Los Angeles, California—February 2016… Veteran mastering engineer Pete Lyman of Infrasonic Sound Mastering, an audio and vinyl mastering studio in Echo Park, is known for great ears, superb skills, love of cutting vinyl, and eclectic clientele. He has mastered projects for Jason Isbell, Rival Sons, Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Panic! At the Disco, Sebadoh, and countless others. Recent projects included Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which received a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for “Best Americana Album,” and Chris Stapleton’s Traveller, which was CMA’s 2015 “Album of the Year” and earned multiple 2016 GRAMMY nominations.
Nowadays, virtually every project Lyman masters goes through his trusty Manley Stereo Variable Mu Compressor. “I was looking for a compressor that gave me that little extra bit of ‘glue’ I needed on some mixes,” he begins. “I had a compressor that I swore by, and it gave me a gluey, analog squeeze but it was never quite ‘there’ in my mind. I realized something was missing. I had heard about the Variable Mu but I hadn’t worked with one, and I had a misconception of what it sounded like. I was a solid-state-path guy; I didn’t want tubes in the path because I didn’t think the sound would be transparent enough for mastering.”
Fortunately, a friend and fellow motorcycle buff prevailed on him to give the Manley Variable Mu a try. This is unsurprising when you consider that the friend was Manley Labs president EveAnna Manley—and, says Lyman, her advice was excellent. “From the minute I used the Variable Mu, I realized that this was the compressor I’ve been missing. The Variable Mu does exactly what I want it to do. It sounds fantastic, and it’s hard to beat the build quality. I love it; I’m a huge fan.”
Lyman’s work spans a variety of musical genres, and he uses the Variable Mu for all of them. “My discography is crazy,” he laughs. “I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Colorado and listened to country music but I played bass in punk bands and loved metal. Although I still work on those types of records, ironically, these days I master a lot of Americana and country. My discography is diverse, and I like it that way. The Manley Variable Mu has made it onto pretty much every record I’ve mastered since I got it. It sounds as good on punk, metal, and rock as it does on Americana and country.”
Much as a younger Lyman once forswore country music in favor of punk and metal, only to come full circle and work on all of those genres and more, the Variable Mu compressor has made him change his tune about only using solid-state processors. “Having a top-quality valve compressor, as well as solid-state stuff, is great,” he proclaims. “In fact, now I have both the Variable Mu and a tube EQ in my chain.”
When Lyman shops for a new tool for his mastering chain, he takes his time and makes sure he is getting exactly what he wants. He doesn’t add another compressor just for variety, as a recording engineer might do. “If I am not using that tool at least 60 percent of the time, my money could be better spent elsewhere,” he explains. “So when I went looking for a new compressor, I tried several high-end models, and I only bought one. As soon as I plugged in the Manley Variable Mu, I ditched the other compressors I was considering. I knew I had found the missing piece I had been looking for. The Variable Mu delivers a classic sound that we all know and love. It’s worth every penny and more. I absolutely love it!”