Looking to upgrade his home studio, mix engineer, US-based guitarist and producer Mike Butler had very specific requirements and a theory – ‘I’ve been saying to people for year that you don’t need expensive gear or specially-built facilities to make a great record.’

Recording with British artist Elaine Palmer and Matt Lynott (drums) and Patrick McClory (bass)Determined to put this to the test when producing an album with English artist, Elaine Palmer. ‘I wanted to record at least Elaine and the drummer and bassist together,’ he recounts. ‘Elaine would be playing guitar and singing, so that means drums, bass, guitar and a vocal simultaneously.’

A small, well-loved UA dual channel interface already sat at the heart of his – admittedly modest – set-up, but he confessed to its limitations as a tracking solution. ‘It only has two built- in mic preamps, and the only way to expand it is via a single Adat input.’

Butler’s credits include The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, The Pretenders, Eminem, Phoebe Bridgers and Ray LaMontagne, and he recently mixed the music for the hit HBO animated series, Batwheels. As a consequence, he’s been in many large, multi-million dollar studio facilities with multiple rooms and high-calibre acoustic design. He’s also worked with large format analogue mixing consoles and an array of incredible vintage outboard gear.

‘Having enough inputs and mic preamps was the biggest and seemingly most expensive hurdle to figure out,’ he says. ‘My saviour came with the release of a brand new line of recording gear by a smaller, but well trusted and reputable company, Audient.’

He is talking about Evo, a range of simple, innovative products designed to make recording easy for creatives, which he initially saw as simply a ‘no frills, budget friendly option’. After a little more research, however, he discovered that the flagship Evo 16 is a full recording interface with eight internal mic preamps, a monitor section with two independent headphone outputs and it’s expandable via Adat to 24 channels.

‘The kicker is that it does all this for around US$550!’

After several trips down YouTube rabbit holes, his interest was fully piqued: ‘I started realising that they were keeping costs down in some pretty ingenious ways, by omitting a few features that a lot of similar interfaces have. But as it turns out, mostly features I didn’t particularly need.

‘It’s as simple as it gets,’ he continues. ‘It has combination jacks for inputs that accept TRS or XLR connectors. It doesn’t have external phase switches, high-pass filters, pads or any other bells and whistles you might typically find on multichannel mic pre/interface. They use a single switch to select phantom power per channel instead of having them on each track. It doesn’t even come with rack ears (though you can buy them cheaply). The whole thing is designed to be as streamlined as possible with as few external knobs or buttons as they can get away with. It is actually a great idea. By eliminating the costs of adding all the extra doodads, they could spend the money on the things that matter most: preamps and converters.

‘But eight channels wasn’t going to be enough to get me there, and wouldn’t you know it, they’d thought of that too.’

Adding an Evo 16 and Evo SP8 standalone 8-channel mic preamp to his set-up means he has a full 16-channel recording studio. ‘Same mic preamps, same layout – all for just over US$1,000. And, if I find that isn’t enough, I can add another SP8 down the road for a full 24 channels.

‘I am truly blown away by this set-up, especially for the price,’ he says of the Evo 16 and SP8 together. ‘When you factor the cost-per -hannel for an all-in-one solution, you’d be hard pressed to find any cheaper option, and as I found out, especially one that sounds as good. The mic preamps sound great, have enough gain and clean headroom, and are very quiet. They don’t give you any “vibe” per se. They are clean and sound like the source they are recording. They aren’t going to bring any colouration to the table, but honestly, the magic should come from the source, not your preamps.

‘I sometimes missed having a high-pass filter on the preamps,’ he admits. ‘There are loads of options post recording to deal with any rumble though, and realistically I may only have used them on one or two sources. Most of the time, I don’t use them anyway. Thankfully, the software that comes with the Evo Expanded System does give you a phase button for each track, which is pretty important to me.’

He concludes that expensive equipment is not the secret of recording great music: ‘The sound quality of the record has far exceeded my expectations. I will without a doubt be making many more records this way in the future. I’m thrilled with how it all went; not only with the album we made, but with the experience as a whole.’

More: http://evo.audio

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