CASE STUDIES | Masahiro Kawaguchi

  • Masahiro Kawaguchi

    Profile

    Engineer who has worked on all of MISIA’s CD and DVD releases. Highly regarded for recording and mixing work across a wide range of genres, including step recording, dance music, live instruments, orchestras and live performances. Also won the 5.1 Surround Sound Award from The Association for Promotion of BS Digital Broadcasting for work on MISIA’s “THE TOUR OF MISIA 2002 WOWOW EDITION” live DVD.

  • Interview

    - Mr. Masahiro Kawaguchi has invited us to MISIA’s private recording studio where he is involved in some mixing work. Can you tell us how you came about installing these RM-07 studio monitor speakers here?

    “I first listened to these speakers when I went along to a demo in the sound room at the Pioneer DJ head office. They sound great, so I am still using them. I was invited to the demo by my close friend DJ Soma, and others who also heard the speakers liked how they sounded. I used them here at this studio to burn them in, and felt that they sounded fine after 1 month.”

    - One of the main features of the RM-07 is that they are coaxial drivers with the tweeters mounted in the center. After you started using them, could you notice the distinct quality of the coaxial driver units?

    “I had never used speakers with coaxial drivers before. This studio has been remodeled a number of times and I had the opportunity to test the new equipment that was installed each time. I installed a different make of mid-range speakers and used them when I was working on processing the surround sound timing for the DVD and Blu-ray releases of MISIA’s live performances. I could really sense how well the phase sounds when I started using the RM-07, but they have a really narrow sweet spot. The sound image sounds perfect when mixing and listening to tracks from the middle of the mixing deck, and their excellent phase is their best quality. The sweet spot is quite narrow, so it is best not to move your chair when dubbing sounds like choruses. We normally play the speakers at quite a high volume, but not so loud that you can’t have a proper conversation.”

    - How was the first month when you were burning in the speakers?

    “While I was burning in the speakers, I did notice that they were crackling at high frequencies. Tweeters still need burn-in time, even if they are coaxial units.”

    - It has been half a year since you installed the RM-07, but have you become used to how they sound?

    “I am mostly used to how they sound now. MISIA also commented that they are difficult to get used to at the start when she was here, but now she actually listens to the RM-07. Someone else who said that they sounded great was Satoshi Shimano, a producer/music arranger who also uses this studio. Satoshi has been providing music to MISIA from her earliest days.”

    - Can you tell us what tracks the RM-07 was used to make?

    “The first track I mixed using these speakers was “Orphans no Namida,” the ending song for “Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans” which is also the track played during the key scenes in the Manga version. After that I mixed MISIA’s album “LOVE BEBOP” and her live ‘best of’ album “MISIA Hoshizora no Live Songbook: History of Hoshizora Live.”

    - Did you notice any difference in sound with MISIA’s album since installing these speakers?

    “I made the switch quite quickly, and was actually surprised at how soon I felt comfortable with the way they sound. MISIA’s album covers a wide range of musical styles, from guitar instrumentals to full orchestras.”

    - Is there any difference between audio speakers and monitor speakers?

    “Audio speakers are designed as speakers for listening to music at home, but I think that monitor speakers need to be built sturdy like speakers in guitar amps. People use audio speakers just to listen to the final, mixed music. With these monitor speakers, there are some cases when I just play the base notes at a high volume, and if I did this with consumer grade speakers they would probably blow the first time. Monitor speakers need to be rugged so that I can listen to just the guitar notes or as decide how to mix the kick drums without blowing the speakers.”

    - Is there any difference with live recordings and studio recordings?

    “The audience makes quite a noticeable difference in sound. Even if the recording is only made from microphones on the stage, the sound of the audience creates a completely different ambience.”

    - What type of work do you do at this studio?

    “The main line of work here is mixing and recording vocals and simple instruments. I use the RM-07 for all the steps involved.”

    - Are there instruments or musical genres that sound particularly well with the RM-07?

    “I think these speakers play any type of music excellently, from small bands to orchestras. They have a punchy delivery that also makes them suited to dance music, and I don't feel they are limited to any particular genre. I haven’t worked on any orchestral recordings with these speakers, however they sound perfectly fine for the recordings I have mixed of single instruments.”

    - The RM-07 is capable of playback up to 50 kHz. How do feel about the wide frequency range of the speakers?

    “My work is easier with a wider frequency range, as it makes it easier to distinguish the ambience.”

    - What was your key priority when installing the RM-07 in the studio?

    “The current position is the best for small speakers. This creates a perfect triangle when you are sitting down, with sound from equally from both sides.”

    - The rear panel of the RM-07 has an EQ and other controls. Have you used them to customize the settings?

    “I have the EQ set quite flat. I first played some pink noise and set up a microphone where I would be sitting so I could see the sine wave generated. It looked flat, so I thought it was great that the speakers sound natural. They also sounded completely fine when I played back a CD that I am used to listening to.”

    - What sound sources do you use to check playback?

    “I listen to MISIA’s “Everything” most often. I didn't work on that song – it was mixed by George Y. Massenburg – but I listen to it because the sound is excellent. Other than the first single release, “Everything” has been mastered by many people, and while the downmixed tracks sound the same, each sound component is different between the track recorded for the album, and the track recorded for the best of album. The song is one where you realize just how much mastering makes a difference to the sound. I personally prefer the way the very first single has been mastered.”

    - Tell us more about the difference in formats from the original recorded sound to the final sound.

    “I recently made a recording at 96 kHz and 32 bit. The final 2Mix track that I mixed was also in 96 kHz and 32 bit, and I asked American mastering engineer Herb Powers, Jr. to do the mastering. I sent him the sound in this format so he could master it for the CD and for high-resolution streaming. Both MISIA and myself trust his work, and I’m sure it will be perfect. We have worked together for more than 10 years since the second album.”

    - What kind of image do you have of Pioneer DJ as a company?

    “I used to have some consumer headphones made by Pioneer, but the RM-07 is totally different as they are monitor speakers. Ordinary consumers perceive music differently to those working in sound studios, and while the company name Pioneer DJ has the words “DJ” in it, this doesn't bother me at all.”

    interviewer : Kentaro Takaoka

  • Installation at a glance:

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