Ronan Chris Murphy (left) and Terry Bozzio with a rack of Pacificas and EM Series mic pres at Murphy’s Veneto West Studio.
For more than 15 years, Ronan Chris Murphy has proven himself to be one of the most sought after producer/mixers of hard jazz, progressive rock and experimental music. Lending his engineering talents to respected virtuosos like Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, Mike Keneally and Steve Morse, Murphy is highly regarded for his work with spectacular drummers, including Terry Bozzio, Bill Bruford, Gregg Bissonette, Pat Mastelotto and Lewis Pragasam.
Over the past five years, Murphy has spent much of his time working from his own Culver City–based Veneto West Studio, which continually attracts musicians from both Los Angeles and around the world.
Having engineered and produced more than 200 albums for others – including some 15 records for King Crimson and various offshoots – Murphy, an accomplished guitarist and composer, is now turning his attention to his own solo project, which benefits from an all-star backup band of Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, Keneally on keys, and both Mastelotto and Bozzio on drums.
Seeing that Bozzio’s percussion setup spans 16 feet and includes literally dozens of drums and cymbals, Murphy and co-engineer Dan Richards chose to run the drummer’s entire kit through 15 channels of A-Designs Audio microphone preamplifiers, comprised of four two-channel Pacifica solid-state units, six EM Series modules (two EM-Red, two EM-Silver and two EM-Blue) and a tube-equipped MP-1A. An additional Pacifica was also called upon to mic Murphy’s own guitar amp.
According to the engineer, the results were nothing short of stunning. “I have become a huge fan of A-Designs gear, especially the Pacifica,” he says. “I find that if I run it conservatively, it provides a beautiful representation of what I’m recording and makes everything sound just a little bit bigger and more glamorous. And if I want to drive it harder to make tracks more aggressive or bring out extra harmonics, I simply push in the pad switch and it opens up a whole new palette of sounds. For me, that switch is a huge creative tool.”
To be certain that the A-Designs preamps were the right tools for his project, Murphy A/B’d the products against a number of other competitive units. “We set up shootouts between the Pacificas and some very well-known clean, neutral-sounding mic pres widely regarded as staples for classical and jazz use. Surprisingly, we actually found the Pacifica to be more accurate in terms of capturing the spectral content of the sound source.
“But the main reason that I’ve become such a die-hard fan is because I have been absolutely stunned at what a wide range of things the Pacifica invariably becomes my first choice on. I’ll put it on a guitar amp, push the fader up and it just sounds like a record, for lack of a more scientific term. Or I’ll put it on a lead vocalist and it totally delivers the body and tone I was looking for. There are certainly other great products out there, but I’ve never had another mic pre like this that is so good across the board.”