Edmeston, NY – Mastering engineer Noël Jackson began getting into music and recording and then moved into mastering when he realized just how good music could sound. Jackson recalls when he was a teenager growing up, “Instead of watching TV, I listened to records.” And listening on a great system inspired Jackson. “That’s how I got into mastering and what I love about it.” Jackson’s studio is filled with handpicked gear from many of the top names, including Dangerous Music. He has the Dangerous Monitor ST monitor control, Dangerous Master analog transfer console, and two Dangerous 2-Bus LT analog summing amps.
Jackson says, “I love all the Dangerous Music equipment. I use the Monitor ST as my monitor section, the Dangerous Master as my mastering transfer console, and two Dangerous 2-Bus LTs for my mixing and stem-mastering path, which is fed by two Lynx Aurora 16s for 32-channels of input and output. That sounds like a lot of outputs but that’s what got me hooked on mixing and mastering – being able to replicate the analog console sound and headroom while simultaneously allowing me to use a DAW and all the capabilities of the computer. I started using computers 20-years ago, I’m an ultra-geek. I program a lot, I do a lot of recreational activities on the computer aside from music. Being able to use the computer and still get the analog sound is the best thing for me and my clients.”
Having started by mixing using the analog summing process with the Dangerous 2-Bus, Jackson now provides a similar service for mastering clients who provide stems, but also continues to master from stereo mixes. “I do both. If a client has stems I will run them through the 2-Bus and show them what their in-the-box mix sounds like summed in analog. When they hear it, without having to remix it, just running separate [stem] channels of audio, they are extremely surprised and very happy with the result. Sometimes I’ll go that route. For other clients I’ll do complete mixing with them, however in the end it’s always a mastering job. Sometimes I’ll need to do mixing to get the song to the point where it is ready to master. I focus on mastering, but with a mind to the changes that I’ve seen in the recording industry. There are your superstar label artists, but most of the music you’re hearing today is independently produced.”
“Control of the final summing process lets me deliver better mastering results. Mixing and mastering from stems gives me a lot of flexibility. For instance if a client mixes down a song in the box and says to me ‘I really want these highs to sparkle’ but the vocals and snare have tones in them that would be accentuated in a bad way through the processing required for the rest of the song to sound good, without having the stems you’d have to go back and ask them to remix,” states Jackson.
Jackson adds, “I have clients coming to me that are creating pop tunes and other styles with a lot of layers, a lot of harmonies, and being able to run 32-channels of audio through the 2-Busses is a great thing. It produces sounds that you can’t get anywhere else. From there I run straight into the Dangerous Master. The Master is such an obvious choice after the 2-Bus path. The transparency of the Master allows me to select the highest quality gear on the market and insert it at various stages to achieve the sound I’m looking for. The Manley Massive Passive is my go-to equalizer, for too many reasons to list, and likewise the Manley Variable-Mu is my go-to compressor. After that, I have a whole gang of inserts to really have fun, some Empirical labs equipment, some old Alesis compressors and some Drawmer gear. The Dangerous Master is precise and really brings an extremely transparent sound to the table while easily and simply allowing me to carve out the sound I’m looking for.”
Jackson continues, “Another great function on Master is the ‘S&M’ mid-side processor — I use it all the time. You can use it for affecting your sides and your middle independently, and it also can act as a stereo widener to give it a little more ‘oomph’ and kind of pan things around your head a little bit more. The Master sounds great, has really good craftsmanship, it’s cost effective, and it’s going to last forever.”
“One thing that I really love about the Monitor ST is the fantastically functional [remote] controller. I put my Focals and other speakers on the outputs and easily switch between them right on the remote. It’s really an awesome piece of gear – the attenuator for the volume control in the Monitor ST is all analog and stepped – every time you change the volume you can hear relays click in the rack mount box. The volume doesn’t drift or waver at all because each of the output channels is changed very precisely by the same amount, and it is repeatable. I’m not aware of any other monitor section that offers this capability. That’s one thing that I really love. It’s very precise, very easy to use, the remote looks cool and it lets me A-B and C-D all my mixes.”
“A client of mine, Deastro, does all his recording at home, he records in his bathroom or his closet for vocals. The shift to ‘do-it-yourself’ has changed the need to mix in a big studio now that people are getting good results at home. A lot of hip-hop artists are do-it-yourself, they make their beats and they record their vocals. Being able to do an analog mix for them is a huge shift. Lots of professional musicians who have worked in the big studios are realizing that they would rather be home – they want to be in that environment, but they still have all this music that they want to get mixed down sounding the way it did in a studio on an analog console. The Dangerous Music products have allowed me to turn the shift in music production into a business and a service that’s really needed. People need to have their music mixed down, but have it sound like a professional studio,” says Jackson.
Placing a high priority on the company behind the products, as often is the case in the audiophile world that Jackson knew from his early listening experience, he is impressed with Dangerous Music’s customer service too, “I’ve never had a company be so responsive to questions and inquiries. I sent Dangerous a question through their website and within about 4 hours I got a response that was 6 paragraphs long, explaining in detail exactly what I needed to know about the specific question that I asked. Their equipment is really good, and there’s a lot of companies that produce quality equipment, but there’s not a lot of companies that give support on this level,” adds Jackson. “The people at Dangerous are phenomenal. They are real people that know what they’re doing, they make really good gear, and they treat customers really well. My studio is small, I do mostly smaller record labels, not your Virgin, more like Ghostly Records and small electronic labels. My studio is not a million-dollar studio, but Dangerous Music treats me like a million-dollar client.”
Jackson is busy with a variety of clients, he recently worked with techno legend and DJ Kevin Saunderson, who was a pioneer in Detroit dance music, and essentially created the ‘techno’ genre along with a couple partners back in the day. Phil Agosta is a DJ and electronic music producer and remixer who came to Jackson for both mixing and mastering. On Ghostly Records is Deastro, a “Lo-Fi” artist that Jackson has been mastering tracks for. On Palms Out Sounds, a big Indie Electronic label is Melt, an experimental project, from two incognito artists producing ambient house music, as a vinyl project. Jackson has been mastering big-name remixes for electronic dance music artists Urchins Urchins. A hip-hop group called Detroit CYDI is putting out a 12-track remix LP that Jackson mastered. It was a challenging project with 12 different people doing the remixes, he had to match the sound to make it all cohesive as a record.
Jackson has also turned people onto other Dangerous products like the Dangerous D-Box, a single-rack space combination of 8-channels of analog summing, monitor section with speaker switching, D-to-A converter, dual headphones amps and more, “Everybody that I talk to that’s tried out a Dangerous product like the D-Box, they say ‘This is awesome! This is the coolest thing since the computer!’ It’s cool to bring artists’ production level up in their own studio. It gives them more power to create good music,” says Jackson.