Q&A Session with Karl Barnes of Loom Sound Studio

About Karl Barnes

Loom Sound Studio is run by Karl Barnes, an analog-obsessed Mixing & Mastering Engineer located in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As a fanatic audiophile, he has been working in the field for the last ten years wearing many hats as a producer, composer, mastering engineer, and sound designer.
Preferring to ditch cold digital processors in favor of old-school analog mixing/mastering tools, his productions are full of character and vibe.

How Did You Hear About Access Analog?

I first heard about Access Analog from browsing Instagram. I was advertised the ability to control analogue equipment from the cloud and thinking it was a scam I clicked on the link for a laugh and was shocked/delighted to discover that we are in fact living in the future and controlling top-notch analogue gear from a plugin is entirely possible?! I still can’t grasp if it’s robots, elves, or magic…. it just works!

How Do You Use Access Analog For Your Music Development?

After initially dipping my toes in and trying out the classics I have gradually become more and more obsessed with various bits of kit that are available (Neve Preamp/UA 1176 into LA-2A for easy vocals, come on!). I’m now 1 year later mixing/mastering professionally full-time and using AA for 70% of the processing in my mixes. I find it much faster to get results on AA than fannying around endlessly with a bunch of plugins and it is quite refreshing to commit to recorded audio…especially when you can trust the top-quality sound from the likes of Neve, Universal Audio, SSL, Thermionic, etc. I would mix 100 percent on AA if they could somehow figure out Automation as I feel that is the only magic fairy dust missing.

Maybe AA should give the elves a raise in the new year!

What’s Your Background Story?

I am just like you, a music fanatic who needed to feed their addiction…so I set up Loom Sound Studio in Ireland to get involved in my local scene and help a couple of talented folks get the sound they always dreamed of. I have been working in the field for the last ten years wearing many hats as a producer, composer, mixing/mastering engineer, and sound designer. My strategy is to give every project a sound identity and unique personality using my skill, taste, and carefully selected tools. Being a digitally raised millennial I decided to ditch the computer for most of my career and mix with my console direct to tape but in the last three years have been utilizing a hybrid setup to get the best of both worlds! I found it gets me closer to the sound in my head which is just what every producer needs.

I always love connecting with like-minded folks in the audio world, feel free to drop me a line below if you’d like to work together/wax poetic: https://loomsoundstudio.com/

(Access Analog Note: Be sure to check out some of Karl’s favorite projects.  We especially like the song “Wonder” by Fizzy Orange).

What’s Your Favourite Access Analog Equipment Chain?

Honestly, it changes all of the time, especially since we have been lucky to get lots of new toys this year but I will post a few down below that will appeal to pros looking for something extra and folks only just stepping into the analogue world.

Vintage Drums: Silver BulletPultec EQ(stereo)Neve 33609 Compressor

The Silver Bullet will get you that classic analogue saturation you always wanted (there’s a reason why it takes around 1 year on the waiting list to get one) with lots of options between a more API/Neve-focused vibe, the Pultecs will give you that low-end heft and top-end dust in a way that will always bring a smile to your face and the Neve 33609 will make those drums extra punchy/thumpy or controlled in a way that just oozes with vibe. Sometimes I swap out the Neve for the SSL Bus Plus if I have enough colour.

One piece of gear I honestly do not hear enough about (probably because it’s a secret weapon) is the Highland Dynamics BG2 Compressor/Saturation Box (Visit the Highland Dynamics Website for more information). I mean look at this thing! It’s that total boutique tube sound I always had in my head but could never really produce. I put this on my vocals when I want a really unique but highly musical sound…the compression is extremely hard to fuck up with just two attack and six release settings. You can select a cleaner Hi-Fi setting (British) which always works or the more coloured and rich American setting for a gorgeously tube-saturated vibe. Throw your vocals and any ear candy/synth stuff at this…feels like cheating.

What Would You Recommend For Others Getting Started With Access Analog?

Honestly, it is dangerously easy to get started…the plugin works a treat, and if you are already producing music with a DAW, it will be a pinch for you. Operates just like your typical plugin except there is a slight delay from when you move a knob to hearing that change back on your speakers….can’t completely have your cake and eat it! Your ears will get used to this very quickly, and the sound is totally worth it, just make sure you try as much equipment as you can to really tune your ears to what the pros are using.  It will be really illuminating to hear the classic sound of your favourite records. There’s around a 30-second preview window, it’s totally free, and I literally ABUSE it – you should too.

Here’s My Pro Tip to do AA on a Low Budget: Practice with the plugin version of the hardware that you want to process (you would be surprised how many free plugin versions of plugins are out there)  That way when it comes to showtime on AA you already have a good idea of the settings you want and can just make some quick tweaks and hit record, saving you some serious cash to spend on other chains! Thank me later.

Final Tip: The Bricasti M7 Reverb – try this out on your vocal and instrument send/return bus. I have yet to find a preset that does not work, and it takes around 1 minute to adjust the parameters. It is shockingly good, and it will make everything you run it through feel very very expensive. My clients always request it, and you will learn soon enough why. Every top studio has a couple of these bad boys. Beware – you may not be able to mix again without it after you taste.

Top Presets: Sunset Chamber for Vocals (Longer decay for a vintage beach boys/pet sounds vibe) and Old Plate for vintage deep Drums (There is a bit of low end build up from this verb which is lovely and rich but may require some control with a tilt eq or the onboard equaliser for drums)

Thanks for reading this Q&A session with Karl Barnes.  Now go tell your clients about all the cool new toys you have to play with and stand out from the crowd!

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