Producer/engineer Val Garay is best known for his work on albums by James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Toto, Kim Carnes, Seals and Crofts, Jackson Browne, and The Motels. Interestingly, he comes from a show business family. His father was an entertainer who was close friends with Errol Flynn, Max Baer, Lauren Bacall, and Bing Crosby. We met up at his home studio, off of beautiful Topanga Canyon, in Los Angeles, to discuss his career and recording techniques.
How do you like having coaxial reference monitors, compared to the other speakers you have?
Well, I learned on Altec 604Es, which are coaxial speakers, so I relate really well to coaxial speakers. And the 604Es at The Sound Factory had Mastering Labs crossovers in them. These are Tannoys with Mastering Labs crossovers. These are very similar, to me.
They're great speakers, aren't they?
Yeah, they're wonderful. I tried the Manley cabinets, but I didn't like the bigger black cabinets. I liked the stock cabinets better. Doug Sax built these for me 30 years ago. I have the wood cabinets. Everybody has their own preference. I just bought these ATC monitors — these are the new passive ones that they just started making. I don't like powered speakers. My theory is that you make great speakers and then great amp makers make great amps. Great speaker manufacturers don't seem to make great amps, and vice versa. I prefer passive speakers. Speakers are so amp-friendly. If it's built-in, you don't have a choice.
It's the component issue that's been going on for centuries. I had a set of Genelec 1030As that had the power, but they just never sounded right to me. These ATCs sound great. I'm just trying to figure out what kind of amp to use with them. Right now I have these two huge Manley monoblock amps that I was trying.
How do you like them?
They're very hi-fi. They're not punchy or tough enough for pop music, to me. They're more of a hi-fi amp.
Yeah. They'd be great to have for your hi-fi at home.
Yeah, but look at the size of these things! They weigh about a hundred pounds [each].
You're not moving them easily.
Yeah, well they're all disconnected now. I'm going to probably put the same amp on these as I have on those, which is a Bryston 4B SST. I love that amp. They're made in Canada. Somebody said to me the other day, "You must really like U.K. speakers." I never thought of it that way, but these were made in the U.K., and those were made in the U.K.
They never got made, but about 50 pairs of them are out there, being used. They sound unbelievable. You remember what Yamaha NS-10s sounded like. They never had any bottom-end. They used to be oak-faced, oak veneer; but I got tired of explaining to everybody what they were, so I just painted them black so that nobody would ask about it. The whole box was oak.