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Quality Audio: A Discussion With GRAMMY-Winning Engineer Chuck Ainlay
In its ongoing mission to promote both sound quality and the overall art and craft of recording music, The Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing and Texas Chapter hosted, "Quality Audio – The Future Is Now," featuring GRAMMYAward-winning engineer Chuck Ainlay on June 16, 2012. As part of the GRAMMY GPS: Texas Summer Speaker Series, the event offered approximately sixty P&E members an up close and personal opportunity with Ainlay, who discussed the current and future state of audio quality. The event took place at Studio CBC in San Antonio, TX.
Recently Ainlay opined on the state of high-resolution audio in today's music industry: "Mastered for ITunes, HD Tracks and premier headphones are all new consumer indications that there is a demand for high resolution audio. We have to stop thinking that just because people have been listening on ear buds to low-res downloads, that is the way it will always be. The music we record today must exceed the resolution of tomorrow."
Moderated by former Chapter Trustee and Texas Chapter P&E committee co-chair, Dan Workman, the presentation began with Ainlay sharing his background and career path, as well as some funny stories from the studio with artists such as Lionel Richie and George Strait. Ainlay discussed his recording process and stressed the importance getting out of the way and allowing the song to be what it is, “without too much knob turning. Just the artist and a mic.” He also emphasized the importance of not letting commercial radio dictate records: “Our job is not to make the record sound like what is playing on the radio. The music needs to be unique.” Regarding issues with quality audio, Ainlay concluded that, “[Engineers] have to make better records than what the consumer demands. People are caring more about what they are listening to and we need to inspire the consumer with great-sounding music. [Music fans] appreciate higher quality, and are willing to pay for it.”
"We strive toprovide our membership the most up-to-date information on the current state of recording technology," stated Maureen Droney, Sr. Executive Director of the P&E Wing. "Oursession with Chuck Ainlay reinforces the Wing's position to advocate and educate on how important the role of sound quality is in communicating the artist's vision in recorded music. Chuck's passion for this subject along with his extensive and ever-growing discography puts him in the perfect position to share a unique insight on these topics."
The event concluded with a listening comparison and a networking mixer to continue the conversation with Ainlay.
About Chuck Ainlay:
Multiple GRAMMY and ACM Award-winning producer/engineer Chuck Ainlay is one of Nashville's top recording engineers and a leading pioneer in the world of surround sound. Currently a member of The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing Steering Committee, he has recorded and mixed more than 200albums, including work with legendary country music artists Chet Atkins, the Dixie Chicks, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Miranda Lambert, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, George Strait, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, and Lee Ann Womack. In addition, Ainlay has placed his distinctive production and engineering stamp on projects with mainstream pop artists such as Mark Knopfler, James Taylor, Peter Frampton, Lionel Richie, Melissa Etheridge, Everclear, Chuck Leavell and Sheryl Crow, earning him widespread international recognition. His work in 5.1 mixing has resulted in ground-breaking projects such as the 25th anniversary surround remix of Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive and the GRAMMY-winning 20th anniversary surround remix of Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms.