How did you first find out about the Aphex Aural Exciter®?
At the time, I was working with Peter Asher and Andrew Gold. We decided to go see Paul McCartney and Wings at the Forum, and after the show we went backstage. Peter knew Paul fairly well because he was the head of A&R for Apple Records in the UK and his sister Jane Asher had been Paul’s girlfriend.
The piano sound in the Forum was just spectacular, so I asked how they got it. Paul mentioned the Aphex Aural Exciter and a gentleman name Curt Knoppel. So, I went and met Kurt, and we hit it off right away. The next thing I knew, I was mixing the first record ever using the Aphex Aural Exciter. Eventually, Kurt would sometimes come to me with modifications and ask me to try them.
What was special about the Aural Exciter?
What I noticed was the ability to get the stereo image much wider. There was also a silky high-end effect that you could get, depending on how much you added to each track, which is basically how I used it adding it to a track at a time.
I was also taken aback by how easy it was to use the device, which I used as a send/return because it seemed like a piece of stereo hardware. I remember first trying it strapped across the stereo buss like an LA-3A, but I couldn't control it as well, which is why I always had it in Mix mode with the knob at 10; I wanted the output of the device to be just the Aphex.
What were the first records you used it on?
The first album I used the Aural Exciter on was Linda Ronstadt’s Hasten Down The Wind in 1976. After that, I used it on Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Andrew Gold, Orleans, and others. After the huge success of the multi-Platinum, Grammy® award-winning Linda Ronstadt album Simple Dreams, it became a recording industry standard.
It was very interesting back in the day how much mystery there was surrounding the Aural Exciter, especially since we always credited it in the liner notes of the records: "This album was mixed using the Aphex Aural Exciter system.”
People whom I spoke to years later in New York thought it was a big hoax, that there wasn't really a device at all. They thought the engineers out here on the West Coast just made it all up. I thought that was very funny!
Did you use the original limited-run tube version or the solid-state version?
I always used the tube unit. Toward the end, I was using the heavily-developed Aphex 712.
So what do you think of the new Vintage Aural Exciter® plugin?
Amazing; you guys really nailed it. I did the final testing on the plugin, and it sounds exactly the same as the hardware version. It’s great being able to use this piece of gear again after so many years; I love the sparkle it adds to everything.
Tell us about the presets you did for the plugin.
In all, I did eight presets (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, kick, snare, strings, synths, and vocals) which were done using the individual channel insert version of the plugin. That’s something I could never do with the hardware version, yet somehow they managed to achieve the same effect, using it as an insert on an individual track, just as if it was a send/return device.
In closing: Any words of advice for young producer/engineers?
All I can say is work very hard, believe in what you do, and never look back!
Learn more about Val Garay at www.redredglobal.com
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