Mixing Drew Zingg's Debut Album In the Box

Feb 1, 2013 9:00 AM


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photo of Sonodyne SM100Ak

Sonodyne SM100Ak

For monitoring on speakers in my studio, I use Dynaudio BM15A and BM12A. I’ve been with Dyn’s forever, basically. I feel really comfy with them. I also wanted to get a set that sounded completely different and found these wonderful monitors made in India called Sonodyne—their SM100K models, half the size of the Dyn’s, and they just sound great. Those, plus the Grado’s, and I had all the references that I wanted.

I came up as a second assistant engineer in analog rooms, so I'm one of those guys that generally prefers analog. But in the last two years I've noticed that there are a couple of companies that are making plug-ins that are so solid, are so great-sounding, that I think they're worth giving a try. We recorded really strong basic tracks, right? So I thought, "What I'm trying to do here is not create anything that's not already there. Whatever I use, I want to use subtly. So maybe I can find a way to employ some of these plug-ins." Some turned out to be all.

Part of my intention [in mixing] was to make sure that you couldn't hear what I was doing—I didn't want to hear a big delay, I didn't want to hear incredible amounts of compression [or] reverb. That said, I used multiple instances of plug-ins on each of these tunes! But I wanted them to be used in a subtle way. Transparency, “naturalness”, I guess. I don’t want folks to hear the mix; I want them to hear the music.

For instance, if I was going to use an EQ or a compressor on Will [Lee]'s bass, I'd audition a few plug-in EQs or compressors before I decided which one I was going to use. So it was a painstaking process, but I didn't want to hear the compression on Will's bass; I wanted to hear Will's bass. Will is such a monster player with such a sound...I didn’t want to change anything. Same with Vinnie [Colaiuta]; I didn't want to hear the reverberant program on the drum kit or the kit sound different than what Vinnie likes to hear; I wanted to hear the space that I created become a part of the drum sound, a part of the band sound. I wanted things to sound natural. No hyper-reality. Why try to “fix” the performances of these guys? What could I possibly “fix” or “change”?

screenshot of UAD Lexicon 224 plug-in

UAD Lexicon 224 plug-in

The Universal Audio UAD Powered Plug-Ins stood out to me. Eighty percent of the plug-ins [that I used] are UAD. The reverbs are UAD —usually their 224 or their plate reverbs, like the 160. The rest of the plug-ins were either SSL Duende or the occasional surgical EQ from Sonnox, or something like that. I try to work in a subtractive manner, rather than an additive manner. So I'll pull stuff out of the sound to clear it up rather than boost something. But again, I really try not to use anything if possible; I don’t just jump to some corrective tool before trying to fit things in a mix without going to processing.

I connected many years ago with a lovely fellow named Don Wershba, Senior Vice President at Solid State Logic here in the U.S. When I was a young engineer coming up, Don was one of the full-on engineers whose shoulders I used to look over...I stole regularly from Don! I learned a ton from watching Don work...he’s a real gent and is super knowledgeable about music, engineering and the business surrounding all of it. He’s also a blast to just hang out with.

I had installed a mix room in my apartment here in NYC and had taken a lot of time with treatment, configuration and such, and knew that I would need a small but really powerful and flexible nerve center for the room. So when I started gearing up, I was seriously looking at a few different controllers and digital desks and landed on the SSL Nucleus, which stopped my search. So I contacted Don, who introduced me to Fadi Hayek, also at SSL, and they invited me downtown for a demo of the Nucleus. Love at first sight!

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