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Build Your Own Studio—2024 Edition: Part 2

We asked London/Belgium-based engineer Wes Maebe to spend an imaginary $100,000 outfitting an imaginary studio. The place may not exist, but it sounds awesome!

SPL Crescendo 8 Mic Pre.
SPL Crescendo 8 Mic Pre.

What would you put in your studio if money was no object? That’s what we asked London/Belgium-based engineer Wes Maebe—and money really was no object, because it didn’t exist. For this article, Wes went on an imaginary shopping spree, blowing 100,000 imaginary dollars on an equally imaginary studio. Here’s what he came up with—the place may not actually exist, but it sounds awesome! DON’T SKIP PART ONE!


No studio is complete without at least a few ribbon mics, and Wes Dooley is king of the ribbons. His AEA R92 is such an all-rounder. Because both sides of the ribbon provide a different character, it’s a bit of a Ribbon Swiss Army Knife for guitar cabs, overheads, brass and even vocals.

Another recent discovery has been the Samar ribbons. I got to use the VL37As on various sessions at Rosewood Music on a plethora of amps, drum overheads and piano. I’m also throwing in a couple of sE DM2 TNTs to deal with low output from certain mics, i.e., the ribbons or an SM7B.


Only one dynamic has made it into this lineup, mainly because I’m presuming that we already own a choice selection of the usual suspects. The sE V Kick is one of those hidden gems. I’ve been using it on all styles, ranging from country rock to death metal. Usually, I’ll have a kick-in, kick-out, and maybe a sub NS-10, but this multi-voice mic has been dominating my kick-mic blend lately, and it won’t break the bank either!

Scope Periscope.
Scope Labs Periscope.

Before we move on to preamps and other outboard gear, we definitely need one oddball microphone. Meet the Scope Labs Periscope. This is the ultimate steampunk piece of equipment. The capsule lives in what looks like plumbing pipe, and it contains an inbuilt compressor. There are no controls to be fiddled with, just plug it in and be ready for serious pumping. The Periscope is great for room sound, anything drums, and it really needs you to experiment and throw it at any sound source.


All these beautiful mics need to find their way onto tape or into your DAW, so mic preamps are required. Generally, a commercial recording studio will have a medium- to large-format console that has all the pre’s on board; that console may be one of the deciding factors in booking one of these sonic temples. I’ve decided to go a little more hybrid on this setup. A lot of engineers like to work In-the-Box these days, so we’ll put together a selection of preamps that will allow you to mix and match all these various mic flavors and preamp characters.

Hazelrigg VLC and VLE.
Hazelrigg Industries VLC and VNE.

Here we go, straight in the door with a big one. Let me introduce you to Hazelrigg Industries. You may recall a review about the VLC and VNE in Mix about a year ago, and since then, the VNE compressor has not left my side. Believe me, I am working hard to get the VLC back. There’s something purely magical about pairing the preamp/EQ with the compressor and using it as a channel strip. This has been called the “Everything Channel,” and I can wholly agree. Our list will be graced by two full channels, i.e., two VLCs and two VNEs. This package will also serve as a dual-channel strip for mixing and mastering.

Useful Arts Audio’s secret (not so secret) sauce is the Color knob. It’s great on everything, especially on top snare. The SFP-60 will add another two channels of mic pre. Simon Saywood’s Analogue Tube AT-3 is another one of my go-to pre’s. It’s a no-nonsense, clean-yet-warm unit and will sit nicely in our collection.

Manley VoxBox.
Manley VoxBox.

We can’t talk preamps without bringing up the Manley Labs VoxBox. It’s a beast. It provides color and character, and, again, can be used as an insert channel strip when we switch to mix mode.

Six mic lines might have been enough in the old days, but not today. In addition to these tube powerhouses, we’ll load a Fredenstein Bento 10S with an Empirical Labs DocDerr 500 channel strip, a Neve 88RLB—because who doesn’t like a bit of Neve—two AEA RPQs to mainly deal with our ribbon mics, the Meris 440, which is really geared toward guitar duties, and a Crane Song Syren.

Rounding out the mic pre collection is the SPL Crescendo 8, making it a total mic line count of 20. That might seem a little excessive, but I always think of my drummer pal Neil Felgate, for whom this is just about right to cover his drum kit.

I’d like to slot in one more vital component to complete the input section of our setup. People will be turning up with their production rigs, and keyboards, guitar and bass DI signals are tracked so they can be re-amped, and drummers may run a few triggers. The Hazelrigg 4DI, gives you four channels of sublime vacuum tube thickness.


Projects come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes you find yourself in the driver’s seat from mic to master. That’s the reason I’m including quite a few stereo units, which can serve as dual-single channels, but also as mix bus and mastering processors.

The Regular John Recording Bax Mastering EQ has to be one of my faves, with its super-high frequencies and Pultec-style operation and sound.

Rockrupel Comp. Two.
Rockrupel Comp. Two.

Recently, I had the opportunity to master a few records in a beautiful European facility, and one of the boxes there was the Rockrupel Comp. Two. Your eye is immediately drawn to it, and it does not disappoint. Do check out the plug-in version as well! One of the most all-round compressors in the industry must be the Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor; we’re going to take two of those.

Crane Song Insignia.
Crane Song Insignia.

The last of our 19-inch rack units is going to be the Heritage Audio Motorcity EQ. It’s one of those historic replicas that I haven’t had the chance to play with yet, but is definitely on the “to try” list.

Don’t forget, we have a few more 500 Series slots to fill up. Some of these will be taken up by two Crane Song Insignas in honor of our dear late friend and designer David Hill. Once more, these two tube EQs can be used as single units, but can also be pressed into service for mixing and bus processing, and if you’re like me, it can become part of your parallel-compression chain.

The Little Labs VOG most definitely has a place in our lunchbox. Hip-Hop, modern R&B, metal, techno—you name it, low end is extremely important, and the VOG has it by the truckload.

We’re leaving one slot blank for future expansion, and hey, let’s give those Crane Songs a little air to breathe.