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At home in the Brewery (Home Recording 1997)

And So Holdsworth has outfitted his studio with care in regards to his board (a Trident 24), his outboard gear (tons of vintage mic pres, EQ's and digital processors), and mics (his favorite being a Neumann U87). But unless he's been budgeted for a big machine, Holdsworth records on Alesis ADATs, as he did for his latest release, None Too Soon (AH Records). "They certainly don't give you the same quality that the big machines do," he says, "but that doesn't stop you from being creative with them."

For this project, and when working with the ADATs in general, Holdsworth tries to get as much of the sound from the mic pre's and mic positioning as possible, and to rely very little on EQ'ing. "I've found that with digital recording you shouldn't really count on EQ'ing too much, especially if it's something with the high frequencies," he observes. "When you start EQ'ing highs in the digital domain, it can sound really terrible, so I use good mic pre's and go right into the tape machine. I never actually recorded anything through my board for guitar. The board's just for monitoring."

Perhaps the biggest challenge Holdsworth faces in recording is not in his acoustics or the home recording environment, but in the recording machines themselves, as he discussed at the beginning. To Holdsworth, the issue is not about analog vs. digital, because he's recorded on both and had successful results with both. The real question is the quality of digital. "People think that digital is digital, and it's just not true," he says. "I've rented these expensive digital machines and run them alongside of ADATS, and there's just no comparison. You don't even have to have good ears to hear the difference, it's so astounding. You don't even have to be musically inclined. But people don't understand there are levels of digital. They also think that any digital is superior to analog, which just isn't true. ADATs are great, and I record on them, but you have to understand there's a difference between the converters on them and the ones Apogee makes as replacements for the Mitsubishi machines."

Strong stuff from the brewery (EQ magazine 1997)

Another item not in use at the Brewery is a patchbay. "I don't believe in them," Holdsworth declares. "Every time you run a signal through a connector, you screw up the sound. All the pieces of equipment in my studio are very mobile, so if I want to put an EQ or limiter on something, I can take it right to the source." Tape machines are also rented in for recording projects. "I'm a big fan of Mitsubishi 880's," says Holdsworth, "and, of course, analog machines. I'll sometimes rent an Otari. It depends on what the budget can go for." The guitarist owns a pair of Alesis ADAT machines, which he keeps in the studio mainly for writing purposes. The same goes for his modest MIDI rig, which is driven by Cubase software running on an old Atari ST computer, Holdsworth's Synth Axe MIDI controller, which was his main axe a few years ago, is now principally used to input data to the sequencer for writing applications or to trigger the occasional synth pad on records. While Allan was once mad for MIDI, the M-word now plays a fairly minor role in his music. "I quit on the MIDI stuff completely for a while, but I just got back into it recently. I don't do it a lot, though, and I don't want to do it a lot anymore; although it's cool for writing."