World-class mix engineer Mick Guzauski on his new ASC Attack Wall
By Barry M Rivman on December 2, 2013.
After a very busy 2013 that includes 6 Grammy nominations (Five for Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" and one for Herb Alpert's "Steppin' Out"), Mick Guzauski, the eight-time, Grammy-winning, mix engineer who puts the “Mick in mix” (say it out loud, you’ll get it), recently took the time to speak with RSPE Audio Solutions.
The much-in-demand mixer relocated to Los Angeles to accommodate the avalanche of work cascading his way, and in so doing, found his way to RSPE to help configure a new studio, which at the moment, is an 11' x 13' room in a rented house—not the best physical environment for mixing world-class records. Naturally Mick plans to build a studio upon finding permanent lodgings, but work has to get done in the meantime. In the real world, you can’t tell the music industry to wait until you have your act together, because your second act will never come. Mick’s dilemma: how to mix in your average bedroom and still maintain the highest levels of quality, which up until recently he produced in his professionally designed studio. How is a spare room supposed to stand up to that kind of heat? RSPE Audio had the solution (see what we did there, tied “solution” in with our name? It’s what we do).
At the suggestion of RSPE’s Russ Belttary, Mick tried the ASC (Acoustic Sciences Corporation) Attack Wall, which produces a reliable, repeatable, and accurate sonic space, regardless of room characteristics or speakers used.
The recommendation seemed obvious after the rave(ing) responses over the years from many of Mick’s contemporaries including Pete Townsend, Sting, Bruce Swedien, Gary Lux, Stuart White (Beyonce, Alicia Keys), DeadMau5, Calvin Harris, and Dave Kutch. The Attack Wall comprises varying numbers of ASC’s Tube Traps (depending on room size, needs, and budget) placed around your console or workstation. The absorbing side of the traps faces the engineer to stop early reflections, while the reflecting side faces the walls of the room to provide a time-delayed, diffusive ambience kick. Speakers are mounted on MonitorTraps, which decouple the midfield monitor from the vertical modes of the room. The result is a controlled acoustic environment with imaging that can stand up to the best acoustically designed control rooms.
Customer satisfaction being paramount at RSPE, during an exclusive interview with Mick, we took the opportunity to see how he liked the ASC Attack Wall after a few months of daily use. Here’s how the conversation between Mick Guzauski and RSPE’s Barry Rivman went:
RSPE Audio: How is the ASC Attack Wall working out for you?
Mick Guzauski: Ah yeah, I love that thing. In New York I had a studio that was acoustically designed. I wouldn’t say “ground up,” it was a basement in my house, but it was built as a studio. And here—I just moved to L.A., renting a place—I have a space to work in that’s just a spare bedroom. It’s fairly small and Russ (Belttary) suggested the ASC Attack Wall. So, I got an Attack Wall with 14 Tube Traps and two MonitorTraps set up all around the front of the room, and the imaging is incredible. It’s actually better than my other studio was; really, really, nice imaging, smooth midrange and top. I still have to work some on the bottom end—get some bigger Tube Traps, which we just really haven’t tried yet—you know, to put in corners. But it is pretty amazing that just a regular, residential, eleven-by-thirteen bedroom is actually now a useful recording space to get mixes that translate and everybody’s happy with.
RSPE: Your monitors; are you using those custom monitors that you designed with Larry Swist?
MG: I’m not using them in that room (L.A.) because they’re so big and this is such a small room. I’m just using JBL 4328s in here.
RSPE: How do you feel about those?
MG: I love ‘em. For the price they’re great. I had a pair, and when I first moved out here before all my stuff was shipped out, they were sitting around my studio back in New York. I didn’t really use them that much, but they were the only good speaker I could fit in the car when I first drove out to L.A. So I started using them more here, and I really got to like them—very clean, very smooth. I completely would not use that room correction though. It only seems to notch one frequency in each speaker, and way overdoes it.
RSPE: From my understanding of room characteristics, EQ “colors the river” but doesn’t change the way it flows . . .
RSPE: Are you planning to build another studio at some point in the future?
MG: Oh yeah, it just depends on how things go and how busy I get.
RSPE: So the Attack Walls are more of an interim solution?
MG: It depends where I end up. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it, you know, if I had another room that was a slightly better room. I really like what that (Attack Wall) does to the front of a room. The imaging, I’ve got to say, is some of the best imaging I’ve ever heard.
RSPE: So the Attack Wall is something you feel you could stick with if you needed to?
MG: Oh, yeah.
RSPE: Have you used the ASC Tube Traps for tracking?
MG: I did once a few years ago. It was before I moved to New York. I was back out here (L.A.) and I had to do a session and record percussion, acoustic guitar, and vocals in my living room. I borrowed somebody’s Tube Traps and it worked out really nice. I think if I had a control room that was really well designed, I would still hold on to the Tube Traps and use them for recording. Right now I’m really happy with the Attack Wall and feel very comfortable using it.
To be continued . . .
If you’re working in a less-than-perfect acoustic environment and can’t justify the six figures it would take to turn it into a world-class room, take it from the man whose mixed so many number one hits, we lost count at 27; Mixmeister Mick Guzauski.
For more information about ASC’s amazing Attack Wall, contact RSPE Audio Solutions. Also, if you’re interested in finding out more about the gear that Mick Guzauski uses and his approach to mixing, check back with RSPE Audio Solutions for the full interview.