Engineer

The NRG Recording Standard (Tales From The Engineer)

Engineer

Choosing what studio to book for a recording session, is a decision that can’t be made easily, nor should it be. While searching for the right facility, artists are naturally attracted to studios with characteristics most commonly desired for recording. They want a facility that not only offers a creative environment, but one with great sounding rooms and top of the line equipment to go with them. You likely have a studio in mind that fits this description or maybe one that has a specific piece of gear you really want to jam with. You may even be thinking about booking some studio time in the near future. Before you invest your time and money into a studio solely for it’s nice rooms and high end equipment, you need to ask yourself how valuable any of those things are if you don’t have a quality engineer working on your session. It’s kind of like having a race car with the most expensive parts and advanced technology without a person who knows how to drive it and a flexible pit crew. It is essential to have an engineer that is prepared to adapt and overcome any unforeseeable event. The key is finding a studio that has all of the radical sounding equipment you want and with it, engineers who know how to use that equipment as a tool for precisely constructing the sounds you crave. NRG Recording Studios has all that and more. Its staff engineers provide the vibe artists want, and a level of professionalism unattainable elsewhere in the industry.

NRG Staff“It is important to remember that engineering can be about creating a solution to a problem using the tools that you have available, and a lot of times speed is a factor. You have to be able to take a specific sound and understand how to intelligently manipulate it, achieving the desired effect in a short amount of time. It’s important to maintain the creative integrity of the sound, and it also has to have a certain amount of fidelity. It’s this fidelity that we, as engineers, try to protect.”

– Kyle Hoffmann (Chief Engineer)

The first time you walk into NRG Studios is an experience you don’t forget. Immediately you see as you walk through the door are walls covered from end to end with plaques containing world famous albums recorded on site, a testament to the caliber of the studio and those who work within its walls. It makes a part of you wonder what it takes to become one of those people, an engineer capable of meeting the standard demanded by NRG Recording Studios and its pedigree. Speaking with any one of the engineers, it doesn’t take long at all to recognize why they meet that standard. While sitting down and speaking with a number of them individually, a few trends started popping up. All of them, each passionate about their career, expressed a common desire to remain at the studio. And when asked what obstacles they had overcome along their journey to becoming a staff engineer at the illustrious NRG Recording Studios, they humbly told their stories, though it was apparent that each of them had earned their place at the studio via hard work and perseverance.

NRG Staff

“I walked in for my interview and looked at the walls and I was familiar with the clients, but when you see the records on the wall it’s like, “I listen to that record. I listen to that record.. That one..! That one.!! That one!!!” Everything that’s in the lobby is like… man… I grew up listening to the stuff and now I’m working in the building where it was created. That’s a really big “oh shit” moment… I grew up in the late eighties, early nineties and I was born in 1989. So, I grew up in the 90’s and all these records are big 90’s and early 2000’s records stuff that I used to listen as a kid.”

– Patrick Kehrier (Staff Engineer)

 

One of the things that stood out while conducting interviews was a certain perspective that seemed to be shared across the board. Although none of the questions that were presented to the engineers specifically pertained to the subject of self-improvement, the topic was frequently discussed. Each and every one of them voiced the importance of individual growth in some form or another. It’s this type of forward thinking that adds value not only to the audio engineer but to the studio as a whole.

NRG Staff

“I always try to learn something from every session and I always try to teach somebody else something that maybe they didn’t know before. I always try to make people leave here better than when they came in, and I hope to get the same thing out of whatever session I’m working  on.” “We’re all here because we want to be here, so I think it’s important that before we leave the studio, we try to be better at what we do than when we came in.”

– Kyle Hoffmann (Chief Engineer)

NRG Staff

“Never stop learning and just keep trying to absorb as much as you possibly can. The minute that you think you know everything, is the minute that you stop growing. There is always somebody out there that has done something slightly different than you have and whether they just got their very first interface or they are a Grammy award winning engineer, somebody makes you think differently when you have a result, good or bad. You can learn from somebody doing something terribly just as much as you can learn from somebody doing something perfectly because what not to do is just as important as what to do.”

 – Kyle Mcaulay (Staff Engineer)

NRG Staff

“It’s all about biding your time and using whatever little you do have, to learn as much as you can… that’s how you learn.” “Your goal in this position is to never think that you know everything because there’s going to be somebody to come along and do something that you would think is “wrong”, but it ends up sounding great.”

– Patrick Kehrier (Staff Engineer)

 

The engineering staff at NRG never stops improving. Their drive and dedication rank them second to none, as they continue to set new standards for the industry. They are true masters of their craft, but will modestly give the majority of the credit to the great rooms or unique vintage gear found in the studio. Regardless, a symbiotic relationship exists. And every component is an existential part of NRG’s makeup. That being said, no one knows this gear better than the engineers who have the privilege of using it every day. Kyle Hoffmann, has been with the studio for approximately 8 years. It’s hard to imagine the amount of knowledge he must have gained over his time at the studio, but when you listen to his mixes it becomes obvious that there’s a reason he is NRG’s Chief Engineer. The collective knowledge of the engineers at NRG is invaluable, and if given the opportunity to pick their brains I suggest you do so. Having had that opportunity myself, it only seemed natural to ask them what some of their favorite gear is at NRG and why.

NRG Staff

“I’d have to go 59’ Telecaster because it’s incredible. It has its own soul. It just sounds so great, so much better than any other Telecaster that I’ve ever picked up. There’s something about the 50’s fenders that are just completely different from any of the other ones that were ever built.” “The Gibson 185s from the thirties are some of the most ridiculous sounding amps which is so cool. You wouldn’t expect so much distortion and still love the gritty tone to come out of something that predates the electric guitar. And it sounds pretty modern. It’s such a modern fuzzy sounding small amp that you just wouldn’t ever expect to get with something from the thirties.”

– Shaun Ezrol (Staff Engineer)

NRG Staff

“My favorite thing about NRG are it’s drum rooms. The live rooms in general. When I first started working here I preferred the drum tones in Studio A, and then after working here for a little while I prefer the drum tones in Studio B. Now I am back to preferring the drum tones in Studio A, but I am sure I’ll be back to preferring the drum tones in Studio B again.The fact that my favorite drum room between the two keeps changing depending on the weather… it’s just arbitrary things that change or for some reason I prefer A, sometimes I prefer B. It’s a testament to the quality of the rooms, that there’s not one stand out.”

– Kyle Mcaulay (Staff Engineer)

NRG Staff

“Les Paul that’s a amazing sounding guitar it’s perfect for distorted angry guitar tones. I’ve used it on every session where I’ve done rock guitars or something with distortion, that ends up being my first choice. They’ll ask, “What guitar would be good for these tones?” “Les Paul Black, it’s heavy as shit, but it’s a great sounding guitar”. And it’s very good for what you’re trying to do with that kind of session. I’m not going to pull it out for a Motown project, but you know we do a lot of rock here, and it’s a good go to.”

– Patrick Kehrier (Staff Engineer)

NRG Staff

“The Neve console in Studio B. I like this one personally. We call it an 8078, because that’s what it’s closest to. Really though, it’s a one of a kind custom Neve that was built for a radio station in Austria. Which is actually why a lot of the buttons are in German on one side. Interestingly enough, the 4-Band EQ’s on the monitor side of the console are as far as I can tell, unique to the console. They’re very similar to 1081’s, but they are more like a 31105, where they are a 4-Band Class A Neve Preamp. The same preamp as the Neve 8068 or the 31102…

As far as I’ve heard, it was also the most expensive Neve ever built in it’s time. That’s probably the reason why it’s so huge it’s a really unique design. I’ve never seen another Neve like it in my life. I’ve seen a lot in Neves, and this is the only one that I’ve ever seen that looks like this, and it’s got the wrap around format. I love it. It’s just a really fantastic console. It sounds amazing. We just rebuilt it. We just recapped the entire console, rebuilt the amplifiers, went through every channel a bout a year ago. So it’s fresh and clean. The preamps are my favorite part of this console. You are able to push them in a really unique way and that’s part of the beauty of the Neve console. Being able to push the preamp further and pull the output fader down, so you get a healthy level to tape. There’s no overloading, but you still get this really great distortion. This really nice saturation, and dirt, and punchiness from driving the preamp. That’s a really big part of the sound that I create here. A big part of the NRG sound as a whole is this console.”

– Kyle Hoffmann (Chief Engineer)

 

Throughout the entire process, question after question, the engineers of NRG Recording Studios never ceased to maintain their composure, though each interview was intentionally impromptu. They all share a common value for growth, and not just their individual growth either. The staff and engineers at NRG Recording Studios hold themselves and each other to a standard. It’s this standard that allows them to set the bar for the rest of the industry. They run their facility in a manner that allows them to set the bar for the rest of the industry.

Arguably the most important question, the last thing I asked each of them is why they would recommend NRG Recording Studios to someone. Though all of their answers were good, I felt one of them best demonstrated the value of NRG. Here is what he had to say…

NRG Staff

“I would recommend our studio, because of a lot of other studios in the area, they have great equipment they have great rooms, but there’s a price attached to tube mics and there’s a price attached to ribbons. NRG has all of the professional equipment that you could need, we have great rooms and it’s a flat rate. you don’t get charged extra to use a tube mic, you don’t get charged extra to use a piece of outboard gear that’s floating in the studio. You get whatever the rate is per day and everything that’s available, if it’s not being used by another session, it is yours for the taking. And that’s what I think is one of the greatest things. When I did that last big session, we had like ten or eleven pieces of outboard gear in there. And that was because it was all available and those drums are amazing sounding. They’re incredible and you know, that was a flat rate. I had a lot to learn when I had to set everything up and make it work and it was a pain the ass. The end result was worth all the pain and suffering, that’s what makes energy great you know because we have all this equipment, we have great rooms, and there at the studio you know it’s yours to use for no for no extra cost. I hate that I had to boil it down to money, but that’s one of the reasons why clients come back. We’re a competitive price and there’s no extra fee attached to using the equipment.”

– Patrick Kehrier (Staff Engineer)