Before describing the evolution of the mastering/monitoring chain and its present form I’m going to say something about the evolution of the business itself, as that might help to explain some of the
oddities, peculiarities particular choices.
PBM is a part of URM Audio Ltd which began in Hong Kong in the 1990’s as a classical recording/editing/mastering company. The start-up money was spent on carefully chosen Sonodore, Schoeps, and Royer mics, a Grace 801 pre-amp, a Tascam DA-98HR DTRS recorder, and a SADiE 24.96 DAW. To begin with monitoring was through a Levinson DAC, a Levinson 334 amplifier and Wilson-Benesch ACT 2 speakers (basically: my Hong Kong Hi-fi). The company, not yet quite a full-time concern, immediately did pretty well, so we then bought the Weiss EQ, which we still have and use daily, and a full suite of dCS converters (ADC, D-D and DAC) which we also still have and use daily.
Then things got serious. I resigned my university tenure, and relocated to the UK at the turn of the century. URM Audio became a Ltd Co. and persuaded Jim Tinsley, who had been a long time friend and business advisor, to become Company Secretary. By this time we were using a Crane Song Spider as the recording front end and had swapped the Levison amp for large VTL amps driven by a Nagra PL-L pre-amp. The recording side of the company did well again, but we had also started what became the inexorable move towards specialised mastering, and so after a while we exchanged the Spider for a Crane Song Ibis EQ and a Crane Song Avocet DAC and Monitor Controller. A few years later we added a t.c. Mastering 6000 system (w.w.s.h.a.u.d.) and upgraded the W-B speakers to the ATC SCM 50SL, subsequently adding the power packs (w.w.s.h.a.u.d.)
To my ears, and for my purposes, the Avocet was never a match for the dCS/Nagra combination, and my reservations about the Crane Song sound (still a minority opinion) and Ibis ergonomics grew in proportion with the percentage of mastering in our workload; so we changed them for a Maselec MEA-2 EQ and an Masalec MLA-2 compressor, leaving the dCS/Nagra pair at the head of the monitoring chain. Eventually we decided to take the mastering full time and began to sell off the recording side – at which point Carrie came on board as Business Manager and PBM came properly into independent being. At that point also, we started being even more careful about what we were listening to, and through …
Next post: monitoring developments.