Modern techniques, yesterday's sounds
With two Grammy Awards to his credit for his work on the Solomon Burke record Don’t Give Up On Me and Norah Jones' Come Away With Me Husky Höskulds has emerged as one of today’s top recording and mix engineers.
Höskulds' illustrious career has its roots in the early 1990s, when he moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to study audio engineering at the University of California. After college, he moved into a position as a staff engineer at Hollywood’s legendary Sound Factory studios – which gave him a springboard to pursue independent projects with Michael Penn, The Wallflowers, Sheryl Crow, Tom Waits and a steady collaboration with Mike Patton. Höskulds also highlights his work with the producers Craig Street and Joe Henry.
Höskulds has a true gift for capturing space, creating textures, and creating a vibe by blending today’s modern techniques with yesterday’s sounds. In 2009, he founded the online artist community Groundlift.org as a meeting place for like-minded artists and collaborators. Now host to more than 40 artists worldwide including more than 50 albums and other artwork, Groundlift.org has been tapped for several sound tracks and collaborations.
Leveraging the latest in digital technology, Höskulds’ Groundlift Studios now operates from Los Angeles, Paris, and Reykjavik in his native country of Iceland. This international presence further enhances the online community, and allows for unparalleled creative freedom and collaboration.
"Loudness management is important, but for me, the technical hurdles are actually pretty small."
Striving for perfection
As someone who strives for perfection, Höskulds maintains a keen interest in all aspects of the music industry. Recently, the evolution of loudness management in music mixing, and its role in the creative process, have had a significant impact on engineers producing music for streaming services such as iTunes Radio, Spotify, and DAB Radio. These and other streaming services are now using loudness normalization and True Peak limiting techniques, which is creating new challenges for music mixing and mastering.
“Loudness management is important, but for me, the technical hurdles are actually pretty small,” Höskulds says. “All you really need is a limiter that grabs inter-sample peaks and a metering system that allows for clear and simple readouts of loudness as well as peaks and RMS levels.”
An important tool in Höskulds’ loudness management work is NUGEN Audio’s MasterCheck, the first music-industry-specific audio plug-in designed to facilitate mix and mastering for the modern world of loudness-normalized playout. MasterCheck is an audio plug-in for professional recording systems like Pro Tools that empowers producers to mix audio according to the new loudness criteria and understand not only how algorithms from the major streaming platforms will affect the mix, but how the music will sound on consumer playout devices for the optimal listening experience.
“The biggest draw for MasterCheck and NUGEN Audio’s Visualizer suite are their high degree of customizability."
“For me, the biggest draw for MasterCheck and NUGEN Audio’s Visualizer suite are their high degree of customizability for both the GUI and the specs. I have two instances of Visualizer and one of Master Check on all my sessions, which gives me several different metering, analyzer, and RTA options along with different meter ballistics and different scales,” Höskulds says. “This way, I might have an instance of a meter that is 'zoomed in' on the top 7 to 10db of the scale, while another covers the whole range. Similarly, one meter could cover loudness, one could show RMS, and another could show something else. The scalability of the tools’ user interfaces allow for perfect placement on the screens and for maximizing screen real estate.”
A detailed interface
In addition to MasterCheck and Visualizer, Höskulds relies on NUGEN Audio’s ISL real-time True Peak limiter. “ISL is extremely valuable, since there are not a lot of high-end limiters out there that will grab the intersample peaks. The two limiters that I use have a very different sound. ISL is a bit more forward, and that's helpful to me in situations where I need a bit of color,” Höskulds notes.
He adds, “Overall, the NUGEN Audio tools offer a much more customizable user interface and a much greater level of detail than other plug-ins. This is important since I'm very OCD, and I'm staring at these screens all day!”
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