Audeze chats with producer, engineer and acoustic designer Christos Tsantilis

November 21, 2023

Christos Tsantilis is a Producer/Engineer/Acoustic designer living in New York City. He shares his long Musical/Engineering journey in the quest to find that special magic.

Christos Tsantilis in the studio with his Audeze LCD-MX4 headphones

"Both Pairs, The LCD-5 and the LCD-MX4, have been incorporated into my mix (critical listening) phases and for sheer listening pleasure! I find the accuracy and musicality sublime!"  - Christos Tsantilis
Here's our chat with Christos:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of? 

Throughout my 35+ year career, I’ve worked with so many wonderful producers, artists, and musicians (1000s of them, both with Major Labels and Indies) that it’s virtually impossible to name favorites per say. When I do scroll through some of my highlights on my discography and see works completed with various artists/producers named below, I realize where all my time has been spent. Hahaha! IN THE STUDIO!!!!! Here's a quick list of clients: Danny Brown, Q-tip (Tribe Called Quest), P. Diddy, Just Blaze, Saigon, Pharoahe Monch, Big Pun, Terror Squad, Cuban Link, Ghostface Killa, Mos Def, The Roots, Beatnuts, Roc Marciano, Mary j Blige, The UN, Queen Latifa, Remi Ma, MOP, Virtue, David Banner, Craig David, Dead Prez, Hip Hop Project, Ian Lloyd, Lil Flip, Dj Enough. Casa De Leones, Funkmaster Flex, X-ecutioners with features including Linkin Park and Large Professor, 4cast, Missy Eliot, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Wu-Tang Clan, Mob Deep, Patti Labelle, Skillz, Clipse, Pharrell, Nonchalant, KA, George Clinton, Fat Joe, Mase, NAH, Foreigner, Yes, Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz, Force MDs, Jerry Gonzales, Styles, Fabolous, Pink, 50 Cent, Bobby Robinson With Spoony G…. Bobby Robinson was a legend that really did help introduce Hip-hop to the world.

My recent music releases were done in the name of fun and INDIE! Gathering a bunch of great musicians and artists and getting back to basics, throwing out the business/technical aspect of it, and creating music for the fun of it just Iike I did when I was a young boy filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and a great love for music. Feel free to take a listen to and watch the animated vids:

NoSuga - ShinyGun (Feat. PeteOh, TonyHooks & Ray58 [Official Music Video] on YouTube

Fly Away More Bass! - MixByStos on YouTube

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

I wear many hats! I jump around multiple projects all at the same time and stay very busy these days, from studio acoustic designs:

The new Republic Records UMG NYC studios featuring a Reference Dolby Atmos Room, a Secondary Dolby Atmos Room, and a Stereo mix room (the LA Dolby Atmos Project in motion).

Teaming up with Mauricio Salazar (the architect), Ken Capton, Chris Harmaty for the build, and Visual artist J.Margulis in creating a one of a kind futuristic Acoustic diffuser, to bring forth a vision that Ken (Super Engineer) Duro Provided! Currently Designing a New Mix room for Preston Prizzie Reid, a new mix room for Jason Sul Ki Son (His credits include: Bryan Adams, Lil Wayne, Coi Leray, Chief Keef & etc. Multiple hush hush projects in NY, Chicago, and Ohio. Shhhh! 

Speaker tuning for many clients including my new client Daniel Caesar!

Producing and Mixing (currently working on a pop single which includes wonderful musicians, writers, and singers. We have Zev Kats on Bass WOW what an amazing discography this man has... that’s because he rocks!! Chuck Sabo on drums, Chuck’s got some chops! Amazing! Great job Chuck, One take…. just like me!

Check his discography woot woot! On keys we have David Cohen! Lovin it! Cohen was named the Academy of Country Music’s 2017 Keyboard Player of the Year. Most recently he won the 2018 Music Row All Star Musician Award. My Buds jumping in as Co-Producer and Writer: Blair Wells (Multitalented Musician/Producer/Engineer!!! Credits include Black Thought, Tribe called Quest, Q-Tip, Solange, Pusha T, Chemical Brothers, JayZ, Kanye Just to name a few, Katia Kadet (Babykat), Grammy Nominated Songwriter (411: Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige), and a multitude of other very talented and creative individuals!!!!!

And now I’ve added on the “designing of Studio equipment HAT” as well!

One project in motion includes teaming up with Equitech Balanced Power Solutions and creating a signature series “X.Stos” super-duper balanced power isolation rackmount unit that's guaranteed to make any equipment plugged into it sound a whole LOT better! We are focusing on the internal workings to incorporate the latest tech and processes which not only lower the noise floor to bring forth clarity, but impart a richer, smoother, more neutral sound into professional recording, mixing, and mastering environments of the near future!

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

Well, my family and friends who were musically inclined broadened my horizons from a very early age. Once I caught the music bug, it was all over! There was NO TURNING BACK! As a youngster I listened to music that was popular at the time and music that was popular from past generations as well. Here are a few examples: From the roaring 20s Jazz scene “Ain’t Misbehavin’”—Fats Waller, Willie the Lion Smith - Fingerbuster, Louis Armstrong , the50s Nat king cole, Frank Sanatra, Elvis, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Fats domino! the 60s- the Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Monkeeys70s- Marvin Gay, the Bee Gees, Jackson 5, Eric Clapton, Donna Summer, Abba artists I listened to included, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Hans Zimmer, Peter Gabrial, David Bowie, Big Daddy Kane, Boston Pops Orchestra, Andreas Vollenweider, Beastie Boys, KRS-One, Rakim, Run-D.M.C...The Smiths, Foreigner, Journey, Gun, Guns N' Roses…The list is endless!!!!!!!

I was constantly amazed by all the musical colors that would intertwine with acoustic imagery and depth as the singers and musicians gelled together to bring forth a musical presentation of a particular story. I’d find myself engrossed in the music as I learned to focus and hone into the different aspects that existed within the song itself. Throughout my own musical (engineering) journey, as the years have gone by, the knowledge and experience that I have picked up along the way has helped me create that kind of magic that first caught my attention to drive me towards music/engineering in the first place.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical/Engineering life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

The most influential and motivational aspect throughout my life has always been the emotional feeling one experiences when listening to a wonderful song that has been executed beautifully, both musically and technically. And when I say technically, I mean the engineering aspect of it as well. It’s those moments that I experienced when listening to certain songs throughout my life that pushed me forward! With multiple amazing engineers to look up to back then like Bruce Swedien, Bill Putnam, Rupert Neve, Tom Scholz, George Massenberg, Joe meek and many more.

Feel free to check out some of their history in this article.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

My biggest frustration throughout my career would be that moment when I would hear a mix outside of the studio and found that the translation was way off! That always drove me crazy. That reason alone was the reason for forging ahead in designing rooms that yielded better results in translation and therefore lowering frustration levels not only for me but all the engineers that work in them.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I have so many favorites when it comes to studio equipment from classic old to innovative new. But not every toy fits musically with a particular song so I choose wisely. At the moment as I’m working on this single, hardware-wise I’ve been utilizing a custom Sontec clone eq as one of my favorites and a custom Nightpro Eq, The Buzz Mastering eq is awesome too! I toggle between the Dangerous compressor, IGS mastering compressor, and the Manley vari mu. A great multiband compressor is the Maselec MLA-4 for my bus compression and for re-tracking I also like the Mohog 1176 fet compressor amongst many others that I’m using. Love my summing box with the Neumann line pres and for different flavors I choose my custom melcor pres, or Neves or Grace etc. Digital Outboard: Waves, Weiss, Zsys! I also toggle between converters and usually choose between Prism Sound, Cranes Song, Lavry, or RME depending on the song that I’m working on. DAWs: Avid Protools, Sound Blade, Waveform. Software plugins... wow... I’d say Brainworx bx_masterdesk, sonnox, ozone, the new George Masasenberg eq, fabfilter, still use waves, uad has a great collection and the long list goes on. I don’t just focus on gear as cables make sonic differences too so I find myself switching out Custom cables multiple times during a re-tracking or mix. For monitoring, I recommend ATC, PMC to my clients that are building pro mix/mastering rooms. For my own mix room, I’ve spent quite a bit of time building the perfect monitors to match my own taste and needs. A combination of drivers and amps that create a quad active system accompanied by great custom cables. The result is great! Smooth top end, articulate mids, Lo end for days… reaching down to 15hz. Those are my secret weapons! hehe!

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Never stop learning! Never give up! Stay focused! Stay motivated! Be patient! Build your confidence! Accept the lessons of life as there are pearls of wisdom to be taken from them.

I have a certain memory that sticks out in my mind. But first a bit of a backstory: I spent the first 15 years in my career constantly working in every studio that existed in the New York State area (including a few that I owned). Long hours no holidays little sleep (classic engineer story) back in the early 2000s one day I was walking down a NYC street, passing by Tower Records (a time when record stores still existed) and noticing that every single poster promoting an album on display was of an album I had worked on in one way or another. That day was a good day as it was a reminder that all the hard work, time, and effort in the studio was now in the public eye and had paid off. That moment taught me that nothing we do toward reaching our goals is ever wasted as eventually a culmination of knowledge, wisdom, and experience will yield results.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

True story: My first recollection of seeing and hearing headphones goes back to the 70s when I went to visit family and my uncle was wearing what looked like a contraption on his head that consisted of two very large metal plastic covers over his ears. That device had a long cord that attached to a receiver. He was focused on listening to a song by KC & The Sunshine Band - That's The Way (I Like It). It was quite a funny scene as he was doing pushups while wearing (at the time) a very fashionable tight shirt and bell bottom jeans! Hahaha! Anyway, he asked if I wanted to hear music through that contraption and I said, “Heck yeah!” I put those headphones on and it altered my reality. I couldn't take them off as I just wanted to hear that song over repeatedly. It was awesome!!!!!!

Headphones have been a part of my working routine since I started working as an engineer. Utilizing them for both tracking sessions, mix sessions, and quality control (especially during my Sony days going through 1000s of songs to make sure there were no errors before releasing them to the streaming companies and the general public). And, finally, let’s not forget for pure enjoyment too!

For tracking sessions, I always make it a point to utilize the same pair of headphones the artist and musicians wear so I could hear exactly what they are hearing. That way my headphone mix translates in a way that both I and everyone else could relate to as well. It streamlines the recording session!

For editing and quality control, I find headphones very useful as I can identify bad edits, noisy passages, misalignment of vocals and musical instruments, tuning and harmonics etc!

For mixing, I use multiple headphones for not only hearing the mix per se but judging translation of m/s and the overall gel of the mix including the overall tonality, and how my mix compares to multiple released songs that would possibly play before and after the song I’m mixing.

Do you have any additional comments or stories you want to share?

One never knows who they will run into while in sessions as genres create a multicultural experience!

For example, while working on the U.N. album (Hip-hop Genre), One day we were wrapping up a session at Electric Lady Studios in NYC. It was late from what I remember probably about 3am or so. The A/R Schott Free comes over to me and mentions that Axl Rose was in the neighborhood and was coming by to take a listen. Sure enough Axl and his girlfriend walk through the door and we took time listening to the UN songs as we drank a few beverages and talked about the project. Axl roamed around the studio a bit, sat down at the piano and played a melody or 2, came back into the control room and hung out a bit more etc. It was great to have such artists from 2 completely different genres meld into one environment. Great vibes!

While working on the Dead Prez album “Let’s Get Free” I had found that The Battery studios K2 room (NYC) was very enjoyable to mix in, so we had set up shop there to mix the album. Battery studios was home to many artists so it wasn't unusual to run into them as it was a multiroom facility. So there we were in the K2 Room as Britney Spears was in Studio A. I’d bump into her in the hallway as we all were running around like chickens without heads to finish projects and meet deadlines! Once again those moments always were fun to experience as having different artists in one hub created such great and cool vibes.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

Both Pairs, The LCD-5 and the LCD-MX4, have been incorporated into my mix (critical listening) phases and for sheer listening pleasure! I find the accuracy and musicality sublime!

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

Several projects including my next single and critical listening of tuning forks that we are testing to see/hear the differences between several metal processes, that the tuning forks have undergone, that do in fact change timber, time of ringing, etc.

Christos Tsantilis's Audeze LCD-MX4 headphones