Top 5: Stuart Epps
In a career spanning more than five decades, English producer and engineer Stuart Epps has worked with some of the music world’s greatest superstars, including the likes of Robbie Williams, Oasis, Cliff Richard, George Harrison, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Twisted Sister, and many, many more. Taking time out from his busy schedule, he recently sat down with AudioTechnology to discuss his five essential studio tools.
By Joe Matera
7 September 2023
SYNTRILLIUM SOFTWARE ‘COOL EDIT PRO’ DAW
Clive Franks, a good friend of mine, and a renowned live engineer suggested the Cool Edit system to me. It’s an incredibly simplistic and digital. It’s more like a digital multi track to be honest, but I’ve been using it for maybe 20 years now. I find it totally adequate and brilliant — and I find I can still do some of the things I used to in the old days.
I don’t use a lot of equipment; I use my experience and knowledge in getting sounds together. I work with a lot of artists from all over the world. They’ll send me their WAV files and, to be honest, I’m sometimes horrified at the terrible quality of some of their recordings. And I have to tell them that their recording is worse than when I was recording on a Revox system in 1965.
We’ve come a long way since then, as far as sound quality goes, but I’m happy with that because then I can then get them a better sound with Cool Edit. I love it to bits. The things I can do with it are almost limitless. Though having limitless capabilities is not always the best thing, sometimes you need some sort of parameter that can tell you when to stop recording.
TIMEWORKS ‘REVERB 4080L’ PLUGIN
I used to use the original Lexicon 244 reverb when I was working at The Mill with Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin, and it was a phenomenal piece of kit. I think someone gave me this plug-in version and it is the only reverb I use. But the thing with reverb is that it’s a very necessary piece of equipment, one way or another. It’s good to get to know your piece of equipment and this plug-in, I know very well. I wouldn’t say that it’s the same quality as the hardware version but it’s definitely one that I love to bits.
AKG ‘C 414’ MICROPHONE
It’s pretty MUCH the only microphone I use. They call this a ‘C12A’ and it’s actually the same shape as a C12, but the difference with this one is that it came from The Rolling Stones mobile unit from 1970. It has a power supply, which is what makes it different to the normal 414, but this one’s also had David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Paul Rogers and an unbelievable amount of people singing in it. It’s a smoother microphone than a normal 414. Whenever I’ve used the 414, I found it to be quite harsh and very bright sounding, whereas this one isn’t like that. Maybe it’s because of all the people sneezing into it over the years, I don’t know. One way or another, it’s got a beautiful sound and whoever sings in it sounds great, and it also works well on acoustic guitar and other acoustic instruments too.
YAMAHA ’NS-10 M’ MONITOR SPEAKERS
About thirty years ago, when we were at The Mill Studios, some band or artist asked, ‘Do you have any Yamaha NS-10 monitors?’ I’d never heard of them so they would say, ‘We’ve been using them lately and they’re great’. I eventually rang Yamaha and asked about them but they’d stopped making them. I told them that they should resume making them again because they seem to be getting very popular. Anyway, they then became the standard in every studio on the planet.
Because monitoring is unbelievably important, I’ve tried all sorts of monitors over the years. You’ve got to have monitors that you trust, monitors that you know, monitors that you can work with, and I haven’t found anything better than the NS-10s. I don’t have the tissue paper over the front, which obviously did look a bit strange as well, but they’re my favourite speaker and the only ones I use.
YAMAHA ‘CLAVINOVA’ PIANO
I am showing my age here, but I was there when synthesisers were invented. Prior to this we were using acoustic pianos, electric pianos, Hammond C3s, Hammond B3s, the Clavinet and electric piano. I eventually bought myself this Clavinova and though it’s fairly simple, it’s got some great acoustic sounds. It has a pretty good piano sound, and I even use it for drums because it’s got good bass and snare drum sounds. Having been through all the years of standing around a synthesiser for hours trying to find a sound, I now come from the school of using the minimum amount of equipment for its maximum potential because anything more will drive you mad.