Come With Intervention to a Mastering Session at Sterling Sound!

Mastering This Is Big Audio Dynamite at Legendary Sterling Sound in New York City

Mastering Big Audio Dynamite’s This is Big Audio Dynamite was a departure for me, as many you who have followed my label’s evolution know. Intervention’s previous titles were released to or from the west coast and mastered in LA with Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio. Sony’s special relationship made it possible to master This is BAD at legendary Sterling Sound in New York City directly from the best analog tape available- a 1985 US cutting copy. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to work at Sterling with engineer Ryan K. Smith.

Ryan (pictured below with IR Founder Shane Buettner) earned a degree in music before turning to mastering/engineering. He learned the craft of pure-analog vinyl cutting from the late, great George Marino, a man recording engineers from the best studios around the world would bring their tapes to in order to get the best sounding lacquers cut for vinyl. Ryan’s cuts are masterful for wide-open dynamics and vast soundstages without any loss of the immediacy that the best vinyl playback always delivers.

If you’ve bought any LPs from major labels or premium reissue labels like Analogue Productions over the last several years you already have a pile of records with Ryan’s “RKS” scribe in the runout. My shelves are loaded with RKS cuts, and over the last several months alone we’ve all bought records from Adele, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards that were cut by Ryan.

Walking into Sterling sound is to walk into rock history- the walls are adorned with iconic album covers and gold and platinum records are everywhere you look. Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, David Bowie, The Eagles, The Ramones, Meat Loaf (!), Wu Tang, U2 and more have all mixed, mastered and/or cut groundbreaking LPs at Sterling.

Ryan’s mastering suite is spacious and outfitted for surround sound with full-range Energy tower loudspeakers for all channels. The amplification is pure audiophile, from Pass Labs. George Marino’s cutting lathe sits off to the right of the mastering console. Ryan’s system is very honest and requires less mental translation in parsing what your cut will sound like on a consumer’s stereo because it’s more like a high-end home audio system than is typical in mastering.

Ryan Smith Manning the Console.

A closer look at Ryan’s Audiophile-Grade Monitoring System

There’s no way to describe hearing a favorite recording played back directly from tape, and This is BAD was no exception. I’m knocking on wood as I write this, but I’ve had great luck with the tapes received for mastering sounding phenomenal. This is BAD sounded wide, expansive and wonderfully detailed, with more bottom end than the original US or UK LPs. The samples from movie clips and other “effects” sounded startlingly good and getting a great cut from these tapes was a slamdunk.

An additional treat from this mastering session is that Analog Planet’s Michael Fremer came by, and interviewed Ryan with the mastering session as the back drop and even caught me on camera for some less-than-illuminating comments (I need more practice to be better on camera!). Ryan’s interview with Michael is linked below, please watch if you haven’t already!

An additional treat from this mastering session is that Analog Planet’s Michael Fremer came by, and interviewed Ryan with the mastering session as the back drop and even caught me on camera for some less-than-illuminating comments (I need more practice to be better on camera!). Ryan’s interview with Michael is linked below, please watch if you haven’t already!