Bernie Becker Engineers Diamond Gems with Manley

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Pasadena, CA—February 2017… With more than 30 years in the business, Bernie Becker’s engineering credits are extensive. By the time he began recording, mixing, and mastering for the legendary Neil Diamond more than two decades ago, he was already a confirmed fan of Manley audio gear. “I like working with manufacturers like EveAnna Manley who have end users in mind when they design a product,” he explains. “Even Manley’s lowest-cost products sound and work really great, and you always get a lot of value.”

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Becker bought his first Manley products in 1995 or ‘96. “I bought a pair of Gold Reference microphones,” he recalls. “They’re wonderful microphones with excellent fidelity, not colorless but very transparent. I used them on a lot of stuff. I remember Peter Asher recording live percussion with them, and he loved them. He said, ‘wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard my tambourine sound like this before.’ I’ve recorded a lot of vocalists with Gold Reference mics, and most singers loved the way they sounded—although some were afraid of them because they could hear too much!”

Over the years, Becker has relied on several classic Manley products, including the Variable Mu® stereo limiter compressor. “I had a regular Variable Mu that was being used so often in the studio that I could never use it. So I got the mastering version for my work. My son works as an engineer with me, and we were mixing a project with a super dynamic vocalist and were having a heck of a time with the vocal. We tried the Variable Mu for the first time on the vocals, and we couldn’t believe how well it worked. When the singer heard her vocals, she couldn’t believe it either. You can’t go wrong using a Variable Mu on anything.”

That got Becker thinking about issues Neil Diamond was having with his studio headphone sound. “Neil knows what he wants to hear, and from the minute I put the Variable Mu on his headphone mix, he never made another complaint. Everything was fine after that. And of course the limiter offers protection, too. Now we always use the Variable Mu on his headphones.”

Manley’s SLAM! is another Becker favorite. “It’s a great box for mixing,” he relates, “and it helps you get level when you need it for mastering. It doesn’t have the euphoric character that a Variable Mu has; they’re very different. The SLAM! is more of a very specific tool. I’ve always loved its ELOP® electro-optical limiter. It doesn’t have the grunge of an LA2A; it’s a smooth level controller, and I’ve never regretted putting it on something. I can’t record something wrong if I put on a Manley opto limiter: I never overdo it, and I always have enough control. If you think you’re hearing too much compression, you really are using too much compression.”

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On tour, Becker applies the SLAM! to Diamond’s in-ear monitor mix. “Neil mostly plays arenas with around 15,000 seats” he relates. “He listens at a generous level but not super loud. In that environment, you don’t just hear the earpieces; you hear a lot of outside sound. So you can compress or limit the in-ear mix more than you might think, and the SLAM!’s FET limiter works well for that. It helps me get a good, consistent mix at a level that won’t hurt anybody.”

Becker waxes rhapsodic about his Manley Massive Passive mastering EQ. “I really like that box,” he asserts. “The Massive Passive is very different from a Pultec; when you start turning knobs, you have to follow your ears, rather than set it according to what you think you want. The end result is always good, and you can’t replicate it with another box. It can be subtle, or it can be very dramatic without sounding harsh or nasty. The Massive Passive is really good for enhancing something that’s already in the mix, bringing out subtleties that otherwise might get lost. You can’t get that from an active EQ.”

The Manley VOXBOX® is another Becker favorite. “I really like it on vocals,” he confirms. “I always have it in my mixing rig for vocal processing because it has a lot of functionality and always sounds good. I like the mic preamps and the de-essing function a lot but the VOXBOX does everything well. We do a lot of live TV shows, and I found that many TV engineers like the VOXBOX, too. They work fast, and the VOXBOX quickly and easily makes a wireless mic sound much better.”

Becker has owned a variety of other Manley products over the years, and he has been delighted with all of it. “I don’t know anyone who has been disappointed with Manley gear,” he insists. “If you invest in Manley equipment, you’re investing in quality. It will always work, it will always sound consistent, and it will always give you a pleasing end result.”