Writer, producer and mixer Dan Gautreau divides his time between the UK and LA, often working on high-end production music projects as well as various sync and artist projects. Covering the UK side of his work, he has installed a Solid State Logic AWS 948 δelta hybrid analogue console in private facility, First Cut Music.

Dan GautreauLocated in rural Leicestershire, the studio now enables him analogue sound for tracking and mixing with DAW control and DAW-based automation.

While his work now covers TV, film and radio, pop is where Gautreau began, as an assistant engineer at London’s legendary Sarm West Studios, training with Trevor Horn. While at Sarm, he worked on sessions for George Michael, Alicia Keys, and Seal, among others, and got his first exposure to SSL consoles in the form of Sarm’s SSL J and G Series consoles. In 2004 he expanded his engineering role to programming, and began to develop his love for production and writing.

His work in the US includes Hollywood productions like Vince Vaughan’s Delivery Man and on a list of TV regulars while in the UK, he has contributed music to The Inbetweeners Movie and TV’s Top Gear and Made In Chelsea.

Building First Cut Music, he turned to SSL and an AWS 948: ‘In most of my projects, a client won’t care about time and costs within a studio, they simply judge the end product,’ he says. ‘The level of production music in TV and film now is so high, you’re essentially delivering commercial records – if you want to be pitching at that level you need to have the industry standard tools.

‘The choice of SSL was absolutely a no-brainer for me. When you get that extra few percent in detail, it makes the difference between getting the commission and not. When it comes to the artists and writers who are coming through here they are the ones who get excited about the console. They’re coming in and hearing better and punchier recordings, and experiencing a faster tracking and mixing workflow. That’s where it counts, I think.’

One of the key drivers behind the purchase of the AWS 948 was the desire to take the mix out of the box: ‘We all know that a majority of people have moved to working in-the-box and the standard is incredibly high, but I feel that some mixes get choked in the box and really benefit from being spread over an analogue board. That’s when you get the pay-offs of the headroom and great buss processing – of analogue mixing on top of all these extra workflow bonuses. At the end of the day there’s something magical about mixing on the board, the sum of all these elements, the absolute control, along with not having to stare at a computer screen 100 per cent of the time.

‘I didn’t want an extension of a mouse, it had to be an analogue path,’ he continues. ‘And for me trust is important – trust in a brand like SSL; one that’s been part of my working life since the beginning, really. When I spread the track across the board and I start working on the detail of, say, a vocal, I often find it will just sound a little better simply passing through the channel and EQ of the SSL, and I’m doing less de-essing and less surgical work because of it.’

Gautreau’s mixing workflow is to bring everything on to the board: ‘I focus on the main meat of the track. I’ll always spread the drums and vocals out as far as possible. Then I’ll stem out bass, guitars, lead guitars, synths, pads and effects. We all know that vocals and drums make or break a song these days and I want as much control of those key elements as possible.’

For drum kit recording, Gautreau is a fan of ribbon mics: ‘It’s like cheating really, using the ribbons – they capture the natural tone of an instrument and room really nicely, and the live room here has a lovely sound. I use the SSL preamps a lot when tracking. They have great headroom so they handle ribbon mics with ease. I do have a few other preamps available at the studio for specific colours.’

For mixing, Gautreau has found SSL’s δelta -Control technology to be a creative boon as well as a practical one. It allows the console’s analogue fader automation to be stored, read, and edited in DAW plug-in automation lanes. ‘I find that at critical stages it is amazing,’ he explains. ‘I’m doing rides and pushes that I would never have done in the box. I’ll listen to the results and find there’s a lot more dynamics and a lot more punch. Without the limitations of being tied to the screen – you have the freedom to commit to what you hear. It’s one of those things that make the board a musical instrument in the studio. And then you get the recall with the session – open it up, and it’s all there. I primarily work on Logic Pro X as my writing and production tool, and δelta-Control works flawlessly.’

The final choice of the AWS 948 was driven mostly by the number of inputs required at mixdown. ‘The decision was based around flexibility at the mixing stage. I knew that I would run out with 24, but with 48 I never do. Also, for stem mixing, the 948 is designed for that. Everything stereo in the computer can go straight into stereo channels, and printing final stems (which is otherwise a laborious process) is sped up significantly because you have stereo outs on every channel. I can just print all of those channels in one pass if I choose to, which would be two hours work without the board.’

The choice of the AWS 948 was not about one particular feature but a compelling medley of solutions. ‘It is so broad, I can cover everything I need to. It’s a huge console but all within an arm’s reach. It’s everything from analogue tracking and mixing to DAW controller, all in one solution, and each aspect of it is world-class.’

More: www.solidstatelogic.com

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