Topanga Canyon, CA—July 2016… Having earned fame as the cofounder and front man of ‘80s Australian pop band Men at Work (“Down Under,” ”Overkill,” “Who Can it Be Now?”), singer/songwriter Colin Hay went on to craft a career as a solo artist, with twelve solo albums to date. Men at Work evolved out of an acoustic duo, and Hay’s passion for recording great vocal and acoustic guitar sounds made him an obvious candidate for Manley’s high-end preamplifiers and processors.
While getting great sounds is the primary reason he uses Manley products, ease of use is also important. “I put a studio together in the 1990s and became a bit of a gear addict,” he relates. “I have engineers who work with me but I do a lot myself, and I taught myself how to engineer. So I have to feel comfortable with a piece of gear and not get frustrated figuring out how to plug things in and get good sounds.”
With the VOXBOX, Hay finds he can get the sounds he wants with minimal stress. “A lot of the songs that I record in the studio end up being band songs but they’re born from the acoustic guitar,” Hay explains. “I get the tempo right, then record the acoustic guitar and vocal tracks. But I don’t like to work with guide tracks; I try to always cut good-sounding tracks that I can use now or later. I know how I like to hear my voice, and the Manley VOXBOX® makes it easy to get the sound I want quickly, without help from an engineer. The VOXBOX works very well in just about any recording situation: vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, whatever.”
The VOXBOX combines the legendary Manley Mono Mic Preamp; a low-ratio (3:1) compressor derived from the company’s ELOP limiter; the Manley MID EQ, blown out as a full-range peak-dip-peak EQ; a de-esser; and an ELOP limiter. The multi-purpose channel strip also features a Direct Input and is especially prized for bass guitar sounds. “I use the VOXBOX primarily for vocals and bass guitar,” Hay confirms. “It’s my favorite piece of equipment for bass guitar; it sounds fantastic. It gives a very lovely tight, warm bass sound, and the bass sits in the mix extremely nicely, getting along well with the other instruments.”
Hay also is a fan of Manley’s Reference Gold Microphone. “I use Reference Gold mics more and more now,” he asserts. “I really like the Gold for recording acoustic guitars, and it sounds beautiful on vocals. Of late I’ve been using the Gold mic into the VOXBOX, which is a fantastic combination.”
As much as Hay relies on his VOXBOX and Reference Gold Mics—not to mention his Manley Variable Mu Limiter Compressor—none of these products began his passion for Manley gear. “The first Manley product I got was the Massive Passive EQ, which I still really like,” he recalls. “It took awhile to get used to the Massive Passive because of its subtlety but that’s a beautiful piece of equipment. I love it on a lot of things but especially on stereo drums. I get the drums to sound the way I want as individual instruments, then strap the Massive Passive across the stereo drum bus, and it’s a beautiful thing. The key word is ‘passive’: You are not aware of the Massive Passive doing radical things but you notice when it’s not there.”
The best thing about Hay’s Manley gear, though, is the feeling he gets when using it to produce his music. “Like a lot of people, I try to sculpt beautiful sounding audio for the sheer joy of it,” he proclaims. “I appreciate Manley because they have a passion for creating recording equipment that helps make this possible.”