For the past ten years, music industry veteran Val Garay has been working and residing in the lush hills of Topanga Canyon, where he continues to cultivate talent, produce and engineer new projects, and run 321 Records, his record label with Henry Marx. An Apogee user and devoted fan since the 80s, this Grammy winning producer and engineer graciously opened his studio to chat about all things gear and gold. With credits including 13 Number 1 albums with artists like Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and Kim Carnes, Val’s more than successful track record spans the past three decades, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. In 1981, Val won a Grammy for “Record of the Year” for his production on Carnes’ “Mistaken Identity” album. Now with nine Grammy nominations under his belt, it’s no surprise his walls cast a noticeably golden hue throughout his house from the many records adorning them.
In the early 80s, the San Francisco-born and raised engineer built the famed Record One, a recording studio in Sherman Oaks, CA, known for being constantly locked in by artists demanding it a space of their own. After selling the studio to Allen Sides years later, Val re-focused his efforts on production. He converted to Apogee after he replaced the AD & DA converters in his Mitsubishi X850 32 Track Digital Tape Machine with Apogees. “They made such a difference I also bought three 8000 SEs. I’ve been a fan ever since.”
Currently, Val’s home studio integrates the Apogee AD & DA 16-X converters, a Big Ben, a Rosetta 200, a Symphony Mobile System, and the new ONE, which he is “absolutely in love with.” Val explains, “when I mix, I use the AD-16Xs for the primary stuff, and then I mix into another computer, into another 17'’ MacBook Pro, which I run the Rosetta 200 on with the Symphony Mobile card. That's how it all connects to Logic. So I mix at 192 into Logic and then I use one of the last positions of my Big Ben to clock the Rosetta 200, and it all works just dandy.”
Despite the fact that Val’s studio is brimming with gear, it’s ONE that he says delivers the most shock value for the buck. “It’s not expensive, which really amazed me because Apogee is akin to Apple: they are the best you can get but they don't come cheap,” he admits. But with the affordability of ONE, “I can't imagine Apogee not doing land office business with that device. It's like the converter iPod of today.” Portable, jet-black, and small enough to slip into his back pocket, ONE is his favorite new piece of gear and admittedly the object of much show-and-tell among industry friends. “I was sitting with ONE in my hotel in Miami with about six musicians, and we were all blown away by it,” Val shares enthusiastically. “I plugged it into my laptop and used it for playback, and it was just amazing. Everyone wanted one.” The versatility of ONE is what makes it ideal for both pros of Val’s caliber as well as the technologically timid. “The quality from ONE is outstanding.
I’m producing three news acts right now, Bonnie Piesse, Erica Jane and Katrina. ONE would be perfect for Katrina as she is learning GarageBand and how to record by herself,” Val says. “It's an amazing tool. That microphone sounds pretty amazing and you can plug anything into it you want and run it right into a laptop or a regular computer. The quality is so unbelievable that it's a file that can get exported and used for a record, simply because the quality is that good.”
Whether you’ve been recording for decades like Val or for just a few months, his testament pretty much says it all: “That is ONE amazing little piece of gear.”