2012 was a big year for mixer F. Reid Shippen, having taken home two statues out of his seven Grammy nominations.
Shippen mixes in his Nashville studio and utilizes the sonic fingerprint of several pieces of Dangerous Music hardware.
His two Grammy wins this year are for Best Country Duo/Group Performance with his mix of the song “Pontoon” for Little Big Town, and Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for mixing TobyMac’s “Eye On It” album.
Shippen is also nominated for Audio Engineer of the Year at the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards in April. All Shippen’s mixes use the Dangerous Music products as key ingredients to get the right sound for each project.
Shippen’s studio setup prominently features the Dangerous 2-Bus summing amp in conjunction with his highly modified SSL 4000E/G+.
“The SSL is for that classic killer sound,” relates Shippen, “but some stuff doesn’t need that, and some stuff even gets hurt by it. I use the Dangerous to blend those sounds in with the mix buss of the console.”
The Dangerous Monitor ST and DAC ST and Additional Switching System are his studio’s total monitor control and listening reference, and he recently added the Dangerous BAX EQ.
“The Bax EQ is an awesome piece of gear. I’ve been looking for years, maybe a decade, for an effective hi-pass filter that can take the infrasonic muck out of a mix, without destroying what’s going on in the bottom end. And the BAX EQ is the only one that I’ve ever found that can do that. Add a little bang back in, right in the kick drum area, like 74HZ, and it’s perfect. It’s killer.”
Hearing a clear picture of what his mixes sound like is everything for Shippen,
“All of my monitoring goes through the Monitor ST with the Dangerous DAC, and in my opinion every studio should have one of these. It’s not an option to monitor through the SSL. I was just tracking at another studio recently and I was desperately wishing that that I could have brought my Monitor ST, because I would really prefer to listen through that than through the console. I have three sets of speakers that I rotate through,” he says referring to the ST’s ability to switch between up to three pairs of speakers.
“I tried every single summing box, and chose the Dangerous 2-Bus,” states Shippen. “It’s designed by (Dangerous Music electronics designer) Chris Muth, and I’ve always really respected his work. I know that I can walk into (Greg) Calbi’s mastering room at Sterling Sound and there would be Dangerous gear in the rack – that gives me a lot of confidence.
“It does what it’s supposed to do and doesn’t get in the way, which is really nice. If it’s good enough for Ted Jensen and Greg Calbi, it’s good enough for anybody.”
“The Monitor ST and DAC ST are invaluable,” adds Shippen. “Just being able to have things come back to the console so I can listen to refs, and listen to the computer playback, and have it all at my fingertips. It made setting up the studio really easy because of the separate subwoofer controls for level, for example – which is really great.
“The Monitor ST and DAC ST has an elegant architecture, it works, it does what it’s supposed to and it’s dead-on reliable.”
Although Shippen has both the Dangerous 2-Bus and an SSL 4000, he has specific uses for each to get the sound of the mix of tracks he wants.
“The 4K that I have is really good at certain things like rock drums, and electric guitars, and basses and stuff like that.,” he explains. “When you want to impart character, color, or you want to do some damage, or if you need to do triage on tracks, the 4K has a character to it.
“There’s other things you don’t want to pound through the SSL, you don’t want to put low kick drums, or samples that have already been EQ’d or certain things that don’t need the processing. I also use mix buss compression on my SSL, and sometimes I want stuff to not go through the 2-mix compressor.
“So the Dangerous 2-Bus is basically the last step in the chain right before my converters that allows me to take a feed from the console and take a feed from Pro Tools and decide what gets treated and what doesn’t, and then the Dangerous 2-Bus sums everything together and puts it into my Lavry Gold converter. The 2-Bus is super well designed, it’s super trustworthy and it does what it’s supposed to do.”
“There are certain types of music that work better through the Dangerous 2-Bus than through a console, certain types of pop music. I don’t want character; I just want what it is. I can send that to the 2-Bus and have what I want,” concludes Shippen.
Remembering his first use of the BAX EQ, Shippen notes, “It does certain really good things to the low end that I got quickly got addicted to. I tried it on a mix and once I heard what it could do on the stereo Buss I said ‘Oh man, I need to revisit a couple of the other mixes that I’ve done and put this on all of them’ – and I actually ended up doing that! It’s been on every project since: The Afters, India.Arie, All Star Weekend and Dierks Bentley.”
Getting into more details of why he uses and loves the Monitor ST and its accompanying DAC, Shipped explains, “I’m able to have the outputs of converters, the output of my print system, the output of my computer, and an iPod doc, all available at a touch of a button on the remote.”
As an example of using the DAC ST’s multiple digital input capabilities with simple switching at the Monitor ST remote control, Shippen offers, “A client will send me a rough mix and I’ll line up the rough mix in the session so I can switch back and forth right from the ST remote between their rough mix and my playback so I can see if instruments are missing or what they intended to do on a certain section – that’s invaluable. I use that a million times a day.”
And Shippen trusts and likes the sound of the DAC ST, “I always monitor through my conversion, so having the Monitor ST with the DAC ST, means that everything that I listen to goes through the same reference DAC. It’s the baseline for any kind of playback. Everything goes through the same D-to-A. I’ve listened to a bunch of D-to-As, there aren’t any DACs out there that are any where near better than the DAC ST when you factor in the cost and the functionality.”
When asked if there’s anything else he’d like to add about Dangerous Music, Shippen says, “I think it bears mentioning that the customer service is fantastic. It’s pretty rare to have a company where you can get a hold of the principals, and they care about problem solving and they are accessible and interested.”
F.Reid Shippen is a multi-Grammy winning mixer, engineer and producer who has recorded or mixed many top artists including Jonny Lang, Death Cab for Cutie, Steven Curtis Chapman, Little Big Town, Flyleaf, MercyMe, Eric Church, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, India.Arie, tobymac, Backstreet Boys and Chaka Khan.