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Setting Up the Mix House

Mike Shipley and I were walking around the AES show in L.A. last September, trying to work out some scheduling issues for something, and he mentioned

Mike Shipley and I were walking around the AES show in L.A. lastSeptember, trying to work out some scheduling issues for something,and he mentioned an Aerosmith mix that might happen in a housesomewhere near Boston from the middle of November to the middle ofJanuary 2001. At that point, it was all up in the air; nothing wasreally set. Based on what he was telling me, I figured this wouldbe six or seven weeks away, and no one had even looked at thehouse. We agreed that [studio designer] Francis Manzella and Ishould at least go look the following weekend. So we did, and wecame away with a rather large list of things that would have to bedone. Two weeks went by before we got word that the project was a“go,” and we had five weeks to make it happen.

Fran issued a set of plans for acoustical treatments that wouldbe applied to the mix room and specifications for beefing up thefloor structure so it would hold nearly three tons of equipment.That part of the house was built in the early 18th century and hadfloor joists made from tree trunks split in half. A door andseveral windows needed to be blocked off so the neighbors would notbe disturbed. Fortunately, Joe Perry had a tap into a goodcontractor who could do the work. I was left with pretty mucheverything else.

The house had a 60-amp service from sometime in the late’50s, so we would have to bring in a new 200-amp service. Joepointed out that the power sometimes goes away in the winter whenit snows, so we were looking at a UPS [uninterruptable powersupply] and maybe a generator set. I went with an 18KVA Liebert UPSwith an extra battery cabinet. This would hold the entire system upfor about 45 minutes if the incoming power went down — plentyof time to shut down or change over to a generator. As an addedbenefit, the UPS was a double-conversion type, so it also providedrock-solid line output regulation no matter what was coming in. Thenoise floor of the SSL 9000 J that was rented for the project is solow that you can hear any residual system noise, so I opted forground isolation after the UPS, and an EquiTech wall-mountedbalanced power distribution cabinet. Once again, Joe came throughwith a great electrical contractor. I called the manufacturers andarranged the purchases and deliveries and handed off as set ofplans to the electricians. They got the new service, a new groundfield and all the wiring and panels in place before the electricalequipment arrived.

The audio wiring was mostly prefabricated. I spent quite a bitof time on the phone making sure everyone was busy and no one hadto wait for anything. There was no time to waste. Jack Kennedy,who’s a wiring specialist, and I arrived 10 days before Mike wasschedule to start mixing. Because we were taking everything outafter the mix, we had to be creative with how we ran wire. Therewere fireplaces in both the mix room and in the“machine” room where all the Pro Tools systems were, sowe ran all the wire down to the basement and back up through theash cleanouts. Fran showed up on the last day to take somemeasurements and had the contractor fabricate a set of dual-tunedHelmholtz resonators that smoothed out a couple bumps at 60 and 80Hz. We delivered the room the next day in the afternoon —just six hours behind schedule.

John Klett is a technical audio consultant. He’s on the Web