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Thread: Sound City, the Studio

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    Supporting Member loudthud's Avatar
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    Sound City, the Studio

    There is a documentary (titled Sound City) about the legendary LA studio, Sound City. It plays on a weird TV station, TBD about every two or three weeks. In Dallas it's over the air station 47.4 but is probably on cable or you can watch over the web. Many great albums were recorded there. Fleetwood Mac, Neal Young, Nirvana, Tom Petty just to name a few. What set the studio apart was a Neve mixing desk to 24 track analog tape. The studio didn't make the transition to digital. The mixing desk was special order when it was made in 73 or 74. Cost new was $75000.

    So what makes this Neve Desk sound so good ? Apparently it has lots of transformers. You would expect one on the input or each channel, one to send the signal to the deck, one to receive the signal back from the deck, maybe one on an aux output, one or two interstage transformers. No decent audio chips available when the thing was made so lots of discrete circuitry. Some discussion of the circuitry in this thread and a link to an interview with Mr. Neve: https://www.diyaudio.com/forums/inst...cumentary.html

    Dave Grohl who produced and directed the documentary was the drummer in Nirvana, and later started Foo Fighters. He also worked at Tower Records, another documentary on TBD.

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    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    I've been keen to see that film since I first heard about it. But never have managed to do it.

    FWIW there's a local studio "The Clubhouse" which started up around 30 years ago, way before the Sound City movie. Old but refurbished Neve console, 24 track Studer deck, lots of kool old outboard gear some of it tube driven, superb mic collection. Amongst other things they recorded Natalie Merchant's first solo album which became a hit. They started out in a ramshackle warehouse next to riverside railroad tracks. Many a vocal track was halted because the Amtrak came whizzing through... Since then they relocated to a purpose built building which includes a real echo chamber. And located well away from ambient noisemakers.

    There's another similar studio, Dreamland, in an old church just west of Kingston. Early on some Joe Jackson albums were recorded there. They closed down but didn't sell off the gear in those years home studios started to become the norm. Reopened about 10 years ago, managed by no less than Jerry Marotta. So you know the drum sounds will be killer! A favorite spot for many pro musicians who live in the Woodstock area, and beyond.

    Places like Sound City & these last 2 are still around, but you have to search for them. And... despite any "good vibes" and history of churning out gold/platinum records, the talent has to be there in the musos & producers & engineers too.

    Thanks for the reminder loudthud! I'll see if maybe I can score a DVD.

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    I watched it on ROKU some months back. A really heartfelt doc. Worth catching. I think a big part of Grohl's attachment to the place is the way it made drums sound.

    Some time in the early 1970s, my dad (who was a machinist and tool & diemaker, by trade) came home one day and mentioned that a couple of guys came in to his shop with a small job they wanted him to do. They asked him to machine a matrix of holes in a big sheet of thick (12 gauge I believe) aluminum for a recording studio they were assembling in the Laurentian hills outside Montreal. It was this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Studio I have no idea if it was for a mixing desk or simply a big patch panel. But I'm secretly thrilled to know that I have a connection to that studio, if only very tenuous.

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    Supporting Member loudthud's Avatar
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    Yes, Sound City did have a good drum sound. The main room was not quite rectangular. The control room window was maybe 10 degrees off on the floor plan. On some of the Tom Petty shots you can see they hung some curtains from the ceiling to dampen down the room. The desk actually had 28 inputs. I wonder if they had four ambient mics and mixed them down to a single track on the tape. With only 24 tracks on the tape, probably more than half were dedicated to drums. Often you see a mixer positioned just behind the drummer. I wonder if this was just to mix everything down for the drummers headphones. You don't see any isolation booths in the video.

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    Saw it a while ago.

    If those walls could talk.

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  6. #6
    Supporting Member loudthud's Avatar
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    I've been watching the website, http://tbd.com/ and it says Sound City is scheduled to play on Friday Aug 16 at 1:00PM Eastern time (New York City) which is 12:00PM (noon) Dallas time. If you are outside the USA, you will have to adjust to your time zone. Be aware most places in the USA are on "Daylight Savings Time" which is one hour earlier than normal.

    Apparently you can watch online, but only at the time it is being broadcast. It may play again on Saturday or Monday sometime like 2:00AM Dallas time, but the schedule doesn't go past Aug 16 just yet. I highly recommend you watch this if at all possible. I've watched it several times.

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    Supporting Member loudthud's Avatar
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    OK, it plays tomorrow around 1:00PM NYC time. I can't find any replays in the next week.

    Link to TBD's schedule: http://tbd.com/schedule

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