Think of great Swedish exports, and you are likely to think IKEA, Volvo, and ABBA.
You might not know of Jonas Westling, but in a relatively short space of time his move to London has meant him working in one of the top studios, and with such luminaries as Lady Gaga, Newton Faulkner and Paul McCartney, it’s not surprising that this Grammy nominated mix guru is another Swedish export worth remembering.
Westling now has his own studio based at Matrix Studios in London, where he spends most of his time mixing the music we all listen to.
Westling was once a Sonarworks skeptic, but after running a test on what he thought was his perfect room, now he wouldn’t mix without it.
We sat down with him to ask him why he had changed his mind.
Sonarworks: So how did all this start?
Westling: I moved to London in 2004 to study guitar but that career never really took off. So I started doing studio work instead. I landed this job with Metropolis Studios and worked my way up there.
Sonarworks: You have some great names on your discography, artists like Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney.
Westling: Yeah I’ve been lucky to be working with a few big ones.
Sonarworks: So when you moved to Matrix was that specifically just to set up a mix room?
Westling: It was a bit of both. I also work with a publishing company, and I do all the mixing and recording for them. But the main thing for me was to be able to have a bit more time to focus on mixing.
Sonarworks: And what’s your mix philosophy. Are you in the box, hardware or are you a hybrid?
Westling: I am a hybrid. I have a 48 channel hardware summing system based around the Burl Mothership. I also have a few extra features like analog groups, but I use hardware for the most important parts of the mix like; mix bus, drum bus, bass, kick, snare and vocals.
Sonarworks: And what’s the reason for that workflow, is it a sound thing or a preference thing? An even a simpler system would just be to do it all in the box?
Westling: Well for me it sounds better and it may sound odd, but it’s quicker for me to use this workflow through my Burl gear. I can make an in the box mix, but I prefer this way of working. And there is a sound to it that is quite hard to replicate using plug-ins.
I thought since Sonarworks doesn’t cost much to buy I thought I’d give it a go and see what it can do for me and it really, really, really sorted a few things out.
Sonarworks: Your mix room is purpose built isn’t it?
Westling: Yes it’s got a floating floor, no parallel walls, a ceiling cloud and bass traps.
Sonarworks: So basically you didn’t think you had a problem with your room?
Westling: No, I mean this room supposed to be really well designed and built and I’ve never really had any problems with translating mixes. I thought I had a pretty good sounding room and I could trust what I was hearing.
Sonarworks: And are your mixes getting self-mastered or sent to a mastering engineer?
Westling: If I can make the decision then they always going to mastering but on some occasions, if there isn’t the budget, I do the mastering here.
Sonarworks: So how did you hear about Sonarworks?
Westling: I first saw it on an audio forum. And I was always the big skeptic about adding an EQ to speakers or any kind of EQ curve because I thought I had a perfect room. I thought since Sonarworks doesn’t cost much to buy I thought I’d give it a go and see what it can do for me and it really, really, really sorted a few things out.
Sonarworks: So what was it like to set up Sonarworks?
Westling: I got the mic, and then I did the tests that the software walks you through. It’s quite sophisticated, and I was impressed how it works. The whole exercise is exact as it goes through the measurements, but the great thing is the whole thing is not hard to do. You get a tape measure out and measure your distance between the speakers and then where you sit and how high you sit from the floor. The great thing is that the software walks you through every step – it is effortless. The whole process took me about 15 minutes.
Sonarworks: And what did you think of the results?
Westling: I was shocked by how many bumps I had in the mid-range. The results were surprising. I had way too much 200Hz in the room. Way too much. We were we’re talking like 4db too much at some points on the curve. That’s a critical frequency range; it’s the ‘mud range.’ It explains why mastered tracks came back with a bit more of that. So that’s why I started thinking maybe my room wasn’t as perfect as I expected.
Sonarworks: So is it on your system all the time now?
Westling: Absolutely. I wouldn’t do a mix without it. It the last insert on my Master bus. And then you need to remember to switch it off when you print your mix.
Sonarworks: Have you had feedback from mastering engineers and clients since you started using Sonarworks?
Westling: Yes I have a great relationship with my main mastering guy, and he has said that my latest stuff is sounding really good. There was one particular mix he was shocked how right the balance was.
Sonarworks: Are you using the headphone version of Sonarworks as well?
Westling: Absolutely. I have two sets of headphones the Sennheiser and the Focals, and they both have it on. It helps when I want to check my mixes on headphones too, knowing they are accurate.
Sonarworks: So as was a skeptic who has been converted what would you say to the skeptics who’ve who see Sonarworks and think it’s some kind of voodoo or marketing hype?
Westling: Try it! Even if you do mixing on headphones Sonarworks is an invaluable tool because it really helps.
Sonarworks: And do you think anybody who tried it would be convinced?
Westling: Yes absolutely. You have to try. Do yourself a favor and try it
I have a great relationship with my main mastering guy, and he has said that my latest stuff is sounding really good. There was one particular mix he was shocked how right the balance was.
Westling is convinced that even in a purpose designed studio Sonarworks can make a significant difference to your mixes.
And this Swede knows that with Sonarworks priced so anyone can own it, it’s certainly not as hard to set up as the flat pack furniture Sweden is so famous for.
You can read more about Jonas Westling and his work here www.jonaswestling.com