I’m Not Smart Enough To Be An Audio Engineer (And Why That Benefits Me)

| Rant, Tips

When I think of an engineer I picture someone with advanced degrees, a firm grasp of graduate level math, and a white lab coat.

No, I’m not smart enough to have the word “engineer” anywhere near my name or job description.

Instead, I much prefer to go by the term audio enthusiast. I’m simply a music lover – and I believe that’s of advantage to my recordings and mixes in three ways.


I Don’t Get Distracted By The Gear

Love me for it and hate me for it, I really don’t care what gear I use to make a record.

As fun as the tools are, to me they are simply that – tools. And the tools are not the reason I got into record making. They are simply a necessary means to a much desired end: awesome sounding music.

I have too many friends in the industry who obsess over gear (specs, reviews, blind tests) that they never seem to talk about music any more. Just gear.

How sad that is, when the studios, the gear, and the “engineers” all exist to serve the song.

I Don’t Get Distracted By The Techniques

This one might come off as being a bit ironic, given that I run an online resource that dishes out quite a lot of helpful (I hope) techniques and tricks relating to recording and mixing music in the home studio.

The truth is, while I teach the techniques that I believe to be the most helpful for someone like you, the ones that have proven most helpful to me, I view them (again) simply as a means to an end.

I am only interested in a new technique if it helps me achieve a better result in the studio.

I’m not on the hunt for techniques purely for techniques sake. That would miss the point.

Again, my simplicity in the area of music making helps me avoid the endless discussions of which method of recording/mixing is best and instead focus purely on the music and making sure it sounds killer.

I Don’t Get Distracted By The Industry At Large

As much as I love (most of the time) the industry I work in, I’m not that interested in knowing all the latest details of what’s happening within it.

I’m pretty out of the loop and in the dark about anything and anyone that’s happening right now.

Sometimes that makes me feel a bit dimwitted and foolish. In moments of insecurity I think “Gee, maybe I should take part in more discussions online about what’s happening in the music industry right now.”

But I find that I make better music when I focus on just that – making better music. Not talking about engineers, industry trends, or the latest shift in technology.

You Don’t Have To Be The Smartest Person In The Room

Lest you think this article is all about me and how I don’t get distracted by stuff – let me arrive at the main point: making great sounding recordings and mixes is at its core a simple and achievable task.

You do not have to be a genius (or a lab coat wearing Abbey Road engineer) to achieve your musical goals.

You must, however, possess an unquenchable thirst and desire for great music (and making it yourself).

If you know what good music sounds like, you can make a great record. Sadly knowing all the gear, tips/tricks, and industry secrets doesn’t inherently mean you know what good music sounds like.

The more you focus on (and listen to) great sounding music, the more prepared you will be to get great sounding recordings and mixes. No “engineering” required.

If you let it, that truth will be an encouragement to you. It is to me.

So let me ask you – what is (in your opinion) the best sounding album of all time. The one record that fires you up and makes you want to record or mix something, every time you hear it? Share below!



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230 Responses to “I’m Not Smart Enough To Be An Audio Engineer (And Why That Benefits Me)”

  1. Knight

    Thanks for all the great articles you publish! So many great sounding albums, but one that always sticks out to me is ‘Virgins & Philistines’ by The Colour Field. So lush and warm, with great songs and performances! But one that inspires me more to actually get mixing is The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’…it’s just so simple, clear, and crisp!

    • John Cornelius

      I agree…Revolver. Haven’t tired of it since my sister brought it home 50ish years ago. Honorable mention would be Aja. Title track still makes my hair tingle.

      • Chuck Gunn

        2 sublime choices. As an Acoustic guitarist, I turn to America’s first album for inspiration everytime.

    • J. A. Dirks

      I know that this is going to leave a lot of people scratching their heads, but for me the best I’ve ever heard is Shawn Colvin’s 1989 release “Steady On”. John Leventhal and Steve Addabbo’s production is flawless. Don’t discount it until you’ve heard it!

  2. Arkadiusz Rozmus

    Cage the Elephant – “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” is the track of inspiration, always!

      • Liquid Solids

        I was going to say Who’s Next as well. Brilliant songwriting, innovative use of the new (at the time) synthesizer, masterful musicianship and production. Who’s Next is always inspiring!

  3. Jonny

    Steely Dan – Aja

    The songs are superbly written, the arrangements for rhythm, horn and BV sections are outstanding, the performances are excellent, they are extremely well captured performances, the mixes are so good they are almost alive, the masters are not SO loud that they smack your skin off, but they are sufficiently loud to fill your listening space with sonic awesomeness.

    But, it is extremely evident from the first chord to the last fade out, that every aspect of the production process serves the SONG.

  4. Randy Cordle

    So many superb examples exist and they all have qualities that push them to the front of the herd, but for pure sonic wow factor most likely “Revolver” by the Beatles.

  5. Larry Chaney

    Jellycream by Doyle Bramhall II. Tchad Blake gets the sounds so right that I stop thinking about mixing and am just enjoying great music.

  6. Dee dee hoptone

    Never Mind The Bollocks!

    Which, come to think of it, could be the title of your piece that I just read 🙂

    Also, honourable mention to The Birthday Party’s ep Prayers on Fire. Just when you think nothing could be bigger than the drums, the guitar and bass kick on and you’re catapulted off your chair and onto the ceiling.

    Or anything by Björk.

    Stop me now. I’m at work and I want to put a record on.

  7. greg curry

    Lots of great records in many genres, but Steely Dan’s AJA hits all the marks – songs, musicianship, arrangements, performances – captured with incredible attention to sonic detail.

  8. Kloui Betsil

    Self Titled – Rage Against the Machine
    Blood Sugar Sex Magik- RHCP
    Stadium Arcadium – RHCP
    Syro – Aphex Twin
    Classics – Ratatat
    Sailing the Seas of Cheese – Primus (For that PUNCHY low end)
    Inhibition – Dot Hacker (just so atmospheric) …

    gotta go, I have music to mix!

  9. stuart

    green day “dookie” the drums in particular are just insane but all the pieces cut through the mix so so well. it’s hard to get punk / hard rock to be so clean and clear

  10. Cal

    I’m putting on display how pathetic my attention span is, but my focus changes constantly. Always in the running for BEST EVER is Abbey Road: the SONGS, the performances, the diversity, the inventiveness. The fact that ALL but 2 songs on side 2 (of the LP) were scraps of songwriting ideas. But it COULD be Kind of Blue, or AJA, or Luiz Bonfa in Rio…….

  11. Thé Kuijpers

    Best sounding album of all time:
    There is never only one. But “Situation” (by Yazoo) comes close (and many comparable others of the era).
    I like this kind of ’80-ties studio music. Realy complex soundscapes that are almost impossible to get in live settings. Conscious decisions on effects, tastefully combined with really clean and pristine sounds. And of course all options and richness that synthesizers (or new guitar effects) brought to music.

  12. Sean J Macmullin

    i always liked kyle lennings (goin on memory here) recordings with randy travis….clean instrument separation…nothing cluttered….he produced though…might not have been the mixer

  13. Niklas Hellgren

    The greatest sounding album? Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”!
    I can recall the vibrant, original sound of it and the impact it had on me the very first time my friend put on the LP in his parent’s living room, and we listened to it again and again.

    Would it sound even better with modern technique and one of the A-Listers mixing it? Maybe, but I doubt it. To say that it has inspired me to write or mix (which i just started doing a few months ago) would not be true. My own music is far removed from that era – and eh…I’m no Brian Wilson. Sort of. But the pure joy which informs that fabulous album inspires me to be creative, to live, to experiment and try to find the core of a piece of music.

  14. Mike Asak

    “Twisted” by Del Amitri.
    Forget the throwaway pop song “Roll To Me”, listen to the emotion in the music and vocals in the other songs.
    A very underrated band and album. Very thought provoking lyrics too.

    • Owen Thomas

      Ah, but the beauty of ‘Roll To Me’ is that it’s literally IMPOSSIBLE to forget it!

    • Zach N

      Absolutely. That album is such a phenomenon, I have trouble even breaking down how it’s so well-constructed.

  15. Fernando Morales

    I have 3 references album. In orden The dark side of the moon. The unnamed Prince’s álbum. .. that With the son Sexy Mother fucker. And Synchronicity.

  16. Peter Winstead

    Lateralus by Tool is probably my favorite sounding album. Great production and mixing across the board, from Maynard’s vocals, Adam’s guitar sound, the growly bass, and of course, the master, Danny Carey on drums. His overall kit sound is my goal.

    • Mads Bo

      I second that!

      Every time I re-visit that album new layers in the production seem to appear.

  17. Max Daniels

    Thanks for the post! Very reassuring.
    Dave Matthews Band: either Crash or Before These Crowded Streets

  18. Tomek

    Definitely Metallica’s Black Album and Nirvana’s Nervemind are awesome. In fact Butch is my idol as engineer, he has a lot of patience to work with Dave Grohl 😉 And I love Foo Fighters sound, everything is in place.

  19. Simon Brewin

    I really love what Helik Hadar and the guys did on Aruna’s Running Red Lights (2004 Escala label). Really great production, and captured the emotion in her voice beautifully.
    Donald Fagans Nightfly
    Porcupine tree albums, especially The Incident

  20. Jeff King

    Oddly enough, my favorite albums don’t sound all tha great sonically. They do, however contain great songs and wonderful performances. When I look for reference tracks, I’m constantly amazed at how some of my favorite recordings sound middy, or lack any real highs or lows.

    • Scott Ramsay

      Uhhh, guys…., that’s not what he’s asking for. He’s asking about the best SOUNDING records- recording and production.

      • Dave

        On the contrary, I think if a record / song can inspire you to make good music, then whatever musical quality it possesses should be taken as a valuable lesson. (E.G. structure or meaning can sometimes be the most influential part of a song, second to things like harmony or melody.)
        I suppose personal preference enters into this, but I believe that music is not just about sound but the context, and the experience (amongst many other things). In other words, there is equal importance in both objective value and subjective value.

        This said, my favourite album is “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World” by The Caretaker.

      • Mike Latimer

        no need to chastise anyone Bud, as the question is COMPLETELY subjective.
        What Graham asked, is as follows….
        “…the best sounding album of all time. The one record that fires you up and makes you want to record or mix something, every time you hear it?”
        The record that FIRES us up and makes us want to RECORD or MIX something ourselves may not be the best sounding album we have ever heard, or it might be, it really depends on personal taste of the listener.
        I cant even pick one, its always changing, but the production on the latest Behemoth record, ‘the Satanist’, is just killer and makes me want to try to create something so savage, dark, and just frikkin HUGE. Any old Beatles album will do it as well, and they certainly weren’t all sonically perfect, but IMHO that’s the charm.
        Thanks Graham.

  21. Thomas Emulous

    I’d say it’s “Causa” by Vitalism. Instrumental guitars that sound perfectly mixed on any set of monitors. It really gives me a goal to reach when producing and mixing.

  22. Ken Watson

    This is hard for me as well because I am a techie. When I feel the algorithmic side of my brain taking over, I just have to let the music stir that primitive part of me that just gets lost in the music. THAT is when I truly serve the song.
    Two albums that speak to me on this level are Glass Moon – Sympathetic Vibrations and YES – 90215.

  23. Gail W

    Probably a couple of albums I first heard as a kid, as listening to them for the first time for me would be Frankie Goes to Hollywood ‘Welcome to the Pleasure Dome’ just for the sheer audacity and breadth of music on there. Going from covers such as Ferry Cross the Mersey and San Jose with songs such as Relax and Two Tribes in the middle (!)

    The album also brought out their sense of humour and who they were as a band with pushing Holly Johnson’s voice to the maximum of what it could do.

    It’s an album that pushes at the boundaries and expectations of what you can do, and what I found so inspiring at the time and still do.

  24. dan rodriguez

    Hi Graham, that’s a tough one, but I’m going to share the ones that inspired me the most to start recording and mixing:
    -In Utero by Nirvana(that drum sound)
    -X&Y by Coldplay(I just love the sound of the album)
    -Nothing is sound by Switchfoot (powerfull,and that CLA sound)


  25. Manu

    Good point. Though I think a good engineer is by definition one that doesn’t get caught up in being the gear geek but kind of transcends his field of work by fully serving the music.
    Just like a good jazz musician who doesn’t feel the need to show of all the skills that years of work went into but use them effectively to create the best music possible.
    – The very well crafted and produced “Continuum” by John Mayer. You feel the meaning of every song through the distinct sound each track has.
    – The very raw “For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver. Initially intended to be just a demo it changed my world by showing how imperfect the sound, technique, singing, playing of perfect music can be.

  26. James Harrison

    Depeche Mode – Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion.

    Mixed by Alan Wilder and Flood, Produced by Depeche Mode and Flood. Electronic soundscapes, samples, real (heavily processed) guitars and drums, harmonies and haunting melodies and lyrics. These have been my favorite albums since their releases 24-26 years ago and nothing comes close to touching them for sound quality.

    • Mike

      +1 Leftism especially Open Up.

      One of the very few albums I bought just on the strength of being played over the sound system in the record shop

  27. Robert Moehle

    Almost hate to say it but the sound on the album is secondary. It’s always been the music first. Taj Mahal’s first album was the first one I really noticed everything on – sound as well as music. Clean and stripped down to Taj’s style of blues -as Taj himself put it, “right there on the floor” – it was so different from psychedelic stuff that I fell in love with the blues then and there, and have always tried to keep my recordings as basic and clean as that record. Any time I want to understand what simple, hardhitting music is I listen to that record.

  28. Smurf

    Grand Funk’s “Red” album, so raw & THE greatest bass sound on a rock record EVER IMHO.

    There are SO many that inspire me, but the Red album is always in any list I make…..

    • Baz

      I was born in 1955 so the list here could go on for a long time, I agree with all the above but Boston by Boston was an awesome production, it pretty much blew away everything around it,s time, but my personal favourite would be Frank Zappa- One Size Fits All. Baz.

      • Zee

        +1 for Zappa. I also love One Size Fits All, but purely in sonic terms my all-time great is Joe’s Garage – amazing engineering coupled with legendary music (and probably the only album to include “Telefunken U-47” in the lyrics).

  29. Richard

    Three off the top of my head, in chronological order:

    Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
    Bruford – Feels Good to Me
    Donald Fagen – Morph the Cat

  30. Arrik

    Not sure about “the best” album, but definitely one my heart is stick to. Deftones – White Pony

  31. Ben

    The benchmark for production has to be Thriller. Quincy Jones is a genius. For the mix it’s any Steely Dan or Donald Fagen album.

  32. Normie

    I can’t pick one. But I think some of the stuff coming out lately in ‘Synthwave” is some of the best sounding (from a technical standpoint/your opinions of the songs may vary) music I have heard in a while. It’s defined, dynamic and not L2’d to distortion. Inspiring to me. Moreso because it’s guys like us making it and mixing in home studios and not big studios. Like anything, some stuff is better than others, but when they get it right, it shines.

  33. Allister Bradley

    Hi Graham,

    I suppose I’m not going to directly answer your question… call me a rebel… but I want to share an “engineer epiphany” from listening to one of my favourite albums – Jamie Cullum’s “The Pursuit”.

    As an audio engineer, seeking the “best” mix, I’m typically aware of sounds in a mix that I would endeavour to “fix” if it were up to me. There are moments on this particular album when the “engineer” in my head is surprised by the inconsistency of the piano sound between tracks, the room noises that weren’t controlled, the differences in mix tonalities between the tracks. After all, this isn’t a “classic” album recorded before DAW’s, this is a modern album, so where’s the excuse for not getting it “right”?

    But there’s another part of me, the “music lover” part of me, that isn’t offended in any way by these technical qualities. In fact, it’s possible that I love the album even more, despite them. The quality of the MUSIC is without question – well-crafted songs and truly inspired performances.

    Bottom line – this album has been something of an education for me, as an engineer. I agree with you that the ultimate goal is great-sounding music, and to that end, sometimes the song and the performance are so compelling that even the simplest audio capture can do nothing to take away from that. Enjoying this album comes with the added bonus of keeping my perfectionism in check. Getting the perfect album is about ALL the factors that go into that, and especially with today’s technology working for us, perhaps it’s more about the creative content than it is about obsessing with the mix.

    There are plenty of times when I can put my training to good use, to improve the sound of my mixes, but there’s nothing like the joy that comes from just staying out of the way of some great music, and working together with a great artist to build a musical experience.

    Thank, always, for your inspirational blogs.

  34. kiselza

    Most of the albums by The Beatles. George Martin was a genius. But I love Steven Wilson’s (Porcupine Tree) work, too. His projects usually sound fantastic. And I like most albums engineered by David Bottrill (Peter Gabriel’s ‘So’ & ‘Us’, Tool, etc.) and Jens Bogren (Katatonia, Opeth, Paradise Lost, Symphony X).
    If I can pick only one… Rush: Counterparts.

  35. Stephen Letner

    mewithoutYou – Catch for us the Foxes

    The guitars are so lush and ambient at times, and then at other times they drive so hard. The drums are always at the forefront, but not too overbearing. The bass is rich and full, and Aaron’s vocals always cut through the mix whether he’s singing or doing his signature talking/yelling. From the moment the drums and guitar kick in at the beginning on Torches Together, you know you’re in for a great ride. Great album, great songs, great mixing, and great band!

  36. Andy Harrington

    Siamese Dream – Smashing Pumpkins
    In second place would be: The Mighty Ocean And Nine Dark Theaters by Astronautalis.

    Both albums have that “lightning in a bottle” quality to them

  37. JF Remillard

    Generally, anything mixed by Steven Wilson. So the Porcupine Tree albums and his own solo projects, “Hand cannot erase” in particular. This guy has been asked to remix many older progressive rock albums. He is a sound genius.

  38. Jerome

    Steely Dan’s ” The Royal Scam” .
    Like Aja , set the bar for “Sonic Bliss”

    Also the late Aaliyah’s “I don’t Wanna”
    The mix on this tune ( to me) defined what a Pop R&B song
    must have.

  39. Wade

    Joshua Judges Ruth – Lyle Lovett. Mixed by George Massenburg (who coined the term “parametric IQ”) What’s not to love? Incredible clarity and dynamics, Lyle’s wonderful material and his subtle, controlled vocal delivery, awesome band. For the uninitiated, I recommend the punchy Texas swamp of “You’ve Been So Good Up To Now.” This one I use as a comparison track when I can… yeah, as if…

  40. Ben Reaves

    A more modern example…Young the Giant’s S/T. That first album just had a solid, fat drum sound and all the instruments sit where they feel good. It’s just a jam record to me, because nothing seems off, it’s purely enjoyable. I’m sure there’s better technical examples with all the marks of good headroom, clean recording, flawless vocals…but this one is the first to come to mind for me.

  41. Mike K

    Best sounding records: most Steely Dan and Donald Fagen records engineered by Elliot Scheiner… Gaucho, Aja, Two Against Nature, Everything Must Go, Morph the Cat… I think Fagen’s The Nightfly is one of the best records of all time (Gary Katz), but it’s a little thin…
    Then there’s Tool’s 10,000 Days with Joe Barresi. Big as a house.
    I think great sounding records are equal parts arrangement/instrumentation and engineering…

  42. Garry E Shepard Jr.

    Hey Graham good article I need help as far as for recording. I want to know how to setup proper levels for vocal recordings from a radio ready Track.

  43. Rob

    My personal favourite at the moment…Raising Sand (Robert Plant/Alison Crouse). This whole album sounds so perfectly balanced to me…every element in its place.

  44. Jean

    Blood Sugar Sex Majik -Red Hot Chili Peppers

    To me this record just sounds perfect. Clean, Raw, every instrument is recorded well. sick bass lines, sparkly funky but expressive minamalist guitars, So much loose feeling in the drums but they are still tight, vocals that are fun and moving but don’t take themselves to serious. Sounds like a band, and a band was at their height of creativity, and funkiness.

  45. Edgar

    Foo Fighters Sonic highways. Just the fact that they used a different studio for each track and have it sound the way it does is just amazing.

  46. Thomas

    Dubmood – Machine, Overlander and Badlands
    Basic waveforms never designed to be mixed sounding from ancient hardware that demands respect for how it’s constantly pushed up to and past its limits, decades after being declared obsolete meets guitars, drums, bass and one sexy-arse Moog Liberation.
    Vocal processing to make a man cry for its originality and simplicity with lyrics in Italian, German, French, English and Swedish.
    The whole ‘sound’ is just so new and so old. How it was mixed I have no idea.
    This album-and-two-EPs is a unique case in today’s indie music industry. It would not sound wrong in a dance club. It would not sound wrong in terms of progressive rock. It fits beautifully into modern synthpop. It is all these and yet totally unique, and I can’t get enough of it.
    The underground subcultures that influenced the band are also really interesting and worth reading into.
    I hope you guys give this some time. It’s totally worth your time, if only for the sheer widening experience of what can be acheived with technology previously thought hopelessly obsolete.
    Wake up, skip school, visit dubmood.bandcamp.com
    over and out,

  47. Bigred

    Disappointed to see no mention of Radiohead’s “OK Computer” yet? It’s a masterpiece.

  48. Gerry

    Hi Graham,

    Firstly I would like to say that I have been a dedicated follower of yours for the past 5 years. I have bought all your courses, which are awesome, (Except the latest as I need to save a little more ) (Bought too many plug ins, you see)

    Please keep on doing what you are doing. You are not going unappreciated. My friends and I, whom I referred you to, enjoy every e-mail we get from your side.

    What you are saying about getting more involved with the actual music, instead of that marvelous gear out there, is of course 100% true.

    The problem is that, Boys love their Toys, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get away from it. I am 63, and I still love my toys……..so sorry my younger friends, you will never be cured from this disease in the near or even distant future. Plug ins are fantastic, whether we actually know how to use them or not! We just love our toys, so why not indulge?

    However, having said that, we definitely need to put aside the toys for now, and put more effort into actually creating more real, raw music. That does not mean we have to actually give up the toys, of course.

    Just my two cents worth, Graham.

    My favorite album that fires me up?…. Any good rock songs, from the 60’s onward, and even some of the good solid, cleverly produced and recorded stuff on the charts right now. Every one has his or hers own special techniques and we learn from them all.



  49. Dave

    I own 2 Mobile Fidelity Audio Labs Gold Master Disc cds, Supertramp’s Crime of The Century and Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow. While neither is an example of technically perfect recording, it’s actually the flaws and sounds that make these an inspiration to me. Listening on headphones isolates every little amp buzz, pickup switch, obvious edit, and execution mistake, which in my opinion humanizes the recording. No digital fixes, just the raw tracks as they were meant to be, with the audio as it was meant to be. Plus these discs sound so
    good, you almost feel as if you were right there in the studio as they were being recorded.

  50. Daniel Taylor.

    Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures. Maybe not the Best Sounding Record but probably the most beautifully otherworldly. I’m not a gear/technique obsessive either but I’d sell my soul to know how to get Martin Hannett’s bass sound. Except The Devil doesn’t know how to get it either.

  51. Ben

    Make fun if you want,

    But Taylor Swift’s record, “Fearless” has some of my favorite mixes on it.

  52. Dave Rhodes

    Revolver by The Beatles. I would go for the mono mix as well because it sounds awesome. All the beatles recordings sound fresh in their original mono vinyl format but they had some of the best engineers at abbey road and I’m sure you could record anything at Abbey Road and it would sound magnificent. The great Sir George Martin, thank you for so many great examples!

  53. Dustin

    Love that picture you used to accompany the engineer description; hilarious!
    As a 90s, CCM/Gospel-only raised child, the album that really does it for me is Bryan Duncan’s “Mercy,” especially the song “When It Comes To Love.” Feels like I’m right in the middle of this epic jam session. The mix captures the very best of Bryan’s amazing vocal, without sacrificing the rich tones of the organ and rhodes, as well as the nice cut of the electric guitar and sax. And a super fat snare.

  54. Franck

    I can’t name only one. I will go with these one :

    Toto – Fahrenheit
    Metallica – Black Album
    Dire Straits – On Every Street
    Dream Theater – Awake
    Sting – The Soul Cages
    Kassav’ – Vini Pou

    • Marco Castellanos

      I haven’t heard the whole album, but every time I hear “Get lucky” I think, THIS OFFERS AN AMAZING SOUNDING SONG!!!!!!!! 🙂

  55. Steve_P

    Wow – my listening list just grew by about 20 albums!!
    I’d like to add Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow…the musicality of that record stops me in my tracks to this day.

  56. Jason Arvanites

    Interesting question. As a teenager, listening to my sister’s scratchy old Beatle records was enough for me to get hooked. Sonic quality wasn’t even a consideration. Regardless, I was whisked away on clouds of wonder.

    Now? I’m very distracted by the sound quality or (lack thereof) of music. As contrary as it may sound. I’ve lost the wonderment that goes with listening to music and am sort of stuck in a technical holding pattern that prevents me from being able to discern why I like an album. Is it because of the dynamics of it or does it bring me back to my visceral, primary reaction to it despite any lack of fidelity? As a result, I find myself switching to lo-fi, college radio stations to recapture those old feelings hence abandoning everything I’m striving for as a mixer. Or is that the point? Now I’ve lost it. Does anyone know what the heck I’m talking about?

  57. Juan

    I can’t decide what is the best sounding album, I will say that Fleetwood Mac- Rumors album is one that just hits it dead on. Superb quality which fires me up to record !

  58. StevieB

    My favorite mix of all time is; Abbey Road, The Beatles. I’ll never forget the day we bought the album in late 1969. My brother and I were teenagers and shared a bedroom. We got into our beds that evening anxiously awaiting the first track. My father slowly lowered the needle on our record player and we were off on the musical experience of our lives. Our eyes and ears opened up wide and we were in the moment. I’ll always remember the panning on the last note before the vocal on “Here Comes the Sun.” These days, I listen with headphones, and go back in time and still love the experience. God Bless George Martin.

  59. Edgar Rothermich


    although I find your recording advice and your service to the recording public in general very helpful, I think this article is very misleading and borderline dangerous. It even follows a disturbing trend in recent politics that demonizes intellectuals, scientists and engineers.

    … “I’m Not Smart Enough To Be An Audio Engineer (And Why That Benefits Me)” …
    This is your headline of your blog and although a headline should have some challenging statement, in this case, it carries everything that is wrong in your article. First of all, it is not about “smart” or “smart enough”. If you are intimidated or treated by smart people, then you have other issues. The proper term is “skilled”. You want to have a skilled audio engineer, and if you do your own recording and mixing and you are not as skilled as a professional audio engineer, then that would benefit you nothing, it would only make your recording sound bad, or at least not as good as it could be.
    I would guess that most recordings that are posted by readers here are done (and benefitted) by very skilled audio engineers

    Let me point out a few misconceptions in your article:

    … “I Don’t Get Distracted By The Gear” …
    This implies that being an audio engineer “distracts” you from doing a good job and therefore by not being an audio engineer, you are better off. I really don’t know where you get the idea that engineers get distracted by techniques and by the industry at large. The gear are the tools, what they use, and of course every professional discusses their tools among other professionals. But his is just one aspect of their job.

    … “let me arrive at the main point, making great sounding recordings and mixes is at its core a simple and achievable task” …
    Not really. Why are there schools to learn it? Why do good engineers need year-long experience to become a good engineer? And by the way, how do you define “great sounding recordings”, a very subjective term as you can see by the responses.

    … “You must, however, possess an unquenchable thirst and desire for great music (and making it yourself)” …
    Of course, but that has nothing to do with being an engineer or not. On the other hand, the desire alone doesn’t get you anywhere if you don’t have the skills. If you want to record and mix your music you should have an “unquenchable thirst and desire” to learn the skills that enable you to make great sounding recordings.

    … “But I find that I make better music when I focus on just that – making better music” …
    You have to differentiate between “making music” and “making a record”. Although at the end you have a product which is a sum of both (and a few other elements), but both are different fields. How come that the musicians go to a studio and let the engineer record their music, and why does the engineer not play the music themselves? Both require their own set of skills. Sometimes you end up with a great record (very subjective) that was made by musicians with little skills or engineers with little skills. And nowadays, most musicians become their own engineer trying to learn the necessary skills. That’s why you have your audience.

    … “If you know what good music sounds like, you can make a great record” …
    You can’t be serious about that. This is just a great sounding statement that is actually pretty nonsense. If I know how a good painting look like doesn’t enable me to make a great painting. If I know how a great car looks like doesn’t enable me to build one. You have to have the skills, and that’s where the engineering part comes in, not the lack of it.

    … “Sadly knowing all the gear, tips/tricks, and industry secrets doesn’t inherently mean you know what good music sounds like.” …
    There is so much stuff in that sentence. First of all, sound engineering is not about tips and trick and more a bout knowledge of the underlying technology (physics, acoustics, etc). These are not secrets. You can read about them in many books, widely available. “Secret” is just a marketing term. Unfortunately, the internet builds up that illusion that you only need to read a blog and watch a couple of YouTube videos instead of learning and understanding the fundamentals.

    … “The more you focus on (and listen to) great sounding music, the more prepared you will be to get great sounding recordings and mixes. No “engineering” required” …
    No! – No! – No! Nobody says that an audio engineer doesn’t listen to (focus on) the music. But saying that instead of learning the engineering part and just listen to music will do the same, this is just irresponsible. You might know which record sounds better (might be subjective), but you will have no clue whatsoever how it was achieved. Chances are that great sounding record was done by an engineer who studied his craft and not just listened to records.You can listen to Michael Jackson albums until your ear bleed, but you will not magically achieve the skills of Bruce Sweden.

    … “I am only interested in a new technique if it helps me achieve a better result in the studio.” …
    Again, big misconception. Audio engineering is not about “new techniques”, it is about “old techniques”, the basics in physics, acoustics, etc. On that basic skill set, the foundation, you will build experience, personal workflows and techniques. For example, you cannot teach a trick on how to use Aux Channel Strips for submixes if one has no understanding of basic signal flow and level management.

    … “When I think of an engineer I picture someone with advanced degrees, a firm grasp of graduate level math, and a white lab coat.” …
    Personally, I don’t care if the person wears a white coat or a pink coat. The only thing that matters as a musician is if he or she has the skills and knowledge to make my music sound the best it can or make it sound the way how I want it to sound. Chances are, this would be an engineer and not a person who just listened to a lot of records.

    • Walt

      Interesting – I’ve been an educated full-time engineer for over 20 years, but didn’t find offense in Graham’s article. I think Graham is just encouraging everyone to do the best they can with what they have and focus on the art form. I don’t think he’s trying to discourage people from learning…

      His humility also helps him connect with those who would be intimidated by an engineer’s perspective – many will learn things from him that they will never learn from an engineer.

      I don’t agree with everything he says, but I don’t agree with everything that much of anyone says. I think that’s part of being an engineer. 🙂 I do greatly appreciate the help he offers for free to many that want to get better at recording and mixing, though.

      • Pete M

        And I’m a beginner in this territory (being with TRR for twelve months in a row, now ) and I stick also to the idea, that Graham nothing but encourages people (and musicians as well 😉 to dive into the would of recording and mixing and not being intimidated by all ‘secrets’ surrounding it.

        Just listening to good music alone, will not make you a good engineer! Using it as a reference to compare to your own productions will at least help you, to search for solutions and, as a good engineer you will know, the newest plugin won’t help you solve it.

        Living the ‘work with what you have’-attitude served me well for the last twelve months and took me further than any plugin/outboard gear could have. I learned, that it isn’t Voodoo and I won’t need a white lab coat. Instead I discovered, it’s a helluvalotta work to become better and that’s where I (one) have to invest. Besides, the more I get into it, the more I appreciate and value the work/knowledge/skills of a good (and experienced) engineer, although I certainly do not know even 5 percent of what they know/do.

        Someone who takes pianolessons might become a skilled pianoPLAYER, it doesn’t say anything about that someone as a MUSICIAN. And isn’t that, what it’s all about: Music?

    • Marco Castellanos

      With no offence intended, Mr Rothermich, but I honestly think you don’t know Graham Cochrane, read his bio please, and then review your comment, I also suggest you with all do respect to check Graham’s videos on YouTube and to read other of his blogs, surely you might change your mind.

      I also ask you, is the engineer degree a guaranty to make great records?

      Take care.

      • Allister

        Mr. Rothermich, I do believe you’re greatly missing the point in Graham’s blog. Graham is the last person you will find “demonizing intellectuals”. If you follow his blogs, surely you know that. Maybe you’ve started your day feeling demonized or attacked by trends in politics, but please don’t direct your anger at a friendly fella who’s inspiring people to make music. Have yourself a morning coffee and then go do something great with your skills.

        Don’t worry, folks. Nothing borderline dangerous to see here. Move along.

  60. Casey

    Tough call but I gotta go with Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or.” Super inspiring for songwriting, arrangement, and production. It doesn’t sound “perfect,” but it sounds very real and like a lot of time, thought, and love went into it.

  61. Ken Nilsen

    Amused to death by Roger Waters is my sonic favourite.
    Also agree with Tools Laterus.
    All the best.

  62. mitch

    I have three: 1-Mountain…Nantucket Sleighride, 2-Derick and the Dominoes…Layla and other assorted Love Songs, and 3: Michael Jackson…Thriller…

  63. Stephen Bish

    ‘Dark side of the Moon’- Pink floyd. Although at my age there are many albums that have had a big effect on me, changed my life and my way of thinking such as the Beatles ‘Abby Road’ or ‘Woodstock’, they did so more through the songs or the musical style. ‘Dark side of the Moon’ went beyond that and was more about the actual ‘Sound’. I remember at the time, and I worked in the record industry back then, a buyer from a large record shop saying what a load of sh*t the lyrics were. “Us us us us us us us us and them them them them them them them them”, but man THE SOUND! it was just so radical and different in it’s day. Maybe that is what is needed today when everyone wants to sound exactly like everyone else.

  64. A.J. De Witt

    I would say the best album I’ve heard so far is Lecrae – Church Clothes 3. The mix, the lyrics, the vibe, all amazing. Another one would be Pentatonix – Pentatonix. For an A Capella album, it definitely sits at the top with other big albums, in my opinion.

  65. Rieuwke

    Underground – Electric Prunes
    Drop – Shamen
    Sehnsucht – Rammstein
    Great Conspiracy – Peanut Butter Conspiracy
    Doors first 2 Albums
    Roger the Engineer – Yardbirds
    Waiting For a Miracle – Comsat Angels
    plus hundreds of garage/psych one-offs

  66. Simon

    Pink Floyd-Dark side of the moon
    David Bowie-The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

  67. David Engquist

    My favorite sounding albums are Brand New Eyes by Paramore and Vessel by Twenty One Pilots. Fantastic songs, clarity, power and sound on those records!

  68. Timmy Fasano

    Blood Sugar Sex Magic by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. To me, this record has EVERYTHING. It caught not only the band in their peak, but also their engineer & producer. The way that record sounds always does something to me. I usually will play that record through my monitors before mixing, every mix I do.

  69. David

    Color me old, but my ears still hear the perfection of Enya’s “Shepherd Moons.”

  70. David Gregory

    My benchmark and I know it is used as a reference for several producers is “Highway of Life” by Shaver. Only album Eddie Shaver just got to be himself and play and shows what a disservice Shavers other producers did to them. Randall Jamoie caught lightning in a bottle because he was smart enough to know sometimes the best thing a producer or engineer can do is just roll tape and get out of the way. Anyone who records acoustic instruments should listen to this as a reference and electric guitar sounds are awesome too. Only album they made that gives Billy Joe Shaver’s songs the sonic pallets they deserve.

  71. Peter

    “History, Americas Greatest Hits”…just listened to it again after several years…top notch and clean production.

  72. Miro

    Slayer – South Of Heaven. In my opinion an amazing quality of drum sound and mix in general. Great musician’s performance.

  73. Etienne "Miztha EO" Ost

    Dr Dre – 2001, Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggy Style, DJ Quik – Rhythmalizm, Dr Dre The Chronic. And now also Scarface – Deeply Rooted. Before I go mixing or make beats is what I’m playin.

    Miztha EO – Tropcal Vibe coming soon.

  74. tom black

    BB King / Eric Claton “RIDING WITH THE KING”. I love the quality of engineering by Alan Douglas, Mike Guzauski and Tom Sweeny. Lots of space and clarity between tracks. Great arrangements, instrumentation, and not to mention, 2 of the finest guitarists ever to pick and grin..

  75. Rob Faulkner

    I can’t choose between Seal’s first album, So by Peter Gabriel and The The – Mind Bomb – is gob smacking and wonderful.

  76. Jonza

    ACDC higway to hell! So simple,so natural,so powerfull!
    Every time thet I put this In a party, or in the car or when doing sports I litteraly fly!

  77. James Nelson

    Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
    There are other great ones, and I listen to everything from Buddy Holly to Oingo Boingo to Rush to (dare I say it?) Taylor Swift. I believe as a music lover first, and a music maker second, it does make sense to dive into all music. I only mentioned the pop stuff. Then there’s Merle Haggard, King Crimson, Chon, Johnny Cash.. yes, I am all over all music. Ceili Rain, Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway… It’s all good. Music is life… enough said.
    I really like what you are doing here, Graham. Thank you for the inspirations.
    God Bless,

  78. Grayson Peddie

    Wow… So many comments to read.

    If you do not know David Arkenstone, why have you been listening to Innoventions music at Epcot in Walt Disney World? His songs are part of the music near the Fountain of Nation, especially the main theme, called “Papillon,” from the album “In the Wake of the Wind.” The other song that’s heard in Innoventions music is “Top of the World” from the album “Citizens of Time.”

    Aside from the Innoventions music, five of my favorite songs are “Desert Ride,” “Hindu Holiday,” “Passage,” “Nullabor,” and “The Palace” from the album “Island,” and not only “Top of the World,” my other four favorite songs are “Out of the Forest and Into The Trees,” “The Malabar Caves,” “Voices of the Anasazi,” and “The Northern Light” from the Album “Citizens of Time,” My other honorable mentions are “Rumours of Egypt,” “Splendor of the Sun,” and “Explorers,”

    What about Checkfield? Three of my favorite albums from them are “Distant Thunder,” “Through the Lens,” and “Water Wind and Stone.”

    Oh, and guess what? I’ve written my second song called “Roamin’ ’round the World.”

    Enjoy! 🙂

  79. J E Flanigan

    The Allman Brothers, Live at the Fillmore East. While the Who are my favorite band of all time, and Jeff Beck my favorite guitarist, this album has to to be in consideration for one of the best of all time.
    Image what Duane would be doing now had he not left us so soon?
    Anyway, this music inspires me to create.

  80. Mike Guarilia

    Welcome To The Pleasuredome by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Trevor Horn at his best. The first recording to make me think about music production.

  81. Dylan

    Opeth- Blackwater Park

    Every time I hear that album I just want to lock myself away for a few months playing non stop.

  82. Jade

    Radiohead – Let Down, “Deep bottom, Smooth top, and balanced mid”. I wish I can produce my songs like this (and many others from OK Computer).

    BTW, Thank you so much for your blog and your teaching materials. It’s one of the best investment I have made in producing my music. More than any gear I have bought. Thank You. And, Cheers for all your hard work, Graham.

  83. Sean

    Sarah Brightman – Dive
    Urge Overkill – Exit the Dragon
    Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla
    Booth and the Bad Angel – S/T

    I love productions with a lot of space between instruments 🙂

  84. Dave

    For something a bit different
    West End Blues by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five recorded in June 1928. Sonically limited obviously, but a fantastic recording for it’s time.

  85. Dennis Neufeld

    3 Doors Down – The Better Life.
    This album is a source of great nostalgia for me. The few times a year that I play its tracks, I always notice the girth of guitars, the punchy drums and vocals that neither disappear in the mix nor stand out. I love this album for so many reasons!

  86. Barry Hanson

    Lee Rittenour, Abraham Laboreal, Steve Gadd, Ernie Watts, Dave Grusin, Don Grusin, Steve Forman

    Each song was recorded direct to disc…. each side one continuous performance.

  87. Robin How

    Left of field this one…

    Concert in Central Park by Simon and Garfunkel. Geffen records.

    Amazing sound integrity – you can hear every murmur of the crowd and Garfunkel’s sweet soaring vocals are utterly beautifully rendered.

    There’s slap back echo all over it but that just helps to authenticate it as a faithful and artful recording of an extraordinary two hours. Captures and recreates the moment.

  88. Tryggvasson

    Musically, U2 – The Unforgettable Fire, that’s the album that makes me 10 inches taller, stronger and deeper, everytime I listen to it. Of course, there’re a lot on the list, but if I were to choose MY album, that would it.
    Sonically, best mixes ever, in my view, Nightwish – Once, and there are choirs, tons of backing vocals and a symphonic orchestra in there, U2 – October (maybe The Joshua Tree), Depeche Mode – Violator, Metallica – Black Album (drums loud as hell, though), Doors – LA Woman (don’t know why – the sound just fits the mood). Some more, in there as well.

  89. Jon

    Thanks for the great articles Graham. They keep me motivated! I love Rush, Maiden and heavy rock, but when I think of “great sounding albums” a few things come to mind.

    Although maybe a little dated every album the Cars ever recorded sounds amazing. In the car, on the boom box, or on a $20,000 system, “The Cars”, “Candy-O”, “Shake It Up”, “Heartbeat City” etc, sounds great.

    Also the band Dada’ first album “Puzzle” is one of my favorites. Warm without mud, crisp top without the brittlness and guitarist Micheal Gurley recorded some of the best strat tones you’ll ever hear on that record. Also It was produced by Ken Scott.

    On the other hand Breaking Benjamin’ albums drive me crazy. Love the songs but I can’t listen to them for more than 15, 20 minutes. Compressed to hell and too bright, it hurts my ears!

  90. Guy Poirier

    Supertramp, Crime of the Century as well as Live in Paris. Both of these have such an extended dynamic range that is crisp and clear.

  91. Mitchell Rodgers

    Bad Company “Straight Shooter” especially Feel Like Making Love on LP.

  92. John

    Great article Graham! Your work, inspiring artists to create is an awesome gift. Keep it up.
    Best sounding albums that catch my attention EVERY time I hear them…
    Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run – my favourite all time.
    Honourable mentions to
    Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
    Guns n Roses Appetite for Destruction
    Looking forward to your next post

  93. Walt

    …So much to choose from – ain’t music great!?!

    One that comes to my mind is Norah Jones’ “Not Too Late” album. Check out “Sinkin’ Soon” and “Little Room”. They are soooo – real. Sinkin’ Soon – so complex and so simple. Little Room – the sound of the room creates visualization of the story itself as the lyrics paint a picture.
    Many Norah Jones songs have amazing sound stages that fit the song and the story line soooo well…
    Of course, it helps that Norah and most of the musicians she chooses to work with are musical geniuses.

  94. Eric

    Crime of the century.
    Speaks for itself.
    Still sounds as great and timeless today as it will 100 years from now.

    Can’t leave out…
    Back In Black.
    So subtly done with the most perfect amount of everything, to do nothing but enhance every sound, Guitars, Drums Bass and Vocals, it’s genious and perfection is not readily apparent.
    There’s nothing done to it to draw your attention to the mechanics or effect of the mix.
    Along with some of the best straight ahead rocknroll songs ever the band and singer are in your face and perfectly all married together.
    All Mutt did was take greatness, notice it, and not get i the way of it.
    Just make it shine and put it front and center.
    He let it all just speak for itself and presented it for what it was.

  95. -Steve Keller

    Thanks for a thoughtful column, as always Graham! As a certified old guy, and definitely not a rock enthusiast, I would like to point out that some of the very best recorded music ever made was done by Rudy Van Gelder in his New Jersey studio. The audio quality is astounding on every record recorded there. For a prime example listen to Cornbread by Lee Morgan – even rock fans will like Sidewinder from this album. But all recording engineers ( and enthusiasts) should study the great Mr. Van Gelder.

  96. Porky

    There are a lot of great albums, for sure. I’d agree that The Cars debut and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon are some of the greatest sounding, older albums. A current album for me is the 5.1 surround mix of Steven Wilson’s, The Raven That Refused to Sing. It can make a grown man boo-hoo with bliss haha. Just about everything this guy produces is fantastic.


  97. Guilherme Canaes

    Of course there is a lot of fantastic albums and songs we love.

    Is cool when some band or singer get a stunning debut album like GnR Appetite For Destruction or Black Sabbath Vol 1, in both cases, albums recorded with very low budget. (Black Sabbath 1, three days in record/mixing process and sounds huge when you listen in a big PA, if someone have a opportunity, please try it )

    I love also all the albums from Alan Parsons Project and tons of others more, older and newer, in different styles and nationality…

    So, here we have many situations; New bands with no experience in a low cost recording and in other side a number one “sound engineer/producer” working in the best recording studios with the better musicians he found, and lot of renowned artists.

    All of them making the best music we can hear.
    All of them would be nothing without good music to be recorded, thats it.

    I am a middle-aged “sound engineer”, latin grammy winner, and I agree totally with Graham when he insist in the point that is no gear, no bits, no tape, nothing can do the magic for us. Nothing is more important than the reason for what we are doing in a recording/mixing environment… The music! One can get to a mainstream studio and make nothing without a reason to be there.
    Thank you guys for your attention!

  98. Scott Ramsay

    Something a little more off the beaten path (couldn’t pick 1):
    -Imogen Heap- ‘Speak For Yourself’- amazingly her 1st solo album, self recorded and produced.
    -Alan Parsons- ‘The Time Machine’
    -Seal- ‘Seal IV’ (not surprising since it’s produced by the amazing Trevor Horn)
    -ELO- ‘Out of the Blue’ (the awesome Jeff Lynne)

  99. Adam Skokan-Guinn

    Right now, And the Glass Handed Kites by Mew. Always amazed by the changing textures. Great example of how to keep a mix moving and interesting!

  100. Paul

    I got to go with Radiohead “OK Computer or U2 “Joshua Tree” not because of the great mixes( and they are fantastic) but the songs are just so well written, not a bad or mediocre one in the entire bunch.

  101. Mike Teague

    Ok, so I have a few but they all bring a smile! Thank you for all the info Graham!
    James Taylor- Mud Slide Slim
    The Weepies-Say Am you
    Jakob Dylan- Seeing Things
    The Civil Wars- Barton Halllow
    Kim Hill-song You are so Holy
    Fernando Ortega-The Shadow of your wings
    Chris Rice- Past the Edges
    David Wilcox-Underneath

  102. larry dent

    “SO” by Peter Gabriel/ Daniel Lanois and “Wrecking Ball” by Emmy Lou Harris/ Daniel Lanois are 2 that come to mind

  103. THM

    “1989” by Taylor Swift is the best sounding album I’ve heard so far. Awesome Songs and melodies, extremely great production and full of so many musical colors. This album brought me from writing metal riffs to writing, producing and mixing pop.

  104. David Savenmark

    I just love Muse and their 4 last albums. Because i love their music. In some of the later albums, the drums sound more crispy and punchy. Muse are the reason I’m a musician. Thanks again for everything you do. It has encouraged me to simplify but also improved my way of thinking when it comes to finishing a song.

  105. BadHair

    Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
    Porcupine Tree – The Incident
    Steven Wilson’s remix of Jethro Tull – Passion Play !!! My God that album makes the world stop spinning!
    Anything mixed by Steven Wilson, he’s a fuckin’ genius!!

    Agree with > Lyle Lovett – Joshua Judge’s Ruth
    Dire Straights – Brothers in Arms
    Mark Knopfler – Privateering
    Agree with > Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III
    Haken – Mountain
    Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

  106. Pete M

    Rory Gallagher’s Deuce for having that rough live-feel and Top Priority and Jinx
    Brad Paisley – Part II: polished and yet organic
    Pat Travers- Black Pearl: very 80’s Bluesrock sound

  107. Abolhafeed Albosife

    to me the best record of all the time and I’m still wondering how they made such a tasty piece of cake is :
    Gojira – The Way Of All Flesh

  108. Pablo

    Animals – Pink Floyd
    The Raven That Refused to Sing – Steven Wilson
    Pyramid – Alan Parsons Project
    Drama – Yes

  109. Steve

    Beatles – the white album
    My favourite to listen to on warm summer nights. That and any “accidental bit of chatter” on the Led Zeppelin albums make me want to record something. Because it is not about being perfect, but about being created with vision and lots of fun.

  110. Freddie

    Beatles-White Album, Sargent Peppers, Abbey Road
    Santana- Abraxas
    Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith and Devotion

  111. JohnP

    Some of the albums that put the recording bug in me (and still make me run for the studio):
    * Deep Purple – Made in Japan
    * Yes – Going for the One; Relayer
    * Pink Floyd – Animals; The Division Bell; Meddle; or everything except Pulse.
    * Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime
    and about a million others…

  112. Brian

    Graham I have 2. Boston’s first and Collective Soul’s first. 2 reasons for me to believe I can…eventually…make great music from my home studio. Thanks for your inspiration.

  113. fred bissnette

    oscar peterson-nightrain
    cowboy junkies-trinity session
    jazz at the pawn shop
    led zeppelin 4

  114. Sean Vee-twin

    Exile on Main Street – Rolling Stones. It inspires me because it sounds so raw and almost suggests that anyone can achieve results like that.

  115. Gabe Guevara

    Pink Floyd- Dark Side of The Moon: Why? Because not all of them were great players. Yet Roger Waters and David Gilmour have some of the best solos ever recorded, for that the best tones. They played 2 note solos!! What did they do though? They made those notes count and they played them from the heart. That band did not hide behind gear, they used it to their advantage got the job done and never looked back.

    Ryan Adams- Heartbreaker: Why? The Glyn Johns method all the way. That album is underrated in my book.

    Tom Petty- Wildflowers: Why? Do I really have to explain here? Just listen to the FULL record from front to back and if you disagree, you tell me why? Captivating from ‘Wildflowers’ all the way to ‘Wake Up Time’ with some of my favorites being the 2 mentioned above with the second one really helping me through some horrific times in my old life and helped me to evolve from who I was to who I am and will be. I dare you to listen to ‘Crawling Back To You’ from a mixing standpoint, it will give you chills… Or maybe it’s just me.

    I have something to offer this world, I’m not just a drummer in a band. I love music so much that I could cry right now. I will earn my name at least on to your computer screen once in some way, fashion or form.

    God Bless,

    Gabriel Guevara

    Ps. My father is having a pretty extensive surgery today, prayers and good vibes would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!!


  116. Xavier Smith

    Thanks again Graham for the encouraging words. One of the best albums is “THE STREETS-ORIGINAL PIRATE MATERIAL “, he took very simple equipment and concepts and changed the UK music scene at the beginning of the 21st .

  117. Jukes Roels

    Robbie Robertson’s first solo release, self titled. The balance and space are simply beautiful.

  118. Johan Kaethoven

    Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ & ‘The Wall’ are two of them. When talking to more modern music i’d like to mention Dream Theater as a band. I love the way they sound, the way they compose, and the way they perform.

  119. Daniel Hadida

    I won’t say “best album of all times”, but Zakk Wylde’s “Book of Shadows” has a wonderful production (Clearmountain/Ludwig), when the first song hits your ears, you go “WTF, IT’S BEAUTIFUL !”
    And I’m not even a Zakk Wylde fan.

  120. Jim French

    It may not be the best mixed record of all time by today’s standards, but take a listen to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. What those musicians and engineers did with mic placement and just riding a fader(s) is amazing.

  121. Christopher

    Elliott Smith – XO
    Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
    Neutral Milk Hotel – In an Aeroplane Over the Sea

    NMH and Wilco’s records were both recorded by the band themselves. Both great examples of traditional instrument records not needing to sound like anything else to be great. I’ve heard some of the ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ guitar tracks solo’d and they sound awful! Within the context of the mix though, they are beautiful.

  122. Peter

    At the end of the day mixing is a combination of art and science. As an aspiring physician I find most sound phenomena quite intuitive and understand things like standing waves and sound phase. It’s good to know where to expect problems and where not. But after everything’s prepared, checked and i’m ready for recording and mixing I forget all about the gear and science and focus on sound, feel and emotion. I’m a very begineer, but it already gives me a lot of pleasure.

  123. Nick

    Dare – The Human League (Martin Rushent)
    Reign in Blood – Slayer (Rick Rubin)
    Welcome to the Pleasuredome – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (Trevor Horn)
    Nocturne – Siouxsie and the Banshees (Mike Hedges)
    The Cure – 17 Seconds & Faith (Mike Hegdges)
    Adam and the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier (Chris Hughes)
    U2 – Achtung Baby (Brian Eno)

  124. Sean

    Don Caballero – World Class Listening Problem is such a well made record. You can hear both guitars separate from each other perfectly. Every little drum hit is up front and audible. And the bass is extremely clear sounding. Not one muddy note the whole album. I highly recommend everyone check it out. Not only is the sound quality the best I’ve ever heard but the songs are pure genius.

  125. Rod

    “The Soul Cages” ~ Sting ..reverb from Heaven, Separation to die for, Creativity out of this world.

  126. Stephen Douglas

    Graham, your post is exactly what I have been thinking, especially lately. I started listening to a series of podcasts recommended by Ian in one of his posts, but I soon realized that most of them are concerned with the “business.” And, yes, that is just a depressing distraction from making music. While it may be interesting to some people what some famous engineer did between jobs while trying to support a family, when I listen to that it’s just a buzzkill for making music. It’s cart before horse: how can I constrict my activities in order to make money in the “business”?

    The answer for me is that I can’t. Beyoncé I’m never going to be. Ditto Taylor Swift. And it’s disheartening to know a little too much about the trials and travails of superstars past and present presented endlessly in these podcasts.

    Thanks for an exciting and enlightening essay on your point of view. It is imspiring to know that I am on the right track.

  127. Kevin

    I have so many albums that are great to me but Janet Jacksons “Rhythm Nation” would be the best right now. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are just amazing. They also made a song for Sting called “My funny friend and me” and the sound and how they arranged all the instruments is just incredible.

  128. John

    Thank you for posting this. You made an excellent point: a great track isn’t the product of top-of-the-line audio tools, years of education on production, or the biggest name in the industry. Good music is made by people who know good music when they hear it.

  129. Well AsCop

    My No. 1 bench mark has been for years Rammstein’s MUTTER album. Musically and sonically absolutely marvelous and to my metal infused ears still one of the best sounding records I know of.

  130. Josh

    Very encouraging to read something like this from someone so great. Give us the motivation and hope to pursue and thrive at this wonderful career. Thanks for all the tips and hard work you put in for all of us!

  131. James

    Might be the minority here, but opus recently released by eric prydz is really a thing of beauty no matter what kind of music you listen to. Its so uplifting and serene at all the right moments and its the artist that comes to my mind when you speak of knowing what really good music sounds like. Its the music people can’t seem to find in today’s culture and music industry when they accuse younger generations of losing sight of what music is really about.

  132. CoffeePerson

    This would be “Toy Matinee” for me! Such an incredible album, in every aspect!

  133. Seth Humble

    I have always loved Queen’s “A Day at the Races” & “A Night at the Opera”. Every time I listen to either album, I instantly wish I could perform and produce my own music just as good as the beautiful sounds that I hear. There are tons of multiple guitar parts and vocal parts…and each part is dynamic and crystal clear.

  134. Tommy P

    This was a great article to read. I actually fell on to this after I got frustrated at an audio engineering forum because everyone kept using the term “warmth” or “warm” to describe the sound and that drives me up the freaking wall. When I hear someone use that term, it leads me to believe that the individual has no idea what is going on in the audio but likes the way it sounds. So, in my frustration I googled ‘Audio engineers warmth means nothing!’ and here I am.

    Whatever, still a great article. To answer your question, every time I hear Atreyu – The Curse, The Distillers – Coral Fang, or if I’m in a fun mood Blind Melon – No Rain, it makes me want to record that style of music in that very moment. Those albums match what styles I shoot for in each genre when I record that particular genre of music. I side-by-side tracks from those albums all the time when I’m wrapping up my master tracks and even though I can’t get very close to them yet, I know I will one day.



  1.  Friday Roundup March 18, 2016 | Unveilmusic.com

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