Scott Hampton (Hamptone)
Scott Hampton has been making great gear at Hamptone since the late 80s. Recently he moved a new optical compressor, the HOC1, out of the prototype phase and into production.
I spoke with Scott about why he loves optical compressors, his design philosophy, and what test data he thinks is most important.
Music: Eric & Magill Tangled Up In Nets
Teri Inman (Stereo Types Audio)
As more artists and consumers rediscover vinyl having quality vinyl playback is more important than ever. Many test presses are being auditioned on improperly calibrated systems. That can lead to unnecessary stress during the approval process, or worse, making a costly mistake.
For Square Cad's first ever video episode I went to Stereo Types Audio in Portland Oregon. Owner Teri Inman walks us through how to align cartridges, and set tracking force and anti-skate for two different types of turntables.
Music: The Velvet Underground Sister Ray
Jonathan Wyner (M-Works Mastering)
For over 25 years Grammy nominated mastering engineer Jonathan Wyner has worked at M-Works in Cambridge Massachusetts. In that time he's mastered records for Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, David Bowie, DEVO, Cave In, Apples In Stereo, and loads more. He's also an associate professor at Berklee College of Music where he teaches mastering.
Jonathan and I discuss whether mastering can be taught effectively in a classroom, the value of formal education, and lessons he wishes every student could learn.
Music: Boris Minha Chuva
photo courtesy of Corey Schreppel
Jeff Lipton (Peerless Mastering)
Jeff Lipton's discography is filled with some of the best records of the past 15 years. His credits include The Magnetic Fields, Codeine, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Andrew Bird, Battles, and many more.
Jeff spoke with me about changing client expectations, his 6-week gear rule, and learning hard lessons.
Music: Collection Of Colony of Bees Lawn
Sam Smith (Apollo Masters)
Lacquers are the physical masters needed for vinyl record production. Apollo Masters is in the unique position of producing master lacquers for both the Apollo and Transco brands. For the entire world. Both types of master lacquers come from the same factory in Banning California.
To find out more about how lacquers are made I spoke with Sam Smith at Apollo. She discusses how to make a perfect lacquer, how Apollo deals with the pressure of being the only game in town for lacquers, and learning from her clients.
Music: Beirut St. Apollonia
Alan Garren (Waltzing Bear Audio)
Transformers are the source of much superstition and misunderstanding in audio. Sometimes they are the magic box that makes everything passing through them better, other times they single handedly ruin everything in a circuit. Are they neither? Both?
To find out I spoke with tech extraordinaire Alan Garren of Waltzing Bear Audio. Alan has been a tech and engineer for over 30 years and has built and maintained gear for artists such as Death Cab For Cutie and engineers such as Tucker Martine.
I spoke with Alan about "correct" vs "creative" uses for transformers, what gives a transformer it's sound, and how to best utilize them.
Music: Cepia Braille Wounds
Josh Bonati (Bonati Mastering)
There's much to consider when building a new room. Being able to trust the room is critical to a mastering engineer. A lot is riding on the decisions you make in front of your speakers.
Josh Bonati can tell you all about it. Josh recently constructed a new room for Bonati Mastering with the help of Northward Acoustics. I spoke with Josh about what prompted him to build a new room, getting it up and running, and whether it's worth it.
Music: Finn Riggins Big News
Sonny DiPerri (Freelance Mix Engineer)
Los Angeles mix engineer Sonny DiPerri (30 Seconds to Mars, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Portugal: The Man) stopped by Telegraph to pick up a reel of tape. While he was here we discussed working under legendary producer Flood, meeting artists on their terms, and what he looks for in a mastering engineer.
Music: Radiation City Foreign Bodies
Matt Earley (Gotta Groove Records)
Pressing plants: the vinyl frontier. What happens at the plant, and how do the decisions made in music production impact the quality of the record you'll receive?
To find out I spoke with Matt Earley from Gotta Groove Records. Gotta Groove has been producing high quality vinyl records since 2009, and Matt has been there since day 1. I spoke with Matt about starting up a pressing plant, expanding into plating, and the best thing an artist can do to prepare their music for vinyl.
Music: Jackie Mittoo Dancing Groove
Brad Boatright (Audiosiege)
To check the hype on DMG Audio's EQuilibrium I spoke with my friend and colleague Brad Boatright of Audiosiege. Brad has used a hybrid digital/analog setup to master records for Sleep, OFF!, Pierced Arrows, Dresden, Nails, Guantanamo Baywatch, and many more. We discuss the good and bad of this digital EQ and then provide examples of EQuilibrium in use.
Music: Summer Cannibals Can't Handle This Love
George Graves (Lacquer Channel)
George Graves has had an amazing career that spans close to half a century. First at RCA, then at The Mastering Lab, and finally as Chief Engineer at Toronto's Lacquer Channel he has distinguished himself through a fierce work ethic and golden ear.
George spoke with me about his career, why having a mentor is crucial, and the necessity of patience.
Music: Kate Rusby Unquiet Graves
Chris Gehringer (Sterling Sound)
Chris Gehringer, a senior engineer at Sterling Sound, is a hit mastering machine. He's worked on albums for Naughty By Nature, NAS, Rihanna, Drake, Lady Gaga, Madonna, 50 Cent, The Wu Tang Clan, Kelly Clarkson, Ke$ha, Nicki Manaj, T.I., and many more.
I spoke with Chris about the benefits and challenges of working at the biggest mastering facility in the world, and staying competitive.
Music: Purity Ring Crawlersout
Jaakko Viitalähde (Viitalähde Mastering)
Jaakko Viitalähde of Viitalähde Mastering in Finland doesn't call himself an electrical engineer, but he's being modest. He's built equalizers, compressors, monitors(!) and tackles every project with DIY verve.
I spoke with Jaakko about lessons learned from some of his builds, and why thinking about individual pieces of gear, isolated from the chain as a whole, makes no sense.
Music: Brainstorm Flat Earth
Alex DeTurk (Masterdisk)
In 2009 the cutting room at Masterdisk in NYC experienced a renaissance, and one of the main people behind it was Alex Deturk. Alex is an young engineer at Masterdisk who took an interest in all things vinyl and since then has cut for Sting, Lou Reed, Ted Leo, Skip James, The Melvins, and many more.
Alex and I spoke about how he became 'the cutting guy' at Masterdisk, differences between Scully and Neumann systems, and connecting with a new generation who are discovering vinyl for the first time.
Music: The Legends Breaking Time, Breaking Lines
Len Horowitz (History Of Recorded Sound)
For over 40 years Len Horowitz has been working on lathes and cutting electronics. First at Western Electric, then as a part of his studio tech company History Of Recorded Sound.
Len spoke with me about the genesis of lacquer cutting systems, what it takes to maintain them, and why he thinks vinyl remains so popular.
Music: Telekinesis Dirty Thing
Maureen Droney (The Recording Academy)
With the Grammy Awards just around the corner I decided to catch up with Maureen Droney, Senior Executive Director of the Producers & Engineers Wing of The Recording Academy to talk about what the P&E does aside from the Grammys.
Maureen spoke with me about her engineering career, as well as P&E initiatives advocating for improved sound quality of digital audio, and attaching album credits to digital recordings.
Music: A.C. Newman Most Of Us Prizefighters
Photo courtesy of DigitalMusic.org
Steve Knopper (Rolling Stone)
Mistakes the major labels made when transitioning from the CD era to the digital age are often discussed. Steve Knopper wrote a terrific book about what was happening behind the scenes that puts those mistakes in context and illuminates some universal truths about the music industry.
I spoke with Steve about the pivotal moment when most major labels screwed themselves, why the challenges artists face today are so similar to those they faced in the CD heydey, and why he's optimistic about artists making a better living in the near future.
Music: Wolf Parade Little Golden Age
Bob Olhsson (Georgetown Masters)
Part 2 of my conversation with Bob Olhsson, mastering engineer for Motown and Georgetown Masters. Bob and I discuss his return to mastering, differences between analog and digital, and the importance of capturing the feeling of live performance.
Part 1 Here
Music: Gladys Knight and The Pips Heard It Through The Grapevine
Bob Olhsson (Georgetown Masters)
Bob Olhsson started his career with Motown, mastering hits for artists like Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. His career also took him to work with rock acts like the Grateful Dead, and for sound designers at Skywalker Sound. He's returned to mastering these days, working at Georgetown Masters in Nashville, Tennessee.
In the first of a two-part chat Bob spoke with me about how his amazing career began, what it was like working at Motown, and why you can record and mix a song in three minutes if you have no other option.
Music: Marvin Gaye I'll Be Doggone
Steve Hall (Future Disc)
Since 1981 Steve Hall has been mastering hits at Future Disc, working with such artists as Blondie, Pat Benatar, The Knack, Bobby Brown, Donna Summer, Green Day, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, Department of Eagles, and many more. So what made him leave L.A., the music market where he made his name, and move his studio to a farm in McMinnville Oregon?
I spoke with Steve about leaving MCA Records to start his own studio, the move from Hollywood to Oregon wine country, and whether he likes his alpacas more than mastering.
Music: Silver Jews The Farmer's Hotel
Floris Klinkert (Fab Filter)
This week Square Cad is checking the hype on the Fab Filter Pro-DS de-esser. Having a quality de-esser handy is crucial, and fans of Fab Filter's software have long clamored for them to offer a de-esser with their signature transparent sound and trademark ease-of-use. Does it live up to expectations and Fab Filter's claim of being "everything that you need"?
To find out I spoke with Floris Klinkert of Fab Filter, who designed the "intelligent algorithm" at the heart of Pro-DS. Then I tested Pro-DS against my preferred method of de-essing.
Download this episode as a 16/44 WAV to hear the de-essing comparisons without lossy compression.
Music: Yellow Red Sparks Four Steps In Corsets
Alan Silverman (Arf Mastering)
Remastering is a tricky business. Especially when the original recordings have been heard by audiences for decades. How do you best optimize the music for a new format without changing what made it special in the first place?
To find out I spoke with Alan Silverman of Arf Mastering in Manhattan. Since 1996 Alan has been mastering and remastering for the likes of The Kinks, Judy Collins, Dolly Parton, Cheap Trick, Keith Richards, Bebo Valdes, and many more. He's worked on over 45 Grammy winning and nominated albums.
Alan spoke with me about the balancing act of remastering, why it sometimes requires some detective work, and the challenges a diverse clientele can bring.
Music: The Kinks Do It Again
photo courtesy of audio-times
Dr. William Martin (Oregon Health and Science University)
Accurate hearing is a mastering engineer's most valuable asset. Hearing damaged on the job can have disastrous consequences not only on your career, but the quality of your life.
To learn how to maintain accurate lifelong hearing I talked with Dr. William Martin, head of the Oregon Health and Science University's tinnitus clinic, tinnitus research lab, and the Dangerous Decibels program. Dr. Martin spoke with me about human auditory physiology, how engineers can protect their hearing, and what you can do if you think your hearing has been damaged.
Music: Bloc Party She's Hearing Voices
Glenn Kuras (GIK Acoustics)
In 2004 Glenn Kuras founded GIK Acoustics with the mission of brining quality room treatments to engineers everywhere. Since it's founding GIK has provided absorption, diffusion, and whole room treatments to mastering studios around the world.
Glenn spoke with me about broadband vs tuned trapping, the best starting points for tackling unwieldy bass, and why measurement should take a back seat to translation.
Music: The Notwist This Room
Allen Farmelo (Farmelo Recording)
In addition to being a producer and mix engineer, custom API console designer, and Tape Op contributor Allen Farmelo is a man concerned with creating great works of art. As a sometimes-mastering engineer he has the perspective to translate artistic vision clearly at every stage of the process, and has done so for artists like Cinematic Orchestra, Ian Gillian (Deep Purple), Graph Rabbit, Elska, Sea of Bees, and many more.
Allen and I spoke about burnout, why mastering is more than just EQ and compression, and Analog Commitment In The Age of Undo.
Music: Sigur Rós ()
Mike Wells (Mike Wells Mastering)
For over a decade Mike Wells mastered in San Francisco for artists such as Tommy Guerrero, Jet Black Crayon, Hot Buttered Rum, American Steel, The Paper Sons, Christopher Ferreira, and many more. During that time he became an outspoken advocate for comprehensively entering metadata during mastering, as well as an educator about the often confusing world of digital music metadata.
Mike spoke with me about why metadata is important, what caused him to move from San Francisco to L.A., and what can end the metadata format conflict.
Music: Ladytron True Mathematics
Fab Dupont (Flux Studios, Puremix)
Many people attempting to develop or expand their mixing skills are wading through a sea of misinformation. This is an important fact for mastering engineers to realize, since the mix is the foundation of what we do and many of these aspiring mixers will come to us.
Fab Dupont is trying to help. He's created an online repository of mixing tutorials, and downloadable mix sessions, at PureMix.net. Fab is a mixing engineer, producer, and owner of Flux Studios in New York. He's worked for artists such as Santigold, Jennifer Lopez, Bon Jovi, Toots and The Maytals, Queen Latifah, Shakira, Issac Hayes, and many more.
Fab spoke with me about PureMix, the importance of hands-on learning, and why major labels are useful.
Music: Slick Rick Teacher, Teacher
Chris Athens (Chris Athens Masters)
For a long time Chris Athens was a company man. After getting his start as a mastering engineer at Sony he moved to New York's Sterling Sound. He worked at Sterling for almost thirteen years mastering records for Rick Ross, DJ Khaled, AC/DC, Redman, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Coldplay, The Beastie Boys, Young Jeezy, Gym Class Heroes, Bone Crusher, Raekwon, The Neptunes, and many more. Last month he left Sterling, moved the Austin Texas, and established Chris Athens Masters.
Chris discusses the reasons for striking out on his own, ambition, and how client expectations evolve with changes in the music industry.
Music: Wiz Khalifa Fly Solo
photo of Chris Athens courtesy of Sterling Sound
Steven Slate (Slate Digital)
This week Square Cad is checking the hype on the new Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines. VTM is a new plug-in from Slate, programmed by Fabrice Gabriel, that touts itself as "the most advanced, dynamic, and true-to-life" analog tape emulator ever made.
I spoke with Steven Slate of Slate Digital about his approach to emulating analog and how the VTM plug-in came about. Then I put the VTM to work and find out what it can and can't do. You can download the sample files from this episode here (71M) or download the fully functional demo of VTM from Slate Digital.
Music: Das Racist Fake Patois
Emily Lazar (The Lodge)
Since 1997 Emily Lazar has been mastering chart toppers and independent artists alike at The Lodge in Greenwich Village. In the 15 years since it's inception the likes of The Foo Fighters, Garbage, Rogue Wave, Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Björk, Lou Reed, Vampire Weekend and many more have relied on Emily and the other engineers at The Lodge.
Emily and I spoke about her experience as an assistant to Greg Calbi, the benefits and challenges of running a studio in Manhattan, and what hasn't changed about mastering from the early days of digital to the present.
Music: The Walkmen In The New Year
EveAnna Manley (Manley Labs)
EveAnna Manley is a friend to mastering engineers. The gear Manley Labs produces is found in some of the best mastering studios around the world because it behaves and sounds unlike anything else. The Massive Passive and Vari-Mu have been used on countless records for over 15 years.
EveAnna spoke with me about the idiosyncrasies of analog, designing with Dave Collins, and why sometimes it's good to saw open a transformer.
Music: Muse Super Massive Blackhole
Brian Ding (Rythmik Audio)
If you think positioning a subwoofer is hard you should try making one. There is a multitude of factors to tackle and Brian Ding of Rythmik Audio has considered them all.
Brian spoke with me abut the Thiele-Small AES paper that inspired him to start Ryhtmik, reconciling electrical engineering and acoustics in his designs, and why a sealed subwoofer enclosure sounds better.
Music: Arctic Monkeys Fluorescent Adolescent
Thomas Jouanjean & Silvia Santafé (Northward Acoustics)
What does it take to design a truly exceptional mastering room? It's more than just hanging panels at points of first reflection. It takes a vision, creativity, and a staggering amount of technical expertise.
The two person team that makes up Belgium's Northward Acoustics knows this because they design some of the best studios in the world. Thomas Jouanjean and Silvia Santafé from Northward spoke with me about how they became studio designers, their Front-to-Back room design philosophy, and why you should always listen before you measure.
Music: The Good, the Bad, & The Queen Northern Whale
Photo of Amsterdam Mastering Courtesy of Northward
Tyler Lashbrook (Tyler Acoustics)
14 Years ago Tyler Lashbrook parlayed an obsession with audiophile speakers into a business. Since then Tyler Acoustics has provided accurate and musical reference monitors to customers around the world. Over the past few years Tyler's designs have begun to show up in mastering studios, with a few engineers giving them rave reviews.
Tyler spoke with me about his process for designing world-class speakers from the ground up, working with extended D'Appolito arrays, and why dealing directly with end users suits him fine.
Music: Bat For Lashes Glass
Brad Blackwood (Euphonic Masters)
Brad Blackwood has mastered plenty of excellent records at Euphonic Masters. His clients include The Black Eyed Peas, Maroon 5, Blues Traveler, P.O.D., Thursday, Lucero, and many more. This year he won a Grammy for his mastering work on Alison Krauss & Union Station: Paper Airplane.
I spoke with Brad about working with Thomas Jouanjean of Northward Acoustics to build a world-class studio, winning a Grammy, and what made Paper Airplane such a special record.
Music: Sam Cooke Tennessee Waltz
Ed Littman (Ed Littman Mastering)
Ed Littman has worn many hats throughout his career. Jazz guitarist, tracking engineer, and since 2004 mastering engineer. Ed masters for artists and labels from all over the world in his North Haledon, NJ studio.
I caught Ed in his studio while upgrading and auditioning new gear. We spoke about the build-out for his George Augspurger designed room, what he finds valuable about each of his signal processors, and how he determines what gear stays.
Music: Albert Hammond, Jr. In Transit
Al Grundy (International Cutterhead Service)
It's been about a year since episodes 1 and 2 of the RPM Chronicles so this week we're returning to the topic of mastering for vinyl. You cannot talk about mastering for vinyl without lathes, and you cannot talk about lathes without mentioning Al Grundy.
Al Grundy has been working in pro audio for over 50 years, and after buying a glut of Neumann lathes form Sterling Sound in the 90s, he became a go-to guy for scoring a complete disc cutting system.
Al spoke with me about his amazing career, the differences between Scully/Westrex and Neumann cutting systems, and how preparing masters for vinyl has changed through the years.
Music: Buju Banton Untold Stories
photo courtesy of Lars Liljeryd
Michael Romanowski (Michael Romanowski Mastering, The Tape Project)
Michael Romanowski spends a lot of time thinking about music. Aside from mastering in San Francisco for over 18 years, he's also chairman of the San Francisco Producers and Engineers wing of NARAS (the GRAMMY people), one of the minds behind The Tape Project, a live sound engineer, and co-producer of the Bay Area music podcast Renee and Romo.
Michael and I spoke in his studio about the consequences of devaluing music, why he's adding a live tracking room to his business, and how the role of a mastering engineer has changed in the past 20 years.
Music: Magnetic Fields Come Back From San Francisco
Fred Forssell (Forssell Technologies)
If you've never heard of Fred Forssell it's very likely you've heard his handiwork. For over 35 years Fred has used his discerning and critical ear to design pro audio gear for a slew of manufacturers. He also designs and manufactures for his own company, Forssell Technologies, producing ridiculously transparent converters, preamps, channel strips, and upgrades for the Millenium NSEQ-2.
Fred shares his thoughts about the importance of design simplicity, and why he doesn't know how his converters handle clipping.
Music: Cee-Lo I Am Selling Soul
Timothy William Walsh is a songwriter and musician, well known for his solo work as well as his time in Pedro the Lion and The Soft Drugs. He's also an engineer with an impressive discography, having worked with some of the most creative names in independent music. His credits include artists such as Sufjan Stevens, The Caribbean, Cold War Kids, Deerhoof, David Bazan, 50FootWave, Mynabirds, Kristin Hersh and many more.
TW spoke with me about the challenges of approaching mastering from an artist's perspective, managing client expectations, the mechanics of revisions, and why he no longer masters his own work.
Music: TW Walsh Modern Age
Jim Maher (Sterling Modular)
There's a lot to consider when making your critical listening area just right, and that includes furniture. A poor choice of desk can create problems in an otherwise excellent acoustic space.
Jim Maher of Sterling Modular has spent years sweating the details, and creates acoustically transparent consoles that are used in studios all over the world. Jim spoke with me about important factors to consider when placing furniture in your studio and why there is no such thing as a perfect room.
Music: Stereolab Miss Modular
Larry Crane (Jackpot! Recording / Tape Op Magazine)
Larry Crane took a break from his day jobs as editor of Tape Op and Owner/Engineer at Jackpot! Recording to offer a mix engineer's perspective on mastering.
Larry and I critique a mix, and discuss the value of a collaborative dynamic between mixing and mastering engineers.
Music: Sleater-Kinney Far Away
Tony Dawsey (Masterdisk)
Tony Dawsey's career started in the mailroom at Masterdisk in 1980. By 1983 he was assisting and by 1987 he mastered his first multi-platinum record (the soundtrack to La Bamba). Since then he's worked with pop music legends such as Nine Inch Nails, Jay Z, Ronny Jordon, Moby, Diddy, RZA, and many more.
Tony spoke with me about being known for hard rock and rap, the differences between home taping and file sharing, and why you can't just 'add disco'.
Music: Ghostface Killah The Champ
photo courtesy of Redbull Academy
Carl Saff (Saff Mastering)
Carl Saff has been mastering records for artists of every strata since opening Saff Mastering in 2000. Throughout his development as an engineer, first in tracking and later in mastering, he's always made sure that his clients are treated to the type of experience he would appreciate as a musician.
Carl speaks about starting out on a shoestring budget, opening/closing/opening his business, and why learning as you go is great.
Music: Sufjan Stevens Chicago
Dave Greenberg (Sonopod Mastering)
For the last 9 years Dave Greenberg has run Sonopod Mastering in St. Petersburg Florida, but before that he was a tracking/mixing engineer in studios on both coasts. Since the mid 80s Dave has thrived in high-pressure studio situations and counts the lessons he learned about dealing with artists in a professional setting as among the most valuable.
Dave spoke with me about learning a hard lesson about etiquette, never letting communication go off the rails, and Taco Bell.
Music: Arcade Fire Ocean of Noise
Dave Hill (Crane Song, Dave Hill Designs)
The pedigree of Crane Song gear is indisputable in the world of mastering. Studios around the world rely upon the STC-8, Ibis, Avocet, and HEDD as well as other gear designed by the man behind Crane Song, Dave Hill.
Dave spoke with me about the importance of treating analog and digital design as a creative art, what makes the biggest impression when you first hear a piece of gear, and the new Titan compressor released under the Dave Hill Designs brand.
Music: The Decemberists The Crane Wife 3
Noah Mintz (Lacquer Channel)
Despite being one of the biggest names in Canadian mastering since 1975, Lacquer Channel has to deal with the challenges of being outside the largest music markets in North America.
I spoke with mastering engineer and co-owner Noah Mintz about how he came to Lacquer Channel, the peculiarities of the Canadian music industry, and the sometimes difficult job of differentiating yourself from other studios.
Music: Broken Social Scene Canada Vs. America
Photo courtesy of Exclaim Magazine
Dave McNair (Sterling Sound)
To work at Sterling Sound you have to be one of the best, and Dave McNair definitely is. Dave has worked on everything from The Jonas Brothers to ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. His career stretches back more than 20 years with time spent at The Hit Factory and Masterdisk, as well as being an accomplished tracking and mixing engineer for artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Dave spoke with me about how he found himself working at one of the most respected mastering houses in the world, mastering in a 'zen like' state, and how he came to love non-linear digital workstations.
Music: The Icarus Line Victory Gardens
Garrett Haines (Treelady Studios)
Garrett Haines works in the dual roles as Chief Mastering Engineer and owner of Treelady Studios in Pittsburgh, PA as well as a senior contributor for TapeOp magazine. He's mastered Billboard top 10 artists such as Wiz Khalifa, and Flyleaf as well as independent artists from all over the world.
I spoke with Garrett about the role of creativity in mastering, and the importance of knowing your client's needs...even if they don't.
Music: TV on the Radio Family Tree
Bob Muller (Dangerous Music)
Dangerous Music has a history of releasing high quality, sought after tools for mastering engineers. Their newest product is a dedicated insert switcher called the Liaison which claims to satisfy the need for sonically transparent management of analog outboard with lots of flexibility and options.
I spoke with Bob Muller, president of Dangerous, about the genesis of the Liaison and the needs it aims to meet. Bob also shared details about the design philosophy of Chris Muth, chief designer at Dangerous and former technical director of Sterling Sound.
Then I got my hands on the Liaison to see if it delivers insert switching that's fast, flexible, and sonically neutral.
Music: Destroyer A Dangerous Woman, Up to a Point
Robin Schmidt (24-96 Mastering)
Robin Schmidt, mastering engineer at 24-96 Mastering, has worked on thousands of stereo and 5.1 projects since he opened his doors in 2002.
Robin and I discuss his mastering of Paul Smith's solo album Margins. Paul's main band is Maximo Park; he went in a different direction with his solo record and Robin helped facilitate his vision.
Robin also shares details about his background in mastering, how clients can pleasantly surprise you, and the mechanics of REessing.
Music: Paul Smith Strange Friction
Roger Foote (Foote Control Systems)
Roger Foote has been designing audio gear for almost a lifetime. His P3S compressor has recently been making waves, getting terrific reviews, and the mastering edition version has been showing up in studios all over the world.
I spoke with Roger about his life, the evolution of compressor topologies, and why over-engineering as if lives depend on it is worth the trouble.
Music: Chromeo Fancy Footwork
Evan Olcott & Matthew Foust (Audiofile Engineering)
Running a studio takes more than great monitors and loads of plug-ins and outboard, it takes sensible workflows and powerful productivity tools. Nobody wants to spend more time messing with a computer than they do working on music.
That's why Evan Olcott and Matthew Foust started Audiofile Engineering, to create tools they needed to aid music production. Since Audiofile started in 2004 they've released helpful applications for both desktop and mobile platforms, including a batch file processor and an iPhone DDP player for client approvals. I spoke with Ev and Matthew about Audiofile, what it takes to program and support a reliable audio app for OS X, and what the future holds for the convergence between desktop and mobile operating systems.
Music: Nas & M.F. DOOM New World
photo by Emily Utne
Bob Katz (Digido)
After more than 30 years as a mastering engineer Bob Katz is still a busy man. There's his studio, his K-Stereo ambience recovery processor...oh and that book he wrote.
As the 10 year anniversary of the first edition of Mastering Audio approaches, Bob spoke with me about his career, the legacy and criticisms of his book, and why 5 years is a lifetime in mastering.
Music: Talking Heads The Book I Read
Danny Richie (GR Research)
Speaker design (the sum crossover design, cabinet/baffle design, and driver placement/design) is staggeringly complex when done well. Danny Richy of GR Research knows all about it too, he's spent the last 16 years building entire product lines for high-end loudspeaker companies including Epiphany, Tyler Acoustics, Usher and many more.
Danny discusses what goes into making a good loudspeaker, why there is no perfect crossover design, and what it was like having a day-long meeting with John Dunlavy.
Music: The New Pornographers From Blown Speakers
Scott Hull (Masterdisk)
Is Scott Hull crazy? It's a question worth asking. Hull, the former assistant to Bob Ludwig and chief engineer at Masterdisk, left the storied studio to make his mark as an independent mastering engineer. So why did he purchase Masterdisk in 2008? Isn't it insane to buy a huge mastering studio in this economy?
Maybe not. Under Hull's stewardship Masterdisk is weathering the slowdown in business that shuttered many other huge, stately mastering studios. Recently Hull made news by adding legendary mastering engineer Vlado Meller to the Masterdisk roster (Hull and Meller-pictured left). With clients like Madonna, Grizzly Bear, Wavves, and The White Stripes maybe Scott Hull is crazy like a fox.
Hull spoke with Square Cad about his career, his reasons for leaving and eventually returning to Masterdisk, and what the future holds for huge Manhattan mastering studios.
Music: The Bug ft. Warrior Queen Insane
Bob Bauman (Lynx Studio Technology)
When converting sample rates, is it best to use a hardware SRC, and offline SRC application, or to "pitch" at the source rate with one sound card and "catch" at the destination rate with another?
To find out I spoke with Bob Bauman, chief hardware engineer and co-founder of Lynx Studio Technology. Bob has been a hardware and firmware designer for over 25 years and knows how to implement quality conversion.
I also ran some tests of a pitch-catch setup against iZotope's 64-bit SRC and found that, like most things, there are few easy answers when it comes to sample rate conversion.
Music: Pavement Range Life
Thor Legvold & Margaret Luthar (Sonovo Mastering)
Assistantships used to be the gateway to working in mastering, but these days many pursue their careers outside of the traditional studio system. So what is the value of an assistantship in 2011? What are the benefits for the assistant and the mentor?
To find out I spoke with a friend of Square Cad, Margaret Luthar, who is currently in her second term as an assistant mastering engineer at Sonovo Mastering in Stavanger Norway. Margaret is working under chief engineer Thor Legvold, and we hear from both of them about the mechanics of an assistant/mentor relationship.
Music: Muddy Waters You're Gonna Need My Help
Bruno Putzeys (Hypex Electronics, Grimm Audio)
Walk into a mastering studio anywhere in the world and the amps powering the monitoring system are likely to employ linear forms of amplification (Class A & Class A/B). Are these amps more widely used because they're the best option? Class D amps have staggeringly low distortion and are currently the most efficient amps you can buy, so why are they not more often utilized?
To find out I spoke with Bruno Putzeys of Hypex Electronics in The Netherlands. Bruno has worked as an amp designer for decades, beginning his career with Phillips before moving his innovative Class D design to Hypex. Bruno how Class D amps differ from traditional linear amplifiers, why some amp designers don't take advantage of rational engineering principles, and why it's so hard to make a 'green' amp that sounds good.
Music: Handsome Boy Modeling School Class System
Greg Reierson (Rare Form Mastering)
Everything about The Loudness War has been thoroughly discussed over the past 10 years, except how to realistically end it. That's changing though, Greg Reierson of Rare Form Mastering Minneapolis broached that topic with a recent article in Mix Magazine.
Greg has been a mastering engineer for over 20 years, has worked through the years of increasing loud releases, and seems certain that an end to the “loudness for loudness sake” impulse of the music industry is on the horizon. I spoke with Greg about how things have changed from the start of his career to today, and what he thinks will bring The Loudness War to an end.
Music: Public Enemy Louder Than a Bomb
Floris Klinkert (Fab Filter Software)
This week Square Cad is checking the hype on Fab Filter's Pro-L Limiter. Floris Klinkert of Fab Filter shares his thoughts on what goes into to making a good limiter, and the experience of developing the Pro-L.
The first thing people fall in love with about Pro-L is it's interface, which is gorgeous. However, the important thing is how it sounds, so the Pro-L gets put through it's paces! We hear how it sounds applying 1dB, 3dB, and 6dB of limiting on a mix. Also, you can hear how the Pro-L performs relative to other high-quality mastering limiters by downloading 1dB, 3dB, and 6dB limiting samples for Pro-L, Voxengo Elephant, and Flux Pure Limiter 2 HERE (111M zip file). Use the files to set up your own double-blind limiter test and see which you think performs best.
Music: Notorious B.I.G (Feat. 112) Sky's the Limit
Steve Berson (Total Sonic Media)
The 2-part special on vinyl continues this week as Square Cad catches up with Steve Berson of Total Sonic Media.
Steve worked as a mastering/cutting engineer at Europadisk before breaking off to start Total Sonic Media, and is celebrating his 5th anniversary of mastering independently. I spoke with Steve about the DOs and DONTs of premastering for vinyl, and about his quest to refurbish a Fairchild 523 lathe from the 1950s.
Music: Pavement Trigger Cut
Paul Gold (Salt Mastering)
After losing market share and relevance to CDs for decades vinyl has come out of subcultural record bins and back into mainstream prevalence. With the increase in projects destined for vinyl it's useful to ask what goes into making a good master for vinyl, and which engineers specialize in it. This episode and the following will feature conversations with two such engineers.
This week we hear from Paul Gold of Salt Mastering in Brooklyn, NY. Paul has been a mastering engineer for almost 15 years, and is one of the few that cuts lacquers right in his studio. I spoke with Paul about why he chose to specialize in vinyl mastering, the anatomy of a lathe, and why never learning to type is a good career move.
Music: The Duke Spirit Cuts Across the Land
Kyle Thompson and Paul Abbott (Iconic Audio)
You know those clients that consistently provide you with really great mixes? They're a joy to work with and since they set you up with great mixes, the masters always sound fantastic.
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to work like this all the time you could ask Kyle Thompson and Paul Abbott of Iconic Audio. Kyle, a freelance mix engineer, and Paul, who runs Zen Mastering, have a formalized mixing/mastering partnership that produces great records time and again. I spoke with Kyle and Paul about what led them into business together, the mechanics of their workflow, and why specialization breeds quality.
Music: The Who Join Together
Holger Lagerfeldt (Onlinemastering.dk)
This week Square Cad speaks with Danish Grammy nominated producer and mastering engineer Holger Lagerfeldt. Holger produced songs that sold millions of copies and charted over 50 gold and platinum records before he opened onlinemastering.dk in 2004. Since then he has become a sought after engineer, mastering thousands of tracks for artists all around the world.
Holger shares his thoughts on transitioning from producing to mastering, and how the two disciplines differ. We also get a window in Holger's mastering philosophy, as well as his thoughts on education, career trajectory, and why client relations are every bit as important as engineering acumen.
Paul Geluso (Harvestworks), Bob Maciochi (Subvert Central)
There are as many paths to a career in mastering as there are engineers. Some people work their way up through the studio system, others get a toehold through education, still others just hang out a shingle and get mastering. On this episode Square Cad examines the importance of education, both formal and informal.
First we hear from Paul Geluso, chief engineer and studio manager at Harvestworks Digital and recording technology professor at New York University. Paul discusses the impact of formal education on his career, and how he thinks students can make the most of their education.
Bob Macciochi also lends his perspective. Bob is a mastering engineer and one half of Subvert Central Mastering. He discuses his experience working as a mix engineer for artists on Ministry of Sound, and how his 'informal education' has informed his career.
Music: Ladytron Skools Out
Keith Williams (PhD) and John McCaig (Panic Studios)
What makes us choose the gear we do? Is it totally based on need, functionality, and merit? Maybe not.
This week Square Cad delves into the psychology of gear acquisition and retention. First social psychologist Keith Williams, a PhD and professor of psychology at the Richard Stockton College, discusses the normative and informational social influences that effects our decision making.
Then John McCaig of Panic Studios in Seattle discusses his long history of serial gear buying/selling, what he thinks informs his choices of gear, and why it’s totally OK to own an API 2500 three separate times in under five years.
Music: Albert Hammond Jr. Bargain of the Century
Arlo West (Creative Forensic Services)
Forensic audio and mastering utilize similar tools to polish audio, but the similarities end there. Forensics and restoration specialists have a specific goal in mind, intelligibility, and will be use every technique at their disposal to achieve it. Even though the intelligibility threshold sounds like an easy one to achieve it is actually a ton of work.
Square Cad spoke with Arlo West , owner and operator of Creative Forensic Services, about the ins and outs of forensics and restoration. Arlo has worked on thousands of restoration projects, including the latest Mel Gibson freakout tapes, and shares his thoughts about restoration workflow, goals, and how his work differs from studio engineering.
Music: Magnetic Fields It’s a Crime
Nick Moon (Tone Proper) and Mike Mecklenburg (Duplication Factory)
Client approval workflows vary from studio to studio, but Nick Moon from Tone Proper Mastering is trying make the process easier and more efficient with a new DDP player called Tonic. Nick hopes that a simplified interface and approach will increase usage of DDPi, and improve client communication during the approval process. Nick shares his thoughts about how Tonic could be another nail in the coffin of CDs, as well as his ideas about increasing efficiency and improving client relations across the board.
We also hear from Mike Mecklenburg, general manager of The Duplication Factory in Minnesota, about how CDs are created from DDPi.
Music: The Jam Standards
Tom Waltz (Waltz Mastering)
This is an Extra from Square Cad Episode 4, the Hype Check of Dangerous Music’s Bax EQ. In it Tom Waltz and I talk about different flavors of compression, eureka moments in mastering (like when Tom forgot to plug in a compressor and really liked what he heard), and Tom shares a story about working with Ted Jensen of NYC’s Sterling Sound.
Music: A Tribe Called Quest Buggin’ Out
Chris Muth (Dangerous Music), Tom Waltz (Waltz Mastering)
Square Cad digs through the hype to evaluate the Dangerous Music BAX shelving EQ. Chris Muth, electronics designer for Dangerous and renowned engineer, shares his thoughts about the BAX’s design. Based on the ubiquitous topography of Peter J. Baxandall the BAX aims to be a transparent shelving solution reminiscent of a home or car stereo.
To evaluate if the BAX meets it’s goals we hear from Tom Waltz of Waltz Mastering. He shares his first hand experience with the BAX, as well as his thoughts about gearlust, the high-frequency shortcomings of digital EQs, and whether he thinks a $2200 dedicated shelving unit is worth it.
Music: Desmond Dekker Beautiful and Dangerous
Tony Mantz (Jack the Bear Deluxe Mastering)
Master Craft! This week Square Cad welcomes Australian engineer Tony Mantz of Jack the Bear for a case study in mastering. Tony walks us through his process as we review a recent electronica/dance master, a collaboration between Imprintz & Kloe of France and J. Scott G of Austin Texas.
We also discuss Tony’s approach to mastering, mentoring and encouraging artists, the importance of fully investing clients in the mastering process, and discover that you can learn a lot about a man from his ringtone.
Intro/Outro Music: MSTRKRFT Bounce ft. Nore and Isis
John Siau (Benchmark Media)
On this episode of Square Cad it’s all about A/D and D/A conversion. John Siau, Head of Engineering for Benchmark Media, talks about converter design and the future of conversion in digital audio.
Part 1: Clock Watcher (0:00-18:33) John discusses Benchmark’s history in broadcast, and how dealing with hundreds of pieces of gear in a chain prepared him for creating high-end converters. He also talks about what goes into making an accurate converter, and why you may want to reconsider before you buy an expensive master clock.
Part 2: Sigma Delta, Por Vida (18:34-26:40) Next I talk with John about conversion schemes and which are the most robust. From his point of view Sigma Delta conversion is the clear winner even though a resistor ladder network is quieter. He also talks about the extensive and lengthly testing process that takes a converter from theory to your rack.
- If you’d like to learn more about Sigma Delta Conversion you can check out this introductory explanation. If you’re feeling really tech-y check out the tutorial video from Texas Instruments. Warning: it is super detailed. Your eyes may glaze over if you aren’t adequately prepared.
Part 3: The Future Will be Converted…Quietly (26:41-34:53) To wrap things up John speaks about the 2010 AES convention, why firewire doesn’t have to be a bad interface choice, and what he thinks future advancements in conversion will mean for working engineers.
Music: Deerhunter Spring Hall Convert
Joshua Reiss, Daniele Barchies, & Chris Athens (Sterling Sound)
The inaugural episode of SC is an examination of a breakthrough in reverse engineering.
Reverse engineering can be sitting at your console trying to figure out how to achieve a specific sound based on another engineer’s work. I’ve probably tried 100 times to get the open and powerful drum sound of You are a Runner, and I am My Father’s Son. Never quite gotten there, but by obsessing over it I’ve discovered new ways to make drums sound great.
Reverse engineering can also be straight-up replicating someone’s workflow/signal chain/circuit design in an effort to steal their mojo.
Joshua Reiss and Daniele Barchiesi of the Center for Digital Music at Queen’s Mary University in London have had a breakthrough in research that pertains to reverse engineering. They’ve developed an algorithm that can analyze an engineer’s prior mixing/mastering work and replicate the gain, panning, and equalization settings that engineer used. Which type of reverse engineering will their research support and what type of impact will it have?
I spoke with Joshua and Daniele about their research, as well as Bennett Kolasinski, the engineer/programmer who was searching for a way to alleviate some of the mundane tasks of session setup and inadvertently created the basis for the reverse engineering algorithm. Then Chris Athens, of NYC’s Sterling Sound, gives his opinion about the research and it’s potential uses.
Intro Music: Missy Elliott Work It
Outro Music: Red Fang Reverse Thunder
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