Studio Makeover Month: The Controller Freak Setup

The Controller Freak is an on-the-road/off-the-road producer, sound designer, and analog enthusiast. His hands-on approach to digital music requires quite a few tactile surfaces for immediate and innovative musical ideas. He limits himself to this world because he finds that infinite possibilities can sometimes hinder his creative process. Keeping a solid sextet of different synthesizers spreads his ideas around equally. Moving, standing, sitting, and walking to different synthesizers is a part of the entire feel of his studio and how he stays in touch with his inner muse.

The Gear

The Controller Freak creates with a DAW and hardware that needs to be bridged by a dependable system. These days his work is mostly his own productions. To keep things mobile he opted to lay down some money on an HP Z-book 17” laptop. This high performance laptop can support multiple display formats (even Thunderbolt) during live performances as well as interact with all the necessary instruments he uses for his shows. His DAW of choice is SONAR X3 Producer that runs a flawless set of various synths like Z3TA+ 2, Addictive Drums 2, and Rapture.

All of his raw MIDI data is always tracked right into the software so that he can patch various ideas in and out of every sound module he has at his fingertips. Switching between virtual instruments and hardware instruments is a breeze with his MOTU MIDI Interface supporting more MIDI channels than he’ll ever need to use at once. He patches from his Nord, Moog, 2 Roland synths, and the ARP all from the center of his rig when he’s in his DAW working environment.

For his studio all of his instruments run into his Mackie mixer so that he can have tactile set of gain stages outside of his DAW. Downmixing his synths directly into his mixer allows him to make levels and adjustments to his music without needing the lights on in his studio. Again, playing into his ability to memorize, create, and practice his music – the Controller Freak relies on these hardware setups for his creation. The Mackie runs directly into a Tascam UH7000 for a clean and true representation of his music at high sample rates. At the most crucial part of his rig is his mixing area – where The Controller Freak locks in his levels with a Mackie Universal Controller running as an ACT Surface inside of SONAR. This surface gives him transport controls, panning, levels, and everything else he needs for his digital mixing environment. Aimed right at his ears are a pair of KRK Rockit 8’s that give him all the flexibility he needs to stay focused on making his music and checking it against pro-level drivers. Once it sounds good on his KRK’s he knows that it will come across perfectly in his live shows.

The Instruments

The deafening sound of a Moog Minitaur analog bass synth is the backbone of the Controller Freak’s main production rig. This synth’s highly versatile software integration makes various patterns and textures an easy reach.

To the right, his best ideas come to life from the classic feel and workflow of an Akai MPC2500 that acts as a library of sampled records, ideas, sounds, and even horror movies that he incorporates into his musical calamity.

This and the Moog Minitaur both connect through a MOTU MIDI Timepiece so that he can run multitudes of external MIDI hardware at once inside of SONAR. Resting on top of that is a Nord Rack 2 synth carrying most of the analog modeling and multi-voice mashing that often occurs within a typical Controller Freak set.

To his right is his stack of Roland Synths, running a JP-8000 on top and a Juno Gi underneath, both connected directly through his rig so that he can control them from the center of his station with then Axiom 49 Controller.

Lastly, off to his left is a 1971 ARP2600 semi-modular analog synth built and engineered in Newton Massachusetts. Countless records, soundtracks, and movie scores have been made with this model synth. Patching this into his system takes the a special CV to MIDI controller so that he can communicate with it from his SONAR sequences.

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