Engineer Pablo Arraya (pictured) recently completed Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry's solo record—Have Guitar, Will Travel (released on October 6, 2009)—acting as both the recording engineer for the final tracks and the mix engineer, as well. Arraya, a Grammy-winning engineer, brought his newly purchased Dangerous Monitor ST monitor controller to Perry's Boneyard Studio in Boston for the project.
"The decision to buy the Monitor ST was directly related to working on the Joe Perry album," states Arraya. "His vintage Neve console has an amazing sound, and I wanted to add a more modern and flexible monitoring path. When I came in to the studio, Joe asked me to listen to a lot of Hendrix, Doors, AC/DC, and a lot of early Rolling Stones. He told me he wanted to get that sort of sound and feel. Perry told me, 'I don't want it to sound pop-y and modern'—that was his vision at first, and things evolved from there."
Arraya shares his Audio Piranha Group studio on Park Avenue in Manhattan with several engineers. Recently they added both the Monitor ST and the Dangerous 2-Bus LT analog-summing amp to their mix room, which is also set up for overdubs, especially for vocals, "which sound great," says Arraya. Commenting on the new Park Avenue location, Arraya says the studio is growing quickly: "We've added a lot of gear and another room already and can now track drums too."
On the Monitor ST choice, Arraya says, "Of all the things in a studio, the monitor section is an important one. It was time to do an upgrade to a better monitoring section. I had used the ST at a different studio and I loved how it felt, and Dangerous Music has a reputation for making great sounding gear." Arraya had been speaking with mastering engineer and good friend Dave Kutch: "He literally sold it to me on his recommendation—it was a no-brainer.
"When I got the Monitor ST, I hooked it up at Joe Perry's studio first. I chose the Dangerous Music Monitor ST over the Neve console's controls. I knew a lot of the mixing we were going to do was going to be like Hendrix-style, Doors-style, very '60s style mixing, where your drums are panned to one side, the bass to the other, your vocal shows up halfway through the song. So I wanted to be able to have something to mute the left and the right speaker easily. On Joe's Neve console, you can't do that."
Having recently done some mixes through the Dangerous 2-Bus LT analog summing amp, Arraya relates his first impressions: "The 2-Bus is extremely clean, has huge headroom, and it's easy to use—it has one knob. If you've mixed in Pro Tools before, and if you've mixed on an analog desk before, the amount of steps that you have to go through to even approach getting the same sound are many. Having a 2-Bus gets you there quicker, and this is a huge advantage! I think the flexibility of being able to mix continuously in Pro Tools, but having analog summing on the outside is a huge part of the process. I've tried other summing boxes and they don't compare as far as the headroom and how hard you can hit it. The harder I hit the 2-Bus, the better it sounds. I love this box; it's staying in the system!"
Comparing the Monitor ST to the sound of a large format console's monitoring, Arraya adds, "When you bring the volume on the ST all the way down you still feel the punch of the kick and the power that's coming through the mix. And it doesn't matter what level it's at. That transparency for me is very, very important—especially when you are doing rock and hip-hop. Where you feel the difference is when you have the drums banging, and then you bring in the guitars and then you bring the volume down on a low-cost monitor controller and all of a sudden, your guitars are too low or your drums are too loud—the balancing of the mix is not accurate."
Explaining that their Audio Piranha studio now has three different pairs of speakers to switch between and a sub, Arraya says, "I think having the Monitor ST in the middle [of the listening chain] has made a huge difference in what you are hearing. Even how it drives the speakers, you hear them in a different way. Now the Genelecs sound warmer than they did before we added the Monitor ST, and the ST allowed us to add a third pair of speakers in the room."
Because Audio Piranha does a lot of vocal overdubs, the engineers use the Monitor ST's headphone outputs and talkback frequently. "One of the things I like about the Monitor ST is that the mic for talkback is very dynamic; the person in the vocal booth can hear real well on their headphones. It sounds great. The headphone amp is really clean too. The Monitor ST is a very flexible box. I love the fact that you can do mono; the Dim function works really well; the ability to add the subwoofer with the filter, that's a great option; calibrating the speakers is really easy; and the options for the inputs are super easy to use too. When we want to update to 5.1, it's [a matter of] adding a box and you're there: you don't have to buy a whole new setup."
For more information visit www.dangerousmusic.com.