A little more than a year ago, Eric Hart was writing, playing, producing, tracking, mixing and mastering out of a condo-loft space in Universal City. A small black room with walls of Sonex foam and “no distinction between day and night,” he says. Today he works out of a Studio City home, with 180-degree views of the Valley off the tracking room, overlooking the pool. He has the rooms at the end of the hallway to the right when you enter. To the left is the house.
“My wife and I had been looking for the right mid-century for about three and a half years,” Hart says. “Most of them are small. When we saw this one, the hallway when you walk in, left to right, is about a city block long. About 70 percent of the house is glass. At the very end of the hallway to the right there is a room, and off that room is another room, sort of like a guest house connected to the main house. When I saw it, I thought, ‘We can put a huge Fleetwood acoustic door right there, and that will be the tracking room. Then off that will be the control room.’ It was perfect.”
His is not necessarily a household industry name, though maybe it should be. In many ways, Hart is emblematic of the new recording industry, a multi-hyphenate professional who has built a career and now wants a better space, with the means to make it professional. He’s a bit different, in that he has a Ph.D. in physics and has built his own 1176 and LA-2A, from hand-sourced components. He also knows the Synclavier and Fairlight and jazz and dub step. He knows rock and EDM, and he writes for picture and for the club. He’s certainly done all right in his career.
Still, he wanted a better room.
While still in the condo-loft studio, and increasingly unhappy with his space, Hart was told by Rich Williams, head of Burl Audio, that he should contact Hanson Hsu, principal of Delta H Design Inc. Hart called, then went for a listen of Hsu’s ZR Acoustics approach at Universal Mastering. He asked Hsu to come look at his studio. Three months later, he asked him to come look at his new house, still in escrow, which he was planning to gut and rewire.
“It was beautiful,” Hsu recalls. “A classic mid-century home, with one angled roof line, back to front and a panoramic view of the city. The entire roof is solid wood, all two-by-fours. He’s only the third owner. We didn’t do any construction, we didn’t do any isolation design. We strategically covered about 50 percent of the walls and ceiling with ZR product, and every golden-ear client we have says it has exactly the same performance as Universal Mastering. There’s no bass traps and no room EQs. Per the owner, he can walk anywhere in the room, leave the doors open or closed, and it sounds the same, bass compression is solid, image does not change.”
The tracking room, with all that glass and stone, includes treatments across roughly 50 percent of the wall and ceiling space, with a custom acoustic curtain to cover the glass. Hart says he doesn’t even notice reflections.
Hart made the decision early on to go with product rather than floating floors and ground-up isolation, wanting to preserve the glass-stone feel. There are two glass doors out of the control room. One whole wall of the tracking room is glass. The products on walls and ceilings are ZR Micro 2x2s, V.2 1.25-inch-thick panels, complemented by the Fibonacci-inspired wood ZR Sample Rate 8-Bits.
“The acoustics are more direct,” Hart says. “The weakest thing now is not the room but the speakers. We spent a lot of time on the optimum speaker position, and once we got that right, everything else kind of disappeared. There’s no bass trap in this room and there’s no bass buildup.”
Hart brought over most of his equipment—Mackie controller, ADAM S3A monitors, Pro Tools 10/11, Burl gear, lots of keyboards—though he did add a second ADAM Sub 12. “The Sub 12s are in plane with the S3A speakers, and they’re basically coupled acoustically,” he says. “If you’ve ever heard bass on stereo subs, it’s amazing.”
As we talked in mid-November, Hart had just finished the mix for an album by Swedish artist Krister Lider, and just wrapped up producing and mixing The Master, an album from Warren Cuccurullo and Ustad Sultan Khan, now under consideration for a Grammy.
“The new rooms let me mix at a higher resolution,” Hart concludes. “There’s no calculation in your head for the room. What you hear is what you get, and you learn how to trust what you’re truly hearing. It’s very quick. You set an EQ point, you boost, and the way it’s coming out of your speakers is exactly how it’s going to translate. And it translates on laptop speakers and large speakers. It’s amazing. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent in audio. Hands down.”