So, my new setup! I figured I would write about this, because people ask me what I use and how it all fits together a fair bit, so I figure it must be interesting to someone out there. Get ready for some serious nerd business, complete with bad cameraphone pictures.
First, the boring stuff. I’ve just upgraded my PC, which is obviously the heart of the whole setup. It’s got an i7 CPU, all kinds of rams and hard drives and what not. I’m up and running with Win7 Ultimate x64, which has been giving me a bit of hassle over the last week, but I think I’ve ironed out most of my problems now. Most of my initial problems were with …
… this, a MOTU 896HD. It’s from the studio that a band that I played for a million years ago built. They are touchy things, and have given a few of us a lot of headaches over the last few years – but when it works, it’s a fantastic audio interface. Eight ins and outs make it possible for me to permanently patch in a couple of the samplers I use a lot, which saves the time and hassle of cable-swapping. The unit underneath it is a Kawai K4r, which I picked up on the cheap a few years back. It’s an interesting little synth, but I only really use it for pad type sounds – the sort of thing that I don’t have much need for. Good to have options though. It’s on the Moderate Rock album a fair bit.
My children 😀 On the bottom we have one of the first Access Virus desktop modules. The synth on top is my beloved Roland System 100, which at the moment is a two oscillator beast, as I’ve only got one of the 102 expander modules. You can read more tech specs and such over here on vintagesynth. It’s an absolute monster of a synth, and I’ve used it on damn near every single DOS4GW track. The filters are pretty good, but the main reason that I love it is the rawness of the square waves that it generates, and the way the VCA just cranks. PWM POWER ACTIVATE!
Here we have a Casio CZ3000, an 80s-tastic FM thingy. I don’t use it heaps, but it has come in very handy on occasion. Underneath is an Ensoniq Mirage, which I also fucking love. It was the first consumer-grade keyboard sampler, and I love some of the factory sounds – the pipe organ disc that I’ve got is amazing. I’ve made some pretty destructive basses with it too, mostly by sampling the System100 or Virus into it.
Samplers! On top, an Akai S3000XL, which is a pretty standard classic. It’s got eight outs, so in theory it would be awesome for running heaps of shit at once, but I only ever do things one sound at a time, so a lot of the features are somewhat wasted on me. It’s quite a clean sounding sampler, so I don’t use it heaps, but it’s still worthy of a spot in the rack – unlike the U220 piece of crap underneath it that I can’t even remember why I’ve got. Should take that out really.
At the bottom of the rack is a much more interesting little beast, my Akai S612. I think this is my all time favourite sampler. Ignore what vintagesynth says about it being unusable these days – they are usually reliable but it’s a fucking interesting machine to say the least. It’s only “limited” by your imagination. Front mounted inputs, which is handy; fuck all sample time, but it sounds disgusting. The real killer is the way you set sample start/end points; there’s a slider for each! How awesome is that? It makes for some fucking amazing synth tweaking and modulation possibilities, because the sliders change the start/end points in real time. Hook an arpeggiator up to it, sample in a disgusting sound from somewhere, and just go to town on those bad boys. It really is fucking amazing – a real case of a technical ‘limitation’ having heaps of creative potential.
I’m not just using those rack units as a monitor stand (although they are helpful in that regard). The silver unit is a dbx 376 (not a review, sadly, nothing interesting really turned up) – tube preamp eq, compressor/de-esser, and it’s awesome. Every synth I record goes through this before it hits the hard drive. It’s also brilliant for giving a bit of life to vocals. The preamp sounds great when you give it a bit of rizz. DANGER, EQ CLIP. Underneath the dbx is another sampler, a Roland S-220. It’s a quirky little thing, which has an alpha-dial like an Alpha Juno to edit parameters, which is a bit annoying, but I think it’s my most used sampler – the sound is a good combination of lo fi dust, dirt and years past, but not as barnacle-laden as the Mirage or S612. The “limiter” switch comes in very handy too.
Lastly we have one of the newest additions to my setup. Having a window to the outside world is something that I’ve never had in a studio space before, and I love it now. I’m easily distracted at the best of times, so that’s occasionally a problem, but having natural light in what is traditionally my nerd cave makes a huge difference to my mood. I strongly recommend it.
It’s not much, but it’s home. So this begs the question: What does your nerd cave look like? It doesn’t have to be music related. Every nerd has his or her cave. Share it with me!
You too, Bunj.