Top 5: Guus Hoevenaars
Newmarket Studio manager, producer and engineer, Guus Hoevenaars (2 x Emmy winner, Bafta nominated, Kingswood, Vance Joy, Courtney Barnett), nominates his top five studio tools.
17 December 2021
NEUMANN U67 VALVE CONDENSER MICROPHONE
This is my favourite piece of gear in the studio. It’s a classic Neumann U67 valve microphone that’s been modified by the DEX. I’m not sure exactly what they did but they’d typically say ‘This doesn’t make sense, we can get more headroom out of the capsule by doing this. We can get more level out of the amplifier by doing that’. They’re great at optimising the way microphone capsules are loaded. They also make sure there are really good valves in all their mics. A U67 always sounds great but this particular one is really special. I used it on pop vocals for TK Maidza, drum overhead for Kingswood, piano for Jess Hitchcock, and I really like it on the lower strings like cello and double bass. I also used it on the Clickbait sound track. It’s such a versatile mic.
EMT 140 MECHANICAL PLATE REVERB
There is something special about a real plate reverb. When you are dealing with time-based effects like reverbs, the sound is so complex it’s impossible to model or even sample. An acoustic plate reverb is just so thick and lush. It makes everything sound incredible! What I often do these days is compress what’s going into the plate so I get more headroom out of it and that fattens it up even more. If I’m recording to Pro Tools I’ll still bring the returns back on the console and EQ it there before printing back to digital. Other times, I’ll also run it through the two-track tape machine, drive it a bit there and use the tape delay at 15ips before I hit the plate which I think Eddie Kramer used to do on the Jimi Hendrix records. I can get the signal a bit saturated and shaped with that pre-delay before it hits the reverb. I have interns and assistants coming through who haven’t really experienced the old analogue stuff and they’ll say ‘Oh we can do it with a plug-in’, and then I set up the plate and they generally change their tune: ‘Ah okay this a whole different world’. I think we’ll get there eventually with digital but we’re not there yet.
UNDERTONE UNFAIRCHILD STEREO COMPRESSOR
I was looking for a master compressor for the studio and also for myself. I wanted something special that really stood out as a great piece of gear. I did a lot of listening and eventually I decided the Unfairchild was the one. There are a lot of older records I like, a lot of colour in those old recordings, and I didn’t want to go with one of the more modern sounding compressors like an SPL or a Shadow Hills. It’s a bit harder here in Australia to listen to high-end gear because there’s not so much of it around and distributors can be a little more reluctant to loan out pieces. Anyway, I pretty much settled on the Unfairchild after listening to it a lot on YouTube. Then I called Undertone and had a really good chat with them about what I wanted. They told me about their philosophy and ideas, and I got a really good feel for what they were doing as a company and I decided to bite the bullet. When I first plugged it in and ran a vocal and then a mix through it, the difference was like day and night. It’s the same thing as the plate really. I had another chat with Undertone after the unit arrived and they told me a whole bunch of stuff about how to set it up, what to drive at which point and how you can manipulate it. It’s just such a versatile compressor. Now it gets used on everything because you can track through it and then, of course, it’s a wonderful master bus compressor. The Undertone guys really care about their customers and I love the passion they have for the gear they make. They even sent out ventilation strips with it to make sure the tubes don’t overheat. They want everything to be right, which is basically my motto.
ATC SCM25A STUDIO MONITORS
When I started looking at monitors I tried a bunch of different options. Choosing the ATCs was a real journey. When I first had them in the studio, I just didn’t get them. I had some PMCs here as well and I ended up deciding the ATCs just weren’t for me, at least not yet, and that I couldn’t afford them anyway, so I sent them back. I did some more listening and some more thinking, and then half a year later I had them in again and they stayed. One of the things I love about the ATCs is that they’re an all-analogue system. A lot of modern speakers have conversion on the way in, they do some digital processing in there and then use Class-D amplifiers to spit out the audio. I think having that extra layer of conversion/processing dilutes your decision making. With the ATCs you just hear things straight away. You put up a mic and you can respond — ‘that’s not right’ or ‘that’s perfect’ — and you can make decisions like that really quickly. There’s no sense of ‘did I really hear something wrong?’. It’s just instant. I had them on the meterbridge but then I moved them out a little and they’re in more of a mid-field position now. I think there is still a bit of space for improvement with positioning but I haven’t had the time to revisit it yet.
GEFFEL M691 & M692 CONDENSER MICROPHONE SYSTEMS
I’d never recorded with these microphones before I came to Newmarket. They’re a microphone body and capsule system that can be fitted with true omni, true cardioid or dual capsule screw-on heads. I use them with special custom Dutch preamplifiers which are battery powered. Again they’ve been modified by Dex. We had two at the studio and I bought another four! I found this old German guy, Andreas Grosser, who does great work on the amplifiers and Siegfried Thiersch who does diaphragm re-skinning on the old Geffel stuff. I use these mics for drum overheads. You can hear them on Vance Joy’s ‘Missing Piece’, for example. They’re great on acoustic guitars and vocals too. I used them for choirs on Tones & I’s ‘Fly Away’. They’re also on the strings of The Newmarket Collective for the scores of The Newsreader and Fires. I record with the M58 true omni capsules when I record for Dolby Atmos.
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