Laughs and Tunes, a Q and A with Andrew Chugg

Gilded Audio Design has thrived on the versatility of audio production since it was founded in 2014 in Brooklyn, New York. Andrew Chugg, co-founder of the company (with partner Dan Rosato), describes his career as “a really fun, pleasant balance” between podcast productions, record producing, and sound designing commercials. 

He sat down with Sound Devices for a Q&A on how he got started on podcasting and his favorite gear. Check out Part I of the interview below:

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started in the audio industry?

A: I went to Emerson College in Boston, and my major was Audio and Radio. Among my top choices, it was the only liberal arts school that included some technical side, too. I was able to get some technical skill, but a lot of it was media theory and history, which in retrospect I really value.

(After college) I worked in video advertising for a few years, but I was always passionate about audio. I was a musician and sort of a tinkerer of instruments and things like that.

I had saved up a little money and took an internship on the NPR-distributed show On the Media, and that’s where I cut my teeth in editing for the voice. I had really only cut and mixed and played around with audio in the music space. This was my first time being able to at look at the human voice in a different way.

Q: How did that experience lead to producing podcasts?

A: Making that sacrifice to take a low-paid internship for an organization like NPR was very rewarding in the long term, because ultimately it allowed me to pursue audio full-time. And that happened to (occur) in parallel with the explosion of podcasting. There came a lot of interest in podcasting because of the ability for almost anyone to do it with any level of budget; organizations could use it as a marketing tool. People could use it as a diary. So I was able to capitalize on that and work with a lot of different people, organizations, and brands to help them build their podcasts.

Following (NPR/WNYC), I worked for a company called Panoply, a big podcast network. So through those two experiences, I was able to build my resume.

Q: Gilded Audio Design produces original programming in collaboration with Spotify, like “3 Girls, 1 Keith” hosted by comedian Amy Schumer, and “Viva Latino” a bilingual podcast featuring many of today’s hottest Latin music artists, like Jennifer Lopez.

Those are some impressive productions where recording great audio is critical. What gear do you use to produce your podcasts?

A: For our podcast recordings through Gilded Audio Design, we use a MixPre-6, and actually we just upgraded to a MixPre-10T, so we can have as many guests as our hosts want to throw in simultaneously.

With them (MixPres), we also use four (Electro-Voice) RE20s and a pair of (Shure) SM7s with Cloudlifters.

Behind the scenes of 3 Girls 1 Keith podcast. 
(Andrew Chugg is pictured seated in background.)
Photo credit: Amy Schumer

We had to get Amy Schumer and her friends on headphones too, so we just picked up a pair of HX-3s, headphone distribution amplifiers (by Sound Devices), which I’m excited to use. I love that they are battery-powered, and they’re going to be very straightforward for guests.

Q: What made you choose Sound Devices?

A: I found myself in this sort of software/hardware purgatory where my hardware, my computer, and the interfaces never seemed to be in agreement with my software, meaning whether it was planned obsolescence from—to be frank—Apple, they were just never in harmony. I felt like I was always needing to double-check compatibility. I was always concerned with that. I wanted a reliable piece of hardware that I could really depend on that not only felt solid but had a trustworthy reputation.”

And I’d always wanted one—some Sound Devices gear—so I decided to go for it, and it’s been amazing.

Q: What feature stands out to you as far as greatest benefit?

A: The incredible limiters on the MixPre-6. Particularly on the comedy shows where you’ll have upwards of six people all burst out laughing simultaneously. I don’t have to worry about clipping at all. I can focus on the content, because part of my job as a podcast producer is to direct conversation to a degree, make sure everything is captured, and make sure everything makes sense from a listener’s perspective, so I really need to have some hardware that I can depend on so I can focus on the content.

I also like the USB-C interface with the automatic backup to the SD card. I don’t have to run a separate backup, so I can just plug it in, record straight to ProTools like an interface, and the SD will be my immediate backup. I absolutely love that feature.

Chugg’s Pelican Case with MixPre-6 and HX-3s

Q: What about portability? Is that a factor?

A: I have to be discreet. Oftentimes, I’m going into homes or to sensitive places, talking about sensitive issues, so I need to be discreet. I just unload my gear, take one small Pelican case, and I can pull it off that way, so that size is really helpful when I am trying to be as low impact as possible.

I like how cool it looks and how small it is. I love that.

Q: You mentioned a recent upgrade. Why did you choose the MixPre-10T?

A: The show I’m currently working on—they’re somewhat whimsical and like to invite people to talk who might be passing through the room while we’re recording it, or who might be in the neighborhood, and ask them to pop by. So I needed to be equipped with more channels. I can have stationary mics up, so if they impulsively invite friends to come over and be on the show, I can now say, “Yes, that won’t be a problem.”

Q: At Gilded Audio Design, you obviously do more than podcasts. What about your record producing? Are you able to use the same gear?A: Sometimes when I start working with an artist or band, I’ll go over to their practice or rehearsal space, and I’d sometimes record on my phone or the 702, but I’m super-psyched to bring in the MixPre-6 or MixPre-10, with a handful of SM57s, and let the limiters do the work for me. Meaning, I can set them up and grab higher-quality demos from the band that I can poke around with before we do any official tracking.  I’m really excited about that.

Andrew in his home studio. Spot the MixPre-10T?

Q: I caught your mention a moment ago of the 702, another Sound Devices audio recorder.

A:  In remote recording and particularly gathering tape for sound design, we’ve used the 702.

On the sound design side, my partner and I sound design a lot of commercials, and one thing I’m really excited about using the MixPre-6 and MixPre-10 for is using (them with) the new Sennheiser ambisonics mics and recording binaural at the same time. I can capture both ambisonics and binaural if I’m out in the city capturing city sounds. I can A-B those once I get back to the studio.

Q: When did you first hear about Sound Devices or start using their products?

A: I was lucky to make my first purchase of Sound Devices gear four years ago, but I’ve been familiar with it for about ten.

When I was younger, earlier in my career, when I first moved to NY, I was invited to some film sets through acquaintances, and the sound guys always had Sound Devices. So it was sort of the ubiquity of them onset that made me realize this was the standard for high production value on the audio side.

Stay tuned for Part II of this interview, It’s All About the Tunes.