Merging Technologies at the heart of Nic Hard’s Atmos Workflow
Three-time Grammy winner Nic Hard has garnered a reputation as one of the most talented and versatile studio engineers in the business over the past two decades, not least for his work with US jazz fusion outfit Snarky Puppy.
His relationship with Snarky Puppy founder, Michael League, has been extremely fruitful since Hard began mixing for the band. “Initially one of the things that gelled us was work ethic. Mike is a very hard worker, and we would do sessions that were 20 hours long. And basically, I could keep up with him,” explains Hard. “On the first studio album we did together, the way I mixed and engineered the album was very new to Mike. The previous engineer was more about capturing the natural sound of the instrument, whereas I’m more about manipulating things and that was new for them. I think it has helped develop the sound of the band.”
Another long-term relationship cultivated via his work with Snarky Puppy is Hard’s connection with studio kit specialist Merging Technologies. Since being introduced to Merging products via League, Hard has come to rely on them as a staple part of his setup, particularly in his Atmos workflow.
“Snarky Puppy were playing a show and someone from Merging met them and was talking to them about them trying out the Anubis interface as a home recording thing, and Mike passed it on to me to see if it was something that could work,” Hard recalls. “The context I’m using it in now is in Atmos, so I’ve just installed a bunch more speakers and a Merging Hapi in my studio in Spain. It’s amazing. There are only one or two other interfaces that are capable of doing the Atmos setup with Sonarworks incorporated into it, and that really drew me to it.”
“The initial learning curve on it is pretty steep because it is so powerful and it can do a lot of different things,” he continues. “But in order to use it properly it takes a little bit of time. Initially Merging was asking me what I thought about it in regard to people in bands for their home recording setup, and it’s a little bit complicated for some people. That’s not because it’s a bad interface, it’s because those guys need ridiculously simple things. But with this interface the options available are incredible.”
“I had a lot of ideas for different uses for it, one of them being that the next Snarky Puppy record is going to be live in the studio with an audience, but we are going to be travelling around the world doing it in different cities, so I will need to fly with all this gear. And if I had 10 Anubis’ they would function not only as mic pres and an interface to get into the computer but also as the headphones station for the guys. The Anubis is a very, very powerful tool and there are a lot of different uses for it. The thing I am most excited about with it at the moment is the monitoring function with Atmos.”
On the subject of immersive mixing and how Hard has been implementing his Merging kit into his Atmos setup, he explains, “I have the Anubis and the Hapi in my Atmos setup. The Hapi is almost completely transparent in that I don’t have to touch it or mess with it, and I can change all the setup with anything I need to do on the Anubis, which is amazing,” he concludes. “The Anubis is where I can control all of the calibration and everything else. I’m relatively new to Atmos mixing and the setup is recent.”
“One of the things the Anubis has allowed me to do is incorporate Sonarworks directly into the interface. My setup is at home, not a commercial studio, so the ability to calibrate an Atmos system in 20 minutes was invaluable. I got it set up and working in almost no time, so that is an incredible feature. And creatively, as far as Atmos is concerned, it’s a new format and there aren’t many rules, so I’m having as much fun with it as I can.”