Show Off Your Studio: Matt McDavid’s studio is all about good vibes
Make yourself comfortable – Matt McDavid’s studio in California is so cosy, you’ll never want to leave it. The man himself agrees
- MacBook Pro
- UAD Apollo 8
- Yamaha HS5 monitors
- Komplete Kontrol S49
- Maschine MK2
Tell us more about your studio…
My studio is located in Sonoma, California and it’s fairly new. I recently moved back here after living in Nashville, Tennessee for the last four years, really dialling in my craft and learning from the masters. The idea behind my studio is to be a place of relaxation and creativity, a place where artists feel at peace and present in the process. When people walk in, the first thing they feel are good vibes.
What’s your favourite DAW to use lately?
My main DAW is Pro Tools, however, I recently took the time to learn Ableton Live and it’s incredible! I use Live for composing due to its quick-and-easy clips view section and Pro Tools for editing, mixing and mastering, mainly because I am so familiar with it.
What is your favourite piece of gear in the studio?
I love my UAD Apollo setup! I have the Apollo 8, Apollo Twin, and the UAD-2 Satellite all chained together for a super-powerful production workflow. I really take the time to dial in my sounds when I’m recording, so I can get it right at the source. I love that I can commit to tape with amazing plug-ins as well as control my monitors and cue mixes, all with zero latency and onboard DSP. I also have to mention my Woven Audio analogue summing mixer, which is my secret weapon for mixing and mastering.
What’s the story behind the Ampex 600?
I got it in a trade for an old Yamaha console. It has been modded with a UTC-11 input transformer and sounds warm and tubey! The reel is disconnected, so it is just being used for the preamp which I love on vocals, bass DI and guitar cabs.
What are those mics?
I have two Cascade Fat Head ribbon mics which I use on almost everything, as I love a darker sound. I also have an AKG C214 and a Shure SM7B, which tend to be my two go-to vocal mics. Elsewhere, I have my SM57s, The Kraken sub kick, AKG D112, Roswell Delphos, Warm Audio WA-251 and a homemade U 87 that sounds killer!
How much time do you spend in your studio per week?
I am in my studio at least 50 hours every week. I would spend even more time here if I could!
So, how do you usually use your studio?
I’m a freelance producer and my studio is mainly set up as a production machine. All of my signal chains are set up and patched in so when inspiration arises, I don’t have to fiddle around with mics and processors. I can pick up an instrument and get an amazing-sounding take on the spot. I also mix and master, record remote guitar tracks, teach and create loop and sample libraries here.
Can you tell us about your electric-guitar recording setup?
My main guitar is an 80s Japanese Fender Contemporary Strat. These were built very well and are heavy as a Les Paul, so the tone is incredible! I run through my pedalboard chain: Dunlop Cry Baby > MXR Super Comp > Ibanez Tube Screamer > EHX Big Muff > MXR Carbon Copy Delay > Boss Super Octave > EHX Holy Stain > EarthQuaker Devices Tone Job. I either send it to my Fender Blues Junior with an amp attenuator or my Orange Micro Dark hooked up to the Blues Junior’s speaker. The amp usually has a Cascade Fat Head on the front and back with an AKG C214 for a room sound. I always record a DI signal, so if I need to reamp later, I can, or layer in a virtual instrument like NI Guitar Rig.
What’s next on your shopping list, studio-wise?
I plan to upgrade my 500 Series chassis with some new preamps, compressors and EQs. I also have my eyes set on some Neve products.
What’s your dream piece of gear?
One day, I want to own a Neve 8048 console. The sound of those consoles are so three-dimensional and punchy, it would be so inspiring!
What has using this studio taught you about recording and production?
I have learned a lot about mic bleed and how to use it to my advantage. This is an old house so isolation is not really there, but I built some gobos and acoustic panels that really help. I love the sound of bleed now, as it really fills in the empty spaces.
Can you share your top piece of production advice?
Don’t be afraid to experiment. I love to reamp vocals, drums, even soft synths through my pedalboard and layer them in parallel to create a rich sound. You never know what it will sound like until you try and it may be exactly what you were missing.
Any advice for someone who’s starting out building a studio?
Focus on the vibe of your space. If the artist feels like they never want to leave, then you have done something right.
What are the main components of your studio?
MacBook Pro, UAD Apollo 8, UAD Apollo Twin, UAD-2 Satellite, Yamaha HS5 monitors, Yamaha HS10 sub, Avantone MixCube, Ampex 600, Audient ASP800, dbx 560A, dbx 376, Woven Audio analogue summing mixer, PreSonus FaderPort, Komplete Kontrol S49, Maschine MK2, 2x Neutrik 48-point TRS patch bays.
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