Digital & Analog Recording


Sections:


The Premises
Silverbirch Productions is located in the Harbourfront area of downtown Toronto in the Arcadia Artist’s Co-operative at 680 Queens Quay West (Lakeshore/Bathurst). The facility is on the sixth floor with both a city and harbour view. The studio is centrally air conditioned and a waiting area with a kitchenette is adjacent to the control room. A private direct phone line, fax machine and an internet connection are available for clients. There is often street parking and several reasonably priced parking lots in the area.

The office, also next to the studio, is conveniently located for those of our clients who are working on CD graphics and/or manufacturing with us. There is always time during a session to check with one of our staff on the progress of your job.
The Studio
Over the last few years, we have fine tuned our equipment, engineering skills and setup to the point where our work compares sonically to many fine facilities, at any price. So, the last step was to create a new space that sounded better and was more comfortable for the clients than our old space.

So we enlisted Terry Medwedyk, of Group One Acoustics, one of Canada’s premiere studio designers, to make a new floor plan for our commercial space and to design our new studio.

The space was gutted and rebuilt in january and February of 2004.

Our regular clients tell us the results are stunning!
Control Room
This bright, comfortable room is shaped like a small amphitheatre and features curves, large angled windows, multi-level ceilings, walnut trim and earthtone fabrics. Our custom cherry desk was made specifically to house the outboard gear in a convenent and pleasing manner.
Overdub Room
At Silverbirch, we specialize in overdubbing and mixing and so we don’t have a room suitable for drum kits. We do, however, have a beautifully designed recording room which is big enough to handle vocals, percussion, light guitar work, string bass, cello, etc. The room is big enough for three singers comfortably. The decor matches the control room and also features large windows which look out onto the Toronto Harbour. The typical vocal recording set-up is a Neumann U87—>Manley Dual Mono Tube Preamplifier or Millennia HV-3C Solid State Preampifier—>Manley Vari-Mu Compressor–>LavryGold AD122-96MKIII 24/96 bit converter—>Pro Tools HD.
Bed Track Recording
For those projects which require a larger set-up, we have arrangements with other studios. Option 1 is to record to 24 track 2 inch tape (ask about our recycled tape option), option 2 is to record to Tascam D-88’s and option 3 is to record directly to Pro Tools. The studios we recommend are familiar with our requirments so you are assured of the same quality throughout the whole recording process. If recorded via option 1 or 2, the beds are subsequently transferred to our Pro Tools system to continue with the recording With option 3, firewire drives or data backup is the most efficient way to get the files to us. If none of the above options are suitable for your project, we can suggest several other studios with different gear, rooms and price ranges for your consideration.

Why use two studios to produce your album? Because the quality of the work at Silverbirch, as an overdub and mixing room , is seldom matched by any other studio in our price range and so it pays to spend more per hour for the beds and save on the rest of the process.
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An Outline of The Way it Works
Silverbirch is a Pro Tools HD based studio and most operations are controlled from Pro Tools on the Macintosh. This puts graphical editing, pitch correction/shifting, timing adjustment, and all of our mastering tools a few clicks of the mouse away at all times. Most single instruments or voices are recorded to disk, and then processed, if necessary.

Recording direct to disk in Pro Tools opens up many incredible possibilities; a virtually unlimited number of takes can be recorded on to the same track, and then can be quickly edited into one take. The need for precisely coordinated punch-ins is eliminated. This gives you unlimited freedom to try to perfect a track without the risk of erasing any part of the old one.

With graphical editing, we can see the performance, and move the punch in points in a track until they are seamless. Editing is so precise that it is often possible to replace a syllable in the middle of a word in a vocal track! Volume changes and panning can be painted in for tracks which need to be evened out for mixing. All of the other limitations of tape disappear when recording this way. Any section of a take can be slipped from one track to another instantly, i.e., the first line of the first chorus can be copied to the following choruses in seconds. These features make the recording process far less tedious, more accurate and extremely efficient. Using this system can cut a significant number of hours from your recording budget.

Use of the Waves mastering tools on individual tracks or sub mixes adds an important dimension to our work that just isn’t possible in the average studio. The Renaissance and the Linear Phase Equalizers are high quality fully parametric equalizer with 5 types of filters. The Renaissance Compressor, C4 multiband compressor or Linear Phase multiband can be used as either as a frequency selective dynamic processor, taking care of processes such as de-essing, and selective “equalization”, or as a traditional wideband compressor, expander or gate. The L2and L3 are sophisticated peak limiters and volume maximizers. We own a great number of Waves plug-ins (Platinum and Masters Bundles), all of which are useful but too numerous to describe here, as well as scores of eq/compressors plug-ins from URS, Maassenburg, Sony Oxford, McDSP and Aphex, etc.

The SSL 4000 Bundle was recently acquired and is receiving rave reviews from our engineers.

The Waves Restoration Noise Reduction Toolkit is a quality set of TDM plug-ins that competes well with most high-end systems that have been considered “industry standard” for years. Four modules, “Click”, “Crackle”, “Hum” and “Noise” work individually or in any combination and run in real time, thus giving the engineer the opportunity to evaluate the results quickly and efficiently. The “Noise” module takes care of most broadband problems and is particularly effective reducing common types of digital and analog hiss. The other modules are more pertinent to vinyl restoration but the “Hum” module helps recording with various types of hum problems and the “Click” module will sometime remove digital clicks, thus saving redrawing waveforms by hand. By the way, if you are bringing audio tracks in that need noise reduction, please try and include a “sample” of the noise. In other words, do not cut the file tight to the music.

Other plug-ins of special note are Auto-Tune by Antares, SoundReplacer by Digidesign and Amp Farm by Line Six.

Auto-Tune is a high-end sophisticated real-time pitch controller. This device will automatically pitch correct vocals in real-time and, when used judiciously, is completely transparent. Auto-Tune is used on many major label recordings to assist vocalists that don’t have enough control of their pitch to work in the studio (!). It is also used by many excellent singers to avoid multiple retakes when one or two performances were spectacular but just had a few notes that were slightly out of tune.

Amp Farm is a most convincing software amp and cabinet “modeller”. All the major amps, both modern and vintage are available. You can mix and match them with all the popular cabinets plus at Silverbirch, you are recording direct through a $3,000. Manley Tube-Pre Amp. The advantage of Amp Farm is that although you can chose the sound you wish to hear when recording, the actual recorded signal will remain clean. When mixing, you can change to another amp and speaker cabinet that may suit the mix better after all the tracking is completed — now that’s flexibility!

SoundReplacer allows you to totally, or partially, replace individual drum sounds. The dynamics and timing of the original sounds are retained. The program works really well and fast. No longer do we have to use the original track to trigger samples to an outboard unit and feed it back into Pro Tools which makes the timing much tighter. Weak or poorly recorded drum sounds are often one of the biggest obstacles in obtaining a good mix so we would have to classify this software in the miracle category.

The Bomb Factory’s classic compressors (LA-2A & 1176) and the Pultec EQ according to one of our engineers who has actually used the real vintage outboard units, are closest in sound to the originals.

Pro Tools has become the defacto standard for recording/mixing work staions. Literally thousands of time saving and otherwise difficult or impossible tasks from the tape era are now able to be performed in the digital domain with ease. And besides, at higher sample rates, the sound is as good as the best analog tape, but more on that later.
We Also Love Analog, Especially Great Tube Gear!
Although our digital pug-ins are very sophisticated, sound great and are capable of tricks that the old studios took days to acomplish, there is something special about the sound of Class-A tube gear.

Over the last four years, we have invested thousands of dollars to acquire some new tube gear. While many studios have various versions of Pro Tools, our new analog chain of the Manley Tube Stereo Pre-Amp, Massive Passive Tube EQ and Variable MU Tube Comp/Limiter is simply not found in any other mid-priced facilities in Toronto. In fact, only a handful of the more expensive recording and mastering facilities have any Manley gear at all and their rates are three to four times ours! Folks, this is world-class gear that sounds really amazing!

These units are used for recording and mixing. For mixing, we have up to 16 analog inserts available in our large bantam patch bay so we can run selected channels from Pro Tools into our tube gear and back. If we need more channels of tube gear than are available, we just hard record the tracks through the gear into Pro Tools. Using this method, some our our mixes have a dozen or more of tracks that went through our great sounding analog chain!

One of the units we acquired was the Tube-Tech SMC-2B Vacuum Tube Multiband compressor. While there are many software versions of multiband compressors, this unit is the world’s first tube outboard unit and it sounds noticibly better than any software versions that we have tried. At over $6,000., its not cheap but in our opinion, it is well worth the price. The Tube-Tech was purchased mostly for our mastering work, but the recording engineers quickly learned how to use it in the multitrack set-up. For instance, when mixing a vocal that has some frequencies that unfavourably stick out of the mix, and you don’t want to compress the entire vocal, we can compress just specific areas of the vocal. The multiband compressor is also great for taming already mixed stereo loops that have to be combined with other elements of a mix. With the multiband compressor, you can squash the bottom, expand the mids and leave the top end (or any combination of ideas that work for the track).

Our Requisite L2M Tube Mastering Limiter/Expander compressor is simply the best unit that we have ever tried for compressing stereo mixes. There’s no pumping, little loss of top end and the compression can be rolled off the bottom end, allowing a more dynamic kick and bass, if appropriate. Of course it works extremely well as a traditional single track compressor too.

Recently we purchased the Dangerous 2-bus LT analog summing amplifier. Perhaps you have wondered why so many hit records that were created or finished using Pro Tools were mixed through high end analog boards instead of the internal mixer. The reason is that the only way to avoid subtle degradation and a “choked” sound in the digital domain is to not mix too hot into the digital 2-bus. This is certainly a viable way to mix but it doesn’t allow you to use the full resolution of the sample rate. Using the Dangerous unit with Pro Tools really does combine the best of analog and digital. We can still use all our great plug-ins within Pro Tools and then run the mix out of the workstation into the Dangerous unit. The summing of the tracks are then done in the analog domain which allows the digital channels to maintain their proper resolution on output. After that, the mix is usually sweetened with a pass through some of our great tube gear before returning to the Pro Tools stereo bus. The sound quality of the Dangerous unit is at least as good as any great analog board but is an affordable acquisition because it has absolutely no features (i.e., no eq, individual volume controls or compression) other than world-class components and a non-coloured sound. In other words, we don’t have to own an SSL consol to get great sounding mixes!

Our most recent purchase is the Maselec MEA-2 solid state stereo eq. Once again, this unit was purchased primarily for the mastering department and is found in the majority of A-list mastering studio’s gear lists. Once we brought it in for trial, it was obvious why. The sound isn’t exactly neutral but is not excessively coloured either. It goes about its work in a fairly subtle way. The frequency bands are well chosen and they all sound good, even when pushed. The Maselec is another Class-A compliment to our other carefully chosen outboard and plug-in equalizers.

And Great Digital Outboard Gear, Too!

Tube gear is used not only for its functionality, but for the sound, i.e., it adds or emphasizes musical harmonics. Whether its a pre-amp, compressor or equalizer, class A tube gear, properly used, usually adds “warmth” and “musicality”. In other words, it colours the sound in a way that most people find pleasing.

So why digital? Because digital gear can be very precise in how it functions. As well, certain processes, such as the stereoization techniques available in the K-Stereo Processor, cannot be achieved in the analog domain. Although most world class digital gear has its own unique sound, it doesn’t colour the sound in an unpleasing manner and one might describe the sound as being “neutral”. In fact, the best units sound precise, clean and transparent as they go about working their magic. Great digital gear is the perfect partner for great analog tube gear.

The Weiss DS1-MK2 is a most welcome addition to our studio. It works as a full bandwidth stereo compressor and can also be used in frequency specific mode, i.e., just to compress one area of the mix. The parallel compressor function is unique and sample accurate. It is also the world’s most effective and transparent de-esser. Clients who haven’t heard this unit are always amazed at how it handles a track with a harsh high end and smooths it out without losing prescence. Engineers that use the Weiss appreciate the versatility of this unit and wish that we had two more units! Of course, we just tell them to hard record the results to a track in Pro Tools and use the unit again for something else.

We decided to add a precision outboard equalizer to our setup and after much consideration, we chose the Weiss EQ-1 MK2 Dynamic & Linear Phase Equalizer. Not only is this an excellent equalizer but it has a dynamic option available, and this is what sold us. One of the problems in mastering is when two instruments are playing in the same frequency range but one is louder than the other and shouldn’t be. So by activating the compressor function triggered at the appropriate frequency range, you can set it to soften the louder instrument when it is playing and when it rests, the quieter one is not affected. The ads for this unit say”…compressor or equalizer?…”. We can’t really answer that question but it works like a charm and more subtle than doing the same thing with a multi-band compressor! How does this help in the mixing process? Some producer/artist, especially hip hop, bring us already recorded and mixed tracks or loops and the Weiss dynamics contol is yet another way of controlling specific frequencies in a stereo track.

Using the Digital Domain K-Stereo Processer, Stereo enhancer, expander & equalizer, tailor the stereo width and give added dimension and detail to the instruments in a submix (such as a several dense percussion tracks) Depth and width can be added to keyboard tracks. This 96k digital ourboard unit boasts a 32 bit internal floating point works as an insert in Pro Tools. This unit really sounds noticibly better than any spatializer plug-ins that we have previously used.

Our most recent acquisition, the TC 6000, is a most amazing digital device. Its housed in its own outboard rack and is inserted into Pro Tools. The mastering department got this unit for its dynamics package. But great sounding multi-band compression, eq and expansion modules are also useful in the mixing world. However, the main reason that we have listed this unit in the recording brochure is the reverbs and delay. TC Electronics and Lexicon are absoutely the best reverbs on the market and the TC 6000 reverbs are the best algorithms that the company has to offer. Silverbich recording has graduated from plug-in reverbs to TC 6000 and as a result, our reverb sounds are equal to the best studios in the world, at any cost!

In order to have the maximum flexibility in a recording/mixing environment, it is essential to have both analog and digital outboard gear and as usual, Silverbirch continues to offer the most unique and effective combination of gear in Canada.
Midi Programming
We create our sequences in Logic, which can handle audio and midi simultaneously and linked to Pro Tools. SampleCell ll, our primary sampler, is also Mac based so transferring audio to the sampler is accomplished in seconds. We have a wide assortment of ready-to-use dance loops and license-free sampling CDs which can be used to create loops.

Clients that prefer to sequence their own tracks can bring the project to Silverbirch for vocals and mixing. Constructing sequences on your own, even basic sequences, can significantly lower your studio costs. We routinely import midi files, without hassle, that have been created in virtually all Macintosh, PC, and even Atari computer sequencers if we are supplied with a standard midi file on a 3.5 inch floppy.
The Importance of The Signal Chain
Most of the quality of a recording is realized by recording through a high quality signal chain. Our usual signal chain for solo instruments or voice is a rge windows which look out onto the Toronto Harbour. The typical vocal recording set-up is a Neumann U87—>Manley Dual Mono Tube Preamplifier or Millennia HV-3C Solid State Preampifier—>Manley Vari-Mu Compressor—>LavryGold AD122-96MKIII 24/96 bit converter—>Pro Tools HD—> digital output to hard drive. This analog signal chain costs $20999,000. and compares to gear used in the most expensive facilities in the world in terms of warmth, low noise, and frequency response. By comparison, the majority of studios in our price range don’t use equipment even close to these standards. The signal chain is perhaps the most important initial consideration when choosing a studio because a low or mid-level board coupled with project studio-level mics, preamps and converters don’t capture voices or instruments very accurately and can add unwanted noise which will be difficult to remove in the mix.
Noise Will Add Up
In the world of multitrack, hiss and hum that is introduced into the signal chain will add up and end up in your final product. If the signal chain that passes the sound along to tape or disk is just a little bit noisy, and you have recorded 24 tracks, mixing them together amplifies the little noise twenty-four times and suddenly, you have created a big noise. The average mixing boards found in low to mid-priced facilities are usually a little noisy and can get a lot noisier when you are using all of the inputs, so we keep all our tracks in the digital domain and use the Pro Tools virtual mixer with plug-ins to mix. Of course we will use our Lavry converters, top of the line patch bay and Mogami cables to access our wonderful tube gear but due to the quality of the signal chain, the process is virtually noiseless! In our role as mastering studio, we spend a lot of time removing noise from other studio’s masters, a process which has made us very aware of the importance of ensuring that buzzes, hiss and hum do not get into your mix.
The Room You Do It In Makes A Difference
Recording in a studio that has not been tuned or properly treated, can be the cause of many audio oddities. A bright reverberant room can add a significant harshness to a recording, especially when all the tracks are added together in the final mix. The harshness will add up like noise does. The same goes for a room that adds bass frequencies and the boominess increases as you record more tracks. In 2004, our control room was rebulit from the ground up. It was designed as a dedicated mastering room. Now if you read the mastering section of our website, you will see that we advise not mastering in a recording/mix room. However, it is highly advisable to mix in a mastering room as a mastering room is optimized for accurate sound!
It Sounded Great In The Studio, But…
Many musicians have had the unfortunate experience of mixing in a coloured room. For example, if a room excessively amplifies low frequency energy, music will sound bassier than it really is, and will be adjusted accordingly by removing bass frequencies in the mix. The result is a mix that has no bottom end when played outside of that studio. Another cause of the “it sounded great in the studio…” problem is inaccurate or inadequate monitors. If the speakers themselves are colouring the sound, it is very difficult to mix a product that will sound consistently good on the incredible variety of speakers used in the real world.
Silverbirch And The Real World
The control and overdub rooms at Silverbirch are acoustically tuned. The entire frequency spectrum of each room was checked and wherever a specific frequency was too loud, it was attenuated and an essentially flat frequency response was achieved. The rooms are also properly diffused and deadened just enough to further ward off unwanted harshness or boominess. As Silverbirch is also a mastering suite, we have the expertise to ensure that final mixes are well balanced, and will translate well outside of the studio. We have several sets of speakers to which we reference. We can get a good idea of what the mix will sound like on the big home stereo system, the multimedia system, or the crummy clock radio. While it is possible to mix on one good set of speakers, referencing to several systems gives immediate simulations of what the mix will sound like in the real world, without having to take a cassette out to the car to check it.

Early in 2004, we enlisted Terry Medwedyk of Group One Acoustics, one of Canada’s premiere studio designers, to make a new floor plan for our commercial space and to design our new studio. The results are really stunning. Our engineers and clients, old and new, are enjoying the new environment which features big window, warm colours, walnut trim and wood floors. Of course the room sounds great and the mixes are translating well.
TheTiredAnalog=Warm/Digital=Cold Dispute Resolved:
To understand how digital got the cold/brittle rap, one has to look at the early, transitional period as the recording industry began to embrace digital recording. Experienced analog engineers know that analog tape gradually begins to loose its oxide coating after being dragged many times over the tape heads during the tracking and mixing of an album. So, they learned to compensate for the eventual loss of high end by adding more at the beginning when tracking. While this works well for analog, tape that is recorded onto digitally does not lose any frequencies at all, no matter how many times the tape is dragged over the heads (digital tape has other ways of degrading but you will know it, and it is not subtle!).

So the world class engineers of that period started recording with digital tape by trying to doctor the medium like they did with analog. People soon learned that you should only put onto digital what you want to work with when mixing. Another factor that muddied the waters was that the early analog to digital convertors were inferior to the high quality ones that are in use today. Unfortunately, we ended up with quite a few brittle sounding albums until equipment improved and engineers learned how to work with the medium. A further development has been the move away from 16 bit audio to 20 bit. 24 bit audio is rapidly becoming the standard format to record in the digital medium. The difference between 16 bit and 24 bit is somewhat like comparing a photo in a newspaper to the same photo in a magazine.

Analog tape does appear to have one advantage over digital in that the harder you hit it (i.e., begin to subtly overloading, or distorting the signal chain), the more it changes the sound of the instrument you are recording. When used subtly, this technique can add an element to the sound that is perceived as “warmth”. In the digital studio, this sound can be achieved by recording at 24 bits with tube gear, compression, great convertors and engineering expertise. The bonus is that there is no change or degradation in the quality of the recording once it is recorded to hard drive. In addition, the advantages of Silverbirch’s recording set-up (see “The Digital Bus”) far outweigh any benefits of using tape-only studios.

We do, however, offer a 24 track 2 inch tape option for our clients who wish to record their bed tracks to tape before transfering to Pro Tools for the rest of the recording and mixing. Recently we purchased an ATR-102 Remanufactured 1/2″, 2 track custom tape deck with Aria and vintage electronics. This was mainly for the mastering department but the mixing engineers are now able to run a specific track to tape and back to the hard drive for that unique tape compression sound. This combination has been used on many hit records.
The Engineers – The Missing Link!
Silverbirch owner Andy Krehm recently offered the following thoughts on the importance of a studio’s resident engineers.

“I am truly amazed that prospective studio clients always ask about the price, equipment, and sometimes about the physical attributes of the rooms, but rarely about the engineer who will be recording their album! They don’t seem to realize that the technical expertise, experience and the people-skills of the house engineer can truly make or break their recording. On a basic level, does he know how to select the correct mic and positioning for your vocal or instrument? Does he know how to remove excess sibilance before it gets permanently embedded in your masters? Is he capable of doing a world-class mixing job?”

An engineer with good people skills knows when to speak and when to be quiet. Many indie bands are self-produced, either out of ignorance or because they cannot afford a producer. In this case, the engineer becomes the co-producer by default! A good engineer learns how to do this without being obvious, because if he doesn’t, the client may end up with unsatisfactory results due to the band’s lack of familiarity with the recording process and unsatisfied clients, even if they are at fault, are not good for any studio’s reputation.

Before I opened my own studio, I did quite a bit of free-lance producing work. My philosophy for studio selection was simple – enough quality gear to ensure a good recording and mix, and if I didn’t like the house engineer, I would bring my own, sometimes at the same cost per hour as the studio! Why? Because through experience I learned that by working with an “A” engineer in a good, low priced studio, I could always produce better recordings than by using the 2nd or 3rd engineer in a $300. per hour studio, even with its much bigger equipment selection. The reason is simple – expertise, experience and people skills. A unsupervised rookie in any studio is an accident waiting to happen – make sure you don’t get one for your recording! When I opened my own studio, I made sure that I hired an “A” engineer so I wouldn’t have to pay for a free-lance engineer for my own productions again!”
Production Services
The following services are available if needed: producer/arranger, session players, back-up singers and voice-over artists.

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SUGGESTIONS FOR FILE PREPARATION AND TRANSFER TO SILVERBIRCH’S FOR MIXING

Recently, a client was musing about the difficulty in transferring audio files from one workstation to another. He pointed out that there are several ways to align your credit card for use in a point-of-sale terminal (stripe on the left/right and facing front or back) and to avoid inconvenience at the gas pump, you have to know how to position your car since your filler pipe could be at the left side, right side or rear of your car.

Why are these things not standardized?

Given the amount of mixing we do of tracks recorded at other studios, we often ask the same question. So, here’s some notes that may help because when it comes to bringing files to us for overdubbing, mixing or mastering because unless you have successfully brought files here before, it is prudent not to make any assumptions.

Bringing files for overdubbing and/or mixing:

Pro Tools: We use Pro Tools (Mac version) for mixing so you would assume that if you save your files to a DVD, CD-ROM or firewire drive that we can load your session with no problems. Well, you could be wrong. Firstly, a DVD written on a PC does not necessarily read on a Mac. Gee, sometimes they don’t even read on another PC! Secondly, if a firewire drive is not Mac formatted, it will not read on some Macs. Furthermore, when you are saving your Pro Tools session for transfer to another studio, you should go to the “save session copy in…” window (under edit) and click the appropriate boxes. If it is a PC session, make sure the appropriate Mac boxes are clicked. As a general tip, if you are a Mac user going to a PC Studio (not us), select the AIFF or BWF file box and then click the “enforce Mac/PC” button.

There are various reasons for these incompatibilities, including which system the original session was run on and the system it is being transferred to. Re incompatible discs, sometimes people don’t select the correct format before saving thus rendering the disc unreadable in some computers. The age of the back-up/reading drive (and neglecting to update to the current firmware revs) can cause incompatibility and the list goes on and on…!

As firewire drives become more popular, we are noticing there are sometimes problems when working directly from a client’s drive. After a particulary tedious session featuring numerous computer crashes, we asked when this drive had last been been checked with a disc maintainance program and optimized or defragmented. The answer was never. We inquired as to how long he had owned the drive and the answer was 8 months! Not only that, but he uses the drive every day for music.

So, if you don’t have a maintainance routine in place, find out what is best for your computer and software OS and get Norton Disc Doctor or Tech Tools immediately. Make sure that your firewire drive is formatted correctly and is optimized before bringing it to another studio.

And while on the topic of media, CD-ROMs (Data discs) seem to have the highest percentage of reading on any machine. DVDs are tempting to use but are still a problematic medium for loading on different burners (and keep in mind that some studios still don’t have a DVD drive). Firewire drives work almost all the time on Mac if Mac formatted. If PC formatted, they don’t unless the Mac has OSX, which many studios don’t!

Any Other Computer-based Workstation:

For the easiest transfer, record all your tracks from the same start point until the last event in that track to new audio files (.Wav, SD2, BWF or AIFF are all OK). If you have a track with edits, i.e., appearing as a lot of “blocks” of audio on one track, this process will amalgamate all the edit points and any spaces in between to a one-peice audio file starting at the same point as all the other tracks.

An example to illustrate the process would be a track that has one sound effect occurring at 2 minutes into the song. Your properly saved transfer track would appear as an audio track starting at the beginning of the song but there would be no sound until 2 minutes. By the way, the length of the track has no bearing on this process so long as they all start at the same point so save space and terminate the transfer track at the end of the last event.

The idea here is for us to import your tracks to a Pro Tools session, line them up at the same start point and the relative timing will be retained. Some workstations call this a bounce or duplicate and no doubt there are other terms so give yourself time to figure it out.

After you perform your record/bounce/duplicate/render/consolidate, etc, here’s a surefire way to ensure that you have done this correctly. Close your current session and boot up a brand new session. Create the number of tracks that you need then import the newly created tracks. Load them all into the track layout starting at “0” and play. If you have done this correctly, your song will play in perfect sync.

Another tip would be to transfer the files at the same bit and sample rate as your original session. For example, if your session was 24 bit/48k, please save it the same way. Some engineers are not aware of the bit level of their session so, crack the manual or ask how to figure it out.

As a general guideline, if you have the drive space and a big enough system, do all your recording at 24 bit/88.2 kHz. This is a good, high-end middle ground and sounds significantly better than 16 bit/44.1 kHz. If you have a huge amount of hard drive space and want the best sound quality, record at 24 bit 176.4. The mastering process will take care the final dither to 16 bit/44.1 kHz. One interesting note re 24 bit 176.4 or 24/192 is that most mastering quality digital outboard gear only goes to 96 k so if you have a favourite place to master, you might want to discuss this in advance.

DO NOT GIVE US 32 BIT FILES! These are propriety to Cubase and Sound Forge and will not load in most other workstations

Outboard Workstations:

These come in endless varieties, from Fostex to Yamaha and of various vintages. Most of them have digital outputs of some kind but they vary as to how many tracks can be passed at one time. For instance, some of these workstations can pass all the 16 tracks at once, some do only 8 at a time and some only transfer stereo. Of course there also analog options but because of the usually poor quality converters, it is usually best to find a way to use the digital outputs.

Because most of these workstations will only transfer some of the tracks at once, unless they can be synchronized to Pro Tools, there is no way to properly realign up the tracks that were transferred in different passes. So, synchronizing is a great idea but not all machines will lock and most people don’t know how to set up their systems internally. As a good alternative, we suggest adding a click or two (any short audio signal, such as a click or cross stick, etc) in front of every track before coming in for your session. This allows the files to be transferred “wild” and lined up sample accurate afterwards, thus restoring the timing of the tracks after transfer. By the way, using this method, there is rarely any problem with “drifting” in the digital domain.

Sometimes, engineers don’t know how to add audio in front of an existing session so give yourself time to read your manual, contact your music store or the manufacture to find out how to do this.

If there is a problem at the session, we will work with you and try every possible connection until we find out what will work, read your manual for you and hopefully be able to transfer the audio but ultimately, you are responsible for knowing your system so if our engineer asks you which output is the Adat output or the S/PDF output or the Lightpipe optical output, please make sure you know. Also, please learn how to operate the digital output menu in your workstation. All this information is in the manual but most of them are hard to read and it does take some time to go through it properly.

Our Policy Re Transferring Audio At Silverbirch:

To avoid any problems, we invite you send or bring in your media in advance of the session (early enough to use our 4 day notice cancellation policy, or more, if possible) so that we can make sure the files load properly.

This is a no-charge service to make sure you don’t have any problems with loading when you come for your session. If you don’t do that, you will be responsible for any time losses that we incur in trying to load your session.

If they won’t load, we may be able to out-source the files in order to prep them to work on our system or we may be able to advise your engineer how to redo the files so they work in our computer. Please leave enough time in case this happens.

If you have any experience/tips or specific techniques with your workstation that you would like to pass on, please email Andy Krehm.

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Equipment List

Outboard:

  • Digital Domain K-Stereo Processer, Stereo enhancer, expander & equalizer
  • Distressor - Model EL8 compressor
  • Manley Tube Stereo Pre-Amp
  • Manley Massive Passive 4 band Stereo Tube Equalizer
  • Manley Variable MU Tube Compressor/Limiter
  • Millennia HV-3C solid state stereo Pre-Amp
  • Pendulum PL-2 JFET/MOSFET Peak Limiter
  • Prism Sound Maselec-MEA-2 Masters Series equalizer
  • Requisite L2M Tube Mastering Limiter/Expander
  • T.C. Electronic 6000 with Dynamics and Reverb Licence
  • Tube-Tech SMC-2B Vacuum Tube Multiband compressor
  • Waves L2 Ultramaximizer peak limiter/volume maximizer & dither/noise
  • Weiss DS1-MK2 Compressor / Limiter / De-esser
  • Weiss EQ-1 MK2 Dyamic & Linear Phase Equalizer

Mixing Console:

Computers and Hardware:

  • Pro Tools | HD 2 Accel Digital Audio Workstation (HD Core, Accel Card & two 192 i/o)
  • Macintosh G5 w/2.5 Dual processor w/ 2 gigs of RAM
  • Apple Dual Layer Super Drive DVD/CD writer
  • Atari 1040-ST w/ C-LAB Notator/Creator and Dongle
  • Exebyte Mammoth Data-Tape Back-Up
  • SurgeX surge protector
  • Plitron 8894-X00-00 Isolated Power Distribution Unit (Isolation Transformer & Balanced Power)

Microphones:

  • Neumann U87A condenser
  • Neumann U87Ai condenser
  • Microtech Gefell M71 condenser
  • Sennheiser 441MD
  • Sennheiser 421 (x2)
  • Shure SM57

Digital Sample Rate Converter/Interfaces:

  • LavryGold DA924 (digital to analog converter)
  • LavryGold AD122-96MKIII (analog to digital converter)
  • Weiss DAC1-MK2 (digital to analog converter for room monitors)
  • Z-Systems z.8.8 (digital patch bay)
  • Tascam IF-AE8 (for transferring Tascam 8 track units digitally to Pro Tools)

Software:

  • Pro Tools TDM 8.1.
  • WaveBurner Pro – E-Magic
  • Toast Titanium Data Back-Up
  • Logic Platinum 9.0
  • Notator
  • Spectrafoo Signal Metering and Analysis (software based phase scope, bit scope, ultra-accurate metering, and real time frequency analyzer, etc.)
  • Waves TDM Restoration Noise Reduction Toolkit (X Click/Hum/Crackle/Noise)
  • Waves TDM Plug-ins – Diamond Bundle:
    • C1 Parametric Compander
    • C4 Parametric Processor (multiband compressor)
    • DeEsser
    • Doubler
    • Doppler
    • Enigma
    • L1 Ultramaximizer peak limiter/volume maximizer & dither/noise shaper
    • L2 Ultramaximizer peak limiter/volume maximizer & dither/noise shaper
    • L3 Multimaximizer (combines Linear-Phase Multiband Processor & L2)
    • Linear-Phase Equalizer
    • Linear-Phase Multiband Processor
    • Maxx Bass
    • MetaFlanger
    • MondoMod
    • Morphoder
    • PAZ analyser
    • PS-22 Stereo-Maker
    • Q10 paragraphic equalizer
    • Renaissance Channel
    • Renaissance Compressor
    • Renaissance DeEsser
    • Renaissance Equalizer
    • Renaissance Bass
    • Renaissance DeEsser
    • Renaissance Vox
    • Renaissance Reverberator
    • S1 Stereo Imager
    • SSL 4000 Collection
    • SuperTap Delay
    • TransX
    • TrueVerb Room Emulator
    • UltraPitch
  • Other TDM Plug-ins:
    • Amp Farm – Digidesign
    • Altiverb – Sampled Acoustics Processor – Audio Ease
    • Aural Exciter – Aphex Systems
    • Auto-Tune 3 – Antares (pitch correction)
    • Big Bottom Pro -Aphex Systems
    • Classic Compressors: LA-2A/1176 – Bomb Factory
    • ChannelStripSP – Metric Halo Labs
    • D-Fi – Digidesign: LoFI; RectiFi; SciFi; VariFi;
    • D-Verb – Digidesign
    • DINR (noise reduction) – Digidesign
    • Drawmer Dynamics – Drawmer
    • FilterBank – McDSP
    • H949 Harmonizer – Eventide
    • Impact Compressor – Digidesign
    • MC2000 by McDSP
    • MDW High-Res Parametric EQ – Massenburg Design Works
    • Moogerfooger collections – Bomb Factory
    • Oxford EQ – Sony
    • Pitch’N’Time – Serato
    • Procrastinator – Digidesign
    • Pultec EQ – Bomb Factory
    • Reverb One – Digidesign
    • SoundBlender – Wave Mechanics
    • Soundreplacer – Digidesign
    • Speed – Wave Mechanics
    • URS A & N Series EQs (Neve and API console EQ emulation

Monitors:

  • Lipinski L-505 Monitors
  • Velodyne DD-10 Digitally Controlled Active Subwoofers (stereo)
  • Genelec 1030A bi amplified Monitors
  • Auratone 5C
  • Yahama YST-M10 Multi-Media

Non active monitors are powered by a Bryston 3B SST amplifier
Tape Recorders:

  • ATR Services (Mike Spitz) Custom Remanufactured 1/2″ ATR-102 (Ampex) with stock and Aria electronics and Flux Magnetics Mastering Series Extended Response Heads
  • Dolby 363 SR/A Noise Reduction w/350 modules
  • Alesis Adats (for transfer to Pro Tools)
  • Tascam DA-88 (for transfer to Pro Tools) – rental charge
  • Sony DTC-A6 DAT
  • Yahama KX-650 3 head cassette deck
  • Sony CDP-C545 CD player with digital output

Turntable:

  • Technics SL-1210MK2SE (variable speed with strobe, plays LPs, 78 & 45 rpms + most of KAB’s Upgrade Mods
  • Ortofon Cartridge CC PRO S30
  • Creek Phono Pre-Amp OBH 18

MIDI/Sampling:

  • Digidesign SampleCell II TDM w’CD-ROMs
  • Yamaha weighted digital piano
  • Roland Octopad
  • Various sampling CDs from East/West and others:
    • Bob Clearmountain Drums, Bass, and Percussion
    • Frangioni/Medelson Dance/Industrial I & II
    • Jungle warfare among others.

Sound FX Library:

  • Award-winning sound fx library from The Hollywood Edge (40 CD set)
  • SampleCell sound fx Library

Instruments:

  • Yamaha P-80 (88 key weighted keyboard)
  • Vintage acoustic guitars:
    • 1961 Martin D-18 6 string
    • Majestic aristocrat full-bodied arch top with pick-up
    • Taurus classical guitar w/ Barcus Berry pick up
  • bass guitar

Patch Bays & Wiring:

  • Analog cabling is by Canare, Mogami and Requisite
  • Digital cabling is by Apogee and Requisite
  • 3 large bantam patch bays feature 160 patch points, installed and maintained by Jeff Johns of J.J. Pro Audio Group Inc.

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Studio Policies
* Deposit Required

When booking studio time, a deposit of 50% is required

* Deposit Refund Policy

If a client cancels booked studio time for which a deposit is given, the deposit will be refundable only for hours that can be replaced with new bookings.

* Cancellation Policy re Client

Studio time can be cancelled without payment if a full 4 days notice is given. If notice is less than 4 days, we will endeavor to replace all or some of your time with new bookings but will expect payment in full for whatever time we could not rebook.

* Policy re postponement by Silverbirch of Client’s session

We have a two tired rate system which we call Major label and Indie rate. It could also just as easily be called the Premium and Economy rates. The point is that we offer the same level of expertise and service for either rates (excellent value for the independent project) but if the person or company paying the Major/Premium rate needs some unforeseen extra time to finish a project or has a rush job, we may have to postpone a session paying the Indie/Economy rate. If the latter is also time-sensitive, we will try and figure out a way to accomodate both parties. We have only done this twice in the 4 years that we have had this policy so it is not something that is commonplace; however, it is our policy that we cannot be held responsible for any inconvenience or damages caused by us postponing an Indie rate session
* Downtime

Studio downtime, due to to equipment malfunction or any other reason (such as an engineer who calls in sick or has to cancel a session), will be made up by extending the session if possible that day, or by rebooking at another time mutually convenient to the Client and us. By booking a session at Silverbirch, the client agrees to hold Silverbirch harmless from any and all damage resulting from said downtime.

* Payment Policy

Unless credit has been established, cheques are not accepted. We accepted in cash, Interact, Visa or MC. Due to the onerous charges re Visa & MC, we prefer cash or Interact but do not surcharge for credit cards. Studio time and media are subject to GST and PST (unless PST exempt or out of province). Because we guarantee our engineers a certain number of hours before they come in, we expect to receive payment for all time booked, even if the session is finished early. Overtime, if needed and if the studio and enginner are available, is billed at the same rate as the regular session. The balance of session must be paid in full before taking any mixes or masters from the premises.

Hard Disc Backup:

At Silverbirch, Pro Tools is our workstation of choice. Pro Tools stores files on a hard drive and when the hard drive becomes full, it is necessary to transfer, backup or erase the files.

* Mixing

If your album is being mixed in a relatively short span of time, within 2 to 4 weeks, we will keep your files on one of our drives until finished. We will keep the material for an additional week in case touch-ups are requested. At that point, by prior arrangement with the client, the material will be backed up to CD-ROM or DVD or will be erased. The cost is $10. per gigabyte. Backups can also be done on studio time as follows:

1) to the client’s firewire drive
2) the client’s blank media
3) Silverbirch media at $3. per CD-R or $5. per DVD

This can be done at the end of each session or after the last mix session.

If we are doing prep work to be finished at another studio (i.e., vocals here, mix elsewhere, etc), we will give you the session on CD-ROM, DVD or your own firewire drive. The onus is on the client to check the material within 48 hours to ensure that the transfer or backup was completely accurate. If there is a problem with the transfer, we will redo it at our cost but it is your responsibility to check that it copied properly. We will hold the session for 48 hours (or a day or two longer, by request) but will erase it at that point.

* Mastering

We will keep the mixes and masters on one of our hard drives for up to 2 weeks after your session, in case any touch-ups are required. At that point, by prior arrangement with the client, the material will be backed up to CD-ROM or DVD or will be erased. The cost is $25. for an album and will be pro-rated for singles and EPs.

* Archiving Services

If the client wishes, we have an onsite storage system for no extra charge that you may find convenient to use. All disc are logged and saved for an indefinite period of time. The material remains the property of the client and can be picked up at any time. The advantage of this system is that the client can call in (with reasonable notice) and have their material restored to the hard drive for no charge if needing additional work. Clients bringing in discs to be restored at the beginning of a session will be charged full studio rates.

* Liability of Silverbirch re all audio/video files stored at Silverbirch

If cared for properly, hard drives and back-up discs are generally very stable. We have been using digital audio since we opened over a decade ago and are very experienced with this medium. We have had an excellent track record re not losing audio due to hard drive crashes. In fact, to date, we have never lost data due to hard drive technical problems.

CD-ROMs and DVD have been slightly more problematic. Very occasionally, due to no fault of our own, a verified disc will not load at a later date or part of the disc will become unreadable. In addition, no media company will guarantee just how long their disc will last. Their liability, as is ours, is always limited to the cost of replacing the disc, not the data. Unfortunately, hard drive losses and discs that will not read are an accepted price to pay for the extraordinary convenience and flexibility of the digital audio world. For the ultimate in safety, please consider asking us to make a duplicate set of backup discs. The cost is $3. per CD-ROM and $5. per DVD. You would then leave one set here and take one with you.

To summarize, the Client assumes all risks associated with storing digital files on the premises of Silverbirch Productions, whether a session in progress or an archived disc. By booking a session at Silverbirch, the client agrees to hold Silverbirch harmless from any and all damages that might occur due to any hard drive loses (ours or our Clients) or CD-ROMs/DVDs that will not read or copy upon reloading.

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