About us...

Steve Howell

Steve is an experienced sound designer having worked with Akai Professional (old and new), Alesis, Bela-D Media, Korg, Roland, Zero-G and many others.

Setting up his first home recording studio in 1977 (basically an Arp Axxe, a Mellotron, a mixer and two stereo reel-to-reel tape recorders), Steve produced a lot of electronic music for local TV and theatre and film productions. The studio expanded to 4-, 8- and 16-track over time with a fair throughput of various synths such as ARP2600, MiniMoog, Wasp, Odyssey, Oberheim SEM, Roland 100M, ARP and Crumar string synths, PPG, Roland MKS80 'Super Jupiter', DX7, TX802, MemoryMoog, Kawai K5M and countless others. Hollow Sun studios is currently 24-track based around an Akai DPS24 (for which Steve designed the user interface). But it's not really a 'studio' in the strict sense of the word - Steve prefers to call his retreat a 'laboratory'!

Steve's involvement with sampling began with the original Fairlight. Far too expensive to own, of course, he did some freelance programming work on it but it wasn't until 1984 when he bought an Akai S612 that he really got involved with sampling seriously. He created a large personal library of sounds some of which Akai UK got to hear. They liked them and sent them to Akai Japan and Steve was invited to create library for their (then) new S900 and later their S1000 (and subsequently S3000, MPC series, etc.). This formed the basis of a long relationship with Akai that saw Steve over in Japan for significant periods of time (he speaks Japanese ... up to a point!) and involved not just with sound design but also product and user interface design.

Steve has also written many articles and product reviews for many leading international music technology magazines.

More recently, Steve has been involved with Alesis with their Fusion and also SR18 and DM10 drum products and also with Akai on their recent MPCs.

Steve's speciality seems to have become sampling vintage keyboards and synthesisers and other paraphernalia which grew out of his love of the old technology and his desire to preserve them using modern technology. His products have been very successful, many of them receiving 5-star awards in magazine reviews.

His ethos is simple - sample them as raw as possible ... no fancy outboard processing or santising to suck the life out these beasts ... to provide the user with something that's as close to having the real thing in front of them to do with as they want. Every sample is meticulously hand crafted with regard to editing and looping and being 'old school', they are all highly optimised with no 'bloat' making them compact and efficient with minimal strain on CPU and RAM and disk space requirements.

The Hollow Sun Novachord is no exception to this and this collection is as close to actually having a real Novachord in your studio. Of course, the phenomenal advances in modern sampling technology allow these raw samples to be taken to a new level in program variations that we feel Laurens Hammond would approve of.

Dan Wilson

Dan is a musician and, by profession, an electronic design engineer who is also 'old school' enough to understand and unravel the mysteries of old valve technology. Thorough and blessed with super-human patience, Dan is the ideal person to recondition something as powerfully complex as the Novachord.

A stickler for minute detail (he's an engineer after all), Dan's dream with the Novachord project is to revive his Novachord to its original 1939 condition and also preserve it and present a sampled version as accurately as possible so that people can enjoy the raw beauty of this innovative instrument in a modern format. That said, he is also open (even keen) to use modern technology to enhance the raw material for the modern world and has been a prolific creator of new textures using Kontakt.

He owns 'Hideaway Studios' near Bath, England, where he has been collecting, restoring and using vintage pro audio gear for 20 years now and his place is a veritable paradise for hardware synth geeks everywhere featuring some real treasures of recent yesteryear that include an ARP Omni II (retrofitted with a MIDI I/O he designed himself) and other ancient synths and samplers (many of which he picked up, broken and ailing, for a song, and fixed them himself). But the pride and joy of this setup HAS to be his 1939 Hammond Novachord.

From Day 1, Dan was determined not to 'renovate' it but to 'recondition' or 'rebuild' it - a subtle difference!

It would have been all too easy to replace old, failing parts with modern components - instead, Dan has manually repaired these parts drawing on his considerable experience and knowledge. The result is (arguably) the most authentic sounding Novachord on the planet today - almost certainly, the only example in the UK - by being faithful to Laurens Hammond's original design.


Any product or manufacturer names or brands mentioned or implied are the property of their respective owners