Audeze interviews mixing and mastering engineer Daniel Holsinger

Daniel Holsinger is a mixing and mastering engineer. For over 15 years, Daniel has made an impression on the music industry. He has worked with many artists, including John Legend, Fabolous, Jeff Berlin, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Chick Corea, and several labels like Universal Music Group, Island Def Jam, and many independents. Daniel is also the assistant for the legendary Grammy-winning mixer Michael Brauer, who has mixed records for Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Coldplay, John Mayer, and many more.

 Daniel Holsinger in his studio with his Audeze MM-500 headphones

"The MM-500s are insanely good. Audeze and Manny hit these out of the park... Everything is coming together much smoother and faster because of them." - Daniel Holsinger
Here's our talk with Daniel:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I would have to say a highlight for me was getting to record John Legend for a Fabolous record. I was as nervous as hell but still managed to deliver an incredible-sounding vocal to the producer. If I remember correctly, he went through a Neve 1073 into an LA-2A. I remember he had outstanding vocal control and microphone technique; the preamp and compressor were really only adding some color.

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

90% of the time, I am mixing. It's what I love to do. It is a great feeling when you get to take a song to the next level, and the client is blown away by the outcome. Some of my clients like that I can handle multiple aspects of their music and enjoy the familiarity of having the same trusted person working with them throughout their project. That's when I end up doing the mastering as well. One of my favorite ones of recent was a song by an American Idol contestant Brandon Diaz called Smile. He is such a kind-hearted guy, and working with him was an absolute pleasure.

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

I am a massive fan of all types of music. When I was younger, my grandfather listened to Fats Waller, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong on-road trips in the car. So I already had an interest in music by the time I picked up an instrument. It just happened to be a trumpet and naturally started playing in jazz bands and orchestras. I got to play in some fantastic venues, most notably The Royal Albert Hall. Later in life, I developed a love for hip hop, which makes sense in hindsight because of my jazz background. Groove was and still is something I connect with the most in music. Growing up, I mixed a lot of hip-hop, but I never wanted to be cornered into one sound, so I forced myself to search out projects in nearly every genre. I want to be able to mix anything. To this day, I have worked on EDM, Indian, Americana, Indonesian Pop, Hip Hop, Rap, Latin, Pop...well, you get the picture.

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

Oddly enough, it was learning to record in the studio at Kingston University (now Tony Visconti's place). I had always performed up till that point, but University is where I fell in love with being in the studio. I remember it like it was yesterday, a feeling I will never forget. As soon as I walked into the control room, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I remember playing with all the gear making everything sound absolutely terrible. But I didn't care. I loved every minute of it. I was officially a gear addict that day.

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?

It seems obvious now, but when I started mixing, I would add plugin after plugin to a mix and completely overdo it, carving out frequencies because my brain thought that was what it needed. My mixes would quickly fall apart and I would get lost in analysis paralysis. In reality, I wasn't listening; I was thinking. When you listen to the music, it will tell you what it needs. My approach now is to push up the faders, find a good balance, and then start listening to how the song works as a whole. As I learned how to listen, I could rely more on my instincts. Mixes used to take me 1-2 days. Now it's about 2-6 hours.

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 fallen in love with the Black Box Analog Designs HG-2. That thing is so musical, and it works on everything.

An LA-2A is also fantastic. Embarrassingly I didn't get them when I started mixing. Now they are a go-to. I love the UAD LA-2A's; they have a great tone and 3 or 4 great versions. I love the ‘Gray' one.

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

Don't get frustrated with the process of learning how to mix. It's not always easy and can take a long time. When I get those eureka moments, and the work I have put in pays off, it makes it all worth it.

The other thing is not to get too comfortable. Keep pushing! I find the times when I push myself are when great things happen.

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

I like to start my mixes on my mains, but I will routinely check my mix on headphones. It is like putting the mix under a microscope. If I am on the road, they are my only connection to the music and I would often wait to get back to the studio to finish a mix or master. That's where Audeze comes in: I have been looking for a pair of headphones that I can rely on unquestionably. Until now, I have always needed the security of getting back to my room. I don't feel that anymore.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

The MM-500s are insanely good. Audeze and Manny hit these out of the park. I quickly found that they were familiar in a way I hadn't experienced before. They have helped me approach detailed work much faster (like mouth clicks and clean-up). Everything is coming together much smoother and faster because of them. Aside from that, I have loved using them to start mixes with, which is something I would never have done before.

Daniel Holsinger's Audeze MM-500 headphones in his studio