Dave Pensando + Herb Trawick | Pensando's Place | Ultimate Ears Stories

Kenn: Dave I wanted to talk to you about mixing with in-ears.

Dave: A lot of people have the misconception that when they’re engineering or mixing that they have to have speakers that sound good. The way your speakers sound is pretty much irrelevant. What you want, is your speakers to tell you what your song needs. What the production needs.

For example, you want your speakers to yell at you, “Hey legend boy, these snares sound like a Karen Carpenter record, give me some power. Give me something to really make this snare cut through.“ Or; "Dave, that vocal really needs to come up. It's not loud enough, come on, man."

And so that process, if you believe that, is actually an accurate way to work. That process is enhanced by checking your work and getting information from various sources so I like to use a set, two or three sets of speakers, including my car of course. Recently I started using headphones to help me with panning and placing things in the stereo spectrum. I like to do things a little outside the stereo spectrum and create wider mixes, so headphones obviously do that really well.

Recently I started using the Ultimate Ears and that process was greatly enhanced and the Ultimate Ears seduced me into giving them a larger job in the process than just the stereo spectrum. Then I started making EQ decisions and felt confident about that and then I started listening to them in terms of what I should do and so they’ve become a significant part of my process. The benefit is that they do sound great and so you get the best of both worlds. There’s a popular set of speakers {NS10s} and if someone is a neophyte and hasn’t heard about them well they’re tiny and they sound horrible but these really do a good job of telling you what to do and therefore they are ubiquitous in every studio in the world. Not because they sound good, but because they’re good at telling you what to do.

And the Ultimate Ears, I was surprised because I loved the ones that were worked on at Capitol and kinda tweaked and enhanced by the engineers there, Steve and Alan and the gang, I would caution the reader or the listener, for me there was a little tiny learning curve for about maybe ten hours.

It took me a second to forget they were there and once I got that down my work was significantly enhanced by using them, and a little bit to my surprise. I had heard of friends using them in a live application for in ear monitoring, which nobody does better than UE. I also knew that some of those artists, because it happened to me, were bringing those in the studio and using those as their headphones in the studio because they already had a relationship with them. Some artists that were also recording engineers themselves were using them to record with, so I knew there was groundwork laid for that process and maybe a little easier for me to adapt. Then Herb and I went and toured their facility and I’ve got to tell you, maybe Herb can chime in here, that was probably one of the more impressive, fun days that I’ve ever had in terms with my relationship with manufacturers.

Herb And here’s one of the advantages we had, we get to look at so many manufacturers so we get to compare and it felt like, I can compare it to Apple in this context: the same care about the science is put into the packaging and the aesthetic and the customer service and all the kinds of things that you want in a brand. And we don’t give that Bon Mot out very easily. You have to earn that from us. And I don’t mean that arrogantly, I just mean discerning as professionals.

Kenn: I would say you guys are incredibly trustworthy in that respect. And I find that kind of trust is rare, especially in audio.

Herb: One of the things that you so acutely hit on but one of the most amazing things about this amazing journey for us is how we got involved with Ultimate Ears. First of all, as you can tell, Dave and I are on air being Dave and I. What you see is what you get and that transfer of trust has been transferred both ways. It seems like people have both taken us into their home and many respect us. We work really hard to be respected, and we respect each other so much that it translates. In order to have people sign up and pay dollars, we have to deliver. The fact that trust is at the underpinning of that, for the audience, it makes the connection better, and what happens is we end up winning on engagement as opposed to just views.

When people are astute enough to understand that, and you get the kind technical information that you’re getting from Dave and the kind of advice and stuff that you get from me. Or you get the combination of what Dave and I understand, we also work very hard on story arcs and narrative stuff.

Dave and I approach this like athletes and I respect competition, but I’m gonna meet you at the rim and I’m gonna try and flush you straight up and Dave is too, and then we’re gonna help you up and if you flush us then I’m gonna get up and try and work on my leap. So I don’t mind the competition and frankly, here’s what’s crazy about the trust, a lot of our competition has met with me to try and figure out how to beat us.

I’ve had probably ten lunches with guys who have said, “You know we’re gonna try and do a show that takes us beyond Pensado’s Place” and I say, “Well, describe that for me” and they can’t and I’m OK with it. I think it’s good to think that way. I understand brand building, I understand our industry, I understand how to build that stuff. If you’re gonna do this, you’re gonna need to find a Herb and Dave and it’s not that easy.

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