Nov 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Rick Clark
While I was over at Kyle Lehning's The Compound studio recently, I discovered that they had used Gary Hedden to fine-tune certain aspects of their studio. Hedden knows a lot more about music and recording than most folks who are in the industry, but he's one of those guys who doesn't talk himself up, so you almost have to bump into the many people who have employed his services and let them do the talking about him. Their opinion of his work is always good. Since he first went into professional audio some 40 years ago, Hedden has engineered well over a thousand albums and CDs. His achievements include five Grammy
Besides his dealings with Lehning, Hedden's studio design work includes clients such as Adrian Belew, Chester Thompson, Michael Omartian, Bruce Sudanno (Donna Summer), Ed Cash, County Q (Berry Hill, Tenn.), Dark Horse Studios in Franklin and Moraine Music in Nashville. He was also responsible for the acoustic and technical systems design of the new Grace Chapel in Leiper's Fork, Tenn. Recently, Hedden has been doing quite a bit of consulting work focused on subwoofer systems, thanks to his 20-plus-year association with Bag End. “Bag End has a couple of home theater-powered setups that are in the $1,500 range. The professional realm involves a line-level processor, a power amp of your choice and an ELF driver sized to the amount of output you need,” explains Hedden. “Madison Square Garden has one of these Bag End systems, with 64 18-inch speakers for the low end. But they also make a single 10-inch cabinet, which is fine for a very small room. Because of the process involved, the frequency response is identical between the two. You choose the driver based on how much acoustic output you need.”
Besides wrapping up work on Clint Black's studio, Hedden also completed a Bag End system install for Ricky Skaggs' studio. “Everybody has their favorite near-field console speakers, but they often don't deliver the low end that's needed,” says Hedden. “These days, we are quite interested in what is down there. In the old days, nobody seemed to care. Now, everybody at home can hear it. We have to be more careful and know what is there.”
While I was talking with Hedden, Lee Groitzsch, the studio manager and an engineer for Skaggs' studio, drove up. The timing couldn't have been better, so I asked him about the installation and if it made a difference. “It has definitely been a life-saver,” he says. “It has helped us out tremendously, because we had a hard time hearing the low end in there, which was probably more of a problem with the room dimensions than anything else. But with the Bag End system and our Tannoy AMS-10s, it's a really good complement. The last two records we did and mastered since the installation of the Bag End sound incredible. This helps us get the right information on tape, and when we go to mix, we are really able to address all of the frequencies in a way that the mastering guys are thrilled about.” (One of those albums was Ricky Skaggs Live at Charleston Music Hall, while the other was a trio gospel record with Ricky's wife, Sharon, Connie Smith and Barbara Fairchild.) Besides doing the Skaggs studio and other related design, installation and consulting, Hedden also has engineered scores of remote recordings for artists from DC Talk and Wynonna to George Jones and Paul Stookey. Much of his remote work was done with the GHL truck, which he built in the mid-'80s around the time he moved here from Columbus, Ohio. Hedden sold the 40-foot trailer in 1998 to David Habegger of Tampa-based Watermark Communications Inc.
“My interests changed, and I decided to sell the truck,” says Hedden. “David ended up being the purchaser, and we became friends as a result. He modernized it with some major improvements in gear and it is quite a fine showplace of audio these days.” Habegger, who has more than 25 years of recording experience, told me, “We do a lot of gospel — black gospel and contemporary Christian — and we also do a lot of audio for video production. We've done a Britney Spears concert from the truck, as well as live telecast events like awards shows and different things where they need some fairly serious audio for broadcast, including a large, several-week-long simulcast event at Madison Square Garden. We are pretty much all over the place.”
The Watermark truck features an 80-input Amek Rembrandt console; 72 tracks of RADAR; Genelec, Dynaudio Acoustic and Bag End monitors; and a load of new and classic gear. Habegger is particularly enthused about RADAR: “We've jumped very heavily onto RADAR. As far as I know, we are the only remote truck in the country that has six units that live onboard. I typically have those six units configured as two 72-track systems when we are tracking live; we have both systems running independently for a primary and a backup. That said, it could be configured to run 144 tracks of RADAR live. We have the 96kHz converters and all of the software upgrades.
“From a live recording perspective, the only way I would talk about hard disk recording was if somebody could prove reliability. RADAR was the one format doing that, plus it sounds great, too, which is always a benefit,” says Habegger with a laugh.
Recently, Habegger (firstname.lastname@example.org) opened a new office in Franklin, Tenn. Contact information is 615/794-5246, 813/986-4477 (Tampa), http://watermarkinc.net. While Hedden isn't formally involved with Watermark, the friendship between him and Habegger has been a helpful and deciding factor in bringing the truck to the Nashville area.
“Gary [Hedden] has been a really strong contact for us here. Ironically, at a time when Nashville is probably not looking for more new recording businesses, it has been a good thing for people to be encouraging us to come up here and get involved,” explains Habegger. “While most of what we do is out of town, more and more of our contacts are working out of this area, and we are also seeing a convenience factor of being based out of this area and traveling out, as opposed to being based in Florida, which is the far corner of the country. We're obviously trying to expand our client base and serve some of the clients that we're picking up in this area. The truck will just go back and forth and that is the beauty of it being mobile: I can run wherever it needs to go.”
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