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Home Recording

According to Turnkey

The mysteries of home recording can be explained... If you know who to talk to.

Test bench with Fostex 16-track

Turnkey is one of the best-known distributors of sound equipment in the country, dealing in relatively inexpensive home recording equipment as well as the professional machines which all of us would love to own, but which few can ever hope to afford! We talked to Garry Robson of Turnkey about the equipment available and the best way to spend your hard-earned money.

"The cheapest multitracker is the Fostex X-15, a cassette-based four-track system with a built-in mixer and Dolby noise reduction. At £299, all you have to add to that is a mike and a pair of headphones. You could perhaps add a set of monitor speakers, for instance the Fostex self-powered ones, and some better microphones — perhaps the cheaper Sennheisers or AKG's, at about £60 to £100. We sell headphones as cheap as £9. But you wouldn't mix down on headphones — you'd need monitors, or you could even use your own hi-fi. Tannoy Little Red monitors are about £600 per pair, but of course they're better than using your hi-fi!"

The large range of microphones sold by Turnkey enable the home recordist to mike up an entire drum kit economically — but that would entail using a sub-mixer. "Submixers are used a lot on stage by keyboardists too — for the X-15 you could add a Seck 62 or a TEAC 2A, around £150-£200. Six input channels with bass and treble controls, output pan, and echo and foldback send, is quite adequate. Try to buy good microphones — it's a good longterm investment to go for a Shure SM58 — it's about £100, but it's a good general purpose mike and works exceptionally well."

Portastudios in the lab

Master Blaster

The next step is to go in for a decent two-track reel-to-reel recorder — "Particularly if you're going to start touting your tapes around publishing companies — it's best to demonstrate the best quality you can, so you'll need a Revox B77 or Teac 32, around £600. You can pay £1400 pounds for something basically similar with a few extra features — and for those people who need these features it's worth the difference. To upgrade from our X-15 you can go three ways; to a Tascam 244 Porta-studio, another four-track cassette based system; or to an open reel four-track like a Tascam 34 or Fostex A4; or you can go for an 8-track, in quarter inch, half inch or one inch format. One inch is broadcast quality, Otari, Studer or Soundcraft at around £5000; half-inch is the Tascam 38 or 58, one for home use and the other for heavy professional use at about £3,000.

The last option is the Fostex quarter inch at around £1,100, which includes noise reduction. You'll want to get a lot of accessories for these eight-tracks, but we try to stop people spending money on things they don't really need! Our Accessit sound effects, compressors, noise gates, reverbs and so on are good buys; you'll need compressors to record vocals and bass professionally, and you might want flangers, echoes and so on. For a quarter-inch eight track system, with a mixer, two-track mastering machine, decent Tannoy monitors, a selection of mikes, stands, headphones, effects, you're talking about £4,000. For half-inch, with noise reduction, you'd have to add another £500 or so, and one-inch would be eight or nine thousand."

Plugging In

Turnkey's vast range of specialist cables make the task of connecting together all this gear a lot easier. They even sell separate plugs so that you can make up your own leads. "The great thing about eight-track is that the more tracks you have to play with, the later you have to commit yourself to anything; you can put your bass, drums and rhythms on tracks one, two and three, and balance them any way you like before you bounce them down onto track four; then the first three tracks are free again for vocals, or whatever you want. If you've only got a four-track you've really got to get it right first time; with the X-15 you can't really achieve more than seven layers of sound before the bounce-downs degrade the quality. The trick is to learn to use the equipment you've got, and be creative with it — don't half-read a manual though, get all you can from it. These days the Fostex and Tascam manuals are very good; learn how to use the machine first, then you can get the best out of it."

Turnkey started seven years ago when Garry, who was working for Trident Audio, joined with three engineers from Allen & Heath to work on their own products, which became the Accessit and Seck ranges. A small shop in Barnet selling four-track TEACs provided a base while the Seck mixers were developed. The TEAC 3340 four-tracks, originally designed to be quadrophonic tape decks and revamped to become four-track home recorders, were the standard machines at the time, and the popularity of these decks provided a sound commercial basis for the expansion of the company. Now Turnkey has a large warehouse and an expanding mail order service, and their products appear at shows and exhibitions all over the country. "We feel we're doing well and our customers seem very happy with our service; we get a lot of our business from recommendations, and that's the way it should be!"

Turnkey, (Contact Details)

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Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music - Copyright: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


Electronic Soundmaker - Dec 1983

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman


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