Analog Summing: Behind Mike Simon's Custom Modular Rig

Can you please provide a few sentences about yourself, your studio, and what it is you do?

My name is Mike Simon. I’m a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and pianist from Bellevue, Washington – but originally from Chicago. As a recording artist, I initially designed my studio with the intention of being primarily a project studio, but it has since grown into a large format mixing rig. I spend my time divided between my upcoming LP (‘Break to the Grey’) co-produced by Eddie Kramer, mixing projects for independent artists, and running my company – the Music Teachers Network.

How did you first hear about Rupert Neve Designs?

I’ve been a fan of the “Neve sound” going back to my early days of learning how to record. Although I have owned and worked with several manufacturers of recording gear, RND was my first choice for getting started on building my dream studio, and is the nucleus of my sound.

You’ve got an amazing RND setup – what made you choose these specific pieces?

I started out with the 5060 Centerpiece as a means for analog summing from Pro Tools. Over time, I discovered that I wanted to expand my sound and was attracted to the flexibility I could achieve with a modular design. Eventually, I incorporated a pair of 5059 Satellites to feed my 5060 and added eight individual Shelford 5052 [mic preamp and inductor EQ] modules, which are normaled into the inserts of the 5060. I also love and depend on the several layers of harmonic distortion that I can achieve with all three units and the modules.

Did you come from working on a console previously, or more of an “in the box” rig?

Actually both – I started out working primarily in the box and then later worked at a large format recording studio in Seattle where I learned to work a console on an SSL 4000 and Duality. Over the years, I’ve picked up a lot of bits and pieces of knowledge by working in studios as an artist all over the US and Europe.

What sonic and operational differences do you notice using the 5060 and the 5059, as opposed to your previous setup?

Well, primarily, the 5060 makes for an excellent stand-alone summing and monitoring unit. Its headphone amp is the best I’ve ever heard in a small format unit. The primary difference when adding the 5059s is bandwidth. When combining the 5059s and the 5060 I find the overall sound to be much wider, deeper and more open; and when used in tandem, the modular system approach can be compared to a classic in-line mixer – most notably with the addition of pan pots and variable faders on the 5059, adding to the flexibility of the combination of the two units.

One hidden and pleasing characteristic of the 5060 is that the harder you drive it the better it sounds! Add two levels of Silk harmonic drive to that, and you have a real monster of sound!

When taken all together, your modular setup really seems to be the equivalent of an entire console – was this your intention when assembling your system?

As mentioned, I really didn’t know what I was going for when I started out. I felt I was trying to find where the bottom of the pool was but just kept diving deeper, which is what I think is a tremendous advantage of a hybrid/modular setup in today’s age; it allows one to switch pieces out and really develop your own approaches and sound. For instance, I find more often than not that I use my system as a multi-bus compression setup, where I route my tracks in Pro Tools to the 5060 auxes, as the “clean” sound – uncompressed – and send it through the 5059 to outboard compressors and bring them back on the faders of the 5060, creating a variable parallel compression system. So there is tremendous flexibility of approach.

As an artist and producer/mixer, my RND setup – I call it my NeveShip – achieves both ends for me, as a front end and back end. I can’t think of a better setup for what I do on a day-to-day basis than what I’ve created through RND. All in all, what I have created with Rupert Neve Designs gives me a large console capability at a fraction of the price – and in many instances, it’s a much larger sound, and much more flexible.

Learn more about Mike and his company here:

More on the 5060 Centerpiece.

More on the 5059 Satellite.

More on the Shelford 5052 Mic Preamp + Inductor EQ.