Rafa Sardina is a Los Angeles-based musician, mixer, engineer and producer with a stellar client roster. Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga adorn his credits list, while his foothold in the Latin music market has seen him work with Luis Miguel, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Paco de Lucía and Alejandro Sanz. Rafa has been nominated for an impressive 25 GRAMMY awards, winning 11. His diverse work covers everything from pop to R&B, to classical recordings and movie soundtracks.
His studio After Hours features a wealth of Focusrite gear. Among his collection is a rack of eight classic ISA110 modules from a Focusrite Studio console: considered by many as the finest recording mixers in existence. "My first encounters with Focusrite were with the Studio console at Ocean Way,” Rafa comments. “I had quite a lot of experience in working on that board, and I was very fortunate to work in other studios that had them."
When Rafa left Ocean Way, he continued to be a fan of Focusrite. As he started putting together his own studio, Focusrite gear was top of his list, "I started acquiring quite a few Focusrite pieces like the ISA110s and ISA215s. The ISA preamp sounds great on anything that has high transients, and I love the Focusrite EQ; it is so efficient. It's the kind of EQ that you can actually hear what it's doing well. More recently, I got the ISA828 and it has become one of my main pieces of gear, not only in the studio but when I travel."
He explains why: "One of the most amazing things about the ISA828 is that you can have up to 20 things connected simultaneously. For a session, it's like a chameleon, you can switch depending on what you're overdubbing, if you're doing some keyboards, or recording a bass track, or just recording some microphones, you can switch between different settings and mark your mic levels so you can easily recall them, all with a single 2U box. Another amazing feature of the box is the impedance selection, which gives you a broad style of sounds, depending on how it matches to specific microphones. When you change the impedance, you can hear how the preamp is matching to the microphone. It can really open the sound up, or it can even make a microphone sound duller than it really is. And maybe that's what you're looking for."
First and foremost for Rafa, "the integrity of sound is the most important element in the studio, no matter what you are doing. You want things to be top-notch quality, you want them to stay the way you envisaged them sounding when you were tracking them."
The Focusrite sound has been at the heart of Rafa's GRAMMY-winning career from the start, and it remains so. "I have compared the old and the new ISA gear, and it really retains that warmth, grittiness, I don't know, the sound that really appealed to me from the very beginning. And that was the main reason why I got the ISA828. The sound comes first; the convenience is very important too, and it is a plus in this box, but the sound comes first and that's the main reason I got it."