Williamson Magnetic Recording Company
On Friday, March 25, we had a great time hanging out at Williamson Magnetic Recording Company – Madison’s new all-analog studio. It’s a great space - located in a 110-year-old building with its original wood floor, plaster walls and woodwork. The vibe is exactly what you’d want for an analog studio – warm and comfortable. Perhaps less expected is that it takes up the ground floor of a bakery. No matter, though: if it sounds good – and it does - it is good
The studio has two MCI JH110c analog tape decks: a 1” 8 track for multitrack recording and 1/4” 2 track for mixdown or live tracking. Both decks are completely refurbished by Mara Machines of Nashville.
Also on hand is a growing collection of tube, dynamic and ribbon microphones that feed an Alice/Stancoil 828 Console with transformer balanced mic inputs and main outputs. An EMT140 stereo plate reverb is also on hand, to keep the signal analog all the way. A lot of students in the recording program at Madison Media Institute are interested in opening their own studio, and not surprisingly they had a lot of questions for the studio’s owners, Mark Haines and Tessa Echeverria. MMI Student Dallas Hall at the controls[/caption] Certainly their business model and choice of equipment run contrary to the current norm. But if you step back and consider, there is no shortage of studios with a DAW, a vocal booth and a few microphones. Perhaps it makes more sense to follow a path that sets you apart from the competition. And from the standpoint of running a business, it bears mentioning that Williamson Magnetic doesn’t rely solely on recording to generate revenue – they also host live events on a regular basis, which helps to keep the cash flowing in a business that can be challenging. Although there was some conversation about the sonic differences between analog and digital recording, there was more discussion of the differences in process. While some might find it limiting to record to just 8 analog tracks, and to have only modest editing capability compared to what is possible on modern digital audio workstation, Mark and Tessa see this as liberating. Expectations are set at the beginning – the recording process here focuses on capturing a musical event, rather than fabricating one in a computer.
In this regard, it may be that they are more in step with the times than one might think. The rise of digital audio recording has certainly been revolutionary, but it has in many ways shifted the focus away from musical performance and towards technologies of manipulation. The recent upsurge in interest in analog recording and vinyl records can be seen – and heard – as an expression of a desire for a return to the basics – human beings playing instruments together and making music. Not that digital audio is going anywhere. Even this BYOPT (Bring Your Own Pro Tools) facility has a 2-channel analog to digital converter on hand. And there is nothing stopping anyone from transferring their recordings to their DAW of choice and having at it in the digital realm. Still, the renewed focus on the art of capturing a good performance is a good thing. That it encourages a similar emphasis on well thought out songs and well-crafted arrangements is all the better, whatever format you are recording in. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at Williamson Magnetic – thanks to Mark and Tessa for hosting us! To learn more about the Recording & Live Sound Program at MMI, visit www.mediainstitute.edu