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Over the last 30 years, we’ve worked with a lot of top-notch audio engineers—from GRAMMY Award-winning recording and mixing engineers to chart-topping producers, world-class musicians and more. And one thing they all have in common is impeccable taste in gear.
One question we always like to ask during interviews is, “What’s one piece of gear you can’t live without?” Continue reading to learn what some of the top engineers in our industry are using, including Marcella Araica, Tucker Martine, Chris Lord-Alge and more.
I would say my speakers for sure. Since I got a pair of ATC SCM45A speakers, I feel like my mixes took a massive step forward because I can hear mid-range and balance in general overall. I think speakers are very important. I would buy expensive speakers before I would buy expensive compressors or stuff because you can really get away with a lot in the box these days.
The only outboard EQ that I’m really using nowadays is the GML 8200, just to put some extra shine on a record or add that low-end on the stereo bus. As far as plug-ins, the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is one of my favorites. Oeksound Soothe2 is another one that I'm starting to feel like I can’t live without. The Waves H-EQ is another one that I use. It’s been around for a while but I had a hand in the beta version in the early days, so I do love that EQ.
I would say recently it’s been the Chandler Limited REDD mic. They’re brilliant on anything. I pair it with the TG a lot. The REDD has the sound characteristics of a vintage mic and is extremely useful in many situations. Both of those I tend to use on the majority of sessions I’m doing.
My Audeze LCD-2C headphones. I work out of several different spaces and it’s so important to have a reliable set of headphones so I know I can calibrate my ears (the most important piece of gear!) to any monitoring system. The planar magnetic technology really sets them apart from any other headphones I’ve used.
My D.W. Fearn VT-7 compressor. It was one of the first pieces of analog gear I invested in when I started my own studio. I originally attempted mastering in the box, but I just couldn’t get projects to sound the way I wanted them to. From the very first project I used the VT-7 on, I was hooked. It touches every single project I work on. It really helps everything sound “finished” to my ears.
Honestly, I would say my laptop. Because I work primarily in the box, if I have my laptop I can work anywhere. Who knew there would come a time when you could make an album, distribute, promote your music, and engage with your fans without a label or a staff of a dozen people? I can do anything with my laptop.
I don’t know if I have anything like that. I think that gear is just gear. There are certain instruments that are really personal to me, just like anyone has. My ‘66 Mustang bass, which is the same one my Fender Signature model was developed from, and also my Guild Starfire bass. Maybe I couldn’t live without those, but is that really true? Could I actually not live without them? I don’t think there’s anything that I’m that attached to.
That said, as I think about it more, maybe I couldn’t live without my EMS Synthi. I actually only got it this year, but I’m already deeply obsessed and attached to it. The sound of it is so particular, soulful, almost haunted. It’s got a totally indelible personality that you cannot hide. It’s certainly one of the most beguiling and challenging pieces of gear I’ve ever owned, and it’s also expensive. So in the final analysis, I think at this point I probably couldn’t live without that one.
The iMac, man. It’s the brain. I’ve had tons of great computers over the years, but the iMac has been a game-changer. When I switched to iMacs from towers I was like “I’m getting a lot of good computer for not a lot of money.” I’ve been really happy about that.
If it was anything other than that, it would be the Barefoots, for sure. Cause you can’t spend $100 million on a submarine and skimp on the latch. You want to make sure what you’re putting into it is what you’re getting out.
I don’t have one! There are so many great options out there, I don’t think that there’s one item I rely on. I don’t carry one piece of gear with me wherever I go. What’s important is knowing what you’re going for first. There’s just so much great gear out there, there’s no way I could choose just one piece.
I learned that while working with Roger at Leon’s house years back. At the time, he was working on what he called “his little invention.” Did I mention his name was Roger Linn? He taught me that it’s important to have an image of what you’re trying to achieve. Then you can experiment with different ways to get there.
Probably the Prophet-6. Or the [Universal Audio] Cooper Time Cube, I love that thing. So basically it was a coiled-up garden hose in a box and you would shout into it and it would create this crazy delay sound. I also love the LA-2A, it just adds warmth to everything. Or the Neve 1073 preamp. You put it on anything and all of a sudden it just sounds a little warmer. I think that's super, super cool.
The Kensington Expert Trackball Mouse. That’s probably the least cool answer you’ve ever gotten, but if you ever see me try to use a normal mouse it looks like I’ve never used a computer before.
You know, if all of this equipment were to vanish into thin air at one point I don’t think I would be that bummed out. I would just start over. But, one of the first things I would get would be Auratone Cubes.
Digital Audio Workstations. They get a bad rap but they have totally changed how we are able to record and mix records. There are some really misused and misunderstood parts of random access recording but it has also opened up a whole new world and allowed people like me to work at our own studios without needing a two-million-dollar investment.
The GML 8200 and the Mini Massive are EQ staples of my console. In fact, they’re the only EQs in my console! I couldn’t live without my Mini Massive. Van, if you’re reading this, reissue the Mini Massive!
I would have to say my Space Echo 555. When a sound needs more life or to be more interesting, that's a pretty reliable go-to. I love all my different mic pres and stuff, but if you told me I could only have one flavor I would be ok with that, but I would be very sad if you took away my Space Echo.
One plug-in that I would be in hell without is the PSP Vintage Warmer. I use the shit out of that plug-in. I would almost venture to say that I use it on every single track. I absolutely love it, cause it’s everything! It's a great limiter/compressor and it sounds so cool. The distortion on it is super cool. The EQ on it sounds super cool. You can change the sound of anything with it!
Oh man, I don’t know… I use the Pro-Q on everything now! I’m kind of like a surgeon with that. Also, this plug-in called Adverb (by Audio Damage) that I use on kicks and snares to give them a different sound. I’ve been using that over the years.
My vintage Blue Stripe 1176s. The vocal makes the mix and they help get that vocal sound.