Addiction Sound Studios

It’s easy to forget that recalling sounds, settings and mixes is a luxury that recording studios have only enjoyed since the early 1980s. Along with ‘unlimited’ tracks, studios generally take automation and recall for granted.

‘There are lots of instances where I’ll dial something up with hardware in the heat of the moment and fire off a little mix or do something – and later wish that we could get back to it,’ admits producer, engineer and musician David Kalmusky. ‘The Trident TSM console in my control room has no detents and so it was always hard to get anything more than an approximation for recall – until we started using SpectraFoo sound analysis software…

Kalmusky is a multi-platinum, award-winning producer, engineer and musician who has worked with artists ranging from Journey, Keith Urban, Shawn Mendes, Vince Gill and John Oates to Justin Bieber. Together with long-time collaborator (and Journey keyboard man) Jonathan Cain, he operates a private production studio in Nashville called Addiction Sound Studios.

Designed by Chris Huston (The Who, Led Zeppelin, War), Addiction Sound Studios has a flexible layout, otherworldly acoustics, and the best instruments and recording gear available. ‘We keep everything miked up and ready to create,’ Kalmusky says. ‘You can wander around the building at any phase in a project and keep working.’

In terms of gear, Kalmusky likens the studio to ‘a Noah’s Arc of recording equipment’, although he’s happy to look forward to future technologies as well as to preserve past classics. ‘I’ve got a refurbished record cutter from 1938 sitting right next to an iPad that’s running early-alpha-stage software that won’t be commercially available until 2020,’ he says.

‘I’m not an analogue snob and I’m not a technology snob; I just love that at this point we can use everything in the history of recorded music and move forward. That said, we did have to restrict our gear list to only those pieces – both hardware and software – that we really love to hear; the things that sound incredible. There’s no time to mess around with things that don’t deliver.

‘When I first started mixing in the box, there weren’t a lot of channel strip options available,’ he continues. ‘Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip was the very best of a small number of choices. Today, there are dozens of channel strip plug-ins that people get excited about, and even though I’m happy to adopt new products and to chuck old products that have been surpassed, the stuff I love tends to stick around.

‘It’s funny, most of us in the industry have now been on DAWs for 20 years or so, and it’s cool to see what’s stuck around from the early days. Metric Halo plug-ins, and especially ChannelStrip, are still my go-to solutions after more than a decade. Metric Halo makes “classic” plug-ins. The compression and equalisation are amazing.’

Metric Halo plug-ins populate all of Kalmusky’s mix templates and include favourites like ChannelStrip, Transient Control, Multiband Dynamics, and HaloVerb (to complement Addiction Sound Studio’s underground echo chamber).

Kalmusky also does a lot of work in the analogue realm, where the lack of instant recall is an obvious drawback – and where SpectraFoo has offered a lifeline.

‘We have a routine where an assistant engineer or intern loads up SpectraFoo at the end of every day, runs a sine wave sweep through each channel of the Trident, and saves the resulting frequency response in SpectraFoo,’ he says. ‘If we need to recreate an analogue set-up, we match the saved response and get everything to within one tenth of a decibel. We’ve had this practice for the last two or three years, so pretty much everything I’ve done in that time has used SpectraFoo.’

Engineer and studio manager Ethan Barrette perfected the Metric Halo SpectraFoo workflow: ‘We mainly use the Transfer Function Measurement system because it has incredible frequency and phase resolution and the ability to save responses,’ he explains ‘Before arriving at SpectraFoo, we had tried other real-time analysis software, but the resolution was always too coarse. In addition to the Transfer Function, we also use the THD scope and phase versus power tool to discover that a dozen of our patch points were out of phase, which we fixed right away.’

In addition to the Trident settings, Addiction Sound Studio assistants commonly ‘record’ vocal chains using Metric Halo SpectraFoo. ‘Sometimes I’ll especially love a vocal sound I’m getting, so I ask my assistant to save it with SpectraFoo,’ Kalmusky says. ‘Then the next time we have that vocalist in, we can have precisely the same vocal chain ready to go.’

Barrette also uses SpectraFoo to sweep all of the analogue gear in the studio. ‘There are a lot of vintage pieces in the studio,’ he says. ‘When David suspects that something might not be sounding right, we run the sweep again – we’ve found lots of tubes in the early stage of failure, as well as capacitors that need replacing.’


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