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A picture of Beau Sorenson

Beau Sorenson

Recording engineer, musician

in audio, engineer, mac, musician

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Beau Sorenson. I record / engineer / produce audio - mostly (but not exclusively) in the form recording, mixing, and sometimes mastering music for bands. I also write and record electronic music in my spare time.

What hardware do you use?

While most of what I do can be accomplished with a computer, I still use a lot of hardware. Software tends to be more efficient (and often sounds just as good), but I've found that I prefer the physicality, workflow, and interactivity that hardware provides. There's something unpredictable and non-linear about how certain kinds of hardware will react and respond - this is a big part of why I find it more compelling than strictly using software to work on sound. If it's music, I'm always trying to land on the side of art and expression vs sheer speed and efficiency. If I'm doing ADR or scoring a film, I'll probably stick to software exclusively.

Also, I often do most of my job at other studios, so my setup is always changing (based on what is available). A complete list of the hardware I own and regularly use when working at my home studio can be found on my website, but some of the highlights are:

A couple of API lunchboxes filled with a selection of classic API modules: 512c preamps, 550b equalizers, 525 and 527 compressors. I've loved the way API gear sounds and responds since my first days as an intern in a studio, and I still rely on it everyday. The lunchboxes are portable, so I can bring one with me for location recording or to studio sessions. They're great.

I love old Eventide and Lexicon gear: I have a pair of Lexicon PCM-41s, a PCM-42, a 2400, a Super Prime Time, and pair of Varispeeches that get a regular workout. The Eventide H3000 is perhaps my favorite (I wrote an entire album using on the H3000 earlier this year), but I also use a fully refurbished Eventide H949 (an early pitch shifter famously used on David Bowie's "Low") and their Omnipressor, a strange and very intense compressor / expander.

For reverberation, I have a pair of vintage AKG spring reverbs that I love - these are Austrian-made spring reverbs intended to compete with the best plate reverbs of their era. They sound amazing! I also rely on an Ursa Major SST-206 "Space Station"; a small recreation of an early digital reverb made by Christopher Moore, and a Roland RE-201 Space Echo for tape delay.

Microphones: I don't own a lot of fancy, vintage microphones. Most of the studios I work at have a collection of them, and I'd rather let someone else deal with buying and maintaining them. Some of the microphones I own that I use a lot are:

  • Josephson C42s. These are small-diaphragm condenser mics that sounds awesome on everything and aren't super expensive. They go everywhere I go and record everything I record.

  • Shure SM7B. It's a $300 dynamic mic. Michael Jackson and Billy Corgan sang into these. I've compared it with $10k mics and have had everyone in the room choose it over the fancy mic on more than one occasion.

  • Sennheiser MD-421. Most people just put these on toms. It's actually pretty useful inside kick drums, on bass and guitar cabs, even as a vocal mic.

I'm also a big fan of synthesizers - I have a Buchla 200e system and one of their recent Easels that I love; it's by far my favorite instrument. I also like the Korg MS series, and have had an MS-20 and MS-50 for years. For years, I programmed drum beats with an Akai MPC2000XL; recently I've dusted it off and started writing with it again. Plus a handful of other drum machines, sequencers, tiny keyboards, turntables, and other random junk. I like weird and half-broken stuff a lot.

The newest addition is a Teenage Engineering OP-1 - a nifty little portable synthesizer / sampler / drum machine / recorder that goes everywhere. It's the best thing in the world for planes and trains and car rides, and I've used it on a lot of sessions, too. It is magic.

I use Metric Halo audio interfaces to get sound in and out of the computer; these were recommended by my friend Don Gunn. They're portable and highly configurable (even allowing the user to code their own custom DSP chains), and have saved my live on many occasions.

My home studio is based around a pair of vintage Studer 169 consoles; these are Swiss-made consoles from the mid-1970s, originally designed for location and broadcast use. They're totally modular and configurable (a theme in the stuff I like to use), they sound great and are truly a joy to use. And they're portable! They make every project I work on better and they smell kinda old.

I listen on Focal monitors with a Focal subwoofer, a pair of vintage JBL 4311 studio monitors, a pair of Spendor hi-fi speakers and a couple other pairs of weird old speakers. I love my Grado SR-60 headphones, but usually bring Sony 7506s when I travel because they're a bit more robust.

My computer is an old Apple. It works.

And what software?

I use both Logic Pro X and Pro Tools for digital audio recording; iZotope RX for noise reduction, audio restoration and cleaning. Because I use a lot of hardware when mixing (and because Logic Pro comes with great collection of effects plugins) I don't use a lot of different third party plugins. I really love the effects plugins made by Valhalla DSP and Soundtoys. I use Dropbox to exchange files.

What would be your dream setup?

It's hard to pin down what my 'dream setup' would be - it's always changing, and the setup I'm working with right now is as close as I've been able to come / the best version I've found so far. A common side effect of what I do is the never-ending quest to accumulate more and more equipment, and while there are plenty of things I wish I had, I'm cautious about simply becoming a 'collector of junk' instead of a maker of sound. That said, I'd someday like to own a multitrack tape recorder and a stereo 1/2" tape recorder to print final mixes to. As I've started doing more mastering in the last year, I'll eventually invest in a really nice hardware equalizer and a really nice hardware compressor. And I always want more synthesizers! Mostly, I'm thankful to have access to the tools I already have, and fortunate to spend time using them.