Technical facilities


In the studio and out on the road

I work both on the road at in my studio. Most recording takes place on location, and most post-production in the studio.

My mobile recording rig is comprehensive enough to record a full symphony orchestra and chorus but still fits in a small van. It is fully flightcased, and usually I just need somewhere with a power socket and a bit of light in order to get set up. Many years' experience of classical recording on location has given me the skills to get excellent results in churches, school halls, concert halls, stately homes etc.

My studio is fully equipped for all aspects of post-production, including mixing, editing and mastering. It is a room whose acoustic properties I know very well, and I get consistently good results that translate well to all listening environments, from high-end hifi to iPods to boomboxes.

How important is equipment?

Before I list some of the equipment I use, please let me make a point about its importance. I am a strong believer that the quality of the equipment used is as nothing compared with the skill of the person using it. In my lounge I have a much-loved battered old upright piano, which my 1-year-old daughter likes to 'play'. Even if I replaced it with a £90,000 Steinway Model D, I don't think she would make great music on it, as she doesn't (yet) have the skills. But if Alfred Brendel paid us a visit, and knocked out the Hammerklavier sonata on the upright, it would sound incredible. Sure, I have absolutely no doubt that it would sound even better on a Steinway, but the point is still clear - it's the skill of the user that makes by far the biggest impact on the quality of the result, whatever gear is used. So please don't pay too much attention to gear lists - so far as I am concerned, they are usually irrelevant.

In many ways I am a contrarian when it comes to equipment. I take great pride in not following the herd into buying the latest gadget-of-the-month. Whenever anyone implies that you cannot get a great sound without using the latest HokeyCokey2000, or that you have to use high sample rates (complete garbage), I just go back to some of the first CDs I ever worked on (analogue remasters of 1970s Decca opera recordings transferred to digital in the mid 1980s using analogue-to-digital converters that are of lower quality than the cheapest piece of current Behringer equipment) and am moved to tears by the sheer opulence and gorgeousness of the sound. All thanks to great artists recorded by great engineers.

My decision on what gear to use for a particular task is always based on a simple question: given the inevitable practical constraints, whether in time, budget or anything else, what is the most appropriate tool for this task? If someone asks me whether I have ProTools, I tend to reply along the lines of "I'm a pro, and I use appropriate tools." The point being that I want to be judged on my results, not on what I use to achieve those results. Do my recordings and mixes sound fantastic? Did I deliver on time and on budget? Did I supply exactly what I was asked to supply - file formats, documentation etc? Was working with me an enjoyable and stress-free experience? So far as I am concerned, those are the questions that really matter.


So having said all that, here is some of the gear I use in my post-production studio and mobile recording rig:

Digital Audio Workstations

My main two Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) are Pyramix and SAW Studio. Pyramix, together with SADiE and Sequoia, are the acknowledged standards in classical music - all of them feature the key elements of a comprehensive fade editor linked to a four-point (source/destination) editing model. I'm comfortable with all three, and use Pyramix for most of my classical editing.

SAW Studio is much less well known. Written by just one man - Bob Lentini - it is in many ways the antithesis of the marketing-led approach of most of its competitors, and thus appeals greatly to my contrarian nature! Bob is an audio engineer in his own right (and a phenomenally talented one, it must be said), and wrote SAW (Software Audio Workshop) mainly for his own use. His marketing philosophy, such as it is, can pretty much be summed up as "if you like working the way I like working, then great - welcome aboard - but if you want it tweaked to suit your particular foibles, then I politely suggest you look elsewhere". I appreciate this single-minded, no nonsense style.

SAW Studio has no superflous bells and whistles, is incredibly fast and compact (installation takes about ten seconds, boot up takes less than two), and hasn't crashed on me for as long as I can remember. It also breaks many of the conventions that software is "supposed" to follow. For example, most software is designed (successfully or not) to be easy to learn for a beginner - i.e. it tries to be intuitive. But what makes software easy for the beginner can lead to it becoming inefficient for the expert user. SAW Studio is not remotely intuitive - the screen isn't covered with buttons and menus, it doesn't use standard keystrokes, and many things can't be done without using a keystroke combination that you can only discover by the old-fashioned method of reading the manual. So, unlike other DAWs such as ProTools, it is not at all freelance-friendly. But if you make the effort to learn it, it becomes blazingly fast and efficient.

And above all it sounds great. I find it by far the best environment I have ever used for mixing - with exactly the combination of precision and creativity that I like. The software never gets in the way - I never have to think about how to use it, and it frees me to concentrate on getting the sound I want.

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