Often framed as a debate between die-hard analog adherents and digital "have-to-haves" that catch studio owners in the crossfire, the evolutionary state of the recording industry may in fact be at a stage where coexistence is the key. Peter Denenberg and Rory Young recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of their facility, Acme Recording, located in Mamaroneck, N.Y., by renovating part of their space, which overlooks the scenic Mamaroneck Bay, and installing both a vintage Neve console and a fully blown out Pro Tools|24 MIX Plus system. Why?
For one thing, Denenberg cites the way that the tracking process has changed. In a sense, the window separating studio from control room has become a kind of Berlin Wall that had to fall. "Many of Acme's clients now have their own studios at home," he says. "Rory and I wanted to design an environment that would be more flexible and comfortable for these clients instead of jamming them and all their gear into a conventional control room. The control room has evolved from being the booth where just the engineer sits to being the room everyone wants to be in."
This fall, Acme opened Studio B, a suite of rooms designed to accommodate the new way clients work. "In addition to taking advantage of a perfect harbor view, the new rooms embrace Acme's `big living room' concept, where artist, producer and engineer are all in the `sweet spot' while being spread out in a spacious, comfortable environment." Acme's new suite seamlessly combines a new full- blown Pro Tools system (including an expanded Pro Control) with a vintage Neve discrete analog console, as well as an assortment of vintage outboard gear from API, UREI, Lang, Pultec, dbx, Spectra Sonics, Moog, Ampex and more. "Clients can now track directly into Pro Tools, go fully 2-inch analog or any combination they can think of."
Studios in the greater metropolitan area have to pull A-list clients from Manhattan and the other boroughs. A more relaxed environment, with a comfortable integration into the natural beauty that surrounds it, is part of Acme's draw. "Artists can spread out in the studio and take it as their own space while they work - it has a couch and an attached artist's lounge that doubles as an iso booth. When they need a break, clients and producers can sneak into the pool room next door for a quick game while looking at the boats!"
Surround monitoring is critical these days. Acme uses custom monitor switching by Phillip Nubile of Hybrid Labs, which allows the basic stereo image to be routed to three distinct points; the studio itself, the boats in the bay or directly toward the large keyboard/sampler rig that sits in the main studio space. Tracking may be instantly switched between 2-inch analog tape or the Pro Tools rig, with a total of 16 individual cue systems available in the control room, studio and iso booths. Denenberg points out that Studio A "still boasts its legendary Neve 8058 console with Flying Faders automation and a live room with two booths, a Steinway piano, Hammond organ and other vintage gear."
Boz Scaggs spent some time tracking in Acme shortly after the renovation was complete. The new Virgin Records album is being produced by Danny Kortchmar and David Paitch. We spoke with Kortchmar about the sessions. "First of all, Boz Scaggs is at the height of his game," he says. "David Paitch and I both felt that we wanted to keep the production space to highlight the songs and the performances. Most of the album is programmed by Paitch and myself, and we play quite a bit. I sequence on an Akai MPC3000. I swear by that machine! My work starts off at my project studio where I drop to ADAT tapes, which are dropped into Pro Tools.
"I really believe that the way Acme's new rooms have been designed is the way studios are going to go in the future," he continues. "They've got a Pro Tools rig that has everything a producer would ever need, plus all of the analog equipment that many of us still love. I often think that the recording industry is a battleground. On the one hand you run into these stuffy and staid analog guys who insist that nothing good can come out of digital sessions. Then you find other people who'll tell you [that] you have to have an SSL board and a DAW and nothing analog. Acme's put the best of the two together, and it's a great environment to work in.
"One other thing: It's not enough just to go shopping for equipment. You have to have an engineer who really knows both ends of the street. Peter handled the sessions we did with Boz, and he is extremely knowledgeable about Pro Tools and all of the analog equipment."
Recent Acme clients include Vanessa Williams, who was in with producer Jason Miles and engineer Doug Oberkircher tracking for the upcoming VH-1 movie, A Diva's X-Mas Carol, Roger Glover of Deep Purple, who was working on his current solo project, and Cyndi Lauper, who was in with engineer Bill Whittman.
Personal Note: This marks my last column as New York editor for Mix. I will be handing this space over to Paul Verna. My thanks to everyone who has sent me contact and session information over the last several years. I look forward to staying in touch with you and wish Paul the best of luck.