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Producer & Engineer Richard Sales Gets Dangerous

Analog-Loving Engineer says Dangerous Music Equipment was “an Epiphany”
after mixing ‘in the box’

Edmeston, NY – Engineer and producer Richard Sales recently finished mixing his daughter Hayley Sales’ follow-up album for Universal using the Dangerous Music 2-Bus analog summing mixer and monitoring with the Dangerous Monitor ST along with the Dangerous DAC-ST D-to-A converter. The album, titled ‘When The Bird Became A Book,’ (Universal Music) is getting radio air-play and climbing the charts in Canada and Japan where the singer-songwriter has a strong following. Describing his new system, Sales says, “This whole experience for me was a giant ‘Ah hah!’ — an epiphany. I had been recording and mixing analog for many years. When I switched over to digital so many of the mysteries that had been plaguing me regarding why DAW mixing was not sounding right just blew apart when I got the Dangerous Music equipment.” Sales has produced and engineered a wide variety of artists, from John Fahey, Danny Gatton, and Bernice Reagon of Sweet Honey In The Rock, to Miles Davis (with engineer Jim Smith), Wavy Gravy and beat literati Ken Kesey.

Sales notes how his mixes have improved with the Dangerous Music gear, “Before I had the Dangerous 2-Bus, I really struggled with EQ and compression trying to get back to the fatness and warmth I was used to and it just wasn’t working. After using the 2-Bus the fatness came back. The clarity of different elements is amazing. Summing inside the DAW is not the way to go for high-end recordings. It gets sort of compacted sounding, a little smaller, a little narrower and any notion of a ‘3D sound’ is just not going to happen. In the competitive current world of music, all those ‘littles’ add up. I really love my 2-Bus! All I can say is the mixes speak for themselves. Nothing I’ve ever done sounds anywhere near as fat, modern and clear as with the Dangerous gear.”

Similarly, with monitoring, Sales added a new analog component to his hybrid digital and analog mixing system with the Dangerous Monitor ST. He did not have a good solution for monitoring at all, he laments, “I was wandering in the desert without a map. The Dangerous Monitor ST brought me organization and honesty in sound. It brought me the ability to switch between sources like never before. I can compare the sound going in and out of the Masterlink to the original source, the CD to the Masterlink etc. All at the same volume!  A lot of the ‘mysterioso’ kind of groping-in-the-dark nature of mixing was eliminated with the ST.” 

On hearing the new Dangerous Music rig Hayley remembers, “With the new studio everything was clearer, warmer, and more real. I could hear every nuance in my voice and I loved that. When we were mixing, the different instruments and sounds all seemed to sonically have more presence. It continually surprised me how the music would fill the room, not just snuggle into the space in front of me like so many recordings do. We tried to keep the album as organic sounding as possible, and I don’t think any studio could have done a better job.  Not only that, being able to walk outside between takes and look out over the blueberries and a couple more of fields and forests is amazingly inspiring.”

Having previously mixed Hayley’s last album through a digital console, Sales is getting raves, especially from the record label on the sound of the new album. “The head of A&R at Universal, Shawn Marino, was critical of the previous record saying it was ‘too dark and old-school sounding.’ Because of that, at first he wanted someone else to do the record, but instead he has been super-effusive about the sound of Hayley’s new album. Words like ‘gorgeous’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘it’s a full play album’ — as in: people will listen to the whole record because it’s so good. This was a major victory for me,” says producer-engineer Sales. “Marino is not a bullshitter or flatterer at all.”

Sales was floored when he first heard a mix through the Dangerous 2-Bus, “Well, not to be crude… but, to be honest? Holy S#%*T! I was checking out what other engineers were doing to round out and enrich the digital signal and kept running into the idea of summing boxes – and many of my favorite mix peeps were using the Dangerous 2-Bus.  I like the way the 2-Bus deals with panning (no hardware pan pots so it recalls my Pro Tools mix instantly), the +6dB boost feature, and the great reputation Dangerous Music has. I bought it unheard and I’ve gotta’ say, it’s really incredible. So now I have the improved clarity, cleaner high-end BUT with the sweetening of the pristine analogue circuitry of the 2-Bus.”

Sales got an inside tip from mastering engineer Gavin Lurssen that also led him to Dangerous Music. “On the previous record, when I sent a preview mix to Gavin, he recommended analogue summing for that ‘3D’ sound,” recalls Sales. “At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. The issue with digital mixing is the flatness. Well… I didn’t know how flat my recordings were until I ‘got Dangerous.’ It’s just like the movies in 3D…only better. You don’t need glasses – just ears.”

Integrating the Monitor ST and the DAC-ST into his system opened his ears to new levels, “I love the ST remote control. To be able to A/B speakers and inputs with even volume levels is so revealing. I use the simple talkback and the incredible headphone circuit too! I have Quested VS2205s and Quested VS sub.  I also use Logitec and Bose computer speakers, which are very helpful. The Monitor ST is a ‘Truth Teller.’ Truth is very hard to come by in all aspects of life nowadays, but with studio stuff it’s like the Dodo bird.  I’ve owned many Dodo birds. I was honestly, fully and completely blown away.  To have an honest DAC for monitoring, to have all the choices for routing, to be able to set level offsets so you’re not deluded by volume.  I’d just never experienced anything like it before.”

Sales has mixed on Pro Tools systems for over 15 years. Describing his setup with his Dangerous 2-Bus, Monitor ST equipped with the Additional Switching System Dangerous DAC-ST, Sales reveals, “I basically run out of the Aurora Lynx VT, into an Audio Accessories Shorti patch bay, straight into the 2-Bus. Then out of that into a Benchmark ADC and into the DAC-ST and the Masterlink — the digital thru’s on the DAC-ST make it simple to monitor the AES signal directly out of the ADC and send it to the Masterlink simultaneously for recording. AES out of Masterlink goes back into another input of the Dangerous DAC-ST.  At first I wanted to insert analogue compressors, etc. into the chain at the 2-Bus, but it sounds so good with NOTHING in the way that I just go direct. With the Monitor ST I can compare the Masterlink’s digital out (via the Dangerous D/A) with the 2-Bus analog out direct to speakers just by clicking buttons on the remote. I also run my C|24 summed analogue effects – Lexicon 200/Roland Dimension D – through inputs 15/16 of the 2 Bus. It saves the trip back to Pro Tools and all the subsequent dithering, etc. It’s all so honest. I feel like I was working in the dark before the Dangerous gear.”  

“The ultimate compliment I can give this new rig is, when I mix through the Dangerous Music gear, the mixes translate really well,” says Sales. “I’ve never had that before. It was always: go listen in the car, the house, send mixes out to friends’ — I would always get responses that were devastating and basically ‘back to square one.’ I don’t know that any system is perfect in this way, but I’ve never been so close or had so many really effusive comments about my recordings and mixes before!” 

Recalling how he first heard about Dangerous Music and what made him select it over other options, Sales recalls, “I think I first read about the fellow [Tony Maserati] who mixed Jason Mraz’s record using Dangerous Music gear – that was in Mix Magazine.  I live on an island 2 hours by boat from Vancouver, Canada, so it’s very hard for me to audition high-end equipment.  Even Vancouver doesn’t have the array of equipment in a store that the bigger music/high end pro audio stores in LA would have, so I tend to buy on hunches, research, and poring over magazine interviews. I studied the Vintage King summing shootout and did what I could from our remote organic blueberry farm/recording studio.  I also rely heavily on my friend Jim Smith (www.muddyhole.com) for advice too.  He goes to Washington Music Center a lot, which is like the Valhalla of studio equipment.  He highly recommended Dangerous stuff, himself owning a Dangerous Monitor.”

Find out more about producer and Engineer Richard Sales at his studio website: http://www.glassWing.com

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