Asian Music Insights | Artist T Ma – From the Pearl of the Orient

Producer | Arranger | Songwriter | Engineer on how Amphion monitors revolutionized his workflow

Hong Kong: T Ma (Terrence Ma) is an award-winning songwriter and producer based in Hong Kong. He has worked with are stellar-level acts in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, and some years ago founded his own music production and publishing company. Our Hong Kong | Macau distributor, Kicksound, recently caught up with T Ma, and captured his thoughts on how he works with artists or engineers, and how Amphion monitors have revolutionized his workflow. We present it in the artist’s own voice:

Hello, I’m Terrence. People call me T Ma. I’ve been in the music industry for 15 years now. I started off as a 12yo forming rock band and really got the “guitar bug”. I loved punk rock and even released CDs with friends even back then – growing up and producing my own music. It’s where my love for music started. I studied at Brown University on the East Coast of the USA – computer science as well as music. But even with my IT training, I was still really in love with music, and wanted to pursue it as my career. However, rather than become a singer or join a band, I returned to my home in Hong Kong, and honed my skills as producer, songwriter, and arranger. Ten years later, I built my new studio. 

The way I work with artists really aims to allow for their individuality to speak out in terms of their level of comfort, skill, and technique. It is fundamentally driven by where they are “at” at that time. It’s case-by-case. With more experienced singers, or some singers who display a natural giftedness or talent talented, I can give them more abstract feedback – talking more in terms of emotion or how they should sing the section. But with less-experienced singers, I usually have to give a lot more direction in terms of vocal expression and style or how to project their voice – far more technique advice. 

Some of the notable singers I’ve worked with in my part of the world include GEM, Eric Chow, Coco, and Khalil Fong. What made working with them so memorable was their effortless talent and craft, but particularly the very clear vision of what they want. I felt lucky and blessed that was there to witness them record, and available guide them in some way – as even though name-artists might have a very clear direction in their creative aims, it’s always nice to have a “second set of ears” to provide honest feedback to ensure the entire production and performance reaches its goals. 

The speaker system I have in my studio is the Two18 and the BaseTwo25 – the premium Amphion stereo-studio set. I’m extremely happy to work with them every day, as basically they take all of the guessing work out of my productions. Before Amphion, I found the lows and mid-lows or other brands disappointing. Basically, they couldn’t really deliver the clarity I needed, and I had to make a lot of guesswork on how much space, how much compression, how much reverb I needed. But now, on these Amphion monitors, I can clearly determine what is a world class mix, a great mix, a good mix, a mediocre mix, a bad mix – they’re just super honest. And since working on these speakers myself, I’ve found that I’ve been able to achieve far better results, as I can directly compare my own mix with a benchmark world-class mix and say “Oh ! I’m still far away from what I’m looking for”. But on my old speakers, it would have been pure guesswork. However, the other problem with other brands that I have tried was that some really hype up the sound. So, I really couldn’t tell if it was “there” yet. Amphion speakers quicken my workflow, and make the entire low end and mid low end extremely clear and transparent for me. I can make the best decisions while arranging, mixing, and producing. 

In terms of working with engineers … I mostly engineer my own projects or my own sessions – just because I’m so accustomed to working directly with a singer. And of course, I’m faster with my “shortcuts”. For example, while the singer is singing, I’m multitasking like crazy – setting the gain, the compressor, the tech and release settings, as well as listening to lyrics and keeping takes. I also try to do all my edits within the day, so when the singer is put down their tracks, they can hear a close-to-final product. My main studio gear is the Apollo X8. Everything goes through it. I find it extremely nice to use. I love their plugins, but whenever I’m recording, I do go through the Neves. I love the sound of the Neve 1073 DPX. I usually compress it with a CL1B as in my opinion it’s the best pop compressor. I also send my signal through the Forssell MDAC out to the Amphions. It’s a very nice DAC. I’ve heard from many that they prefer Crane Song. I’ve been trying to get my hands on a Cranesong, but they’re quite difficult to come by in HK so I use Pultec EQP 1A3. This is completely new arrival, and it’s really amazing for vocals. I can’t wait to use more of it. 

Currently, I’m working on several projects in the Hong Kong local music industry, working with different artists – girl-groups especially. Recently I worked on a film featuring “dogs” which I’m finding fascinating. It’s my first-time film-scoring. And I am working on a song for a video game (top secret just yet), so that has me very excited. 

Find out more about T-Ma via
Find out more about Blue Moon Productions via
Find out more about Kicksound 
Read more about Two18 | Amphion  
Read more about BaseTwo25 | Amphion