March 27, 2007

This Amon Tobin record...

by Chris Randall

So I got the new issue of Remix in the mail the other day, and there's a story about the recording of Amon Tobin's "Foley Room" album, and it piqued my interest enough to go buy the album. (It should be noted that, eclectic tastes aside, I'm usually a latecomer to the "latest and greatest" electronic acts, simply not having enough time in the day to sift through all the dreck to find the diamonds.)

Whether you like the whole slice-n-dice thing or not, this record sounds fantastic. He mixed in Cubase, but summed with an Apogee DA16/Chandler Mini Mixer rig, through a Manley Massive Passive. The difference in sound quality between this record and another of its ilk done totally ITB (I'll use Forss' excellent "Soulhack" as example) is quite vast. The analog processing really knocks the edges off the inherently digital nature of this sort of music. Anyone that doesn't think there's any difference between mixing ITB and using a system like this is quite simply deaf, plain and simple.

In any event, this is a fucking phenomenal mix job for an electronic album; very pleasant and non-fatiguing to listen to. Two thumbs up.



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Mar.27.2007 @ 6:14 PM
all of amon tobin records are a pleasure to listen to.

Mar.27.2007 @ 7:15 PM
For those who don't have the mag, there's a snippet of some info on the album online at the Remix site (third section down): link []">link []

While I've only listened to the album online at his site, there seems to be a great deal of attention paid to the stereo placement of sounds, and the sense of literal depth it can give a track. Tobin's albums have always had this type of presence to them, but these compositions have a way of wrapping around your head on this one.


Mar.27.2007 @ 7:44 PM
i've noticed that w/a lot of electronic stuff.. newer stuff.. it's missing that "done a reel to reel 8 track in the bedroom" warmth.

could be someting as simple as a different mastering engineer in some cases but in some things i hear way more painful midrangey stuff and the transients are kind of wacked.. things are just more brittle.

but there's also stuff that's really blown me away where i know it's someone on a laptop and that's it and they just know their shit (room, monitors, plugs, etc) enough to pull out amazing mixes w/depth and clarity.

hat's of to Amon Tobin though. i wish those chandler mini-mixers had direct outs per channel so you could record more than 2 channels at time thru it.


Mar.27.2007 @ 7:56 PM
Or maybe the fact that the album sounds so good has little to do with analog summing, OTB mixing, or the Massive Passive, and a lot more is maybe a result him using super high-end microphones and preamps to sample all of the material for the album live, rather than rip sounds from old vinyl, vhs tapes, and 16bit cds like he did for most of the stuff on his other albums.

Yeah, but I agree it sounds fucking incredible.


Mar.27.2007 @ 7:59 PM
Chris Randall
The mics and mic pres aren't "super high end" really. Kind of run-of-the-mill high end. I have equipment of the same quality. In any case, this record has really inspired me to get my summing act together. My two options are as follows:

Chandler Mini Mixer -> Chandler TG1 ($9750)

API 8200A -> API 2500 ($5100)

Custom summing built from Neumann iron -> Chandler TG1 or API 2500 (~$4000)

There are certainly far cheaper options, but why do it if you're not gonna have iron in the mix? I already have the Neumann summing amp for the last option, plus a nice aluminum rack. Just have to put it together and buy the comp/limiter. So that's the cheapest option, of course. I think that I'm not gonna get the vibe I want though; those Neumann summing amps are essentially colorless when they've been recapped. I'm leaning towards the API system, as I have been for the last 3 to 4 years, but now that I've heard what can be accomplished with the Chandler rig, I'm having doubts.

I only need to sum four stereo stems, so the Chandler is overkill for me. Plus I kind of like the sends on the API. It's a tough call. I'm gonna make my purchase this summer; I probably won't know which one I'm gonna get until I get it.



Mar.27.2007 @ 8:13 PM
fyi - lot's of opinions on the chandler/api etc on gearslutz.

the shadowhills stuff is supposed to be great. not any cheaper $$ but i think it has 3 transformer options via switch on the front panel and built in monitor control plus 2 mic pre's. it's called the equinox i think?


Mar.27.2007 @ 10:29 PM
it's not really a fair comparison to compare this album to.. well..anything. While it may be true that a summing mixer can improve a mix, I still think it's possible to mix something spectacular ITB if everything else in your signal chain is up to snuff. When you take into account how many pieces of hardware/software most "electronic" albums are processed through, both in pre-production (ie. samples) and post, it's a goddamn miracle you don't get pure noise out the other end.

Now you get Amon here with "run of the mill high end" gear at top Foley stages around the world where he's bypassed about 50 different steps to reach the final recording.. no wonder it sounds better.

I've seen enough video footage of commercially successful electronic artists' studios to know that his gear list for this album is about 300 notches higher than what most people are working with.

Anyway, be sure to check out his website for the album (link []">link []) pretty slick, lots of fun.


Mar.27.2007 @ 11:00 PM
I work at a studio here in Nashville, and my boss uses the same Chandler path that you mention above, Chris. While I have not had too much hands-on experience with it, I can vouch for the end result sounding damn good. My boss has been through a ton of equipment too, and that is the summing path he ultimately ended up with.

Anyhow, in retrospect, that comment is practically worthless, as I am basically saying "Yes, that expensive equipment does sound really good".


Mar.27.2007 @ 11:11 PM
Chris Randall
"I've seen enough video footage of commercially successful electronic artists' studios to know that his gear list for this album is about 300 notches higher than what most people are working with."

Well, I guess I'm in a good place then, because other than the summing I have essentially the same gear. Converters, software, mic pres, mics are all the same; my monitors are a couple steps down, but not much.

I do agree that the vast majority of successful electronic artists make do with a pretty fucking sad setup. This is a very forgiving genre for recording quality, though.



Mar.27.2007 @ 11:48 PM
penzoil washington
i love a real desk. Besides the fun of working on it, the inserts, sends, monitor section, etc. are not extras. It's amazing what $8 - $20k will get you these days in a used console. Yes, it may require maintenance and will not be as pristine as a cranesong or chandler or manley or API, but if you get a really good one it's worth it. I paid 5% of the original cost of mine when new and have spent under 2k modifying and maintaining it in 4 years, even having moved it accross oceans twice. 500 pounds of PITA to some, music to me. Summing boxes I imagine are a sonically real step up from ITB, but sacrifice that last opportunity to fuck with the voltages until they make sexytime explosion. (sorry Borat)

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