James Newhouse is an award-winning audio engineer and the name behind Lamb Chop, a unique country recording studio situated on 12 acres of bush in Bunbury, Western Australia.
The recipient of a WAMi (West Australian Music Industry) award for Best Live Sound Engineer (2016) and a host of other nominations, James’ passion for the technical side of audio has landed him a plethora of repeat high-profile clients, both in a live setting and in the studio.
Working with acts such as The Waifs, John Butler Trio, San Cisco, Operator Please and Birds Of Tokyo to name only a few, James brings over 17 years of production and recording experience to bear across his comprehensive home studio setup. Enhancing James’ sonic repertoire are a new pair of OC818 microphones from Austrian Audio.
The OC818 is a feature-rich large diaphragm condenser, and one of the most exciting new microphones to grace the pro audio market in recent years. The OC818 features multiple polar patterns, microprocessor control of polarization voltages and dual outputs for recording each diaphragm separately. Often toted as the ‘Swiss Army knife’ of microphones, the OC818 has become one of James’ favourite new tools
“There aren’t many microphones which can excel on such a wide range of sources as the OC818. It’s physically and sonically robust, and quickly becoming the first mic I’ll reach for in a variety of common applications,” says James.
“I’ve used the OC818s thus far on vocals, guitar amps, a piano, as drum overheads and even on a kickdrum- and they’ve delivered smooth, consistently detailed results for each. Even in positions where other condensers might have had a hard time, such as right up against a drum skin or bridge of an acoustic guitar, the OC818 performs beautifully.”
James explains that much of this versatility stems from the OC818’s Polar Designer plugin, allowing him the ability to modify the polar pattern post-recording by blending between the capsule’s two outputs. James provides the example of using two OC818s to capture a singer who is playing acoustic guitar, where the polar patterns on each mic can be adjusted post recording in order to reduce the spill of either the vocal or guitar source. Polar Designer enables adjustment of up to 5 frequency bands, allowing James to set a natural omni pattern for the low end, and a cardioid or figure 8 for the higher frequencies to reduce vocal spill in the guitar mic- all being done after the recording session had finished.
“Whenever you are close-mic’ing something you will always have proximity effect, but thanks to Polar Designer I can shape the low end in a way that sounds very natural. This means I can get very detailed, sonically pleasing results whilst also mic’ing close enough to avoid spill. This is especially useful in scenarios where there are multiple instruments in play, or for example, a vocalist and an acoustic guitar being tracked at the same time.”
“Thanks to the dual capsule output, I was able to use one OC818 to record two vocalists singing backing vocals together in the same booth and then mix them separately afterwards. If not for the OC818, I would have had to use two microphones to get the same level of control and separation in this scenario. Using two mics is fine, but it just adds an extra level of distraction in the booth. The vocalists just want to concentrate on their performance- so the less equipment in the vocal booth, the better.”
James discovered the OC818’s ability to handle extremely dynamic sources, whilst using the mics on guitar amps as part of a recent John Butler Trio live show- “John has this Marshall 100w Super Lead into which he drives a guitar via volume pedal. There’s a lot of power there; its very dynamic and very raw- but the OC818 was able to capture it without sounding harsh. Tonally it was excellent, there was plenty of detail in the upper mid-range but it never sounded too shrill.”
The OC818’s ability to deliver a precise high end whilst retaining warmth and midrange clarity is one of its primary highlights, as James explains- “I’ve tried the OC818s up against some noteworthy valve condenser mics, and whilst the valve condensers had great midrange presence, they also sounded rather cloudy in comparison. The OC818 has a very detailed high end, but also does a really good job of keeping things under control in the high-mids. Around the 1-5Khz mark is often a trouble area- where things can start sounding very harsh, but the OC818s remain detailed there without being sibilant.”
James recently used the pair of OC818s on a grand piano for live TV, noting their suitability- “The piano is a full-range instrument and as such requires a mic that sounds good right across the spectrum. The OC818 is exactly this kind of mic; it has a very balanced frequency response. My pair were able capture the low end of the piano strings with as much clarity and sensitivity as the high end.”
“I’ve already had some very positive client feedback regarding the sound of the OC818s. I also recommended them to artists who prefer to record at home and were looking for a microphone that they could use ‘on everything’- whilst giving me reliable audio to mix. They came back to me saying they absolutely love them, so I think Austrian Audio have a real winner here. I have the OCR8 Bluetooth adaptors too, and I’m excited to try out the wireless control features they offer.”
Whether it’s working with local folk bands, household names in pop music, or unique location recording with isolated indigenous artists, James Newhouse has devoted his career to crafting great records and bringing live music to life. And now, with a pair of Austrian Audio’s OC818s in his toolkit, James’ commitment to capturing artistry in the best possible light has been made easier than ever before.