About Me And PFM Studio

In order to understand my setup, and subsequent articles and videos of my studio, I need to give some background information on myself and my experience as a professional recording engineer, producer and international recording artist. I’ll do some kind of an “About” section in the future, but for now, this will explain everything.

I am known internationally as “Recording Artist mjk” and have been using that moniker for more than 3 decades. I am known in the live streaming world as MJ Klein.

I was a prolific engineer and producer in the Boston area throughout the 80s and 90s. In 1986 alone I recorded 40 different bands/artists. Virtually all of those artists did 2 tunes, and in that year I recall there were at least three full albums that I engineered and mixed.  Altogether in my career, I estimate I’ve done somewhere in the range of 500 mixes all on 24 track 2″ tape.  I’ve worked with all the major console and multitrack machine brands, but mostly I worked with API consoles and the 3M M79 and Studer A-80 multitrack machines.  I’ve also worked with everything from 1/4″ 1/2 track up to 2″ 24 track analog tape, including the rare Scully 1/2″ 8-track with the 12-track head stack (an example of which is seen in the artwork for Boston’s remastered first album in Tom Sholz’s personal studio). I’ve also been fortunate to work in a studio with an impressive array of vintage large capsule vacuum tube (valve) preamp condenser microphones, as well as vintage outboard processors like the infamous LA-2A, 1176 and Pultec EQ. My favorite overall was the Aphex Aural Exciter, Type B (I’ll talk about using an exciter in a followup article). Once I got my hands on the Aphex Exciter, I never did another mix without it. Once, I went to a studio in DC that told me over the phone they had one, and discovering upon arrival that they didn’t, I made them go and purchase one immediately. The studio manager told me later that the purchase was well worth it after they heard the resulting mixes.

After recording my last studio tracks as a solo artist in 1997, I retired from the music industry, very tired and fed up with record company politics and with the issues related to being a solo artist with my own label and publishing company (namely, being blacklisted from charting).  Outside of doing some occasional session work, I stayed away from recording after 1999.  The result of this is that I completely missed the so-called “DAW Revolution”.  Other than using a DAW for finished track editing, I have never used a DAW to record and mix music in the box. I’m used to a console, and my “hand-ear” coordination is based on a physical control surface.

I’m Not A “DAW Person”

Considering my experience and background, mixing with a mouse and managing plugins just wasn’t appealing. At all. I’ve seen a number of videos about how to use the X32 digital console in the studio but all of them use the console as a DAW interface to write automation envelopes. This approach ignores the console audio engines and I think a controller would be better (and cheaper!) in that workflow. Considering that all of the 80s music we know and love was created in studios with analog mixing consoles and analog tape I thought hard about my approach to recording in the 21st century.

When I decided to build a personal studio in my home here in Taiwan, my intent was to not use a DAW as a mixing tool, but only as a multitrack recorder/player and put a console in front of the DAW.  My collaboration with Dr. Patrick Gilles-Maillot resulted in a new automation software being developed for use with the X32/M32 series of consoles.  My X32 is the centerpiece of my studio.  I use it as a recording interface, and I monitor all tracks though the console exactly as I would have done in the 80s with an inline console (I also own an actual inline recording console – the Soundcraft Ghost), but that workflow requires low latency – which led me down the path to a Dante Audio Network.

On a side note, as I progress with technical articles I will show you why some modern mixing advice given online may not be prudent because it’s based on DAW workflows and may not have as much to do with mixing techniques for a record as it does with the recording media.  Sometimes I read things like “bus everything” which is something we would never have done in the 80s.  A console is, in itself a bus and it adds color of it’s own to the audio.

My setup differs from a standard DAW based studio in the following ways:

  1. Reaper Master Bus is not used and is hidden on the Reaper interface.
  2. Reaper Volume or Pan controls are not used and are hidden on the Reaper interface.
  3. Envelopes of any kind are not used.
  4. DAW plugins are not used (although it is certainly possible on individual tracks – I’ve not found it necessary).
  5. Tracks are monitored though the X32 console.
  6. Recording monitors are fed from the X32 Monitor Sends and not from a recording interface on the DAW Master Bus (because there isn’t any MB).
  7. All audio signals that are recorded are interfaced through the X32 (including any signals from the Soundcraft Ghost).
  8. ASIO interface to Reaper is Dante Virtual Soundcard and not USB (USB audio card has been replaced with X-Dante).
  9. Inputs to Reaper are limited to 2 stereo pairs totaling 4 channels: Channels 1+2 from an X32 Mixbus configured as a Subgroup, and Channels 3+4 from the Stereo Mains.
  10. Output channels from Reaper are routed through 32 Dante input channels to the X32, 1:1 on the routing matrix.
  11. Reaper template contains 32 mono audio tracks, + 1 MIDI track + 1 MTC track + 1 Click track + 10 Mixdown Stereo tracks and a number of storage tracks.
  12. DAW control function on the X32 is used for track arming, muting and soloing functions only. Faders are set to unity gain (unless there is a very good reason to set them otherwise).
  13. DAW transport functions are controlled on the console using X32ReaperAutoMate.
  14. The mouse and keyboard are only necessary for very specific functions such as file saving and of course, parameter setup. The keyboard drawer is put away and sometimes the computer monitor is turned off as the X32 has individual channel metering on the console.
  15. A 15 button Stream Deck is used for Reaper track setup as described in this article. The Stream Deck is also used to start up the appropriate programs for a session using Multi-function.
  16. Mixing automation writing is performed in real-time on the console, using X32ReaperAutoMate.
  17. All console parameters are saved with X32ReaperAutoMate mix automation files, so only need 2 scenes are needed on the console: Scene 0: Standard Production and Scene 1: Live Streaming.

Please feel free to drop me an email (address in the header) if you’d like more information. Also, please realize that I cannot provide product support for something I don’t sell. But I can tell you about how I use those products.

Thanks for reading.

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