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Coast Mastering Digs In for New Facility

Michael Romanowski suffered for his clients’ art, going without heat in his home for 18 months as he dug out 10 feet beneath his house to create the new home of Coast Mastering.

Coast Mastering - before
Michael Romanowski literally undermined his house to create the new home of Coast Mastering, excavating 10 feet beneath the edifice to create space for a mastering facility and accompanying live room.

Berkeley, CA (December 23, 2020)—It took 18 months for Michael Romanowski to build the latest iteration of Coast Mastering under his Bay Area house, during which time he and his wife were without heat. “The furnace was the first thing to go; it was like camping,” he says.

Berkeley-based Pancoast Construction dug down 10 feet below the house, which is on a slope, to accommodate Romanowski’s plans for a mastering room that supports today’s leading immersive formats. Acoustical consultant Bob Hodas tuned the room and devised an ingenious bass trap that makes use of a three-foot cavity above the 11-foot ceiling. Studio design consultant Bob Levy was also involved from the start of the project.

Coast Mastering
Michael Romanowski in his finished mastering space.

The finished room is outfitted with a 9.1.6 monitoring setup for Dolby Atmos Music work (Romanowski consulted with Dolby’s Ceri Thomas from the get-go) and can additionally accommodate Auro-3D. With the addition of two front floor-level speakers, the room can also handle Sony 360 Reality Audio projects.

Three Focal Stella Utopia EM speakers deliver the LCR channels with six Focal Diablo Utopia Evo speakers providing side and rear zone coverage. “I found I was drawn to the sound of the inverted beryllium dome tweeter—it’s very natural—and how Focal handle their drivers seamlessly across octaves,” he says. A Meyer Sound sub provides LFE.

Romanowski’s quest to replace his aging Pacific Microsonics Model Two converters led him to Bricasti. “The pairing of the Focals and the Bricastis has worked out great,” he says. For overheads, he installed Neumann KH 310 speakers, on tracks, to allow repositioning. “I like how their high frequency dispersion works with the Focals. It gives me a nice fullness from the ceiling without any compromises.”

There is no mastering console. Instead, Romanowski’s gear is within easy reach, with just a workstation screen and keyboard in front of him, where he uses Steinberg’s WaveLab. “It uses the same engine as Nuendo,” he notes. Nuendo, it turns out, is what he uses for tracking, mixing and now immersive mastering since it can handle ADM files within Dolby Atmos. The new facility includes a tracking room, and he’s been mixing Sony 360 Reality Audio projects for Sonic Studio’s Jon Reichbach and his Streamsoft Artist Connection music service.

Literally undermining his house was no simple task, but it was worth it, says Romanowski: “Immersive music is ripe for so many problems—phase issues, presentation issues. If we’re going to get it right, we need rooms like this to keep the bar high.”

Coast Mastering •