Table Of Contents

Below is a list of chapters and sub-chapters to give you a feeling of what’s in the book.


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


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 mix down 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 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

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