro Tools channel sends (numbered 1 to 8 on your personal mixer unit) means you as a musician can ask your engineer to allocate a sound source from any channel (or group of channels ) up to a maximum of 8. For the purposes of this example lets say kick on 1, snare on 2, rest of kit on 3, bass on 4, guitars on 5,  keys on 6, vocals on 7, click on 8. A permanent stereo pair are on 9 and 10 and provide to foldback whatever is selected on the “external to studio” section of the SSL desk panel. This will normally be the main stereo output mix from the desk plus talk back. The idea of the individual sound sources (1 to 8) is really in my opinion to add a very personal selection and level control over individual instruments already audible in the foldback as part of the stereo bus out which to all intense and purpose is likely to be what is playing out of the main control room monitors.
  • Want more bass in your personal main stereo mix on 9 and 10? No problem….select the button dedicated to a send with the bass on it (allotted on the day by the engineer and subject to your requirements)  turn it up until you’re happy! Want a bit more vocal? Want more or perhaps even no click? No problem. Select and turn up/down or use the mute button. Your mix is personal to you -unless you share the output with an analog headphone amp which may be helpful if you are a brass section etc-   so you can be as selective as you like without your band members flipping out.
  • The session engineer will need to know more about this system than the musician in order to be able to set up the sends in Pro Tools and will be able to offer a demo of the basic features before the recording process begins. Nevertheless, musicians knowing how to use this small, practical and intuitively laid out fold back will dramatically improve audibility and comfort on a personal level. Headphone monitoring will become less of a compromise and endurance test and more to do with the enjoyment of the whole musical production at the sharp end of the process. It will also save the engineer from arguments with the band about who should have their way when it comes to a headphone mix. Rarely was there a day you could please everyone……until now. 

Preparation in advance of a recording studio session. (Harsh words but good advice!)

The question you must ask yourself is “are you prepared for a professional studio recording session?”

P *** poor preparation produces P*** poor performance…. So either prepare properly or stay in your rehearsal space until you are!!   

  • Have an objective and know why you are recording….there are numerous valid answers:- you are a musician and love the process; you are a writer and want your creation recorded; you are looking for recognition in one way or another;  you have the luxury of pre production and want your musical sketches fleshed out before you embark on the big tamale; you are professional and producing a finished project for publication/sale: The list is endless, but each objective will have its own distinctive agenda and knowing what that is will push the session in a particular direction and keep everyone on task.
  • Bring instruments that are fully working and at their optimum.
  • Not only bring instruments at their optimum but spare strings, sticks and if possible a snare batter head. Strings snapping is a major cause of delays in a studio session and not having a spare set is definate no no not only for live work but for sudio sessions. Don’t argue…..Just do it!!!!
  • Have arrangements worked out fully including overdub ideas and motifs. It is a sure cert indicator of poor musical knowledge when I hear “we’ll just throw a few backing vocals on at the end.”
  • Know what tempo you are working with,  having settled on it during rehearsals. Can you work to a click track? 
  • Have a realistic idea of how much you can accomplish in a given time. Short cut the time in favour of the number of songs and you will get “quantity not quality.” 

I have to be brutally honest and say that if you have no respect for your own music, your instruments, or acquiring, maintaining and improving your playing skills through practice, there is little chance of you respecting our studio facility. Great musicians deserve great studios and professional studios only thrive in the presence of good enthusiastic musicians who are as committed to their art as we are to ours.  Sorting out strings that no longer produce brilliant highs and lows or a batter head that looks like the surface of the moon cannot be compensated for by any studio. We cannot turn a banjo into a saxophone with the press of a buttion. (no musical snobbery intended against banjo or saxophone players )  Poor players with poorly maintained instruments and little in the way of preparation will have a major impact on a project outcome which we are more than ready to disassociate from, even though there is a financial penalty for adherence to our own standards.  We take a professional pride in our work and with a reputation to protect, your finished recording is how others rate us. We love what we do and we will not jeopardise our reputation or our musical soul just for the sake of squeezing in another session fee.  

In response to newbie musicians who have talent and enthusiasm but have read the above and now have shaky knees, don’t worry about your first session with Sound House. We will help you every step of the way knowing you have passion, a musical soul, and an overwhelming desire to get your music recorded professionally. We all started somewhere and we have a love of music and the whole process. We are brothers in arms with the objective of achieving an excellent quality, professional recording. 

The long road from analogue to purely digital…and back again.

I have been privileged to see the changes in the recording process and the incredible advances that have revolutionised the sector. I’ve been around long enough to experience the great sound of tape especially on drums and bass but hated the linear limitations. I’ve syncronised it to the SSL console by stripeing the 24th track of the tape with SMPTE code – which always managed to bleed into other signal paths like Japanese knot weed – which in turn locked up to MIDI. I remember my first DAW when I dipped my toe into digital recording’ having paid a fortune for a basic hard drive and I’ve been truly excited by all of it working in sync. I soon began to chuckle at the minutes lost waiting for the tape machine to spool back whilst the digital system was there on cue in the blink of an eye. And as for the first few times I could cut, paste and edit without a razor blade or “undo” I was astonished. I watched engineers thinning down their analogue gear and pushing towards a “studio in the box” with almost the whole process being resigned to the digital world and staying there until it got played over the airwaves or the internet as a finished product. 

And then I noticed a problem. Where was the 2nd harmonic and the natural tape compression? Why were sounds starting to lack character? Dare I use the word “sterile”?? What was happening (detrimentally in my opinion) to the creative process when musicians no longer interacted creatively in a specially designed environment?  I saw an industry in crisis that had thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Pirate CD production didn’t help either.  

The problem was that the sector found itself decimated by the computer and the software which had been held up as the holy grail of recording. It seemed that every musician had a studio inside their laptop so why should musicians pay more for a dedicated acoustically controlled environment with machinery and consoles that initially cost a fortune and then broke the bank trying to maintain when it could all be done DIY? And so studios all over the world started to find it impossible to bring in sufficient revenue to remain afloat, and those that stayed open by the thinnest of margins, did so by streamlining their facility’ losing engineers and maintenance technicians and inevitably letting big consoles languish in a half functioning state just to get by. Facilities closed and the buildings were sold off as bars or knocked down for development. The very gear that revolutionised the sector destroyed it……..almost. 

I believe the fightback is on. It’s the thin edge of the wedge but it’s on. Vintage outboard is selling out there for serious money because the sounds they create are not being reproduced as well by algorithms and programs in a computer. The SSL 4000E channel and the Urei 1176 digital plug ins are a good examples, but a return to the real McCoy is beginning to draw support. Often things that are perfect lack character and it is the imperfections that we have come to love.  Musicians are screaming for valve amps and echo units that use tape. Manufacturers are producing new old mics with valves using the original designs like the Telefunken U47 or the Neumann U67. A touch of harmonics here and a little bit of musical overload there. In fact we’ve  now become obsessed with vintage and things that we threw out like the old Hammond B3 is now attracting money way beyond its purchase price. Why? Because the clicking sound you get as a result of the contacts getting old and wearing out are so gritty that when it was synthetically reproduced via a plug in, the character was missing. It seems that “Dirty” is now good!!

Why a studio and not a bedroom?

So lets say that if we can populate our studio with the best of analogue and the best of digital recording equipment we are on to a winner because we can reclaim the character and sweet spot of analogue with the precision and flexibility of digital. This combination is the winning performance but achieving this is costly before you even consider the importance of the environment known as the studio?

Next time you don’t get as much done in your bedroom with your Mac remember that the studio also focuses minds on the job in hand as well as providing the acoustic environment to allow the capturing of sound without the major issues of uncontrolled reflections, standing waves, isolation of sound and noise pollution (coming in as well as leaving) to name but a few issues.  Isolation that stops neighbours becoming violent after 10 hours of drum recording is very expensive. Having instruments and cabs set up and ready to work at optimum is all part of the service.  Sound needs to be created and escape into the air as waves where they can travel unhindered to a microphone to be captured without being mauled on the way . An acoustically controlled space is essential but this is an expensive building that needs remuneration in a way that protects it from being only valued per square meter of land and leading to it being knocked down and redeveloped. As musicians you must be sensitive when it comes to placing a true value on this space and the amazing kit within its walls. There aren’t many left!

The three phases of the recording process. 

The work flow sits in three distinct phases. The initial recording session, the mixing session, and the mastering session.

The recording session is where the tracking of instruments takes place and the composition makes its way from the musician to the recording medium. It is this phase that has showed such promise with the renaissance of wonderful analogue quality as well as seeing the phenomenal power of the digital age coming into its own.

After its all in the “can” we then progress to the mixing phase and this is where things begin to get stupid and unprofessional these days. Since when should the same studio with the same equipment and the same engineer be expected to reduce the hourly rate because its about mixing not tracking, especially if multiple thousands have been invested in automation, total recall and the mixing process? Sadly there is a misconception that because it can be done “inside the box” (IE a computer) this process should now attract a less favourable fee when done in a studio. It has reached such a ridiculous level of stupidity that artists actually leave mix decisions up to the engineer and often don’t attend their own mix session.  One of our naughtier corners that we would cut in the past was to segue into the mix without a serous break from the completed tracking session to use up a spare couple of hours remaining on the end of a tracking day. This however is nothing compared to the devaluation of the mixing process, driven by a lack of experience, understanding and professionalism on the part of musicians and engineers new to the game. How did all this start given it cannot be considered good practice?

The answer is fundamentally simple and based on the perceived rather than actual market value of services, complicated by studios themselves submitting to pressure but offering excuses rather than the truth about why they are not doing things professionally.  Once you pay less than the real value of the service, the supplier cuts corners and mixes start getting fitted in to down time around tracking sessions to compensate for the reduced fee. Inevitably artists with smaller budgets can’t attend there own mixes because time for mixes is found whenever there is a space in the studio. 

The whole ethos at Sound House is to do things the right way for the benefit of the creative process so we are not going to do offer this substandard service. As prospective clients you have a choice about whether you are willing to pay the little extra to get it right or find a cheaper alternative in the box and we respect that choice.  We have decided that mixes must be seen on a par with tracking sessions and importantly must be attended by the artist in order to achieve a result that has creative input from the musicians who created the music in the first place. This was the old way and it’s not only a good way, but the best way.

Once the mix has been completed and signed off by the artist and the engineer, it enters the final phase of mastering. This is where the stereo recording is now prepared for general consumption out there on a CD,  streamed from the internet, and now (as if on cue relating to the best of the old and the new) cut to vinyl. In my day artists paid a little extra to be present during the mastering process but it tended to be done beyond the walls of the original tracking/mixing studio and was often unattended. As a result, mastering suites set up mostly around London and the outboard was fine tuned to tweaking the mixed recording until it zoned into the sweet spot. 

The Sound House is amply equipped with more than a modicum of mastering tools both in terms of hardware and sofware and we feel confident enough to offer this new service on site but importantly and in line with our ethos, we will not charge extra for attendance. In fact we will actively encourage it. Additionally we will not charge our patrons at all for mastering unless they like the finished product.

To Click or not to Click, that is the question?

I could count on one hand the times that a composition required major changes in tempo or there was a “colla voce” section demanding “free tempo.” Setting aside these wonderful musical moments in order to focus on the majority of music styles recorded in studios these days – and yes I do love jazz and classical as well –  there is nothing worse than what should be a rock solid tempo, meandering up and down with drum fills being “short changed” in time. The solution is often found by using a “click track.”

A click track can be set to a particular tempo in BPM’s (beats per minute) to act as a metronome to keep the band playing in time, which is then discarded once the kit player has done his or her thing. It is not a “let’s try this on the day” kind of deal, and drummers -who have the responsibility of maintaining steady time – should be accustomed to using it when required to do so.

The click track provokes a “love hate” response from drummers who either feel it robs them of their musical interpretation and humanity or those who love the support and stability it offers them. 

From an engineering perspective, the benefits of working to a rigid tempo are enormous. Once working to a grid, the engineer can tighten up sloppy playing using software, add midi instruments, and even copy/insert/ paste whole sections. Why sing three identical choruses and supporting BV’s (backing vocals) when you can copy paste? The idea of selecting and using the best chorus or verse take is  a viable option if the timing is locked to the grid. Suffice to say, the benefits are tangible and worth the effort of getting used to using a click as a guide. The choice is always down to the musicians themselves and there are excellent drummers who keep a solid tempo without a click in their foldback but they are working in a particular genre and a rare breed indeed. More often there are drummers who have not learned their art so they slide around a BPM, think rudiments happen in the bedroom and that “time” is a herb. Using a click and locking to time and the grid has so many advantages for the majority of modern music styles that I would suggest that session drummers should be completely cool with it, and if they aren’t….. don’t give up the day job or acquire the skill without delay.  

I’m bracing myself now for an indignant response from an army of professional drummers  who correctly choose (often because of stylistic features and genre )not to use a click track and who can indeed play in time. And to those percussionists I say with all sincerity “brilliant” but please remember that this decision can cut off a considerable number of tools we can use in the recording process, afforded us by being able to lock playing to a grid. 

Why should I buy a hard drive for my session?

When using the 24 track 2 inch tape machine in its hay day, the medium of tape wasn’t cheap at all. Even some twenty years ago one reel of tape ( running at 30 inches per second) was a 16 minute wonder with space for perhaps only 4 songs at the standard three and a half minutes duration and at around £175 per pancake, it wasn’t cheap. And yet even semi pro musicians bought the tape so that they could keep the recording safe for future visits if they needed to re record or re mix material. If they didn’t need it again, next time around they would re record over the old material and go again!

So what are we talking about now that we are saving to digital hard drives? Well for sure it’s less than £50 for a storage capacity that could keep you going, session after session for years. For this purpose we purchased a dock but you should source your own drive. This way you can be sure our advice is not driven by monitory gain but good practice

The advantage of having all your work and compositions on your own drive that you can fit in your pocket ready for recording, mixing and re mixing time and time again should not really need explaining. It’s a “no brainer” not to embrace this small cost for all the benefits it offers and yet here I am having to argue the point. 

And what if you have a Pro Tools rig at home or you are working between a number of different studios? Then you would quite frankly be stupid not to own a drive for your work.

At Sound House we have researched and developed a process that allows us to complete a mix through the SSL desk using all 32 channels, the dynamics, EQ, levels and cuts (even printing reverbs, delays and outboard) and then send it directly back into Pro Tools with a second parallel 32 channels. This second bank of 32 channels will be set with faders in Pro Tools and on the desk’s small faders to 0. The implication is that your finished mix will be replayed back into Pro Tools and recorded simultaneously on the second bank of 32 tracks with all the cuts, movements, dynamics and eq settings being printed. In order to hear your completed mix (but importantly still retaining each and every track as an independent sound source and therefore editable) simply mute the first bank and let the second bank play back the re recorded track mix at 0 on the Pro Tolls fader. This means that minor changes to your mix can be made at home without having to return to the studio using the elements at your disposal “inside the box” so to speak. This does not mean that you can short change the mix process  – and additionally you will need to consider all the outboard being printed as well – but boy oh boy how useful it is to be able to return to your mix and make minor tweaks without any effort at all.

The iconic Solid State Logic 6000 console.

A description of our desk is provided here for the benefit of musicians and engineers, however from a sound engineers perspective, more in depth information about flying “her” will be required with significant study, guidance and hands on experience. Nevertheless herewith an attempt to remove some of the mystique in a totally frivolous and simplistic way. I expect most musicians will phase out at this point but if you want to know a little more….read on!

This particular model of the  SSL console is legendary and has a list of hit recordings far too long to mention over 35 years. Our console was born in 1986 and she remains as beautiful now as she was then because of the importance we have attached to maintenance and upgrades. Recapping the whole board and the replacement of the automation and total recall system by THD is this boards elixir of eternal youth. It is without reservation, the sort after model of the SSL and has been emulated in Pro Tools plug ins which  I guess supports the old saying that “emulation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  (Oscar Wilde) So is our console great?…. Oh Yes!!! 

Choosing a studio with a beautiful Solid State Logic 6000 analogue desk that has been restored and which is being maintained at as close to 100% perfect as you can get is never about choosing a cheap easy option and sacrificing quality. In fact it is quite the opposite as you will find when comparing fully digital facilities with our hybrid model. If you want character and musicality as well as quality you’re in the right place. Musicians may want to look away now and go get a coffee!!


Our SSL has 32 channels connected to 32  Avid HDX and Pro Tools inputs via two HD 16’s.

The desk has automated faders and cuts with total recall. 


Each desk channel can be individually routed to any of the 32 bus outs plus several other bus selections – a master stereo out on the main fader plus 3 dedicated stereo outs A, B and C which also have individual faders and volume pots- These stereo outs (ABC and selected via a rotary switch near the small fader) feed the stereo master bus and main fader. Unlike the SSL 4000 -which is more well known- the 6000 has these unique outputs that lends itself more readily to music production than the 4000, and the beauty of being able to add external outboard like stereo compression, FX and EQ to three dedicated stereo output groups is so easy and so useful. For your information 3 master volume pots (one for each of the three outputs ) can be found in the centre section and can be selected to be controlled by 3 sub master faders identified by green -rather than white – fader knobs. Selecting DIRECT near the small fader allows a channel to route directly to its namesake without having to lean over the desk and select the routing button at the top of the desk. Wonderfully lazy and a back pain saver for sure!

It is worth knowing that the SSL is designed so that you can actually use both small and large faders as inputs so for mix purposes you have an extra 32 inputs at your disposal. (64 in total) Remember that auxillary returns can also be input this way when the large faders are handling the returns from the multitrack. This facility becomes astonishingly unique and useful when you record a parallel mix from the tracking session which is playing through the desk simultaneously. The first 32 tracks are basically the session project and the second 32 are the mixed version with all volume, cut, dynamics and efx. Your mix will effectively play back as a finished project with faders set at 0 on your pro tools and the small faders on the desk. How easy will it be to make minor adjustments beyond the studio facility with nothing more than Pro Tools……? Yes exactly!!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not just written Sound House out of doing full mixes and there are still the problems of getting some outboard and FX into the system (easily possible by patching into our extra 16 Pro Tools channels beyond the 32 coupled to each of the desk’s channel outputs) That said, getting the mix “sweet” and only later finding small changes would improve it are no longer an issue that requires a return to the studio if you have a Pro Tools rig and have exported your whole project to your own hard drive at the end of the session.

Input section.

The input section consists of a mic gain pot, a line level pot, a flip to change between mic and line input, a minus 20 dB pad, a 48v phantom power pull switch as part of the mic level pot,  and a phase reverse switch. 

Dynamics and Noise Gate.

The SSL has a compressor and noise gate on every channel. The compressor has the usual control elements (Threshold, Ratio, Attack and release times including its own LED display )as does the noise gate come expander when you select the switch marked gate. LINK connects the dynamics of the channel on which it is selected to the channel to its right. The next two switch the dynamics before or after the EQ of the channel. A further switch MON sends the whole section to monitor and does not print to tape as we would say.  A selector in the EQ section FL DYN S-C sends the EQ to the dynamics via a side chain what it says and harks back to the days you could use it to act as a de-esser on vocals or to reduce the screeching sound of strings during chord changes on a guitar. It is still relevant today and the compressor is excellent but engineers tend to reach for a plug in in Pro Tools before being creative with hardware. Guilty as charged on that one but as for the quality of the dynamics? Sweet as a nut!!

The EQ

This section of each channel starts with a powerful hi and lo pass filter to moderate unwanted frequencies at the top and bottom of the sound source. Several push button switches allow you to separate the filter application from the main EQ and apply each separately to the in or the out bus. This can come in handy if you want more inputs than the 32 provided by the desk chassis. ( This process allows you to use the two on board faders for an in and an out signal. I love the idea that you can select to either “print” the EQ, ( CH ) send it to the dynamics side chain (DYN S-C) or use it solely in the monitor path (MON) and therefore not printed on the track. 

The EQ itself consists of a high and low band sweep EQ, supported by two mid band parametric. ( Hi mid and low mid)  Experience dictates that middle frequencies are the more troublesome ones and as you would expect, there is more control provided for that reason. 

There is a lot of talk about the different EQ options found in the SSL, distinguished by the colour of the low frequency pot. Herewith a quick explanation. The most well known is the Brown EQ which is the one that is emulated by the SSL plug ins for Pro Tools. The Orange EQ has a slightly rounder bottom end and the Black EQ is similar to the Brown but has some differences that gives it slightly more effect when coupled with different pots mounted on the SSL channel itself. The Sound House SSL has a mixture of EQ cards (with the majority being brown) in order to offer choice and variety. On a personal note I think it is difficult to “assassinate by EQ” on an SSL because the design is so musical. It is nevertheless responsive and powerful but without the harsh edge. Even when the overload LED flashes on the channel strip Mk1 ears do not detect distortion. In fact – and I’m giving a way a trade secret here- the well seasoned SSL jockeys have all said that there is a sweet spot in the channel that seems to come alive when the overload light gently flickers to life. 

I might add (and although this is not integral to the SSL desk) that in order to satisfy the Neve lovers out there, we have 8 x 8801 channel strips of Neve in our outboard to be sure we cover all the angles. This can effectively turn the last bucket of our SSL console into a Neve. Yes…the hybrid concept lives! 


A small series of push switches allow external insertion of outboard into the channel during the recording. This will generally only apply to signal as a one off pass on its way to the track recording as you would not want the processing to happen twice. (one on the way in and once on the way back.) This is the place to insert outboard like a Urei 1178 or a nice Valve compressor or EQ to give the sound some extra character and external processing. The opportunity to re use the insert applies in mix mode on the desk for obvious reasons. Three push switches below the EQ section provide choices about where to insert it. Your choice and I’ll say no more so as to not incriminate myself!


This section consists of 1 stereo cue send with a pan and volume pot and 4 mono cue sends with stereo returns on each. These days these cues are mostly connected to the two Lexicon 480 L reverbs and the TC 2290 delay. Each 480L can behave as 2 separate mono in/ stereo out machines or stereo in stereo out for reverb/delay and efx. The TC is mono in stereo out delay, chorus and efx. These cues can still be used for headphone feeds but they have been superseded by the Powerplay 16 headphone monitoring system and are now dedicated to providing effects. (which are phantom in that they will be heard but not printed onto tracks) Several choices exist for the way they find their signal -before or after the fader etc- but this is enough to wet your whiskers for now on cues. PS you can still find two cue sends showing up on the Powerplay 16 headphone monitoring system in position 15 and 16 but in all honesty you should not really need to use them for foldback.


There are two faders found at the bottom of the channel. These faders can be set to provide a level “to tape” ( recording level ) whilst second fader  allows the engineer to set up an independent monitoring level. These can be swapped from one task to the other using a centre section selector VCA to MONITOR. Word of advice….keep the big fader nearest to you as the monitor level whilst tracking as it is so easy to inadvertently move it with your arm and with it will go your critical recording levels.   The faders are named small and large for obvious reasons but there is a big difference in how they work.

The samll fader actual carries audio signal whilst the large fader produces a voltage that changes the volume of an audio signal but the audio does not run through it. This is referred to as the VCA fader (voltage control amplifier) and has several interesting and useful switches (group select and the automation and total recall selector )  For both faders there are the usual solo and cut switches. The small fader has a series of other selections placing the fader at the in or the out of the channel. 

VCA Group Faders

Below the centre section of the desk are a bank of 8 large VCA group faders. Each of the 32  VCA channel faders has a group switch which will allow you to assign it to one of the eight group faders. This is useful for grouping the usual array of mic signals used in a kit set up onto one fader once the individual elements of each channel have been set on the channels. Instead of moving ten faders individually, the group fader now assumes control over all the faders assigned to it. It is not however carrying audio but a voltage and cannot be accessed at the patchbay for processing. This requires a different approach if that is what is required.

Sub Group and Float. The patchchord free sub grouping facility.

These two selectors allow grouping in one way or another that can be processed. It s worth remembering that you can use A, B, or C busses for this purpose with a single change of the 3 pole selector pot just above the VCA fader of each channel. The outputs to these can be found for patching into external outboard on the left side of the patchbay in the lower rows….and yes I can’t remember the actual row but you can stop being lazy and go look yourself. L A R is the giveaway over two bantam patch sockets. (Left and Right of course!!) 

By pressing FLOAT on any number of channels and selecting a channel number in their routing you can send all these float channels to another channel whose number you have selected in the routing matrix. EG Select float on channels 1 to 10, select 11 and 12 on their routing matrix and all those channels will arrive at 11 and 12. Brilliant for creating stems controlled on a fader (or two if stereo) 

By pressing SUB GROUP on a channel, you make any channels with the same routing matrix selected arrive at the fader of the channel you have selected as the SUB GROUP. EG. Select a channel from 1 to 32 and depress SUB GROUP. Choose any other channels and send it via the routing matrix to the channel you have selected as the sub group master.

Automation and Total Recall. Are you sitting comfortably?….then I’ll begin!

The SSL console has always had a reputation as a desk to mix on because of the automation and total recall. In fact the computer used machine control but boy was it big and along with the power supply took up a tonne of space. The problem was that as computers got smaller and more powerful, the computer got left behind, suspended in a time warp so that as the DAW emerged the winner of the multitrack war, “defeating” two inch tape ( and I use the word  “defeat” advisedly given the medium of analogue tape has its own beauty)  the control surface and hard drives left the SSL beast high and dry. When the computer and Pro Tools became one system with it’s own self contained recording unit inside the digital domain, the SSL could no longer communicate with it and sat there like a Chelsey Pensioner being asked to open an on line account for the first time. Something was needed….and it was provided by THD and the Tangerine automation and Total Recall system for SSL.

Rather than tell you some of the amazing tricks of the old SSL – how it would produce profanities when the engineer requested unworkable commands using the on board keyboard (which would steadily get more profane and agitated the more mistakes he made until it would lock itself and say “ET phone home.”  It would remain locked until you entered the telephone number to SSL in the UK ” – I will concentrate on the new system.

The biggest advantage is that this new system effectively turns the SSL into a massive work surface that allows you to use the faders and cuts of the desk’s original hardware but with the result that it controls the software inside Pro Tools as well. This even includes a select set of transport controls direct from the desk’s centre section. These fader/cut changes are then stored in the Pro Tools session itself. Additionally every pot and fader in the desk can be part of a global snapshot stored in the computer, which can later be recalled so that the desk channels can be reset to the snapshot for the benefit of revisiting mixes or favourite mic set up’s. Combined with the full automation of the desk faders, their movements and the cuts, an engineer can return to mixes and set up’s so much easier. As an original old G computer user, I’m impressed with the replacement system and how it has integrated so well into Pro Tools.

Choices of automation.

Before getting into a mix I recommend you get to grips with the automation and calibrate the system every time. This involves setting aux 3 and 4  on each channel of the SSL hard left and hard right respectively so that the system can get a grip on the desk sensitivity. Then select SETUP on the TAI window in the Mac safari and under the SSL heading find and select CALIBRATE. It does it’s stuff in a few seconds and you are ready to get started.

There are 3 choices of system available to the engineer and are defined by what happens to Pro Tools when the SSL faders and cuts are moved and selected. The one I prefer is the TAI Mothership and/or Channel plug in. This allows the SSL to behave almost as if it’s connected to the G computer system.  All you have to do is make sure the Hardware is on, the USB has connection, Safari has the page for the automation open and you have created a TAI plug in on your Pro Tools channels. The individual channel plug ins are good for fine tuning but I much prefer the Mothership plug in which you will need to set up on a master channel in Pro Tools. The later produces a layout of the desks 32 channels and you can see any movements of the desk faders and cut switches being mirrored on the plug in once you have selected MIX ON. Please note that the movements are held within the plug in itself and whilst volume changes and mutes are doing their thing, the Pro Tools faders do not move and cuts are not actioned. For your own peace of mind we have a template for a session set up and ready to use so we will have done most of the work for you in terms of the set up.

As an alternative, if you wish to make the faders in the Pro Tools session move as they would where you to automate them via the computer and a mouse, you need to change the mudus operandi in the SETUP page to HUI HYBRID.  You are now controlling those faders in the Pro Tools software and things could get very messy if you find you need to overdub something at the last minute. Your SSL faders and cuts will now mirror your Pro Tools faders and cuts exactly so I’d steer well clear of this set up until you are totally committed to mixing and nothing else. Of course you do have 8 VCA group faders on the desk but you do not have these in Pro Tools so this option will not be available in the HUI HYBRID mode either.   

It is worth knowing that changing the status of the faders to WRITE/READ/TRIM etc is done mostly from the push button on each SSL VCA fader on the desk  The red and green LEDs on the fader will indicate which mode you have selected and additional information will be seen over the top of the plug in faders of the Mothership.  Further fine tuning of global settings about how the faders will function are found by clicking on both the mothership plug ins selections and/or using the SSL centre section keyboard directly. 

The centre section of the desk will also allow you to turn the mix mode on or off and activate transport in Pro Tools. Additionally a wifi mini keyboard mimics the MAC keyboard for transport options including record drop in/out and is totally independent of the mixing system so you can use this for tracking and even for drop in when you yourself need to be away from the desk such as when you are playing an instrument and recording yourself.  


The Mutitrack system

The main recording medium in the studio ends up in the digital domain via Pro Tools and Avid. The hardware consists of two Avid HD 16 analog interfaces and two 96 I/O with a cumulative track count of 48 not including eight optical sends which are used to provide sends direct from Pro Tools to the studio headphone monitoring system.

The program used is Pro Tools 12+ and within that architecture are hundreds of plug ins to take the system to the height of professional quality.

An Otari MX 80 two inch 24 track tape machine is being prepared for re-entry into active service as I type but please be aware that if you want real tape compression and the 2nd harmonic, you must factor in the cost of tape which at £265 per reel at current prices is more than a little pocket money. Tape speeds run at 15 and 30 ips (inches per second) and on a good day you’ll only get around 30 minutes out of one reel at the slower speed. ( now for some insider knowledge….as a band you would probably want to run at 15 ips because it has a rather wonderful effect on drums and bass)

It is our intention to offer the discerning artists and production teams the opportunity to pass their session through Pro tools and onto tape and let it do it’s magic, and then to return it back into Tools for mixing.

Understanding the workflow here is important. Digital offers opportunities for editing and shaping that would have been unheard of at the peak of analogue recording on tape. By completing all realignment of wave forms and phase, timing issue repairs, re pitching and all possible editing processes before dropping it onto tape is the order of events I’d consider most favourable. Digital today is in my opinion brutally honest whereas tape lies beautifully when it comes to reproduction of sound. However tape is not without drawbacks and editing with a blade is not for the faint hearted. Thankfully the later is unnecessary if all the tricky stuff is resolved in the digital domain before the transfer. Looking for a bars worth of tape wrongly edited out of a tape reel and now on the cutting room floor is not my idea of fun but the warm velvet sound of instruments captured using the medium of tape is.     

If you want to consider this option in greater detail, get in touch and let’s have a chat. And just in case someone is saying that a tape simulation is as good…….yeah in your dreams amigo but if you need that alternative, we’ve got it covered as well! 






Good Luck With That One!

Using the facility, maintaining security, staying safe, and parking.

This facility has multiple camera systems in operation both inside and outside the premises for your and our security. 

On arrival please call the engineer and inform him/her of your arrival. He/she will come to the security gate to greet you. Please feel free to ask any questions about the facility at this point.. 

There are loading doors around the perimeter but the main doors are those situated off the private courtyard and secure parking facility.

You must not come to the studio if you have or suspect you have Covid.  Safety rules require us to be pro active so we will take your temperature on arrival. The problems associated with numbers in enclosed spaces means that only essential personnel should come to the studio for the recording sessions. Let’s try and keep the audiences solely for the stage appearances please.

The main courtyard gates must remain locked at all time when not in use for obvious security reasons. If you do leave the premises during the day for provisions you will be able to use a key for the day lock which is in the control room in the Marshal amp key holder on the wall. You must lock the gate on exit/return and the key must be returned to the key holder immediately on your return.

Vehicles may be parked in the secure parking area free of charge but are at the owners risk. No responsibility will be accepted for loss or damage. If in any doubt feel free to park your vehicle on the public highway.

Any personal goods or equipment used/left on the property are at the owners risk and our insurance will not cover their loss or damage. 

Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside the building. No exceptions. 

All of us here at Sound House will appreciate you disposing of rubbish properly.

Illegal use of drugs is strictly prohibited. Any form of antisocial behaviour is unacceptable and will result in you being asked to leave the premises immediately.  

Eating and drinking is discouraged in the control room and recording areas, particularly around any electronics and the console. The front foyer and green room upstairs are provided for this purpose. From time to time the engineer -in order to stay on task- is permitted to drink and partake of snacks without leaving his work station but he/she remains fully responsible for the studio whilst running the session.  Any liquid is a serious hazard to the recording console and electronics and placing a cup or bottle on top of such items are prohibited and strictly policed.

Engineers Commitments.

  • Covid kills and is now a sad fact of life. Nobody can enter the studio unless they have had their temperature checked by you at the foyer and are found to be within tolerance levels. All individuals must be asked to confirm they do not have symptoms of Covid or a recent positive test result.  (ps this applies to you personally and you can easily take your own temperature at the same time as you allow entry to clients.)
  • Please be on time and do some preparation before clients arrive. Mic stands, cables, headphone system, general studio check etc. If clients are using their own kit, the house setup needs storing before they arrive. 
  • More than one engineer works from this facility so it is in your individual interests to check that all is well prior to the session start. Any issues should be reported prior to the start of a session if possible.
  • Provide a list of Mics you require for the session. The mic locker should be opened, mics removed before clients arrive, and the locker door locked immediately to avoid loss. Updates to the list can be made as and when the session demands but once again, the locker must be opened, the mic removed, and the door closed and locked. 
  • All XLRs/Cables/Headphones should be returned to their allotted places on the wall before leaving the studio at the end of the session.
  • The desk should be nullified at the end of a session and patch cords removed from the bay and returned to their storage area.
  • A count should be made of all headphones, Powerplay 16s and mics at the end of the session.
  • A visual walk around should take place throughout the whole building.
  • Any faults should be noted and reported as and when they occur.
  • Certain mics are extremely sensitive and valuable. Extra care is required re security and handling. U47/U67/U87/Tube/ earthworks/neumann k/ although mic loss of any kind is a serious issue and an issue none of us can afford to be complacent about.
  • Coles ribbons must be connected via the Cloud Lifter and the issue concerning 48V phantom power understood. Use 48v phantom on an unprotected ribbon mic and you are likely to destroy it! Double, triple and quadruple check requirements before connecting a ribbon to ensure 48v is off until the Cloud lifter is set as a buffer. 
  • All SSL4000 channels do not have a 48v phantom on/off selector and are permanently switched in. Beware!!!
  • Heavy handedness breaks gear. Be gentle!!!!
  • Engineers must police their session rigorously and take sensible precautions and responsibility for what happens during the day. Security is a serious issue and the loss of equipment could run into many thousands of pounds.
  • Eating and drinking around equipment is to be discouraged but you will need to use a pragmatic approach about your own sustenance, especially if trying to limit your “outages.”  On a personal note I consider not taking some time out to be unhealthy.
  • Be vigilant about who is coming and going with regard to use of the security key to the gate. It must be returned each and every time.
  • Members of the public and grand standers are not permitted entry into the studio.  No reason, not directly involved in the recording, no entry!
  • Inform clients that any personal equipment will not be covered by our insurance.

Engineers Equipment Check List 

Engineer: Date:

Telefunken U47



Neumann U87


Decca       U87

Neumann U67

AKG Tube

Coles 1. 4038

Coles 2. 4038

AMS Soundfield

Earthworks Drum pk Studio

Earthworks Drum pk Live

Senheisser 421




AKG 414

AKG D112

AKG 3000



B&K 4006






Shure 57







Nuemann 184 (pack of 2)

Audio Technica 4040

Reslo Ribbon

AKG 451 black

        451 black

        451 silver

Injection box A



Cloud lifter (stereo)

Zildjian K cymbal pack (5)

Fender Bassbreaker

Vox AC30

Marshal amp and 4×4

Selmer Zodiac

2x Classic speaker cabs

Ampeg bass amp and 2 cabs

Roland Leslie

Elka Leslie

Hammond X5

Kit with 2 snares

Powerplay 16 x 8 units

Beyer 100 cans x 10