Issue 93


Ableton Live 12
What’s in. What’s out. What to expect.


Top 5: Tim Palmer

We ask studio pros to tell us about their Top 5 most indispensable studio items.


28 September 2021

Producer and mixing engineer, Tim Palmer (U2, Robert Plant, Ozzy Osbourne, Tears For Fears), talks us through his five essential studio tools.


The set up in my mixing room is definitely a hybrid set up. There’s something about the audio leaving the Avid 192 interfaces and going through an analogue signal chain that appeals to me. I’m not getting the colouration from tape, but I am sending the digital audio through an analogue circuit. I have racks of Tonelux, and a Tonelux summing system, I really love the way it sounds.

One of the most important parts of my mix bus is a GML Stereo Equalizer. I used it in all the old school studios and have used it in my home studios ever since! It is a classic piece of gear to me.

When you are searching for the perfect highs to add to a mix, some equalizers don’t feel like they’re connected to the music, the frequencies feel alien to the sound, too surgical. The GML finds the sweet spot, it’s musical and it’s just so rewarding. My GML is part of every mix I do. Most of the time the GML is basically adding some of its beautiful top end, and a little bit more in the low end, while at other times I may be notching something specific out, but the GML is always present in my mix chain. One of the best pieces of gear I’ve ever bought!



I can’t finish a mix without hearing it through my Genelec 1031A speakers. I was asked recently how old my speakers were and I couldn’t remember so I unscrewed the plate at the back and had a look to find out. And it turned out they are 30 years old now. That’s an amazing endorsement for a set of speakers. Even though I have had them for so long they’ve never broken and still sound great to me. I’ve tried replacing them a few times during the years, but I find a lot of modern speakers to be too harsh and digital sounding, even when the source material is analogue. The Genelec 1031As have enough top end and enough brightness, while retaining a sense of musicality.

One of my favourite things to do when concentrating on a playback is to switch off the computer’s visual monitor. Just use your ears. The difference in perception is astounding. People are listening too much with their eyes these days, and it’s very easy to be distracted when you see the waveform on the screen. Power down the monitor, close your eyes and listen to the music, there’s a whole other dimension there. Adding your eyes to that brain circuit just changes the way you hear and perceive music. So disconnect the eyes, listen with just your ears and remember that after the song leaves the studio, nobody is going to see the audio ever again.


When mixing, my Kemper sits very close to me! It’s such an important piece of kit. If I have an idea for a texture or a guitar double, or maybe if I want to add some tremolo to a part, the Kemper is ready to go! The massive bank of sounds within the Kemper are easy to recall, and flexible which makes getting to work simple.

I’ve always believed that detail is subjective, while emotional space is vital. You can fine tune things to the point where you are only dealing with personal taste. The emotional space, whether it’s a distorted, clean or treated, sets the character immediately. The Kemper gives me all the emotional spaces that I need and fast.

I’ve never been a guitar snob or guitar amp snob, I appreciate the classics, but for me, the Kemper does everything that it needs to do. Adjusting the delays, the reverbs, and tapping the tempo are simple. To be honest, in most cases you would be hard pushed to tell the difference between the Kemper and the original modelled sound.


The Soundtoys bundle has at least one plug-in used on pretty much every mix I do. There are so many amazing manipulators of sound within that package. I particularly enjoy the Crystallizer, I often use that when I’m looking for some sort of keyboard texture. I just tuck it in just to elevate a certain section — it’s very floaty and cool. The Decapitator is useful for adding distortion or harmonics to things that I feel needs more edge. EchoBoy Jr is my go-to delay. I love the fact it provides that sort of ‘old warm’ delay, then you can saturate and crunch it up a little. I also enjoy the Little Plate which is an excellent, very basic reverb plug-in. Quite often the simplest plug-ins are actually the ones to go to, there’s a lot less to get wrong! I love the Tremolator and often use it to get some more rhythmical elements moving within a song — the Feel button really dials it in. Little Radiator is, again, another useful plug that gives a bit more overdrive and just a bit more edge to a vocal or to a guitar. PanMan is a mainstay which is a simple panner but with lots of control. There are so many treasures inside that bundle.


I’m not one of these people who romanticises too heavily about the days of analogue and the fidelity of the traditional tape machines. Back in those days, there was a lot of compromise, and there were many things we couldn’t actually achieve or control. When recording to tape, you colour the sound, and when the tape becomes saturated, you essentially compress it too. This ‘distortion’ was something that was unavoidable, desirable at times, but not always ordered.

Now with digital recording and especially Pro Tools, you can actually make decisions about how much saturation and distortion you wish to add to the sound! You can also play around with the actual parts and performances! Move parts around, nudge the timing, really mess with the emotion. There is so much less compromise and more surgical control of so many things, from fader moves to control of sibilance! I don’t think I could mix without this power now.

In today’s world of mixing, being able to get back, recall and tweak a mix is imperative, with Pro Tools this is now an easy task, in the ’80s we took hours trying to get a mix back, and it wasn’t that accurate.


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Issue 93


Ableton Live 12
What’s in. What’s out. What to expect.