Consoles & Controllers

Duration: 38 minutes

Featuring: Alan Parsons, with Jack Jospeh Puig, Patrick Leonard, and Niko Bolas.

Most people’s vision of what a recording studio looks like is a room primarily occupied by a large console full of knobs, faders, and flashing lights. Even software that emulates a ‘recording studio’ seems to perpetuate this image.

The reality is that you can – and people do – make records without putting your hand on anything more movable than a mouse. ‘Volume’ can be set as a number, and even changes in volume, pan, or anything else can be painstakingly input as data and replayed as automation.

So why would anyone still need to use what in some ways is a very old-fashioned and definitely cumbersome object like a recording console?

Consoles & Controllers starts with Alan re-discovering the EMI desk on which he recorded Dark Side Of The Moon, which now resides in a vintage gear pre-production studio in Los Angeles.

One clue as what the value of console still might be in the modern age comes from looking at Alan walking around the desk, running his hands over the various different controls and sections. It would probably take him all of five minutes to re familiarize himself with the desk’s every feature and function. Imagine being able to do that with 30-year-old software? Imagine 30-year-old software even loading up?

In addition to the immediacy and availability of using a hardware console, there’s also the question of sound. Does music actually sound better if individual tracks go through their own channel strip for processing and then get ‘analog summed?’ Or does it really make no difference when or how the numbers are crunched? Alan conducts exactly such an experiment in this section and you can even download and listen to uncompressed final mix files and decide for yourself.

Even if you cannot afford or simply don’t want an outside piece of furniture in your studio, the controls of a recording console, along with their signal flow (real or virtual) is a complex and important topic to understand. In this section Alan takes you on a knob-by-knob tour of a typical channel strip, including demonstrating such often misunderstood concepts as pre and post fade.

The recording console’s niece or nephew is of course the controller; an object through which audio is simply controlled as opposed to passes.

Alan looks at various different types of controller, from the simple and single purpose to the complex and almost endlessly configurable.

Although Alan comes from an ‘in-the-room’ as opposed to ‘in-the-box’ heritage, he’s still very comfortable with hands-free DAW recording. But this section gives you plenty of food for thought about which style might best suits your needs. The colorful Jack Joseph Puig, ensconced behind one of the largest recording consoles on the planet, at Ocean Way Studio in Los Angeles, provides plenty of spice to the debate.

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