How many spins remain on the concept of the ultramodern studio? To see the very latest, a visit to Integrated Studios (www.integratedstudios.com) in New York City's low-key TriBeCa district is in order. Step inside the front door of a building on one of downtown's quiet, old cobblestone streets and find yourself immersed in a highly functional blend of audio, video and style.
Producer/engineer Carlos Bess seated at Integrated
Studios’ SSL 9000 J Series SuperAnalogue console
photo: Courtney Spencer
A carefully networked combination of spaces, Integrated includes a soundstage, video editing suites, a spacious rooftop deck, a skilled staff, futuristic aesthetics and — oh, yeah — what just might be New York City's new crown jewel: an SSL 9000 J Series/Augspurger mix room. For those who understand where owner/founders Derek and Eliot Ferguson are coming from, working here will be a memorable experience. “I never wanted this to be a high-throughput place, and I never wanted it to be an ordinary place,” Derek Ferguson explains. “I wanted the Integrated ethos to be distinctive and have people say, ‘Wow, I had a really good time making a classic record there.’”
Studio consultant and systems supplier/integrator David Malekpour of Professional Audio Design teamed with studio architect John Storyk (Walters-Storyk Design Group) and WSDG-Europe's room and system tuner Dirk Noy using SIA Smaart testing software and proprietary room tuning algorithms developed for the system to maximize Integrated's appeal to the audio set, beginning with the arresting Orange Room control room helmed by music director and producer/engineer Carlos Bess (Wu-Tang Clan, Majestic 12). A relatively small but comfortable space, the interior is dominated by a 58-channel SSL 9000 J Series SuperAnalogue console, flanked by hot rod orange — painted custom Augspurger 4×15-inch monitors with an 18-inch sub, matching Yamaha NS-10s, five Genelec 8050APM monitors in a surround configuration and a full array of outboard goodies, all inspired by an abundance of glass and a magical view of the Hudson River and New York City's downtown.
“The end result is pretty stunning,” Malekpour says. “When I saw that room, I thought, ‘If you put the right tools in there, no one's going to want to leave.’ There's something about being in there that makes you feel special.
“George [Augspurger] designed the monitors for a small footprint, so they're vertically oriented rather than horizontal,” Malekpour continues. “They have a great sound — John and I agree that this is one of our favorite Augspurger systems. For R&B and hip hop clients, they wanted extreme volume, accuracy and good low-end content, and we designed the system around [those requirements]. When we tuned the system up, we made sure the room could handle it well. With 125dB peaks and a 120dB average, that should be enough for everybody.”
While the newly minted edition of Integrated fits like a glove, things were less than perfect when the design team came onboard in 2005. The Fergusons had purchased the building known as Stable Studios in 2000 and oversaw an initial makeover where the underused live room had the amazing view and the adjacent control room was set back down the hall. “They had things upside down,” Storyk observes. “Their control room was a sideways, misoriented room that was not capturing the view and you entered the wrong way. They woke up one day and realized that the studio needed to be the control room and vice versa. As a business, they didn't need a live studio; what they really needed was a mix room. So we came in and created a cool, small but really professional SSL mixing/tracking environment with great views and windows.”
For those who ask for more than just a million-dollar look at the Hudson, Integrated backs up the diverse technical plant with a strong commitment to the client experience. The pro attitude of the personnel, including chief tech Kevan Griffin and in-house mastering guru Larry Lachman, was enough to attract a talent on the scale of Bess, who, with his multi-Platinum engineering, mixing and producing credits, could arguably have chosen any studio on the East Coast as his home. “I appreciated the innovation and flexibility of the space; it's built around the mentality of an artist or a producer,” Bess says. “It's a very quiet and remote location that plays a major role in setting the vibe. You can focus on your music here. I also liked the fact that we made the studio a hybrid between analog and digital, with an SSL and Pro Tools HD. The custom Augspurgers make for an extremely heavy sound: I liken it to atomic weight. My clients demand that type of power and strength.”
Whether it's possible to fly under the radar and still be a humming beehive of multimedia activity is an interesting question — one that Integrated Studios is looking forward to answering. “This is a salon-type environment that works for the artists who want to come in, take the space over and benefit from the multiple disciplines we offer,” Derek Ferguson concludes. “You can have your business people set up on the second floor while you're tracking/mixing on the fourth floor, people editing video on the third floor and then have a record release party on the roof. You're with family, but it's like a little secret. I think people will respond to that.”
David Weiss is Mix's New York editor.