"The room is unchanged from the fifties. This is the magic of the studio. It's the same tile on the floor and same acoustic tile on the walls as when Elvis and Carl were here. It's where Rock'n'Roll was created," stated Ross-Spang. "It looks old, it smells old and the room sounds fantastic. So the room needed no renovation, but we did not have the old equipment."
Matt, along with associate and famed Producer Mark Neill, sourced equipment from the thirties to fifties to duplicate what Sam Phillips used. An RCA 1936 76D tube console, the same model used by Phillips, feeds one Ampex 350 tube mono tape machine with a second one available for slapback echo. Old RCA ribbon microphones and Electro-Voice dynamic mics from the era have been purchased and renovated to their original performance standards. Some of the equipment, including very old RCA 77D and RCA 44 microphones, was found tucked away at the studio – unused for decades.
"Live tracking and mixing to a mono tape machine may not be for everyone, and we understand the need for certain artists and engineers to have their luxuries." So Ross-Spang also installed a Studer 900 series broadcast console, hooked up to the Aurora converter with contemporary outboard gear in the control room. He also added his cherished 1960's era Langevin Am4 console and Scully one-inch eight track tape machine. This gives Sun Studio the gear to duplicate the recorded sound of the 50's, 60's or 70's. "The Scully has always been one of my favorite underdogs. If you look back in Memphis history Scully was in most of the local studios and on most of my favorite records. Ardent, Stax and American Studios all had Scully's in their control room so it was a must have! The Langevin and Scully sort of float around wherever I go in case I need to get that Memphis dirt on something!"
While planning the renovation, Matt brought demo units of the top Pro Tools compatible converters to a local studio for a blind listening test. "The Lynx Aurora stood out for me. Some of the other converters seemed to EQ and process the audio to achieve a certain sound, but I like my converters to just record what I hear. That's what I like about Aurora – it is very transparent and does not add to the sound. Plus it's one rack space and solid as a rock. It sounds really good and works without any hiccups.
"What you hear going down is what you hear coming out. Aurora doesn't take anything away and doesn't add anything, which is what I want from a converter. The Aurora converter has been a pleasure to have in the studio. It just works and it sounds good – you can't argue with that."
The combination of vintage and 21st century gear allows Sun Studio to offer a huge range of recording experiences. They can record straight to mono tape, while mixing on the fly. The can also record 16 tracks to Pro Tools using Aurora, then mix this down to 8 tracks on the Scully. It all depends on the preferences of the artists. "Either way the customer gets the vibe and character of the room, so the Sun Sound is captured in a number of ways."
The Aurora converter has been used to record Homemade Jamz Blues Band and Paul Ansel and for mixing to analog console for Lee Rocker, Ryan Bingham, Nicole Atkins, and Matt Nathanson. Sun Studio Sessions offers live performances of up and coming artists playing a set in Sun Studio. The ASCAP sponsored PBS Show, now in its third season, will use the Aurora / Pro Tools system for the audio recordings. It is effectively a live performance capturing the performance and the unique character of the Sun Studio.