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Qemists prescribe Focusrite!

Published: Thu August 28, 2008  News Feed

For The Qemists, there’s just one way to get that killer sound – a pair of Liquid Mixes and the ISA 430…

The Qemists’ Dan & Liam.jpg

For Brighton-based production trio The Qemists, rocking the dancefloor is simply a question of creating massive, peak-time bombs… and their secret weapons of choice? Focusrite’s Liquid Mix and the ISA 430: “Focusrite have an immense reputation for high fidelity products.”

So says Liam Black, one-third of The Qemists – Drum & Bass production outfit for the legendary Ninja Tune label. They may have started out as a traditional rock band over a decade ago, but a mutual love for the exploding Drum & Bass scene of the late 90s has seen our production trio become renowned for tearing up dancefloors the world over with their three-man, 2-deck, 2-laptop set-up.

These guys know just about everything there is about getting big sound – how else do you get to live-engineer the likes of Basement Jaxx, Kano and Lady Sovereign?

And from their Brighton-based studio they’ve remixed the likes of Coldcut, Cooper Temple Clause and Roots Manuva, while their tracks have garnered huge support from such heavyweights as Zane Lowe (Radio 1), Andy C and Pendulum.

In the studio they need to be sure they’re getting the very best quality signals into their PC set-up, which is why you’ll find the legendary Focusrite ISA 430 Mk.II permanently strapped across the front end. “We needed a real workhorse for our recording setup – and what’s better than an ISA 430?” Liam suggests.

“We needed a really high quality channel strip for recording the live aspects of our album – guitars and vocals and the like… and this thing is the business – it makes cheap mics sound great and great mics sound just fantastic. But it’s not just the sound – the ISA 430’s routing capabilities are also really useful. To be able to switch the order of the processing is great – it’s amazingly versatile.

With those signals tracked to perfection, Liam turns his attention to the mixing process, and because their projects often contain around 100 tracks they reach for the Liquid Mix to process the more important parts within a song…

“We really needed more DSP, and Liquid Mix  is the only thing out there that can emulate so many different modern and vintage compressor and EQ models for a sensible price. The Liquid Mixes are used as extra dynamics and EQ processing in our two PC-based production studios. It’s the quality that counts – if you use cheap EQ and compression on parts that sit high in the mix… well, that never works out particularly well, especially with vocals.”

“So not only do we have the Liquid Mix’s 32 channels of whatever vintage or modern EQ or Compression you can imagine, but there’s also the scope to make up your own processors from the best bits that you like. Really, what more could you want!?”

“So when we’re producing we’re now able to make sure that the real core elements of our songs can run through a huge choice of really high quality plug-ins. This in turn makes the whole mix process far less problematic – mainly because of the quality of the EQs and compressors, but also due to the fact that the computer isn’t taking quite as much of a hammering as it would do without the Liquid Mix!”

“We did some mixes at a top London Studio recently, and they had just about every bit of gear going. This was the first time we had experienced analogue gear on such a large scale. But ultimately we were amazed at just how close the Liquid Mix  sounds when compared to the original hardware. But sometimes we thought the Liquid Mix  sounded even better, especially in terms of background noise.”

Look out for The Qemists album, Join The Q, out January ’09.

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Focusrite ISA 430 Mk II Pre-Amp Channel Strip

The design for the ISA preamp goes right back to Focusrite's roots and the original Forte console made for AIR studios. Used on countless professional productions it remains one of the best microphone preamp designs of all time. That's why they haven't changed it, apart from the inclusion of the impedance control for easier use with the range of different…

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