Ohm Studio Recordist
Nev Barker explains the workings of his private studio and why the name met with so much resistance.
Calling all home recordists... Here's a golden opportunity to pass on those brilliant tricks you've discovered to turn your cassette deck into a fully blown 48 track recorder!
Well, not quite... but these columns are devoted to what you, the reader, have to say about your own method of recording, your equipment or maybe your experiences in a pro studio. So write and tell us about these or any other aspect of your recording and you may well find yourself occupying these pages.
This month we examine OHM studio; a well equipped 8-track studio with it's own record label 'Confidential Records' in West Yorkshire, which has been used by several top bands, but things weren't always like that...
Once upon a tune there was a bass player without a bass guitar who had to take the top two strings off an old Hofner President Jazz Guitar for his first 'bass'. Forming a band with two school friends, they used to rehearse in the attic at home (the exact reason why escapes him) and virtually from the word go he used to get out the old 'Elizabethan' mono tape recorder to record the sessions. A basic track was recorded on the 'Elizabethan' and then played through an amplifier whilst adding the next overdub 'live'. The whole lot was thereby recorded onto a Grundig mono recorder which belonged to the lead guitarist. This process was repeated two or three times over until the track was completed.
Quickly realising the futility of this method in attempting to achieve Hi-Fi results, he bought the excellent Akai 4000DS when money allowed, with it's Sound-On-Sound facility and a Sound City 12:1 PA Mixer (a virtually valve-driven beast), in order to get onto the next recording rung.
A change of address though, was the real catalyst. It was down from the attic and into the garage and outhouses. OHM Studio was about to be born!
The main studio area was incorporated into the brick-built garage, which was in a pretty poor state when work first started, although it had just been re-roofed. The first job was to clean up all the brick work and to put in a level 'false' floor (in a similar fashion to that described in an article in HSR March 84), constructed of three quarter inch rock board.
The walls and roof were prepared by fixing sheets of 8' x 4' fibre board onto 4" x 2" battens which had been attached to the walls and roof at two feet intervals, after first lining the spaces between the battens with a two inch depth of glass fibre insulating material. This had the dual effect of insulating the studio both acoustically and thermally. The door and window were given a similar treatment and then the whole area was painted white. One end was then covered with two foot square polystyrene tiles and the floor carpeted for both warmth and further sound absorption.
The electricity supply was taken from a separate fuse box in the house, giving the studio eight power points and two different lighting systems - the white house lights and a system of coloured spotlights designed to give instant atmosphere.
The final result of all this work was an acoustically almost dead and partially sound-proofed room with no nasty resonant spots, and large enough for a four piece band to work in with reasonable comfort.
The control room itself is situated in a moderately sized outhouse some fifteen feet away from the main studio area. Power cables and the audio mixer multicore cable were taken between the two through separate underground one and a half inch plastic conduits. The room was then prepared and insulated in exactly the same way as the main studio.
The advantage of having a completely separate control room is that you only hear what's going onto tape, but the main disadvantage, surprisingly, is that of the isolation you can feel with the recording artists being fifteen feet away - a bit like being in contact by radio!
The next acquisition was a real multitrack recorder; a Teac A-3340S (see the User Report) and a Canary 10:4 Studio Series mixer, along with a decent monitoring system at last - a change from using headphones all the time!
After using this set-up quite happily for several years with, generally, very good results (including a review in HSR May 84 for DNA's "Archaeology" tape) the time came to make the leap to eight track with the purchase of a new Tascam 38 and an Allen and Heath Series 168, 16:8 mixer.
I use three different echo/reverb devices; an HH tape echo, an Evans analogue delay/reverb unit and a custom built plate reverb (based on the HSR project March 84) in order to give the maximum choice over the time/ depth of the effect. Although I usually prefer to record with the reverb added, it's nice to have the option of adding more, or even a different delay effect at the mix down stage. In my view two or three (or even more) echo/delay units are an absolute must in any studio set up. Other modifications to the control room include a custom built 64 socket patch bay, (based on the HSR project Sept 84), a multiway speaker selector switch for using a pair of Dynatron Hi-Fi speakers as a comparative sound-reference, and wooden racks to take all the appropriate outboard equipment.
As well as being used by myself to demo and master my own songs, OHM Studio has been used by bands from as far afield as Middlesbrough and Sheffield, with as varied a clientele as Black Lace and Vardis.
In an attempt to provide as full a service as possible to bands using OHM, cassette duplication and record pressing services can be undertaken, by arrangement, and the studio has it's own 'house' label; Confidential Records.
Improvements/modifications planned for this year include the installation of a close-circuit TV system to help overcome the isolation problem previously mentioned and the introduction of more computer based systems for a variety of uses including patching and digital delay.
Any more information on OHM Studio or Confidential Records can be obtained by contacting Nev Barker on (Contact Details) or by writing to Confidential Records, (Contact Details).