Los Angeles, CA (May 12, 2022)—When David Henszey started putting together his Dolby Atmos room with sales, design and integration company Westlake Pro in 2018, he asked what other immersive studios were doing about music mastering. “You don’t master Atmos,” came the reply. “I said, ‘Oh yes you do,’” he recalls. “I’ll figure it out.”
Fast-forward nearly four years, and Henszey, whose Henszey Sound was the first small Atmos for Home music room certified by Dolby in Los Angeles, has indeed figured it out. Working with Gene Grimaldi of Oasis Mastering in Burbank, Calif., who finalizes the stereo versions, Henszey has been mastering quite a lot of Atmos music lately, including Sting’s newly streaming singles “The Bridge” and “Por Su Amor.”
Opened for business in January 2019, Henszey Sound, in the Cahuenga Pass across from Universal City, is outfitted with Pro Tools, a dual-screen Slate Raven MTI workstation and a 7.1.4 ADAM Audio monitor system. There is a small iso room for overdubs and vocals.
Henszey has been mixing clients’ projects for binaural presentation on YouTube for some time. Now that other platforms offer immersive streaming, his client list has expanded. “Sometimes I get stems and have to do a little bit of mixing to make it an Atmos mix. Sometimes they give me tracks and we do a whole new mix,” he reports.
Grimaldi approached Henszey about mastering Dolby Atmos tracks, having no interest in upgrading his own room, after receiving client requests. “David was already set up, and he’s got so much experience,” Grimaldi says.
Indeed, Henszey has a deep and wide-ranging resume from working more than 40 years in the business. He started out working on big band and classical projects in his native Wisconsin before opening his own studio, AD Productions, in 1988. Relocating to L.A. in the 1990s, he went on to work at Cherokee Studios and also mixed various major artists on arena tours and for late-night television.
The key to their Dolby Atmos music mastering process, Henszey says, is that nothing really changes. The mixer doesn’t have to do anything special, and Grimaldi can master the stereo track exactly the way he always has. “Then I take it and make that exact same thing happen in the Atmos mix,” he says.
There is a trust between the two engineers. “I take screenshots of my settings. David puts them up on his screen, pulls up his plug-ins and starts doing his thing,” Grimaldi says.
“We have to be really careful that the numbers, as far as gain reduction and things of that nature, are precisely the same as they were at Gene’s place,” Henszey stresses, to ensure that the level and tonal balances are identical between the stereo and immersive versions. The pair use the same complement of plug-ins, he says, which for Atmos projects need to be linkable across buses and objects: “Everything has to work at the same time because there are multiple streams.”
There tends to be lots of plug-ins in a row, including multiband compressors and limiters, plus, Henszey says, “Some plug-ins to ‘not do’ anything, just to give a certain sound.” Overall, he says, “It takes up a lot of computer power.”
He adds, “To make it worthwhile, you have to be able to do it in a reasonable amount of time. We have it down to a very smooth process, and it’s very quick.”
“The workflow is the important thing,” Grimaldi agrees. “When you bang it out consistently, it saves so much time.”
“It’s all about clients getting the same thing that they’re used to getting with a stereo mastering engineer,” Henszey says.