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Project Studio: ACMastering

For two decades, mastering engineer/musician/composer Adrian Carr was well-established in New York City. Educated at Juilliard and at Princeton University,

Mastering engineer Adrian Carr opened ACMastering in his Montreal home in 2008 after a long career in New York City.

For two decades, mastering engineer/musician/composer Adrian Carr was well-established in New York City. Educated at Juilliard and at Princeton University, Carr went on to run his own facility in Midtown Manhattan’s Film Center Building from 1988 until 2005. There, he originally specialized in recording acoustic music (mainly classical and jazz) before rededicating his services to mastering in 1998 and amassing credits for a number of classical labels, as well as Motown, Capitol Nashville and EMI Latin.

In 2005, Carr took a break from the music industry and relocated to Montreal’s South Shore. “I moved up here to be with my wife,” Carr explains. “I love Montreal. There’s lots of music happening here. Most of the funding for the arts comes from the government.” Carr then began a new chapter in his own career by building a mastering room in his home, which he opened in 2008 as ACMastering ( “Today, everybody is trying to keep costs down,” he says. “I didn’t want to start again with a big overhead.”

Carr built his room around Focal Twin6 Be monitors with Tannoy TS12 subwoofers. “Speakers are half the equation and the room is the other half,” he says of mastering. “I’ve got more bass response in my room because I want to hear the complete spectrum.” Carr also had to fortify his new room with mastering equipment — from scratch. “When I left New York City in 2005, I sold everything,” he says. “It was probably the best thing I could do because in just three years’ time, the equipment has really changed. It’s come a long way in terms of ease of use and quality.” ACMastering offers a plethora of top-quality equipment; Carr’s Website has a detailed equipment list. “I have two different chains — analog and digital — and I use both, depending on what I think is needed,” Carr explains. He uses a dual-core Mac Pro running OS 10.5, with Sonic Solutions/Sonic Studio PreMaster CD software, Sonnox Elite Oxford plug-ins, Universal Audio UAD-2 Powered Plug-Ins, Logic Pro 8 and BIAS Peak Pro 6. His analog hardware includes an A Designs HM2EQ, Charter Oak SCL-1 and Great River MAQ-2NV. Digital hardware includes a Lavry Engineering LavryBlue LE 4496 AD/DA converter and Lucid GENx192 master clock.

“Most of my business [comes] via the Internet,” Carr notes. “Clients can send files over the Internet, I can send them samples, they can hear what I’m doing, and they say, basically, ‘Go ahead.’ That’s the way my business has been getting off the ground. I’m thankful for all of the clients that I have. I almost have a completely new client list. A lot of the record companies are not there. Everything has been redefined and my rates are very reasonable — I think about half of what I used to charge.”

ACMastering’s business philosophy is largely shaped by independent musician clients who are new to music production. “It used to be you could fix it in the mix; now that’s gotten pushed to, ‘Oh, we’ll fix it in mastering.’ I’m developing this thing I call ‘heavy vinyl mastering,’ using the combination of EQ, compression and stereo imaging in the signal to create more realism and warmth. I had to find a way to open up the mix. My mantra is, ‘Sound your best.’ If you want to get your music out there, sounding your best is such an important step to being successful and proud of what you do!”