Goes without say: my most valuable asset is a pair of good ol’ ears, combined with 20 years of experience, good judgment, and vast knowledge of all things ambient, electronic, experimental, drone, dub, jazz, modern classical, pop, rock and all of its offshoots genres. 

An Accurate Listening Environment

Critical listening is probably the single most important part of any studio. You cannot correct what you cannot hear accurately. I work inside a room carefully treated for mastering and mixing. Renowned studio designer and acoustics consultant Jim Keller at Sondhus has extensively analyzed for room modes, natural decays, and early reflections, laser aligning the monitoring speakers placement. This maximizes the stereo image “sweet spot” and addresses any constructive (or destructive) speaker boundary interference response (SBIR). Any measurable flutter echo, comb filtering, and standing waves has been eliminated with acoustic wall panels and bass traps from GIK Acoustics, thus creating a neutral environment for listening to your tracks.

Full Range Monitoring

My monitoring path consist of dedicated mastering grade digital-to-analog converters, studio monitoring controller and high-end speakers. I've chosen the Barefoot MicroMain 27 speakers as my main monitors for their amazing transparency and accuracy translating to other listening environments and systems. They have an even frequency response 30Hz to 45kHz (±3dB) - from a big bottom, warm punchy midrange to a wide clear top end, at both low and high playback levels. They are wonderful for both mixing and mastering. As the saying goes: “Barefoots don't lie!”

As a backup reference, I have a pair of Tyler Acoustics D1's, a quintessential speaker system at many mastering houses. For crosschecking mixes and masters in headphones, I have a pair of AKG K702 Reference Studio Headphones – arguably a standard at many world-class mastering and mixing facilities.

The Mastering Section

Signal Path – The audio leaves the computer via CraneSong's HEDD 192, a high-end AD/DA converter considered by many to be a workhorse. From the converter, it goes through a 100% analogue mastering console designed by Manley Labs. In the console's inserts, I've added premium and customized hardware: it's got everything from tube compression and valve equalizers to tape reel saturation. This can add lots of character and warmth to any recording, though most significantly to digital audio recordings mixed in-the-box. Once the signal is processed, it goes back to the HEDD, and into the computer for any final edits. Depending on the situation, project, and content, I may utilize mastering software applications for very transparent processing, fine editing, and precise sequencing.

Mastering Console – I've selected a Manley Mastering Backbone master transfer console. It's a very neutral piece of gear with mastering-grade gains, a stereo width control, and possibly the world's most expensive fader knob (moves like butter!). The advantage of this console is having all the mastering gear connected directly to it, avoiding any potential signal degradation on patchbays. It is also fantastic for A/B comparisons at every stage of the chain, you can always reference back to the original mixdown rather easily, thus making the workflow efficient.

The Mixing Section

Mixing Console – I'm a big fan of the SSL sound: it's clean, transparent, and versatile. You can mix a rock album, an electronic album, or a quiet classical record with it. You've heard the SSL sound on countless classic albums – everything from seminal records like Metallica's “Master of Puppets” and Nirvana's “Nevermind” to The Cure's “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me” and The Happy Mondays' “Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches.” Of course, arguably the most legendary creative use of an SSL console comes courtesy of Phil Collins and his producer Hugh Padgham for the drum sound on “In The Air Tonight.” You can read the full story here.

The customized SSL summing mixing system at BKS has the same SuperAnalogue signal path as their flagship AWS 9000 model. I've also added another SSL secret weapon: the G-series Buss Compressor, which I use as an insert on the master bus for that classic, SSL sound. Lastly, I've added a pair of preamps and other outboard pieces containing Carnhill transformers, in case a particular project needs a more heavily “coloured” sound (think of the Neve sound). My goal here is adaptability to a multitude of mixing situations and musical styles, so I feel the BKS setting is a very modular one, whilst keeping a small footprint.

The Equipment List

ANALOGUE SWEETENING
Empirical Labs EL-7 FATSO
Elysia XFilter EQ
Foote Control Systems P3S Class-A Mastering Compressor (Custom)
Foote Control Systems High-Pass Filter (Custom)
Kush Audio Clariphonic Dual-channel Parallel EQ
Manley Massive Passive Tube EQ (Mastering Version)
Manley Stereo VariMu Mastering Tube Limiter Compressor (Modified)
Millennia NSEQ-2 Parametric EQ
Otari MX5050 1/2” reel-to-reel tape machine
Rupert Neve Designs 511 500 Series Mic Pre-Amps (matched pair)
Siemens W295b Discrete Class-A Dual Solid State EQ (Vintage, 1960's)
Solid State Logic G-Series Stereo Buss Compressor
Summit EQP-200A Dual Tube Pultec EQ
Thermionic Culture Vulture Mastering Plus Stereo Valve Distortion
Universal Audio LA-610 Classic Tube Recording Channel

ANALOGUE MASTERING TRANSFER CONSOLE
Manley Mastering Backbone

ANALOGUE MIXING DESK
Solid State Logic X-Desk
Solid State Logic X-Panda

ANALOGUE-TO-DIGITAL  PATH
CraneSong HEDD 192 AD/DA Converter

DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATIONS AND TOOLKIT
Ableton Live 9.5 Suite
Audiofile Engineering Triumph 2.5 (DDP Authoring)
Avid ProTools 11
Bitwig Studio 1.3.15
Brainworx Bx Limiter
Brainworx Bx Meter
Brainworx M/S EQ and Dynamic EQ plugins
FabFilter Pro Total Bundle
iZotope 64-bit Sample Rate Conversion
iZotope Alloy 2
iZotope Insight metering
iZotope Nectar 2
iZotope Ozone 7
iZotope RX 5 Advanced Audio Repair Toolkit
Native Instruments Komplete 11
PSP Audioware plugins
SoundToys Native Effects V5
Universal Audi Apollo 16 MKII equipped with UAD-2 powered plugins
Universal Audio Satellite OCTO equipped with UAD-2 powered plugins
Voxengo plug-ins

 

MONITORING AND ROOM ACOUSTICS
Barefoot MM27 Monitor Speakers
Bel Canto C5i Integrated Amplifier
Crane Song Avocet Discrete Class A Studio Controller
GIK Acoustics Softit Bass Traps
GIK Acoustics 244 Bass Traps
GIK Acoustics Monster Bass Traps
GIK Acoustics Freestanding Bass Traps
Sound Anchor ADJ-27 Speaker Stands (Custom)
Sterling Modular Plan A Desk
Sterling Modular Versa II 2-Bay Rack
Tyler Acoustics Decade Series D1 Speakers

OUTBOARD EFFECT UNITS
API 500-6B Lunchbox
Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas Tremolo
Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl Chorus/Vibrato
Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall Delay
Earthquake Devices Avalanche Run Stereo Delay and Reverb
EarthQuaker Devices Transmisser Resonant Reverberator
Echoplex Maestro Sireko Tape Echo (Vintage)
Ekdahl Moisturizer Spring Reverb unit
Empress Effects Reverb
Eventide H3000 D/SE Ultra-Harmonizer
Eventide H9 Harmonizer effects processor
Eventide Pitchfactor Harmonizer
Eventide Space Reverb
Eventide TimeFactor Delay
Industrial Electric Echo Degrader
Industrial Electric RM-1N
Lexicon Super Prime Time M97 delay
Montreal Assembly Count To Five looper
Moog MF-101 Lowpass Filter
Moog MF-104M Analog Delay x 2
Moog MF-108M Cluster Flux
Moog MF-105M MIDI MuRF x 2
Pro Co RAT Distortion (Vintage)
Retro Mechanical Labs 432k Distortion
Retro Mechanical Labs Electron Fuzz Custom
Snazzy FX Wow & Flutter (LTD edition/custom)
Strymon Flint Tremolo & Reverb
Studio Digitech Quad 4
Zvex FuzzFactory Distortion
Zvex Inventobox Distortion

INSTRUMENTS AND MISCELLANEOUS
AKG K702 Reference Studio Headphones
BeyerDynamic MC 930 microphones (matched stereo pair)
Blue Baby Bottle Class-A Cardioid Condenser Microphone
DSI Tetra Polyphonic Analog Synthesizer
Epiphone Les Paul Baritone electric guitar (customized)
Fender American Standard Jazz bass guitar
Fender American Vintage '62 Jaguar reissue electric guitar (customized)
Fender Jaguar MIJ electric guitar (modified)
Fender Jazzmaster MIJ electric guitar (customized)
Gibson Les Paul Studio electric guitar
Guild JF4-NT acoustic guitar
Guild Starfire III semi-electric guitar
KORG MS-20 (modified)
Moog Minitaur Analog Bass Synthesizer
Radial Engineering ProRMP Passive re-amping device x 4
Redco Audio cables (custom-built)
Rickenbacker 330/12 12-string electric guitar
Samson S-Patch Plus patchbays x 4
Simon & Patrick Luthier Woodland parlor guitar
Sunn Sceptre amplifier (vintage ’68 original)
Sunn 4 x 10 cabinet (vintage ’69 original)