December 2, 2014 — At Translab Mastering Studios in Paris, the Dangerous Music collection of gear is quite extensive and just grew again with its addition of the newly released Dangerous Compressor. The busy French mastering studio’s engineer Antoine Chabert (aka ‘Chab’) has filled his studio with Dangerous gear as its core: the Dangerous Master paired with the Dangerous Liaison for his mastering console, the Dangerous Monitor paired with the Dangerous Source for complete monitoring and specialized playback, and the Dangerous BAX EQ and Compressor for taming tracks and making records sound their best— such as the Grammy-winning “Lucky” from Daft Punk’s latest opus “Random Access Memories,” just one among hundreds of other albums and singles Chab has mastered.
A Dangerous Engineer
“The Dangerous Master is transparent, the sound quality is excellent,” says Chab. “I did a comparison with digital-to-digital and then through the Master with no setting changes and it sounded the same. It’s only the color of my A-to-D and D-to-A that changes. I bought the Liaisonbecause I want to be able to insert only one piece of equipment in a chain and compare it to others, the Liaison is perfect for that,” states Chab. “I can plug in two EQs and two compressors and a third EQ and compare just the EQs, and find which one of them is best for the material, that’s so important to me!”
Although he only recently added the Dangerous Compressor to his studio he has already done a number of masters with it. “I just bought the Dangerous Compressor 1 month ago, it’s a really creative tool. I can work quickly with it. I can add a bit of sibilance or brilliance, I can compress without the bass using the Side Chain. I like the way I can add just a little compression, it does just the small step that I need. The Compressor is not colored, and it’s compressing without any artifacts. It’s like the other Dangerous Music equipment, really transparent,” says Chab.
“I always use the BAX EQ as the beginning of my chain,” reveals Chab. “Just to correct certain things, I use shelving and cutting. I try first to be musical. And sometimes I only need the BAX. I like the way it’s designed because it’s very musical, the other EQs I have, they are more for precise cuts to correct problems, but sometimes when I do the precise cuts I go back to the BAX and find that I just need to do some shelving and cutting with the BAX to reshape the music instead. And like the Master, the BAX is very clean. It gives me bass control and with the high end, I can remove a bit of harshness. I can do a lot with just half or one dB, I like that, it’s very quick.”
Actually Chab has two BAX EQs because he found a second important use for it. “I also use the BAX EQ for cutting Vinyl records, I have one in my mastering room and one in my vinyl cutting room, it’s really perfect for reshaping the music for vinyl,” he notes.
“I bought the Dangerous Monitor because it has the Dangerous Music DA converters, I listened to the converters and I really loved them,” remembers Chab. “They are natural sounding. I am sure about what I am hearing. For my mastering comparison chain I always use the AES inputs with the DAC on the Monitor. I like the way the Monitor has detented spots on the main volume too, that way I know ‘at this level’ I have a really good reference. I know how loud it should be, how much bass or treble I have to have at that level. I also love that I can mute one side and put the other side in Mono,” he explains.
For controlling a third set of small consumer speakers Chab installed a Dangerous Source. His main speakers are the Legacy Audio ‘Focus’ models, then he has Genelec 1030s, and Dr. Dre Beats, Chab says he wanted “Small speakers like everybody has!” By having the Source as a controller for his Dr. Dre Beats speakers, Chab can get up from his main seat in the mastering room and walk around the room. It’s less for critical listening and more to get a sense of the music in a room on small speakers. “I am walking around just to hear what’s happening, it’s good for me, I am away from the main speakers, and can be as if I was at home, and I like that,” he reveals. “The two monitoring sections are linked with AES, so I can listen to headphones on the Source, and I can also listen to another computer that is plugged in to the Source with USB, so that when clients come in with laptops or phones the Source is connected to the analog inputs on the Dangerous Monitor and I can listen to their reference. I can do everything with those two monitoring sections.”
Diving deeper into the Liaison and the Master Chab describes how he used to work before he installed them into his mastering studio, “I didn’t have a console before the Dangerous Master, I used a patchbay, which for me was a big headache, so I wanted something to go faster, a real mastering approach, to have a clean signal path, to avoid chaining too much outboard; And then to be able to make comparisons between the equipment to use only the best gear for the track. The Liaison is really important, I can do a lot of combinations of chaining gear and I am able to work a lot faster. Before the Liaison it was very difficult because I had to record a bit of sound with one patch of equipment on the patch bay and then switch the patchbay and compare the sounds. It was really annoying, and took way too long, now I am 20-times faster than before, I like the way the Liaison allows me to still be ‘in the energy’ of the music.”
On more specific uses of the Master, Chab relays, “I like that the Mid-Side is right on the Dangerous Master and not in another piece of gear, and I like how I can put all my gear in MS if I need that. I like that I can just put in the MS in the Master and listen. The MS is a really good tool to have if there’s a problem I can’t solve any other way. Sometimes I can put in a bit of widening with the MS without using another piece of gear and it gives me a bit of treble, I like that. I hit one or two steps widening with the MS, and that’s the EQ in a certain way.”
“On the Master I like the fact that at the end of the chain I can increase the inputs and decrease the outputs to find a good level to hit my machine a bit more for the final master. Sometimes it’s a half a dB more on the input and half a dB less on the output,” explains Chab.
The Mastering Approach
Chab is a unique mastering engineer working with a myriad of unique artists at his Paris studio, his gear evolution from using a patchbay to using the Dangerous Master and Liaison, along with the Dangerous Monitor, BAX EQ and Compressor gets him to “…the way I want to approach mastering,” he says, “to be able to make good choices very quickly and not lose the energy and spirit of the song— all with excellent sound quality.”
Working at his Translab Mastering Studios, Chab has extensive mastering credits including Daft Punk, FM Laeti, Julien Dore, Florent Pagny, Orval Carlos Sibelius, Sébastien Tellier, Koudlam, Lilly Wood and The Prick, Le Prince Miiaou, Awa Ly, Yelle, Gérard Manset, Detroit, Aziz Sahmaoui, Plastiscines, Simon Dalmais, Adanowsky, Miossec, Maxime Le Forestier, Charles Pasi, Raul Paz, Air, Moodoid, Alice Lewis, Mr Flash, Limousine, Mark Daumail, Rover, Singtank, Ben Mazué, Salif Keita, Mina Tindle, La Femme, Fréro Delavega, Sophie-Tith, and many more; see his references page for a more complete list: http://www.chabmastering.com/references/
For more information about Chab and Translab Mastering Studios in Paris visit: http://www.chabmastering.com/