From the time he bought his first guitar in 1962, Michael Wagener had begun a musical journey that has propelled him to the top of the hard rock and heavy metal scene with more than 94 million album sales worldwide as a producer/engineer.
Michael was first introduced to the music business in 1972, working for a company designing and manufacturing studio and stage equipment. He parlayed this experience into building a 16-track studio and began honing his recording and mixing skills.
Major label success came in the 1980's, when Michael had the opportunity to work on Dokken's "Under Lock And Key", which sold over two million units. In short order, calls came in to mix records for a slew of industry stars, including Poison ("Look What The Cat Dragged In"), Metallica ("Master Of Puppets") and Megadeth ("So Far, So Good... So What"). The parade continued throughout the 90's, during which time he worked with Janet Jackson, Alice Cooper, Queen, Ozzy Osbourne and a host of top tier artists.
While working on the Accept album "Predator" in 1995, Michael fell in love with Nashville, where the album was being recorded, and shortly thereafter built WireWorld Studio, a fully digital facility where he has been based ever since. WireWorld Studio continues to be a bustling hub of work for Michael, who works with many of the latest bands and artists, as well as those we all know and love.
Having been closely involved in the technical side of recording and mixing from the very beginning, Michael has seen drastic changes in technology and processes over the years. He is always open to new gear, new sounds, and new ideas.
We recently caught up with Michael to talk about his choice of studio monitors.
Having been a producer, engineer, and mixer for many years, how have you seen monitor technology advance in that time. What are the upsides? Any downsides?
MW: There has been a constant refinement in the monitor technology. Modern monitors have to keep up with the higher requirements of digital systems. Monitors have to able to reproduce the full frequency range, so us producers/engineers can hear every little nuance in our mixes. The downside would be that with higher production cost for monitors comes a higher price tag – quality costs money.
Why did you choose EVE monitors? Which model(s) are you using? How do they help you achieve the sound you want?
MW: I use the EVE SC407 monitors. For a producer/engineer it's very important to have monitors that completely fit his/her listening environment and produce results that translate to the "outside world". EVE monitors do exactly that for me. They have a certain clarity that let's me hear every little detail in my mixes, which in turn translates very well to the "outside world".
Other than rock and metal, do you work on other genres of music?
MW: In my career I have done many different kinds of music from Hard Rock over Metal to full orchestras and Pop as well as recordings with just an acoustic guitar and vocals, in other words, from absolutely full range to minimal instrumentation.
Does the type of music you work on affect your choice in monitors? If so, what do you look for in a monitor?
MW: I don't think it's the type of music that I base my monitor choices on, it's more based on my personal taste and the room they are going to be used in. That said, I have taken the EVE monitors to different places for recording and they always have given me great results that I could trust and rely on. I feel monitors should faithfully reproduce the source, no matter what the source is.
How long is your typical mixing session?
MW: When I mix, I work for about 6 to 8 hours a day. I will always leave the mix up over night, even if it only took 4 hours to complete and listen with "fresh ears" first thing in the morning. I make a list of little changes and when I get to the studio, I stick to that list, make my changes, add the changes the band wants to make, take a break and then come back and finish up the mix. That sounds like a lot of time for a mix, but I charge by the song, not by time.
Harder genres of music have to sound good loud. Do you always mix at high volume or various volumes for various tasks during the process?
MW: I try to stay at a fairly low volume, around 95 dB SPL from beginning to end of the mix. In general I feel that if something sounds great at lower volume it will normally sound great at higher volume. The opposite is not always true. Sometimes at the end of the day I listen loud together with the band, which gets us exited about the mix.
Does the power handling in your EVE monitors give you enough headroom for recording and mixing?
MW: Yes, it is perfect for mixing. We normally record all the guitars and bass with the musicians being in the control room and they sometimes request extreme volume levels "for the feel". The SC407s are totally capable to produce volumes at which every musician feels great. I have to wear ear protection at those times; it's just too loud for me.
With every studio environment being different, has the DSP built in to EVE monitors helped you dial in your space?
MW: Yes, absolutely. The DSP was very helpful to fine-tune the SC407s to my room exactly. I use them vertically and had to slightly adjust the frequency range to my seat height.
Do you use a full range stereo system or a 2.1 system with a sub? How would you approach a mix with sub vs. without?
MW: Even though the SC407s are perfectly capable of producing all the low end needed in a mix, I do use a sub, because for one, the studio is set up for 5.1 mixing and on the other hand I want to hear if a musician kicks a mic stand which might produce a 30Hz bump.
Do you check your mixes on another system, like a car stereo, home stereo or ear buds?
MW: I stick with my SC407s; using different systems is very confusing to me. I will check in my office in the morning, which has another high-end system, but I don't compare on different systems when I am mixing. I trust my EVE SC407s.