Jim Pavett is a modern engineer and producer with an old-school education. Back in the day, many recording engineers had engineering degrees and understood the math and physics of electricity and sound. In many cases they were conversant with the technical details of the entire production chain, all the way to duplication. You can still find those types but many contemporary "engineers" don't know Ohm's Law from Law and Order; they can choose mics, program virtual instruments, and work a DAW, and they may be very talented, but don't ask them how and why the technology works.
Pavett, on the other hand, has a traditional audio-engineering background. He earned a B.A. in electrical engineering from the University of Arizona and has worked not only in recording studios but in audio-duplication companies and mastering houses. He also is a trained musician. He understands how sound behaves in a space, how his gear works at a deep technical level, what happens at every stage of music production, and what's going on musically in a song or album.
He may have an old-school education, but Pavett loves to work with today's pro-audio gear, including a wealth of PreSonus products. Having founded Allusion Studios in Tucson, Arizona, Pavett stocked it with the latest technology and built a strong business through referrals from satisfied customers, earning a Grammy nomination in 2007. In addition to music production, he creates audio samples for microphone manufacturers; produced the instructional-video series The Studio Edge: Pro Audio Recording Series, distributed by Ask Video; writes for Pro Audio Review magazine; and serves as a panelist for the Tape Op Recording Convention.
Frustrated with his experiences at various pro-audio stores, Pavett decided he could do better, and in 2004, he founded Pure Wave Audio in Tucson. Instead of relying on sales people who come and go and hardly know the products, his customers get the benefit of Pavett's 27 years as an engineer. At the same time, Allusion Studios stays busy, and Pavett stays active as a musician and engineer.
Plainly, this is a man who knows production and understands what makes great audio gear so special. And he's a stone-cold PreSonus fan.
"My first experience with PreSonus was adding a DigiMax 96k to my Mackie D8B digital console," Pavett explains. "The console [designed by current PreSonus Chief Technology Officer Bob Tudor] only had 12 mic pres, and the DigiMax 96k was a great way to get quality preamps in a small space to expand my mic inputs. Based on the great experience with my DigiMax 96k, I bought a full FireStudio/DigiMax FS 24-channel system with 24 mic preamps and 9 stereo headset outs. I routed these to a PreSonus HP60 headphone system, which was very clear and packed a lot of power, which I find most headphone amps do not have. I recorded several projects from Grammy-nominated artist Gentle Thunder and Will Clipman (New Age/World) on the FS system. These albums have not been released yet. I also played drums on eight tracks of Barry Sparks' (Dokken, Yngwie Malmsteen, Ted Nugent) Can't Look Back album, and all of the drums were recorded on the same PreSonus system.
"After I designed a huge mobile recording system for, and engineered, The Great Wall Concert, on location at the Great Wall of China (featuring Alicia Keys, Cyndi Lauper, Doyle Bramhall, Boz II Men, and Nelly McKay), I started getting more calls to do mobile records locally," Pavett continues. "I decided to pull the FireStudio system out of the control room so I could have a configurable mobile system. Instead of being stuck with a huge rig for a small job, I was able to have a system that could morph from 8 to 24 channels, depending on the requirements of the project. DeGrazia: Live at the Paramount, which I recorded and produced, was done completely on the FireStudio system."
When PreSonus released the Anthony DeMaria-designed ADL 600 preamp, electrical engineer Pavett started researching the technology and was impressed with the design. He bought an ADL 600, and then a second one. "The ADL 600 is my number 1 go-to preamp, period," he enthuses. "It is the most musical tube pre I have ever heard. It has amazing amount of headroom, and when you do hit it hard, it does not get edgy and thin like other tube preamps; it gets nice and warm. If money were no object, I would literally have 16 channels of ADL 600 in my studio."
Pavett produced a record for Amber Norgaard, entitled Rising, which was tracked mostly with the DigiMax and ADL 600 preamps. "I believe the production quality of this album rivals most national artists," states Pavett. "All the vocals and overdubs were done with the ADL 600." You can hear an audio excerpt from this album by clicking
Then came the Studio Edge Pro Audio Recording Series instructional videos. "I wanted to make sure that I involved only brands of gear that I truly believe in and actually use," Pavett explains. "I also wanted to involve gear that was accessible not only to high-end professionals but also to home studios and even beginners. The last thing I wanted to do was alienate my audience by talking about $750,000 consoles. The point of the series is that the knowledge of the engineer makes a great album. Yes, you want to have great-sounding gear, but the gear does not record and mix the album—you do! And you don't need the most expensive gear. I have a Grammy-nominated album that was tracked on PreSonus gear because the gear sounds great. But it also is very affordable."
When creating the video series, Pavett used PreSonus gear frequently for his examples, as well as for audio production. "PreSonus has a great diversity of products that were excellent for the techniques I was demonstrating," he explains, "everything from setting up word clock and daisy-chaining (the FireStudio system), to showing analog meters (ADL 600) and digital meters (Central Station) to routing signals on a mixer (StudioLive 16.4.2)." The gear worked visually, too. "PreSonus is able to get great gear in great-looking, small packages," Pavett says. "The ADL is sexy and high-end looking. The StudioLive consoles just do so much in such a small place, and they are very photogenic."
Yes, in some ways Jim Pavett is old-school. He has the formal training and the broad and deep experience that are the hallmarks of classic engineers of the past. But he's very much a contemporary engineer, too, creating high-tech instructional videos and mixing with the seriously new-school StudioLive 16.4.2. If you're in Tucson, and you're looking a great place to record or a quality pro-audio shop with a proprietor who "gets it," we suggest you check him out!