Manley Vari Mu compressor/Limiter
One of my favorite pieces of gear. My passion for this 10 tube compressor began first while using the UAD (Universal Audio) plugin emulation of this legendary piece. This compressor imparts a magical glue to my mixes and masters. This particular model has what Manley calls the T-Bar Modification. The plugin from UAD is fantastic, but the hardware absolutely sounds different in the ways that matter the most to me. In blind tests, I am always able to detect whether it’s the plugin or the hardware itself. The hardware maintains more of the feel, groove, and retains the separation/spaces in the music. It also just seems to bring out more of the music as well, in ways that can be difficult in many other compressors. Hands down, my favorite of the four analog mix bus compressors in my desk.
The Avalon 747sp.
Purchased in the mid 2000’s, this was the very first piece of analog gear I added to my mixing workflow. Virtually every song I’ve released over the years has been run through this piece of gear. It’s unique in that it can be operated in Solid State, or through tubes. It is a stereo mix/mastering Optical bus compressor, with a 6 band passive eq. I would describe this piece as adding a very characteristic silky/sheen to the mixes. It is no longer made by Avalon Design, and that’s a shame because there is no other piece that sounds quite like it. I should also mention that it has given me nearly 20 years of faithful service, and has never had to be serviced, nor have I ever had to replace the three tubes.
Solid State Logic (SSL) Bus compressor.
A VCA compressor that has been a standard piece of gear in studios around the world since the eighties. I have this set on the insert of my SSL Fusion in the desk. There are many plugins that emulate this wonderful compressor, and there are some fantastic clones of this compressor available today as well, although I have not personally used any of the clones. My favorite plugin emulation of this piece is made by Brainworx, called the “Townhouse Compressor”.
Manley Massive Passive (Mastering Version).
6 tube, passive Equalizer. This piece is another studio legend, found in many world class mix and mastering studios around the world. Again, like the Manley Vari Mu, my first taste of what this EQ can do came from using a plugin emulation made by Native Instruments, called the “Passive EQ ”. This eventually led me to purchase the UAD Massive Passive, and then eventually the real thing, in all it’s analog glory. This EQ really helps me bring out the MUSIC in the music. It’s a beautiful sounding EQ, and it has alot of personality. Just like an instrument, it takes time to really master it as it’s nothing at all like a conventional EQ… when working with it I feel more like I am playing an instrument, vs working with an audio “tool”.
Rupert Neve Designs, Master Bus Processor:
An amazing tool for both mixing and mastering duties. The compressor is extremely transparent, and packed full of modern and classic tricks. The stereo field editor allows me to fine tune the mix/master in ways that really bring out the richness of a mix, and the Red/Blue silk saturation brings a fullness to the sound in a really wonderful way.
Solid State Logic Fusion:
The vibe, and color of an SSL analog desk in a box. This is hands down, the most value for dollar purchase I’ve made for the studio. The transformer, the shelving EQ, and the HF compressor really helps me polish my masters. I could not imagine working without it.
Bettermaker Mastering EQ:
EQ can be the single most powerful tool for making mixes polished, and pleasing to listen to. This combines two EQ’s in one, passive and active. 100% analog EQ, but I can control it and save my settings inside my computer for instant recall song to song.
Bettermaker "Darth" Limiter (Limited to 200 in the world):
100% analog limiter, with built- in metering, saturation, and instant recall via a companion plugin on my mac. This is the final analog processor that all of my mixes and masters hit before returning into the computer.
Genelec 8351 (A’s):
Studio monitors/speakers are probably THE most important “instrument” in a studio. These monitors were a game changer for me, and have helped me grow as a musician, producer, and mix/mastering engineer.
Mac Pro (Cheese grater).