Rarefied Recording, a San Diego Recording Studio

A Real Plate for Rarefied!

Reverb comes in many shapes and sizes, but one type you won’t typically find is an actual plate reverb because they are very big (and very heavy). Well, Rarefied is happy to announce that we now have an honest to god, real plate! We stuck it along the back wall of the live room so it’s pretty well out of the way and easy to patch in via existing mic tie lines at the back of the room.

What is a plate reverb, you ask? It’s literally a reverb created by vibrating a large sheet (plate) of metal. Much like a speaker vibrates a cone made of paper or other material to produce sound, a plate reverb uses similar technology to vibrate a metal sheet suspended by tensioning clips. As you can imagine, once you excite this big piece of suspended metal it tends to continue to vibrate for awhile. By placing a pair of contact pickups on the plate, these decaying vibrations can be captured and converted to an electrical signal for recording. The sound of a plate decaying is a very warm reverb that you’ve heard on many recordings (either an actual plate or a simulation of one).

Now the classic plate is the good old EMT 140, but we decided to do things a little different here and sourced a new plate from a company called Pluto Plate. After some research it appears to be the only new plate you can purchase at this time. It’s very similar to the EMT 140 in terms of size, but it uses a passive design. This means you must use an external amplifier to drive it and you must bring the returns back through mic preamps. It also has no internal equalization so you need to use an external eq on the send to shape the sound of the plate (which tends to be a bit bass heavy on its own). The choice of driving amplifier and return preamps will also affect the sound so it’s going to be interesting to see what type of tones can be coaxed from this sheet of metal.

The other super cool thing about the Pluto Plate is that it has a remote dampening system. On one side of the plate there is a large dampener that is hinged on one end. The other end can be pushed in or out with an internal motor that is controlled via a computer application. So depending on how you set the dampener the reverb time of the plate will change. With the dampener pushed tight against the plate, the reverb time will be short (around 0.5 seconds). With it pulled all the way out from the plate, not touching it all, the reverb time will be long (around 5 seconds). The motor allows 100 different positions of the dampener giving a great number of decay time options. Plus, you can save a preset for later recall.

How does it sounds, though? In short, unbelievably rich, dense, and warm. Plug-ins come close, but there is something about the real thing that is hard to describe. I invite you to book some time at Rarefied to hear it for yourself!


New Year, New Gear

Hello 2019! 2018 was a good year for Rarefied and we celebrated by purchasing some new toys for you girls and boys. Here’s a run down of what’s new at the studio:

Neumann U47

We have to kick things off with the Neumann U47. Probably the most classic of all the classic tube mics. This here is a beautiful example of the long body variant with the original M7 capsule (reskinned by Microtech Gefell) and original BV08 transformer. The tube has been replaced with an EF14, the power supply is a hefty, super overbuilt aftermarket unit from Hamptone, and the cabling is all new from Gotham Audio. Needless to say, it sounds fantastic!

Behringer Model D

When Behringer announced they were going to clone a Moog Minimoog I think we were all skeptical. At the price point they were talking it seemed kinda crazy. But they did something pretty nice here and sometimes a clone makes more sense sense than the real thing. Just hook up a MIDI keyboard to this guy and you can have hours of fun dialing in sounds.

Gamchanger Audio Plus Pedal

Gamechanger Audio caught my attention in 2018 with their Plasma Pedal- a crazy distortion that runs your guitar through a Xenon tube which not only sounds nuts, but also produces a brilliant blue light show. So after being thoroughly impressed by that, I decided it was worth checking out their other pedal, the Plus Pedal. This thing lets you add piano like sustain to your guitar via a method they call “real time sampling”. It really is quite unique and something that should add a new tool in the toolset of any guitar that walks through the doors here.

Standard Audio Stretch

Standard Audio is another company that I was familiar with from another product of theirs. The Level-Or has been in my racks for awhile (2 of them, in fact). So I was curious what the Stretch was all about. I had heard about engineers using and abusing Dolby noise reduction units and had actually tried it myself with some dbx units I had for awhile. It definitely is a way to achieve some interesting bite to a signal. Standard Audio fashioned the Stretch after several ways engineers had been modifying such gear and came out with one box that can do several different things including adding some magical top end, magical low end, and serious bite and character to whatever you run through it. I look forward to seeing what it can do this year.

AEA R88

The AEA R88 manages to stuff two of AEA’s R84’s into one package giving you a perfect Blumlein pair for stereo micing. Blumelein is one of many methods for stereo micing, but it tends to give a very natural and 3D pickup since it captures sound in 360 degrees from the mic. This will be another great option at the studio for drum overheads, piano, and general room mic duties.

Trident Audio Developments A-Range 500 Series EQ

Trident was a studio back in merry old England and it was a time when you couldn’t really just go out and buy a console. So studios use to make their own. The A-Range was Trident’s first console and this EQ is a clone of what would have been found in the original. A very unique design that uses faders for boost and cut.

Chandler Limited TG12345 MKIV 500 Series EQ

Chandler Limited is the only company authorized to make reproductions of the custom gear that Abbey Road/EMI Studios used to make. The TG12345 was another one of those custom consoles created back in the day and this EQ is derived from the original.

I was already a fan of the sound of this EQ from using a Waves plug-in version. It’s super simple, which is nice, and adds some bold color that is definitely reminiscent of The Beatles or other bands that recorded out of Abbey Road in that era. I’ve already had great success using it to enhance a vocal and bring the right amount of weight and bite to a snare drum.

Bricasti M7 Stereo Reverb Processor

The final piece for the year was this unassuming black box by Bricasti. I was in need of a fantastic outboard reverb that could do all the usual suspects (halls, rooms, plates, etc.) and these days no piece has been more lauded than the M7. I purchased this version that has no screen after discovering that an excellent plug-in is available from Exponential Audio which allows you to control the M7 straight from Pro Tools. I like this since a) you get to buy the cheaper Bricasti with no screen, b) no need to leave the sweetspot while adjusting presets or parameters, and c) the settings used are saved in the session making it very easy to recall when used on a mix. My favorite part of the M7 so far are the “Ambience” programs which add a realistic sense of space around things without sounding like reverb in anyway.