Woodland Hills, California—December 2015… With 12 Grammy Awards and more than 40 American and Latin Grammy nominations to his credit, Rafa Sardina obviously knows his stuff. The Los Angeles-based producer/mixer/engineer’s client list includes such luminaries as Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello & The Roots, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Placido Domingo, Celine Dion, Alejandro Sanz, Harry Connick, Jr., Luis Mighuel, D’Angelo, and on and on— the list seems endless. When you add his earlier engineering credits at Ocean Way and Record One Studios, the list is downright stunning. Though best known for working on pop, rock, and R&B, Sardina has recorded and mixed in almost every musical genre and every medium, including TV and major films.
You don’t work at Sardina’s level unless you have great ears, high standards, and uncompromising taste in audio equipment. Indeed, sonic quality is the biggest reason he loves Manley signal processors. “Some gear has a very specific sound but not always in a good way. It might have a use, of course, but you can’t put it on everything,” he explains. “But all my Manley processors sound great, regardless of how you use them, and they never compromise the frequencies. I use them on everything.” Reliability is another plus for Sardina. “I’ve never had issues with Manley products; they’re extremely well built,” he declares.
A fan of classic EQs, Sardina’s modern favorite is the Manley Massive Passive stereo, four-band EQ, which he describes as “like a Pultec on steroids.” “I use the Massive Passive for both tracking and mixing, and for every musical genre,” relates Sardina. “The Massive Passive is extremely versatile and allows me to be very surgical. I have a few of them, and I love to use them on stuff where I have to dig into specific frequencies to make something out of almost nothing because the original sound was not even close. And when recording orchestra, I always have a Massive Passive across my stereo bus.”
The Massive Passive is a favorite of many of Sardina’s colleagues as well. “I know a lot of engineers who use it for final mixing and scoring, and they have three Massive Passives so they can apply the same type of EQ to the full 5.1 mix,” he notes.
Sardina also makes extensive use of the Manley Variable Mu stereo limiter-compressor. “I love to use the Variable Mu for tracking bass,” he relates. “I also use it for mixing. And I always rely on it for background vocals. When we have very aggressive background vocals, I use the Variable Mu to bring the background vocals forward, and with the processing, they’re not as aggressive anymore so they sit well in the mix.”
Having used a lot of Manley gear over the years and loved it all, Sardina is eager to see what’s next. “I loved the older ELOP stereo electro-optical limiter,” he says. “I used it more as a limiter than as a compressor, especially for vocals. If Manley were to make a new product like that, I’d be all over it. I use their Gold microphones, too, and would love to try a new one.”
About Manley Laboratories, Inc. – Since the late 1980s Manley products have evolved from purist audiophile vacuum tube designs expanding into professional audio and digital converter systems. Manley’s legacy of design philosophies has been proven over years of real-world experience, using high quality modern components, many of which are fabricated in-house. Manley’s 11,000 sq. ft. building houses a machine shop, printed circuit board manufacture, audio transformer winding, engraving, and wire harness prepping facilities. All custom design, R&D, assembly, testing, and quality control processes are performed with precision and pride at the Manley factory, located just 35 miles east of Los Angeles, California. All Manley products are built in Chino, not China. For more information, visit: http://www.manley.com