Josh Sularski loves audio. He builds custom microphones in his spare time, when not working on sound for his clients. We talked with him from his boutique studio in Brooklyn, New York, where he is focused on working with independent singer-songwriters.
Josh is a guest contributor to the popular OWC Rocket Yard Blog and also works with the video streaming company, Wistia, where he mixes and edits the audio for their weekly podcast as well as for the episodic video series, “
He recently got into microphone modifications and completed a full mod of an Apex 460, turning it into a microphone similar to an AKG C12.
Josh, it’s all your fault! We want to learn how to build microphones!
Listen in as host Cirina Catania talks with Josh about his past, present, and future.
In This Episode
- 00:12 – Cirina introduces Josh Sularski, a producer and mixing engineer.
- 05:42 – Brian talks about MicParts, a company providing high-quality components and kits for DIY audio enthusiasts.
- 12:06 – Brian tells how he started his job at Glyph Technologies the day after his graduation ceremony.
- 17:53 – Brian shares his 3-year job experience working with OWC as a Director of Marketing.
- 24:15 – Cirina talks about Josh’s amazing works that can be seen on his website, joshsularski.com.
- 30:18 – Josh describes what it looks like working with Wistia by mixing and editing their weekly podcasts.
- 36:54 – Cirina highlights Josh’s solutions and recommendations in sound engineering.
- 40:59 – Brian points out the importance of knowing your equipment characteristics to produce good sound quality.
- 47:03 – Brian shares one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s sayings that strongly resonated with him about knowing what you desire in life.
- 52:49 – Visit Josh Sularski’s website, joshsularski.com, to learn more about him and check out his work.
Hey, Cirina, how are you?
I’m great. I love that microphone you’re talking on. Tell me about that. I mean, you’ve been modifying microphones and building microphones. I’m fascinated.
It’s actually a relatively new venture for me. About two or three weeks ago, I was hanging out with my girlfriend and talking. I was like, “I needed to get some new microphones for my studio,” but to get the really high-end stuff, it’s $2,000-$5,000. And I started doing some research, and it was never anything that really kind of had piqued my interest before that I thought was even capable of building your own microphone or modding an existing microphone. And so as I looked into it more, I found a couple of websites in particular where they talked about it. And so I ended up going to-shameless free plug for this website, microphone-parts.com.
I’m writing that down.
And it’s written by this guy, Matt. Quick side note; he’s super responsive like if you email him any waking hour, and like within 10 minutes and I’ve done this several times, he will email you back with a very detailed explanation with whatever your question is such incredible service in that regard.
I love that. That’s unusual nowadays. Some of these small tech companies that have people that have developed things that are so responsive, they’re precious, and they make life a lot easier for us.
And it gives you just a little bit extra peace of mind, especially when you’re going into something that you really feel far into. Like soldering, on a regular basis, I had to buy soldering equipment and solder and other safety gear and a multimeter, and for me, this might as well be Egyptian hieroglyphics. I didn’t know what I was doing. Anyway so you can go a couple of different avenues, you can either buy a full kit, or you’re building the thing from scratch, it’s a pretty good encyclopedia reference style thing of like “oh if you have this microphone we offer this particular upgrade kit” or “this particular component you can upgrade” you have choices. So when you order whatever you’re going to order, it comes to you in the mail pretty quick within a week, usually by standard mail, and all the components are in plastic bags, and there’s a printed manual that is a step by step color guide is very detailed. Even if you just feel like you are not the person that could do it, you could probably do it.Small tech companies are really helpful in the industry today. Their talent and production has given people more options and opportunities. Click To Tweet
So I built this microphone, it’s a recreation or a clone of an AKG C12, which is a very famous microphone known for a lot of warmth and very smooth high end. I’m not really sure how much the actual price is. I think they go into thousands. If you’re going to buy a vintage thing, right? So for the mic, when I bought it new, it was 250 bucks. I think the kit was maybe another, and I think three or 400 bucks if that might have been less. And so I built the whole thing. It took me three days because I was going so slow and my girlfriend was very encouraging. And then finally I’m done. I plugged the thing in, and it worked. There was no hum, no noise; it worked seemingly flawlessly. I haven’t changed it, and I’m talking on it right now.
It sounds awesome.
And when I emailed the guy to thank him, he wrote back and said, “I didn’t know that was your starting first microphone build. Tried to rank my hardest ones from one to ten. That’s literally the hardest build. I would never recommend that somebody start with that.” So I think I got a little bit of beginner’s luck and a little bit of perseverance too probably.
Yeah, but you’re a total techie.
And it’s so gratifying, honestly, when you plug it in and work out. This is probably the first long test I’m really doing with it now. And to do it yourself, the DIY thing it’s priceless, the feeling you get when you turn the switch on, and it’s working.
Oh, that’s amazing; it’s kind of building your own home or having a garden and watching things bloom when you’re a technologist having a microphone you built. Oh, my goodness. Now you’re making me want to try. I’m going to go on microphone-parts.com.
A little warning, it’s a little addicting. I just recently built a pair of anyone that’s in audio may know, a pair of KM 84, they don’t make them anymore. They have a kit for something that is very comparable to that. And so for a friend of a friend, I basically offered just so I can get more practice. I’ll tell you what, you buy the parts, I’ll try and build the thing for you, right? I just finished it. It works great. I’m going to go deliver and meet them later this week. And so it’s getting addicting, it’s going to be a little bit of a problem.
Are we gonna see a Sularski line of microphones pretty quickly?
In my little dreams, in the ether, I’ve been thinking of, “what would I call it?”
Yeah, there you go.
Something that sounds elegant but powerful and thought of on my mother’s side, a couple of generations down, the maiden name was Dachman. I’m wondering if that sounds kind of like German-ish.
That’s kind of nice.
It could be something. I don’t know. I’m just messing around, so we’ll see.
Dachman, better than Neumann. Forget your Neumann, buy a Dachman.
But it’s like Dachman and something. Everyone has two names these days.
So, what is involved? They send you the parts, and you have to?
I can walk you through in a kind of like the cliff notes version. So they sent you all these parts in this particular case. These KM 84s clones that I built those were definitely much easier than this C12 clone. You get a PCB, and it’s third the size of a credit card, just as long but maybe shorter by two thirds. You definitely need some really good magnifying capability of some sort so you can see what you’re doing. And basically, the directions just walk you resistor by resistor-capacitor by capacitor you solder the things in. It was terrifying when I first started the first one, I was like there’s no way this is gonna work as I was doing it. I kept messing up like if you get too much solder on the board and you need to wicked away with special copper wire or something they refer to as flux, looks like a special chemical compound that kind of helps the solder flow either onto a pad or off the board, etc. There’s definitely a rhythm to it. So as you do more and more and more, you get faster and faster. Anyway, so you solder a bunch of these components, whether the resistors sometimes if the solder wires from the microphone capsule to that same PCB board, and then you kind of screw it all together after four hours and you cross your fingers First second and hope that when you turn it on, you hear something this like this and not buzzing or noise or static.
Okay, this is radio, so people can’t see it, but I’m bowing. That is awesome.
Especially with the job that that website has done. I should be getting some kind of commission for the plugin. Just kidding. They really do make it pretty easy. It actually reminds me of a lot of the OWC mode of things with the SSD installs, memory installs; there’s actually a lot of synergies there. I was thinking of actually emailing Larry, to be like, “Larry, you gotta check out this site.”
He would love it. Knowing Larry O’Connor. All those guys over there, and you were over there for a while. We met during Sundance, two years ago now, I think it was.
Yeah, I was there for about 2014 to early 2017. I was the director of marketing for a period of time.
You have a very strong tech background. So, where do you come from, and how did you learn all this?
Well, I think, even as a young kid growing up in the late 80s, early 90s before the internet was really a thing. In the late mid-90s, I was just starting; people were getting email addresses. I remember my father, who worked at AT&T at the time. I remember going to his office, this 30 story thing in New Jersey, and being marveled at the internet. I was getting like 20K a second downloads, faster than dial-up at the time. It was just incredible. So I think I was always kind of technologically pretty curious. I would always kind of tinker with whatever computer we had. I even remember funny little anecdotes like, we were never an Apple Mac house growing up. My dad would either get a free computer from the company AT&T that they didn’t even need anymore. They’re really good about kind of taking care of their employees that way back then. Or we’d go to a local computer show that would happen like once or twice a year and buy a computer and come home that way. And then I would always have a Mac envy growing up. So I was like, “how can I make this look like a Mac when I use it?” What can I do to tinker with the OS or something like that?
Did you turn it blue?
They had all these different programs that could reskin Windows, and they never worked very well. But for about an hour, I was like in heaven because I had a Mac in front of me. So growing up, I was always really into tech stuff. I was also a musician. I’ve been playing piano since I was three years old. And I’ve been classically trained kind of all my life that way. So that brought me actually through middle school through high school, playing piano doing tech stuff. In college, I went to school, my major was music and recording, but it might as well have been a double major because you had to meet very strict performance requirements on pianos. You have to get into the school of music. It was run by the school of music, so you had to get in on piano, you had to get into this recording program, which was very small at the time. I think it was 20 people in total at that time. I was in the third class, and it was a new program.
And where was this?
Ithaca College in upstate New York. So it’s the most typical college town in the world. The thing they used to say like 10 miles surrounded by reality or something like that was kind of one of the things in Ithaca. While I was there, I was kind of a terrible piano student because I was so enamored by recording and the tech and getting into that stuff. So I would sink hours into being into the studio, learning the board inside and out. They had an SSL 4000. I think it was a G or an E with a G computer, I can’t remember the exact, but it was an SSL 4000, which is one of the kinds of quintessential boards of the time, and spent a lot of time learning that thing inside and out working with musicians, bands, anyone that would come in to get basically free records so I can learn my way through that process.
I had a couple of internships, but one was actually at a studio right downtown Ithaca called Pyramid Sound Studios. It was run by someone who’s kind of now one of my mentors and actually runs the program now, kind of after I left, he now runs the Ithaca College recording program, Alex Perialas. And if that name sounds familiar, some people I think in the 70s, 80s, 90s, he was kind of a quintessential heavy metal kind of hard rock, the kind of really developed some of the most famous guitar tones that people strive for that they really go after today. So even today, if you’re into that type of music, there are many people that will consider his guitar tone, his distorted tones, his clean tones the peak of something that they really strive to go after. Anyway, so I did an internship there, and I had done a session there too, and something about our chemistry kind of just kind of locked together. I was hanging out with sometimes we kind of really developed this mentor-mentee relationship. I’m not exaggerating. I graduated on a Sunday in May of 2004, dating myself a little bit, and then literally started working at his studio on that Monday. So like I graduated and started working.
That was a journey in itself and a kind of overtime. If again, it is what it is over there. And kind of parallel to this, a job opened up at a company called Glyph Technologies, who manufactures external storage devices for productions, very fervent following of fans and customers.
I’ve used their stuff, but I like OWC stuff better.
And so they had a new product that ended up kind of being a flop. It was a new category of a networked audio device for bands that kind of tour so they can bring their own monitor rigs with them on stage and not have to worry about the sound guy. It ended up not working out for a variety of reasons. But Alex, the owner of the studio, knew the president of Glyph, he got me an interview. I got the job. And so I was like the entry-level PR on Glyph. And over the nine years, I just kind of worked my way up that small company ladder, and by the time 2014 came around, I was Vice President of Sales and Marketing. And for all intents and purposes, a COO, it’s a small company of about 20-30 people. So everyone’s wearing multiple hats, it’s all hands on deck all the time. The great thing there was I had exposure to so many facets of the industry, whether it was working with musicians on sponsorships and stuff like that or endorsements or was working with Asian manufacturers who are supplying us components that we’re using to build our stuff or if you’re working with the channel partners and resale and retail, and then also managing the internal dynamics of the company.
Which is a job in and of itself. I think a lot of people don’t understand that those people who work in Marketing at tech companies are very tech-savvy. You have to be. And so you’re working the creative and the tech and the marketing and the sales, and it’s a difficult job. I have a lot of admiration for people who do it well.
Yeah, I think it’s a balancing act, right? I mean, not to be too cliche. I think this idea of blending art and science, it’s kind of a cliche for a reason, I think because there are certain aspects not to get too deep in the weeds on the marketing analytics, but you definitely need a certain amount of analytics and data to help guide and steer your strategy. But you don’t want to come to like analysis by paralysis. You got to have your finger on the pulse, and you got to be in the mind of your customer and figure out. I like to actually say that I think the x-factor is creative all the time. No matter how much analytic data you have, how much you think about your customer, it’s all an execution of that trip creative. You have to know what the goal is but the creative is really the x-factor, I think.
But the numbers can be skewed too. You have to be careful. Where are they coming from? What exactly are they measuring? I think the golden gut has to get in there at some point. And your instinct has to say, Okay, I’m looking at all these numbers. I’m looking at our budgets. I’m looking at our demographics, and I’m looking at our psychographics. And how do I put all of that together and make a conscious decision to do right by the company based on all of this data, but also what I know to be true in the middle of all of that? And that’s what’s exciting. And then you sit back, and you wait, and most of the time, it works. Do you listen to yourself most of the time? It really works if you’ve made that commitment to what you’re doing.
By 2010, I actually moved down to New York City, and I was still working for Glyph at the time. I don’t know if anyone would remember this, but there was a pretty major flood in Thailand in that area of Asia back in like 2010-2011. I can’t remember exactly when. And the hard drive market, that’s where a lot of, I forgot what percentage it was, the drive that got manufactured there, but it affected everybody. And overnight, drive prices tripled. And for smaller companies, Glyph, that became a real hardship, and ultimately the company was sold to kind of people that had deeper pockets able to weather that storm better.There's definitely a rhythm to the creative process. As you do more, you get faster and faster. Click To Tweet
The tape manufacturers went under too, a lot of them, right?
Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all. And that’s also partially just the nature of the technology and how it’s kind of moving. It’s hard to justify for a lot of people the cost and time of tape backup at this point when there are so many other options like cloud and stuff like that. Anyway, I stayed on and oddly enough, a mutual supplier that, at the time, I think Glyph and OWC had shared and we met and had dinner, we were on really good terms. And I had mentioned that I was kind of getting a little bit long in the tooth and I was kind of looking for something new. I’d been at the Glyph for ten years. It was a great ride. Did he maybe know anyone? And he put me in touch with Larry. And Larry and I kind of traded emails probably for literally six months, just feeling each other out, getting to know each other ultimately. We went down to Austin, and we sat in a coffee shop and talked shop for gosh, it must have been four to five hours just kind of like riffing with each other.
And the next thing you know, I was kind of brought on board. I had talked to Jen obviously and a couple of other people before making it official, but next thing I know, I was hightailing it down to Austin from New York, and I literally landed on a Wednesday night at 10 or 11, middle of July. And Thursday morning realized, “Oh, you know what, you’re probably gonna need a car.” So I went car shopping. I lived in a hotel. It’s only because that’s how quickly it all happened. I didn’t have time to get planned ahead and get an apartment, and also I lived in a hotel for the first month I was there and was just kind of piecing it all together. At the same time, going to do this day job thing while I was just getting acquainted at OWC. That’s how I ended up at OWC, and that’s where I was the director of marketing for about three years. It was a great time there. You learn a lot; it was a much bigger company compared to Glyph. The size of my marketing team was basically almost the size of Glyph as an entire company. For me, at least the learning curve there was shifting from my all hands, maintaining it that being able to get in the weeds and get my hands dirty as necessary, but the mindset shift that you have to go through from all hands on deck wearing a bunch of different hats to, okay, I’m now managing a team of people that rely on me. And so my job is less wearing all these different hats. And, putting out fires, and it’s more, how can I make sure that they are also set up for success as best as possible? What can I do to support them? I think to a certain degree, and my job was no longer making sure we hit this exact number. It was more making sure that person A, B, or C is set up so that we can hit that number. And so I think that’s kind of a subtle distinction, but it’s a really important one that can be difficult to transition into.
Were you primarily B2C or B2B?
At Glyph, it was almost exclusively B2B because the product was B2C ultimately hit the consumer, but we did not have a direct model. It all was through channel partners. At OWC, obviously, macsales.com, a huge website. So that part is B2C, and they have B2B customers. And there’s also a sales team internally that deals with B2C sales, right? So it was kind of coming at you on all fronts, there was a lot going on all the time and trying to make sure that everybody is on the same page, both within the marketing department, but also outside the marketing party. You don’t want people kind of in the dark or siloed. As any company grows, that’s always a challenge, and I think it was kind of a crawl, walk, run kind of mentality in the best way.
So now you are doing a lot of audio engineering, and you’re working in podcasting. Tell me about what you’re doing now. Because it looks like when you go on your website, it’s full of music albums, and tell me about some of the work you’re doing.
Some of those are older than others. So when I moved back to New Yorker in 2017, my roots are in New York, my family and my closest friends are in New York, I kind of in a way came back without much of a plan. I kind of said to myself, man, you’ve been going at it really hard for like most of your adult life, maybe you take a beat come back, maybe do some marketing consulting. Which I did when I first arrived in New York, and then I took a minute and ask a question that is a little bit difficult to answer, honestly, because it can be a little scary, which is if money was really literally no object, what would you want to do tomorrow?
Well, I think everyone asked themselves that, and I think sometimes the answer is scary. And it’s scary for probably most people, including myself. And I kind of decided, man, I’d really just like to make some music and help people record some music, If I can help the average struggling indie singer, songwriter make something that sounds like 80-90% as good as what you get at a major record label studio, I would love to do that out of a little studio. If you’re really super selective about the gear you make, and you start to maybe even in the case of building a microphone, start to really understand how it’s made, I think, on a fraction of the budget, if you do it right, you can really get them to that 80-90% sound. I don’t fool anyone. You’re never going to get 100% of what you get by going recording through a Neve console or an SSL console with a beautiful wooden room or whatever, and places like The Hit Factory. Especially in New York, there’s so much talent, so many people that want to record and say something, and they struggle to put out something that sounds of the caliber that their song deserves or their voice deserves. So getting back to your original question in terms of the discography I had on my site.
You played piano on one of them didn’t you?
A lot of them, I played the piano.
I’m looking here. There’s mix engineer, piano, assistant engineer, clarinet.
Kind of like a sly cover band some years ago but the biggest treat there was the bass player had played bass for years with Marvin Gaye in the past.
Just like the coolest dude, like way too cool for me but just so in the pocket, so in the groove. I remember he kind of made my year. That session happened to be at Alex’s studio. Pyramid Sounds in Ithaca, and he must have told Alex when I wasn’t in the room, “Tell Josh he was alright.” And Alex told me. Alex was like, “For him to say that about your playing, that’s about as big of a compliment as you’re gonna get.”
So if we go to joshsularski.com, you can click on Thornwood, I’m not going to click on it now because we’re talking, but you can hear you playing the piano. I want to hear this. This is awesome. So do you like engineering, the playing, what do you like at all?
I kinda like it all. I think I really do enjoy playing. My challenge as a producer, I think a self-analysis for me says that I’m not great at starting things. So if a songwriter comes to me and is like, “I got the song. I just need to build a bunch of parts, and I don’t know what to do about it, I don’t know where to start.” If I can have someone else in the room that just gets it started, then it becomes this back and forth in this game where like okay, you’re throwing this idea. I’m gonna throw this idea out there, let’s see how they come together. I always struggle with building something from scratch. I think it’s a pretty common thing of like almost there’s some fear there of some sort, fear of failure or something like that.
Well, I think knowing you, as I have one of your greatest skills is that you’re a true team player. That’s a really important skill. So I wouldn’t be too modest about that. That’s an amazing skill. I’m looking at the list of equipment that you have, and I’m wondering, what are you going to call this microphone? The one that you kind of build after the AKG?
Oh, man, I don’t even know. I have to think about it. That’s a good question. Part of me just wants to say it’s a C 12 clone. But it’s really not because it’s not exactly a C12 clone. There are parts of it that are different. I guess I better work on that.
Yeah, because it’s brilliant, it sounds beautiful. It needs to go up on your list. Maybe that’s the first use of the new name you’re thinking about?
Yeah, I’m super excited. There are one or two female songwriters who hopefully they’re gonna come in the next week or two because I can’t wait to hear what they sound like on this thing because me and my marvel voice doesn’t really do it justice.
You have a great voice for radio. You know the problem with women, and I’m not talking on the mic that I’m going to end up keeping I have bought and gotten rid of so many microphones over the years because I have a soprano voice and I don’t want to change my voice, and I don’t want to add a bunch of basses and a bunch of reverb. I just want to sound like me, but there aren’t a lot of microphones that are made for women because they don’t handle the high range the way those wonderful rich bass tones that men can get. That’s not the way I and other women who do this kind of work sound. So it’s hard for us to find microphones that work for us.
I think under a certain price point, I’m hesitant to say the exact point because I don’t really think I know. Certainly, on the budget side of things with microphones, the high end is usually the first area where it reveals itself as a budget microphone. So a lot of these budget microphones that are coming from far east, usually it’s China, but not always. What 99% of them are trying to do is basically model their microphone after something like a U 87 or U 47. These classic, quintessential mics that even if you’re not an audio pro, you might have heard of them. But what they end up doing is skimping a little bit on a part here or there and what winds up happening is you get this overhyped area right around 8K and above maybe it’s 10K and above. And it becomes really harsh and sibilant, and that’s where it really reveals. A lot of times you can buy, I’m not joking, you can buy a $50 microphone on Amazon or anywhere and maybe find a kit at microphone-parts.com that’s designed for that microphone and 200 bucks later give it’ll sound like a $1,000 mic. Literally, that’s not even exaggerating.
Kind of exciting. I think people take for granted when they’re listening to podcasts the work that goes into them. Like this microphone I’m talking on right now, I was in the Sennheiser Neumann booth at NAB this year. And I walked in, and I said I’m going to buy the U 87, I give up. I’ve turned away tuning microphones. I’m going to get the U 87. It’s a beautiful mic, but it’s made for men, and I sort of demoed a line of microphones on the wall, and I demoed. And when I got to the man who was running the booth, who’s one of the heads of Neumann said, “I think this is the microphone for you,” and I put the headphones on and I spoke into it, and I went, “Oh my God, that’s the microphone.” And I think maybe you should start making microphones for women.
What was it?
Well, I thought it was the 101, turns out, I’ve got the number wrong. So I have to look at the pictures I took. It might be the 102. But it was a $600 microphone. He said, “For your voice, this is the best microphone now.” This man works with Neumann every day of his life. He knows these mics, and that was the microphone he was recommending to me. So I have to write to him and say, “I’m ready to buy it. Where is it?”
Was it the 103?
No, it’s not the 103.
It might be the 102.
It may be the 102, but I swear I thought it was the 101. I took a picture of all the mics lined up. And I’m gonna write to him because like you said, it’s not always about price. It’s about the way it’s made and the way it handles the vocal range.
And it’s so much more so than anything is the source material. If I put up literally a $10,000 microphone and the performance is terrible. It doesn’t matter how good that mic is. It’s not gonna sound good.
You got to have fun with it. So talk to me about Wistia, and what you’re doing there?
Yes. Wistia is a video streaming company. And I think similar to what people often know, Vimeo seems to be a little bit better known, but Wistia has kind of been carved out. I don’t work for Wistia, so I want to get this right. But Wistia, I think my sense is that they’re very business-oriented. They’re providing a lot of analytic data, and they’re business-focused more so than Vimeo maybe to the mass. So they decided as a strategy that they were going to kind of produce a branded content series, and I think it’s deemed made by marketers for marketers. So the idea is like there’s some episode of content in each episode. Some fun stuff to keep you entertained. And there’s also like a long-form interview usually with like the head of marketing at a well-known brand or the CEO of a well-known brand. Or like a beer company, they had someone from an agency recently, this week’s episode that just went live. Today was someone that was at one point being the fastest woman in the US, I think, for she had an injury. Otherwise, she would have been in the Olympics. And how she kind of leveraged her sports acumen into kind of some brand and product based stuff for herself and her husband. So she built, I think, one or two companies off of that. And so they do this weekly video streaming thing, it’s about 20 to 30 minutes. And then on top of that, every Thursday, they release a longer-form version of that same interview on its own as a podcast every Thursday.
So what are you doing?
I edit, process, and clean up all the audio for both of those assets. So whether it’s mixing, I get raw audio delivered along with kind of a video cut to that. So I have to mix and edit and clean up any audio issues for the video streaming side. And then I’m also editing and cleaning up the podcast side of things.
Speaking of audio issues, I don’t know if you can hear it, but on my side, the gardener’s right underneath the studio windows.
I don’t hear a thing. It’s silent.
You would if you got to master files, you would hear it. Don’t you hear it?
I don’t hear anything.
Oh, it’s driving me crazy. Anyway, so you work on cleaning that up. What tools do you use?
What I usually reach for first in my toolkit, I use Pro Tools as my DAW, I think eight or nine out of ten times I reach for iZotope’s RX if I need to clear up. So for stuff that they shoot in their offices, there’s back noise amongst other things. And for them, it’s a learning experience too, because it’s this new type of content they haven’t really produced before. A weekly series, that’s a lot of work, right? They have a whole team of people putting it.
So now, are they doing these for clients or getting paid by the clients to do these?
This is a self-branded content thing where they’re just putting it out every week. And I think it’s just part of their overall content marketing strategy. I imagine it’s to help position themselves as a thought leader ultimately and keep people engaged with their brand. I think they have a very strong brand. They know who they are, they know what their values are, they know what the culture is. And I think that also naturally attracts customers to them who kind of share those values, right? They’ve kind of told me exactly what those values are, but you just get a sense from everyone that I’ve interacted with. They’re great people, and I could easily see why they would have a very strong following in terms of customers.
So you were working on Pro Tools and iZotope?
Sometimes if the RX, D-noise isn’t working as well as I really want it to, then maybe I’ll reach for Waves X-Noise, which is a much older plugin, but sometimes it just gets the job done, right? My other plugin that goes on literally anything these days is from something called Plugin Alliance called bx_console N. This one, in particular, is modeled after a Neve console. And it gives you a really simple strip that you’d find on a Neve console. Usually, use it to run a high pass filter that helps with some of the rumbles on top of anything I’ve done with RX. And maybe if it needs to, I’ll do a little compression, nothing too heavy, maybe a little EQ. But then if I need to start getting like really surgical on the EQ side of things, I’m getting like weird honks or something, FabFilter makes a great EQ. It’s like a dynamic EQ. If you’re a little bit more budget-conscious, Waves has something called the F6, which is also a dynamic EQ. You can get, I think, up to six bands. If I need to cut out if something is too honky or something, and it only happens once in a while. So you don’t want to just take it out all the time. You could throw a dynamic EQ on there and have it basically trigger this reduction. It’s almost like multiband compression but more styled as an EQ. And it’ll just smooth out some of these conks, or if something’s too harsh, I’ll do it on usually 2 to 6K. Things can get pretty wonky and harshly in there, right? So sometimes I use it there to just to tame some of that harshness or maybe sibilance once in a while. It just depends on the source material, but those are most of my tools I’d say. In this week’s episode, they did a scene where the CEO of Wistia, with their guests Lauren Fleshman, I think, is her name. She hasn’t run a mile around the track for fun. Supposed to show how much slower he is than the average athlete. He did a good time. It was a six-minute mile. I couldn’t do that. I’d still be running now. I got RX in there to de-wind. I wouldn’t have another tool that could handle it the way RX de-wind, which is part of the advanced package on RX.
I’m thinking that everyone I talked to that is a sound engineer talks about all these different tools that they use, and most people don’t know about this. They just think all you do is get a good mic, you record it, and you put it up, but it’s a lot more work than that. And I think if you’re really picky about audio, especially if you’ve trained musically and your ears are keen, then there is a lot of work as long as like cooking. I mean, I’ve written down some of the things you were talking about, at least six different solutions that you’re using to help with the audience. You don’t use them all at once.
Very rare that I use them all at once. I imagine that many people can relate to this in the field of audio. There will be times where I stop myself, and I look at what I did. I was like, man, how did you get to this point? And I’ll just like, faders down, reset everything, start over. Your mind is a really powerful thing, and it can play tricks on you. And it used to be like a joke. You’ve probably maybe heard of before where if you’re in a studio or doing a mixing, you got a band member that is like, “I need to hear more guitar,” and so you tell him, “Oh, this is the fader for guitar,” and there’s nothing going through it. So he just pushes it up, and he’s like, “Oh, that’s better, that’s better.” But I think that happens to everybody, myself included, where you can be, convinced and kind of self-convincing without really realizing it. And so I think it’s important once in a while to check yourself. Because there are times where I get audio from Wistia, as an example, there have been times where I get something I’m like, “Oh, that sounds pretty great. I just need to do a couple of things, and it’s gonna be good.” And then there are times I get stuff, and I’m like, “Okay, I’m gonna be here for a minute. I gotta figure this out.” So I think it just depends on the material. But I think to your earlier point, microphone placement and technique, also hugely important. Because there have been times where I record music, like a singer-songwriter, and in the end, I don’t even touch it. I put the fader up and maybe a little compression, and I was like, “That sounds gorgeous. Your voice with this mic for some reason, it’s on the same page. We’re good to go.” So I think knowing what to do, and knowing what not to do technically is a pretty big part of the equation. I think that also applies to music, knowing what to play, knowing what notes not to play.
It’s subjective. And I think that’s why when, as a writer, producer on the music side, or the podcasting side, you want to work with somebody that is compatible, that thinks the same way you do. And there are so many variables. I mean, for example, when you’re mixing, you’ve got headphones on. Are those headphones altering the sound? How do you pick a good headphone? How do you pick good studio monitors? And if you listen to it on the headphones that you’ve decided are not distorting the sound in any way or changing it. In other words, what you hear is what you get, then you’ll play it on the studio monitors, and it’s still sound is a little bit different. So how do you know what your audience is gonna be hearing, and most of the time now it’s being dumbed down and played over an iPhone or an Android, and they’re listening on their AirPods. And all that work that we do to try to make it sound really good just sort of goes away. It’s a shame. It’s like making a film with beautiful surround sound or beautiful images, and then they’re watching it on the phone. It’s heartbreaking.
It’s so easy. I’m waiting for the subway. I just want to watch The Office on my iPhone, and I’m good to go. I think you made an interesting point just a couple of seconds ago talking about what monitors do you pick, what headphones. And I myself have suffered from this in the past. I think I’ve got to a degree and have gotten over it, but I’ll never be fully recovered. I’m recovering your addict in a way. But I think, to a certain extent, it almost doesn’t matter what speakers you pick what headphones you pick, as long as you know them really well. If you know what their deficiencies are, even the most expensive set of audio monitors or headphones are gonna have a sound of their own. They have their own character in 99% of cases. So you have to really learn the room you’re mixing in, the speakers, if you have a console, you have to know your console. Like for example, here I use a Metric Halo, a recording interface, and converters. And I know when I plug a microphone in, especially since I know my microphones, I know what it’s supposed to sound like. And I know if I take that same exact microphone, I go home, and I plug it into my kind of budget, entry-level interface Scarlett Solo, very popular thing it’s like a 100 bucks, and it sounds good. Doesn’t sound bad. It sounds good. But I know I’m not gonna get the same kind of air off that mic, the same exact microphone that I would if I plugged into that Metric Halo piece. You have to really become a master of the stuff you own.Marketing analytics is a balance of art and science. Your data helps steer your strategy. Click To Tweet
And ultimately, people are used to hearing different levels of audio. And I don’t mean that literally, I mean, just different quality of audio. And I think it’s really about the story like you said, it’s the performance, it’s the story, it’s the conversation, and a lot of people and I’ve known several people that sound amazing on the radio, but they have no personality. And they’re not really interested in the podcast world, and they’re not really interested in the other person. And I think people can tell. I love talking to people. The idea that I can do this and do this for OWC, and they’re sponsoring the show, and I get to talk to people like you that are so good at what they do, and I get to put the focus on you. It’s like a wall around the world, I meet creative people, and you’re one of them. You’re a keeper. I want you to build me a microphone, though. I’ll pay you.
I will certainly try.
I really think that it sounds like you’re doing with Wistia and with Brandwagon, and with this microphone-parts.com, I think he’s your new bestie, right?
Oh, yeah. We’re talking like a couple of times a week already.
You sound happy.
Yeah, and I can’t say that that’s always been the truth as an adult. As a kid, I was a pretty happy kid, then you get to, I think a lot of people go through this journey, I don’t know how far off we want to get here, but for most of my adult life, I kind of just said yes to things without questioning it. Like you graduate, oh, you won’t work at the studio? Sure. I’ll work. Oh, you want this job at Glyph? Sure. Oh, well, move down to Austin. Sounds like a great opportunity. Maybe that’s partly because I’m an optimist. I would always call myself a realist; some of my best friends would call me a pessimist. I think I’ve become more of an optimist. I think you have to be doing the entrepreneurial stuff that I’m doing. It doesn’t make it less scary. You just need support. You need support from your friends and family, or prayer, any order.
You also need the ability to turn it off when it’s not giving you advice that you really should be getting. If you listen to everybody in your life that said no to you, you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing now. Especially creative people. Creative people oftentimes don’t get the support that we, and I say we because I’m one of them, that we need from our communities.
To an average person, it sounds crazy, right?
It is, and that’s what I love about it.
I’m gonna build a studio. I’m gonna start building microphones. It sounds crazy. Yes. As I was saying, I never really stopped thinking about it. Like Josh, what do you want to do for the rest of your life? And I first started thinking I would love to be one of those people who never retire. Like that to me would be a nice thing to be able to do whatever I want to be doing until the day I die. I think I was under no illusions that it would take time to build whatever I’m building. I was very fortunate enough to come back to New York with some savings that afforded me the time to really figure out what I was gonna do with the rest of my life. I’m probably the happiest I’ve been in years. And it’s a blessing, and I’m glad you brought that up because I think it’s something that I actually have already taken for granted a little bit in the last few months. And I think you kind of just reminded me of that a little bit. Life’s too short, just do what you want to do. Do what makes you happy.
And I think to what you were saying, in terms of blocking out the negativity when it comes time. There are two well known public figures who I follow. I think they have some alignment, but they’re also sometimes can be a little bit of opposed. Gary Vaynerchuk is someone that I follow and also Simon Sinek.
I love Simon Sinek.
If I’ve met him randomly on the street. I’d just be like, I’ll work for you for free. Just tell me what I can do. If I can help at all, just tell me.
Yeah, incredible and brilliant. Just like a brilliant thinker. And Gary, while he’s way more brash and abrasive. In the best way possible, he is kind of like a one-hit guy. He’s hammering the same theme home, and I think that’s what starts to resonate, I think. One of his things that really resonates with me is like, figure out who is the voice, maybe it’s a parent or one of your best friends or something, figure out who it is that you’re hearing that’s telling, no you can’t do it and just get it out of there. Maybe it’s something that you need to say goodbye to temporarily, or maybe it’s longer-term, and that can be really painful. It’s not the case in my professional scenario at all, I’ve had great support. But I think that the most powerful thing is to figure out where that negativity is coming from and figure out how to get rid of that so that you can focus.
I call it loving them from very far away.
I like that.
I care about people, but there are some that I just love from very far away.
Sometimes it also just comes with time and maturity, right? When you’re in your early 20s, you’re not, at least I wasn’t, you’re not self-aware enough yet to identify the complexity of that relationship and just all the social factors that have combined and lead up to you being the person you are at that moment, Like when you’re 22 right out of college, at least I wasn’t there yet.
But isn’t it wonderful? I think every age has its aspect of wonderfulness. I look back at what I was like in my 20s, and I was a pretty cool woman. That was a pretty cool time in my life. And I’ve managed to sort of change what I do, alter it, and learn from it. And I think we all have a tendency to do that, and that’s really smart. Just live joyfully. And when you do that, that opens up all the creativity, and then you can do an awesome job because you just love what you do and. You found a niche now for yourself that you’re really, really good at. You’re having fun at it. And I think you’re going to be an inspiration to a lot of people with what you do.
That would make my year.
I think it will. So what are you going to say to all of the young men and women out there who want to do what you do? What advice would you give them?
Oh, gosh. That’s a hard question. I should have been prepared for that.
You’re not supposed to think about it.
My instinct is to say a couple of things that occurred to me: one would be to really immerse yourself with people that you want to be like. And that’s not to say that you’re going to copy them. You don’t have to go out and copy what they do, but kind of reverse engineer them a little bit. What makes them tick? It might have been Gary Vaynerchuk or someone that would be like, you’re complaining that you don’t have enough time. How about you don’t watch four hours of Netflix tonight instead. That’s a lot of time you could be doing something. And that really resonated with me. I was like, you know what, I don’t need to watch Netflix, I can build a microphone. Stuff like that, where there’s a lot of time in the day, and you can still get a full night’s sleep. So I think reverse engineer the people, that’d be one thing that you really want to aspire to realize this is a long game. It is not a short game. One year does not make a life. I’m in my mid to late 30s now, I’ll be 37 this year, and I wouldn’t even say that I have figured it out yet. At different times of my life, I was like, I got this figured out, I’m 15. I got this figured out, I’m 25.
I thought I knew everything when I was 15.
Great for so many reasons, terrible for so many reasons.
So you just moved into the studio where you are now, right?
It might technically be Ridgewood, Queens. They keep fighting over what it actually is. It’s listed as both when you Google it depending on the day. I just moved into this. I decided literally about a year and two months ago to do the studio thing. It was this never-ending saga of like, Oh, I found the right space. Oh, it’s not as soundproof as I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t built right. And moving into another space. This is terrible, they’re like people living down here. This is not professional. I can’t have people come here, then going into another space while this one was being built. And finally, this space is I think about five months behind schedule where they want it to be, but it’s finally ready. I just moved in here. It’s an absolute disaster right now, but I have more acoustic paneling coming, and I have to get a couch in here and some other gear, but it’s functional. I’m just really excited. Now it’s going to be a sprint over the next couple of weeks to get it kind of in client-ready shape and start getting some real talent in here so that it’s not just me pretending to play guitar.
Well, I have a feeling you’re gonna be doing very, very well. And I do wish you well. We have to stay in touch. This is fun. You have to come to OWC on a regular basis.
I’d be happy to. This is a lot of fun.
Let’s do it again.
I was worried I’d have nothing to say.
We’ve just gotten started. So this is to be continued.
Absolutely. I had a lot of fun.
Yeah, me too. Thank you so much for taking the time. So I’ve been talking with Josh Sularski. And he’s an amazing guy. He’s a producer, a mixing engineer, and also plays a great piano. I’m going to go on your website, and it’s joshsularski.com. Did I get that right?
Oh, you got it.
All right. And best of luck in your new studio and everybody if you want somebody great to engineer your music, or your podcast, or help you with the sound on your video, give him a ring while he’s still moving in and still has time. Take advantage of it and become a client now. So Josh, let’s talk again very, very soon. You have a wonderful day.
Thanks, Cirina. You too.
And everybody listening, remember what I always tell you get up off your chair and go do something wonderful today. You have a great day. This is Cirina Catania with OWC radio, and I thank everyone at OWC for sponsoring us and allowing me to have a wonderful time talking to creative people. Thanks so much. Have a great day. Bye.
- Joshua Sularski
- The Indie Room
- AKG C12,
- Alex Perialas
- Avid Pro Tools
- Chris Savage
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- Glyph Technologies
- Ithaca College
- Larry O’Connor
- Lauren Fleshman
- Marvin Gaye
- Matt McGlynn
- Metric Halo
- Neumann 102
- Neumann 103
- Neumann KM 84
- Neumann U 47
- Neumann U 87
- Neve Console
- Plugin Alliance
- Plugin Alliance bx_console N
- Pyramid Sound Studios
- RX iZotope
- Scarlett Solo
- Simon Sinek
- SSL Console
- The Hit Factory
- The Office
- Waves SSL 4000
- Waves X-Noise
- Be resourceful especially when challenges arise. Find ways to DIY a project as much as you can to prevent spending more money on buying new stuff.
- Invest in high-quality equipment. Don’t keep buying really cheap items that become defective over time. Save up for the best gear needed for your profession. In this case, there are mid-range to high-end microphones that do the job extremely well.
- Be tech-savvy and stay up to date on the trends in your industry. Find out the latest styles people are trying out and see if your audience responds well to it.
- Find a great place to record. Make sure your studio minimizes the noise and obstruction in your final audio output.
- Hone your talent and creativity. Never stop learning and don’t hesitate to try something new.
- Practice, practice, practice. Create, create, create. You can only improve in your craft if you do things repetitively.
- Be a team player. There’s a lot of people involved in a great production. Working harmoniously with each other can best optimize the work everyone is doing.
- Consider using dedicated audio software to improve the final audio output.
- Check out the links and resources in this episode to find out Josh Sularki’s recommended microphones.
- Check out Josh Sularski’s website to learn more about his work and contact details.