Nashville’s Neal Merrick Blackwood (aka Neal Merrick) is a forward-thinking musician’s musician, accomplished in myriad musical disciplines, including songwriting, composition, arranging, engineering, and production. Along with this impressive skill set, Merrick is also accomplished in several more-esoteric sonic arts. As an ambient music producer in the ‘70s, we was an early adopter of MIDI and a pioneer of digital sampling. More recently, Merrick has explored the potential of 3D “holographic” sound. Merrick brought his all-encompassing musical prowess to jazz, classical, alternative rock, and ambient communities, and the world is richer for it!
A multi-genre multi-instrumentalist, it might be quicker to list the styles and instruments that Merrick does not play. As his career has shown, being able to do very nearly anything in music opens up a lot of doors.
In 1988, Merrick formed Space for Media, a high-tech multimedia production house in Nashville, and he has been a producer/engineer ever since, collaborating with Grammy winners and landing placements in feature films and television. Through it all, he somehow also managed to launch his own record label, Merrick Music, and served as a member of NARAS, the Audio Engineering Society, and the American Federation of Musicians.
Introduced to PreSonus® by some of his musical cohorts in Nashville, Merrick selected the PreSonus Monitor Station, FaderPort, and DigiMax™ D8 for his studio. “I use PreSonus products in my commercial studio for recording, mixing, composing, and sound design,” Merrick says. “What led me to choose these particular products was the fact that the PreSonus products sound great and function amazingly well. PreSonus products also happen to be extremely affordable.”
Merrick’s reasons for choosing PreSonus go beyond the pocketbook, however. He’s quick to point out the ease of use and sonic integrity of his PreSonus gear. “I am very happy with the level of quality that I am able to produce with all of the PreSonus products that I use,” Merrick states. “I’m amazed at the accuracy that I get from my mixes using the Monitor Station in tandem with the other components in my monitoring system. I get compliments all of the time about how the mixes always sound great, regardless of the end-listener’s environment. That’s exactly what I strive to achieve!
“When I am investing the time to make subtle adjustments in my studio, it is very important to know that what I am listening to is being accurately reproduced in my studio monitors and that those subtleties will translate well on the maximum number of listening systems when the mixes leave the studio. That makes me and my clients extremely happy.”
According to Merrick, the PreSonus Monitor Station is due some credit for this success. “I find that the Monitor Station does a great job of delivering a clean signal for headphone feeds, as well as to the monitors. I make frequent use of the built-in Talkback mic, as well as the Mono button to check for phase-cancellation issues. Furthermore, the Source routing, Dim button, Mute button, and Aux inputs are all very useful features. All of these features are found on the large-format consoles that I have used over the years, and I find them to be just as indispensable on the Monitor Station.”
Maintaining enthusiasm for big functionality in a small footprint, Merrick takes the time to muse on the PreSonus FaderPort. “I use my FaderPort all of the time, and it has been a sheer pleasure to work with,” praises Merrick. “It’s very portable, streamlined, easy to use, and substantially built. The tactile feel of the fader and the buttons are very good. Instead of having to mouse around when I am using my Avid ProTools HD system, I much prefer working with physical faders, buttons, and tactile transport controls, as I have become accustomed to doing with large-format consoles. I like to multitask, turning knobs and pushing faders simultaneously. I have learned to work very quickly and proficiently using the FaderPort!”
Merrick also champions the PreSonus DigiMax D8. “The DigiMax is eight channels of easy-to-use, great-sounding mic preamps with two instrument inputs on the front panel. My clients and I have been very pleased with the sound of the DigiMax. I am one of those engineers who still aims to capture a wonderful sound with quality mic preamps, good mics, proper mic placement, and having a good-sounding room to record in so that I don't need to use excessive EQ, compression and effects in post. For me, the DigiMax lends itself directly to that philosophy.”
If one thing is clear from Merrick’s experience using PreSonus gear, it’s that sometimes less is more. “I have totally surprised clients when they hear how amazing their recordings are,” Merrick asserts. “I used to have practically all of the expensive, large and bulky equipment that money could buy, but over time I have become very streamlined in my recording studio. I’ve found that my recordings sound even better now, and in many ways I have PreSonus to thank for that.”