Great Expectations

A couple of months ago, I was part of a blind mic shootout here at Hartwell Studios.  The four mics were – 1) Manley reference mic 2) Lawson 251 3) vintage Gefell CMV-563 4) vintage AKG 414.  All 4 mics were run through my trusty Aurora GTQ-2 preamp and we ran several different song sections with varying dynamics and expression to compare our mics.

When I got the blind clips loaded back into my DAW (labeled simply mic 1, mic 2, etc) the assembled group, which included 3 audio professionals and our artist, all opined on which clip corresponded to which mic.

It went a lot like this “Well, mic 2 is my favorite and my favorite is the Manley, so mic 2 is the Manley.  Boom, cracked it”.

Or “Mic 4 is the darkest so it’s gotta be the Gefell.  I knew that wouldn’t be my first choice”.

And I refrained from weighing in too much as I own a couple of these mics and thought SURELY i knew my mics from the guest mics and i didn’t want to influence anyone because of my knowledge of my own gear!

Well…..  we were all wrong.  Across the board.  Myself included.

I left that shootout humbled but also encouraged.  It proved to me that our expectations of gear color our judgement.  It’s amazing how much our eyes and our thoughts affect HOW we hear things.

And they shouldn’t.  But we’re all human and they do.

So I challenge all of you – do a blind shootout if you get a chance.  Test your ears versus your expectations.

And never forget rule #1 of audio – If it sounds right, it IS right.


Want more info on the shootout or Hartwell Studios?  Email me at


Welcome to the website!

I appreciate you taking the time to read some random thoughts about music production and mixing.

Nashville is a great place to live partly because it attracts such talented and creative musicians.  I’m fortunate enough to work in this great music community and many of my posts will be because of new or different gear that has somehow found its way into my studio.

I’ve been fortunate enough to sample 2 of the compressors from Retro Instruments this summer – their Sta-Level and their 176.  The Sta-Level is its own animal – if you’re not familiar with the Gates Sta-Level compressor (and I wasn’t) then the nature of this unit might take some getting used to.  But it’s worth it – I like it on many sources, but it excelled on a P-bass thru a RedDI.  Check out the bass on 2 of my audio clips on the homepage of this site  – “Dark” & “Can’t Help Who You Love” both have this bass chain.

The amazing lead vocal on “Can’t Help Who You Love” was captured with the Retro 176 which turned out to sound very modern indeed. We ran a Lawson 251 – Aurora GTQ-2 – Urei 1176 Rev F – Retro 176 for her vocals and even I couldn’t make this sound bad – it’s just a great vocal chain.  The 1176 & 176 worked particularly well together in this order as the vintage 1176 fattened up the bottom of the track while the 176 smoothed out the top end nicely, sculpting that beautiful air and detail you can hear in the track.

Any questions/comments?

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