AES is upon us. It’s time to check out the latest and greatest gear on the exhibition floor; attend the panels, workshops and conferences; and catch up with friends to share war stories over adult beverages—this year, once again, in the heart of New York City.
For me, it’s also a good time to dial up a few pals in the business and check in on what they have been using over this past year, what trends they see approaching, and just how they are running their rigs and gigs.
Here’s the multi-platinum gang for this round table: engineer/mixer Richard Chycki (Rush, Aerosmith, Dream Theater, Def Leppard); engineer/mixer Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Shania Twain, Five Finger Death Punch, Ringo Starr); engineer/mixer Peter Moshay (Hall & Oates, Live From Daryl’s House, Barbra Streisand, BB King); and engineer/mixer, audio supervisor/sound designer Gary Tole (Bon Jovi, Metallica, HBO, Food Network).
WHAT SOFTWARE REALLY OPENED UP YOUR EYES (AND EARS) IN 2015?
Chycki: Universal Audio continues to knock the ball out of the park with its plug-ins—always great sonically—and it’s really set a standard in hardware emulations. The BX20, AMS RMX, SVT, EMT 140 and 250 are all so good! The Sonnox Oxford EQ, Dynamics, Inflator and Limiter are all staples in my arsenal, too. I’ve lately taken to using the Sonnox’s SuprEsser quite a bit—not so much for de-essing but for controlling guitar cab resonances, bass note hotspots and other mix issues. It’s remarkably accurate and versatile. Exponential Audio’s R2 and Phoenix Surround Reverbs are fabulous with great soundfield and depth. McDSP’s AE400 is a magic toolbox type of EQ. I’ve used that to save live drum stems where the snare is under-mixed to fixing an inconsistent bass with hotspots and “no-spots.” It’s a true secret weapon. Dirk Ulrich from Plugin Alliance/Brainworx is a forward thinker in the world of plug-ins with great interfaces and features. And finally, I’ve been managing audio for live broadcast with the TC Electronic LC2n Loudness Control application.
Churko: My current favorites are Slate Digital’s Virtual Mix Rack, McDSP’s AE400, McDSP’s Futzbox, Drum Forge DF-Xcite, Waves’ Manny M Distortion and the Elosis Air EQ.
Moshay: UAD never ceases to impress me with every release, like the AMS RMX16, AKG BX20 and Vari- Mu, just to name a few, but I can’t imagine working without all of them at my fingertips. They are my essentials.
Tole: iZotope RX has actually made my life better. The tool set included in Version 4 is incredible for fixing some of the really bad production audio I receive. It is a must-have for any post audio mixer. Also, Pro Tools 11 really helped my productivity this year with offline bouncing. Bouncing stems, which would take me an hour or more to do, is now done in minutes. This helps with frustration levels when producers decide to make last-minute changes (after you already have an approved mix), so changes and re-making stems is a breeze.
WHAT NEW HARDWARE DID YOU BUY IN 2015, OR WHICH HARDWARE PIECES DO YOU STILL RELY ON THE MOST?
Chycki: I’ve acquired a Lexicon 960 Surround as well a Lexicon 300. I use the SSL Sigma for summing and my stereo bus processing is analog. I jump around with my 2-bus EQ and compressor choices quite a bit, so I’m always shopping around. The Burl B2 Bomber A/D Converter is stellar. I have a ton of 500 Series modules that I like to experiment with—ones from SSL, Eventide, Radial, IGS and Smart. It never seems to end for me; I may have to go to 500 Series rehab soon.
Churko: My new gear includes Retro Instruments’ Sta-Level compressor, Kemper’s Profiler, a DPA 4011 and Radial JD7. And I just can’t quit the Empirical Labs’ Distressor; it may be old news, but it always works wonders.
Moshay: My latest includes the SSL AWS 900+SE console, Focusrite ISA 828, Radial’s Phazer Bank and a collection of Miktek microphones.
Tole: My old faithful controller died this year, so I upgraded to the Avid Artist Mix/Control. I absolutely love it for its flexibility and speed. I use the Avid S6 at the Food Network every day and love it.
DO ANY OF YOU RUN HYBRID ANALOG/DIGITAL RIGS? IF SO, WHY?
Chycki: I mix hybrid, so I still have a chunk of hardware; I enjoy the depth of the soundfield. I have pieces of hardware that have a particular sound—including all of their idiosyncrasies—that I want to keep.
Moshay: I do! The reason why is because the workflow is fabulous and it just sounds so damn good. I dare anyone to try and not fall in love with my setup.
Tole: In my home studio, I run a hybrid system for music and an all-digital system for post work. For music, I love the ability to get subtle sweet tones with tube gear and transformers that I can’t quite harness with plug-ins. When it comes to post, I need the accuracy of compatibility with many other systems as well as spot-on recall-ability.
OVER THE PAST YEAR, HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY OBVIOUS CHANGES IN MARKET TRENDS FOR YOUR BUSINESS MODEL?
Chycki: I’ve been enjoying the fact that artists are beginning to take creative chances again. I love using technology, both new and old, to help them realize that resurgence.
Churko: Budgets are going even lower with a greater emphasis on getting things done quickly.
Moshay: Networked audio is the next big gear wave as well as wireless control. Dante and Focusrite’s Red- Net platform is the wave of the future, so get onboard and enjoy the ride.
Tole: These days, I’m dealing with more and more online collaborations with post supervisors and editors, which leads to quick turn around times for broadcast. The ability for me to work at home as well as on location makes it all much easier.
DO ANY OF YOU USE APPS FOR ANYTHING MUSIC RELATED? IF SO, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITES?
Chycki: I enjoy using an app called Capo. It can analyze pitch and tempo as well as adjust tempo on the fly–great for writing sessions and working with artist demos. Also, though it’s not an actual “app,” on my iPad, I use the web interface for the SSL’s Sigma to control during tracking and to keep an eye on settings during mixing when Pro Tools is providing automation data.
Churko: I’m just now getting the BPM app. Ha!
Moshay: Yes. I use Console Control, an RTA audio analyzer, delay calculator, audio-related calculator and many more.
Rich Tozzoli is an award-winning, Grammy-nominated producer, engineer and composer for programming such as FOX NFL, Pawn Stars, Duck Dynasty and Oprah & Deepak Chopra. richtozzoli.com