Focusrite Clarett 8Pre: A Germano Studios Essential

27 Jun 2017

“Functionality And Flexibility” Are Key For Jason Staniulis

It’s a young engineer’s dream come true: Landing a job, fresh out of school, at one of the nation’s premier recording studios. That was certainly the case for Jason Staniulis, who upon graduating from Ithaca College’s School of Music in 2013 — freshly-minted degree in Sound Recording Technology in hand — landed a plum gig in New York’s celebrated Germano Studios as one of its in-house engineers. But Staniulis knew that the job was going to ask a lot more of him than simply hobnobbing with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Lauren Hill, Mark Ronson and Zayn Malik, who are among the many notables that he’s worked with over his four years at the facility.

“Of course, I consider myself to be very fortunate that I’m here, and I have felt that way from day one,” Staniulis says. “But once you start a job like this, you very quickly get the real-world applications of what it really is to be a professional. We have students coming into the studio, and they have a very romantic view of what it must be like. But they quickly see that it’s a lot of hard work.”

Part of that work requires figuring just what new equipment to bring in — after all, at a spot like Germano Studios, second best won’t do. About a year ago, Staniulis was part of the team tasked with adding another I/O set-up to complement the studio’s Avid HDX system. “At first we were just thinking about getting a simple two-channel thing — just a simple I/O for our computers, just to play back from iTunes or Spotify or whatever,” he explains. “Then we realized we wanted a few more inputs and outputs, because in modern record production, it often happens that people bring in three or four producers, or multiple engineers — and they all need additional set-ups. Really, our live room often gets turned into Studio №2 for sessions like that, and that calls for a lot more flexibility than a simple two-in/two-out would give you.”

Enter Focusrite — and for Staniulis, the Clarett 8Pre was just the ticket. “We realized that the Clarett could give us the flexibility that we were looking for,” he says. “For instance, the artist will often want to recut vocals in the live room, and this makes it really easy to dump off new tapes to the mixer in the control room. Other times, we’ve made use of all eight pres in the live room when we’ve been working with small ensembles. Really, especially in the laptop world we live in, you need to ready for anything — and the Clarett enables you to do what you need to do pretty easily. They’re quick and simple to use, and they sound great. They’re a great balance of functionality and flexibility.”

A selling point was the super-low latency factor. “In modern production, it’s not uncommon for engineers to want to put seven or eight plug-ins on a live vocal track, because that’s the way the artist needs to hear it.” Stanliulis says. “And unfortunately, the options to have real-time DSP processing in that situation are limited, which is a problem. It’s had us scratching our heads. But the Clarett 8Pre has been amazing in that regard; it’s a very low-latency piece, and it’s become our solution to the problem. We’ve had lots of clients that are super-sensitive to latency, and the Clarett has been the answer — it’s instant, even with plug-ins.”

And, of course, there’s Focusrite’s renowned attention to clarity. “The overall sound is so clean, and the stuff we’ve cut using the Clarett 8Pre has made appearances on plenty of Billboard-charting records,” Staniulis enthuses. “We’ve been using the Air function, too,” he adds, referring the switchable, built-in processor that emulates the sound of Focusrite’s classic transformer-based ISA preamp. “It’s a great color choice — and it’s so easy just to switch back and forth on that to try it out, so you can easily see how it plays with whatever mic you are using.”

Staniulis’s theory of gear is as follows: “You know, at the end of the day, the clients don’t really care what specific equipment is being used,” he says. “They’re just, ‘Does it sound good in my headphone?’ or ‘Do the results sound good?’ The Clarett 8Pre has definitely been keeping everyone happy.”