Alexandria, VA, USA; June 2023 – MixCave Mastering is a new mixing and mastering studio which opened its doors in the summer of 2021. Located deep in the bowels of a domestic residence in Virginia, the studio has an Audient ASP4816 at its heart and was built and fully spec’d by retiree, Craig Lauinger.
Craig is no ordinary pensioner however. Not content just to sit back and relax into his retirement, he is a man with a mission. He is in fact a retired Army Sergeant Major who served 30 years of active duty – much of that as senior recording engineer for the US Army Band, ‘Pershing’s Own’ – and has solid experience of audio engineering. “Immediately following my retirement, I spent the winter excavating the basement of my home. For nearly three months, I removed more than 100 tons of Virginia clay and rock, built 24″ thick concrete walls and poured 6″ concrete slabs.
“The control room is entirely underground. It is a quiet space, and my design yielded an incredibly transparent and accurate mixing and mastering environment.” Comprising a small tracking room and control room, Craig custom-designed and built every aspect of the studio, including all the acoustic treatments. “I was fortunate to have a high school intern who helped me with building the acoustics and music of the electrical wiring,” he concedes.
After 35 years in the business, he is no stranger to the British brand, owning an Audient ASP800 8-channel mic pre as well as the new console. “We use the ASP4816 for tracking and mixing projects, with connectivity to ProTools via 48 channels of A/D, D/A conversion. We love the ASP4816 for its size, flexibility and ultra-quiet sound.”
It was the space constraints of the underground control room that dictated the size of the console, although that didn’t mean he compromised on his specification list. “We required a compact console that combined features and flexibility, good connectivity to a DAW, and sounded clean and quiet with very little colouration to the sound.
“The price point of the ASP4816 worked out in our favour as well,” he adds. Stand-out features for him were obvious: “We really like the upper and lower fader banks when using the ASP4816 as a summing mixer, and the EQ modules are very musical and incredibly quiet.”
The MixCave tends to have a few projects on the go at a time; most recently folk-Americana, chillwave, Afro-Cuban, reggae and rock. Craig says, “We have clients all throughout the United States and also in other countries such as Cuba, Spain, Israel, Brazil, the Czech Republic and most recently, we started working with a Reggae Dub artist from Colombia.”
One of the bigger surprises for him has been the amount of business he’s picked up using social media. “We have had tremendous success in finding clients – and them finding us – on Instagram. The unsigned indie music scene seems to revolve on Instagram, and roughly 50% of our clients are from that source,” he explains.
Perhaps more surprising then, is that just two years ago he was a complete novice. “I had no social media presence prior to launching the MixCave. My then 16 year-old son suggested I use Instagram to market the studio, and set me up with an account. He had to show me how to use it!” Since opening two years ago, their Instagram followers have grown steadily to nearly 5000.
These days you can find Craig – and MixCave Mastering – on Instagram and on the web at www.mixcavemastering.com, where you can find a full equipment list and the services offered – all mixed in with a few choice cave puns.
There is no restful retirement plan on the horizon for Craig, either – with lots of interesting ideas bubbling up for the future. “In 2024 we are planning to launch MixCave Live Sessions: a series of live performances recorded in The Cave by local and regional artists looking to increase their visibility within the music scene. We would either stream their performances live, or possibly record their performances, then do a rapid video and audio post-production prior to streaming.” Lots to look forward to then!