Exclusive Interview with Mauricio Gargel

"To me, the importance of detail in music is huge and it is crucial to have an accurate room and a monitoring system that shows the absolute truth." - Mauricio Gargel

Mauricio Gargel is an accomplished audio engineer from São Paulo, Brazil, who is considered by his peers to be a multi-task professional. His passion for sound and constant effort to improve the quality of recorded music is exceptional.  Gargel has been working as a sound engineer for 15 years now with a successful career which includes recording and mixing of CDs and DVDs. Credits as a recording or mixing engineer include: Tribo de Jah, Palavra Cantada, Rosana Lanzelotte, Ceumar, Tri-Fi Jazz, Phil Palombi, among others.

After living in the US and gaining contacts in a prolific music industry, Gargel returned to Brazil to start his own mastering place. Gargel's ultimate goal is to run a mastering room that differentiates not because of the amount of gear in the room, but a place that would help musicians to get their art to the next level without compromising sound quality. Since its creation, Maurico Gargel audio mastering has mastered records for Brazilian artists like Arnaldo Antunes, Camila Honda, Samuel Rosa, Lô Borges, Dani and Debora Gurgel, Mani Padme and Sepultura as well as international artists from Australia, Canada and United States. For a list of records mastered at Mauricio Gargel audio mastering please refer to!discos/c1zy6

We reached out to Gargel to discuss his mastering facility, his history, audio techniques and his studio gear, including his use of ASC TubeTraps and StudioTraps.

Q: Tell me about how you became interested in working with music. How did you get into audio work?
A: I started in 1992. My first job was in an audio visual department in the state water company. At this stage my main functions were to assist field-recording crews, preparing audio, video, and lighting equipment. I also provided support in the post-production of intra-company communications material. After 2 years I moved to a studio in a town called Be Bop where I worked as an assistant engineer doing basic sessions preparation and studio organization. I helped a lot with Pro Tools implementation and was one of the most demanded Pro Tools in-house operators. I have also worked at an audio school (IAV) for nearly 10 years, throughout which I have always been highly engaged. In parallel, I set up a studio to work with advertisement and radio spots. I think that happened because I had a degree in Communications and since I always had a passion for music, I thought it would be logical to combine studio work and advertisements.  The line of work I selected early on proved to be quite appropriate and fitting, as I soon realized that studio work was my strongest ability.  However, shortly after establishing the studio, I decided to dedicate myself exclusively to music and the making of records and I abandoned the realm of advertising. I have undergone different experiences, each of which has contributed uniquely to what I know today.

Q: Tell me a little about your mastering facility. When did you open and how did it start? What gear do you use? How important is the layout of your room?
A: I opened my mastering room when I came back from Nashville. This was in 2012. My set-up is very simple but efficient. I do not have a lot of gear, basically consisting of two compressors (an Opto and a VCA), a mastering equalizer and a de-esser. I like to have just a few pieces and know how to work them really well. This way I keep myself focused on the music. If I need something different I rely on plug-ins quite often. Without a doubt, the layout of the room is the most important part of the "system”  in conjunction with the loudspeaker. My monitoring system consists of a very clean path from the D to A converter to the speakers. The only thing you will find in this path is a passive volume control. The goal is to listen to the truth and understand what I am supposed to do to improve the music that comes to me.

Q: You use ASC TubeTraps and StudioTraps. How did you hear about them and what made you interested in using them?
A: I first heard of the TubeTraps when I was with Bruce Swedien in his studio. He is a mentor for me and the TubeTraps were one of the many lessons he taught me.

Q: What have ASC TubeTraps done for your work? How have they changed your working environment?
A: Technically speaking, the TubeTraps worked really well in the low end and helped me to have a flat and smooth response around the 100Hz area.  

Q: How did your room sound before using ASC TubeTraps?
A: My room sounded quite reasonable without the TubeTraps mainly because I spent a lot of time thinking about dimensions and speaker location and stuff like that. I have optimized the most I could before bringing the TubeTraps in. I could still play around with the TubeTraps as they are so light and easy to reposition. I ended up finding a very efficient use for the TubeTraps positioned really close to the speakers… sort of grabbing the sound wave at its origin point. When the project was complete (with the TubeTraps in the room) everything worked perfectly and the low end punch was amazing.

Q: What are some mastering techniques you use to achieve best results?
A: I love to have the client in the room with me. This is what really tells me what the “best technique” is. I think creativity is much stronger if you can kick ideas around with somebody. Especially in music. The best results come if the client is inspired and relaxed. That works the same way for me.  So, in this way, I think the best technique is to have a good comfortable room that allows creativity to flow.

Q: How important are room acoustics to your projects and to sound and music in general?
A: I spend most of my time listening and judging what music sounds like. Room acoustics is the most important element of what I do, no question! I don’t like acoustically dead rooms so much.  I prefer to have a room that has a few elements of a normal listening room just like the room a listener will have when listening to a record. The elements consist basically of some lateral diffused reflections that contribute to the sound image. I had some success using the reflective side of the TubeTrap to achieve this.

Q: What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on?
Working with Arnaldo Antunes was great. I was a huge fan of his music when I was a boy and having the opportunity to eventually work professionally with him was special. Working with Samuel Rosa and Lô Borges on their DVD and CD was amazing too as I love the music from Minas Gerais. I worked with a jazz trio named Mani Padme Trio. Very powerful music  - one of those [bands] that make you cry somedays. That was a very special project too.

Q: What are the biggest successes, failures and challenges of your career?
A: Success: I feel very honored when an artist decides to trust me for their music. This means a lot to me! They keep me inspired and I try really hard to keep them inspired too. Failure: When I have to say “no” to a client. I did that once and it was awful. Challenge: I wish I had more time to dedicate myself to my family, friends and other personal projects. I work 12 hours every day, 5 or 6 days a week. It is a challenge to balance between my life and my mastering work.

Q: Any advice to someone wanting to get into sound production or mastering?
A: Do it! Be careful with the gear-game though, because that’s all it is: a game. And never forget to listen with your heart!