The Gear Setup of a Leading Mix Engineer

A Chicago-born and now Los Angeles-based mixing engineer, Jeff Jackson is in very high demand. While taking on various projects—ranging from mastering rap and R&B records to mixing records for Universal Music Publishing—he recently opened a new studio at his already successful MixOne studios (which he founded in 2018).

Jeff began his career in Chicago, where he served as a recording engineer at Classick Studios, which has helped launch the careers of major Chicago artists such as Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa.

After several years working at Classick, Jeff moved out to Los Angeles to freelance without a vehicle, but with plenty of drive and hustle.

"I moved out here in 2013, without a car, without a gig lined up, and I just kept going over to Larrabee Studios in North Hollywood," Jeff says. "That was my first real job in LA, at a studio, as a runner at Larrabee. So I did that for about eight months and worked myself up."

Jeff Jackson at work in his studio.
Jeff Jackson at work in his studio.

After several months of grinding, Jeff became an assistant engineer under one of the most well-known mixing engineers, Manny Marroquin. He worked on projects with Kanye West, Common, and Rihanna.

"Yeah, it was some dope projects that came in and out. Real cool. I matched that with the hustle I had back in Chicago," he says. "You've almost got to pinch yourself and snap out of it quick because it's like, 'Yo, I deserve to be in this room too,' but you're [working] right along[side] a mix god, so it's just crazy."

After a few years working as an assistant with Manny, Jeff wanted to forge his own way.

"I did that for three years, and then I moved on. Then, shortly after coming back to freelancing in Los Angeles, I started MixOne," Jeff says of the studio, where he now works as chief engineer. He describes it as a place that provides "opportunities to young engineers, engineers in general, to create some type of culture. It’s really shaping itself to be sort of like a collaboration between engineers."

Jackson has been working on many interesting projects lately, including collaborating with Calm, the popular guided sleep and meditation app that has also recently partnered with RZA, for its first-ever remix series, in which songs were reimagined for bedtime.

I was fortunate to track down Jeff between his hectic schedule, and he was gracious enough to talk to us about some of the gear he uses while mixing.

Keep up to date with Jeff's work at his website.

Tell us about your main signal chain.

My signal flow is coming out of the Apogee [Symphony], 32 in, 32 out, and going into the SSL Sigma, which I then come out left and right into the [SSL] Fusion. I've got my vocal chain, I've got two De-essers, the DBX 902s.

SSL Sigma
Jeff's SSL Sigma.

What is the advantage of outboard De-essers versus those found in VST software like Waves?

Well, that's something that I've learned just working with Manny. He used that in his background chain. I usually set these on a lead [vocal].

You've been mastering lots of projects too, care to share what you're using in the mastering chain?

Yeah, I have it hidden [laughs]: the Lavry Gold. This is dope—this is an A-to-D converter. You can hit this kind of hard, and it clips your audio coming back in. Also over here, I have the Antelope Audio Isochrone Trinity. I use that to clock my converters.

You proudly embrace the best of both analog technology and the current digital advantages.

I'm back and forth, the digital realm, the advantages of being digital and recallable [presets], but also reminiscent of the tools that were used to make my favorite records back in the day.

I think the SSL G [series console] is the route I want to take. Eventually, I will have multiple rooms functioning, and each room is going to have its own flavor. So, SSL G in maybe the main room, but then maybe the SSL AWS in another one, or maybe a Duality—just to give me flexibility to be fully analog, or to be more of a hybrid system.

One Augspurger Solo 15-18
One of Jeff's Augspurger Solo 15-18 speakers.

What piece or pieces of equipment do you wish you had 10 years ago now that you have?

Oh, definitely these Augspurger Solo 15-18 speakers. The amount of detail I can dial in on just the low end, and also the top end, it's just like night and day. These are a gamechanger for me, man, for sure.

They seem pretty impressive. Do they send someone out to install and balance these for you?

Yeah, they send someone out to set them up for you, then you have another session with the owner, Dave Malekpour, who comes in and tunes your speakers, specifically for your room. it doesn't matter where. It could be anywhere. They just come in, hook up to their amps, then they just dial in settings.

I have up to 100 presets I can use on this, so if a client comes in, and they like to hear a lot of bass, I can just load in a different preset than what I use to mix. What's cool is [Augspurger] can visually see the response of your room. They can tune it with a mic and they can see where your room has these nodes where it dips out at, where it's overextended at. It's cool. The technology is crazy.

What's still on your watch list?

Oh man. The Urei 1176 [Rev. E]. The blackface joint.

What are you going to do with that?

Just throw that on my lead vocals, bro. Nice compression, in your face. You have the reissue version, the UA Classic version, but man, I want the Urei one. The OG. I was eyeing this Lavry for a few months, but I finally pulled the trigger on it.

So what are the next steps for MixOne?

I started this company to provide opportunities to young engineers, engineers in general, to create some type of culture. It's really shaping itself to be sort of like a collaboration between engineers. Eventually, I will have multiple rooms functioning, and each room is going to have its own flavor.


Check out Jeff's website to keep up to date with him and his work.

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