Interview with Bob Ludwig

Journey of legendary Grammy® Award-winning mastering engineer

What do Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Mariah Carey all have in common? They are among the many great artists who’ve mastered their music with mastering engineer Bob Ludwig.

Before making his mark with his famous Gateway Mastering Studio, Bob was a principal trumpeter for the Utica Symphony and was inspired by Benny Goodman. He listened to his Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall records so many times, he wore out several copies. But he never wore out his passion to create music with some of the greatest artists of our time. Read on to find out more.

Q: How did you become a mastering engineer?

Ludwig: I attended the Eastman School of Music at The University of Rochester, and I was in the recording department as soon as I was allowed to be. While I was there, Eastman hosted its first recording workshop and hired Phil Ramone from A&R Recording to instruct it. I became Phil’s assistant, and was asked if I would like to work with him at A&R when it was over. At the time, I was playing principal trumpet with the Utica Symphony, and since I had already achieved my goal as a trumpeter to perform the Bach B Minor Mass, I agreed to move to New York City.

Q: What were some challenges to opening Gateway Mastering Studio?

Ludwig: Starting any business from scratch is risky business, and starting one as capital-intensive as a mastering studio in 1992 with all the expensive digital gear, studio design and construction, required a great business plan which my co-founder, Dan Crewe, helped us establish.

I had six different loans, borrowed money from friends in Japan, and worked seven days a week for the first few years to get the studio afloat. Fortunately, we’ve never had to advertise once because word-of-mouth has kept a steady stream of customers coming for over 22 years now!

Q: Who have been your favorite artists to work with?

Ludwig: The list is very long, but here are some favorites: Beck, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Madonna, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Rush, The Police, Eagles, Mumford & Sons, Journey, Def Leppard, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Hall & Oates, Foo Fighters, Mariah Carey, Queen, Elton John, U2, Pearl Jam, Tony Bennett, k.d. lang, AC/DC. I’m sure I’m leaving out other real favorites!

Q: If you could meet any musician, who would it be?

Ludwig: That would be J. S. Bach, a composer without peer.

Q: When did High-Res Audio begin to catch fire?

Ludwig: Gateway Mastering was the first mastering studio to offer DVD-V to our clients in 1997. I decided to make this major step because DVD-V was the first consumer digital format that supported PCM 96kHz/24-bit playback.

In 1999, Sony and Philips introduced the SACD (Super Audio-CD) which quickly became the audiophile’s delight as Sony’s introductory SACD player was of such high quality. I was privileged to re-master the classic Rolling Stones catalog managed by ABKCO on hybrid SACD.

Q: Why is High-Res Audio better than a CD?

Ludwig: High-Resolution Audio is superior to the CD because it can more accurately capture the output of the microphones recording the instruments and artists. While mixing, the higher bit rates and sampling rates can calculate without the constraints of low-pass filters and truncated math. Then, the final output of the mixing desk is more accurately captured, and the consumer can hear the music closer to the way the artist, producer and engineer originally heard it in the act of creation.

Q: What’s in store for the future of High-Res Audio?

Ludwig: As more high-resolution servers and portable playback systems appear on the market and as prices drop for High-Resolution Audio sources, more consumers can hear the music closer to the artists’ vision. I think that is a great thing.

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