Bob Ludwig- Gateway Mastering and DVD
Ludwig working his magic
Mastering engineer extraordinaire Bob Ludwig opened the doors at Gateway
Mastering and DVD almost 10 years ago. While already one of the top players
in a very elite field, opening Gateway galvanized Mr. Ludwig’s stature
as the world’s first call mastering engineer. A perennial award
winner and owner of two very golden ears, Bob Ludwig’s name has
become synonymous with impeccably mastered records in every imaginable
Gateway Mastering has also
become a powerhouse for multi-channel audio and video DVD development,
combining a myriad of DVD authoring and production services under one
Gateway Mastering and DVD
has purchased a number of Grace Design model 901 reference headphone
amplifiers for quality control, and more recently an m906 5.1 monitor
control system for their surround DVD authoring facility. So we are
thrilled and honored to have an opportunity to catch up with Mr. Ludwig
and learn a bit more about him and his wonderful audio empire.
we find out a little bit about your background? How did you end up becoming
a mastering engineer?
audio engineers come to the profession via engineering schools and some,
like me, came up from a music conservatory and then learned the engineering
aspect. So I am first a musician. I have a Bachelor’s and a Master
of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. While
at Eastman I was an announcer at a local classical commercial radio
station. I was also the Principal Trumpet player with the Utica Symphony
Orchestra. As soon as I was allowed I joined the school’s recording
dept. and recorded countless recitals and large concerts. I freelanced
for Century Records and recorded many local school concerts throughout
Western New York State.
While finishing up my Masters degree, Phil Ramone, Grammy winning producer
of Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand etc. came up to teach the
first recording workshop at Eastman. I was his de-facto assistant. I
left Rochester to work with Phil at A&R Recording Studios in NY.
I was an assistant engineer and, while there, I learned the art of disk
cutting and mastering. Phil was my mentor, I couldn't have had a luckier
start in my career. Every engineer there spent some time learning to
cut disks as it was felt that one couldn’t be a good mix engineer
if one didn’t understand the limitations of disk cutting. I seemed
genetically disposed to this and starting attracting clientele from
outside the regular studio work. I could read scores and thus attracted
classical companies like Nonesuch Records, one of my oldest and much
After a few years I left A&R and moved to Sterling Sound. I became
Vice President of the company. Even though it was early in my career,
I was already doing most all of Nonesuch’s catalog. On the pop
side, I was doing the original disk cutting on Led Zepplin II, Houses
of the Holy, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Peter, Paul & Mary, The
Band, lot’s of great stuff. At one point Sterling Sound and Masterdisk
were owned by the same public company (OCG Technology) and after being
at Sterling for 7 years I moved over to Masterdisk. Then in 1992 Gateway
Mastering was incorporated in the State of Maine and my attended first
session was on Jan 8 1993.
many of our readers, mastering may be somewhat of a black art. We labor
to make the best mixes possible, then we send them off to be mastered
and they miraculously come back sounding like a record. It’s clearly
more than subtly applying the proper compression, limiting and EQ. Can
you give us a little insight into your process as a mastering engineer?
This is what one needs to become a good mastering engineer: I hear an
un-mastered original tape from the mixing studio. I can imagine in my
head what it could sound like and know what knobs to move to make it
sound the way I hear it! Every day when I get a new recording in to
master, I take a little bit of time to quickly listen to the verse and
chorus of most of the songs so I can gather an impression of where the
artist is coming from. Often, especially with new groups, the A&R
person will put all the good songs at the start of the album so the
Program Director at the station will not have any trouble “finding”
the best tracks which might entice him to air the recording. So, often
the artist is really a little different that the initial few songs.
I want to be sure the album has a “context” of it’s
With the advent of “look ahead” digital domain limiters
several years ago, the average volume of CDs has increased so the RMS
peaks are sometimes within 4 dB of pure maximum sine wave level tone!
The mastering engineer needs to be a musician so that one can best judge
the best trade-off between dynamic range to maintain the life of the
music versus the sheer excitement of loud volume to impress the artist,
program director and A&R person. Sometimes this is a very tricky
decision. Once one decides on the “bearings” for the music
the idea is to make it flow from start to ending in one long enjoyable
playback without ever needing to change the playback volume control.
One needs a calibrated monitoring system and one that is very wide range
and dynamic. I have found through the years that as the quality of one’s
monitoring system improves, the final product will sound good on a wide
range of systems.
Gateway has purchased quite a few model 901 headphone amplifiers and
an m906 5.1 monitor controller. Would you explain the role these products
play in your facility?
controlling our work is of utmost importance to us. As it is imperative
to master on loudspeakers any approved master quality tapes that are
being sent out for replication are put through a stringent headphone
listening by our experienced engineers, each of whom has passed a rigorous
listening examination we give them before hiring them. Out of perhaps
50 or 60 people who have taken this test, only 2 of them have heard
everything there is to hear on this recording I prepared.
If there is a question, source checking needs to be done, thus it is
very helpful to have a headphone amplifier that can deal with both analog
and digital inputs. Probably 98% of our digital work has sampling rates
between 44.1 and 96kHz which the model 901 can easily handle. Our 176.4
and 192kHz stereo work which we do for DVD-Audio projects is downsampled
with a dCS 974 unit so we can use the Grace 901’s. Surround work
is listened to in 2 passes in order not to miss some subtle problem
that one could never perceive while facing the left-center-right front
speakers. Due to time restraints, we often use two Model 901’s
with two engineers splitting up their 3 channels a piece mix.
For surround monitoring in our DVD Video and Audio Authoring suite we
used to use a small format digital console. It didn’t work at
96kHz so when Grace came out with their always audiophile designed,
m906 5.1 monitor controller we were anxious to try it. It worked perfectly
for our needs and now we have quite a few square feet of space we have
reclaimed by eliminating the old console.
I enjoy editing on headphones,
especially while clients are talking or otherwise occupied as it gives
me a quiet, concentrated environment in which to listen.
DVD-audio, DSD and SACD are hopefully helping to elevate our industry
out of its 16bit/44.1 rut. Being very close to the delivery end of these
new higher-resolution formats affords you a unique perspective on the
ways they may be changing our industry. How do you envision the future
of these higher resolution audio formats?
I sincerely hope that people will have a more realistic, emotionally
engaging experience when listening to higher resolution sounds. With
the average person being satisfied with lower than CD quality in exchange
for convenience, there will always be those for whom nothing but the
best will do. When I did the ABKCO Rolling Stones re-issues on hybrid
SACD, people would come up to me and tell me that as a result of those
discs they went out and bought a SACD player and they were “listening
to music again” as they did when they were younger. This is most
We know that you work on more than your fair share of the records being
released today. Any projects currently on your plate that you are particularly
We have a policy of not speaking about unreleased work but recent projects
I did that I was excited about include the recent Incubus album, the
Eric Clapton “Robert Johnson” album (especially the surround
version). The Allman Brothers “Eat a Peach” and “Live
At the Filmore” surround albums. A few years ago I was working
on two masterpieces at the same time. I’m lucky to get one or
two a year and to be doing two at once was breathtaking. They were Bruce
Springsteen’s “The Rising” and Beck’s “Sea
Change” (check out the surround SACD of that one!).
Visit Gateway Mastering and DVD
online at www.gatewaymastering.com
Bob Ludwig at work with the m906
Wind Over The Earth
Maxine, Mickey, Barbara
true pro audio iconoclast, Mickey Houlihan never fails to inspire and
encourage everyone who enters his sphere of influence. Whether assisting
a customer with equipment recommendations and advice, or freely volunteering
information from his vast knowledge of music and people, Mickey always
leaves a positive lasting impression with everyone he associates with.
was a founding partner of Grace Design ten years ago, and remains and
invaluable mentor and friend to our company. Mickey founded Wind Over
The Earth in the 1980s as not only a first class pro audio dealership,
but also as an important informational resource for engineers and musicians
around the globe. Wind Over The Earth has overseen the construction of
many world-class recording studios and aided the production of countless
successful recording projects.
is also a dedicated, seasoned engineer and producer, with an amazing list
of credits to his name. Mickey’s Wind
Over The Earth record label boasts a remarkable roster of international
talent, including multi-instrumentalist and composer David Darling, East
African musician Samite and harpist and soprano Therese Schroeder-Sheker.
(aft) on location in the Grand Canyon with the Paul Winter Consort
years ago, Mickey relocated all operations to a new building in east Boulder.
This relocation included his vision to create a local audio industry collective/
brain trust, and neighboring units soon filled up with other audio companies,
Glasser’s Airshow Mastering, a Sony DSD post production facility
and recently, the amazing Immersive
Over The Earth remains one of the great independent pro audio dealerships
in the country. The staff is always knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.
Plus, anyone who calls has a good chance of speaking to Mr. Houlihan personally,
which is certain to be an enlightening and rewarding experience. So without
How did you get your start in the audio business?
By Accident… Bad Brains… Dumb Luck… something like that!
I love being part of the creative process, being present in a way that
engages the cosmic muse. I had the good fortune to work with the musician
Paul Winter as he traversed the planet exploring music making in the wild.
Each take was truly a once in a lifetime experience because everything
was alive and constantly changing. I got very caught up in the magic of
nature and the way sound moved in different environments.
I have had some unbelievable experiences listening to the sounds of whales
and I love the way the sounds of the birds and frogs seem to wake up the
trees in spring. I was on those trips and in those environments partly
because of my willingness to drag some very high tech recording gear along.
The choice of equipment and its survival became a big part of the overall
experience for me and because of the battery considerations and weight,
I truly had to get the most out of each piece. My love of the wilderness
experiences very quickly began to include the equipment that I depended
on and from there it grew into sharing that love and enthusiasm with others.
When I wasn't looking it turned into a business.
Q. Being a mentor to so many people, it would be interesting
to know who some of your mentors were / are.
I am still awed by things that I learned from Joseph Campbell some twenty
years ago. I only worked with him for a week but he had a profound effect
on me. These days, my mentors in the art of recording are my engineering
collaborators Tom Bates and Michael Verdick. I think mentoring grows out
of respectful relationships and as the relationships deepen the lessons
are often more about the nature of life than the mastery of a specific
tool. My love of sounds has led me to the technology to explore them and
the technology has led me to and let me work with some of the greatest
beings on the planet.
Q. You have always done such an amazing job promoting and
selling Grace Design products. Why do you think Grace Design and Wind
Over The Earth have been such a good fit?
I have my own passions about the gear that works for me and sometimes
that enthusiasm is relevant. What is more important to a customer however,
is whether a particular piece of equipment is right for them. We encourage
critical listening evaluations and Grace Design products reveal their
attributes under these circumstances..
Q. The pro audio industry has gone through some remarkable
changes in the past few years- most notably the brisk advancement of widely
available, high quality home recording technology. How have these changes
affected your business at WOTE?
Many of our long term customers who are skilled professionals understand
what they need and value us for the service that we can provide. The biggest
change for us are the new customers who are more amateur and somewhat
confused by product marketing. They have the impression that if they can
buy the gear, they can go home and with out any effort or training make
great recordings. We have to do a lot more explaining that while this
is "technically" true, it would take a great deal of luck and
diligence pull it off. We encourage training at all levels because in
addition to the technical skills, it also helps to reconnect people in
ways that working at home doesn't.
Q. Any major long term goals for Wind Over The Earth you’d
like to discuss?
I like these
Our long term goals go a bit beyond audio though I think they are goals
shared by most individuals. We want a healthy planet and nourishing relationships
with all its inhabitants. Art has always been part of that dialog and
we could definitely use more artists. Toward that end we have begun our
own school of recording arts. Our goal is to reveal the creative process
in a teachable curriculum.
Wind Over The Earth online at www.windovertheearth.com
Mickey's field recording setup in Siberia (on the right
is an early Lunatec V2 prototype)
is our new PLL circuitry that has been specifically developed by Grace
Design for the m906 and its stereo brothers, the m904 and m904B. The truly
wonderful thing about s-Lock is that regardless of the
condition of the external clock used as a reference for these systems,
s-Lock will take the clock source, do its magic, and
provide an extremely stable and ultra-low jitter clock to run the DACs.
The goal, of course, is pristine audio. Here’s a bit more detail
on how this works:
s-Lock is a crystal-based PLL (Phase Lock Loop) used
for regenerating the incoming digital clock. The crystals used have extremely
low intrinsic jitter and are capable of locking to sample rates of up
to 192kHz. When the digital input selected for the DAC is active, the
s-Lock circuitry automatically captures the incoming
recovered clock from AES3, S/PDIF, TOSLINK, or ADAT or from an external
Word Clock or Super Clock.
Once phase-lock with the incoming signal has been achieved, the DAC's,
which have been running off the original clock, are switched to run off
the ultra-low jitter s-Lock system clock. If at any time
s-Lock is lost or not achieved, the DAC’s are run
off the original clock. The s-Lock system can effectively lock to input
sample rates of 44.1kHz or 48kHz +/- 10Hz, 88.2kHz or 96kHz +/- 20Hz and
176.4kHz or 192kHz +/- 40Hz.
If the incoming digital audio signal or word clock frequency is outside
of these tolerances or if an invalid clock source is selected, the s-Lock
circuit will not lock and the s-Lock indicator on the
system LCD will flash. Even if the s-Lock does not achieve
lock, the digital audio receiver circuits in the m906, m904 and m904B
can achieve excellent recovered clock jitter performance.
About Grace Design
Grace Design was established in 1994 and is a leading manufacturer of
world-class hardware for the professional audio industry. Grace Design’s
mission is to provide audio professionals with exceptionally engineered
and built products coupled with best-in-class customer service. The product
line currently consists of the model 801, 801R, 201, 101, Lunatec V3 microphone
preamps, the model 901 reference headphone amplifier and the m904, m904B
and m906 reference monitoring systems. The company’s customers include
audio professionals in the music, film, television, live sound, education
and corporate markets.
Thanks for your continued support!
-The Grace Design Team