Pensado recently installed a pair of ADAM S3A’s in his studio. “It’s funny,” says Pensado. “The first record I ever mixed I monitored with a pair of NS10’s. Someone told me that Hugh Padgham used AR 18B’s, and so I immediately went out and bought a pair. This was back in the mid-80’s. I sat down and nothing sounded right to me. The mix of this local record had to be on the radio the next day, and I was in a panic!
“I called a friend of mind, an incredible engineer named Ed Seay, who gave me some advice: if you’re using those two sets of monitors, he said, over-mix. What he meant was that I should make the mix sound overly bright, hyped in the high end. That way, when the track hits the real world it will sound just about right. I had a hard time following that advice, though. It’s almost like an optical illusion on the road. Even though an expert may advise you to stay straight, if the road appears to curve and you’re going 60 miles an hour it’s hard not to turn!”
Until he took possession of his ADAM S3A’s, Pensado claims that he had, to a degree, been mixing in the dark. “For all these years I’d kept the NS10’s and Auspergers, but I always brought some records with me to refer to in the mixing room. For example, if I needed my snare to pop I’d put on Black Streets’ Fixx. I love that record, and the sound of the snare is in my head, so if I was going for that sound I’d match my snare to the one of the CD, however it was playing back in the room. I’d go to other favorite records to match the sibilants on a vocal, and so on.
“Prior to getting the ADAMs I’d use the NS10’s to give me the real world sound, and use the Ausbergers as my mains; between those two pairs I’ve been able to get a sound that translates fairly effectively to a variety of environments. Now that I’ve got the S3A’s I find that I’m switching over to the other speakers less and less. The S3A’s give me 95% of the sound I’m looking for, which is simply accuracy throughout the frequency range, in one package. And there’s one more thing: I know it sounds silly, but when you spend 15 hours a day looking at a set of speakers, they might as well be good looking, and the S3A’s are gorgeous!
“Don’t listen to me, though. I have friends who mix on Aurotones, and I envy their mixes. Name an expensive speaker and I can name five people who get great mixes out of them. Speakers are personal, and they’re just tools. Think of NS10’s as your basic Stanley hammer, and the S3A’s as a pneumatic air hammer.
“I’m lucky in that a lot of my friends - really good engineers - come into Larrabee, and I get to hear them, and the equipment they bring in, in real world situations. Several of my friends started showing up with S3A’s. I’d see them sitting on a console and get curious. My former assistant, Jaycen Joshua, who now co-mixes with me on my projects, became enamored of the ADAMs and forced me to use them. Now I’m addicted!
“What I like most about these speakers is the confidence they give me. When I listen to a playback I know that the sound I’m creating will translate out into the real world, and that’s pretty much all you need from a speaker. If the government mandated that all consumers had to listen to music on one brand of speakers mixing would be the easiest thing in the world! But there’s such a great deal of choice, and that creates a dilemna in our profession. I have to mix for my friend who has a set of speakers that cost $70,000, for the people who listen exlusively on their iPods, and also for the $3 speakers that are out there. Not easy!
“One thing that really helps make the S3A’s such a usable product is the way they’re designed with regard to low end frequencies. The concept of having two woofers, one for the low end only, combined with the bass porting... ADAM must be doing something right! There is some seriously accurate reproduction of the low end going on with the S3A’s. It’s not a Jeep low end, which I’m not knocking; I love pulling up to a traffic light and hearing one of our mixes blasting!
“As much as I’m a fan of the ADAM S3A’s - and I am - they’re the only speaker I’ve ever endorsed, and I’ve been approached by manufacturers many times in the past. I’m really concerned about the young kids who want to get into our field, so I say to them: don’t believe the hype that abounds in this industry! You don’t need to go out and buy a pair of S3A’s, Auspergers, or any other high end speaker set. Your skills might not be developed to the point where they’ll make a real difference. After all, you don’t want your first car to be a Ferrari. Learn your craft, go to the record store, get your hands on every record you love, and study them. Try and find the things about your taste that are unique. When your opportunity comes to show the world what you have, then go get the equipment - including a pair of S3A’s - that will help you create the sound you’re hearing in your head. When you’re ready the S3A’s will help enormously. They’re the best you can get at this time.”
Larrabee Studios North: www.larrabeestudios.com