Recording Tip From Justin Stanley

Aug 18, 2003 12:00 PM, Editors


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Producer Justin Stanley has recently finished up production work for The Vines, Nikka Costa and the Blue Crush soundtrack. Here’s his take on recording in the digital domain: “By now, everyone’s realized how far digital recording technology has come, especially with 96 kHz. You can process digital sound and end up with an analog-type sound. The real ‘organic-ness’ comes from how you approach recording—how you put the music down—rather than the actual recording equipment.”

To capture this organic feeling, Stanley follows the artist’s lead. “I think it’s important to listen to the people you’re working with and understand what makes them tick. With some musicians, like The Vines, you just let them do their thing and try to keep up. I’ve got my studio arranged so everything’s set up, miked and ready to go. If someone wants to jump on the drum kit that second, for example, it’s already miked up and we can throw it down.”

With other artists, the emphasis is on musical exploration. “Working with Nikka [Costa] involves a lot of experimentation,” he said. “She likes to go where she’s never gone before, so we try every song three or four different ways, from a ballad to the funkiest thing you’ve ever heard, just to see what works best. I try to follow the artist’s path rather than being the producer who’s trying to control everything.”

Commenting on the technical side, Stanley is enthusiastic about recent improvements in the sound quality of digital audio. “I’ve been tracking at 96 kHz on a Yamaha 02R96, and I can definitely hear a difference,” he said. “It sounds tighter, with a sweeter top end. The sound feels more dimensional. I had recorded some stuff at 24/44.1 kHz and redid it at 96 kHz, and there was a real difference in the sound quality, especially with the acoustic instruments. The air around them and the depth of the sounds themselves were significantly improved. When the original 02R came out, I was blown away. But at that time, I was really into the analog side of things, and I didn’t have an opportunity to play around with it. But now, with the 02R96, it’s amazing. I like the mic preamps a lot, and the onboard EQ isn’t too harsh. It’s very subtle, so you can tweak things just a little bit. Same with the compressors: I can use them just to hold things together, without necessarily slamming them. I’m not really technical; I’m not the kind of person who likes to dive into the manual. I want it all in front of me. With the 02R96, all the controls are right there: It’s easy to use, and I can just throw things down. For someone who hasn’t come up being an engineer and the technical side of things, it’s pretty straightforward.”

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