The First Remote Direct To Disk Recording Ever

A few months back Vintage King's Ryan McGuire and I made some history doing the first ever remote recording direct to vinyl. It was an idea brought to us by Cameron Henry and Chris Mara down at Welcome to 1979 recording studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Their studio is a commercial recording facility as well as a mastering house to press vinyl records.

Cameron and Chris thought it would be a cool idea if we had a band record up in Detroit at the 45 Factory and send the signal down in real time for them to cut directly to the vinyl lathe. We jumped on the idea thinking it would be something great to offer clients, and the fact it had never been done before was also very intriguing to Ryan and I.

Watch our new video of the first remote direct to disk recording below and continue on to learn more about the software and set-up used to accomplish this piece of history.

It seemed easier said than done in the beginning. We got in contact with a company called Source Elements, which makes the program called Source Connect that works similar to the old school ISDN lines allowing studios to connect to each other through the internet. Very convenient when you have a voice over artist that lives in another state and need to have them on the session.

A few years back I was doing a lot of voice over recording at RMS studios in Birmingham Michigan. We had clients from all over the country as well as a pool of voice over talent all over the world. We started using Source Connect right when it became hot on the market. It was much cheaper than having an ISDN setup in the studio and worked flawlessly from the first session we used it. It was very convenient to have a client be able to work from their home or local studio wherever they were in the world and record directly into our system. The producer could still be involved in the session at our studio and the recording quality from the client always sounded great.

So since I was already familiar with the software, we thought it would be a simple setup for this direct to disk recording. But just like everything in the audio world, something came up.

It had nothing to do with the software itself, I’ll be the first to say the Source Connect is bulletproof, we just a lot of technical set-up in our studio as well as the studio down in Nashville. Since a band will be performing live and cutting directly to vinyl, there is no room for error. We needed to make sure the connection was as solid as it could be.

So we began setting up our internet to work for this recording. We had to make sure that Port Authority was enabled and all firewalls on our router were disabled to make sure we had the highest bandwidth possible and nothing from the firewall would prevent or stop the recording. After jumping through the hoops with Comcast (our internet service provider at the studio), we were able to get that all squared away, but once we began doing signal test for the software, something still wasn’t right.

The tech support at Source Elements is top notch. They spent hours on the phone between our studio and the studio down in Nashville. They were available at all hours of the day and were never in a rush to get off the phone until the problem was solved. During the tech support call, we realized that we needed to connect directly to the modem with an ethernet cable rather than using our Wi-Fi connection. This isn’t always the case when using Source Connect, most of the time Wi-Fi will work just fine, especially in a VO session.

Our modem was in a another room a bit aways from our computer, so we needed to run a 100ft cable from the computer to the modem. As we were drilling through the wall, we hit the power line that powered our Mac Airport which disabled our Wi-Fi for a few days… Always something right!

Regardless, we remained in positive spirits and determined to make this happen. After we got the ethernet cable plugged directly into the modem, our connection was perfect to handle the large transfer of audio. We then got on the horn with the guys down at Welcome to 1979 and began the first test of full bandwidth audio.

At first we were getting some dropouts, and couldn’t seem to figure out what was wrong, so again we called the tech support at Source Elements. This was around 11PM at night and they were still able to take the call and walk us through how to get this working. After trying everything under the sun to stop these dropouts, the tech at Source Elements was able to pin it down to a driver issue on the computer at Welcome to 1979. Since they are primarily an analog studio, they didn’t have the most recent version of OS X or Pro Tools. Through the use of a program called Team Viewer, the tech was able to screen share with our computers and install the proper drivers so both computers were compatible.

This was all the day before the band was showing up to do a soundcheck, so we were a little nervous, but the moment of truth was upon us. Could we send signal for 20 minutes at a time with no dropouts? After the tech at Source Elements installed all the drivers and we did a full bandwidth signal test, it was flawless! We even went over 20 minutes to around 35 minutes or so just to make sure it was bulletproof, and it was. It transferred 16 tracks of high quality audio in near real time without a hiccup.

So after a long day of technical issues, we were finally ready for the band the next day. We got back to the studio around 10AM the next morning to greet the band Heartthrob Chassis, a newer group out of Detroit fronted by local legend Margaret Dollrod. They are a three piece band with two guitars and a drummer, Margaret is on lead vocals and the other guys sing as well. Very gritty Detroit sounding rock band which was a perfect fit for this recording. Everything was super loud and overdriven which sounded great with our Tree Audio Roots console and collection of vintage recording gear.

Once the band was all set up we began placing the microphones. On Margaret's vocals we used a vintage AKG D20, which nowadays is typically used a kick drum microphone, but when it was introduced back in the day it was actually meant for vocals. It had a nice warm low end and presence in the high end, since the band was all playing in the same room with little isolation other than our gobos, we needed something that would reject all the external noise.

On Margaret’s guitar we used a 45 Factory custom edition Mesanovic ribbon microphone. They sound the same as the Model 2 version of the microphone, just have a custom copper casing with the 45 Factory logo engraved. These mics can handle high amounts of SPL, they are full in the low end and maintain a presence in the high end that never gets too harsh.

On the other guitar player we ended up splitting his signal into two amplifiers. His amp is a vintage Fender Bassman which was cranked almost all the way up. Since they didn’t have a bass player, he was filling in the low end of the track as well as playing the melodic lead lines. On the Bassman, we also used the custom Mesanovic ribbon microphone. For the other cabinet we used a vintage Fender amp with a bit of reverb as well as a Fulltone tube tape echo for a little added vibe. We mic’d the second amp up with an SM57 and boosted the high end a little bit.

The drummers set-up was pretty unique. He is actually a right handed drummer but set up the kit in a left handed fashion to make it more “primitive” sounding. He didn’t use any hi-hats, only had a crash cymbal and a ride (which he didn’t use too much) and a single floor tom. The groove was maintained on the floor tom rather than the hi-hats, which is a signature sound of Margaret’s music. He used these huge baseball bat sticks that made the drums sound thunderous. On his kit we used Sennheiser 441s on the floor tom and snare top, and a SM57 on the snare bottom. We used a Neumann FET47 on the front head of the kick drum which captured a great deal of low end as well as attack. A single vintage Neumann U 67 was used as the overhead microphone.

For the backing vocals we used Beyerdynamic M 160s. I have never used these as a vocal microphone in a live setting before, but they did an amazing job capturing the detail of their vocals without too much bleed from the drums or guitar amps.

Every channel was recorded through a Shadow Hills GAMA preamp. We have four Shadow Hills quad GAMAs at the 45 Factory that we run into our Burl Mothership converters which then feeds the line inputs of our 16 channel Tree Audio Roots console. The preamps are great on almost any source, and with the ability to adjust the transformer style to fit whatever you are recording, they have become one of my favorite preamps on the market.

We had a little bit of vintage plate reverb on the vocal, as well as Moog 500 Series analog delay, pre delay on the plate and Moog delay was coming from a 500 series Eventide unit. We also used the plate on drums and guitars to add a little ambiance to the recording.

When we were getting all the tones, we were monitoring through Acoustic Energy AE1 passive monitors. These monitors are like super Yamaha NS10s, with extreme attention to detail on the midrange and higher frequencies and enough low end to get a feel of whats going on without it being too overwhelming. We have come to love these speakers over at 45 Factory because there isn’t any trickery happening to make the source audio sound good, what you hear is what you get, and they make you work a little harder to get it sounding just right. The following day we switched back to our Barefoot MM26s, which are always great for impressing the clients on playback.

Once we got all the tones the day before, we were ready for tracking first thing in the morning the following day. The band arrived and was ready to rock, all we had to do was get in touch with Welcome to 1979 and hit record. This was it, the moment of truth, could we pull this off? The band was really well rehearsed so we weren’t worried about them, just praying the internet wouldn’t crash during the recording. Once they were all in place, we were ready to roll.

The guys down in Nashville got the lathe all ready to record, once they got it rolling we gave the band the cue to go. We did each side of the record live all the way through, what you hear on the recording is completely live direct to disk with zero overdubs. Once side one was done, we had the band stop and take a five minute break so Nashville could get ready for side two.

The recording went off without a hitch. The band played great and the recording came out better than we had hoped for. Both sides of the record were recorded in real time directly to vinyl, with a band in our studio in Detroit and cut to the lathe down in Nashville, all possible through the wonderful Source Connect software by Source Elements. We were so stoked to be the first ones to ever do this style of recording, and are hoping to do it more often, providing bands from all over the world this amazing opportunity.

If you have any questions regarding Source Connect from Source Elements or want to integrate the software into your recording studio, please feel free to contact an Audio Consultant at Vintage King via email or by phone at 888.653.1184.

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