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Night Sky Sound


The control room at Night Sky Sound includes a custom Allen & Heath Brennell Sigma console, Dynaudio Air 25 5.1 monitoring and a full complement of processing, synths and instruments, all under the studio’s trademark starry “sky.”

One of the new studios featured in Mix‘s “Class of 2009,” Night Sky Sound ( is situated in a Mediterranean-style estate in Fallbrook, Calif., midway between L.A. and San Diego. Owner Steve Donato used to operate his studio in New York City, but he says, “After 9/11, business diminished. A lot of my colleagues — musicians, producers and engineers — moved to other music cities like Miami, Nashville and L.A. And I’ve always had my heart set on the West Coast.”

Donato takes a lot of pride not only in the unique aesthetic of his 380-square-foot control room (where fiber-optic stars on the ceiling were patterned after actual summer sky constellations), but also in the eco-friendly aspects of the design.

“Besides being conscious of the environment and our impact on it, and wanting to do the right thing, the astronomical cost of energy here in Southern California is a great motivator,” Donato says. “So our lighting systems are very low-voltage; we use low-voltage halogen or LED bulbs wherever possible. We also have a very energy-efficient HVAC system with two separate zones — two thermostats — so if our machine room needs to be cooled but the control room doesn’t, we don’t waste energy.”

Night Sky centers around a custom Allen & Heath Brennell Sigma console and Dynaudio Acoustics AIR 25 5.1 monitoring. Also available are Genelec 1030As, a Studer A827 Gold machine, Digital Performer, Logic and Pro Tools. Donato has amassed racks of vintage Neve, UREI and dbx processing, plus newer models from Tube-Tech, Focusrite, Avalon Design, Eventide, Lexicon, Drawmer, Aphex and TC Electronic.

Designed for music and sound-for-picture projects, Night Sky Sound has hosted recording sessions with producer Damon Elliot working with newcomer Simone; and songwriters Greg Strickland and Tita Hutchinson (who write for Tim McGraw) working on their own album. Donato has also been doing audio post for the pre-production trailer for a film with the working title Accelerator.