Grammy-nominated producer and mix engineer Damien Lewis is thoroughly in touch with the sonic demands of Top 40, helming hits by major chart-topping artists like Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Lizzo, and Skrillex.
Preferring to do his work from home away from the distractions of big studios, Lewis has recently taken to using a purposefully chosen ‘minimalist’ setup designed to allow him to focus completely on the music without any compromises in quality or detail.
Citing the importance for the best possible monitoring in these situations, Lewis uses Amphion One18 monitors and Amp700 which have given him the perfect balance between his needs as a mix engineer and the ears of mainstream music listeners, allowed him to focus on everything that matters in his work without losing sight of the hooks and grooves that drive his career.
Looking out for #1
Given how the frequency range of Top-40 records has expanded dramatically over the past few decades, Lewis has made sure to choose tools that give him the fullest picture of what he’s hearing without losing the ability to reach listeners who will be playing back the music on consumer-grade speakers and earbuds. In order to do that, he needed monitoring that would give him an honest presentation of the dynamics of the music and a fast transient response.
“Transients are the first thing to go when you turn the volume up in modern music because of how much compression and limiting is going on, so I needed monitoring that would give me all that information”
Lewis went on to explain how important is to have a ‘magnifying glass’ on the midrange when mixing, as much of the important information for pop such as vocals, and important drum frequencies, are there. Ensuring that these things sit in the right place not only makes for a great mix but can be a make or break on a song’s longevity. “If a song is going to stand the test of time you really want the placement of these important elements — vocals especially — to be pleasing to the ear,” he said. “What’s been great about using Amphion is I’m hearing the mid-bass better in vocal tracks so I can dial in all the thickness and richness while still getting a clear picture of the upper extensions. That totally sealed the deal for me and I think for the end listener it’s going to make a much more enjoyable listen.”
Lewis’s home setup consists of a MacMini with an Avid S1 Control Surface, Apollo interfaces, and a variety of favored plugins in addition to his Amphion One18s and Amp700
The revolution beings at home
Lewis is part of a growing class of producer/engineers — including fellow Amphion users Finneas O’Connell, Sounwave, and Lu Diaz — who find themselves doing their best work away from the major recording studios and using minimal, but highly effective home setups. Lewis sees this change as a natural progression given the quality of ‘in the box’ tools available, but also notes that there has been a shift towards the impact that this has on workflow as well.
“I used to feel self-conscious about all of this because I think there was this stigma for a long time that you had to have all the ‘right’ stuff,” he explained. “I realized though that I was working on all of the same big records and I was so much happier with my workflow because I was able to focus and really dial in what I needed without the distractions that can sometimes come with a big studio. I’m really happy that the industry is moving in this direction because people are getting great results working this way.”