Santa Barbara Sound Design

Santa Barbara Sound Design, a music recording and post production studio that was established in the mid-1970s,
has replaced a digital worksurface in Studio A with a 32-input Rupert Neve Designs 5088 analog mixing console. The console, which has recently been fitted with Martinsound Flying Faders automation, is used in combination with the studio’s very large collection of custom rack-mounted vintage Neve preamp and EQ modules.

Studio owner Dominic Camardella, noting that the facility has housed a vintage Neve console for a majority of its years of operation, says of the 5088 desk, "The board is wonderful. It’s modern sounding and yet looks back to the vintage past without any of the flaws that the vintage consoles had. The vintage consoles tended to be noisier; the noise floor on the new Neve is just impeccable. The vintage consoles, although they had enormous headroom, would dull over on the top end and you’d lose low-level signals. They would get puffy and thick around the waist. None of those issues are present in this Neve 5088 console."

During a studio renovation in 2004 Camardella was unable to find a suitable contemporary replacement for an aging classic Neve console that had become very costly to maintain, and instead opted for a digital worksurface. Five years later, when it came time to renovate again, he was pleased to discover the 5088 and arranged for an in-studio evaluation. "It was immediately an eye opener, sonically. We just moved two cables over to the center section of the 5088 and monitored Pro Tools and, with a number of people that I trust in the room, everybody’s jaws dropped," he reports.

Having since had a chance to use the 5088 on a wide variety of projects, Camardella, who is also an adjunct professor in the Music Department at Santa Barbara City College, says, "What’s really refreshing is how sonically diverse it can present. It’s a little SSL-like at times, and a little vintage Neve-like at times, and never to the detriment of the sound."

One of the first projects to use the studio’s new 5088 was Robert Cray’s Grammy-nominated album, "This Time," which was recorded by the late Don Smith, a renowned engineer who worked with the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, U2 and Bob Dylan, among many others. "He used it for much of his drum and guitar grouping," recalls Camardella.

Subsequent projects using the 5088 have included tracking sessions for eight new Rascal Flatts songs; blues guitarist Stu Heydon’s "3rd Degree" album; Lawson Rollins’ "Espirito" album; mix sessions for MTV darlings Loomis and the Lust; and overdubs with the Jackson family for an A&E special that aired earlier this year.

"Being in Santa Barbara I’m blessed with a number of actors and authors living nearby. So a significant portion of our business is audio books and dialog replacement for film and television. Nature film documentary work is one of my specialties," says Camardella, who performed all of the sound design and mixing for "Superfish," an award-winning documentary that aired as part of the "Nature" series on PBS and on television around the world.