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Engineer Bruce A. Miller Becomes a Digital Convert

Longtime analog holdout takes a shine to Universal Audio's UAD-1 By DMN Staff Writer
Bruce A. Miller
When they need top-tier mixing, an unvarnished opinion and a dynamic analog sounds, producers like Marcus Miller turn to Bruce A. Miller, a New Jersey based recording engineer. Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary) puts it this way: ?Bruce Miller is an extraordinarily gifted engineer producer who knows how to craft acoustic music so that it retains its spirit and integrity but is presented with exquisite sonic creativity that makes it both contemporary and faithful to its roots. Working with Bruce has been a thrill and the music we have recorded, a joy to create.

Miller is passionate about the integrity of the music he works with, saying, ?They come to me because they know that I am the guy that is not afraid to say 'no, it sounds wrong and these are the reasons why.' I stand by my guns and don't care who I'm disagreeing with because for me it's about the sound. Whether it's making the musicians more comfortable so I can get a great performance or it's accentuating tracks that have already been recorded to make the illusion that much stronger, it's an obsession with me, an obsession."


Steeped in the tradition of analog recording that captures the emotion and dynamics of an artists expression, Miller has long been a digital holdout. ?People have been trying to sell me on digital since the 80s. To Millers ears, multiple generations and extrapolation compromised the material. ?Information could be lost because the piece of plastic that you stored it on didnt save it accurately the computer would begin to guess what that piece of information should be. ?Was that a high-hat or a vocal? Oh, lets call it a high hat. Now, thats an exaggeration, but the sound quality just wasnt good enough.

Miller has made the conversion to digital for three primary reasons: his clients are working in digital formats in their home or professional studios; top-notch rooms with well-maintained analog equipment are growing scarce; and digital technology has finally approached his standards. ?With the new technologies most impressively, the Universal Audio UAD-1 Powered Plug-Ins I can now work with all the convenience and cost-effectiveness of digital and yet get more of the analog sound and feel that Ive grown accustomed to in my pathetically spoiled rotten way, offers Miller.

On first hearing the UAD-1, Miller had the same ?wow response the product engenders among its fans. ?The Pultec really sounds as close to a Pultec and certainly as close to a real analog piece of equipment as any digital EQ that Ive heard. And the compression, the 1176 and the LA-2A, its absolutely fantastic. Ive got a rack full of outboard gear including two drawers of vintage guitar pedals. With the UAD-1 Nigel Processor, even that gear is not getting as much action as it used to because I have it on the computer and in an adjustable format that I can automate and edit. You cant do that with a guitar box. The convenience of automating plug-ins is a huge advantage digital has over analog. This is strange coming from me because people cannot believe that I am raving about a digital product, he adds, smiling.

When comparing the vintage analog hardware with the UAD-1 digital emulations, Miller found that consistency and reliability were critical to his production style. He explains ?The Universal Audio sound has been a very important part of my sound for quite some time. I was amazed at the 1176 on the UAD-1 at how much it reacted and felt like the real unit. Even when I pushed in all the buttons, the meter freaked out and it had that certain distinct sound.

Miller, having worked in analog rooms for years, is painfully familiar with the variations in equipment due to age, maintenance and wear. ?With the UAD-1, I can have matched units and be able to rely on how they will sound. When you walk into a room and they say they have an 1176 or a Pultec, you pull it up and it could be a good sounding one or a bad sounding one. You cant always be sure that what sounds great today is going to sound great next week. Now Ive got consistency that I can really count on. If Im using an 1176 plug-in and I bring the mix back up in a week or two, I know it's going to give the artist the original sound which is closer than if I was to book the same analog room and reset all of the equipment."

With tools like the Universal Audio UAD-1, Miller is able to offer his considerable skills to the ?starving artist by polishing their mixes in his home studio. He offers the example of a reggae group, Exodus Supreme Band, whose album was done, mastered, finished. ?Yesterday I listened to it and decided that I could do it better with the UAD-1. I can do it faster, because now Im dealing with tools that I can work with, rather than having to make it work.

While Miller has engineered some of the biggest selling artists of our time, including Miles Davis, Dave Matthews, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and many more, hes devoting more of his time to working with emerging artists in his home UAD-1-based studio. ?Its not that Im turning my back on big budgets and major labels, but rather Im embracing the little guy. Theres integrity there, theres something I can believe in there that a lot of the label work that Ive been given lately just doesnt match. Theres the guy who comes home at 5:30 and plugs in a microphone and all he cares about is getting the song. Thats where I want to be. I don't want to be sitting with the fat cat making 'product.' I want there to be passion. That's why I got into the music industry, and that's why I stayed in the music industry. If I have to go looking harder or if I have to take a cut in pay to get that passion in my life and in my work, then that's what I'm going to do."

For more information about the Universal Audio UAD-1 Powered Plug-Ins, check out these websites: http://www.uaudio.com and http://www.mackie.com.

For more information about Bruce A. Miller, see his website, http://www.bruceamiller.us.

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Related Keywords:Bruce A. Miller, Engineer, Universal Audio, UAD-1

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