Spurred by Preston's interest in writing and recording as a teenager, Tim's love for gear was reawakened and the two began to assemble all the gear needed for a traditional studio space. With the opening of Trace Horse, Preston, who is recent Belmont graduate, has already been lining up clients to work on the studio's beautiful Neve 8014 and BCM10. We recently chatted with Tim about Trace Horse finding its place in the world of Nashville studios, creating an aesthetic and owning one of only five Class A Neve consoles in Music City.
When starting a studio in Nashville, how do you go about setting yourself apart from the rest of the pack?
We are literally surrounded by some of the best studios and amazingly talented engineers and producers in the world. So it’s pretty intimidating if we think about it too much. We know there’s no “silver bullet” answer; we expect to have to establish our reputation one record at time and we know it will take time.
With that said, we are very proud of the overall design of our space, our one-of-a-kind Neve 8014 Console, vintage outboard gear and instrument collection. At the end of the day, our goal is to offer an inspiring and comfortable place where artists, producers and engineers can create amazing music at affordable rates.
I always liked the way Motown’s Studio “A” looked. It had hardwood floors and pegboard on the walls. Dave Mattingly knew where to source acoustical tiles that emulated the pegboard look and because we preserved the original hardwood floor for some of our tracking areas, our studio has a bit of that feeling. Dave also milled custom acoustical wave board for the tracking and ISO booth, which works well acoustically and complimented our aesthetic. Having spent long hours recording, Preston wanted to have some natural light available in the tracking spaces. So Dave was able to build us a very soundproof window that allows a nice amount of natural sunlight to come in the tracking areas if we choose. Everyone has reacted extremely positively and say they would really like to shoot a video in our space.
Describe the basic landscape of the studio and how it’s set-up?
The studio is set up so we can record in every room. We wired the lobby, the long concrete-floored studio hallway (which sounds awesome for electric guitars) and even the studio bathroom. Mike Rhodes of Skinny Fish Audio in Nashville was instrumental in designing and implementing all our audio wiring. He created custom patch panels for every room so we can route signals anywhere we want within the studio.
He also created an awesome custom patch harness for the Neve 8014 which allows us to interface the Neve to our patch bays and take full advantage of all the Neve’s modifications. For our machine room, he created ELCO patch cables to easily switch between full analog sessions and hybrid or digital sessions.
Well we had purchased the BCM10 from Ryan McGuire a few years back and loved how it sounded. So when he called and let me know Vintage King had an ultra-clean Neve 8014 with a 16 channel monitor section, I was very interested. The last owner before we purchased the console from Vintage King was Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. Of course these days, due to the movie Dave Grohl made on Sound City Studio and their Neve 8028, a lot of people are familiar with the great records that were made on that console. Some people are probably a little less familiar with the history of those original Neve desks in AIR Studio in London. For instance, Pink Floyd's Meddle and Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sigh were both recorded at AIR on their early 80 Series Desk.
Originally my plan was to sell the BCM10 but then my wheels started turning about how we might modify the 8014 in way to leverage both desks to create a killer tracking set-up and to expand the functionality of the 8014 and BCM10 for today's hybrid mixing.
What kind of modifications did you and the Vintage King Tech Shop decide on for the desks?
To assist in tracking, there are Direct Outs on each channel on the 8014 and BCM10. We also added phantom power to each of the 16 channels on the 8014. We also created a custom Direct Injection feature on the 8014 that enables the BCM10 ‘s Stereo Outputs to be sent to the 8014 and to combined with the 8014’s channels and to utilize the 8014’s busses.
Probably the most unique feature of the 8014 is that we had them modify the 16-channel monitor section to accept external inputs on each monitor channel thereby creating 32 channels on the 8014 during mix-down. If we need more channels we can also use the 10 channels on the BCM10 giving us a total of 42 channels. The 8014 ‘s four Neve 2254 Compressors can be independently accessed from the board if needed via the patch bay. Rich also created a custom monitor section to facilitate the mix-down option and he added the ability to have 4 sets of speakers. So we have 26 channels of Class A Mic Pre/EQ goodness that packs quite a wallop in a relatively small and energy efficient footprint.
Besides the Neve 8014, one of the more unique pieces of gear we have is a custom, four channel rack designed by Vintage King’s Tim Mead for our Helios Type 69 modules. The rack has both balanced and unbalanced transformers which allows us to use the preamps in a stock configuration or to have an additional 10dB headroom available when needed. I have a weakness for compressors. Just to name a few we have an original ADR Compex 760RX (which is just killer on drums), an original Urei 1176 Blue Stripe…and yes on vocals and snare, it does live up to the hype. We also have pair of vintage LA2A’s, a pair of Lisson Grove RS124’s and matched pair of Phil Moore’s Retro Instruments 176 Compressors; which are real workhorses. I can’t say enough about the great support Phil provides for his products.
Our rarest compressor is a pair of Deccas. So we’ve been told, there are less than 50 in existence and our pair is just one of two pair here in Nashville. I believe Dave Cobb has the other pair of Decca’s. We are also fortunate to have some original API 312s that came from Wally Heider’s Studio 4 Console.
One piece of gear that gets used on virtually every mix are our Pulse Techniques EQM-1S3 Mastering EQs with the custom variable taper pots. The variable taper pots give .5dB steps at the low boost/cut settings for subtlety then increasingly larger steps to 1dB, then 1.5dB throughout the range of the switch. So you get the full power of a standard Pultec but with pots that have higher resolution for subtle buss tweaks. We have another pair of Pulse Techniques EQP-1A3’s that get used quite a bit during tracking.
When you hear a mix coming off the Neve desk through the EQM-1S3 via our Tannoy SRM10Bs with the Manley Master Labs cross-over, it really sounds phenomenal.
If you're interested in learning more about how we can help you build the studio of your dreams, please contact our knowledgeable team of pro audio experts via email or by phone at 888.653.1184.