Audeze talks with mixer, mastering engineer and sound designer Brian Iele

November 14, 2023

Brian Iele (spelled with a capital "eye" and pronounced "ee-EL-eh") is a Mastering/Mixing engineer/Sound Designer who focuses on working with artists who are looking to make adventurous, immersive records by keeping their own authenticity. In his own words: My goal with every song I mix is to come up with a version of the song that elicits a response somewhere on a spectrum between deeply emotional and “Holy shit, that’s fucking great.” Ideally, both. This is all to say, I don’t tend to make ordinary-sounding records. If you want a record that sounds like another record you know, or a record that could be classified as safe or conservative or derivative or predictable in its approach, I’m probably not your person. If on the other hand you would like to push some boundaries, and stretch yourself as an artist, and make a piece of art that’s bold and adventurous and great – then I’m very much your person.

Brian Iele in the studio with his Audeze LCD-5 headphones

"I’ve been an LCD-X user for some years now, and moving to the LCD-5’s was the obvious evolution in my search of better results.- Brian lele
Here's our chat with Brian: 
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?

At the time of this interview, I find myself mixing some new music for the Mexican artist Julieta Venegas, and I find this project to be particularly challenging, and I love to push my own limits. Diego Frenkel’s new album called “Medusas” is one of my favourite latest projects I’ve been lucky enough to work for great artists, producers and mixers along the way. Working with Gareth Jones for his “Drums” Album by Spiritual Friendship (Gareth Jones producer of albums like Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration and Construction Time Again) and I used to listen to those records when I was just fantasizing with the idea of becoming an audio engineer. Drums is a very experimental Album and gave me the opportunity to defy any boundaries when it comes to mastering. Lucy Patane's album, which I mastered and also mixed, is an incredibly authentic piece of art from this Argentine upcoming artist. Luckily enough her album got nominated on 6 categories at the Premios Gardel awards and won several of them. In the era of singles, I would mention works for productions done by people like Kurt Uenala (Luciana TagliapietraPerro) or Dave Bascombe (Hotel CasinoSoy lo que me das). And last but not least, works like Diego Frenkel’s “Frenkeltronic” album, Maca Mona Mu'sKalanchoe

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

My main role on musical projects has been changing along the way. For the last 12 years, I’ve been mostly mixing and mastering. Sometimes I get involved at production stages, maybe twice a year with some projects I really like. How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed? It was always about music for me. The early and mid 80’s record’s sounds, triggered my passion for synthesizers and sound design at a very early stage. I was so curious about how those sounds were created, that soon enough I was having friends at my home’s garage and having them play, so I could experiment with sound. It was so primitive, but definitely a starting point. Some years later I got my first interview at one of the biggest recording studios in Buenos Aires, and that’s how my professional life started. First as a tea boy, later an assistant engineer, to finally becoming the house engineer.

Musically speaking for me, it started with the beginnings of electronic music. Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Klaus Schultze, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, and more. So, my very first years as a payed mixing engineer, had to do with electronic music. But as I spent more and more time at the recording studio I started to record lots of acoustic sounds for many different genres. And of course that also changed and opened my musical taste in ways I never expected.

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

My first musical attachment was with Martin Gore’s songs, and the sounds they would create for those songs made want to dive into sound creation. This was the first influential moment. Jumping to my professional career, I was very lucky to assist great engineers and learn from all of them. Engineers like Mario Breuer, Eduardo Bergallo, Adrian Taverna, whom built the sound of the most iconic pop and rock albums in Latin Music left man lessons to apply to my own path. It’s hard to talk about heroes or role models, because everyone has strong and weak points, but what is clear to me is that everyone I had the chance to learn from, has their own signature, so the main lesson is to trust your own instincts, and keep it authentic. 

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 think about frustrations, despite the mere technical ones, (which everyone can overcome with time and practice and perseverance) I’d say that most frustrations in terms of jobs results, especially when mixing, happened in my experience because of letting ego be part of the process. Lately with the years, I’ve tried most times to focus more on the artist’s vision, instead of trying to impose my subjective perspective. Which is always challenging in many ways, and it always means to be a little bit out of the comfort zone, and I particularly prefer it. Also the results are richer this way.

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 mastering engineer, my analog chain is always there. That’s a bunch of pieces I like, and they help me to get my own sound. There’s a Buzz Audio REQ2, Elysia Alpha compressor, API2500, Manley Vari Mu, among others.

There’re also some custom-made devices that I find myself using a lot and give me some extra possibilities. When mixing, I always have my go to plug-ins. Fabfilter, UAD, Boz Digital, U-he, TRS, Metric Halo, are always there.

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

Follow what you feel is right for you. Go with your heart, if you doubt about a project, you won’t probably be giving your 100%. Avoid those situations. Get involved with projects that challenge you, creatively and technically. Avoid comfort zones, always try and experiment until you find your own way of doing things, and don’t ever use a limitation as an excuse. When you work with passion and love for what you do, everything else will follow.

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

When I’m recording, and that happens normally at different studios than mine, I like to have a known reference with me so I feel familiar, and from there I can understand better what goes on with the studio monitoring system. While mixing I use them to take care of small nuances that sometimes you overlook on bigger systems. The minor detail is done on headphones while I try to get the big picture on speakers. At mastering, I only use a pair of great speakers, and that is my golden reference. In my case I use B&W 800 Diamond series speakers with a class A 700W monoblock for each speaker. But if I need a second reference, I can’t trust such thing as a near field speaker for this task, and so I choose the LCD-X’s. Most of the time, the mastering studio is not a familiar listening experience for everyone so many clients really enjoy listening on these headphones as well. 

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

In 2014 I was in New York City, and I had to get some new cables for my studio speakers, so I went to a Hi-fi Audio store. In that place I found a room made of glass, at one side of the store, with every headphone model you can imagine hanging on the walls. I spent hours trying out almost every model from any brand, and at the end of this experience I grabbed a pair of big headphones, with a cool wooden finish and I tried them. I automatically thought: "Damn this is something else." And I put them away. They looked very expensive for my budget at that time. A year later, my partner arrives at our mastering studio (the guy won several Grammys already and I was on my way) and he brings a nice case with him. As he opens it, and he shows me and says “this is the only headphone reference that can be used in mastering." And there they were. The same ones I tried back in NYC. So now I was sure that what I’d felt that day was right. I had no clue about this brand, had no idea what they were, but I knew it sounded better than anything else. So I was on my way to my LCD-X’s.

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

I primarily got my Audeze headphones as a second mastering reference. Of course, I heavily rely on very high end speakers for this task, but I also needed a closer reference. It had to be fast, so I could hear any audio artifacts, but at the same time, it had to be able to keep depth and stereo imaging. In this sense, the headphones performed very consistently and the relationship between them and the B&W speakers was tight. For the last two years of lockdowns, they’ve seen a lot of mixing action, while the studio was closed, they became the go-to reference for mixing. I could mix pretty well with them, just adding some minor frequency correction for the flattest response. This means, basically, recovering some of the mid-hi range frequencies that could make a big difference when mixing, compared to experiencing a pleasant listening. A couple of dBs at 3kHz can change everything when doing final movements on a mix. A few months ago I travelled to New Jersey, where we did some final touches to Landon Peer’s album Desirable Day. A very magical set of songs, beautifully crafted and composed in a way, that you could barely believe is actually played with acoustic instruments. Being in a new environment is always challenging, and I never work abroad without the LCD-X’s. Later on, we mastered those tracks at the Outlier Inn studio (Upstate New York), one of my favorite places in the world to work in, and again, the LCD-X were absolutely necessary to understand how the studio monitoring worked. Even having big ATC’s, you still need your known reference. I’ve been an LCD-X user for some years now, and moving to the LCD-5’s was the obvious evolution in my search of better results. At the end everything reduces to how you listen to your work. There was a learning curve for adapting to my new set of heaphones. There’s a considerable frequency difference among these two models, but once I got familiar with them, everything was straight forward.

The LCD-5’s sound more neutral and detailed than the LCD-X’s. They feel quicker and more precise. The bass response is very accurate, and it became my test point for mixes or masters low-end management. I check every song I work in with them. From Jazz to EDM, from hip hop to Tango, my mixes improved and translated better. Not to mention that when I’m on tour is like having a portable mastering studio degree monitoring reference. 

Some past but recent releases, like the ones from Hilda Lizarazu, Luel Gaez, Mariana Michi, Ale Zar, among others, went through my headphones with amazing results. And new upcoming releases from Julieta Venegas, or Diego Frenkel are being constantly checked on them.

I recently got 2 albums nominated @ Premios Gardel:

Best Electronic Album.
Ibiza Pareo - Aqui y Ahora
Mixing & Mastering Engineer.

Best Pop album. Winner.
Hilda Lizarazu - Antigua
Mixing & Mastering engineer for several tracks.