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Second Story


Studio Blog
Spring 2022

I'm still not a blogger!

Apologies to anyone that looks for life changing advice or updates here.  We've been staying steady through Covid months with a little less attention to tracking (but still plenty of that) and lots of film use.  The rooms have actually been used for education videos, performance videos and general music videos.  It's a pretty photogenic atmosphere in my biased opinion.  Here's just a few examples.

I'm Not A Blogger
Well, if there's one thing this website has taught me, it is I'm not a blogger.  It's a bit embarrassing.  However, my lack of updates does not mean there's not great work and constant evolution happening here.  A few of the most notable changes are, Joe Hettinga, formally of Third Coast Recording Recording Company, has begun to work here regularly.  He is an insanely talented producer and engineer and has been using the space for tracking since February (with a bit of a slow down due to Covid).  
On the gear and hardware side, there's been some positive changes as well.  The studio purchased 8 AMS Neve 1073 preamps through Vintage King in June.  If you've seen the documentary that Dave Grohl produced called Sound City, you've heard of Neve 1073's, even if you don't remember that part of the film.  Neve 1073's are the sound of endless timeless records from Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Rage Against the Machine, Bob Seger, Green Day, Nirvana, Zac Brown,Lana Del Ray, Willie Nelson and literally hundreds of others. 
Other gear changes include a pair of Neve 551 EQ's (a character rich EQ that takes the best of the EQ's from legendary Neve 1084's and 1073's), a pair of AKG 414 microphones and a 1975 Fender Jazz bass.  
As I noted, the changes that Covid 19 has delivered has created some changes around here for the time being.  Mix sessions are no longer attended and tracking sessions can no longer accommodate guests and hangouts before and after.  Regular cleaning is also taking place to make this the safest place it can be to record.


Long overdue update. Honestly there's no excuse for the delay.  It's been a crazy busy and productive year.  Mark Lavengood logged endless hours on his next project before moving over to Third Coast for wrapping it up.  Lots of mixing work has come my way through referrals.  Nick James is working on a record without his traditional band and Kaitlyn Zittel just wrapped up her album, currently slated for a December release.  All that being said, as the year winds down, it's been a fantastic year of music, collaboration, community and energy.  I've made a few investments in gear this year including a Martin D35, a pair of Neve1073 preamps with EQ's, another drum or two (you can't have too many snare drum options) and even a mic or two.  Here's a little time lapse video we made just for the fun of it as we set up for a drum session for a Nashville artist.  



Greetings.  With all the holiday activity, I never got my January update up.  Sorry about that but rest assured, we’re plugging along nicely here.  


I’ve got a few projects underway currently and starting a new world music tracking session on February 1 that I’m really excited about.   A few weeks ago I tracked drums on a piece of my own that is geared toward mechanical licensing for TV,  film or commercial use.  I wanted to use this piece to once again highlight the role the room plays in multi-mic drum recording.  As you’ll hear in this short clip of the drum solo, the drums come alive with energy and power without any adjustments to their volume or processing done in the DAW.  This is the kind of sound that is very difficult to achieve in basement or bedroom studios.  Please keep Second Story Sound in mind when planning your project, even if it’s just for certain instruments like drums or vocals.


The drums in this recording are 1966 Slingerlands, (22", 16" and 13") along with a 1970's Rogers Powertone snare.  


Happy holidays!  (Is it too early for those words?)  The studio recently acquired a new mic, an Avantone CV-12.  Like many mics here, it's a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) .  LDCs are go-to mics for vocals, acoustic instruments, pianos and drum overheads.  They are the most used type of mic in a studio.  What separates the AC-12 from the other mics in the locker is the body contains a tube. Transistors, LEDs and circuit boards have replaced tubes in nearly all places, with the exception of audio equipment.  Microphones have their own distinctive personalities, and in studios, they are typically paired with a singer depending on which mic best fits the voice and song.  Subtle differences between microphones can make a huge difference in the sound of a song.

The CV-12 came highly recommended from a few fellow engineers who've had time to record with it. The mic is modeled on the renown AKC C-12. Vintage C-12s can easily command $12,000 or more.  


I was curious to try it out on vocals and asked Kyle Rasche from Chain of Lakes to drop by and record a solo version of a song that will be on the band's next release.  This video is a side by side comparison of the new CV-12 and a Neumann TLM-103 (another LDC, but one without a tube design).  You can hear subtle differences as the song changes from one mic to another.  The Neumann has a little more pronounced top end, while the CV-12 sounds a little darker.  If you are listening on a laptop or such, you may want to listen with headphones to hear the differences.

On the technical side, both mics were tracked to Avedis MA5 preamps with 40db of gain.  While not a clone, the MA5 is often compared (favorably) to the famous Neve 1073 preamp. Both the MA5 and 1073 have a very "transformer forward" sound.  No EQ or compression was used during tracking, however a Universal Audio LA2A compression plugin was added when mixing and identical compression settings were used on both channels.  


There's no right or wrong mic choice, but for this song, I prefer the CV-12 over the Neumann.  The warmer and darker sound adds a more intimate feel.  That being said, if this song were to have drums, bass, additional guitars and keyboards, I would likely choose the Neumann.  The extra high end on that recording would boost the vocal through the denser mix without simply raising the volume

Special thanks to Kyle for his time and the fantastic performance.  He and the rest of Chain of Lakes are working on their next release.  A full band performance of this song is expected to be on that release.



Most audio engineers will tell you live drums are the most challenging and rewarding instruments to record.  Drums require space -- room for their sound to develop.  Larger spaces give drums the distance needed to resonate.  When the room itself is recorded, it can be added to the mic'd drum tracks to create a larger, more powerful sound.  The gold standard for this kind of recording is probably Led Zeppelin's John Bonham as recorded by engineering legend Glyn Johns.   


Obviously, this live and powerful drum sound is not right for all music, as many genres thrive on drum samples and percussion loops that may have been assembled in software and never actually performed live in the production of any specific song.  However, when a song benefits from live drums, there's a great advantage to have the space to capture live energy and essence of a larger than life performance.  

Here's a short example of the studio's drum kit tracked live with no editing and very little processing to highlight the importance the room can play in the recording of live drums.

Recording drums requires lots of attention to detail to get nuanced and powerful sound.  Without getting too technical, when there are multiple microphones on any instrument, the sound arrives at each mic at a slightly different time.  Spacing microphones symmetrically, at equal distances from the kick drum and snare, keeps the sound waves "in phase" and generates the most flattering and accurate recordings.  Larger rooms and high ceilings help this because the walls reflecting sound are further from the sound's source than you'll find in most bedroom or basement studios.

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