REWIND: EARS MEETING WITH MASTERING MEGA-GURU
BOB LUDWIG @ JOHNNY K’S GROOVEMASTER STUDIOS
Standing in the south loop like the headquarters in Fight Club, is a five story converted brewery that houses the studio’s of Johnny K’s Groovemaster and Hinge. Johnny K owns the building and on Wednesday July 27, he and his fantastic staff hosted a Skype meeting with legendary mastering engineer, Bob Ludwig.
I was greeted at the front door and given instructions to the third floor meeting room. Another analogy is in order because it was like the opening of the TV show, GET SMART, except instead of doors, it was several staircases I had to navigate to get to the inner sanctum. On arrival, I noticed the staff had set up the room with plenty of seating and a sound system.
Fifty-plus people were treated to a very special evening which included not one but two “waves” of pizza deliveries. After the customary technical glitches, the computers connected and Bob Ludwig was present via Skype to a very eager EARS audience. Our president Blaise Barton moderated the evening and started the conversation with a series of questions.
Bob has been mastering music longer then some of our members have been alive. He’s currently working on the re-mastering of a definitive QUEEN anthology and was extremely enthusiastic about the just completed WILCO album. Enthusiastic is a word I can use over and over again to describe Bob Ludwig’s demeanor during our hour-plus conversation. From the importance of his custom handmade speaker cabling to his description of working with AXL ROSE on Chinese Democracy, Bob made it clear that he loves what he does.
A quick peek of his studio was provided so we could see where he works his magic and there was plenty of tech talk. Mr. Ludwig also shared his view on some of today’s pressing engineering issues.
The Loudness Wars: Seeing this evolve first hand, he feels the loudness/compress issue has reached its peak on Metallica’s Death Magnetic release. Since then, more and more producers, labels, and artists have been scaling back and dynamics are making a comeback!
Analog Out-Board Gear vs. Plugins: Bob uses both but relies on his analog gear. However, he readily admits that he believes plugins are getting so good that they will rival their analog brethren in the near future.
Vinyl vs. Digital: Growing up in a time when engineers were taught how to setup and run vinyl mastering lathes, Bob has a deep appreciation for the sound of a great vinyl recording but also knows that to make great sounding disks, all the elements must be aligned. Good lathe with superior vinyl to a pressing plant that understands the details of proper cutting techniques. Bob is happy that vinyl has made a comeback but he finds the process to be such a pain in the neck that he’s glad he doesn’t have to make the pressings himself.
These are just a few of the many nuggets of wisdom that Bob Ludwig bestowed on the enraptured EARS audience—all of which were grateful for the experience.
(2) Groovemaster Studio manager Crystal leads EARS attendees of a tour of the facility
(3) One of Groovemaster’s studios includes a vintage (circa 1940s) Cadillac that is wired for sound!