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Class of 2016

19 of the World’s Finest in Studio Design

On the Cover: ELBO Studios, Glendale, California

ELBO Studios is the new production home of award-winning composer Theodore Shapiro, who has scored films such as Trumbo, The Intern, Tropic Thunder and dozens more movies and TV programs. The facility was designed by nonzero\architecture, studio bau:ton, the firm that also developed creative spaces for Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard and many other A-list composers.

Peter Grueneisen, FAIA, of nonzero\architecture was brought into the design process by a colleague. “Teddy, the owner, had done a house remodel with a friend of mine from architecture school, Barbara Bestor,” Grueneisen says. “She reached out to see if we would do the studio.”

“I wanted to create a beautiful, creative place to go to work every day,” Shapiro says. “I wanted there to be light and to not have it feel like a cave. I also hoped to create a tracking room where we could handle basically any session other than a full orchestra.”

Photo: Juergen Nogai Photography

ELBO is built into an industrial building once operated as a Technicolor studio. However, the structure had gone through other incarnations, and Shapiro’s studios had to be designed and built from scratch. Included are a 30×36-foot main tracking/scoring studio, with several iso booths and a connected control and mix room; a main composition room with attached booth; and an additional suite of studios used by a tenant, Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson.

Isolation in this multiroom complex was essential, as the building is situated close to the local Metro train station. “We had the airborne sound of horns to deal with,” Grueneisen says. “So we had to design an air conditioning system that wasn’t going to leak any sound, and to be careful with the walls and windows, of course.

“The soundproofing was also internal, making each room independent from the others. So they have floating concrete slab floors, and each whole room is built like a floating bubble. Then the walls have layers of drywall, plywood—they’re as airtight as they can be.”

Speaking of bubbles: “Some of the rooms have what looks like a wall of these white bubbles,” Grueneisen continues. “It’s actually a gypsum-board panel that’s poured so it has these little balls on it. The panels can be put together to form a continuous wall. Interlam, the company that makes them, makes more shallow ones for visual interest in public spaces, but ours also act as diffusers.”

Grueneisen’s firm also designed perforated plywood panels with circular openings and cotton batting/insulation behind. “We have a hard surface, but not a continuous flat one, so we don’t have reflections. They act as diffusers, reflectors and absorbers all at once,” he explains.

Photo: Juergen Nogai Photography

Building the new studio also offered Shapiro and his go-to engineer, Chris Fogel, the opportunity to re-evaluate their workflow. “I thought about the way I work now, and what I really wanted was a great recording front end, using primarily 500 Series modules and other outboard gear,” Fogel says. “My first purchase was a couple of Mercury Recording G810 racks. One is populated with mic pre’s from BAE, API, Helios, Chandler and others. The other [has] EQs and compressors from API, Shadow Hills, Tonelux, Standard Audio, etc. I record a lot of orchestras and string sections, so I picked up 16 channels of Grace pre’s and four channels of Pueblo mic pre’s that I use on my main room mics.

“Paul Cox wired the room so that mic panels feed the 500 Series pre’s direct, and created another panel that feeds the Grace pre’s direct to 16 channels of Pro Tools, so we have extremely short signal paths. We now have a great recording room with enough space to record 24 musicians.”

“Peter is a wonderful collaborator,” says Shapiro. “He understood the vision and executed it perfectly.”

Photo: Francisco Aguilera de Alba

Estudio 13, Mexico City

Estudio 13 has been operating in its original Mexico City studio and on location in concert halls since 1999, capturing jazz, pop, rock, classical and choral music performances. The Walters-Storyk Design Group, led by co-principal Sergio Molho, designed an expansion of this facility into a new, ground-up seven-story building. Included are a first-floor piano room featuring a handcrafted Bösendorfer Imperial; this space is sized to accommodate a string section or choral ensemble. Control Room A is equipped with a 48-channel SSL AWS948 console and Focal 5.1 monitoring. The Live Room has a 23-foot ceiling and plenty of natural light. Control Room B on the third floor is designed mainly for stereo mixing and mastering, and, with excellent visibility into the live room, its iso booth is well suited for voiceover work. Estudio 13 also offers contemporary and vintage analog gear, a collection of vintage and modern mics, and a wide range of instruments.

Photo: Ron Rankin

Red Sky Studio, Amarillo, Texas

This sophisticated rural studio in the panhandle of North Texas was designed by the Russ Berger Design Group. The studio features tracked fabric treatments, custom trapping, and pArtScience SpaceArray and SpaceCoupler diffusers. Red Sky’s control room is outfitted with a Rupert Neve 5088 console, Focal monitors and boutique analog outboard gear, as well as the latest plug-ins.

Photo: Joel Ortz

Valenzo Recording Studio, Mexico City

The Malvicino Design Group designed a private studio for Mexican producer/engineer Cesar Valenzo. In addition to a tracking room, iso booth and control room, the facility includes an office, lounge, kitchen and dining space. The live room’s 17-foot ceilings and natural light give the studio an open, airy feel. Featured equipment includes a 48-input SSL Duality board, 48-track Avid Pro Tools|HDX3 system, Apogee interfaces and Ocean Way Audio main monitors. Malvicino’s frequent collaborator TADI manufactured all acoustical treatments and acted as the project’s general contractor, while Audio Gate International provided all equipment.

Photo: Keaton Nye

Castle Row Studios, Oklahoma City

Castle Row Studios, a Steven Durr Designs project, incorporates the natural acoustics of an older, existing movie theater. The more than 2,000-square-foot, open Studio A tracking room (pictured) is paired with a spacious control room, designed to be accurate and balanced to a degree that eliminates the guesswork for visiting engineers. Control Room A features an SSL 9000 J Series console, as well as soffitted custom Steven Durr Designs monitors with TAD components, a Kawai concert grand and B-3 that came out of Reflection Sound Studios, and owners Ashton and Garrett Starks’ collection of vintage and new analog equipment. Castle Row also includes a B room with Neve console—from the former Woodside Studios, enlarged and updated—and a smaller C studio, designed for overdubs, solo artists and post sessions.

Photos: Rod de la Garza

ESPI 10.29 Studios, Mazatlan, Mexico

Horacio Malvicino of the New York-based Malvicino Design Group, provided design and system integration services for this private production facility owned by Mexican music star Espinoza Paz. Studio facilities in this newly constructed complex include two control rooms and a large tracking space with three isolation rooms, as well as guest accommodations. The tracking space features 24-foot ceilings and variable acoustics. The main control room is outfitted with a 48-input Solid State Logic Duality console, a 48-track Avid Pro Tools|HDX3 system, Studer A827 analog tape machine, and Ocean Way Audio HR2 monitors driven by Lab.gruppen and QSC Audio amps. The second control room houses a 24-fader AMS Neve Genesys and another Pro Tools rig. Guitar Center Professional provided all of the equipment for the project. TADI of Mexico City supplied acoustical treatments and served as the general contractor.

Photo: Beth Childs, Beth Childs Photography

Dauphin Street Sound, Mobile, Alabama

Gavin Haverstick of Haverstick Designs helped to create this studio for Major League pitcher and avid guitarist Jake Peavy. Building on his passion for music, Peavy wants this world-class facility to serve as a catalyst for a growing arts community in his hometown. Haverstick worked with chief engineer Keylan Laxton to design the studio; acoustical treatments include custom bass-trapping, ceiling clouds and diffusers constructed of reclaimed wood to fit the studio’s refined but rustic aesthetic. Absorption panels were supplied by Auralex Acoustics, and Dauphin Street Sound is the first studio to implement Acoustical Fulfillment’s Flex-48 Adaptive Treatment System, which provides customizable variable acoustics in the live room and iso booths. Equipment was selected with input from Grammy-winning producer/engineer Trina Shoemaker, who has joined the studio staff.  Geared for tracking, Studio A offers a 32-channel API 1608 and Barefoot Sound MicroMain monitors, while the mix room (Studio B) has an SSL AWS924 console and Dynaudio BM6 mkIIIs.

Photo: Tim Gaudreau

Maine College of Art (MECA), Portland, Maine

Founded in 1882, the Maine College of Art is the oldest arts-education school in Maine. MECA’s new recording facility was developed through a collaboration between Lou Clark’s Sonic-Space (acoustical/studio design), Parsons Audio (system integration) and architect Richard Renner. It’s built into the basement of the historic Porteous Building and includes a Genelec surround system room featuring a custom-built full rear-wall diffuser. Isolation was achieved with multiple layers of sheetrock and room-within-a room construction. Fitted with Pro Tools 12 Native HD and an Avid S6 M40 16-fader control surface, the facility is used for instruction, as well as student projects involving music and voice recording, and mixing and editing of music, film/video and art installations.

Photo: Joel Zimmerman

Mau5trap, Campbellville, Ontario

This music-composition and mix studio was designed by Pilchner Schoustal International for electronic music artist Joel Zimmerman, aka deadmau5. Featuring a large control room, isolation booth and dedicated machine room, the space integrates a large collection of electronic instruments with an extensive, custom-made racking, power-distribution and cable-management system. The room features controlled reflection geometry that incorporates a large pair of ATC stereo mains, as well as a separate Dolby Atmos surround system. Built on Zimmerman’s private estate, the room also features extensive use of indirect natural light as well as a large forward-facing window. Several built-in cameras are used for live streaming of his ongoing production efforts.

Photo: Nina Rodriguez-Quiros

San Juan Mix Suite, Sounds of Life Recording Studios, San Juan, Puerto Rico

This new mix room in classical guitarist Carlos Rodriguez-Quiros’ studio features Quantum Acoustics by DHDI. Treatments include ZR (Zero Reflection) Acoustics SMDs, which quantize air molecules, eliminating the need for room EQ or bass trapping. This facility, which is the first in a planned series of studio build-outs, includes Brauner/Klaus Heyne Edition mics, UAD Octo Satellite, Apogee Symphony, as well as an impressive collection of acoustic and electric guitars.

Photos: Jay Kaufman

Macroscopik Studios, Manhattan Beach, California

Macroscopik Studios is the semi-subterranean home recording studio of composer/producer Tommy Simpson. Designed by Jay Kaufman & Associates, the 1,200-square-foot studio’s live room was designed to be bright and natural-sounding; it features 13-foot ceilings and variable-acoustic sliding panels. The control room is equipped with JBL M2 monitors and an SSL Nucleus DAW controller with 16 channels of Neve 1073 and 1084, API 512c and Rupert Neve Portico 511 mic pre’s. Studio instruments include vintage and new synths and keyboards from Moog, Access Virus, Dave Smith and Korg. There’s also an iso booth large enough to fit a grand piano or full drum kit.

Photo: Wes Lachot

Straight to Tape, Ridgefield, Connecticut

With a design by the Wes Lachot Design Group, Rhett Voga’s Straight to Tape studio features an API 1608 console with automation and ATC monitors. The control room was designed to be highly diffuse, with a large sweet spot and mains that are accurate to below 30 Hz. The tracking room features variable acoustic panels throughout, so that the entire room can be made absorptive or diffusive. The tracking room ceiling traps are covered in RPG FlutterFree diffusors. Acoustical construction was done by Brett Acoustics, and technical wiring was installed by Canova Audio.

Photo: Daniel Thompson

Make Believe Studios, Omaha, Nebraska

Designed by Rod Gervais, with lighting design by Jeff Hedback, Make Believe Studios is a 3,800-square-foot facility that was developed with live, full-band recording in mind. Situated in central Omaha, the Make Believe complex features three control rooms, two tracking spaces and a private outside garden with an outdoor theater. Studio B is Make Believe’s main tracking studio, with its 750-square-foot room and a booth with wood diffusers from pArt Science. The 465-square-foot Control Room B has a multilayer rear-wall low-frequency trapping system, and its featured equipment includes an API Legacy console and monitors from Yamaha, ProAc and Augspurger. Control Room B and the mirror-imaged Studios C and D (production suites) offer access to a shared booth when needed.

Photo: Francis Manzella and Mickey Alexander

Man Made Music, New York City

Francis Manzella’s FM Design, in collaboration with reMade, conceived this multi-use creative space for Man Made. The two primary studios are fully floated on jack-up concrete slabs. All studio rooms include floor-to-ceiling custom acoustic treatments and a high-end finish package. Extensive use of DMX-controlled LED lighting and a 20-channel sound system in common areas fill the work environment with the sights and sounds of Man Made’s sonic identities and experiences. Key equipment includes an Avid Control Surface, Pro Tools, Focusrite processing, Genelec monitors and extensive collections of mics and instruments.

Photo: Tim Gaudreau

Pat Keane Mastering, Portland, Maine

Designed by Lou Clark of Sonic-Space, this room serves as a home for Pat Keane’s mastering and audio restoration/archiving business. The studio is isolated using Greenglue between multiple layers of Sheetrock over Kinetics isolation clips. The rear wall features a 21-inch-deep full-wall broadband absorber with four XIX Acoustic Ramps. The studio ceiling contains 24 inches of broadband absorption with wood grate scattering panels mounted behind the mix position. The front and sides of the room also have a variety of absorbing panels built out at different depths for broadband absorption. Keane’s key equipment includes Barefoot MM27 monitors, Lynx AES16 Interface, Pro Tools HD12, and various analog and digital tape machines.

Photo: Lou Johnson

The News Room, Nashville

Carl Tatz of Carl Tatz Design designed The News Room, which is now equipped with his CTD MixRoom technology, including a PhantomFocus monitoring system and Carl Tatz Signature Series acoustic modules by Auralex. Supplementing the PhantomFocus speakers are Dynaudio M1s powered by Bryston 7B-SST2 mono-block amps. The studio also contains a variety of sample libraries, Avid Artist control surface and numerous synths.

Photo: Cheryl Fleming

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston

The Walters-Storyk Design Group consulted on the upgrade of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft control room, which facilitates the orchestra’s frequent recording projects and broadcasts. Acoustics and aesthetics received a total renovation, which included the installation of splayed perforated wood panels, slotted wood panels, wood diffusion planks and low-frequency absorption units. A new custom ceiling cloud was also added, along with a new Bowers and Wilkins 5.2 surround speaker system, four new WSDG-designed producer workstations, and two rolling, up-facing equipment racks.

Photo: Lou Johnson

Emerald City, Franklin, Tennessee

This studio owned by Danny and Erin Ozment was designed by Carl Tatz, who employed his CTD MixRoom technology, featuring PhantomFocus Monitors in his proprietary PhantomFocus System, and Carl Tatz Signature Series acoustical modules by Auralex. Additional featured equipment in this studio includes Pro Tools 10/11, Universal Audio Apollo Twin and processing/plug-ins from SoundToys, Waves, UA and others.

Photo: Julie Trainor

Mindseye Studio, Prescott, Arizona

This studio, owned by Grammy-winning composer/musician Bill Pearson (aka DrBill) was designed by Jeff Hedback to connect to the natural beauty of the Arizona high country. Tuned panels are nested into a custom-built head-wall with hinged D&R submixers. Further treatments include sidewall slat absorbers, floating clouds and rear spot treatments. Equipment at Mindseye was selected to support Pearson’s hybrid in-the-box/analog-outboard workflow: Pro Tools HDX, processing from Bricasti, Lexicon, Manley, Serpent, Purple and more, plus a collection of classic and modern microphones.