Charles A. Martínez spent a decade as chief engineer at NYC’s Dangerous Music studios, working with artists such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. He has recorded Broadway cast albums featuring such luminaries as Kristin Chenoweth.
He engineered two songs on Toots and the Maytals’ True Love, which won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2004, then mixed FOH for Steely Dan from 2009 to 2013.
He’s even restored forensic audio for the FBI. Now about to tour with Foghat and Little Feat, Martinez stands poised to record dates in full multitrack, entrusting post-show mixing to his set of Audix A150 headphones. Also at arm’s reach is his trusted collection of Audix microphones: the D6 mic, which he’s sworn by for the kick drum on every tour since he acquired it, i5 and D4instrument mics on snare and toms, respectively, and SCX25A condensers on anything he chooses.
This life began with deep roots. “My family was musical,” he recalls. “We always had a piano in the house and sing-alongs, and I have recordings of me singing with my dad at the piano from as young as two and a half. I started piano lessons at six, violin at nine, bass at 12. Oddly, I got a bass performance scholarship to St. John’s University — where I studied to be a pharmacist. I guess the idea was to make good money so I could buy music gear. Halfway through, I decided I liked recording more than learning how to accept insurance and count pills. I did the engineering program at the Institute of Audio Research in Manhattan and right after graduating, started at Dangerous Music recording studios. The Rolling Stones did a ton of stuff for Bridges to Babylon there.”
One bit of canonical wisdom taught in the crucible of professional recording is that mixing primarily or even exclusively on headphones is simply not done — a tradition that Martinez says the A150s turned on its head.
While the D6 has earned pole position as the go-to bass drum mic in the industry, Martinez praises its fidelity on other sources. “I was running low on mics for a horn section at one gig, so I thought I’d try it on baritone sax,” he recalls. “I fell in love with it immediately. I keep a low profile on social media, and I think that was one of the only things I posted on Twitter that entire year! The D6 has since become a requested mic for bari sax. Just recently I used a D6 on the bottom rotor of a Leslie speaker as well. It was perfect because you could roll off a lot of the highs but still keep great definition.”
Compared to the “usual suspects” for snare drum miking, Martinez says the i5 “has all of the meat but none of the rumble. It has that crispness on the top end but is never harsh. If you think of mics as EQ devices, the i5 is like the EQ curve I’d apply after the fact, only before the fact”
Martinez’s most recent discovery is the SCX25A studio condenser: “A couple of years ago Audix let me borrow a bunch of mics I hadn’t heard before. I was a holdout on the SCX25As but didn’t realize how much I relied on them until I was asked to give them back. I use them on toms, as overheads, on vocals, as room mics, on acoustic instruments like string sections. With the piano clips, a pair provides the best closed-lid piano sound you can get, and I’ve tried literally everything. The SCX25As just have a richer, more natural tone. They’re euphonic and not hyped.”