What equipment would you have found the great recording studios of the past?
What equipment would you have found in the great recording studios of the past and how did it evolve over time?
From the first time that the Billboard Hot 100 began charting the greatest hit songs in the history of popular music with the first number one hit song, “Poor Little Fool,” by Ricky Nelson on August 4, 1958, the greatest songs from that moment until the dawn of a new century in the year 2001, were in almost every single documented case recorded by legendary engineers in famed recording studio facilities. In this article, we are going to explore the equipment that might have been found in those legendary recording studio facilities that you can still find on the market today that could be purchased for you, as an educator, to be able to use in your classroom to teach your students and to assist them with the creation of their future projects. The equipment will be broken down into categories. First, by place such as in the control room or in the studio and then into subcategories which will describe the equipment by type (microphone preamp, equalizer, or compressor, for example). In this article, I will also examine the evolution of the recording studio equipment that you would have encountered. It might surprise you to find that some of the pieces of equipment that you might wish to purchase for your classroom may actually be more than 50 years old and have contributed to some of the greatest hits in the history of popular music.
In the Studio
It might surprise you to find out that there was very little equipment ever at any point in time to be found in the studio itself for any of the great facilities of the past. If you were to take a tour of a recording studio from the past, it would have two components— a control room and a studio. In the control room is where the bulk of the equipment would be located because this is where the equipment that would be used to record the musicians and vocalists would be housed. The studio is where the musicians and performers would create the music that would be recorded in the control room. The equipment in the studio component would consist of the following components, which would include: a cue system (and headphones), instruments (and amplifiers, in some cases) and the microphone locker— a critical component to the process of recording great music.
The Cue System
If you stepped into a recording studio facility, even by the late 1960s, depending upon where you would have been on your hypothetical visit, you still may not have seen a cue system in action. It was at this time, as the first true large-scale analog consoles began to emerge along with the growth of analog tape machine technologies, that cue systems also began to emerge. Prior to the emergence of cue systems, both artists and musicians simply performed a take for a track, using a signal system and then once their performance had concluded for that take, the tape would stop rolling and everyone would assemble in the control to hear and review their work for any fixes. It may seem primitive to us today, but until the early 1970s, it was more the norm than the exception. There were speakers in the studio so that performers could hear their work, as well, but the dangers of a feedback loop were also ever present, as well, in that scenario. It was truly by the 1980s, that cue systems had matured and become more commonplace and sophisticated— some, by that time, also offered multichannel systems that allowed the musicians to not only hear their work and to be able to communicate with the production personnel in the control room, but to also be able to create their own dedicated mix, so that they could hear more of a certain instrument or track if they wanted to be able to do so. Even in the mid-1990s in Austin, Texas, area recording studios, the vast majority of those facilities were still using only stereo cue systems, while in Nashville, we were using 8-track cue mixers— Formula Sound cue systems were quite popular in most of the major recording studio facilities at the time. Today, cue systems that have been developed by Aviom, Hear Technologies and Mytek can be found in most of the major recording studio facilities.
Interestingly enough, headphones grew out of the development of the telephone and since the early 1890s have been a component of the audio world. Though somewhat primitive headphones were in use by radio stations and the military from the 1920s to the end of the Second World War, it wasn’t until the late 1950s that what we think of as the modern stereo headphone was actually invented. The use of headphones slowly grew beginning in the early 1970s, when their use (like that of cue systems) started slowly evolving. By the 1980s, the development of professional nearfield monitors was still in its infancy and believe it or not, so was headphone technology, too. In fact, even though these technologies are among the oldest in the world of professional audio recording— speakers and microphones were both invented in the 1870s and based on concepts that date from even before that time, their evolution in the recording studio space was actually quite slow in comparison to other technologies. By the late 1990s, headphones were only beginning to rival their monitor speaker cousins in terms of quality, durability and performance. Today, you can find great headphones being made by a number of companies including: Focal, Mackie, Yamaha, Beyerdynamic, Audio-Techina, KRK, AKG, Sennheiser, Shure and Sony.
Recording studios having the ability to provide instruments to their clients is nothing new. In fact, recording studio facilities have almost always— in every case, where I have worked, with one notable exception in Austin, Texas, had at least a grand piano. (The studio manager told me that blues and rock musicians almost never use a piano. By the way, I am still scratching my head about that one more than twenty years later.) Some recording studio venues carried a small variety of instruments— drums, guitars, keyboards (synthesizers, wurlitzers, etc.) and amplifiers by the mid-1970s and still do today. A facility carries these instruments for one reason-- it is just so much easier both for the assistant engineers working in the studio and for the cartage people who would have to transport the instruments from place to place to just have such massive and involved instruments already on site. It was just a more practical arrangement. Imagine, if musicians just had to just carry their guitars to a session and plug them into an amplifier. It would make the set-up for most recording sessions a snap and that is the general idea. However, how many instruments beyond a grand piano that a studio facility may possess is dependent upon two factors— the management of the facility and the type of clientele that it would have coming through the doors on a regular basis.
In Nashville, I never saw a studio facility that had more than a grand piano and only knew of one that possessed a drum kit in-house. The reason for this was because the fabulous session musicians always had cartage services that both brought and set-up their instruments for them for every single session. The major cartage company, Underground Sound, was led by Rolf Zweipp, who is now in the same position at Blackbird Recording Studios in Nashville, and at the time he led a team of seasoned professionals. However, in each of the studios in Austin, Texas, that I had the opportunity to either work in or visit, the facility may have an entire suite of instruments, or none at all. Most of the great recording studios today still either possess a range of instruments or none at all— again, it just depends on the facility.
The Microphone Locker
If you were to step into the recording studio facilities that would record the first great hits to top the Billboard Charts at the end of the 1950s, you would see a very different microphone locker than what you would see in the same large-scale facilities of today. In the late 1950s, in the recording studios that were located in the United States a crucial transition was just beginning to take place that would have a tremendous impact on the sound that would be so crucial to defining the Golden Age of Popular Music that would occur from 1958-1975. Prior to 1958, the vast majority of lead vocals were recorded using American made ribbon microphones. However, during the period from 1958-1975, tube condenser microphones— many of them developed and crafted in a divided Germany at the height of the Cold War, began to replace ribbon mics (almost altogether). These microphones made largely by two companies— Neumann and AKG (some models were marketed, but not actually constructed, by Telefunken) which included such famed models as the Neumann U47, M49, M50, U67, the AKG C12 and the Telefunken ELAM 251 (marketed by Telefunken, but developed by AKG). These microphones have become recording studio classics and the vast majority of the lead vocals on most of the hit songs that have topped the charts from 1958 to this very moment were recorded using one of these classic microphones.
By the late 1960s, another major transition was taking place as tube-based circuitry was beginning to be replaced by smaller, transistor-based discrete circuit designs. This occurred in each phase of the professional music recording world. In the microphone lockers of the recording studios of the late 1960s, new microphone models such as the Neumann U87 (introduced in 1967), the AKG 414 and numerous small diaphragm condenser microphones such as the Neumann KM 84 began to become very important to the recording process. Dynamic microphones remained important tools that could be found in recording studio microphone lockers during the period from 1958-1975 and still do to this very day. The vast majority of the large diaphragm condenser microphones that appeared during this period which were based on transistors and discrete circuits became the basis for the future microphones of the modern era, rather than those based on tube-based designs. However, the tube-based designs started to come back into vogue in the 1990s, as the original microphones which were beginning to show their age led to companies developing new or revised designs that came into the microphone lockers of the period. For example, Neumann introduced both the M147, M149 and the M150, and a relatively new company, Manley Labs introduced two new classic tube condenser microphones that have become classics, the Reference Gold and the Reference Cardiod. In the past decade, from 2007 to today, it is ribbon microphones which have made a major comeback with companies such as Royer Labs, AEA and Beyerdynamic making some of the finest and most durable units that you will find in the great recording studio facilities still in operation today.
When I worked in recording studios in Nashville, Austin and Los Angeles (but, mostly in the Nashville metro area) I never set-up, used or saw a ribbon microphone during the period from 1996-2011 for a recording session. In fact, I learned about ribbon microphones from a textbook, simply because it was so rare to be able to see one. On the drums, we used dynamic and condenser microphones (sometimes tube-based condenser microphones). We used dynamic and condenser microphones on electric guitar amps, while most of the time, the bass went through a DI box. On piano, we always used a pair of large diaphragm condensers (sometimes tube-based condenser microphones). And for acoustic instruments, such as violins, guitars, mandolins, etc. we always used either large, or small diaphragm condenser microphones. The vast majority of the time, and I can only think of two exceptions to this rule of thumb— we used large diaphragm tube-based condenser microphones to record both lead and background vocalists.
In the Control Room
If any piece of equipment is associated with recording studios it is their consoles. However, consoles— believe it or not, did not exist in the same form as they do today at all. In fact, in today’s professional music recording world, consoles are undergoing a period of rapid transformation and some small studio facilities and home studio venues actually do not feature a console at all. But, from roughly 1965-2005, analog consoles were the dominant feature of every single major recording studio facility control room and their evolution is quite interesting.
If you walked into the control room of a recording studio in either the late 1950s or the early 1960s, the console would appear to be just like the summing mixer of today with a few preamps (from 1-4) available, no equalization or dynamics and the routing was extremely simple. Your signals went from your preamp, through a limiter (if you had one), to tape and then was monitored at the console through one and later, two very simple speakers. It was quite simple, but effective. The simple reason for the consoles being so small and simple was because recording went to first, one track, then two-track, then three-track and finally, by 1965, to four-track analog tape machines which were the standard at that moment in time. As analog multitrack recording progressed in capability and rapidly expanded from eight tracks in 1967 to twenty-four tracks by 1969, with this rapid growth came the development of large-format analog consoles to handle the demand. There was another crucial shift also occurring at the same time, that we have already alluded to when we spoke about the development of the microphone technologies of this period— the shift from tube-based to discrete circuits using transistors. Another innovation that was crucial to the development of the modern console was the channel strip by the Electrodyne corporation. Early channel strips featured a preamp, a line amp, an equalizer, and sends and returns which could be plugged into a console frame. A number of American manufacturers made components for these new channel strips, so that they could be plugged by the engineering team in a studio into the frame of their console. We do have to step back for a moment and think— in 1965, no console company which dominates the landscape today was in existence, with the exception of Rupert Neve’s small fledgling company in Little Shelford, England. However, even the Neve company did not truly start to become a household name in the industry until 1970. So, who created the consoles that recorded the greatest hit songs of the 1960s? The answer may surprise you.
From 1965-1975, console technology developed at a very rapid pace. For the most part, the first consoles which were used to record some of the greatest hits in the history of popular music from 1964-1968, were actually custom-designed and developed by the engineers themselves in each of the major recording studio facilities of the time. But, there were early companies which were developed (largely) by these pioneering engineering teams such as Sound Techniques, Spectra (now Spectra1964), Flickinger, Electrodyne (and also, later, Quad-Eight), and Helios. Each of these companies made and marketed consoles to major studios in the United States and throughout Europe, as well. Most of these early consoles were entirely customized by design, meaning that, when a studio purchased a unit, it was entirely unique to that recording studio facility and you might not encounter another unit anywhere else that had exactly the same feature set. As recording studios began to step into twenty-four track recording in the early 1970s and artists and producers became more mobile, an interest in creating consoles that were excellent in terms of their quality but also standardized, so that the recording studio experience could become a more uniform one in any facility in the world began to emerge. New console companies emerged which produced legendary line-ups of consoles and it is these firms which still dominate the industry today in the modern era including: API, Neve and Trident. By the end of the 1970s, another major company emerged which along with Neve also introduced the concept of automation into their large-format console offerings— Solid State Logic— which had been established in 1969, but was not a major player in the console market until introducing its first 4000E units beginning in 1979. (During the 1970s and early 1980s, there were other American console manufacturers whose desks also would have a tremendous impact on the popular music of the period, including: MCI and Harrison.) The heydey of the major recording studio facilities with their large-format SSL, Neve, Trident or API consoles occurred in the period from 1980-2004. It is highly likely that every single song recorded during that period was either tracked or mixed through the circuitry of one of those magnificent beasts. By the late 1990s, digital consoles had started to appear with models by such companies as Yamaha and Euphonix (which would later be acquired by Avid). But, despite their development and even with each of the digital offerings, including touchscreen units such as the Slate Raven and hybrid console offerings by Avid and even Solid State Logic (SSL) and AMS Neve, large-format analog consoles still remain an important component of the process of music recording.
By the 1990s and early 2000s, it had started to become a fairly common practice for engineers and producers to track their projects on Neve or Trident consoles and then mix them on an SSL console. There were a growing number of engineers and producers who enjoyed working exclusively on API consoles at the time. I was in a unique position in that I worked for a major record producer and we worked primarily out of a pair of recording studio facilities, Curb Studio, which at the time housed perhaps one of the very first large-scale digital Euphonix consoles and at KD Studio which was more of a personal, publishing studio for our producer and had just a simple Mackie mixer. On occasion, we would have an artist who would want to track or mix their work in a different facility and when we traveled to other facilities, it was commonplace for us to track in a facility that would either have a Neve, SSL or an API console. Almost always, we would mix our work on an SSL console, in fact, I cannot recall us ever mixing a song on a console that was not an SSL, unless we were working at Curb Studio throughout the project. In fact, I would be willing to state that the vast majority of the hit songs during the country music boom of the 1990s were mixed on either an SSL console— either a 4000G+ or a 9000J model console or a Neve (VR or 80-series) or Trident (80-series or A-Range) desk. Most of the engineers who came to work outside of our team on one of our projects would almost always work with us as mixing engineers and though some of our songs were mixed on the Euphonix, it was my impression that most of the engineers who used it were not thrilled with the fact that it was not very intuitive to use and did not, like a Neve, SSL or an API console, have a “sound” that was musically pleasing. At the time, in Nashville, most of the major studios had either Neve or SSL consoles, whereas a few of them still had Trident consoles, as well. Today, API has truly gained a major foothold in the major Nashville recording studios— a trend which began in the mid-1990s and still continues to this day. In Austin, for example, which I have always felt was about a decade or more behind Nashville in its studio development, most of the consoles are SSL desks. In both New York City and Los Angeles, there is still a mix of Neve, SSL, API and older Trident consoles that can be found in their major recording studio facilities.
The Tape Machine
The first use of magnetic tape for recording occurred in Germany, so it is an innovation that like so many of our modern tools for recording music came during the first golden age of entertainment— the 1920s. Prior to the invention of magnetic tape, songs were simply recorded straight to disc. As a medium, the use of magnetic tape became much more widespread for media recording during the Second World War and in the years following it. Most of the great hits of the late 1950s were recorded on just one-track tape machines, but by the early 1960s 2-track or stereo analog tape machines appeared for the very first time. By 1965, as it was mentioned earlier, most of the recordings that you heard were recorded on 4-track analog tape machines— and of course, this includes so many of the greatest hit songs in the history of popular music. By 1967, 8-track analog tape machines had become the standard, which increased to 16-tracks the next year and by the end of the decade, to 24-tracks. In fact, by 1973 most of the great recording studio facilities in the United States were beginning to adopt 24-track analog tape machines as the recording standard. Remarkably, the 24-track analog tape machine is still in use in some professional music recording circles today and because of its unique and warm sound, is also highly prized by some engineers, artists and producers.
During the mid-1980s, digital tape recording machines slowly began to be used alongside, or in some cases, replace analog tape machines. There were two types of digital tape machine— the Pro-Digi, or 32-track digital tape recording machines which were produced by both Mittsubishi and Otari and the DASH, or 48-track digital tape recording machines which were developed by Sony. If you listened to a hit song that was recorded from 1985-2004, it was most likely recorded on either a 24-track analog tape machine or one of the digital tape machines that were quite prevalent at the time. By 2005, most of the reel-to-reel professional tape machines had been supplanted by digital audio workstation software-based programs for recording music into computing systems. One of the great innovations that occurred in tape machine technology was the ability to use SMPTE time code to lock machines together so that two machines for example, could function as a single unit. This technology was used in major recording studios from the late 1970s moving forward and has enabled for example, three 24-track analog tape machines to be used at once— giving a project a whopping 72-tracks to work with, or to enable smooth transfers to occur between recording mediums.
Amazingly, in the late 1990s, we used mostly 32-track digital tape machines and a digital audio workstation software program, Digidesign’s (now Avid) Pro Tools to do the vast majority of our recording work. We only did two projects using a 24-track analog tape machine during my tenure. Most of the time, we would track each of our projects onto a 32-track digital machine, record our overdubs onto a 32-track digital machine and then transfer a rough mix of the project from the master tape onto another digital tape reel, so that we could record additional vocal tracks for the client. Once the additional vocal tracks were recorded, these tracks would be transferred into the Pro-Tools software program where they would be edited and tuned prior to being transferred back onto the master tape to proceed to the mixing process. Today, of course, the digital audio workstation has almost completely assumed the role of the tape machine in the process of recording music.
If you were to step inside the control room of a recording studio in the late 1950s, you would see just a few units of gear. Each of these units would be tube-based and have been developed from technologies just after the conclusion of the Second World War. A casual observer would have seen a few preamps, a small mixer, and maybe a pair of equalization or limiter units. Even throughout the early 1960s, there were very few gear options available for most of the engineers of the period to use. Preamps from what is today Universal Audio or Telefunken, equalization units from Pulse Techniques (or Pultecs) and compressor/limiters from a few manufacturers such as Gates, Altec, Fairchild and Teletronix (again, what is today, Universal Audio) would have comprised the majority of the gear that was available at the time. RCA also made a wide variety of gear for the professional music recording world at the time. Reverb chambers were created to give life to the sounds of the period, and also, EMT, a German professional audio manufacturer developed the famed mechanical EMT-140 plate reverbs. From 1958-1965, a studio control room would have contained a few pieces of outboard gear to be used for processing. But, just as with consoles, microphones and tape machines, by 1966 this began to change as tube-technologies were supplanted by those which were based on technologies utilizing transistors and discrete circuitry. Ironically, the origin, development and use of outboard gear came directly from the pioneering recording studio consoles that were being developed during the period from 1967-1973.
From 1967-1983, quite a few of the remarkable pieces of gear that would come to define the recording studio landscape and create the hits that would come to also define an entire generation in popular music were developed. The compressor/limiter that would come to define the sound of the period, the UREI 1176, was developed in 1967 and can now be found in almost every single major recording studio in the world. The first parametric equalization units were developed during this period with individual engineers such as Dr. George Massenburg leading the way. Plus, by the late 1970s, beginning with the EMT 250, the first digital reverbs began to make their appearance. But, one of the most important innovations came from API— the development of the 500-series. Though it would not have a far-reaching impact immediately, it began the process of showcasing an important new development in the ability to select the gear that an engineer or producer wished to have in their studio facilities. Throughout this period, though new units of revolutionary gear were being introduced in terms of compressors and limiters and new digital reverb units, it was the fabulous consoles from API and Neve of the era with their amazing preamps, equalization and dynamics sections that would start a new revolution in the world of professional music recording.
During the late 1980s, a new revolution in recording studio gear began to emerge as the fabled API and Neve consoles of the early to mid-1970s began to be stripped of their precious, but beautiful sounding preamp, equalization and dynamics sections which were then packaged into first 500-series and later 80-series (named after the Neve 80-series consoles, from which these modules originated) module frames or chassis. API had created the 500-series from the beginning with their modular console units in the early 1970s, but by the 1990s, these modules had become crucial components in recording studios around the world. Now these modules such as the 312 and 512 microphone preamps, 550a, 550b and 560 equalization units and 525 compressor/limiter units became integral components in the process of shaping the sounds of the music of the 1990s and early 2000s. Plus, they would influence the industry so much so, that now almost every major or boutique gear manufacturer has their own line-up of 500-series modules to offer for engineers and producers. At first, each of the 80-series Neve modules that you might have encountered actually came from a Neve console that had been created by hand from the early 1970s to the early 1980s. Other smaller, boutique companies such as Brent Averill Enterprises (now BAE) had custom created or racked Neve modules from the early 1990s for engineers and producers. Eventually, AMS-Neve began to re-release these classic modules and chassis for their use such as the 1073, 1081 and the 1084.
In the 1990s, there was tremendous growth in the gear industry and some amazing pieces of gear during that time truly solidified their status as recording studio staples. Digital reverbs grew in their capability exponentially throughout the 1990s. New companies such as Manley Labs began a resurgence in tube-based gear and microphones. But, in the recording studios of the time, in which I worked during the period there was state of the art gear in the racks in every facility, including: preamp modules from API, Neve and BAE and rack mount preamp units from companies such as John Hardy, Millennia Media and Avalon; equalization modules from API, Neve and BAE and rack mount equalization units from Manley Labs, GML (George Massenburg Labs), and Avalon; there were compressor/limiter modules from API, Neve and BAE and rack mount units from Smart Research, Tube-Tech, DBX, Manley Labs, Empirical Labs and Universal Audio and of course, reverb units from AMS, Yamaha, TC Electronic, Roland and Lexicon. While there were certainly units of gear from the distant past, such as Pultec equalization units and Fairchild compressor/limiters, most of the companies mentioned produced the gear that was in constant use was produced by the aforementioned companies that could be found in the studios where I had the opportunity to work. Today, while each of those companies still make the same amazing units of gear as they had 25 years ago, software plugins with their ability to emulate these crucial pieces of gear have become recording studio staples— in their own right.
While speaker technologies, just like their microphone cousins have existed since the 1870s, as a whole this is perhaps the one major component of the great recording studio technologies which has undergone the least amount of change and development until recently. If you had walked into a major recording studio facility from 1958-1975, you would have seen for the most part, large-scale monitors or very small monitors that would have been placed on the console for monitoring. In fact, the greatest leap forward in the monitoring technologies occurred by accident as a pair of bookshelf speakers— the Yamaha NS-10 would usher in a near-field monitoring revolution. These light-weight, portable speakers with their trademark white woofer cones became an industry standard as freelance engineers during the mid-1980s could take them with them from studio to studio and found that while mixing on these monitors that their mixes would translate well anywhere. Soon, other companies began manufacturing near-field and also, larger mid-field monitor speakers which would become studio staples and were much more accurate than the Yamaha NS-10. These new monitors which were developed in the late 1980s and still continue to dominate the industry were manufactured by such companies as Genelec, Dynaudio, KRK, Mackie and JBL.
Every recording studio that I had the opportunity to work in used Yamaha NS-10s. I spent most of my time working with Yamaha NS-10s. However, visiting mixing engineers would use Dynaudio, Genelec and even Mackie monitors. There were a few engineers who used KRK monitors at the time. Perhaps the greatest change between the monitors which fueled the music explosion of the 1980s and 1990s, versus those that are in use in the recording studios of today is that all of the monitors in the recording studios of the past during that period were passive, while most of the monitors that you will find in today’s small recording studio venues or home studios are active— which simply means that they are self-powered and do not require an amplifier to work (which adds another layer of electronics and expense, too).
As it was mentioned earlier, digital gear made its first appearance in the form of digital reverb units such as the EMT 250 in the late 1970s. While the first digital units of gear were reverbs— which were, in essence, just gigantic calculators— these units certainly become some of the most utilized in the history of professional music recording throughout the 1980s and 1990s such as the AMS RMX-16, Lexicon 480, Yamaha SPX-90, Roland SRV-330 and the TC Electronic M5000. But, during the mid-1990s, computers (beyond the relatively simple synchronization or clocking units and converters) took their very first steps beyond simplistic tasks to actually being involved in the recording process with software programs and their associated hardware (converters, or interfaces) with Digidesign’s (now Avid) Pro-Tools. I was among the first assistant engineers to be trained to use and to instruct others how to use Pro-Tools and among the last of my colleagues to work in a world of analog and digital tape-based recording, even at the professional level.
In the 1990s and early 2000s we used digital reverbs, converters and synchronization clocks on a consistent basis, but we also used Pro-Tools, as a digital audio workstation, as well. The most popular digital reverbs were the ones that were mentioned above. I never saw the documentation for a mixing session that did not include the use of the Lexicon 480, EMT 250 or the AMS RMX-16 on drum, guitar and vocal tracks for almost every single song that you would have heard on the radio or have purchased in a store. We used Pro-Tools for vocal tuning and editing and on occasion for editing an instrumental track. At that point, there were just a few reliable software plugins available and (Antares) Autotune was chief among them. We used it quite often for tuning vocals, but the assistant engineers who did all of that work, Jeff Watkins and David Boyer, did not try to use it in such a way that it would alter the performance of the vocalist in any meaningful or negative manner, although I must admit, I have heard it used to the point lately to where you can actually hear it on certain singers who are quite well-known in today’s world of popular music. Other software plugins were available such as Amp Farm by Line 6, but I do not recall us ever using it. However, it is in the realm of software plugins where the digital world would lead to a major revolution in the process of music recording.
The most important component of the true revolution which allowed digital audio workstations to become such a crucial element in the process of music recording in today’s professional audio world were the tremendous breakthroughs which occurred in the development of digital audio interfaces and the analog to digital conversion technologies which are so critical to their success. There are professional interface conversion systems from such companies as Burl Audio, Antelope Audio, Universal Audio, Prism Sound, Lynx Studio Technology and Apogee Electronics that sound like pristine, life-like (natural) or even like warm analog tape machines from the past, plus, many of them also offer microphone preamps so that you can record directly into them using an array of life-like software plugins or emulations of the vintage gear that has been referenced throughout this article. These technologies have allowed such digital audio workstation software programs as Avid’s Pro Tools, Apple’s Logic Pro Studio, MOTU’s Digital Performer, Steinberg’s Cubase and Nuendo, among others, to become staples in the world of professional music recording. While the digital audio workstation software programs have become tremendous and powerful staples in the world of professional music recording, so have the software plugin emulations by such companies as WAVES and Universal Audio which have improved to the point that some prominent engineers are using them in lieu of outboard gear for some of their very important work.
There has always been this thought in the professional audio world that digital would completely supplant older analog technologies, but it hasn’t actually happened in that sense. If anything, what we are seeing is that digital offerings have become much more flexible and have allowed— because of their cost effectiveness and portability for music to be made professionally almost anywhere— which has led to a boom in small recording studio ventures and in home-based recording studio facilities. This trend has also led to a number of the major recording studios— legendary places where some of the greatest hits in the history of popular music were recorded— to close their doors. In fact, some of the places where I worked during the heydey of the country music boom of the 1990s and early 2000s have closed their doors and are now shopping centers or high-rise luxury apartments, even on Nashville’s iconic and famed Music Row. However, a number of the legendary recording studio facilities have survived with their vintage gear, consoles and microphones and it is in these places where you will find some of the greatest music of the present still being made despite the tremendous changes that have occurred in the landscape of professional music recording just in the last decade.