HOPEWELL JUNCTION, NEW YORK: Adrian Belew is a guitar virtuoso without peer. The flame of his long career, which produced enduring magic with Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, and David Bowie in front of thirty years at the head of foundational progressive rock band King Crimson, burns as brightly now as it ever has. Respected for his ability to produce tones and sounds with a guitar that bear no resemblance to the instrument's usual output, Belew draws crowds around the world with his independent work. He recently completed a home studio, centered on a pair of eight-channel Metric Halo ULN-8 interfaces with studio-grade mic preamps, where he is currently recording his forthcoming album.
Daniel Rowland, who obtained his Masters of Fine Arts in Music Recording & Technology from Middle Tennessee State University and currently teaches at The Art Institute of Tennessee and at The Online Audio School,
designed and installed Belew's new studio. He came to the job after designing the avant-garde guitarist's rig, which employs a complicated network of hardware and software devices to deliver the state-of-the-art in guitar processing. The two hit it off, and Rowland is now Belew's engineer and technical guru.
"Belew's bass player, Julie Slick, has long sung the praises of Metric Halo," explained Rowland. "She has the ULN-2, and she loves how flexible it is and the quality of the preamps and conversion. I came into this project dead set on buying converters and outboard preamps, and meshing that with Adrian's 48-channel console. However, much as with his new guitar rig, Belew wanted his studio to have a smaller footprint, without sacrificing quality, power or flexibility. So I checked out the Metric Halo ULN-8." The ULN-8 delivers eight channels of utterly honest preamplification and conversion via Firewire, with the ability (using the Metric Halo MIO software console) to matrix route inputs and outputs, both hardware and software. The ULN-8 earned the 2009 Editor's Choice Award from Professional Audio Magazine and its variant, the LIO-8, earned a 2011 TEC Award.
"After putting the ULN-8 through the paces, it became clear that a pair of them would serve Adrian's vision for his studio much better than would the usual hodgepodge of mix 'n match gear," said Rowland. "That said, we still added some additional outboard gear, mostly to dirty-up the ULN-8's very clean inputs." The two Metric Halo ULN-8s are joined by a modest rack populated by DBX, Summit Audio, and TUBE-TECH hardware. When the studio first came together, Pro Tools 9 had not yet been released, and so Rowland used Logic to record some early takes. But with Pro Tools 9, Metric Halo hardware is fully supported. "I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants at the first Pro Tools session," laughed Rowland. "I was booting up for the very first time using the program and the ULN-8s. To my relief, they worked flawlessly together."
After Rowland had spent some time with the ULN-8s, he began to explore some of the additional features that hadn't really factored into the decision to purchase them in the first place. "To be honest, I thought the 'Character' settings were probably a gimmick," he said, "but I was surprised at how much I liked some of them! It's a really usable feature that makes the box even more flexible. My favorite 'Character' so far is the 'Modern Tube Softsat'."
While Belew's forthcoming full-length studio album is still a work in progress, there are a few one-offs that Rowland has been able to record with the Metric Halo ULN-8s. Most notable is Belew's contribution to Atlanta-based Sun Domingo's forthcoming album.
ABOUT METRIC HALO Based in New York's Hudson Valley, Metric Halo provides the world with high-resolution metering, analysis, recording and processing solutions with award-winning software and future-proof hardware. www.mhlabs.com
PHOTO CAPTION Adrian Belew (right) with Daniel Rowland, designer of Belew's new studio featuring a Metric Halo ULN-8 Interface.