Audio Engineer Zach ‘Ekzakt’ Perry shares his career progression using the Clarion, Atlantis, and Eden microphones.
Too $hort and Zach 'Ekzakt' Perry in the main studio at Too $hort's Boombox. Photo credit: Ronnie Patania.
Music producer and mix engineer Zack ‘Ekzakt’ Perry is known for his precision and attention to detail. In the early part of his career, he solidified his place in the hip-hop and R&B community by working with artists like Jaime Foxx and Kelly Rowland. More recently, his client list has grown to include PARTYNEXTDOOR, Too $hort, 6lack, Kiana Lede, Guapdad 4000, and Rexx Life Raj. Early in life, a passion for music turned into experiments with beat-making. “I always wanted to be a behind-the-scenes guy,” Ekzakt shares. After a friend suggested going to school for music, Ekzakt enrolled in Expressions, an entertainment college based in Emeryville, CA. It was there he was first exposed to a microphone manufacturer whose products continue to play a vital role in his output today: Lauten Audio.
While pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Sound Engineering, Perry made ample use of the school’s recording facilities. There he was exposed to the facility’s collection of gear, which drew heavily from local Californian audio companies.
“One of the companies the school interfaced with was Lauten Audio. They had the Oceanus large capsule condenser tube mic, and I loved using it. I was renting the studio out a lot to practice, and it was my go-to microphone.” Training on the Lauten Audio microphone created a standard for Perry’s ear. “It complemented the way I engineer, the way I listen to music, and my approach to mixing.”
Better Gear, Better Starting Point
The Oceanus was out of Perry’s price range as a recent grad, but he knew he wanted to stick to a manufacturer he trusted. He chose the Lauten Clarion FC-357 microphone, which became a key component in his early kit. “The main thing I love about Lauten is the good attention to detail in the mid-range, which is really important for music in general. I appreciated the way Lauten mics handle that range and make it musical. Everything about them is musical.”
The Clarion FC- 357 in case. Photo Credit: Ronnie Patania
Perry started his engineering career in the Bay area, recording a local rapper named Mistah F.A.B. The pair converted one room in Perry’s house, reinforcing the bedroom studio with absorbent panels to treat reflections and provide soundproofing. Perry ran his studio with F.A.B. using the Clarion from 2010 to 2014.
“Some mics can get boomy or boxy in the low-end, but I have never had a problem using the Clarion,” he says. “Immediately, I had a leg up because this microphone competed with recording facilities that had more expensive microphones. Better gear gave me a better starting point,” Perry adds.
Too $hort’s Boom Box
Towards the end of his Bay-area tenure, Perry and Mistah F.A.B worked alongside Too $hort. Shortly thereafter, Perry decided to move down to L.A to continue that relationship and broaden his catalog and experience. Too $hort enlisted Perry to help record his upcoming album ‘The Pimp Tape’, the rapper's twentieth studio album, which was released in 2017. “I started working with $hort at his house,” Perry says. “During that time, he had a warehouse downtown in the Arts District. He invited me down for a session, and six months later, I came on board as the Recording and Mixing Engineer for $hort and three artists underneath his imprint.”
In addition, Perry assumed the role of Studio Manager and helped Too $hort build out the 14,000 sq-ft warehouse studio space with upgraded gear. As a premium recording space, Perry endeavored to find the best selection of microphones for the studio. Perry spoke with a brand representative for Lauten, starting a conversation that led to several Lauten microphones’ inclusion in Too $hort’s studio mic locker. The team chose a pair of LS-208s for the radio show setup, along with an Eden LT-386 and an Atlantis FC-387.
“Not only do I think they sound good, but the price points are a few thousand dollars cheaper than anything comparable,” Perry says. “That’s always been a big thing with me for Lauten, they make mics that compete with others that are double the price point. There is so much gear that is expensive that if you can find gear that fits your needs and does what you want for a good price, that’s really valuable.”
Custom Eden-LT 386 & Atlantis FC-387 in Too $hort's Boombox. Photo Credit: Derek McCoy
When Lauten offered customization on the Eden and Atlantis microphones via a partnership with a company specializing in ceramic coating, Too $hort jumped at the opportunity and sent over ideas. Designs were drawn up for a black and silver Eden microphone with a modified Oakland Raiders logo. Too $hort also customized an Atlantis microphone in red and black with the same Raiders logo/Oakland combination.
West Coast Supergroup— ‘Snoop Cube 40 $hort’
For Perry, Lauten’s microphones are notable not merely for having multiple modes but the usability and quality of those modes. “Many mics are good at multiple things, but they aren’t great,” Perry says. “Whereas with Lauten I feel like their microphones do three things and they are great at all three. It allows you to use it when the situation calls for that sound without having to go to the mic closet and have to try different mics.”
“I like Atlantis and Eden having multiple microphone circuits so they can be used well in multiple situations. You can tell the talent to pop their headphones off real quick and flip the switch. Then you have three options to run through.”
When the West Coast supergroup, consisting of rappers Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, E-40 and Too $hort, formed Mount Westmore during the pandemic, Too $hort and Perry served as music directors for the album, titled ‘Snoop Cube 40 $Hort.’ “We started it pretty much when the lockdown went into effect. All the guys have their own recording studios, so we were sending sessions back and forth,” Perry says. Since Perry and $hort had been collaborating for years, they served as music directors. “Everyone sent their recordings to me. Me and $hort arranged every song. We put all the verses in order. I mixed the vocals on half of the album too,” Perry continued. For Too $hort’s vocals, the pair relied on Eden.
“We pretty much always use Eden for his vocals. It’s our go-to. Its mid-range is incredible, and it gives great detail in the high end without being harsh or brittle,”
Too $hort and Zach 'Ekzakt' Perry at Too $hort's Boombox. Photo credit: Ronnie Patania.
As for the other Lauten Audio microphones in Perry’s kit, they remain constant in his workflow. “I use the Atlantis at both my home studio and in the B room at $hort’s studios.” He adds that the Clarion is still in rotation.
See more from Perry and Too $hort in Lauten Audio’s first insallment of ‘Capture," which chronicles the path of an engineer from start to success.