Sennheiser’s Pro Talk Series on YouTube features interviews with the industry’s most respected sound professionals, including broadcast music mixer Randy Faustino, who is well-known for his work as a FOH engineer and today works on TV shows such as The Voice and American Idol.
For Faustino, who put on his first set of headphones as a child and took an interest in mixing while still in high school, audio is more than just his livelihood.
While in high school, Faustino was given the fortunate opportunity to work at SIR rehearsal studios where he learned the ins and outs of live sound. “Keeping everyone happy by running those rooms was where I really developed my hunger, that this is what I want to do,” he says. “I don’t know anything other than sound; it’s all I've ever been in love with. If this were to fall apart, I have no idea where I would be tomorrow. It’s in my blood, it’s in my heart, it’s in my soul.”
Though Faustino’s first love is audio, the love for his growing family moved him from the road to the TV studios. As the brother of David Faustino, otherwise known as “Bud Bundy” from Married with Children, Randy Faustino would often find himself behind-the-scenes at FOX Studios. It was there that he began working as a boom operator, which led to his working as a sound mixer for various talk shows and awards shows and eventually to his role with American Idol.
“There’s an incredible rush to mixing,” says Faustino. “It’s even greater when you’re mixing for live television. There are millions of people watching and, if you make a mistake, it’s out there forever. So, it has to be right and as perfect as it can possibly be. That’s a big challenge when you’re working on shows like Voice and Idol.”
Over the years, Faustino has collected six full audio systems, which allows his production company to work on several shows at one time. “With regards to equipment that I use and love, a great live mix starts with great microphones and, in my opinion, the Sennheiser microphones that I use are the best in the world,” says Faustino. “I’m a 602 fan. I feel like every great mix starts with the kick drum. If you don’t have a great kick, [the sound] isn’t going to be right. For me, a 602 inside the drum... is the perfect starting point for a great kick sound. Obviously, the kick sound changes a little depending on the style of music, but that’s the foundation.”
“For live, everything has to be [clear,] otherwise you’re picking up the whole stage,” he continues. “It’s really important to me to have the right microphones. I use 906 on guitar. The is the best snare mic in the world. I have a complement of Sennheisers that we use for drums; 914s, on snares, 604s on toms.”
When it comes to vocals, Faustino continues his loyalty to the brand. “I haven’t found a mic yet that can compete with a 5235; that’s my favorite RF mic,” says Faustino, who has used Sennheiser for everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Elton John and the BeeGees. “Through 15 seasons of The Voice, 14 seasons of Idol, Showtime at the Apollo, MTV Music Awards, etc., I’ve been through all the capsules that are out there; the 5235 works on everybody. It’s important to have mics in a live world that sound good to begin with."
In addition to having the right gear, Faustino says it comes down to your ear for the audio. “You have to know what you want something to sound like, and that’s what makes a great mix,” he explains. “You have to know what you want it to sound like in order to know what to do with it. And I have found that I make it sound pleasurable to me. If I like the sound of it, other people do too. That’s what’s worked for me is making it sound good for me. Make something sound the way you love or you think sounds great and then keep learning. And learn. Learn from other people. You hear something and you start applying those things for yourself and what works for you.”
“It’s really imperative and important for young engineers to listen to music and listen to the mixes,” he continues. “Not the music, not the words, not the lyrics. Listen to the mixes. Listen to the balance. What are the things that excite you? There are songs that I think are amazing not because of the lyrics or because of the playing, but because of the sound of it... from the bottom to the top.”
In the end, Faustino says it’s important to make yourself happy. “If you’re loving what you’re doing, other people will too,” he adds. “So, do that. And if you’re not getting the sound you want, don’t just keep saying ‘well that’s the best it’s going to be.’ No, keep searching, asking other engineers, hearing other things. Keep searching for ways to make that sound better, those horns better, the keys better, the drums better, whatever ‘that’ is, so that you love mixing.”