Wade Goeke is the designer and owner of Chandler Limited.
Based in Iowa, USA, Chandler hit the ground running with their excellent TG1 limiter (heard on recordings by Beyoncé, Garbage, Kings Of Leon, Paul Simon, The Strokes, White Stripes, Van Halen and many more), followed by a steady stream of highly-regarded outboard processors in the 20 years since.
Chandler are now the only company in the world authorised to develop and manufacture official recreations of vintage EMI/Abbey Road equipment - a collaboration that has seen the re-issue of classics including the Curve Bender EQ, Zener Limiter and RS124 compressor, as well as two original microphone designs (REDD and TG mics).
We talk with Wade about how he got started and how he approaches equipment design....
Chandler has been going for 20 year now. What got you into designing audio gear?
Well it really just came from loving music and gadgets. Not long after graduating from high school I started building equipment for my own setup. I talked my parents into helping me get a pair of vintage EMI Limiters and when I heard them my first thought was that other people would probably love to use them also. That is when I first started to think about making gear officially - wanting to share the cool sound of those ultra rare limiters with others.
How do you approach designing a new piece of kit... is it more art or science?
I definitely like to maintain an artistic approach. I spend as much time listening to various designs as I do working with the design technically on the workbench. Most days I’m back and forth between the workshop and the studio, testing each change on various sources.
Can you tell us one of your favourite studio stories?
When I was assisting as a younger fella, I worked at a place called Hollywood Sound. I actually assisted for Rick Rubin on a Slayer session there - that's not the story though..! They had a really nice old C12 that Natalie Cole had sung “Unforgettable” through while recording there. The owner, Jesse Hodges, wasn’t always too excited about letting people use it, but we put it up for a session we were doing for a really good female artist. So I was setting it up on a large boom and turned around to plug it into the wall… next thing I heard was the mic hitting the hardwood floor head-on. I didn’t get fired but, man, was Mr Hodges mad!
Your later designs have been in association with Abbey Road Studios - how did you hook up with them?
The short version is that I had made a few of the TG1 limiters, based on those first two limiters my folks helped me get. As luck would have it one of them ended up at Olympic Studios for testing, which was owned by EMI and managed by Abbey Road staff. Luckily they really liked what I'd done, and they had been thinking about ways to re-issue their classic gear again, so it all came together! Kind of one of those "pinch me" type stories!
Does Abbey Road provide you with original technical documents, or do you have to re-engineer from the original units?
I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to use both on pretty much everything. This adds a depth to the design, and allows us to be sure we are truly capturing the unit.
Abbey Road has documentation on most of the vintage units, so I'm able to reference quite a bit. As an example, when we were working on the Curve Bender I had access to most of Mike Batchelor’s (original designer of most of the TG desk) notes from the original TG console, where our Curve Bender circuit originated.
I could see his thought process on a number of things from the early amplifier notes to the initial calculations of the Q of the EQ circuits. I also had rough layouts of the PCB so I was able to reproduce those exactly as well. In addition, I had a TG Microphone Cassette that I was able to use to take direct measurements from and listen to extensively.
Which of the Abbey Road pieces are you most proud of?
Probably the REDD Microphone and the TG Microphone. These have been an opportunity to take the vintage EMI designs into a new direction with completely new applications of the original circuits. I think both push the envelope of what a microphone can do and is supposed to accomplish, and we have recently been awarded a patent for our application of a “microphone-and-preamp-in-one” design which also covers solid state and op amp technologies. So, for me, these units are the culmination of the last 20 years of Chandler Limited. These have been a couple of our most successful products so its possible people agree.
The new TG microphone brings together a unique combination of technologies. How did that come about?
Roughly 8 years ago I started working on microphones. For me, mics are the most important part of the studio chain, so it's a direction I always wanted to take. My initial designs were of a solid state microphone with pre amp combination like the REDD (which is also covered in our new patent). After ironing out all my ideas, I decided the coolest application of that approach would be using the REDD circuit. I was so happy with how the REDD mic turned out that I wanted to pursue other microphones incorporating some of my ideas with the historical Abbey Road circuits. So I started into various designs using the TG circuits. I knew I wanted to do something a bit different and interesting like the REDD, and I wanted to be able to change the sound of the mic for versatility. I finally decided on including the NAB/IEC tone shaping circuit from the TG mastering desks. Im lucky to have a small original EMI mastering desk and I would often run tracks through it just to use that section. I thought by making adjustments specific for use on a microphone it could be quite powerful as its passive tone is both dense and open. So after months of testing and listening here it is!
How would you sum up Chandler’s ethos?
I always want to do something creative and interesting, but our intention from the start was to completely hand make equipment like it would have been made in the golden age of audio. We don’t use any surface mount, ribbon cables or anything intended for cell phone and computers - and everything is hand wired. Also I want to treat customers they way I would want to be treated.
Name a recording that always make you smile?
"Norwegian Wood" (Beatles) - I wouldn’t say it makes me smile, but it always makes me FEEL!
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