Dave Cobb

Engineer/Producer Chris Stapleton, HONEYHONEY, A Thousand Horses

“It’s so fucking… immediate! I have converters that I’ve been really happy with. I love the Radar stuff, and I compared them side by side, and it’s not even close. I’ve done converter shootouts before where you put two things up and it’s really hard. You say to yourself; Well, I think this one sounds a little bit better??? You really have to be scientific about it. But in this case… it’s not even a competition. It’s obvious.”

“You could hear the batter head of the kick drum pronounced better. It had more definition and it seemed to drop an octave. There’s just no comparison.” Phone interview/ conversation with Dave Cobb. By Will Kahn, Burl Audio

Dave Cobb: Yo what up?

Will Kahn: Hey Dave. How are you?

I’m stressed out! How am I supposed to afford this thing? It’s so fucking… immediate! I feel the same way I did about the Vancouver, to an even greater degree… I have converters that I’ve been really happy with. I love the Radar stuff, and I compared them side by side, and it’s not even close. I’ve done converter shootouts before where you put two things up and it’s really hard. You say to yourself; “Well, I think this one sounds a little bit better???” You really have to be scientific about it. But in this case… it’s not even a competition. It’s obvious. You could hear the batter head of the kick drum pronounced better. It had more definition and it seemed to drop an octave. We had the exact same thing going on with each converter, using the Helios desk with everything set exactly the same. There’s just no comparison. I’m just telling you things you already know…

Yes, but it’s good to hear what other people are hearing out there in the world.

I really experimented how hard we hit it, and it just didn’t seem to ever give in. We kept pushing it and it kept getting better, which is unlike any converter I have ever heard… where it’s always the opposite.  We are always very conservative how hard we hit it. When I was on tape full time, we were also conservative about how hard we hit tape. I don’t think tape sounds great when you hit it super hard, especially on things like drums. It tends to lose the bottom end, things crunch up in a weird way. And this is not the case with the Mothership at all. I think it sounds better, but it retains the frequency range. And in my opinion, tape does not do that. To be honest with you, I can’t believe that I’m here in Nashville and nobody knows about this. Maybe people have heard the two channel (B2 Bombers). If any of my friends hear this shit, they are going to call you to buy systems. It’s not even a question of: “Will I buy one?”. It’s more like “How am I going to pay for it?” I think if anyone hears this thing compared to anything else,   (and I think my Radar converters have slaughtered everything I’ve heard to date) they will fucking freak out… Nashville has to hear this thing!!!

Right on! When I heard your response to the (B32 Vancouver) Mix Bus, I could just tell that you had a sparkle in your eye…  And you said that you loved your Radar ADA converters, but I though: “Dave Cobb has to hear the Mothership”.

I always thought that the Radars were really special. I had Radar converters back in the day and I really loved them. And there’s something to that sound, but it’s not even close. It’s so obvious! That’s what’s so crazy about it.  The difference. You don’t have to pull out the stethoscope and measure the thing. It’s night and day.

We haven’t developed a new digital technology, it’s the analog side of the Mothership that sounds so good. It seems that most other converter companies are afraid to do anything to the sound, so much so that they’ve completely neglected the analog side. Which is very important!

I don’t understand why! Everyone is chasing the glory days of tape, and the only thing great about tape is that it gave it a color, and a soft-ness. I have an eight-track, two-inch machine and I would run everything on that. But you know what? A lot of bands can’t play well enough to pull that off.

We think of the Mothership as the “Studer of the future”…

I think you’re right! I have had every type of Studer… A800, A27, A20, I’m a Studer nerd! 2-inch 8-track, 16-track, 24-track… The Mothership definitely does a little ‘bump’ like that shit, and adds a classy-ness to it. That’s how Studers sound, even running through the machine, without even hitting tape, it adds a classy-ness to it. My closest friends are people that I’m huge fans of. Vance (Powell) is a good friend of mine, and the other guy that I’m super close to is Mark Neill who recorded ‘Brothers’ from the Black Keys…

Oh Shit! That’s one of the most played records up at Burly Acres. The Black Keys, Jack White, and all the Daptone stuff… All amazing shit! We aren’t trying to put tape out of business. We love tape, and consoles, and we love records. But we are living in a digital world. That’s just the way it is.

The only problem is that it used to be you had big bucks to do a record. And you could afford to go to a big studio, work on tape, have an engineer, mixer, and have tons of time for tape, and if you had to do a recall, you had studio time to do that too. But now, virtually every artist I work with is on tour, They have X amount of days; you’ve got to get the record done because of budgetary constraints. And everyone, the manager, or somebody wants the fucking hi-hat up 0.2 dB, and: “On that third verse can you change that one line here…” The bands are on the road and everything has to stay in flux the whole time. And that’s where I’m getting over the hardware, analog world because I like workflow. I love being able to recall something so I can move on instead of dedicating my whole day sitting there with a chart, re-doing every EQ, re-doing every patch… With the Vancouver, I’m going to leave it as my mixing desk, and I have the Helios right there, because I don’t have to do any recall. So everyone thinks that’s the future. It’s just the way you gotta work now. And people have been working in the box for 10 years now, so people know   you can recall anything, and they will certainly ask. And you can be an asshole and say; “ Guys, it’s going to cost you…” If you do that, you won’t get hired again. You have to say “OK, I can do that”. Recall definitely provides that. … the philosophy Glyn Johns/Andy Johns where they mixed the record on the monitor side of the console. They didn’t add additional EQ or compression, they just balanced it. Things are tracked really well, and the players are really good.

Everyone knows about recall, and all these digital tricks. “Can you just loop my vocal part there and tune it?” I think these tricks are in the way of the music.

I agree. If you listen to any of my records they don’t have any of that shit on them. But at the same time, if the artist needs a little help, and you don’t try to help it, then you are kind of an asshole. Not everyone is the best singer in the world.

Your introduction to Burl Audio was the B32 Vancouver Mix Bus on Jason Isbell’s new record Southeastern. The first thing that struck me about this record was how dynamic it is. Incredibly intimate. I found myself leaning in, and the lyrics are so powerful. What was your experience with this record and the B32 Mix Bus?

I wanted to frame everything around the vocal. It’s a different thing than he’s done before. He brought all these amazing songs in, I felt the worst thing we could do would be to cloud it up full of bells and whistles. The record is pretty naked. I felt that the music that he was writing was so personal that the record had to be like seeing into his head. We recorded it that way. When we got to mix, I didn’t want to blow it up. I think that a major mistake with a lot of modern records, a lot of Americana and Country records is that everything is so blown up all the time. The overheads are just bashing and totally over compressed, the vocal is just way over the top and in your face. Everything is exploding, that takes the immediacy out of it. All we wanted to do when we were mixing the record was to preserve the immediacy that we had when we were tracking the record. When we started mixing, we were trying another company’s product. The engineer and I were listening and we thought: “Is it better? I don’t know. Maybe the in the box mix is better?” 

Then my friend Pete Lyman (Infrasonic Mastering) recommended the Vancouver: “Oh man, you gotta hear this stuff”. I wasn’t even on the market for a Mix Bus. Pete was freaking out, so I tested it. We fired up the tracks, and oh my God! It wasn’t even a comparison. It was immediate. Everything had more depth and more size and you could see into the song even more. It didn’t cloud it up. It didn’t take away, or squish things. Sometimes things are not better spread on consoles, but this thing didn’t get in the way. It was more 3D and had a larger footprint without murking things up. It was a no brainer, so we mixed the record through the Vancouver. Without the Vancouver, the record would not have come together so quickly. But also sonically, if we had stayed in the box,  we would have had to work a lot harder to be able to see into it, like we were with the Vancouver. Jason is able to write something so personal that you get goosebumps. We got goose-bumps on every song on that record. When you hear the lyrics it’s not just somebody singing the song well, it’s this lyrical power that he seems to tap into. More so than anyone I’ve ever seen. The “elephant” song is a perfect example. Shocking, that song. It freaked me out.   My opinion is that it’s lyrically as good as any Dylan or Springsteen record.  I’m not talking about production quality… it’s heavy man!

This is the first charting album to use the B32 Mixbus.

The album is still doing great. It’s number 8 on Billboard this week. And to be honest, it’s not commercial. Nobody set out to make a hit single. We weren’t expecting that it would do well. We were just making it for the sake of making it good.

We are pumped to have you on board, Dave.

I’m so blown away by this product. I’m happy to preach it to the town. Because I don’t think anyone has heard it here….