Mike Wells Mastering (San Francisco, Calif.) has taken delivery of an ATR-102 recorder equipped with the optional David Hill–designed Aria Reference Series electronics. The high-end analog deck is the first of its kind to take up permanent residence on the West Coast.
Wells says that the enhanced performance of the Aria all-discrete, class-A electronics was immediately audible: “When we compared the Aria to the stock electronics, which are still on the deck, the difference in the amount of detail jumping out was very noticeable. You don’t really need a discerning ear to pick it out.”
The remanufactured machine was supplied by ATR Services of York, Penn. It is housed in Wells’ new mastering facility at the Hyde Street Studios, the downtown San Francisco recording complex that started out as the fabled Wally Heider Studios, where recording legends like the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Jefferson Airplane recorded much of their best work.
According to Wells, the new “super analog” machine serves multiple purposes. First, Wells uses it as a state-of-the-art mastering, playback and audio processing. deck. He also makes the deck available to the recording rooms in the complex for use as a primary mixdown deck, or for “fattening up” individual tracks in projects otherwise recorded and mixed in the digital domain. Wells rents the machine to producers and labels that require ultra-high resolution transfers when re-archiving analog masters into high resolution digital formats.
After comparing several projects mixed to the ATR/Aria to alternate versions mixed directly back into Pro Tools, Wells described the difference as “night and day” and very much in favor of the analog. “There’s much more ‘air’ around the analog, and more harmonic richness,” he observes.
Wells expects that the trend to lower-cost, computer-based recording will actually drive up demand for use of high-end analog mastering. “I’m finding that as people are saving money by using digital home recording systems at home, they want to give it the finishing touch that analog brings to make it more marketable.”
In addition, he believes that several recent high-profile projects using the Aria electronics – among them high definition re-releases by the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and AD/DC – will help fuel steady demand for his new machine among discerning musicians and producers.
Mike Wells Mastering, 245 Hyde Street, San Francisco, Calif., 415/595.5446, [email protected].
For more information, go to the Web at www.atrservice.com.