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PAR Opinion: Decisions, Decisions: 4 Pros Discuss DAWs (and more)

This month, following our annual American AES Convention, is a great time to figuratively “reboot.” There’s not a better or more inspiring time for reevaluating the gear we use daily in our unique jobs. In doing so, it’s often worthwhile to consider what peers choose to get their jobs done; here, we catch up with four busy and credit-heavy pros for their latest and greatest DAW-based preferences in audio tools.

They are Paul Antonell, Grammy-nominated engineer, mixer and producer (Spyro Gyra, Natalie Merchant, Rusted Root, Beausoleil); Richard Chycki, multi-Grammy award-winning engineer, mixer and producer (Rush, Aerosmith, Dream Theater, Def Leppard); Peter Moshay, multi-Grammy award-winning engineer, mixer and producer (Hall & Oates, Live From Daryl’s House, BB King, Ian Hunter); and Bob Powers, multi-Grammy award-winning engineer, mixer and producer (Citizen Cope, Erykah Badu, The Roots, D’Angelo).

PAR: What DAW are you using?

PA: Pro Tools 10, soon to make the jump to Pro Tools 11. It’s a big upgrade, and I want to be sure the hardware and software elements are all stable. It’s a big concern for me; we are doing large tracking dates—with forty inputs—and I need a stable rig. I also need to make sure all of the plug-ins are compatible before upgrading.

RC: Pro Tools 10—HDX 10.3.6. I’ll jump to 11 coming once all my plugins are ported to AAX.

PM: Protools 10 HD and 11 HD.

BP: Logic and Pro Tools, about 50/50.

PAR: Do you have a second system?

PA: A laptop with a Universal Audio Apollo QUAD.

RC: My laptop rig—a Sonnet Thunderbolt chassis with Pro Tools HDX, Avid MADI I/O and the Antelope Orion 32.

PM: The Universal Audio Apollo QUAD and RME Fireface UFX with a PreSonus Firebox.

BP: I have an Apogee Ensemble that I use with my laptop when I need to do a mixed sample rate session.

PAR: Do you combine hardware with your DAW? If so, what are you using?

PA: Yes, I do a very hybrid version of summing. I use a Neve 8058 MKII, running Pro Tools’ outputs directly to the console. From there, I access outboard dynamics and EQs. I have tape out, insert, and buss outputs of the Neve, then mix to half-inch analog via a Studer A-80. I regularly turn to things like Chandler Germanium preamps, Chandler TG Channel equalizers, API 2500 EQ, Decca 7-Band Mastering EQ, Chandler TG-1, Neve 2254A compressor/limiter, Purple Audio MC76, Alan Smart C1 stereo compressor, Empirical Labs Distressor, Universal Audio LA-3A, DBX 160x, Manley Stereo Variable Mu, Universal Audio 177, ADL 1000, Altec 438A and 422C. And, my trusty Studer A827 2-inch 24 track.

RC: Definitely. SSL Sigma as summing unit, with inserts for Retro 176, Retro Sta-level, UA LA2, UA 1176, Eventide H8000, Eventide DSP7500, Bricasti M7, SPL Passeq, EMI TG12345, API 2500 and loads of 500 Series modules including the SSL 611 EQ, SSL 611 Compressor, SSL G Series Compressor, Maag EQ, Grace preamps and comps, Retro Doublewide, API 550a/b … and more.

PM: Yes, about 98 percent of the time. An SSL AWS900+SE and a room full of outboard.

BP: Only on my two-bus. I feel like using hardware inserts on individual channels defeats one of the great aspects about mixing ITB: ease of recall. That said, I rely heavily on my two-bus chain. I mix and match, using whatever sounds right at the time. These include the Pendulum ES8 Fairchild-style compressor/limiter, API 2500 compressor, GML 8200 EQ, Tube-Tech PE1C tube EQ (just for the depth of field that the tubes seem to enhance), Prism Maselec Mastering EQ (almost exclusively for mastering), Pendulum PL2 Analog Peak Limiter (a wonderful piece, again, almost exclusively for mastering), and Mytek A/D converters.

PAR: What would you consider your go-to, “daily basis” plug-ins?

PA: SoundToys, Altiverb, Sonnox SuprEsser, UA 140, Neve, Brainworx, Melodyne.

RC: UA 250, 140, and their 1176 plugs of all sorts, RE201, Brainworx XL-V2, Sonnox EQs and dynamics, everything McDSP and Melodyne.

PM: UA’s Harrison EQ and Waves C6.

BP: McDSP’s parametric EQ, Sonnox Oxford Reverb and iZotope Ozone.

PAR: Now for the “and more….” Any cool new hardware you’ve come across this year?

PA: Yes—I have fallen in love with the AEA R88 stereo microphone. I also have been using a new large monitor rig designed by Ted Rothstein at TR Technologies. My favorite new piece is a custom mic preamp designed by Chip Verspyck and Henry Hirsch at Techitout.

RC: SSL Sigma, SSL 500 Series modules, Grimm CC1 clock, plus everything Cartec.

PM: OWC Helios PCIe to Thunderbolt expansion chassis and Kush Audio UBK Clariphonic EQ.

BP: Lots … and I’m trying to avoid buying any more.

Rich Tozzoli—a prolific TV music composer, engineer and producer—is PAR’s Software Editor.

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