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On the Clear Track

Anyone see a trend here?

Clear Track Productions head producer Spencer Bradham (foreground) and owner/head engineer Mike Johnson at the
SSL 8000 G+ console in Studio A.
Anyone see a trend here? Last month, the spotlight was on Welcome to 1979, the Nashville-based, all-analog, retro-vibe studio that is heavy on MCI equipment and offers an abundance of other vintage gear and instruments.

At Clearwater, Florida-based Clear Track Productions, a similar attitude can be found. The Wes Lachot-designed, tworoom facility, which opened in February, is characterized by an expansive tracking room, a 56-channel Solid State Logic 8000 G+ console formerly housed at the Record Plant, and two classic tape machines—a Studer A827 2-inch 24-track and Ampex ATR-102 1/2-inch 2-track.

Clear Track Productions, owned by engineer Mike Johnson, does offer an Avid Pro Tools|HD3 rig, but signals hit tape on the way there, via the Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor (CLASP) by Nashvillebased Endless Analog.

“We’re into the whole package—the depth and the feel,” says head producer Spencer Bradham, who helped build Clear Track Productions after doing the same at Black Petal Records in Los Angeles. “With analog, you just get so much better tone; it’s so much more rich and full. That’s one thing that really turned us on to the CLASP. Digital is great at storing what you track. With the CLASP system, we’re able to track to tape, store everything digitally, and then bring it back to the console so that we have the fast, modern workflow. A lot of bands today are working within a budget and want to do it fast. With CLASP, we’re able to accommodate that and get the best of both worlds.”

Studio A at the Wes Lachot-designed Clear Track Productions features a 600-square-foot tracking room.This philosophy is also on display in outboard racks stocked with hardware such as Calrec PQ1161 (four) and Neve 1073 (eight) and 1081 (four) mic pre/EQs; API 3124 4-channel preamps (two); A-Designs EMPEQ (two) and HM2EQ Hammer, API 550a (two) and 560 (two), and GML 8200 EQs.

The refurbished SSL G+, says Bradham, “is a beautiful console, very flexible. You can get a lot of punch and life out of it, and really drive the hell out of it. It’s a really nice analog sound.

“The tape, the Neve 73s and 81s, mixed with the SSL—it’s a winning combination,” he observes. “In my opinion, Neve is number 1 to track with, and SSL is the best to mix with. To have both in the studio is a dream come true.” The Studer, he adds, came with very low hours. “We really lucked out on that. The machine works beautifully.”

Clients of Clear Track Productions cover wide stylistic territory, but tend to be of the modern and alternative rock variety and make use of Studio A’s 600-squarefoot tracking space. The array of absorbers and diffusors, says Bradham, “really gives the room nice life, but it is not overbearing, uncontrolled reverb; it’s fairly neutral. Drums sound beautiful in there.”

Clear Track Productions also houses Studio B, an overdub/preproduction/editing room. “We do a lot of voiceover stuff in there,” says Bradham, “things for commercials and events. We also use it a lot for preproduction.”

Though it has been open just eight months, Clear Track Productions is demonstrating the viability of a commercial recording studio, even in a secondary market and with a predominantly self-funded client base. “Mike and I got together and decided to build a studio that we could do real work out of,” says Bradham. “We really felt that it was needed. There should be more studios like this that are keeping the bar high, so that the area does not get oversaturated with home studios.

“It was a leap of faith as well,” he admits. “You never know what can happen, but we strongly believed in it, and we’ve done well so far.”

Clear Track Productions