Grammy Award–nominated, multi-Platinum engineer, producer and songwriter Smith Carlson (pictured) began his career at Chalice Recording Studios in Los Angeles, working on projects form Dave Grohl, Kanye West, and the television show Glee. He went on to work under Danja Handz, spent six months working with Pharrell Williams, and engineered for Sean “Diddy” Combs. In recent years, he has worked with such acts as Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Beyoncé, U2, and Demi Lovato.
Carlson has used a variety of monitor speakers over the years but in mid-2014, he switched to PreSonus Sceptre S8 CoActual two-way studio monitors. He also uses the PreSonus ADL 700 tube channel strip.
PreSonus Sceptre 8 CoActual two-way studio monitor
“The Sceptre S8s are very flat and accurate, which is what I look for,” Carlson says. “But they’re not boring; my mixes still have life. In fact, it’s exciting to produce with Sceptres. I don’t even know how it’s possible to be flat and accurate and still exciting but S8s accomplish it. I haven’t found that in many other speakers. Once I’m finished mixing on the S8s, I don’t have to check on different speakers and then go back and remix. I end up with a great mix that translates to anywhere.”
Many Sceptre users use the speakers’ rear panel tuning controls to adjust to their spaces. But Carlson’s room is so well designed and tuned that the Sceptre S8s sound accurate with only one minor tweak. “I filtered off the bass a little bit, and it worked really well. Otherwise, I don’t change the settings because I don’t need to, and besides, I don’t really know what that would do to my signal,” he explains.
“Recently, I’ve been using S8s for every hip-hop project because the low end comes through really nicely,” he says. “They were a lifesaver! Nothing comes close to S8s sonically at their price point.
“I mostly use my ADL 700s for instrumental foundation tracks,” he continues. “The preamp sounds very clean, and it seems to help tame the highs, which makes it great on acoustic guitar. It’s also great for electric guitar and fantastic for DI electric bass. I use the ADLs for synths all the time, as well.”
Carlson says that one of his favorite ADL 700 features is the ability to switch the order of the EQ and the compressor in the signal chain, and that he rarely uses the compressor, he says, “but the EQ is fantastic. It’s really easy to use and the frequency bands are spread out nicely.”