Audeze speaks to mastering engineer Maor Appelbaum

Maor Appelbaum is an internationally acclaimed mastering engineer who's worked with the likes of Faith No More, Yes, Meatloaf, Eric Gales, Walter Trout,  Dream Theater, Mr Bungle, Starset, Il Nino, Yngwie Malmsteen, Armored Saint,  Sepultura, Halford, The Gathering and many more. Maor has written presets and collaborated with various plugin companies such as Waves, Brainworx/Plugin Alliance, Softube, Arturia, Leapwing Audio, Pulsar Audio and more. He's also guested and lectured at various trade shows such as NAMM, AES and in trade schools such as SAE, M.I. and Los Angeles Film School. He is co-creator of the analog hardware THE OVEN which is modeled and emulated by Brainworx (Plugin Alliance).

 

"I was instantly blown away by the clarity, detail and depth that I could hear (with the LCD-5)."  - Maor Applebaum
Here's our talk with Maor:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I am proud of most of the mastering works I have done so there are more projects that I am proud and honored to be part of, but working with iconic artists such as Faith No More, Yes, Meatloaf, Sepultura, Malmsteen and Rob Halford (HALFORD) were for sure the highlights.

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

As a Mastering Engineer, my job is making the songs translate better on the various formats and playback systems, bringing them to the next level on an artistic and technical level. That is accomplished by me bringing an objective and fresh perspective to the project.

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

I was and still am a big fan of so many music styles. I started my interest in music at a very young age. I basically liked anything from classical music to rock to pop and to metal and everything in between.
I am open to the various music combinations that developed throughout the years. I am a huge fan of the whole sonic imprint of the music. It is a big part of what I do for a living and like,  so I am always interested in the correlation of the sound stamp of the song and the different styles and eras of music.

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

Any person or band that I had worked with, became a part of my growth as an engineer and affected how I hear things on a sonic and musical level.
You learn from the good and bad situations and you improve as you take the feedback to a place where you want to develop.
My influences were the people who paved the way for music and sound technology, so I thank them all for being there and bringing us what they worked hard to discover and achieve, and we carry the torch forward to the next in line.

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?

Those things can happen more than we wish them to, every song that comes in has its own challenges and the process of figuring it out and making it work is part of what we do on a daily basis.
After so many years of working, I had learned that there will always be something that we had never encountered before and that we need to be patient with and willing to overcome that obstacle from a point of growth.
Having that mindset helped me a lot. It took a lot of years to have that sink in, It's about being more versatile and flexible.

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 am a big user of hybrid systems. Utilizing both analog and digital hardware and software.
I find that although digital technology has improved quantum leaps in the past 10 years, there are still things in the analog domain that can bring some "magic" to the table and are still needed in my workflow and preference.
I have custom built and modified analog hardware which I like using a lot in my mastering. For example "THE OVEN" and "THE STOVE" which are a collaboration between HendyAmps and me. They are analog tube & solid state coloration and tone shaping boxes that can make the sound feel more
"Alive" and upfront with a nice sheen to them.

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

"The harder you work - the luckier you get."  It's important to put the extra time, extra miles and extra effort as it helps you stretch yourself and pushes you to your limits. It's like doing sports - practice as much as you can and develop the skills. Another thing is being open to feedback , even if you don't like or agree with it, it's important to be open minded and take from it something and learn.

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

I have been listening to headphones ever since I got introduced to music and for work to do some critical listening and tests on certain elements in the workflow, like when I need to hear how it will translate in a more "close-up situation" such as the listener who has high quality headphones.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

I have tested a bunch of headphones that are in the current pro audio market, I can't say I had tested everything that is out there but I did check a good amount of them. Some are good, some are better and some are not.
When I got to test the LCD-5 I was instantly blown away by the clarity, detail and depth that I could hear.
I listened to masters I had worked on in the past year and it was amazing how I could hear the inner details and what I had heard on great and expensive speakers, just in a compact way.
I connected them to a good headphone amp and it made me so excited, I had a huge smile on my face.
Now I can listen to the masters I work on with headphones but still have the detail and depth as I am hearing on the big speakers. This is an amazing tool that goes beyond the scope of "just being headphones." This is like having an expensive set of magnifying lenses, but in audio.

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

I am currently working on so many projects in all styles from all over the world (it's sometimes a problem to mention the artists I am currently working with as they don't want me to be the person to tell the world what they are working on until they release it).
I am also working on writing presets for some plug-in companies and developing analog hardware gear as well.