Me in Studio B

Me in Studio B
If you were googling Undertone Audio and found my blog here, well...welcome! You should visit the official website,, but here you can follow my adventures as the crew and I build these mixing consoles, EQs and other oddities. Some, most or all of my work wouldn't be very interesting to a lot of people, but for recording junkies who get excited about vintage German tube mics, cool, eccentric compressors, studio history and some of the fun ins and outs of studio life, this could be for you. Hey, make it your home page and impress chicks! I can be reached at

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Finally Finally Finally!!!

It's been a long time and my blog is back! Finally number one... I'm posting again. Finally number two... The MPEQ-1s are coming out, seriously... I'm not kidding. Finally number three... I don't know, it just seemed better to have three of them.

There are lots of questions. First, why did I let my blog lay dormant while the world continued to turn and UTA kept busy? I needed a break from it for a number of reasons and I didn't want to update until I had news about the rackmount units.

Just before the AES show in October, we announced that we had MPEQ-1s... we did, we built ten of them and decided that we had better put them to use in the studio while Eric has been working on a record. They needed several months of serious scrutiny before we let any go out. That bought us much needed time to build another eighty of them. Years of research and development, testing custom transformers and building this stuff from scratch has finally brought the rackmount units to reality. It has been tough, folks. As Eric put it, in terms of design, one of these units is like a console unto itself.

Wow, have we learned the hard way what goes into manufacturing. After some serious time crunches, slow downs with some vendors who provide services or materials for us and at times, struggling to keep up here, we have had to re-evaluate how to manage people, parts and schedules. While all this was going on, we built another console.

What Have I Been Up To?
As this blog has offered a very honest, personal insight into my career, which is at the center of my life, I have written about personal issues including the crashing and burning of my health about a year ago. While I haven't posted in a long time, readers have been asking if I am alright. Thank you for the concern! I am doing extremely well now. I made some serious lifestyle changes -I watch what I eat, I don't drink and I get exercise. I'm not a kid anymore, but I'm young enough that it wasn't too late to turn things around. I'm very lucky! Take it from me, kids, take care of yourselves!

My blog writing led to a side career as a journalist. We had a party at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco the last night of AES and the folks from Sonicscoop came by (Remember, they ran an article about Eric and UTA last year) and one of them mentioned that they were looking for another person who knows a lot about LA recording studios and writes... well, all the pieces fit into place and I have written a few articles for them since November. The first one was about my friend, Ian Sefchick, a brilliant tech at Capitol, the second was about The Fortress, a new studio in downtown where my friends, Max Coane and Chandler Harrod, work and more recently, Janice Brown (the editor at Sonicscoop who has been working with me) and I co-wrote an article about Larrabee Studios

As my workload at Undertone Audio and Barefoot Recording is my priority, Anthony Houser was able to take over working with Jon Brion and Greg Koller. That has made my schedule more manageable and has allowed me more time to take on pursuits that are not work related, which was much needed. I want to get into some of the details of what UTA has been doing the last six months, so here goes.

As soon as we finished Jason Elgin's console, we built our first batch of UnFairchilds. We put them up for sale on the website and sold out within one minute and 22 seconds. We knew people wanted them, but wow... it was a frenzy.

We had a good time in San Francisco. This last trip was not stressful like 2010 was -that's because we didn't drag a fully operational mixing console with us and let me tell you, we are never doing that again. It seemed our entire hotel was full of people from the convention. I was roommates with Eric and Brian McCurry (Platinum Audio Rentals) and Wade Goeke (Chandler) were in the room right beneath us. It would have been fun to prank them somehow, but I never got around to it, sadly. We won a best in show award for the UnFairchild, though, so that was cool. We had a blast at our party -Tiny Telephone Studios was very unique and the crew there was a lot of fun.

Me with Michael Ward of Hyde Street Studios (middle) and Stephen Jarvis (far right)
Fraser T. Smith's Console, The LC32-FTS
Of all the consoles we have built, this one went the smoothest. We built it upstairs, which made things more comfortable. The upstairs at Barefoot Recording is a huge loft apartment with a full kitchen, a bathroom with a shower, a big comfy sofa and a bunch of other amenities. It was a place for artists to hang out while recording, but UTA took it over, so now we have the best tech shop ever.

The console was delivered to Fraser's studio in London in February and Eric was there for a few days to commission it. This console was interesting, since it is a sidecar as opposed to the centerpiece of the studio, it wasn't originally going to have the porous metal faceplates; it was going to be the first console without them, but Fraser saw how Jason's console looked and wanted his to be similar.

This was, however, the first console to have stereo input modules. There are 32 channels total, sixteen with EQ and sixteen in the new stereo layout. He had a scaled down master section, which made this console easier to build -he has a tube stereo buss and a stereo buss insert, but no control room level... just a pair of faders for the mix. This console is very cool and its layout would work for a lot of people: There are no buss sends, just one stereo aux on each channel, no solo buss and each channel has a large, square, illuminated cut switch.

He has an interesting, new feature for his stereo buss assigning: Each channel is assigned using a custom paddle switch and the panning is strictly L-C-R. Here's the neat feature... There is an additional stereo buss that feeds a stereo compressor side chain. When a cut switch is engaged, both busses stop sending. When the main buss send is turned off, the side chain buss continues to send, that way, if he prints stems, the stereo compressor will always react as though the entire mix was feeding it... pretty clever. Here's more info

MPEQ-1 Attack!
Here is what has kept us preoccupied for quite awhile... these rackmount mic pres and EQs. These mic pres sound amazing and are quite an addition to the arsenal. They are completely class A, have an input transformer that is bypass-able and there is a DI mode. The EQs are exactly the same as those in the consoles and we have added an additional output -you can choose from transformerless or use the balanced transformer out. We think you're going to like these... a lot!

We are going to release them to the public on Friday, April 5th on our website at noon (Pacific Time). Here is info on pricing and more specs I have been testing and inspecting these things inside and out. I'm almost finished and we have less than a week to go to wrap up this batch of them.

Testing time
I know... the stacks are crooked
So whats going on at Barefoot? Eric finished tracking Nightmare and the Cat's first album and is heading into mixing now. The band has been a blast, so it's a little sad it's over. The album showcases our new mic pres and I'll keep everyone posted when it's released. It's been pretty crazy busy here with building all of these rackmount units. Studio A has been in full swing, Matt working in Studio B and Cian in his new room (formerly the studio's office, which had originally been a mastering room during the Crystal Recording days). It's quieting down a little and after we ship out the MPEQ-1s, I'm going to focus on organizing the UTA shop and get to work on the next projects.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

UTA Forums

Now you can spend every free minute of your life on our new UTA forum... Eric, Cian, me, the rest of the Undertone Audio crew and you can stay up all night chatting! None of us are ever going to get any sleep ever again!

You can:
*Draw Roger into protracted arguments
*Ask us technical questions
*Get or share tips on using the unusual features of your UTA gear
*Try to pick up women in other countries

So register and let the fun begin!


UTA MPEQ-1 Finally Being Released!

The MPEQ-1 is going to AES with us this month, then into the hands of everyone who wants them! The first 100 have the iconic porous bronze faceplate (We know it doesn't serve an acoustic purpose here... it's just for fun), our new mic pre/DI and the same amazing 4 band EQ and filters that are in our consoles. As usual, we have a few extra tricks up our sleeves!

We'll keep everyone posted as to when and how to grab them,