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Engineer Pete Doell Gets Dangerous at Universal Mastering Studios

November 3, 2015 —Mastering engineer Pete Doell counts Dangerous Music gear as a key to his success. The Dangerous MONITOR was an eye and ear opener that has made his job easier at Universal Mastering Studios, “I have to admit when I first got the Dangerous Monitor and heard the playback through the DAC, I thought, ‘Oh my god!’ it really made me hear things in a truer way, and I had to do less processing to get the right result,” said Doell. He added the Dangerous MASTER for integrating his outboard gear, and the Dangerous MQ for metering to round out his ‘mastering console’ setup – the centerpiece of his studio. Doell has mastered over 500 albums since joining Universal Mastering Studios, including R.E.M., Marilyn Manson, Toto, Dave Koz, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Sheryl Crow to name only a few. Many top engineers across the studio world revere Dangerous Music for the quality of its D-to-A converters, the company currently offers conversion in the D-BOX, SOURCE, and the recently released CONVERT-2 and CONVERT-8 products.

What You Hear is What You Get
“The DAC in the Dangerous MONITOR is sonically very detailed and I hear more than other controllers and DACs I’ve tried,” says Doell. “I like having the on-board conversion, so you can really compare apples to apples when you’re comparing your flat incoming track versus your outgoing EQ’d master. You can tell that you’ve really in fact made it better.” Now the Dangerous DAC is the one that he always listens to, for it’s accuracy and consistency. “There’s no interruption. There’s no glitch, no DC pop in the monitors, or any of that kind of nonsense,” he adds.

“I swear the ‘3D’ imaging, the reverb tails, the sound-stage, everything was noticeably better than other controllers,” exclaims Doell. “I was a very happy camper once we moved up to the Dangerous MONITOR. We’ve had it here for about three years already, and it sounds great. It’s a real work-horse.”

Master of Magic
Doell reveals another piece of Dangerous magic in his studio, “The other thing I have here in my bag of tricks is the Dangerous MASTER, and that is a really nice thing. I can compare the source, and the outgoing EQ’d master. You have the ability to offset the gain of the input just in the monitor, so you can level-match going in and coming out. That way you can really tell that you, in fact, havemade it better sounding, and not just louder OR perhaps even worse sounding,” he explains, referring to using the combination of the MONITOR and the MASTER together.

“The other great thing about the Master is S&M [laughs] where you can do Mid/Side processing,” describes Doell, relating that other companies call this M/S. “Let’s say somebody sends us a mix, and the cymbals out on the sides are really, really bright, and on the verge of being out of control. Yet the snare, or the vocal, or something that’s only in the center is dull and it needs some presence. But if you added top end to this mix in a regular left/right stereo setup, you’d end up obviously making the cymbals even more harsh, or aggressive. But since I can EQ it in M/S, using the Master, I can treat the center, the stuff that’s common to both left and right, versus the sides, which is the stuff that is not common to both sides, and doesn’t appear in the center. I can brighten up just the middle, and brighten up the snare, or the vocal, or whatever that I need to address in the middle of the stereo field, while not doing something nasty to the sides,” he explains. “Conversely let’s say there are guitars on the sides, and they need more beef. But you don’t want to muddy up the vocal in the center. You can add low end or beef to the sides without touching the middle. M/S is a really, really good approach to solving a number of problems in mixes that we’re sent, and it’s really easy.”

“Engineering is problem solving, and there’s a lot of good engineering in the Dangerous MASTERthat let’s you address some of these things in a creative way, sometimes in a real forensic way, where you really have one little thing to fix. It’s super versatile. I love it.” Grammy™ award-winning engineer Erick Labson at Universal Mastering Studios also uses the Dangerous MASTER.

Analog Dreams & Meters
Describing his needs for the Dangerous MQ, Doell says, “One thing about our place at Universal Mastering is we do a lot of analog transfers as archival work, since we are part of the biggest record company in the world, Universal Music. So having analog VU meters was a paramount concern, because not only do we do transfers, but also quite often we have people who want analog safeties. In other words they have an analog master, and they want to send it off to some other mastering facility. The client really, really, really wants an analog source, and you don’t want to give them the original master, so you make a clone of it. An analog clone, and I find the VU meters are way more appropriate to be doing analog stuff than the peak meters. For CD mastering you definitely need the peak meters. And the MQ has both.”

Doell agrees that Dangerous Music mastering gear, like the three pieces he uses, is known for being transparent yet musical, “In mastering if you’re listening to the purest, most accurate audio path all the way from whatever your playback device or file is, all the way up to the speakers then you’re not missing things that need to be addressed. If you don’t have that accurate sound then you’re chasing the audio trying to fix things that don’t need fixing, because there’s something walling-in your monitoring. Like if you have smearing, and you think, ‘I need a little clarity here’ and you start either adding presence or removing low mids to make something feel clearer—you’re headed in the wrong direction because you can’t hear what’s really in the audio.”

Dangerous gear is at the heart of Doell’s studio and the clarity of the Dangerous DAC is key to his work, it lets him be light – or heavy-handed – as the project needs and lets him decide when and where to add color if needed, “Some projects come in and they require very little processing, just a little shine. Just the hair of detail, and sometimes that’s just totally perfectly done with just a little of the digital. And sometimes the stuff really needs some analog love, just passing stuff through some of these vintage tube or iron transformer laden pieces of gear just puts enough meat on the bones that makes it so much more musical and gratifying.”

For well over a decade, Dangerous Music has been lauded for developing some of the premier monitoring DACs in the industry; renowned mixing and mastering engineers around the world like Pete Doell have relied on them for both their accuracy and musicality. Based on end-user demand, Dangerous set out to design the next generation of converters as stand-alone units, incorporating the design ethic of ‘Transparent yet Musical’ that Dangerous brings to all its products. The new CONVERT-2 and CONVERT-8 one-space rack units support all standard sample rates up to 192k, with inputs for all standard digital formats. “It was time for a new generation of Dangerous converters, so we ignored cost considerations as we always do when developing a new product, and set out to make the best sounding D-to-A converter that we’d ever heard,” commented Bob Muller, President of Dangerous Music. ‘Mission accomplished’ has been the response from engineers everywhere.

About Pete Doell
Pete Doell (pronounced ‘Dell’) has mastered over 500 albums since joining Universal Mastering Studios, but he has also recorded and mixed award-winning film scores and television spots during his engineering career. He has worked as a staff engineer at Sunset Sound, Capitol Records Studios, and Sony Pictures Studios as a tracking and mixing engineer. At Universal Mastering Studios, Doell has mastered tracks and albums from Dave Koz, John Waite, Marilyn Manson, Los Lobos, Dashboard Confessional, Sheryl Crow, Adam Lambert, and Toto among many others. For more information Universal Mastering Studios and Pete Doell please visit the company’s website at: http://www.umldigitalops.com/ums/engineers.html

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