In Search of The Analog Solution, Studio Owner Adds Monitor ST, DAC-ST and 2-Bus
Dangerous Music equipment has found its way into many of the industry’s top mixing, mastering, and production studios, creating the perfect hybrid of digital and analog technology by enhancing DAWs with analog smarts and solid sound. With Sammy Merendino Dangerous Music finds yet a new level. Merendino is primarily known as a top session drummer and programmer – literally thousands of tracks and live shows with the likes of Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Cameo, Michael Jackson, Foreigner, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, Lou Reed… – but his studio is also a sophisticated, well-designed laboratory for playing, recording, producing, and mixing music. In fact Merendino is quite unique in some of his uses of both the latest digital recording technology along with classic high-end analog outboard gear.
Being a drummer and a mix engineer, he really knows the value and difference an analog compressor makes on a drum sound; But he also likes to cut live tracks, and through this process realized he needed to hear the analog processing, in real-time, while playing. Dangerous Music to the rescue. Merendino recently installed a system of Dangerous Music gear to get him to his sonic goal: Dangerous Monitor ST monitor controller combined with the DAC-ST stereo D/A converter, and the Dangerous 2-Bus LT analog summing amp.
Merendino is loving the sound of his Dangerous Music gear because it goes along with his preference for only the best sounding equipment, “I’ve got my own thing about what I like. My front end is mostly API – ten 512 pre’s and Vintage 550a EQs – as well as Neve and some Telefunken V72’s. Dangerous Music gear is the solution for me to tie it all together and keep the sonic integrity I work so hard for. My ‘home studio’ finally sounds like the real thing,” states Merendino.
The Dangerous Monitor ST started the process, “I did get the whole system together, but originally I was just planning on getting the Dangerous Monitor ST because I was monitoring through a low cost monitoring system. It dawned on me that I have all this high-end API and Neve gear and vintage mics, and I was monitoring all this stuff through a $200 system! I was listening to my $100,000 worth of studio gear and all my beautiful drums through a cheap monitor controller. It made no sense!”
After installing the Monitor ST, even his friends noticed a change in the studio sound, “It was night and day. The speakers sounded terrific. I didn’t even tell a few of my friends that I had added the Monitor ST. They were like: ‘How come your studio sounds so much better?’ And when I took the mixes out of the studio they really translated well. It was amazing. I’m telling everybody about the Monitor ST.”
In addition to upgrading the monitor path, the quality of the mixes also needed to be addressed, and led to Sammy adding the Dangerous 2-Bus LT to his setup at the same time, “I was mixing a bunch of my stuff and I just kept thinking things were ‘thin, thin, thin.’ I started looking around at [analog summing] products like the API and the Dangerous, and ran into Kate Cardwell [of Music Pro Marketing], and along with the Monitor ST she sent me the Dangerous 2-Bus LT to check out. It has made a huge difference – now my mixes sound the way I want – really big, wide, with lots of clarity, low end punch and detail,” added Merendino.
Another key element of Merendino’s setup is the ability to work with analog processing in real-time, without the degradation from extra A/D/A conversions and suffering with the inherent time domain issues, “As I was planning out my new system I knew I needed top-quality analog summing to tie in with the multiple outs of my Pro Tools system. When you send a signal out of Pro Tools in order to run it through an analog compressor you then have to re-convert it on the way back in, and it’s just not in time anymore – it starts flanging. Now with the Dangerous setup I can monitor with analog compression in real-time, without necessarily having to record it. I can listen to the Chandler compressor, which makes my drums huge, it’s inspiring when cutting live – I play differently when listening to the effects. It’s like listening through an analog [mixing] board. I can hear my drums with the outboard compression on them with no delays, or phasing.”
Before using the Dangerous 2-Bus for real-time summing with analog outboard gear Merendino was frustrated, “The phasing and flanging stuff was driving me nuts! It was impossible to use my system the way I wanted to. I would have to record the track with the compressor on, and if I wanted to change the drum mix a little bit, I’d have to record the track in again and nudge it. I said ‘I don’t have time for this.’ I want to put it up right away and go ‘That’s it! Moving on!’ The phase problems used to just pile up, and the mix kept getting smaller and smaller. The 2-Bus fixed all that. I went with the Dangerous equipment because I wanted it to work easily and to sound great. And it does sound great, truer to the sound I hear when I am sitting behind my kit,” said Merendino.
About Sammy Merendino
Sammy Merendino is an in-demand session drummer and programmer in New York City. A session with Cameo on Single Life turned into a European tour, then into the studio to record Word Up. The success of that Cameo album led to a steady career recording and/or performing with many of the world’s top artists such as Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Cameo, Michael Jackson, Foreigner, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, Lou Reed, Hall & Oates, Pat Metheny, Ziggy Marley, Sophie B. Hawkins, Anita Baker, Joan Osborne, and many others. Merendino has also played on over 1000 commercials and television themes including Monday Night Football with Hank Williams Jr., Nightline, World News Tonight, and ABC Golf.
Merendino’s Harlem studio is based around Digidesign’s Pro Tools integrated with Dangerous Music’s 2-Bus LT, Monitor ST and DAC-ST. Sammy is currently recording and touring with Cyndi Lauper, as well as his own band- the Harlem Parlour Music Club. To contact Sammy Merendino, visit his websites at: http://www.SammyMerendino.com and http://www.myspace.com/beatsmenycand his latest band website: http://www.myspace.com/harlemparlourmusicclub