If you were a music professional who already owned a house, a car and even a two studio recording complex, what would be the next item topping your wish list?
For recordist Steve Honest, the owner of Rock of London Studios in Shoreditch, the answer was easy: a vintage Fairchild 670 compressor dating from the late 1950s. Finding one, though, was more difficult and for that Honest needed the help of specialist audio equipment supplier Funky Junk.
Ive always wanted to have my own Fairchild, Honest says. When I was younger I was fortunate enough to do sessions at Konk Studios and they had them. One of the engineers put a 670 across the output of the desk as he was making me a cassette to take home and the difference it made to the sound was amazing. It was so wide, open, full, dense and controlled that it seemed as though the Fairchild 670 was using sleight of hand with my ears. From that day on I was hooked.
Honest is not alone in this sentiment. For studio gear aficionados, the Fairchild 670 is the ultimate compressor. The undisputed king of Tube limiting, it has 20 vacuum tubes and weighs in at 30 kilos, making it both the heaviest and the most expensive compressor in the world. It is also as rare as a hens tooth.
Fairchilds had been on my mind since the late 1980s, but I had other things to buy at the time, Steve explains. Then about three years ago I started putting the feelers out in earnest, but although a couple of units came up I wasnt happy about the source they were coming from. For such a costly purchase I wanted to be sure that I could get proper after sales support if I needed it and thats where Funky Junk came in.
In 2012, Honest learned that Funky Junk Paris was about to take delivery of a Fairchild 660 compressor a mono version of the much loved 670 so he snapped it up and put it to work straight away.
I used it on everything bass, kick drum, guitars, vocals horns the lot, he says. After a couple of weeks I couldnt hear what was so special about it anymore, so I stopped using it. Suddenly everything seemed flat and boring, with no tone, density or power, so I plugged it straight back in again. Thats what I mean about Fairchild sleight of hand.
Although he was delighted with his Fairchild 660, Honest still wanted a 670 and so the search continued. Earlier this year he lost out on a unit in Germany, so he was really delighted when Adam Crowe at Funky Junk London called to say they had one.
I bought it on the spot, he says, and its now in Rock of London where it is performing beautifully. With both compressors, Funky Junk had done all the checks and servicing pre delivery, so they were in good working order when they arrived.
Owning vintage gear does bring its own set of issues, not least the problem of finding spare parts when things need replacing. But Honest says that when he buys from Funky Junk he also gets peace of mind because everything comes with a warranty, and Funkys technicians are there to help if anything does go wrong.
Ive been dealing with Funky Junk for years because they are great people to work with, he adds. It doesnt matter which branch you are talking to - London, Paris or Milan its always a two-way conversation because they listen to what you want, remember what gear you are looking for and alert you if anything of interest comes along. Id say more than 60% of the gear I use has come via Funky Junk and that list includes some really lovely vintage pieces such as a 1960 Telefunken U47, a pair of Neumann KM84s, a racked pair of Neve 33135 channel strips and a really punchy Neve 33609 compressor. And, of course, there are Rock of Londons two consoles a Neve 66 desk, which Funky Junk installed, and an SSL 4000E, which was lovingly restored by Bob Stewart who Funky Junk introduced me to.
Since starting as a session musician in the mid-1970s, Steve Honest has held many roles within the music recording industry, including that of studio owner. He opened his first studio in Hoxton in 1981 and continues to be involved in studios because he enjoys watching songs take shape and come to life.
As I have spent the last decade supporting the idea of self-release, I tend to offer my studio and services to artists that want to make their own records and release them themselves, he explains. My prices facilitate people who dont have huge budgets, but who do know you can't make a big sounding record on your laptop. I do some label work, but supporting the emerging self-releasing artist is what I am about.
Most recently Honest has been working on two projects with guitar virtuoso Colin Pollock and recording Maddy Carthy, one of a number of artists who are currently keeping Rock of London busy.