“I work too many hours,” laughed Ariel Borujow, chief recording and mix engineer at New York City’s now-famous Stadium Red studios.
With fifteen years spent in front of the monitors, Borujow has worked with Kanye West, The Black Eyed Peas, Faith Evans, J-Lo, and countless others. His efforts, coupled with his knack for transforming whatever crosses his path into aural magic, have earned the young engineer multiple platinum albums and a Grammy nomination.
Nevertheless, Borujow is hardly content to rest on his laurels. Although he does sometimes take a day off, putting in a six-day week instead of his usual seven, on the days he does work, it’s never less than ten hours. And if there’s ever a dip in the frenzy at Stadium Red, Borujow puts in time at his moonlighting gig, delivering mixes for Fox broadcasting.
With deadlines looming and a finely-calibrated sense for what it takes for a mix to become a hit, he was glad to recently discover Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip, an eminently usable plug-in that simultaneously delivers an “out-of-the-box” sound with “in-the-box” convenience.
“I’m very picky when it comes to plug-in equalizers and compressors,” Borujow said flatly. “I find that almost every plug-in EQ does a lousy job of boosting, especially high end. The high-end boost from the typical plug-in sounds brittle, shrill, and not at all musical.”
He contrasts that with hardware equalizers, which tend to sound much more musical, and although he doesn’t hesitate to bring signals out of the box (in fact he uses analog summing from Dangerous), it does slow things down to bring project-specific signals out. Not only does the patching take time in the moment, it makes documenting a mix and then later recalling it much more time consuming and error prone.
“The great advantage of using plug-ins is their convenience,” he explained.
On a tip, Borujow downloaded the Metric Halo ChannelStrip demo, available free from mhlabs.com.
“I got it a few weeks ago, and immediately I knew that I had to have it,” he said. “Now I’m using it on all my mixes.”
In a nutshell, Borujow finds that the sonic signature of the ChannelStrip plug-in aligns with the favorable qualities he hears in hardware EQ and dynamics. “For example, I can crank the high end on ChannelStrip, and it sound great!”
In the first two weeks he had it, Borujow used ChannelStrip on mixes for Chiddy Bang (EMI), Saigon (Suburban Noise), and FNA (Atlantic), among many others.
“It’s mostly been drums and vocals,” he said. “I love the fact that Metric Halo provided a button that toggles the order of the processes; either the EQ first or the dynamics first. There’s no right way or wrong way to do it, so you really have to listen. With other plug-ins, you have to drag and drop to change the order, which isn’t very convenient for an A/B comparison. With ChannelStrip’s button, I just go back and forth and pick whichever sounds better. I also really like the ‘smooth’ and ‘warm’ settings on the compressor. When people come in with less-than-awesome recordings that they made in their home studios, the ‘warm’ function helps quite a bit.”