Audeze talks with engineer Dane Taylor

February 06, 2024

Dane Taylor is a recording and mixing engineer from Cape Town, South Africa. He's worked on numerous award-winning and nominated projects during the past 15 years. He was awarded a South African Music Award (SAMA) for Best Engineered Record of the Year in 2017 and is once again nominated for Best Engineered Record of the Year in 2023. Dane is also passionate about sharing knowledge with the up-and-coming, future engineers and enjoys lecturing in sound post-production at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China.

Dane Taylor wearing Audeze LCD-X headphones in the studio

"It’s like firing up a new motorcycle for the first time and deciding which road or route you’d take for a first ride..." - Dane Taylor
Here's our chat with Dane:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I've been fortunate to be a part of many great projects over the past 15 or so years, if I think about all of it, it's hard to highlight only a few. There are so many great artists and bands in South Africa. I grew up going to rock shows during my school years and always dreamed of one day recording and working in music with these artists in mind. I'm very lucky to still be working with them today. I can't name all of them. A definite highlight though, was working with my good friend, Fred den Hartog, on the SAMA winning record for Arno Carstens in 2016, called Die Aandblom 13. It's still one of the coolest projects I've done.

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

Mixing Engineer, sometimes co-producer.

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

Well, I always played in bands during school. I remember we'd put a tape recorder in the middle of the band room, make really bad recordings to cassette tape, and would listen back on loop while driving down to the beach to go surf. We had many friends in bands too and I'd go help them make their own cassette recordings and we'd hand them out at our local punk rock shows. Later on, we got into making better recordings, I got Pro Tools 7, I think, and a few mic pres and haven't stopped since.

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

If I think back now - those times slaving away, jamming in a hot, sweaty room playing music for no other reason than to just play, really helped mold my appreciation for music and sound. I remember listening to our favourite records and not only connecting with the songs but with all those cool sounds and textures and wondering how the hell they made that. I used to hide a walkman in my school uniform and we'd take turns listening to music in class. The art of recording and mixing is something that will continue to fascinate me forever.

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?

When I was younger - listening too loud, not referencing enough, not valuing the importance of taking breaks, and also not protecting my ears out and about. I was lucky to see the incredible band called MuteMath in San Diego a few years ago, I was right in front of the stage and drummer, Darren King, who is also right next to the PA stack. I can still hear that Odd Soul crash hit ringing in my right ear. So for many years now, I work at different levels and I'm constantly checking on different monitoring systems throughout the mixing process. Things fall into place much easier and the mixing experience is so much more enjoyable.

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'm a big fan of the UA plugins, they sound so good and I've been using them for the past 8 years or so. Lots of soul and vibe! The Lurssen Mastering Console by IK Multimedia is also amazing and has found its way into many projects, either on an individual or sub-group track. It is very musical and has a ton of character outside of the usual mastering application. Another great piece of gear that I recently got hold of is a very special, boutique stereo comp/limiter called The Dark Bear by Dark Bear Audio. I'm still learning all its versatility, circuitry options, different compression flavours, and abilities but it really sounds so great and it's been a part of my workflow since I first powered it up. Oh, and I recently got an old Casio SK-1 and it's really fun. Also, I really love re-recording in an acoustic space, like sending vocals, drums, or guitar parts through speakers in a big reverberant space, recording the sound of the room with some mics, and then using those recordings instead of a plugin. It's fun, interesting, and kinda unique to do. It's nice to put the effort in.

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

If you think you've arrived, you haven't even left yet. Be humble and honest with yourself. Being open-minded is crucial to learning and progressing. Build on the positives. Put the time in to feel confident with your abilities and keep crafting. Keep yourself inspired. Help the listener connect with the record or project you are working on. We are all desperate for some sort of connection, It’s what keeps the human spirit alive. Keep investing in your love for music and arts. Go watch live music and keep buying records. Life without music is no kinda life at all. And as Dylan said back in 1966, "Play it f*cking loud"...

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

Like most, I will check low-end, stereo imagining and a few finer details that the speakers might be missing, I also reference other music a fair amount and it is a great alternative to the monitors and room. Also great for checking Atmos stuff and making sure it can translate as best it can.

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

Since trying them for the first time, they’ve been really mind-blowing. It’s like firing up a new motorcycle for the first time and deciding which road or route you’d take for a first ride, as in, which song or mix I was going to listen to for the first time. After a lot of listening and referencing, they have helped identify some important details in the low-end and mid-range areas. The top end is also very open and detailed but not exaggerated. The dynamic range and the ease of identifying compression and transient control are very refreshing. Overall, things are very balanced and it’s like the air is breathing in and around the ear. Very open and natural throughout the frequency spectrum, and the way I can almost see and visualize the different layers within a mix is quite incredible. Every element has its own "space" or real estate and there is a unique sense of separation throughout the mix. This separation makes it much easier to isolate and identify problem areas and I found it adds to the creativity aspect too. Because I’m able to enjoy such a great deal of separation and space, this inspires me creatively throughout the mixing process and ultimately, I think the song and mix arrive at a much more interesting place. When technology and gear can inspire us in a more creative way, then we’re at a great place.

Recently, I’ve been quite busy on a lot of different projects, mostly mixing. The past few weeks I’ve been working on the new Fokofpolisiekar record, some fresh Arno Carstens tracks, and some awesome Matthew Mole stuff. Also, a few other artists’ singles in between. And I’m assisting and advising some very cool student sound works and films. All of which I will be making good use of the LCD-X's for, and enjoying all the detail and openness they offer.

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

Thank you very very much for this, and congratulations to everyone at Audeze for the success, continued efforts, and progress. You guys are really making magic!

Audeze LCD-X headphones laying on the table