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By Sir George Martin




The first time I watched a really professional sound engineer I was completely mesmerised and amazed. He made everything look so easy and sound so incredible.

Why is it that thousands of engineers struggle to get a decent sound while only a few dozen pull amazing sounds whilst doing, apparently, almost nothing? I could never understand how these great engineers made it look so easy. Were they doing something I wasn’t or were they not doing something I was?

As it turns out it was largely the frame of mind they were in – which is great!, because changing your mind is a whole lot easier (and less expensive), than refitting your studio!

This is not a reference book of basic acoustic theory, but instead a supplement that concentrates on information that no one else will tell you - trade secrets - answers to mysteries - unique solutions - new perspectives - and above all, inspiration.

I don't like to read much but I like to listen - so I'll try to keep this succinct and packed with stuff you won't find anywhere else. This contains jealously guarded trade secrets from many passionate years of exploring the magic of sound - trying to discover what makes the hairs on the back of our neck stand up.

I've spent the last two years condensing this information to the max, so you can just pick it up and transform your engineering ability overnight to a more expensive, satisfying, and controlled sound.


Setting up the studio - Keep Your Distance


Begin with an empty room and an open mind (and 1 speaker)
Filling an empty Studio - Speaker Placement & Ergonomics
Be The Flame


Mid - Tuning Your Loudspeakers


Speakers are never perfect
Work coarse to fine
The Ribbon Effect
Why is this such a big deal?
Other placements destroy your ability to balance!
The most expensive measuring device on Earth


Recording Techniques:
Advanced Microphone Technique


The Hardness Factor
Microphone Placement
Chasing the Flame
Choosing the microphone
Establish your reference
Polar pattern
The right piece of air…
Chasing the flame
Spill and ambience
Turning spill into ambience


That Killer Drum Sound


In the beginning there was sound… Bang!
Maximum Illusion / Minimum Voltage
Drum Placement - Get it Right From the Start
Overhead No. 1: Nailing It
Now for Overhead No. 2
Peak vs Texture
Basic law of psychoacoustics
Overhead Philosophy
The Importance of Bass
More Illusions please - less voltage
Textures & the Big Picture
Positioning - More Important than Mic Choice
Close Mic Placement
Hairs on the Back of your Hand
The Secret Move
The Puzzle
Working in the Zone - Blending Mics
The Zone of Fuzziness
Mismatching Mics is Okay
Bad Kit? No Such Thing
Double micing - Near & Far
Tape saturation vs peak limiting
Dynamic Processing Power
Bass Drum:
Snare Drums:
Cymbals - Capturing Even and Odd Harmonics
Maximum Illusion Challenge
Magic Hi-Hat
Key points to remember
The money is in the resonance.


Electric Guitar Magic


Rule #1 - Size Does Not Matter
Rule #2 - Magic or Salvage?
Magic Approach
Salvage Approach - Continuously Variable Infinity
Off-Axis is Good! – (Secret)


Piano Techniques


The Elusive Heart & Soul of the Track
Deep Harmonic Resonance
Maximum Illusion / Minimum Voltage
Technique A
Technique B
Just One Mic
More on Mid-Side Sum & Difference
Sum & Difference Patching
Breathing Stereo
Hard / Soft
Cardioid vs Omni MS
Troubleshooting your Sum & Difference
Advantages of Sum & Difference - & Disadvantage
Another Tip – Two Axes of Play
Piano Masking Illusion & Voltage


Super Star Lead Vocal Sounds


A step-by-step, foolproof procedure to great vocal sounds.
Signal Flow
Headphone Signal Path
Cans Mix
Singer's Voice
Mic Selection
Piece Of Air
Acoustic Tone Control
Chasing The Flame
A Fresh Voice
Equalisation – The Secret Croak
Ride Them Levels
Magic Moves


Equipment tips:
Cracking Compressors


The Secret combination - unlocked
It's Like Cracking A Safe.
Getting Started - Temporary Settings
That Very Expensive Sound


Digital vs. Analogue


The Skyscraper Analogy
Mastering Slicer
History - Creating Our Blind Spot
Optimising Your Operating Level
Classical Guitar - The Missing Skin
Recording To Digital Multitracks
Fooled by the Bounce Back
Hiss is Misunderstood
Gain Structure - Transferring Analogue GP9 To Digital Multitracks
Customise Your Gain Structure
Don’t Panic! – Controlling the skids
Level Versus Clarity
Mixing to Digital – Pre-Mastering
Rethink your Digital 0VU
Gain Structure - Mixing Analogue Material To Digital
Tools to assist – The Perfect metering
Compressing / Limiting The Mix
Black Backdrop
Bass is our friend
Digital – Getting it Right
DAT Conspiracy? - Know Your Output Calibration
Digital Extras
Digital’s Trademark Effect
Swiss Cheese


Mixing & Meditation


Driven to distraction?


The Art of Mixing


Breaking down even the most complicated mixdown situation into simple tasks to enhance your creative space.
Mixing is all about controlling your mind
Scribble Strip
Cross-patching - The Plumbing Phase
Perfect gain structure through reverb units
Line Trim Adjustments
What does this accomplish?
Pan Settings
Symmetry vs Asymmetry – Full vs Clean
Psychoacoustic Mid-Left
Precision Panning
EQ – Something to Chew on
The art of mixing part II
Don’t sweep!
There Must be a Better Way!
Compare Your Imagination with Your Best Guess
Remember... Don’t Sweep
Frequency Masking with EQ
Equalising with Hindsight
Compression – Auto 3D Effect
More Compression Thoughts
Size – Perception vs Reality
Setting the Balance
Balancing Mind Games
Short cut to Feelings
The art of mixing part III
True Mono
Mono in a Snow Storm
Reverbs (Echo) – the Space, the Glue, the Groove
Keep Time, but Never Play Time
Revealing the Reverb
Objective Groove Test – Let Gravity Decide
Masking Effect of Standard Reverb Shapes
A Reverb That Shakes
Diffusion vs Definition
Monitoring – Cans vs Rooms
One Last Word about Rhythm
Moves – Sleight of Hand
Big Monitors – Little Reward
Take it
Curing DAT Overs


Your Reference CD


The secret to understanding all control room monitors
Stabilise Your Perspective
Stav's Reference
Listen & Learn
Creating Your Own Reference CD
Becoming an Acoustic Consultant
When To Use It
‘I would be lost without my reference CD’


Doorway to Heaven


A Secret you’ll a’door - to improve your nearfields
Stay in Control
The Phantom Strikes Again
Striking a Balance
One Last Point – Height Information
Party Time


Vocals too Hot to Handle?


The Problem
The Solution
The Setup – Post-Fade Sling
Signal Path
Wiggle it Just a Little Bit
Patching the Meters
The Compressor Settings
View from Space
Compression – Pre-Fader vs Post-Fader


No Cans Do

  The Problem
The Solutions
Technique A – Using any Single Microphone
Technique B – Using a Figure-of-Eight Mic
Technique C – Cardioid Mic
The Result
Logic, Fear & Counter Intuition


Backwards Mixing


Bizarre: Backwards Mixing
The Search for Perfect Copies
Best copies are backwards prints
Reverse Play, Cross-Patching Notes
Backwards Caveat
Stripping the Language Out of Music


The Time Machine


Once in a Blue Moon Phenomenon
Intuitive Moves Make it Worse
Advanced Time Machine Wiggles
How the Time Machine Works


Gravity & its Effect on Music


It’s all about Free Energy
Cue the Moon
Using The Force
The Weight of Evidence
Universal Constant


Ear Care


Ear Care at Home
Earache Cure
Ear Care in the Studio
Ear Care at Live Gigs
What’s a Threshold Shift?
Don’t Join the Party
Games to Play That Strengthen Your Ears


Hit Record Formulae


The Big Question
Enough Theory – How do you Reveal the Answers?
A Glimpse of the Process – Be Patient


Why London?


That Did it, I was Hooked!
Rule No. 1 – Never ask AIR for a job
The Hard Deadline


FAQs from Stav’s Private Email Collection


Monitors – Your Perfect Match
High Level Tape to Digital transfers
Speaker Width
Hard Disk Recorder
Analogue Warmth
Mono – The Benefits
Solid Vocal Centre
Singer Not Blending
Recording Gig Ambience
Pre-Delay Reverb
Backwards Compression
Backwards Gating – Snare with FX
Snare Too Loud
'No Cans Do' on the Floor
Scheduling Time
Breaks & Breakdown Time
Side-Chain – Why & When


About The Author


Glossary of Stavisms

It's Packed!

I wish I knew all this stuff when I began at AIR.

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