Audeze Interviews Neil Crockett, co-founder of Audiotent

March 26, 2024

Neil Crockett is a UK based producer, sound designer and the co-founder of Audiotent along with Edvinas Strazdas. With studios based in Hereford (UK) and Palanga (Lithuania) Audiotent provides professional services for the music production community. Covering everything from synthesizer presets, audio samples, and MIDI files, to project files and educational videos. 

Neil wearing Audeze LCD-4z headphones in the studio

"Their remarkable clarity and depth allow me to discern nuances in my audio recordings and mixes that I might have otherwise missed." - Neil Crockett
Here's our chat with Neil:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

A highlight for me is being able to follow my passion for music and sound design every day. Providing producers with the sounds that help them on their artistic journey gives me so much satisfaction and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity. It’s very hard to pick out one specific project from the extensive catalog we have created over the years. It’s almost as difficult a question as ‘What’s your favourite sandwich?’ Having said that, I would say our preset library for Arturia’s Matrix-12 V called MATTER ranks pretty high for me. There is something magical about that pack. Every time I revisit the presets and MIDI's that Ed and I designed, it brings a smile to my face. 

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

My main role at Audiotent encompasses everything that we provide for producers. Both Ed and myself design the presets, write the MIDI files and compose the main audio demos. Along with creating the promotional videos and the day to day running of the business. The workload can be intense at times but I love every minute of it.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

Music has always been a part of my life. Growing up in the 80’s and listening to my parents records and CD's of artists such as The Human League, Duran Duran, Eurythmics to name a few. To eventually figuring how to DJ on my brothers turntables back in the 90’s. There was no YouTube or video tutorials back then, you had to figure it all out for yourself. I kind of miss the charm and naivety of it all these days. 

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

I grew up in a small city called Hereford. A quiet place to live with not a great deal going on. However, every Friday night during my late teens and early twenties we would visit a nightclub named The Crystal Rooms. We were extremely fortunate as every single Friday there would be DJ’s from all over the world coming to spin records. Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk, the list was endless. After a number of years visiting as a clubber, I eventually ended up DJing for the nightclub on a monthly basis which then turned into putting on my own night. That was quite an influential moment of my musical life and I guess if it hadn’t had been for those years I would maybe be on a slightly different path.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

Something I think all music producers will face at least once in their life is a creative block. The block can come in many different forms. Writing a melody, getting the mixdown right, stuck with arrangement etc. The way I look at them now is to not get too focussed on them, blocks happen from time to time. They’re just signposts that make you take a slightly different direction. If you’re so focussed on one particular element you forget the bigger picture. It’s at those moments that you step away from the computer and take a short break. A classic approach for me is to go and make a fresh coffee in the room next door whilst leaving the music playing in the studio. Moving to a different room gives a different perspective on the sound, as you are no longer actively listening, you’re hearing it on loop in the background. This can make you think differently and ideas start to manifest.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I have an extremely strong passion for sound design. Spending many hours experimenting with synthesizer signal flow and modulation. These ideas almost always start with my Eurorack modular rig, testing out different routings, feedback loops etc, that are not possible in a typical synthesizer. This in turn encourages happy accidents, delivers very unique timbres and complex rhythmic patterns that I may not have come up with if playing a keyboard. However, the downside with modular synthesis is it can really be a timewarp and you can quickly lose hours patching and exploring. In that respect, if I need a bass or lead sound quick I would gravitate towards the Minimoog for two reasons. Firstly it’s sound, we have all heard the Minimoog and it’s still as big and as large as ever! Every press of the key feels like a big warm hug. Secondly is it’s simplicity to program. Everything is there in plain sight, there’s no menus, no shift-hold functions, just you and the instrument. For something even more immediate there is software. Giving producers the ability to switch from a bass preset to a crazy modulated pad with a click of a button isn’t something you can do on a Minimoog ;) When it comes to software plugins there is so much choice these days but I do find myself gravitating towards Xfer Serum, u-he Diva and the Arturia Collection. Serum and it’s ability to import single cycle waveforms still amazes me to this day. If you sample an oscillator from a hardware synthesizer at the correct amount of samples, the level of accuracy is insane. You would not be able to tell which one is software and which is the real deal.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Keep doing what you enjoy. Never give up. With hard work, dedication and passion you can achieve anything you aspire to be.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

Headphones have always been a part of my setup. Predominately as a second reference point to what I hear on my main monitor speakers. I find it much easier to gauge the desired amount of stereo effects (reverb/delay) when using headphones. 

Do you have any additional comments or stories you want to share?

Another favourite hobby/past time of mine is synthesizer and outboard DIY. It all started with building my own audio cables and being interested in the complete audio signal path. One thing led to another and I ended up populating and soldering components on PCB's to create Eurorack modules, 1176 compressors and even a pair of Pultec EQ's. There is something very therapeutic about soldering, it gives me a sense of calmness. It’s my form of meditation and escape from the busy world we live in.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

The LCD-4z headphones have proven to be an indispensable asset, particularly as I navigate my transition into a new studio environment. Their remarkable clarity and depth allow me to discern nuances in my audio recordings and mixes that I might have otherwise missed. Additionally, the comfort of the LCD4z headphones have made extended sessions in the studio a pleasurable experience, enabling me to fully focus on my work without distractions. As I familiarise myself with my new surroundings, the LCD-4z headphones have emerged as an invaluable tool, revolutionising the way I perceive and interact with audio within this studio setting.

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

The introduction of the LCD-4z headphones has significantly elevated the outcome of two recent projects undertaken in my new studio. The exceptional audio fidelity and precise sound representation offered by these headphones have played a pivotal role in diminishing any uncertainties during the mixdown stage. In a recent Melodic Techno template for Ableton Live project file, many layers needed meticulous balancing, the LCD4z headphones provided an accurate portrayal of each element's placement in the soundstage. This eradicated the need for repeated adjustments and ultimately expedited the mixing process without compromising on quality. As I delved into sound design, most recently for Arturia's CS-80, the headphones' unparalleled clarity allowed me to discern the intricate tonal nuances produced by the CS-80's rich array of analog emulations. This precision proved indispensable in sculpting presets with intricate timbral variations, as I could accurately perceive the impact of each parameter adjustment in real time. The headphones' transparency also ensured that the preset's sonic characteristics translated seamlessly across various playback systems, reaffirming their reliability as an essential tool in every stage of the music production process.. By eradicating the need for excessive second-guessing, the LCD-4z headphones have fostered an environment of confident decision-making, ensuring that both projects reached their full sonic potential while benefiting from the precision and clarity that these headphones uniquely provide.

Audeze LCD-4z headphones hanging on amplifier