Audeze talks to engineer César Sogbe

November 28, 2023

César Sogbe is a Grammy and 11-time Latin Grammy Winning Audio Engineer based in Miami. His love for mixing started when he first walked into a recording studio at age 20. He made his debut in 1987 as an Assistant Engineer at International Sound in North Miami and quickly brought his signature sound to the records he worked on. César views mixing as helping to bridge the gap between artist and listener, and he only considers that a mix is perfect when everyone involved is happy.

Cesar Sogbe Wearing Audeze MM-500 Headphones While Mixing
"The accuracy and clarity of the headphones are truly remarkable. But what's even more incredible is that this level of accuracy can travel with me anywhere."  - César Sogbe
Here's our chat with César:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of? 

I am extremely proud of the work I have done throughout my career, but there are a few projects that stand out as particularly special. One of these is my work on Prince's Emancipation album, on which I served as a mixer. Working with Prince was an incredible experience, and I am honored to have been a part of such a landmark album in his career. Another project that holds a special place in my heart is my work on Baaba Maal's album Lam Toro, which earned me my first Grammy nomination for Best Engineered Album at just 26 years old. This recognition was a huge honor, and it solidified my passion for mixing and engineering music. Over the years, I have continued to never stop learning, and I am proud to have won a Grammy and 11 Latin Grammys, including Best Engineered Album in 2015 for Natalia Lafourcade’s Hasta la Raiz Album. I am grateful for every opportunity to create music that moves and inspires people.

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

I started my career in the music industry as a recording engineer, but it wasn't long before I realized that my true passion was mixing. At the age of 22, I shifted my focus to mixing music, and I haven't looked back since. It's not just a job for me, it's a passion. Mixing has been my life's work, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do what I love every day.

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

In high school, I played bass guitar and was passionate about music. One day, I walked into a studio for a recording session, and the moment I saw the console and tape machine, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. The feeling was overwhelming, and I knew I had found my calling. I pursued my dream relentlessly and landed my first job in a major studio when I was just 20 years old. Looking back, that moment in the studio was a turning point in my life, and I will always be grateful for it..

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

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from some amazing engineers. Steven Stanley, John Haag, Jerry Solomon, Barry Mraz and Eric Schilling were my mentors in the recording studio, and they each taught me valuable lessons that have stayed with me throughout my career. Steven taught me about the importance not following any rules, John showed me how to learn to work with more creativity and less resources, Jerry taught me Make drums sound amazing, Barry gave me insights into the art of mixing, and Eric showed me how to use the latest technology to enhance the sound and to be organized. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from all of them.

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? 

I must admit that I have always felt a nagging sense of frustration. That frustration stems from the feeling that what I am doing is never quite good enough. Even today, after all these years of working in the industry and earning numerous awards, that feeling still lingers. Perhaps it is because I am my own harshest critic, always pushing myself to do better and to be better. Or maybe it is because I am acutely aware of just how much there is still to learn and to discover in the world of music and audio engineering. Whatever the reason, I am constantly striving to improve and to push myself to new heights. While it can be frustrating at times, that sense of striving is also what drives me forward and keeps me passionate about what I do.

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 began my career in the analog world, working with tape machines and mixing consoles to create music. It was a time consuming and often labor intensive process, but it was also one that I loved. There was something special about the warmth and depth of sound that analog equipment could produce. Over time, however, I began to embrace the digital domain and fell in love with the possibilities it offered. Mixing in the digital domain allowed me to work more quickly and efficiently, giving me more time to focus on the creative aspects of my work. It also allowed me to experiment with new sounds and techniques in ways that were simply not possible with analog equipment. One tool that has become indispensable to me in the digital domain is Pro Tools. This software has revolutionized the way I work, allowing me to edit and manipulate audio with incredible precision and flexibility. With Pro Tools, I can take a raw recording and turn it into a polished masterpiece, all while maintaining the integrity of the original sound.

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

My advice would be to start by listening to a lot of music. Get to know the different genres, artists, and styles of music that are out there. This will help you develop an ear for what sounds good and what doesn't, and it will give you a foundation of knowledge to build on as you start your career. But it's not enough to just focus on the technical aspects of audio engineering. To truly succeed in this field, you need to learn the human side of audio as well. This means learning how to work with artists, producers, and other members of the creative team. It means being able to communicate, to collaborate, and to be open-minded and flexible in your approach. Being a successful audio engineer also requires being a team player. You need to be able to work with a wide range of people and personalities, and you need to be able to put the needs of the project ahead of your own ego or agenda. This means being able to take constructive criticism, to be patient and understanding, and to always strive for the best possible outcome for the project as a whole.

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

I have always used headphones as a reference when I’m mixing. One of the main reasons for this is that I often move from studio to studio, and headphones allow me to eliminate any acoustic problems that a particular studio or space may have. By using headphones, I can focus on the details of the mix without being influenced by the room acoustics or the sound of the monitors.This allows me to hear the mix in a more isolated and focused way, which can be especially helpful when working on intricate or delicate arrangements. In addition to their portability and convenience, headphones also allow me to work anywhere and anytime. Whether I'm in a hotel room, on a plane, or at home, I can put on my headphones and start mixing. This flexibility has been invaluable to me over the years, as it has allowed me to work on projects at my own pace and on my own schedule. for me, headphones have been an essential tool in my arsenal, and I wouldn't be where I am today without them.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

I have to say that they've had a significant impact on my work. One of the most notable things that I've noticed is that the headphones have made me more decisive when it comes to making decisions during the mixing process. The accuracy and clarity of the headphones are truly remarkable. But what's even more incredible is that this level of accuracy can travel with me anywhere. The headphones are incredibly comfortable, and portable, so I can take them with me on the go and still have access to the same level of clarity and precision that I have in the studio. This has been a game-changer for me, as I'm able to work on projects no matter where I am, without sacrificing quality.

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

I've had the pleasure of working on Sony Latin Artist Zoe Gottuso's new album, which has been a fantastic experience. The album showcases her incredible talent, and I'm proud to have been a part of it. Additionally, I just wrapped up work for another talented artist from Sony Latin Music, My Friends from Miranda. The project was challenging, but ultimately rewarding, and I'm excited to see how it will be received by audiences. Another one I've been working on recently has been an album for a new artist from Chile named V1nce. The album is truly incredible, and I believe it will be a game-changer in the Latin music scene. It was an honor to be a part of the project, and I can't wait for it to be released. Lastly, I wanted to share that I'm currently working with an incredibly talented and kind artist from Miami named Alemor. I'm blown away by her abilities and her songwriting, and it's been a joy to work with her in the studio.

MM-500 Headphone On Grammy surrounded by multiple Grammys