Engineer George Seara Builds a Dangerous Studio

Toronto Mix Studio Features Analog Summing, Metering, Monitor Control, DAC and EQ all from Dangerous Music.

EDMESTON, NY — August 1, 2011 — Award-winning Canadian mix engineer George Seara has created a complete Dangerous Music equipped studio featuring Dangerous 2-Bus analog summing, Monitor ST/SR stereo and surround monitor control, DAC ST for playback of digital sources, and the new Dangerous BAX EQ for tone shaping on featured tracks or the mix buss. “Put it this way: Before the Dangerous Music gear, it would mean I would be doing everything in a large studio,” states Seara. “It’s only with the advent of the Dangerous 2-Bus and the Monitor ST/SR that I’ve finally felt that the level and quality, plus the speed and efficiency with all things surrounding my workflow have come to a point where I can say confidently that I’ve raised the bar, and the quality of my work has improved. Dangerous equipment, simply put, has stellar sound and build quality. I’ve been spoiled with this gear.”

At his Toronto studio he’s currently mixing a jazz record with out the producer there, “I’m mixing jazz singer Holly Cole’s latest album unattended by the producer, Greg Cohen (Tom Waits, Nora Jones, Elvis Costello) the producer is away in Europe, and I’m able to make revisions and post mixes to encompass the producer’s notes, recall is a snap with the Dangerous Music setup and the sound is warm and wide!”

When designing his personal mix studio, Seara had three main considerations for the gear, “I needed to have stellar sound quality — it needed to be mastering quality so I chose Dangerous Music equipment. Number two, it needed to be ergonomic — which I find the Dangerous gear to be; and three, I needed speed and rock-solid recall-ability — which are strong points of the Dangerous Music design philosophy.”

Mixing it Up: In his new studio Seara now has all the gear he needs to complete his mix projects and is able to meet deadlines and last minute changes effectively and efficiently. In doing so, he uses a well thought out collection of Dangerous Music equipment along with new and vintage outboard gear. “Basically I own one of everything Dangerous Music makes. Chris Muth, Dangerous Music’s head designer, was Technical Director at Sterling Sound so all of the gear is mastering-quality. My studio setup is tuned towards mixing rather than mastering,” says Seara. “I am very meticulous and detail-oriented when it comes to my mix work and selecting gear. I look for equipment that is going to be versatile, yet mastering quality — if it’s good for mastering then it certainly should be good for mixing. The sound quality of the Monitor ST/SR for example, is musical and yet very transparent.”

On the sound of the Dangerous 2-Bus analog summing amplifier, Seara says, “The biggest point is, it’s clean as a whistle, it has no noise, and yet super high-headroom: like a straight wire with gain. It allows me to mix confidently without having to deal with any gain-management issues, intermittent noises, hiss or any down time. I’d describe the sound as big, open and wide — the sound quality is fantastic and the mix is always true to my original tracks.”

Often Seara will insert a compressor or EQ on a track by patching it between the interface D/A output and the input channel of the Dangerous 2-Bus. “All of my outputs from my workstation are normalled to the 2-Bus on a patchbay. I can easily patch in any piece of outboard gear after a track output and then to the Dangerous 2-Bus. Basically it’s a very short signal path, and it all lends itself to wonderful overall sound.” Between the stereo analog output of the Dangerous 2-Bus and his JCF Audio A to D, Seara selects from a number of outboard pieces including his Dangerous BAX EQ. “I have a Millenia NS-EQ2 with the Fred Forssell mod, a Crane Song STC-8, a gray-face SSL G-384 buss compressor and the Dangerous BAX EQ.”

In Seara’s studio he has a variety of converters including Apogee DA-16X for D-to-A, and JCF Audio A-to-D converters for printing mixes. Seara also uses the JCF D/A converters for the lead vocal or a main instrument into the 2-Bus, “But for listening to the mix from the DAW I use the Dangerous DAC ST,” states Seara. “If I were listening to an analog mix in my room, that would be on one return of the Monitor ST and if I was listening to the printed digital mix, I would be listening through the Dangerous DAC ST. The DAC ST is very neutral and ultra transparent and that’s what I like about it most. Actually that’s what I like about all of my Dangerous gear!”

Dangerous Music EQ – Enter BAX: On using the Dangerous BAX EQ Seara notes, “I sometimes have the BAX EQ on the mix buss, and then it replaces the Millenia NS-EQ2, and if it’s not on the mix buss, I put the BAX EQ on the main instrument in the song. So if it were a lead vocal or a nylon guitar or any featured instrument — I put the BAX EQ on the money channel! What I love about the BAX is its ability to sound punchy in the low end, without being muddy. The hi-pass filters are awesome as well and sometimes I use them in conjunction with a boost in the bottom end.”

Monitoring Choices from Stereo to Surround: Choosing the Dangerous Music Monitor ST “was an easy decision” says Seara. “I have a great relationship with Chris Athens, who is senior mastering engineer at Sterling Sound. Having mastered literally hundreds of my projects at Sterling over the years, it was a natural to check out the Dangerous Music gear when creating my own studio.”

Seara uses the studio-standard Yamaha NS-10s with matching sub for stereo as well as Tannoy Ellipse 8 for both stereo and surround, but his mains are Energy Veritas 2.8. “George Marino at Sterling Sound uses Energy Veritas 2.8 as mastering speakers,” reveals Seara. “Over the years I have had a strong interest in mastering, and learning more about mixing and my craft through mastering.”

“When I bought the Monitor ST, I knew at the time that I was going to need the SR surround module immediately thereafter, so I had the SR in mind already. When I was looking at the Monitor ST I was comparing it to the Dangerous Monitor, which is what a number of mastering engineers have in their racks. I ended up going with the Monitor ST because I loved the remote control. I am all about ergonomics so I thought the remote control being very slick and close at hand was very cool, and then I knew I needed the SR for Surround. The ST/SR instantly seemed like the right fit for my studio.”

“The reason I went with the SR, is that while I am doing a number of album projects, it’s more and more common that I am working on DVD or Blu-Ray projects as well. I worked on an album with Jesse Cook, Latin / Flamenco guitarist, and right after we completed mixing his album “The Rhumba Foundation,” we followed immediately with a live convert DVD and we mixed that at my studio as well. It was captured live and entirely in HD, both video and audio, at a jazz festival with an outdoor audience of 60,000 people. I mixed in surround and stereo in high resolution. The Dangerous gear worked flawlessly and actually made the process of mixing in both surround and stereo seamless.”

Having the Dangerous Music mastering quality gear in his mixing environment has changed Seara’s tolerance for quality wherever he is recording or mixing, “Now if I am working in a commercial studio and I am mixing on an old SSL or an old Neve, sometimes I’ll be playing with a monitor pot and it’ll be a little scratchy, some buttons on the desk will be a little intermittent, and I’ve got some hiss coming out of the speakers, and it’s hard to pinpoint where it’s coming from, but I know it’s not my speakers. Before, that was ‘The Status Quo’ – that’s what you’ve come to accept, it’s an old desk. Owning Dangerous Music gear, besides raising the bar on my work, has also challenged what I will accept as ‘The Status Quo’ — because I have mastering quality monitoring in my own studio. When I go to a commercial studio now, I demand that level of quality — and it’s hard to achieve!”

What’s Up With Metering? Without a large format console and all the extras that come with it Seara spent time assembling his own collection of audio mixing extras with Dangerous Music gear, starting with the analog summing of the 2-Bus and building from there. “The reason I chose the Dangerous MQ is for VU and digital metering,” explains Seara. “I think one of the reasons people growing up in the digital age mixing music have problems mixing, and the mastering engineers have a tough time with their mixes, is possibly they are not using VU meters. And they are mixing entirely in the box, and watching basic software meters in the DAW until they bounce to the very top.”

“VU meters are a far more musical way to look at your levels when you are mixing. Why not let the mastering engineer do what they do best and let them worry about the overall loudness? What you’ll find if you are using high quality VU meters like on the Dangerous MQ— and you have your system set up properly and you decide what headroom you want — you’ll be able to mix without ever having to worry about clipping. Dangerous Music has everything well thought out, and together all of their gear handles summing, metering, and critical listening for me.”

Stems and Recall: “I grew up working on large format analogue desks, whether it was a Neve, an API or an SSL, and that’s what I was always most comfortable with,” says Seara. “As clients’ needs and work demands are ever-changing, and technology has improved, I think it’s opened up a great realm of possibilities.”

“Even if I mixed a project in a large studio with a large format desk nowadays, I am almost always printing stems. For example, if it were a pop project I might print drums as a stereo pass, bass, piano, guitar, horns, strings — the reason being is that down the line, when we need to do another version, another language, or a new vocal or feature, we don’t have to be at the mercy of the studio availability where it was mixed. I’d have to book the room, recall the SSL, etc. I’m now able to put the mix together from my room with the Dangerous 2-Bus, when the client needs it done. Quite often I am also asked to prep and deliver stems and alt passes for live shows. For example, artists need backing tracks and it’s no problem for me to put things together for them from my room, without any need to go here or there and try and piece things back together. It’s all very seamless with the Dangerous equipment.”

Seara also notes that he would need about 20 pieces of vintage outboard gear to recall a pop mix in a large studio just to put in a new vocal, and the recall would be plus or minus one or two dB in a large studio situation – sometimes not acceptable, “If I’m playing back stems from my room with the Dangerous 2-Bus, I can tell you with confidence that the recall is going to be precise to my original mix and sound amazing,” he concludes.

George Seara is one of Toronto’s leading mix and recording engineers, he was the chief engineer at Phase One Studios, one of Toronto’s legendary studios around since the 1970s. He works in all genres of music and recent clients include Rihanna, Drake, Mos Def, 50 Cent, Sting, Herbie Hancock and Finger Eleven among many others. His clients know Seara for his great musical ear, his astute attention to detail — and he is musician and lifelong recording enthusiast. At the 2010 Juno Awards Seara was nominated for 5 awards and won for Contemporary Christian / Gospel Album of The Year for mixing Greg Sczebel’s “Love & The Lack Thereof.” The other four nominations were R&B Soul Recording Of The Year and Dance Recording Of The Year for artist Keshia Chante, World Music Album Of The Year for Jesse Cook, and Vocal Jazz Album Of The Year for Laila Biali.

Contact George Seara through his website at: http://www.georgeseara.com

 

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