Sean Beresford: Third Eye Blind

Sean Beresford Chooses Focal Monitors for Mixing New “Third Eye Blind” Tracks

Sean Beresford

Sean Beresford at the Third Eye Blind studios in SF

Sean Beresford has engineered, edited and/or mixed Vanessa Carlton, The Explosion, The Star Spangles, The Upwelling, The Donnas, Brain and Buckethead and The Echo Falls as well as continued a long-time connection with San Francisco Bay Area band Third Eye Blind. He recently was the recording engineer on Third Eye Blind’s upcoming new album “Ursa Major” on their own subsidiary of Sony/RED due out late summer 2009. The band recorded at Stephen Jenkins new Carriage House Recording studio in San Francisco, where Beresford is also mixing 6 of the songs. The new album was a long creative process and included a serious studio monitor evaluation, between a host of top contenders which ultimately ended in the purchase of a pair of Focal Solo 6 Be monitors.

Although the Carriage House Studio has several sets of larger and smaller speakers to choose from, for those all-day mixing sessions Beresford likes to mix on the Focal Solo6 Be monitors, he says “I don’t really enjoy listening to mains that much. I prefer mid-field or near field monitors. The Focals sound really, really good. The top end seems to be really accurate and I find them more than adequate for understanding where I’m at with the low end.”

I really liked using the Focals at Stephan’s studio so I decided to buy a pair for my own studio. I have a much smaller and less acoustically correct control room at my place and they seemed to cure a lot of the weird anomalies I was getting and bad mixing decisions I was making with my old speakers. I’ve been very happy with them and wouldn’t want to go back.”

Then Tom Richardson from Cutting Edge (a friend of Beresford’s and the Focal dealer in SF) suggested trying the Focal Sub 6 subwoofer. Beresford said, “I was having a lot of problems getting the bottom end right at my personal studio and wasn’t sure on the best way to address it without making some major structural changes to my room. I had never been a big believer in subs in the past, mainly as I didn’t understand them and thought they weren’t very ‘Rock & Roll’ and were only for 5.1 surround and film music but Tom suggested giving one a try. I was surprised—and relieved—at how much it helped. I have the sub set to where I don’t actually hear it but when I take my mixes outside of my room the bass seems to translate accurately.”

When the Carriage House Recording studio was under construction by Chris Pelonis & Associates, Beresford and Jenkins decided to upgrade their monitoring situation. They already had the custom soffit mounted Pelonis mains along with the obligatory Yamaha NS10’s. They decided to conduct extensive listening tests and chose five different pairs of what they considered the most popular powered monitors to shoot out. “We wanted to be thorough and give everything an equal side-by-side chance to prove itself,” says Beresford. At the time he had heard the name Focal but was not aware of anyone who had used the speakers. “I wish in retrospect I had known about the Solo 6s at the time,” says Beresford. “About a year after our shoot-out I started reading everywhere about all these people using Focal monitors, I thought, ‘Wow, this company really has a buzz going.’ Then at the 2008 AES show (mastering engineer) Dave Kutch introduced me to Simon Cote at Focal who told me that Cutting Edge were now dealers and that I should check out a couple of their models.”

When they’d had the Focal Solo6 Be monitors a few days at Carriage House Recording everyone agreed they were great speakers and a good compliment to the studio. “They are just very pleasant to listen to all day long. They’ve got this charming thing about them, they’re very inviting, you forget you’re listening to them and are just having fun listening to the music.”

Commenting on how Third Eye Blind lead singer Stephen Jenkins likes the Focals, Beresford revealed, “Stephen doesn’t care to be technical when it comes to gear but he has very good ears and forms a very quick opinion after listening and comparing to other stuff. He’s very descriptive and very specific about what it is he likes and dislikes. And then he’s kind of done with it. Within a couple days the Focal monitors became an invaluable addition to the studio and he found himself listening to them for a good portion of the day.”

When asked about how mixes done on the Focal Solo6 Be monitors translated into other environments, Beresford answers, “It’s working out really well, I feel confident that what I’m hearing in the control room both at the Carriage House studio, and even in my modest and less than acoustically perfect studio, will translate when I play it in the car or on my iPod or at someone else’s studio.”

Delving into the history of recording the new Third Eye Blind album, Beresford noted, “Everything’s been recorded here at the Carriage House. It’s been a really long process and started almost immediately after the last album ‘Out Of The Vein’ was released in 2003. They had begun writing and recording material for what would be the next album but it ended up going through so many permutations to get to this. I think half of the songs on this new album have been recorded three different times at three different locations. And some of them have changed dramatically too. They have retained their feel but in structure and instrumentation they’ve changed completely.”

“We originally started recording at Third Eye Blind’s previous San Francisco studio Mourningwood, then in about 2005 the band went to the Record Plant in Sausalito and recorded 6 songs. That was the ‘fresh start’ of the album. Then there was another break and it wasn’t until we started putting this studio together, Carriage House Recording, that we really started recording what would become the final album. It’s all been re-recorded, none of the first two rounds actually stuck.”

Wrapping up his feelings about mixing and monitors, Beresford says, “The biggest challenge any up and coming engineer has with mixing is getting the vocals right, the tone of the vocals and the placement in the mix — getting it to seem natural. I found I started to get that right a lot more with the Focals. Things are sitting in the right space. The end user doesn’t give a hoot about all this techno, geeky stuff, they don’t care what gear you used, if the balance is off then they can get turned off, they only care if they feel an emotional attachment to the music.”

“For me, the monitors should be transparent, you should just be able to get things to sit in the right place to accomplish an overall mix that just sounds good to the end user. We’ve had so many people come and listen during the recording and mixing of this album, and people can’t often voice what they don’t like about something, but they sure as hell know what’s right when they do like it. When they hear something that’s balanced and perfect they say ‘I love that song!’ It’s a completely different reaction.”

Visit Sean Beresford’s website at:

And visit the Third Eye Blind website and check out the “Ursa Major” album:

For more on Focal monitors  please visit: (choose the ‘Focal Professional’ link)

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