Audeze interviews with Latin Grammy winning engineer Maria Elisa Ayerbe

February 10, 2024

Maria Elisa Ayerbe is a Latin Grammy winning engineer and Latin Grammy and GRAMMY multiple nominated producer and composer living in Miami. With more than 15 years of experience in recording, mixing, music production, and audio post production, Maria Elisa has been part of the musical productions for artists such as Mary J Blige, New Kids on the Block, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Laura Pausini, Juanes, Kronos Quartet, Nashville Symphony, Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra, New World Symphony, among many others.

Maria wearing LCD-X headphones while mixing

"Until this day, I will always check my mixes on headphones and will use them as a reference for everything I work on." - Maria Elisa Ayerbe
Here's our chat with Maria:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

Laura Pausini's - Similares: GRAMMY Awards nomination for Best Latin Pop Album in 2016.Recording engineer.

Paula Arenas - Matices: Latin Grammy Awards nomination for Best New Artist in 2017. Recording engineer.

Mau y Ricky - Arte: Latin Grammy Awards nomination for Best New Artist in 2017. Recording engineer.

Paula Arenas - Visceral: Two Latin Grammy Awards nominations: Album of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Album in 2019. Recording engineer.

Aterciopelados - Tropiplop: Latin Grammy Awards nomination for Best Alternative Album in 2021. Mixing engineer.

Petrona Martinez - Ancestras: Latin Grammy winner for Best Folklore Album in 2021. Awarded as Mixing engineer.

Paula Arenas - Mis Amores: Four Latin Grammy nominations: Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Traditional Pop Album in 2021. Nominated as Producer, Engineer and Composer.

Paula Arenas - Mis Amores: Grammy nomination for Best Latin Pop Album in 2022. Produce and engineer.

Paula Arenas - A Ciegas: Four Latin Grammy nominations: Album of the Year, Best Pop Song, Record of the Year, Best Traditional Pop Album in 2023. Nominated as Producer and Engineer.

Paula Arenas - A Ciegas: Grammy nomination for Best Latin Pop Album in 2024. Producer and engineer.

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

A particular blend between mixing engineer, recording engineer, vocal producer and 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?

When I was 8 years old, I was taught to play the recorder flute in school. I actually became really good at it, and then enrolled in after school music lessons and the recorder choir. At 11 years old, I learned how to play the guitar because I was obsessed with Nirvana's Unplugged in NYC album. My parents got me guitar lessons with a teacher after they saw I had figured out a way to play most of the Unplugged album's songs by ear without having any guitar technique. Later on, I also learned how to play the clarinet when I joined the high school band. I was that weird kid in school who would listen to Nirvana, Oasis, Spice Girls and Gloria Estefan, simultaneously. I loved pop music above all, no matter where it came from. But also alt rock, grunge and obviously, the infamous nu metal. Later on I would become an 80's music fan (Synth pop, Nu Wave, Dark Wave, etc), and the biggest Depeche Mode obsessed human being.

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

Many albums changed my life, literally. Nirvana's Unplugged in NYC got me into guitar, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill showed me what great songwriting means, Gloria Estefan's albums showed us how Latin music can change the world, and Depeche Mode's music taught me about what great music production is. Thanks to Depeche Mode albums, I learned how to actually LISTEN to song and production arrangements, and understood the power of telling a story with production and engineering.

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?

Many years ago, I would spend DAYS working on a mix. I would begin working in a song and at the first obstacle, I would obsess over trying to fixing the problem without really thinking WHAT the problem was and WHY it was happening. So, naturally, after hours and hours, I would end up with something even worse sounding. Eventually I figured out that frustration is the worst enemy, and that one has to understand he issue before trying to fix it. And if you can't/don't understand it, just walk away from the mix and come back with fresh ears and fresh mind.

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

As a mixer, I work mainly in a hybrid setup: ITB and I open the mix through the SPL Mixdream. There is just something magical that happens when you send just hit the sweetspot and the output of the Mixdream glues the mix together. I also have many go to plugins: Leapwing Audio Dynone, Waves C6, Plugin Alliance SSL 9000 and Black Box, Acustica El Rey, Baby Audio Crystalline.

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

Be patient and learn how to manage frustration. Engineering and producing are long term careers, we need to learn how to listen, find our own styles and learn how to deal with artists. Those are things that won't happen until you have really put down those +10,000 hours of hard, hard work.

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

I learned how to work with headphones very early on in my career, when I had my college internship as a sound designer and dialogue editor at a post-production studio. We had to work 8-hour shifts with headphones, so I became really used to understanding the stereo field in headphones vs speakers. Until this day, I will always check my mixes on headphones and will use them as a reference for everything I work on.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? 
I have a reliable and trust worthy set of headphones that I can use to revise mixes at home or work remotely while traveling. I don't require headphone correction software as I can trust the eq placement and the soundfield of my mix will accurately translate in speakers. This applies for both Atmos and Stereo mixes. 
 
Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?
Doris Anahi - Por Las Buenas EP - STEREO MIX

Audeze LCD-X headphones on workstation