January 10, 2012

I’m asked every now and then to list the gear I use, I guess electronic music attracts geeks, I should know I am one.

Our first two albums were made using software only, a fact that I’m proud of. For many people this is a surprise, but the simple fact is I actually use very basic sounds. Whilst the software synths I use sound great when you run through the presets, many of them come laden with effects. I tend to start with very raw and simple sounds and layer them with other simple sounds until I have something that sounds a little unique or at least not a preset. The effects I add on with logic and always using the AUX bus sends rather than inserting them per track. That way processor resources work more efficiently and you don’t get a heavy effected sound. Obviously you can edit the individual effects to achieve the same sound but they way I work is far more old school and akin to how you would work with a traditional mixing desk.

I do now have three analogue devices (listed below) and they are quite special. I’m using them more and more but I’ll always use a healthy amount of software synths.

So here is the list of gear…

Mac Pro 8 Core – 8GB RAM

Clearly the heart of the studio, immensely powerful and very rarely comes anywhere close to it’s processing capacity whilst running Logic. I keep this very clean with only music apps installed and have a couple of redundant drives to back-up material as well as cloud storage. Upgrading this machine around every three years essentially means the power of the studio doubles… incredible!

Focusright Liquid Saffire 56

A great sounding interface with two liquid channels to give me different Mic Pre amp simulations. It’s really underused for my set-up with just a single Mic and three inputs being used for the hardware synths I have.

Motu 828 MK III (mainly for live)

This was the main interface for the studio, I kept it with the intention of using some MOTU software called Volta to drive the Telemark synth with CV & Gate using the interface inputs and outputs, however the Telemarks MIDI implementation is pretty good so didn’t really need it. I’ve therefore kept this interface for live use but again seriously underused for that too.

Analogue Solutions Telemark Synthesizer

The first proper synth in the NK set-up. Tom who runs the company builds and designs great analogue synths, he kindly lent me some gear a while ago and since then I’ve been hooked. I find the Telemark good for mid to high end sounds and usually drive this with an arpeggio running from logic. Rarely use the modular section but it’s nice to look at. Tom is about to launch the Telemark K a keyboard version that I’ll definitely be buying and also use for live. Might have to sell this to justify buying that though/

Analogue Solutions Leipzig S (Synth / Sequencer)

This is very Moog sounding and I mainly use this for evolving bass sounds using the in-built sequencer that modulates the VCF or VCO. The main bass sound on Daggers was the first track I used this on.

Vermona DRM1 MKIII

MIDI triggered analogue drum synth, although I’ve used this quite a bit recently the main plan was to use this for live. It would mean having the same sounds for each track but I’ve got this idea of really simplifying our live sound and making it a little more raw.

AVID Artist Series MC_Control (formerly Euphonix)

This was initially bought as a bit of a luxury, I’ve never really had a problem of mixing in Logic on screen but I wanted to see how much of a difference a control surface would make. Other options were the Mackie Control but after reading a review in Sound on Sound I quite liked the idea of owning something with a Euphonix badge on it. In the early 90′s I worked at a company that sold Euphonix consoles. Trevor Horn was one of our customers and even back then the Euphonix consoles were pretty powerful. Obviously this range is aimed at project studios but still the capabilities of these surfaces are pretty powerful.

Euphonix was owned by Dieter Meier of Yello who as a customer and fan of the consoles bought the company, he subsequently sold it to AVID last year. Ive had some minor cosmetic issues with my MC_Control and MX_Mix but AVID have kindly taken these back even though they were out of warranty.

I now find these really useful and have definitely helped speed up the mixing process and general workflow whilst constructing tracks.

AVID Artist Series MC_Mix

See above

AVID Artist Series MC_Transport

See above

AKG Solid Tube Mic,id,218,pid,218,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html

This is actually on loan from a friend, I think he’s forgotten. Great sounding Mic and very sensitive.

M-Audio AXIOM 61 note USB/Midi Controler

A USB / MIDI keyboard, I’m not really a keyboard player as such so I mainly use this for live with the keyboard split between different sounds using Logic Mainstage.

M-Audio Keystation 32 Mini USB Keyboard controller

A recent purchase to sit neatly on my desk alongside the Artist series. Mini keys but gives me almost 3 octaves. I very rarely play a performance piece on our tracks so mainly used to play parts which are then manipulated / repeated in logic. I’m a very lazy keyboard player and if anything my playing ability has deteriorated over time.

Korg MS-20 Controller (controller for software)

For me, something that looks pretty on a shelf – have used it live but only as a USB controller. Nice to have though and quite rare apparently.

Sennheiser HD-600 headphones

I had some very nice Dynaudio BM 6 A’s monitors but rarely had the opportunity to have them on simply because my studio is in a loft space right above my daughters bedroom. I mostly work in the evenings so therefore use headphones, I had to buy something decent and these came recommended by Gareth Jones. They’re very good and extremely comfortable. I read an article a while ago that around 70% of music is consumed on headphones so therefore I see no issue with mixing completely on headphones. As a reference I always use the car stereo though but if anything I’m very critical of my own mixes


Apple Logic Pro – 9.2

I would say the industry standard, I’m just hoping they don’t do the same as FinalCut Pro X and dumb down the pro side and make it more like Garage Band. That would be a shame. It does need an interface overhaul and an update is overdue.

The synths and effects included as part of this package are really good, I’ve never installed the Apple loops as they take up quite a bit of disk space. I much prefer to start with a blank canvas and see what comes rather than loading loops.

Korg Legacy Collection, MS-20, Polysix & Wavestation
Korg Legacy MonoPoly

I had a Wavestation keyboard back in the day which was great, this is a completely faithful rendition as the original was also digital, however I don’t think I’ve used this on anything since having the software version. I do use the MS-20, Polysix and Mono/Poly quite a bit though.

G-Force impOSCar 1 & 2

Probably my favourite software synth, version 2 is a nice upgrade. I use this mostly for lead or melody sounds, usually doubled-up and detuned. I also created a sound that I’ve used on many tracks. I named it MuteSound, I was messing one day and found a sound that for me seemed to encompass many of the sounds that came from Speak and Spell era, no doubt created by Daniel Miller. I’ve used it on probably 5 tracks to date. You can hear it on our track Daggers, just at the end of the verse where Sarah sings…”and the Daggers took a while to remove” it’s panned slightly to the left. The sound is even more authentic when routed through the ARP 2600 spring reverb.

G-Force Oddity

Most of the sounds from this are quite Odd so an apt name, it’s doesn’t behave like many synths I know. Not sure how close it is to the original, used this for a few fast attack sequence sounds and the odd bass.

G-Force Minimonsta

Rarely used this, bought this before the Arturia V Collection came out.

Arturia V Collection
Prophet 5
Moog Modular
ARP – 2600
Oberheim SEM

I turn to this collection quite a bit, in particular the CS-80, Mini Moog and Moog Modular. Typically use presets as a starting point and tweak. I got quite carried away with the Moog Modular one day and created a sound that is identical to the main sound in DM’s “Waiting for the night” – obviously never used it but it’s there just in case.

Rob Papen – Albino

Nice for arpeggios and atmospheres, not that we use that much atmospheric stuff in the NK material. But for the commercial library music I do I use this quite a bit.

Novation – V-Station

I think this was the first non Apple VST I bought, hardly use it – I find it’s a bit too dancey and techno sounding.

SSL – Duende Native, Channel Strip & Bus Compressor

Couldn’t do without this, I had the hardware version but then SSL decided to launch a native version that wasn’t dependant upon it’s own hardware. Seems to actually work much better than the original. Compression and EQ for vocals and most things.

Celemony – Melodyne

Probably the most used bit of software in my studio, but shhh don’t tell Sarah ;-)