Producer Thai Long Ly adds a Neve 1073DPX to his recording rig
United States – Producer and engineer Thai Long Ly has increased the flexibility of his mobile recording rig by investing in a Neve 1073DPX dual preamp/EQ. With this versatile unit in place, he can now track and mix projects with ease.
Since 2018, Ly has been the official sound engineer of Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ), a musical collective that reworks popular modern music in different vintage genres, especially swing and jazz. The collective regularly posts new videos on its YouTube channel and now has over 1.4 billion views and five million subscribers.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ly was based at Bell Sound Studios, a commercial facility in Hollywood, California. But during the COVID-19 shutdowns, the studio focused on recording voice-overs and ADR, which forced Ly to move his equipment to his own house.
“I have a large mobile check-in platform and a passport handy so I can go wherever I need,” he explains. “With my current setup, I’m mostly mixing, not doing much tracking here, just some vocal or instrumental overdubs.”
Adding a Neve 1073DPX was a crucial step, as Ly explains: “I already had 26 channels of different mic amps in the mobile rig, but I wanted to incorporate the fat and heat of the the Neve 10 series in my two setups so I could use them for tracking and mixing. With a pair of line inputs, the 1073DPX is the perfect solution as it gives me two channels of the classic 1073 sound with that EQ, all in a two space rack. And for just US$3,000, it was a total no-brainer.
As a bass player, Ly says he is very sensitive to low frequencies and the impact they have on depth.
“The DPX always succeeds,” he says. “With the high shelf, you can dial in just the right amount of air and presence, without any sharp nonsense. Subtle wide cutaways with those gentle mid-range bell curves create clarity while maintaining tone. Front panel DI means I don’t have to crawl for a DI box, and the independent masters allow me to break inputs while maintaining proper levels on the tape.Build quality also feels chunky, and the layout is logic: everything I expect from a Neve.
Ly adds that if you took five rack channels of vintage 1073 and added five channels of DPX, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart, especially in a mix. “Plus, the new ones have a warranty, the corks are fresh, and the jars don’t scratch,” he says. “Love the unit and it sounds so good I’m about to order about 16 more channels to use with PMJ.”
Ly’s 1073DPX isn’t his first purchase from Neve; he became a Neve fan in 2008 when he purchased an 8816 summing mixer for his original home studio.
“I started out working in the box, but switched to hybrid when I bought my 8816 summing mixer,” he explains. “When I started at Bell, I used their Neve 8232 console and sent everything through that office. It made for some incredibly greasy blends, but it wasn’t sustainable as I got busier and busier. I couldn’t leave a mix for days, waiting for client notes and tweaks when I had save sessions, so I reverted to the ITB out of necessity, but immediately hated it. I was working too hard for the separation and depth I was used to, but I could never really get into the digital realm. This led me to a hybrid setup where I was zeroing the board and pushing stereo pairs from Pro Tools. Reminders were super easy as I only had to keep notes on the two bus chain and more importantly I could keep doubling and tripling my days.
Now that Ly mixes from home, he’s 100% hybrid and has outboard racks powering his summing and hooked up to two 96-point TT patchbays.
“I know ITB mixing is easier and plug-ins have come a long way, but I still prefer the sound of electrons traversing a vacuum along a circuit or the sweet mojo a transformer can inject” , he said. “I constantly feel and hear the difference a nice, discrete signal path makes versus a digital path and I plan to stay analog hybrid for as long as possible. It’s more satisfying to wield a button than a mouse and I much prefer the workflow.Plus it sounds better.
Originally from Northern Virginia, Thai Long Ly moved to Los Angeles in 1992 and played bass in various rock, pop and soul bands. He also opened an upscale bass shop called LA Bass Exchange, which he ran until 2002. His move into production came when he began writing and producing with the stage actress and American voiceover, Caren Lyn Tackett (née Manuel).
“I started with ADATs and a Ramsa digital mixing console and relied on several mentors (Erik Zobler, Al McKay, Gary Chang, Tony Shepperd and Eleanor Academia) to help guide me through the maze of production, writing and engineering,” he says. “I had no idea this experience would lead to a full-time career.”
Over the years, Ly has worked with some of the best in the business including George Duke, P!nk, Dionne Warwick, Stanley Clarke, Johnny Mathis, Vinnie Colaiuta, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, Elle King and Robbie Williams. He is also an active member of the CAS (Cinema Audio Society) as a post-production mixer and sound editor, managing projects for film and television.
Ly’s involvement with PMJ came about when he was approached by PMJ founder Scott Bradlee and asked to record the band.
“I had no idea who or what PMJ was and almost turned it down because honestly I was dreading the drive from Pasadena to Encino,” Ly says. “Also, I figured I was just replacing someone and I wasn’t sure it would be worth it.”
It was well worth the effort and four years later, Ly has been managing all of the band’s audio, start to finish ever since. On the advice of famed producer and sound engineer Eddie Kramer, Ly also takes a camera to every session and is now the band’s official set photographer.
“Every PMJ video is tracked with no monitors, no rehearsals and no overdubs. We do everything in two to three hours, including setup and dinner,” he says. “We didn’t do a lot of recordings during the pandemic, just a few videos here and there once some of the lockdown mandates have been lifted. However, PMJ has just completed its first tour since lockdowns and is gearing up for months of domestic and international dates in 2022. We’re gearing up also for another season of videos and there should be some really fun projects coming soon.
Ly is also working with other artists and has just completed a new record with Robbie Williams, due out later this year. “More than half the vocals were cut through a vintage pair of rackmount 1073s,” he says. “Needless to say, it looks pretty fantastic.”
Other projects include production and final mixes for bassist Hadrien Feraud’s upcoming release, post-production of the soundtrack for a film made by international touring band Snowapple, recording live videos for the band rock/pop East of June, fronted by former original Incubus bassist Alex Katunich, and co-writing and producing a project for LA-based Slovenian artist Katja Koren. All of these projects involve Neve gear in one form or another because Thai Long Ly is a fan of the Neve sound.
“The first time I recorded with a Neve, I was blown away by the depth, the punch and the sound,” he explains. “The drums had power and impact. The voices had weight. The guitars had balls. The bass was glorious and perfect. I had never heard such huge raw tracks before and immediately understood why everyone yearned for a Neve. That tone never leaves your head, and you spend the rest of your engineering life trying to feed your ears. Since then, I consider Neve an essential part of my musical identity, part of my sonic family, and I still feel like a child looking at his first bmx every time I’m in front of a Neve console.