Euphonic Studio ™

Recording studio and music instruction adventures since 1979

Archive for the ‘Rock History’ Category

Euphonic Studio acquires Steve Vai’s early mixer

with 8 comments

A Piece of Fusion/Rock Music History

Steve Vai's CMC 24

Steve Vai's CMC 24, or so it is purported to be. If it is, cool. If not, meh.

Euphonic Studio now owns the Allen, Heath & Brenell CMC 24 mixer and accessories purported to have been originally owned by Steve Vai. This, of course, if true, does not affect anything about it other than the fact that it has a connection to one of the top living guitarists on the planet. (And consummate gentleman, artist, scholar, and Renaissance man).

I should QUICKLY add that I have not yet received confirmation of this from Steve Vai himself; I am going by the word of the seller who tells a convincing story of having purchased the mixer and a Fostex 16 track tape deck from Steve Vai. Steve Vai indeed did own a Fostex 16. I have obtained samples of Steve’s handwriting from the ‘net and compared it to notes in the manual; I am not a graphoanalyist but I can say that there is enough similarity to not rule it out.

So we wait.

Allen and Heath traffic jam

Allen and Heath traffic jam? No, just a groovy sort of reunion between two somewhat rare pieces of history

As some of my customers know, I use a CMC24 for analog summing, the last step before mixdown to stereo. This mixer allows me to take 24 outs from my digital system, mix them in the analog world,  and then send them back to 2 digital inputs to record the mix onto a stereo track. This method is alternate to mixing the digital signals from 24 tracks (or more) “inside the box”, meaning everything is done within the computer’s software tools to mix down to a stereo track.

The topic of analog summing is one that gets people’s dander up. My personal experience is that I can clearly hear a difference and the difference is that analog summing provides improved stereo image, greater depth, more clarity across the whole frequency spectrum, and in short, a much more professional sound. The person who talked me into trying this is the author of Zen and the Art of Mixing which is, as far as I’m concerned, the most authoritative book on mixing that I’ve read. The author, BTW, goes by the name “Mixerman” and if you are in the mixing business and haven’t read this book then I have a distinct advantage over you. That is, unless you have 30 years of experience in the world’s best recording studios and can remember what is pertinent to getting the best mix on each different system you encounter.

CMC 24 Meter Bridge

CMC 24 Meter Bridge - these are nearly impossible to find, so I had a lucky day!

Getting back to the mixer for a moment… the reason I purchased this mixer actually had nothing to do with being a star-struck Vai fanatic (although if you watch this video and don’t end up being at least a jaw-dropping admirer then I’d say maybe there’s something not quite right with your hearing) but actually had to do with the fact that it has a meter bridge and a CMI interface to a COMMODORE 64 COMPUTER! That’s right… you can run this mixer from a Commodore! LOL! I can’t use that in my studio at the moment but I am looking for a Commodore to test it and may sell the CMI interface on eBay to someone who really, really wants it. A&H add-ons for this mixer are very difficult to find. My meter bridge is serial number 005. Since it cost almost $600 in 1988, not too many meter bridges were made. So… the cost of the mixer was worth the cost of the meter bridge, plus I got a spare power supply, a backup mixer, and the Commodore interface. Oh, and it might just have come from Steve Vai’s studio.

CMI interface

CMI interface for connecting the CMC24 to a Commodore computer. This allows you to change signal routing and muting along with the track's time code if you want to demonstrate early automation to propeller-capped pocket-protector types.

Now let me just clarify one thing about the possible Steve Vai connection. This has a lot of meaning to me on some level, but that has NOTHING to do with implying that you are going to sound like Steve Vai if you record here. NO, NO, NO. The way you get to sound like Steve Vai is to practice guitar for 10 hours a day for weeks or months or years on end. That’s how HE did it. Unless you are some kind of savant, you will need to put in the time, too.  And it’s not just TIME… it’s a special form of intellectual discipline that keeps you focused and curious about sound the entire time you are playing.

One last word. You do not have to play at the level of Steve Vai to record good music. You record good music by playing and singing what you know and that has to have a connection with your heart. If your performance comes from the heart, it will be good on some level. After all, music is one way we use to communicate with each other. It is very disappointing to hear a player who does great work but plays very mechanically and carelessly. There’s no communication there; it’s more like being talked down to. Play from your heart with an open heart and you will make great music, whether you have Steve Vai’s chops and mixer or an old cassette deck.

Written by Mr. Bill

February 28th, 2012 at 1:49 pm