In the K mix room, from left: chief engineer Sean O’Dwyer, staff engineer Matt Salveson and studio manager/engineer Bobby Ferrari
Photo: Wally Simmons
The recording studio scene in Las Vegas has always been something of a puzzle. Big town, lots of entertainment, very few high-end studios. That made sense 20, even 10 years ago, when studios generally booked blocks of time and nobody was coming to Vegas for an extended stay. But as the methods of production changed and bookings became shorter, a number of high-end facilities have opened to cater to the talent that passes through on a regular basis. Studio at the Palms made a big splash in 2007, when local favorites The Killers opened a room that has since gone commercial, and in early 2009 Odds On Records & Studios opened seven miles from the strip, with a three-room complex fronted by the SSL Duality A Room, featured on this month's cover.
“Vegas is a great location,” says Bobby Ferrari, studio manager/producer/engineer at Odds On, and a former studio rat in L.A. and longtime touring bass player. “I've been sensing this change in the wind, where more live music is happening, even in hip-hop and R&B. With that in mind, we wanted a space that was true, where people could come in and record for a guitar sound or a string date.
“Then we also wanted a small boutique label for heritage acts and new talent,” he continues. “Not a glut of artists, just a select few that we could bring back A&R and have real artist development. We have Air Supply coming out with new music soon, and will also release a new record from Ultraviolet Sound.”
Odds On today is an all-SSL facility, with a 96-input Duality in the main room, a 9080K in the mix room and a Matrix in the utility room, all purpose-built to accommodate budgets and workflow. Earlier in the decade it was a single-room 9000 K space, in the same location, attached loosely to the CD/DVD replication facility next door. Ferrari had worked as staff engineer and when there was a management change mid-decade, he was approached about an expansion. After a brief series of fits and starts, and some “caveman sketches” to outline his vision, Phil Wagner of SSL introduced him to studio designer Carl Yanchar.
“We met and there was immediate chemistry.” Ferrari recalls. “When you're building a studio, it's kind of like a producer meeting a band for the first time. Carl has massive amounts of experience and that was important. We knew what we wanted in terms of layout, form and function. Then it was the age-old question of, ‘Can you make it sound real good?'” [Laughs]
Yanchar was introduced to the team in November 2007 and began drawing up plans in January 2008. The existing warehouse space was gutted except for a couple of structural columns. The 96-input Duality and Allen Sides monitoring system had been ordered, so they worked it up from there.
“We ended up tearing up about 50 percent of the concrete to fit some very deep and wide troughs,” Yanchar explains. “They bought the consoles with much longer cables than they needed so they used it to store excess. Then they also wanted to prefab all the interface panels with the connectors, so they wanted troughs to pull all that through fairly easily. It saved them a lot of time and money.
“That control room is bigger than most, about 950 square feet,” he continues. “The height was less than ideal; we wanted to maximize the height and the A/C was on the roof. We added more mass, layers of drywall and insulation. We had to do everything to new trusses that we installed because of structural limitations; they are right under the other ones. So it is definitely a room within a room.”
The large Allen Sides monitoring system is not soffit-mounted but free-standing, according to Sides' specifications. There is very little fatigue, even at higher volumes because of the linearity of the speakers and the absence of midrange peaks. “The speakers sound great, clients love them tand they really are microscopes,” Ferrari says. “With control rooms so right, you can turn up the mains and still hear accurately, and that's what these monitors do.”
The control room is loaded with bass trapping and open diffusion along the back wall, with plenty more trapping in the ceiling. Line of sight was crucial to Ferrari, so there is floor-to-ceiling glass, which Yanchar explains simply had to be rigid enough to avoid it becoming a diaphragmatic absorber. Yanchar is particularly proud of the isolation he achieved; even though the studio sits below a flight path to McCarran International Airport, not a plane can be heard.
In preparation for the build, Ferrari and his team began collecting gear, much of it coming from the closure of RPM Studios in New York City. “The mic collection is the most amazing thing,” Ferrari says. “We bought them out of RPM Studios, a vintage collection that nobody in Nevada has. When you come here to work, we have that ribbon mic, that tube mic. David Bock has been doing restorations since we got them. We also got some amazing outboard gear — a Fairchild, some API stuff, some LA-2As, a Delta T delay, some PrimeTimes and R2D2. We have Pro Tools 8 HD3 and tape. We ran HDMI throughout the buildingso Pro Tools is at full resolution; no squinting, the TVs are actually functional!”
The combination of booking and development should bode well for Odds On. “There was a big hole where people were trying to do projects here,” Ferrari says. “None of the rooms were at this level till the Palms came along. But the shows are huge and they have tracks they need to record. Our rooms work because you can bring in the band from Ka or any major artist. They don't have to go to L.A. anymore.”