A new world-class recording/mixing studio has just touched down in New York City. But exactly what could make Troy Germano want to launch Germano Studios in 2008 in the land of excessive commercial rents, savvy personal studios and dozens of dashed big-facility dreams?
“You're not the first person to ask if I'm crazy,” says Germano, owner/president of Germano Studios. “My response is that I'm not insane at all because there needs to be a place like this, a place that was truly inside and outside of the box, in a way that other people in this country aren't going to do it.”
Now five years removed from the massive responsibility of running the legendary Hit Factory franchise in New York City, London and Miami, Germano is returning to Manhattan to head up what he feels represents the state-of-the-art in audio facilities. With just two rooms on one floor to oversee, he is free to focus on maintaining an elite balance of equipment, acoustics and atmosphere in the intimate downtown space.
The vibe at Germano Studios kicks in before visitors even set foot in the studio, as the lobby of this stylish NoHo neighborhood building envelops them in one of the city's artistic treasures: an original Keith Haring-painted lobby. Upstairs, conditions are upscale but relaxed, with huge old windows spilling light into a long hallway that connects Studio 1, Studio 2 and the in-house mastering facility helmed by A.L.L. Digital veteran Drew Lavyne.
“I looked at about 55 different spaces that I might lease or purchase,” Germano recounts. “I was reluctant to see this space initially because it was a former studio [Platinum Island] and I was really looking at raw space. But inside of five minutes, I saw it was the skeleton of what I wanted to do: I envisioned a boutique-like, very musician-friendly studio downtown, and I got a vibe off of this neighborhood. I also had a very set idea of what the setup would be for equipment, which is a really intense hybrid between the producer's desk and the analog console.”
The highly accurate acoustic environments were designed by Germano and David Bell to ensure that form follows function. “It's the typical design that Dave and I have done over the years — we really tried to keep it true to the original footprint, but improve upon it with more diffusion and absorption,” Germano explains. “I wanted the large speakers to be true and accurate, and I wanted people to be able to listen on the near-fields and know where the mixes were.
“With me, it's always more about feel. Of course, the rooms have to sound great, and these are two of the best control rooms I've ever been involved with. I'm as proud of them as anything I've done in the past with my dad, Ed Germano, or on my own.”
At the center of each room is an SSL Duality 48-input analog console with Total Recall, supplemented by an SSL 32-input X-Rack monitor mixer with Total Recall for a total of 80 inputs. According to Germano, the Duality's powerful combination of analog signal path and digital functionality made it the clear choice for his rooms.
“The way it seamlessly interfaces with Pro Tools is what made me confident that this is the right decision,” he says. “I played with the console in London, and the fact that Alicia Keys has this console really opened my eyes. She's definitely ahead of the curve here. I realized that this was a lot more than an AWS 900. People believe that the Duality is simply a bigger version of the AWS; it's not.”
Germano's gear selection for the outboard racks goes hand-in-hand with the Duality. Reasoning that effects should come purely from the vast array of plug-ins that the Duality and Pro Tools HD3 Accel system could accommodate, Germano allocated almost no real estate for hardware effects boxes. Instead, all outboard racks are packed almost exclusively with row upon row of EQ, limiting and dynamics.
Modern-day essentials include Empirical Labs Distressors, Millennia STT1 channel strips, Rupert Neve Portico 5032H channel strips, Thermionic Culture Phoenix stereo tube compressors and Lavry Engineering AD 122 A/D conversion. Those boxes are joined by new reissues of classics that include Chandler channel strips, Neve 1081 channel strips, Tube-Tech EQs, Universal Audio LA-2A limiters and 1176 compressors, and much more.
While much of the gear may sound vintage, the plethora of reissues were specified to support Germano's philosophy of maximum reliability and minimal downtime; this is a man who spent way too much of his past life hunting down obscure parts and in-demand technicians. “A studio may have an 80-input console, but if six or seven are not working, why would you want to pay for that?” he asks. “Reissues, you know they're going to work: They won't buzz, they'll be balanced from left to right. So the idea was to pick the hardware pieces that I thought people would want to use as tools to shape their sound, and I don't believe in charging people for plug-ins when you're a mixing studio. Clients should have the ability to sit at the console, and if they want to work inside the box, fine. If they want to merge the two, fine. If they want to listen on the big monitors, great, and if not, they have lots of near-fields to choose from.”
More than likely, visitors will want to listen on the big monitors at some point. The mains are Exigy S412G four-ways packed with four 12-inch cones, making for a thrilling listen at high volumes — no subwoofer needed for full-body bass response. “I think they're extremely accurate and loud. Having four 12s as opposed to two 15s is more focused, and I wanted these monitors to be able to come through whether we were making hip-hop, rock or jazz records.”
After a five-year absence from the studio scene, it's safe to say that Germano is glad to be back in the saddle again. “I've done other things in the record industry the last few years,” Germano says, “but I missed having this platform. I think I know how to make artists comfortable and make them want to come back. This is a rock 'n' roll hotel. That's something my dad always said, and I feel the same way.”
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