Rob Burrell has two GRAMMY Awards for his work as a professional mix engineer in the gospel space, but he says he’s made sure to stay flexible in the projects he takes on in his Nashville studio.
“This far into my career I want to ensure I’m making music I love,” Burrell says. “I’m not just a gospel guy and I’m not just a country guy and I’m not just a hip-hop guy. I can work on all of it in any given week. And I make sure I’m doing different types of projects too. I’ve worked to expand into films, and this year I did everything from new songs for Josh Groban to the score for the Marvel’s Avengers video game. I try and keep my music vocabulary very wide.”
Burrell says that flexibility was critical not just through his career arc, but in 2020 as he found new ways to work with artists and creators during the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, Burrell needed an equipment workflow that allowed for both remote collaboration and the ability to quickly mobilize his core studio gear for off-site recording.
“I don’t get excited about a lot of things in technology,” Burrell said. “But when I rebuilt my setup using Dante I got really excited. It offers some incredible flexibility and, at the same time, just melts away into the background to allow for creativity to take place. I switched over to Dante in the spring of 2019 and the timing has been perfect. Everything I use is Dante now, and over the past year that has been incredibly important.”
Moving to Dante…
Audinate’s Dante is the de facto standard for digital audio networking, and distributes hundreds of uncompressed, multi-channel digital audio channels via standard Ethernet networks, with near-zero latency and perfect synchronization. Dante allows audio, control, and all other data to coexist effectively on the same network.
In his permanent recording space – emotionmix Studios – Burrell said he’s largely moved to a Focusrite setup. The Focusrite Red 16Line, a 64-in/64-out Pro Tools HD and Thunderbolt 3 audio interface with dual-port Dante connectivity is at the core of the setup.
“I also use everything from Focusrite’s headphone boxes to mic preamps with Dante cards installed,” Burrell said. “I have six channels of AVIO devices converting to AES3 for things like my surround meter and spectrum analyzer. Everything in here is Dante thanks to those devices.”
Available for analog input or output, for AES3 and USB conversion, Dante AVIO Adapters allow users to connect their favorite audio gear with any Dante-connected system — delivering the interoperability, performance, and scalability that only networking can bring.
Burrell said he also uses Dante Via, software from Audinate that isolates and routes audio to and from any number of Mac and PC applications, up to 16 bidirectional channels each. Via eliminates unwanted system audio sounds by allowing you to choose only the applications you wish to connect to your Dante network, and send their audio anywhere you need it.
“We use Via if I’m working on a long-distance mix with someone,” Burrell said. “Using Via you can set up a way to both send the high quality mix and provide talkback for real-time feedback between two people. It’s another great Dante tool that makes remote production much easier.”
…and moving with Dante
Burrell said Dante also enabled him to create an elegant solution for a mobile studio setup. In 2020 he was asked to record in off-site facilities with social distancing guidelines in effect. To make this happen, he walked into the new studios with two racks of gear and a MacPro in tow, including:
- Focusrite Red 16Line audio interface
- Focusrite RedNet AM2 stereo headphone and line output, which offers PoE and Dante native signals
- Two Focusrite ISA One microphone preamps connected to a Focusrite ISA 428 mkII with a Dante card – which was located in the room with the band
- Focusrite RedNet R1 desktop monitor controller – which negates the need for a traditional monitor solution
- A Cisco networking switch
- Dante AVIO adapters
Burrell says he simply set up the racks and ran a single network cable to the other room.
“With Dante you run one cable and power it on,” he said. “It really does feel like you just hit one switch and you’re up and running anywhere.”
Flexibility providing confidence
Burrell said Dante is also an enabler in the sense that it allows him to scale when necessary without worrying about the traditional costs or headaches of re-cabling his studio. With Dante, Burrell said, it’s a matter of “just plugging it in.”
“When you look at it from any angle, you see how valuable it is,” Burrell said. “From convenience to cost to flexibility, nothing compares to Dante.”
But Burrell said there is also an intangible component to the value of Dante: confidence.
“It gives me a ton of confidence in what I’m doing,” Burrell said. “No matter what we’re asked to do, we can find a way to provide it with Dante. The remote setup, for example, allows me to walk into an unfamiliar location and know I can deliver results. That’s incredibly important.”