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Manley Helps 10-Time Grammy Winner Gary Paczosa Turn Tracks Into Music

Utilizes Variable Mu limiter compressor as a critical link in the mixdown path.

By PSW Staff August 14, 2018

Left to right: Shani Gandhi, Parker Millsap and Gary Paczosa .

A 10-time Grammy winner for decades of work with Americana and bluegrass artists, Gary Paczosa continues to learn, create, and inspire. As a producer and engineer in the studio, as well as vice president of A&R for Rounder Records, he’s also a mentor to up-and-comers on both sides of the glass. One example: his former assistant engineer, Shani Gandhi, now collaborates with Paczosa frequently and shares billing with him on the engineering/production side.

Recently, the duo co-engineered and produced Other Arrangements, the third album from gospel-influenced roots artist Parker Millsap. Paczosa is also particularly proud of his ongoing work with bluegrass legend Alison Krauss (including mixing her latest album, Windy City) as well as progressive folk virtuoso Sarah Jarosz.

Paczosa frequently records and mixes in his personal studio, Minutia, in Nashville. While he prefers to work in Cubase, he’s highly attentive to the analog elements of the audio chain. And he relies on his Manley Labs Variable Mu limiter compressor as a critical link in the mixdown path.

“I constantly play with the gear and swap pieces out to make sure that I’m using the best equipment possible,” he says. “I’ve pretty much replaced everything else in the chain at some point, except for the Variable Mu. It always wins out.”

Paczosa was introduced to Variable Mu compression by George Massenburg about 10 years ago: “I was over at his studio listening to some of his mixes-I think he was mixing a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band record-and the compression felt just right. I figured if it was good enough for George, I needed to give it a try.”

Paczosa likens what he achieves with the Variable Mu to the impressive results he got when the late great Doug Sax mastered Paczosa’s mixes on the handbuilt proprietary gear in Sax’s legendary Mastering Lab. “Doug’s signal chain was so stunning,” he recounts. “It just glued it all together. When my mixes went through his signal path, it was the first time it felt like a record-like music and not just tracks and overdubs and edits that were sewn together. When I brought the Variable Mu to my place, I got a lot of that out of it. It was the first 2-mix compressor I had where I was hearing what I had gotten with Doug.”

“To me, besides being a killer 2-mix compressor, it sounds great on almost any acoustic instrument, especially when I’m trying to get more punch out of something,” he continues. “It smooths out the transients but still sounds transparent; it’s perfect for that. I love it on acoustic guitar, piano, and vocal. I’ve also gotten some great results with it on upright bass.”

Paczosa says the only problem with keeping the Variable Mu in his mixdown chain is that the unit is not always readily accessible during tracking. “I forget to use it when I’m recording because it’s in my 2-bus rack-I constantly have to remind myself that I have this great piece of gear sitting there.”

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