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Recording Tip From Justin Stanley

Producer Justin Stanley has recently finished up production work for The Vines, Nikka Costa and the Blue Crush soundtrack. Here’s his take on recording in the digital domain:

Producer Justin Stanley has recently finished up production work forThe Vines, Nikka Costa and the Blue Crush soundtrack. Here’s histake on recording in the digital domain: “By now,everyone’s realized how far digital recording technology hascome, especially with 96 kHz. You can process digital sound and end upwith an analog-type sound. The real ‘organic-ness’ comesfrom how you approach recording—how you put the musicdown—rather than the actual recording equipment.”

To capture this organic feeling, Stanley follows the artist’slead. “I think it’s important to listen to the peopleyou’re working with and understand what makes them tick. Withsome musicians, like The Vines, you just let them do their thing andtry to keep up. I’ve got my studio arranged so everything’sset up, miked and ready to go. If someone wants to jump on the drum kitthat second, for example, it’s already miked up and we can throwit down.”

With other artists, the emphasis is on musical exploration.“Working with Nikka [Costa] involves a lot ofexperimentation,” he said. “She likes to go whereshe’s never gone before, so we try every song three or fourdifferent ways, from a ballad to the funkiest thing you’ve everheard, just to see what works best. I try to follow the artist’spath rather than being the producer who’s trying to controleverything.”

Commenting on the technical side, Stanley is enthusiastic aboutrecent improvements in the sound quality of digital audio.“I’ve been tracking at 96 kHz on a Yamaha 02R96, and I candefinitely hear a difference,” he said. “It sounds tighter,with a sweeter top end. The sound feels more dimensional. I hadrecorded some stuff at 24/44.1 kHz and redid it at 96 kHz, and therewas a real difference in the sound quality, especially with theacoustic instruments. The air around them and the depth of the soundsthemselves were significantly improved. When the original 02R came out,I was blown away. But at that time, I was really into the analog sideof things, and I didn’t have an opportunity to play around withit. But now, with the 02R96, it’s amazing. I like the mic preampsa lot, and the onboard EQ isn’t too harsh. It’s verysubtle, so you can tweak things just a little bit. Same with thecompressors: I can use them just to hold things together, withoutnecessarily slamming them. I’m not really technical; I’mnot the kind of person who likes to dive into the manual. I want it allin front of me. With the 02R96, all the controls are right there:It’s easy to use, and I can just throw things down. For someonewho hasn’t come up being an engineer and the technical side ofthings, it’s pretty straightforward.”