Chris Bell
Recently opened, Blade Studios is world-class sound recording studio complex  in Louisiana. Behind it are drummer/producer Brady Blade, executive producer/media developer Scott Crompton and chief engineer/producer/mixer Chris Bell. Inside is the latest placement of Endless Analog’s Clasp recording system.

Clasp integrates analogue tape machines into digital audio production workflow, and follows the thinking behind Blade’s complement of modern and classic recording gear. With it, Blade can run an analogue tape machine alongside a DAW, combining classic sound and digital convenience.

The complex features two identically sized control rooms – Studio A houses an SSL Duality console while Studio B features an Avid Icon D-Control ES. Both rooms feature Avid Pro Tools|HD3 systems with a Studer A827 tape machine also available in Studio A. Blade is also running the Studer A827 with a Clasp (Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor) system and the 48-channel Duality console – which combines an analogue path signal processing with DAW control.

The loudspeaker systems in both control rooms are identical Ocean Way Audio HR2 main stereo mains, alongside a 5.1 configuration of Adam Audio monitors. Both control rooms offer a selection of new and vintage outboard processing equipment and microphones, and new and vintage instruments are available in the 1,350-plus square foot tracking room, which also includes spacious isolation booths. Recent studio sessions have involved Rolling Stones touring bassist Daryl Jones with Brady Blade on drums.

For GC Pro, the job began even before the construction plans were finalized, according to Blade Studios Executive Producer & Media Developer, Scott Crompton. And much of the equipment came through GC Pro, as Cromton explains: ‘Even though some of the equipment could have been purchased directly from the manufacturer, Crompton involved GC Pro in the deal,’ he says. ‘We’ve been buying all of our Apple equipment through Jeffrey [McDaniel, GC Pro Account Manager] because for me it’s great to have one source that completely understands the scope of what we are trying to create in Blade Studios, and to have the power of GC Pro and Jeffrey McDaniel there in the middle of the transaction is wonderful.’

Chris Bell, Allen Sides, Brady Blade and Scott Crompton
Chris Bell, Allen Sides, Brady Blade and Scott Crompton
The Ocean Way Audio monitors – which are designed by engineer/producer and studio owner Allen Sides – were among the systems supplied by GC Pro. ‘We were really interested in having Ocean Way Audio monitors in the studio,’ says Crompton. ‘GC Pro helped facilitate a visit for me during the 2010 Grammys at Ocean Way Recording, where GC Pro Business Development Manager Derek Snyder introduced me to Allen Sides. We were fortunate enough to be able to audition the Ocean Way Monitors in the studio with a wide variety of source material that Allen had. One listen convinced me that they were the right monitors for our studios.’

‘Based on my experience working on 9000 J and K series consoles, I knew I could trust that Duality was going to be right for Studio A,’ says Chris Bell, on the selection of the SSL console.

‘One of the reasons I love Duality is because I do all my sounds up front and commit to them while the musicians are still in the studio,’ he explains. ‘With Duality I know that the sound quality is guaranteed right from the start, so when I go to mix, I just do fine tweaks. We have been seeing that our clients are returning to the concept of great sound quality over recording in the box, so we have a collection of outboard mic pres as sonic paintbrushes for color and we are also tracking to two-inch tape through the Clasp system to Pro Tools. Duality brings all the outboard gear, the 24-track deck and the DAW together for a streamlined workflow.’

Getting to grips with Clasp

Bell was in the process of selecting equipment for the new facility, when he came across Clasp online. ‘I read a couple of articles on it, and I thought it sounded very interesting,’ he says. ‘I grew up using analogue tape, but in recent years it’s just been disappearing. Last year. I think I only did one record on tape.

‘But Clasp opens up that possibility again in a very real, modern way. So I contacted my sales rep to track down a Clasp, and got in touch with Chris Estes, who invented the Clasp box and runs Endless Analog. He was immensely helpful, and he helped me get the unit up and running. That was just a few months ago, and we’ve already been using it on sessions here at the studio.’

‘The most important thing we do for our clients is create an atmosphere where they are inspired, breathe easy and feel great about the room and the sessions that are taking place,’ says Crompton. ‘We want them to perform confidently and enjoy the sound of their own voice and playing, and Clasp is an important piece of that puzzle – a tool to make that happen. A lot of people want to use vintage gear, but they don’t necessarily want the hassles associated with it – high costs for tape reels, time for rewinding or transferring things to Pro Tools and so on. Clasp solves those problems; you only need a small amount of tape, and no time is needed for transferring things.

‘The artist can always be in the moment, and no inspiration gets lost. That is a tremendous gift. Artists are generally more at ease when they don’t sense the pressure and ticking clock of burning through expensive tape. Now, they can walk in and see Clasp and think, “I can do a thousand takes; I can do a million takes, and it’s all going to tape and it all sounds sweet”. Clasp separates itself from all other gear – it’s like riding around in a beautiful old Gullwing Mercedes and not having to worry about it breaking down or anybody backing into it.’

‘It’s so nice to see reels of tape rolling again – everybody is so curious about the tape machine,’ Bell continues. ‘They say, “Man this is cool. We haven’t done this in a while”.

‘It really makes an enormous difference in sound, and since it’s not slowing down the session, you don’t really think about the fact that it’s there and working. You just know that feeling when everything sounds rich and nuanced, coming right from the moment of performance. The tape adds that smooth, full compression on the front end, so I don’t have to add as much compression later on – it’s changed the way I mix to more how I used to mix once upon a time, pre-digital. You can just let the tape machine do so much.’

‘There just wasn't a really super-duper, high-end facility in Louisiana,’ Crompton says of the thinking behind Blade. ‘We wanted to make sure that we built the very best studio we could possibly imagine – and we’ve accomplished that. Every screw, every nail, every piece of equipment in this place is the very best we could get our hands on. It’s really as fine as any place on the planet. And we have GC Pro to thank in helping make our vision a reality.’


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