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Sonic Ranch Ropes World's First Masterpiece

Picks Legendary Audio?s two-channel analog mixing/mastering system (January 17, 2005)

Billy Stull and Rupert Neve at AES

Billy Stull and Rupert Neve at AES

Set amidst the peaceful backdrop of a 1700-acre pecan orchard in lower El Paso Valley, recording studio Sonic Ranch ( has hosted an impressive roster of bands in the past few years that are anything but calm, including At The Drive-In, Cannibal Corpse, Damageplan, Ministry, Primal Fear and, most recently, DevilDriver, fronted by former Coal Chamber lead singer Dez Fafara and produced by Colin Richardson.

With the residential studio's popularity fast on the rise among high-profile metal and hardcore bands, owner Tony Rancich has been steadily expanding the complex's already impressive list of facilities. The latest additions have included the Vincent Van Haff-designed 'Tornillodome'--a 47' x 36' tracking/rehearsal room with 22' ceiling--as well as a nearly-finished mastering suite, which is now home to the world's very first Masterpiece from Legendary Audio.

Introduced at the AES Convention in San Francisco just a few months ago, the Masterpiece is a two-channel analog mixing/mastering system conceived by veteran mastering engineer Billy Stull with all circuitry designed by audio legend Rupert Neve. The product's 6U chassis is equipped with four-pairs of vertically-oriented filter modules that are reminiscent of vintage Neve designs and collectively offer a wide palette of sonic amenities, including precision peak and shelving equalizers, a full-featured dynamics section, highly authentic tape texture (thanks to a real tape drive circuit), incremental phase rotation, various classic audio functions and more.

"The Masterpiece is fantastic!" says Rancich. "After seeing it at AES, I invited Billy to come out and demo it here at the studio for our mastering engineers, Marco Ramirez and Mike Major, and we were all really impressed. It's such a comprehensive system; it gives you literally every analog tool you could ever possibly need in a single box to approach any mastering challenge. And if engineers have other audio devices that they're particularly fond of, those can even be brought into the unit via its auxiliary I/Os.

"This product combines the best of Rupert Neve's state-of-the-art, pristine technologies with the vintage devices that he's incorporated--the classic circuitry, tape saturation, etc.--and all of this is integrated into one very cohesive yet highly flexible, modular system. The more we delve into the Masterpiece, the more amazing we feel it is. And, of course, it's Rupert's genius to make all of this so musical. Sonic Ranch is filled with Neve designs--none of which are anything short of brilliant--and this piece is certainly no exception.

"The collaboration between Billy and Rupert that began over three years ago has resulted in an all-inclusive system that truly provides the highest standards of mastering, and Marco and I are extremely proud to have installed the very first one available here at Sonic Ranch."

In addition to the filters found on the Masterpiece's modules, the processor's master section boasts an extremely innovative new feature known as image control, which can be used to increase or decrease the width of the stereo sound image, enhance or reduce the level of natural ambience inherent in a recording, and even alter the placement of elements on the sound stage--such as dramatically moving instruments from one position in the stereo field to another, or sending vocals forward, backward or completely out of the mix.

Sets of high pass, band pass and low pass filters can be inserted in the path of each circuit block except, of course, the EQ sections, allowing fine adjustments to be made in any part of the high, mid or low bands or across the full frequency spectrum.

All inputs and insertion points feature accurate 'transformer-like' topologies and the main outputs use new toroidal transformers. A massive linear toroidal-based power supply is also employed, as are many illuminated pushbuttons (over 140!) and precisely calibrated controls that clearly reveal the status and performance to the educated user.

The Masterpiece is exclusively available directly from Legendary Audio.

About Legendary Audio
Legendary Audio is a boutique manufacturer of high-end audio products for mastering, archiving, recording, broadcast and live sound applications. Located in Wimberley, Texas, the company is the manufacturing sibling of Masterpiece Mastering and shares close R&D ties with Rupert Neve Designs, also of Wimberley.

For more information contact: Legendary Audio P.O. Box 2130, Wimberley, TX 78676 Tel/Fax: 512.842.1431 Email: URL:


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Related Keywords:Sonic Ranch, Masterpiece, Legendary Audio, mixing, mastering, Colin Richardson, Coal Chamber, Dez Fafara, DevilDriver, Tony Rancich, Vincent Van Haff, Tornillodome, AES, Billy Stull, Rupert Neve, equalizers, Marco Ramirez, Mike Major, Masterpiece Mastering,


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