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In Memoriam: Drew Daniels 1947-2010

Pro audio icon Drew Daniels passed away in Los Angeles on December 1, 2010, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Daniels devoted his entire life to the pursuit of quality audio and if there was a job in audio that Drew Daniels hadn’t tackled, well, we haven’t heard of it. During his long career, he worked as an electroacoustic consultant, studio musician, vocalist, recording/mastering engineer, producer, studio designer, live sound mixer, inventor, author and audio technology educator.

The Early Days
Building hi-fi audio component kits from age six, Daniels began professional audio at the age of nine, installing 45-rpm record players in neighbor cars, pursuing parallel careers in audio and professional music for half a century. Singing since age four, Daniels studied Bel Canto vocal technique and was an operatic baritone in high school and college. He worked his way through college building amplifiers for Gene Czwerinski at Vega (later Cerwin-Vega).

Drew Daniels (at far right) performing with the New Christy Minstrels, circa 1972.

In 1969, Daniels recorded and mixed Procol Harum, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Lee Michaels live at the Palm Springs Pop Festival. An in-demand performer himself, Daniels was the musical director, singer and bass player in the New Christy Minstrels from 1971 to 1974, with whom he sang the National Anthem at an Oakland Athletics World Series game, and sang a broadcast-opening solo on the nationally televised presidential celebration for returning Vietnam POWs at the White House.

Moving from the road to the studio in 1974, Daniels was hired as systems engineer at the renowned Sound Factory Recording studios, building electronics, maintaining and calibrating studio equipment, designing acoustic echo chambers and engineering for recording artists such as Donovan, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and Nancy Wilson.

Daniels’ long association with JBL began in 1976, with three years in the transducer laboratory doing laser holographic interferometry, acoustical modeling, prototyping and pattern making. From 1979 to 1983 Daniels was applications engineer/technical specialist for TASCAM and later began writing audio gear manuals for Gary Davis Associates, which led to his recruitment as technical training manager for Fender’s pro sound division.

In 1985, he returned to JBL, serving five years as an applications engineer for JBL Professional. While at JBL he consulted on sound system designs and designed audio systems for clients including television networks, performing arts auditoriums, municipal stadiums, amusement parks, and hundreds of large and small churches across the U.S.

In 1989, the R&D department at Walt Disney Imagineering recruited Daniels. After two years in that position, he then focused on the new EuroDisney construction, and was appointed principal electroacoustic engineer in the Imagineering A/V department, where he subsequently filed several patents on electroacoustic, DSP and optical technologies, while designing park-wide audio systems for and working at EuroDisney outside Paris.

The Educator
Daniels was twice elected chairman of the Audio Engineering Society’s Los Angeles section (1983 and 1991), presented numerous AES Convention technical papers/workshops, was an invited guest speaker at AES section meetings throughout the nation and produced and served as convention chair of technical tours and loudspeaker workshops.

Drew Daniels in his home studio with a TASCAM DA-RA1000 DSD recorder, a format he much preferred to PCM digital.

Daniels taught performance sound system design and audio engineering at the Aspen Recording Institute as an invited visiting lecturer, was a staff instructor of loudspeaker and acoustics technologies and critical listening at the University of Southern California, and taught physics, electronics, audio engineering and recording engineering theory at UCLA Extension for 15 years. He contributed to various audio trade magazines, including Mix, and as an avid audio history enthusiast, served on the committee selecting inductees for the TECnology Hall of Fame.

Finding His Own (Sound) Path
In 1992, Daniels formed a consulting firm, Sound Path Labs, which specialized in electroacoustical component and system design, test and measurement. He has three patents to his credit, including a stereo-in-a-box technology he licensed to Fender Musical Instruments, and a super-woofer loudspeaker designed to replace three conventional units, the subject of patents for Aura Systems. A microphone enthusiast/collector, Daniels also designed a new ribbon mic with a user-serviceable element.

Sound Path Labs developed into a commercial recording/mastering studio and post facility that released or mastered hundreds of CDs, a 90-minute film documentary with full surround soundtrack, and various CD/DVD authoring projects. SPL voice-over clients included Phil Proctor, Elliot Gould and Clint Eastwood. Among SPL’s recent recording sessions were jazz greats Roger Kellaway and Dave Frishberg, for whom Daniels recorded, mixed and mastered CDs for release on IPO Records and Arbors Records. In 1995 Daniels was nominated for a “Best Recording” Grammy Award for one of Kellaway’s projects.

Drew Daniels will long be remembered by his many friends and associates in the audio industry and will surely be missed by all, including fellow members of the Hollywood Sapphire Group. He is survived by Jane Daniels, his wife of 31 years. A memorial service is planned, but details were unavailable at press time.

George Petersen is Mix magazine’s executive editor.