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Intel Artist Profile: Nathaniel Kunkel

United States
8 October 2007 — Have computer, will travel. That could easily be the calling card of Nathaniel Kunkel, who established Studio Without Walls (SWW) some years ago in order to take the studio to the client. Kunkel can set up his innovative, portable and modular system anywhere, such as residences—Sting’s Malibu home being one notable example—hotel rooms, soundstages, garages, trucks; in fact, anywhere that he likes and where the client can feel comfortable and be creative.

Kunkel’s work has brought him plenty of industry recognition, including an Emmy for “A&E in Concert: Sting: Sacred Love” in 2004. The performance was recorded and mixed in surround by Kunkel, using his mobile SWW system, and has also been released on DVD as “Inside: The Songs of Sacred Love.;#8221; Kunkel has also won Grammy awards for his work with Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, The Trio (Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton) and Robin Williams, and has received recognition for his innovative surround mixes with Surround Music Awards for projects with Graham Nash, James Taylor and Insane Clown Posse.

His talents are not limited to engineering and mixing; Kunkel, who served his apprenticeship with one of the best, George Massenburg, beginning in his teens, also offers production, authoring, mastering and studio design services. In addition, his electrical engineering experience frequently brings equipment manufacturers to his door looking for his assistance as a consultant.

In 2006, the man on the move adopted an Intel-based Mac system as the center of his SWW system. “It helps me work faster and ignore the processor limitation for RTAS processing,” he shares. Since then, he says, he has used his Intel-based rig with Lyle Lovett, The Police, Chris Issak, Miranda Lambert, Graham Nash, I Nine and Diana Ross.

SWW is, not surprisingly, based around a Pro Tools system, which has become the industry standard. “One hundred percent of all the files I get to mix arrive on Pro Tools,” reports Kunkel, who also owns Digidesign’s ICON integrated production environment. “The automation implementation on that worksurface is just stellar,” he comments.

He adds, “Jon Connolly, Jerry Antonelli, Rich Nevens and many others at Digidesign take really good care of me. Their customer support is another reason I am pretty much an exclusive Pro Tools mixer.”

What other software does he like? “My favorite plug-in is the Massenburg MDW hi-res parametric EQ. Between that and my TC Electronic System 6000 my favorites are covered. I also really love [Spectrasonics] Atmosphere, [Synthology] Ivory and [Digidesign] Strike as far as soft synths go.” The Intel-based system certainly supports plenty of plug-ins, he notes: “All five cards are regularly filled on my Intel-Mac.”

How the SWW system gets used varies from project to project, says Kunkel: “I have no set way of working.” Projects can certainly vary widely even just in terms of tracks and inputs. “The biggest projects can require over 300 tracks, in which case I will use two rigs. But that is pretty rare; it only happens one or twice a year. For the most part, projects top out at 90 or so tracks.”

Kunkel typically records at 96Hz/24 bits whenever possible, and favors Lynx Aurora 16 converters with an LT-HD card, which allows a direct interface to the Pro Tools|HD setup. “I think it is a great converter and I am able to bypass the 192 altogether,” he explains. “I also feel that the fact I use a Brainstorm DCD-8 clock source helps a lot.”

But for Kunkel, the music is all-important and the tools are simply a means to achieve the ends. “I am a bit more focused on the music I work on than the software,” he comments. “I will try anything but don’t crutch on any particular plugs that much.”

Nathaniel Kunkel, Studio Without Walls: www.myspace.com/studiowithoutwalls
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