CONGERS, NEW YORK – JANUARY 2011: Soundkeeper Recordings is a beautiful amalgamation of old and new. Veteran recording, mixing, and mastering engineer Barry Diament (Bob Marley, Pete Townshend, Led Zeppelin and on and on and on) founded the fledgling record label and expertly handles all of its technical tasks. On the one hand, Diament reaches back more than half a century, to a time when sound engineers viewed their art as the capturing of what were, first and foremost, live events. Diament records the artists on Soundkeeper Recordings’ roster in beautiful acoustic spaces using only a pair of microphones. Described as “recording without a net,” the musicians, with direction from producer Diament, determine every aspect of the “mix” as they play, with no hope for a technical save in the form of a punch-in or overdub. On the other hand, Diament relies on state-of-the-art equipment to accurately render the recordings and preserve the sonic cues that help “bring the listener to the musical event, with the feeling of being in the space in which it occurred.” The critical tool in his approach is a Metric Halo ULN-8 Mobile I/O interface, which captures his stereo signal with unprecedented transparency.
Soundkeeper Recordings’ latest release, Equinox by Markus Schwartz and his band Lakou Brooklyn, is featured as Stereophile magazine’s February 2011 Recording of the Month. Schwartz, one of the world’s foremost Haitian percussionists, played Haitian-inspired jazz with Paul Beaudry (acoustic bass), Monvelyno Alexis (electric guitar), and Jean Caze (trumpet and flugelhorn) in an auditorium with stunning acoustics built in 1908. An interesting aside, the label secured the location, which is now part of an assisted living facility, in exchange for a performance by Markus for the facility’s residents.
Diament’s setup was as simple as it was fastidious. He used a matched pair of Earthworks QTC-1 omni-directional condenser microphones. An absorbent baffle of his own design (a modified Jecklin Disk) separated the microphones, which were spaced sixteen inches apart. To ensure he was getting everything the mics captured, he used premium Nordost Valkyrja microphone cables. The Metric Halo ULN-8, paired with his Mac laptop running Metric Halo’s Record Panel, completed the setup. “With only one microphone feed per playback channel, the result is quite time coherent and focused,” said Diament. “Any imperfections become obvious. With my ULN-8 and the Record Panel, this simple setup does a wonderful job capturing the performance as an audience member would hear it.”
He continued, “For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt there have always been certain elements that were lacking in even the best analog or digital recordings. Most notably, digital recordings often lacked the harmonic complexity of the best analog recordings. Digital recordings also tended toward a certain overall coarseness. I’ve been using Metric Halo converters since they hit the market – first the 2882, then the ULN-2 and now the ULN-8 – because I felt they did the best job at minimizing these shortcomings. To my ears, the ULN-8, particularly at 24-bit/192 kHz, eliminates them. In addition, Metric Halo’s Record Panel is the most transparent recorder I’ve ever used, regardless of price or format.”
“During the beta testing, a firmware upgrade ‘turned on’ 192 kHz capability in the ULN-8. I experimented with it and quickly discovered that at this higher rate, a threshold is crossed. Recordings made with the ULN-8 at 24/192 and the Record Panel no longer sound like ‘great digital’ or even ‘great analog.’ For the first time in my experience, they just sound like the microphone feed! As a result, I feel Equinox is easily the best recording I’ve ever made. Thank you B.J. and Metric Halo!”
Consistent with Diament’s enthusiasm, Soundkeeper Recordings has made Equinox available in a range of formats, including that magical 24/192.