New Mastering Suite at NY Masterdisk Adds Dangerous Music ‘Monitor’ to ‘Master’ Transfer Console
Edmeston, NY – Mastering Engineer Dave McNair has a new suite at Masterdisk Studios in New York. Previously at Scott Hull’s studio, McNair made the jump recently when Hull purchased Masterdisk and expanded his business. In his new mastering suite McNair has paired his beloved Dangerous Master Transfer Console with the Dangerous Monitor, utilizing the Monitor’s pristine-sounding DAC for all his playback listening. The Dangerous Master is the latest generation in the evolution of the Chris Muth mastering transfer console, while the Dangerous Monitor is a companion monitor controller with features designed specifically for the mastering environment.
Recently McNair has added some new major-label names to his mastering credits including Hollywood Undead, Jon McLaughlin, Evan Taubenfeld, Tim Brantley, Sara Bareilles, and K’Naan. His Dangerous Master transfer console is at the heart of his mastering suite, one that he waited years to buy from Dangerous Music equipment designer Chris Muth, as McNair noted, “Chris and I go back twenty years, to when I was a staff engineer at The Hit Factory in New York and he headed up their technical department. He is super-smart and knows everything there is to know about studio electronics, but he has a great ear too, which is rare in a technician. He’d play me stuff from his home studio that I thought sounded better than just about anything that the clients were bringing in! We hit it off right away.”
McNair continued with the story of getting his own Dangerous Master transfer console, “I started getting into mastering about eight or nine years ago and Chris had shifted to getting very technically involved in designing and building the mastering gear for Sterling Sound (NY). I bugged him about putting together a transfer console for me, and he finally called me one day and said he and Bob Muller had the ‘Dangerous Master’ ready to go and they were putting it into production. I ordered one with a couple other guys without even hearing it – just by looking at a drawing of the feature set and knowing it would be good. I think the one I have doesn’t even have a serial number!”
“The Dangerous Master immediately made a huge improvement in the quality of my work. There’re a few other options out there in the market now, but sonically, and certainly operationally, the Master is exactly what I like to use. It has what you need with no extra stuff that could degrade the integrity of the signal path.”
Commenting on the sound of the Dangerous Master McNair says, “I’m extremely picky, and I know a lot of folks that do mastering are extremely picky, and a transfer console is a critical part of the sound of mastering because your signal is routed through it, and it has to do several jobs along the way. For me the Dangerous Master is really, really transparent, but the sound that it does have is a musical sound – it has almost no sonic imprint. I’ve compared it to other products out there, I won’t name names, but I think it’s the cleanest sounding solution available. For me, I don’t want my transfer console to add any coloration, and the Master delivers in that regard.”
Moving into his new digs at Masterdisk, McNair added the Dangerous Monitor, “I am also using the Dangerous Monitor for level control and source selection. That’s actually an amazing piece of gear too. Monitor sections are a type of equipment that there are not a lot of mastering-quality options for in the market place. I think Chris’ solution is the best sounding, and certainly functionally great. I use the Dangerous Monitor’s DAC for my primary listening, it goes right to my monitors. I think it sounds every bit as good as a Prism, or a DCS or a Lavry or anything else. It’s as good as any seven or eight-thousand-dollar DAC! I have all my DACs lined up to within a tenth of a dB and I can just press a button and A-B them, and Dangerous’ DAC in the Monitor sounds amazing. It’s wide but it’s not artificially wide, it’s very detailed, but at the same time real smooth.”
According to McNair’s needs in a mastering console, the Dangerous Master has just the right set of connections and features, “I’d rather have a shorter and cleaner audio path with fewer stages to go through. The three inserts are fine with my setup. I might have more than three pieces of gear that I want to select but you can easily have more than one piece of gear on an insert if you set it up right, it’s not a problem. And Chris’ implementation of the S&M (‘middle and side processing’) is truly amazing. I use it all the time so that I can have EQ or compression only on the middle or only on the sides. I probably use it on sixty percent of the masters I do. It’s definitely a big part of my sound. One of the things I like to do a lot is compress the middle – even if you don’t do it much, just a little tiny bit of compression in the center channel sounds really nice. It’s not a big secret any more, but it’s really easy to do with the Dangerous Master. S&M is right at your fingertips, so you can audition it and see if it’s going to work for you.”
“The three main things that I immediately got by incorporating the Dangerous Master into my setup was, one: level match comparison – ‘what does the original sound like?’ and ‘what does it sound like after my chain of processing?’ but always at the same level, because the louder one is always going to sound better. You need to compare the unprocessed and the processed sound as close to an equal level as you can. You can very easily do that on the Master with the Input Monitor Offset. You can instantly compare and match the volume precisely. That was the first thing that improved my work.”
“The second thing I got from the Master was that once I plugged my outboard gear into the Master’s inserts, all my pieces sounded better, as opposed to just chained together like I had them set up in my previous system. The way the amplifier stages are designed turn whatever you plug into the Master into a very stable, unified environment.
“The third thing that made everything sound better was the fact that I had S&M at my fingertips, so I could do the sum-and-difference processing. Those three things made a huge difference: the true A/B level matching, the outboard gear sounding better, and the insert with the S&M processing.”
“I heavily used the S&M on mastering the stereo version of the Sara Bareilles: Live at the Fillmore CD. I used a lot of EQ to contour the drums and the bass to get them to sit right.”
McNair has been playing, recording, mixing, producing, and mastering music for over 25 years. His fascination with the duality of the macro and the micro is part of what led him to mastering. That ‘infinite inch,’ the last bit of something indefinable that makes a project sound like a record: that’s what he is fascinated by. McNair has honed the art of getting to that place where the music is presented with all the power and emotion that the music deserves through years of working on projects awarded Grammy and Gold Record status. Artists as diverse as Los Lobos, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Patty Smith, Miles Davis, Willie Nelson, Switchfoot, Raul Malo, Ozomatli, Susan Tedeschi and Jakob Dylan have all relied on McNair to help them achieve their artistic vision.
Contact Dave McNair through the Masterdisk website at: http://www.masterdisk.com