March 24, 2023
Mat Mainhard is a mix engineer and producer based in Los Angeles. For the past decade he has worked on everything ‘mixing’, from broadcast, film scores, to mixing records from all kinds of genres. In recent years he has been focusing mostly on working with pop and alternative music.
As a mixing engineer, I get to work with the artist, producer, label, etc. to finalize a record. It’s the moment the producer signs off on their work and it’s my responsibility to come with fresh ears and enhance their work.
By being the youngest in my family, I had not much of a choice but to listen to whatever my older brother was playing! I grew up mostly on British rock, from The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Clapton, Pink Floyd, to Oasis and U2.
I think a big transition from “I like music” to being completely obsessed happened in my early teens when a friend showed me Guns N Roses. Hearing the way Slash played that guitar shook me to the core. I had no option but to dive in! The next big transition happened from being a musician to falling in love with audio engineering. After playing for so many years, I realized that sound moved me emotionally more than the playing itself. When I discovered that by shaping sound and frequencies you can influence your emotions and the way you feel, it was another headfirst dive that made me fall in love with music all over again.
I think the main challenge/frustration as an engineer especially in the early days is dealing with bad translation from your system. The famous “car test” experience when to your dismay you realize your mix sounds nothing like how you heard it in your room. Technology has improved a lot through the years and also resources online on how to treat your room, acoustics, etc. have become more available. But nothing still can fully fix a bad sounding room. And that’s where accurate, great sounding headphones come in!
I love my PMC speakers and SSL console, they’re both not just great sounding pieces of gear but also somehow inspiring. Walking in the studio every day and getting to work on great sounding gear is just the best feeling in the world. My new favorite tool has been my new Fairchild 670, it’s handmade in the UK to the original specs, they source original transformers from the 50s/60s. It’s incredible.
Invest in good monitoring! Gear etc. can be cool but nothing really matters if your listening environment isn’t accurate. From acoustic treatment to good converters to good cables, good speakers and headphones, that’s the best investment you can make.
Headphones are an important piece of my workflow, for two reasons. One, they give me a fresh perspective that’s not influenced by the acoustics in my room, and two, a huge part of the music consumers listen to music in headphones so I need to make sure my mixes sound good there too.
Streaming technology has revolutionized access to our studios. I can access my studio and gear in California remotely from anywhere in the world! Recently I was out of town and a client hit me up asking for a few adjustments on a mix. I was able to remotely access my studio and gear on my laptop, and using headphones do all the adjustments from my hotel’s balcony in a matter of minutes!
These headphones have become part of my daily workflow, and I find myself checking mixes on both of them (LCD-MX4 and MM-500). They give me great perspective! The LCD-MX4 is just stunning, I don't know if I've ever heard dynamics/depth in headphones like these before. The low-end extension and clarity also, probably the best I've heard on headphones. Also, I'm not sure if you guys hear that a lot, but I find the MX4 way easier to power than other headphones in the same level - I use it usually on my nice questyle amp, but even in simpler amps it still feels effortless! Recently I tried a couple different 'room emulation' softwares that had eq profiles for the MX4 and it's amazing how easy those things work with the MX4 since the headphones already provide amazing extension and dynamics.
Now the MM-500 has a fantastic midrange and reveals stuff that sometimes I didn't find as noticeable on speakers especially in the high mids. I like that it feels lighter too, a bit easier on my neck :) It has a really interesting overall curve that doesn't sound like any of my speakers and that's actually super helpful and gives me great perspective. Also, it's great to listen to in low volume, the way it reacts and it has its own personality, it almost feels like I got a new set of speakers.