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Volume 1, Number 3, June 2003
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UAD-1 User Story - Alan Sutton
Kid Rock Engineer & Producer Alan Sutton on "The Democratization of High Fidelity"

Alan Sutton
Detroit's Al Sutton has been producing, engineering, writing and recording music, while running studios and record labels, for more than fifteen years. And he's only thirty-four. His production credits include seminal records by Big Chief, The Laughing Hyenas, and Don Caballero, as well as current tracks for The Detroit Cobras, The Henchman, Sutton's own band, Variac, and most notably, Kid Rock. For the past three years, Sutton has been producing and engineering for Kid Rock, on a beyond full-time basis, as well as running his own studio, Rust Belt, and his own record label, Timesbeach Records.

"...the UAD-1 represents the democratization of high fidelity. . .We really are witnessing a revolution."

"Between Bob's stuff [Kid Rock], which keeps me very, very busy, and all my other projects, I am constantly trolling around for talent. Producers, writers, musicians. In the past couple of years, I've been more and more amazed at what people are coming up with in their "home" or "project" studios. I mean really pro sounds. I'd been hearing about the UAD-1; it almost seemed like the one constant. So I sent one out to a writer/producer in New York I've been trying to get involved, along with a boatload of unfinished tracks, to see what he could do. I told him to go to town. Actually I sort of demanded it. Acoustic parts. Bass. Remixes. Everything. All I can tell you is the stuff he sent back out here just sits so well with the tracks we did in Detroit on the "rock star" gear. Actually, it's uncanny. The UAD-1 is very, very good."

As an even younger sound man, Al toured with the many bands led by Michael and Andrew Nehra. Together they built Detroit's legendary White Room Studios, while Mike turned a fledgling gear trading sideline into the internationally revered Vintage King Audio, a gold standard in studio equipment sales whose client list features a dazzling array of superstars, legends and music business icons.

"To say I know what an LA2A is supposed to sound like is kind of a joke. I've known what hundreds of LA2A's are supposed to sound like," Sutton continues. "Pultecs. Everything. Detroit is a Mecca for the real shit, because Mike Nehra got us all in to it when we were way too young to deserve this kind of stuff! But we did earn it. Anyway, the work demands it, but it's also an addiction. Microphones? Never too many of those, you know. Right now, I'm awaiting delivery on another desk for my studio. A Neve."

"Look, the high-end audio world isn't going anywhere. Vintage is alive and well. First of all, my EQ's, mics, desks and compressors –all this stuff really does vary from unit to unit. The idiosyncrasies of these particular units, and how they interact with one another, and even how they sound the week before they die, is all unique to my studio. To every studio. That's what gives studios a sound. That and a million other things. And great new hardware is being manufactured all the time. Mike recently asked me to test out a "couple" of things he's considering carrying at Vintage King. I dropped by to pick them up and it turns out he's put together a twenty space rack full of esoteric, expensive pieces! That's very Mike."

Sutton takes a pragmatic view of the quest for the ultimate recording gear, and the great strides that have been made in vintage emulation as exemplified by the groundbreaking UAD-1.

"At the end of the day, none of this stuff matters . . . unless you don't have it! Anyone I've ever known who's made a record the real way - you know, sat at a Neve desk for a week or two - doesn't go back, unless it's to track on the road, or in a jungle somewhere. I wouldn't hesitate to use these plug-ins on a record, but more than anything else a tool like the UAD-1 represents the democratization of high fidelity. For the money, it's just outlandish! Back in the day, this kind of sound was not available to the common man. We really are witnessing a revolution."

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