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Engineer James Hunt on Keeping Up with Kendrick Lamar

Hunt was in the right place at the right time to launch his career, but it was the right skills and tools that kept him in the room.

Engineer James Hunt with his Amphion One18s.
Engineer James Hunt and friend with his Amphion One18s.

Los Angeles, CA (May 25, 2023)—Recording and mix engineer James Hunt has worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, MixedByAli, Sounwave and Las Vegas rapper Baby Keem—opportunities that he modestly attributes to knowing the right people and having the right tools at hand.

Hunt originally saw himself as a musician until VP of Studio Operations at Interscope Chuck Reed introduced him to a professional studio environment. “He brought me over to his house where he had a studio and I got to see how the studio operated and watch his engineer, Jose Alcantar, at work,” he recalls. “They took me under their wing a little bit and started showing me the ropes and giving me gigs—and everything snowballed from there.”

From there, dedication to developing skills—and putting in the hours—paved the way. “I was working at a studio finishing up an American Idol session and MixedByAli and Sounwave showed up for a tour of the studio,” he says. “The studio manager came and got me because I was part of the technical staff there, and when we went into the room, Ali asked me if we could mix a record there that night. We mixed Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Money Trees,’ and we never stopped working together after that. My whole career launched off of that one studio tour.”

Lamar, along with Las Vegas rapper Baby Keem, now occupy most of Hunt’s time with their prolific creative output. “Those two really keep me busy,” he says. “I would be open to more outside mixing if I had time, but these guys do not stop…. I try to go with the flow more than anything when I’m working with these guys. There’s a very clear intent and vision to everything they do, so I focus on tapping into that and helping them take the music where they want to go. I trust their instinct above all else.”

Amphion Launches One25A 3-Way Active Studio Monitor

Hunt noted other engineers using monitors from Finnish speaker manufacturer Amphion, so he contacted the company on Instagram about getting a demo of the company’s One18s, which feature a 6.5” aluminum woofer and 1” titanium tweeter for a frequency response of +/- 3 dB from 45 Hz up to 20 kHz.

“The first listen was a little jarring because it was so different from how I was hearing things before,” he says. “I was almost thinking to myself that something was wrong with my setup, but I listened to a few more records and started to mix on them and realized that the speakers were just giving me much more information than I was accustomed to.

“As an engineer, you’re looking for a speaker that is unapologetic and precise. Accurate speakers don’t sound good until you make them sound good with your arrangement and mix choices. There are speakers out there that might be fun to produce on because they make your music sound bigger and bassier, or smooth out the mids, but they’re not accurate and the mixes won’t translate anywhere else. The Amphions will show you the work you need to do to make your mix sound good everywhere, not just on your own system in your room.”

Since acquiring the One18s, Hunt has utilized them not only as his primary monitor at home but as a required carry-in when working at other studios. “My Amphions go everywhere with me,” he says. “Every studio has speakers of varying quality, but the One18s all have a sound of their own. They give me a perfect reference that’s familiar and that I know I can trust to give me the detail I need. That way I’m always at home no matter where I’m working.”