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Every audio engineer with Internet access has probably read about the legendary Michael Brauer and his mixing technique lovingly known as “Brauerizing”, but unless you’ve been off the grid recording the sounds of the rainforest for the last two decades and have not been keeping up with pro audio trends then don’t worry, Puremix has good news for you. Michael Brauer’s famous multi-bus compression approach has been stripped down from start to finish in seven thirty-minute long episodes in a series of videos presented by the legend himself. Hosted by Puremix, Michael talks about the entire evolution of his work from the earliest days right up until the pandemic forced him to go “in-the-box”, all in rich detail and full disclosure, offering Puremix subscribers the knowledge needed to ‘Brauerize©’ their own productions.

In the engineer’s own words, ‘Brauerizing’ is: “...an approach I developed that is based on mixing in post compression by combining multi-bus, parallel and send/return compression in a unique way allowing more freedom between instruments.” To begin to understand where this came from, we need to take a closer look at the original problem that gave birth to the idea in the first place.

Michael Brauer started as an intern in 1976 and a couple of years later became a staff engineer in MediaSound Studios which was owned by John Roberts and Joel Rosenman (maybe better known as the men who financed the original Woodstock festival). The studio had a stellar roster of engineers with now-practically-household names like Bob Clearmountain, Godfrey Diamond and Tony Bongiovi, to cite just a few. During those days Brauer had Michael Delugg and Harvey Goldberg as senior engineers, who mentored him in the art and science of mixing and the fundamental process that would become incredibly important to his signature sound: compression.

The Problem
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The year was 1985, and MediaSound picked Brauer to mix engineer Aretha Franklin’s single “Freeway of Love” with the acclaimed producer Michael Walden at the helm. Brauer was neck deep in the mix when Walden stepped into the room and after hearing some of the work-in-progress asked Brauer to add more bottom end to the song, so he did. The issue was, as he dialed a bunch of low frequencies into the mix, Aretha’s vocal started to grow thin and as he tried to recover the vocal levels the newly-added bottom end would vanish, creating a struggle between the 2 elements - the general music mix and the lead vocal. Neither were popping up in the song as intended, and Brauer worked out that this was happening because the stereo compressor was (over)reacting to the ever increasing punchy low-end addition. Eventually Brauer managed to deliver the track although he admits that even to this day it is hard for him to listen to “Freeway of Love” because it gives him the regretful feeling that “...it wasn’t emotional enough”. This experience etched in Brauer’s mind and he realised that the market was changing, sound-wise, and he would very likely come across the same vocal / music mix balance problem again soon. Artists and producers were requesting more bottom end and it was increasingly harder and harder to meet those demands with standard mixing methods. Brauer was certain that if he wanted to stay in the game and not lose the important “soul”, “vibe” and “feeling” that he so badly wanted from his output, he should develop an entirely new approach to mixing.


The SSL 6000, and a Solution

Later on, Michael would move out of MediaSound and start working at Right Track Studios where Frank Filipetti was senior engineer. Within a year of working there, Frank upgraded his room with the workhorse SSL 4000 to a brand-new 6000 console. Filipetti showed Brauer the 6000s three film mixing sub-stereo mix buses; A, B and C. Filipetti explained the concept to Michael: you put music on A, dialogue on B and effects on the C bus and you would be able to separately process all the buses before mixing them together through the master bus. A lightbulb went on - Michael was impressed by this possibility, and instantly remembered his “Aretha issue” - if he could process Aretha’s voice and the bass in separate buses, there would be no conflict - and this was the beginning of Brauer’s multi-bus compression technique.

Driven by the goal of bringing movement and emotion to his mixes, Michael started to experiment on the SSL 6000’s three stereo buses by inserting different compressors and EQs into each bus and sending different amounts of each track to each one of these subgroups, creating a brand new and powerful sonic texture woven together by the correlation of the different compression techniques. Later on, SSL would release the 8000-series console, adding a ‘D’ sub bus to aid Michael’s A, B and C configuration - and things further improved still by 1995 with the release of the SSL 9000. Michael had perfected his multi-bus technique.



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The SSL 6000 three sub-buses A, B and C




The Birth Of Brauerizing

With this new way of mixing, Michael was blending almost every known compression style, combining multi-bus, send/return, parallel and track-inserted compression into any given mix. He had found the soul and movement he sought, and it quickly earned him the ‘Best Alternative Album’ Grammy® award for mixing Coldplay’s ‘Parachutes’, but he didn’t get the call to mix the band’s second album ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’. He was disappointed of course, but a call followed from Coldplay’s bassist Guy Berryman, inviting him to dinner. Berryman seemed disillusioned by the feeling that the album just didn’t feel “exciting” enough and in order for their work to ‘pump’ and shine brightly they needed something else - they needed to “Brauerize” it! As such, Michael was given the gig to mix Coldplay's ‘X&Y’ album and the moniker “Brauerize©” was born.

In 2003 Mike Caffrey from TapeOp invited him to share some thoughts on his method in an interview. It was the first time Brauer’s technique was presented as something unique to the public, and not long after that everyone in the pro audio universe was talking about the “‘Brauerize’ thing” - and Brauer himself posted a chart on his website with a well-explained step-by-step guide on how to do it properly in the analogue realm. People were really excited about this and with the advent of a home studio market that was already catching fire by then, many, many people - pros and amateurs alike - would attempt it “in-the-box”.

A 2007 Gearspace.com thread posted by member Pete G wondered aloud about how to emulate his workflow and what plugins to use. Brauer himself answered the question by stating: “We've been trying to make it work but there are too many phasing issues. Despite the assurance from several posters that they know how to make it work....it doesn't. For the most basic template and assuming you only apply 40% of what I do, their template might be ok in limited use. But when I start blending different combinations, the sound changes in an undesirable way.” At the time, hardware modeling capability was in its infancy and computer processing just wasn’t up for the task (even though Pro Tools offered an Automatic Delay Compensation function) - issues just kept popping up. You can check out the complete discussion by accessing the thread link here - but little did they know that Michael was making plans, and eventually he was going hybrid.

Analogue to Hybrid

Michael moved his operations to New York’s Electric Lady Studios (founded by Jimi Hendrix), “Brauerizing” away night & day on a one-of-a-kind purple SSL 9000J. Once again, the music industry was changing and Michael noticed that artists were attending mixing sessions less and less. Not only that, but they were also demanding endless revisions, often making the two or three days that Brauer used as a buffer for mixing corrections not enough to finish a project. Assistants would work 24/7 in order to recall all of Michael’s hardware settings along with the SSL’s trusty Total Recall for each song's tweak, a process that would take as long as three hours to get exactly right. The procedure became inefficient and it was clear that it was time to move on towards the digital realm, but Brauer wasn’t quite finding that emotional factor he was seeking. Mix engineers and pals, Tony Maserati and Niko Bolas both tried to convince him to set up a hybrid system - which Brauer initially refused by saying he would never get that sonic feel that he was used to. Brauer wasn’t really excited with the idea of changing his workflow, not to mention it was a scary process for him, but there seemed to be no better option, and after keeping all his hardware processors lined up with his old SSL ABCD configuration for all this time, he started - carefully - his long and slow climb to “hybrid Brauerizing”.



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Michael Brauer at Electric Lady Studio’s purple SSL 9000 J



It wasn't an easy transition. Michael needed things set up as similar as possible to his old analogue configuration and that task rested upon Ryan Gilligan, his first assistant at that time. Michael ordered in the hardware and Ryan started to work on a Pro Tools template that could manage Brauer’s workflow, and together they set up Electric Lady’s Hybrid Mixing Room where Michael would make several (not-so-comfortable!) attempts at hybrid Braurizing. He was not actioning all this change just because of the efficiency issues, he wanted also to simply make it better. With time and the encouragement of Steve Vealey (one of Michael’s other assistants) Brauer familiarized himself with the new system, and as he explains during Part 2 of his Puremix video series “...my issue is that I was learning a new instrument, I was learning (one more time) how to execute my ideas”. Eventually, after much trial & error he realized that not only was he getting the ‘texture’ he so wanted but his workflow was getting faster too- he finally hit a sweet spot and although he had kept his analogue room for bigger projects, indie bands and smaller-budget endeavors were now all being mixed hybrid.

Hybrid mixing had opened Michael’s eyes to a new world of plugins. CPU and DSP processing were rapidly evolving and Brauer found himself adding software to his once hardware-only signal chains. The analogue vs. digital debates started to die down a little with improved classic & vintage hardware emulation plug-ins from companies such as Waves, UAD, Plugin Alliance and Softube, continuously surprising Brauer.

In 2017 while Michael was mixing “Knowing What You Know Now” (the second studio album by the English band Marmozets) with his analogue gear, it seemed there was this one song called “Play” he just couldn’t get right. The problem led the band to hire another mixing engineer in order to get it done - but Michael, under pressure, gave it one last try, this time using his hybrid set up - and nailed it. His mix would be the one included on the album, and that gave Brauer the confidence he needed to make the hybrid setup his go-to configuration.

In-The-Box

After nine years working at Electric Lady, Michael moved to a new studio where the main room had a hybrid system set up with an Avid S6 control surface as its centerpiece. Michael was starting to think that as he changed from analogue to hybrid it might be a good move to begin experimenting with an “ITB” mixing setup. This idea was proposed to his main engineer Fernando Reyes, who stood up to the task of developing a new Pro Tools template even though some of Brauer’s hardware favorites were not properly emulated yet (such as the Distressor, crucial to Michael’s technique). Fernando would spend as much time as needed comparing hardware to software and building workarounds in order for his plugin chains to sound like Michael’s preferred processors.



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Fernando Reyes working at the hybrid room computer



During this template development work, the Coronavirus pandemic hit. Michael was forced to move the most important parts of his studio to his home, and modern streaming services such as Audiomovers and TeamViewer made it possible for Brauer and Reyes to work “remotely together” on their ITB mixing setup project. With time and effort Fernando finally achieved a digital configuration that satisfied Michael Brauer’s creative and emotional workflow needs, and by July of 2020 the news that he was selling a large percentage of his well-loved hardware flooded the web to the great surprise of forum members & lurkers everywhere. Michael Brauer had finally gone fully ITB.



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Brauer’s ITB Setup



Puremix ITB Brauerize© Method Disclosure

In the 2007 Gearspace.com thread mentioned above, Michael promises to reveal his “In-The-Box Brauerize Method” only when it would be truly possible to do so: “Someday, it'll work and when it does, I'll be the first guy to show you the path”. He chose the esteemed educators at Puremix to help him out with the creation of a highly entertaining series of videos, totalling more than three hours of fascinating viewing with great stories and a complete step-by-step guide led by Michael and his template guru Fernando Reyes, showing all the routing, the hardware emulation tricks and a complete list of plugins so you can reproduce his highly sought-after technique.

To learn more about Michael Brauer’s work please visit his website: https://www.mbrauer.com/home

Pricing and availability:

“Michael Brauer: The Evolution From Analog to Digital Brauerize©" video episode collection together with exercise files and the complete list of necessary plug-ins and equipment is available at https://puremix.net website for $99.00 USD.