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Inside Track: Kali Uchis 'Fantasy'

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Prash ‘Engine-Earz’ Mistry By Paul Tingen
Published May 2023

Prash ‘Engine‑Earz’ Mistry in his new studio space at London’s Tileyard. The room is fully equipped for both stereo and Atmos mixing and mastering.Prash ‘Engine‑Earz’ Mistry in his new studio space at London’s Tileyard. The room is fully equipped for both stereo and Atmos mixing and mastering.

High‑end outboard is an essential part of Prash Mistry’s mixing and mastering setup — as heard on Kali Uchis’ hit album Red Moon In Venus.

“The new studio is absolutely phenomenal to work in! When Lavar and I sat down to design it, we wanted to integrate the absolute best of analogue outboard and A‑D and D‑A conversion, with the most futuristic approach to workflow. I can stereo mix, stereo master and Atmos mix here seamlessly. It’s gorgeous. I’ve finally got the room I always wanted!”

Prash ‘Engine‑Earz’ Mistry moved into his brand‑new studio a week before this interview took place, and is obviously still almost beside himself with enthusiasm. The spacious, skylit room, which he designed with colleague Lavar Bullard, is located in the Tileyard studio complex in central London, which hosts over 130 studios in total and is one of the largest creative communities in the UK.

Mistry’s new Forwa3DStudios certainly seems to warrant the excitement, with a large number of unusual touches that make it stand out. To start with, the studio contains the best equipment money can buy, including Kii Audio Three BXT monitors, a full Amphion Atmos system, ATC 100As with Velodyne sub, an extensive collection of mixing and mastering outboard, eight‑channel SSL G‑series and 12‑channel Neve 81 sidecars, and 16 channels of summing each from Dangerous and Chandler.

Most impressive is the way this enormous amount of equipment has been seamlessly integrated, courtesy of PreSonus Studio One’s Pipeline function, a 384‑point digitally controlled analogue Anatal XBay 512 patchbay, Merging Ravenna audio interfaces, and more. It’s all designed to allow Mistry to switch at the press of a button between stereo mixing, stereo mastering and Atmos mixing, the only wrinkle being the need to transfer stems from Studio One to Pro Tools for Atmos mixing.

The Anatal automated patchbay is key to Mistry’s ability to quickly create recallable hardware processing chains.The Anatal automated patchbay is key to Mistry’s ability to quickly create recallable hardware processing chains.

The Engine Room

As a mixer and mastering engineer, Mistry has worked with the Prodigy, Jorja Smith, Wizkid, PartyNextDoor, SZA, Stormzy, Kid Cudi, Burna Boy, J. Balvin, Aloe Blacc, D4VD, Skepta, Megan Thee Stallion, St Vincent, MIA, H.E.R. and Aitch, to name a few. In 2018, he received his first Grammy nomination for Best Immersive Audio for his own album Symbol, released under the name Engine‑Earz Experiment. More recently, Mistry mixed Raye’s hit album My 21st Century Blues in Atmos with his colleague Lavar Bullard, who operates from their second Amphion‑equipped Atmos studio in Norwich. Mistry also works regularly with Columbian‑American singer Kali Uchis. For the singer’s second Grammy‑nominated album, 2020’s Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios), he mixed all 11 songs in stereo and Atmos, including global smash ‘Telepatia’, and mastered two.

Uchis’ third album Red Moon In Venus was released this March and is already a big hit in the US. Mistry mixed nine songs, and stereo mastered and Atmos mixed all 15. Mistry’s work on this album, and the track ‘Fantasy’ in particular, is the focus of this Inside Track. He performed all the work in his previous studio, which was also at Tileyard, with mostly the same gear as in his new room.

Prash Mistry: I’ve used Cubase, Nuendo and Pro Tools, and we obviously love using Pro Tools for the Atmos stuff, but Studio One’s integration with outboard is far beyond everything else.

Pipeline At The Gates Of DAW

At the heart of Mistry’s mixing and mastering process is PreSonus’ Studio One DAW. “The reason I love Studio One and prefer it over other DAWs for stereo work is Pipeline XT,” he explains. “The Pipeline plug‑in offers a seamless way to get in and out of your DAW to your hardware. I’ve used Cubase, Nuendo and Pro Tools, and we obviously love using Pro Tools for the Atmos stuff, but Studio One’s integration with outboard is far beyond everything else. It’s incredible.

For Mistry, the killer feature of Studio One is its ability to seamlessly integrate hardware courtesy of the Pipeline XT plug‑in.For Mistry, the killer feature of Studio One is its ability to seamlessly integrate hardware courtesy of the Pipeline XT plug‑in.“Pipeline automatically adjusts the delay compensation after pinging the signal chain, it can check phase and level, adjust wet and dry, and so on. It is phase accurate, sample perfect, and the recall is exact as well. It allows me to build whole outboard chains using the XBay and run them live in the session, without any delay, in the same way as I’d use an in‑the‑box aux channel with plug‑ins. Once I have the outboard the way I want it, I record it in the session, and mute the outboard aux channel, and carry on mixing. I can recall the aux channel at any point. The entire setup is just beautiful.

“I also use Studio One for mastering, and again, Pipeline XT makes it possible for me to engage my mastering outboard in the same way I use plug‑ins. My mastering rack consists of EQs like the EAR 825Q, Bettermaker, API 5500, Thermionic Culture The Kite, Oakfield Audio, and compressors like the Elysia Alpha, API 2500, Dangerous, Maselec MLA‑4, and Maselec MPL‑2 high‑frequency limiter, which works as a de‑esser. I also have Lavry AD24‑200 Savitr A‑D, Lavry Quintessance D‑A and Cranesong Solaris D‑A converters in my mastering console.

“In general, I love using Studio One because I find the workflow completely uninhibited. I’ve never hit a point where it can’t do what I want it to do. It’s extremely intuitive, and just really fun to use. If it stops being fun, I’ll look at something else, but I continue to look forward to coming to work and turning it on. I am still on version 4 due to the vast amounts of ongoing projects we have going on here. I am keen to move to version 6, though, and take advantage of all the new features.”

Trust In Analogue

The outboard racks at Engine‑Earz are stuffed with premium outboard, much of which was used on Prash Mistry’s mix of ‘Fantasy’.The outboard racks at Engine‑Earz are stuffed with premium outboard, much of which was used on Prash Mistry’s mix of ‘Fantasy’.Mistry’s love of analogue, and the way he uses it in Studio One, routinely leads to enormous sessions — in the case of ‘Fantasy’, a whopping 359 tracks. “Like most engineers, I have every plug‑in you can imagine, and I sometimes mix in the box. If I’m working on a drill track, for example, there’s less added value in going to outboard, because the genre generally does not require it. It’s more of an in‑the‑box genre, and that’s the sound. However, if I want tone, dimension, depth and space, and I want to maintain phase coherence, analogue hardware still wins. There definitely is huge sonic value in going through analogue gear. It allows a degree of chaos in the mix, making sure things don’t sound the same as everyone working in their DAWs. There’s a randomness. It’s a matter of, as Quincy Jones said, ‘letting God inside the room’.

“Some plug‑ins that model analogue gear sound great and absolutely capture the flavour of what they are modelling, but mess up phase coherence in the process. One well‑known brand in particular is a culprit. It is great that they ‘feel’ analogue, but if you cannot run a snare through it and trust that the transients remain punchy and match the same left and right, I cannot trust it. Whereas if I go through my outboard APIs, for example, they feel true to source unless there’s an actual problem with the...

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