Even cornerstones of the New York City studio scene have to makeadjustments to their own foundations from time to time. The big tweakat Sound on Sound, on West 45th Street, is the addition of Studio D, abrand-new space built with the acoustics and care of an SSL room, butfully dedicated to a Digidesign Pro Tools | HD3 system.
The new room has joined Sound on Sound's Studios A, B and C,outfitted with two SSL 9000 J consoles and a Sony Oxford, respectively,not necessarily because president Dave Amlen has a burning passion forPro Tools, but because he knows that many of his best customers do.“Everyone says, ‘What's the secret tobusiness?’” Amlen remarks. “The secret is listeningto what your clients want: not giving them what you want, butwhat they want. If you can do that, it levels the playing field a lotmore.”
For Sound on Sound, its full-blown Pro Tools environment —which they say marks the first time that a major studio has built aroom from the ground up dedicated to maximizing Pro Tools | HD —is a proactive answer to some record companies' belief that Pro Toolscan be used by anyone, anywhere, at any budget to produce a qualitydisc. “These are real studios, not just offices that people threwPro Tools into,” states Amlen. “They're designed andmaintained by our staff. They have plug-ins, peripheral outboard gear,monitoring that's accurate, client services — everything a clientcan think of. Yes, it will cost more than working in someone's home,but we also didn't have to shell out large amounts for a console andtape machines. There's a cost savings, and that gets shared with ourclients. The goal was to have a professional, acoustically designedenvironment where, to a client coming in, the difference between it andour primary rooms would strictly be the equipment. It's a realroom.”
Designed by Larry Swist of Lawrence P. Swist Designs (LPS), theinviting 19×18-foot control room, affixed to a 9×11-footbooth, houses a Pro Tools | HD3 system with four DSP process cards andfeatures Pro Control with 24 faders and Editpack for surround panningand mixing. Video capture and an eye-grabbing 42-inch plasma screenmake synching to picture convenient.
“One thing that gave us an advantage is that the big controlsurface [of a large-frame desk] gets in the way of the sound,”Amlen says. “In a Pro Tools room, you don't have a huge consolegetting in the way of everything.”
The approach to monitoring was to provide complete consistency withthe rest of the facility, as well as the most bang for the buck, usingYamaha NS-10s, Genelec 1031As and custom LPS Designs main monitors withsubwoofers, loaded with TAD and JBL components. “We have NS-10sand Genelecs everywhere; we wanted that in Studio D so the clientdoesn't have to relearn the sound of the monitors,” explainsAmlen. “The one thing we did here to appease the R&B crowd— because they need a lot of bottom — was Larry designedsomething that would work, instead of spending a lot on an Augspurgersystem. It has a lot of bottom, and it's great for basic tracking, soin mixing, you don't all of a sudden ask, ‘Where did thiscome from?’ Digital does not have the bass roll-offcharacteristics that analog tape has; if you don't know what's in yourlow-frequency range, you'll be very surprised in mastering or, worseyet, in the consumer realm.”
The iso booth can comfortably fit a group of backup singers or a tagteam of percussionists. It won't really hold a drumset, however, whichis perfectly fine with Amlen. “That's not the purpose of it. Ifyou want to record live drums, go into Studio A or B,” he says.“Each of our rooms has a purpose it excels in. Studio A ismultipurpose, but it's optimized for larger tracking and mixing. StudioB is optimized for smaller tracking and mixing, and Studio C isoptimized for mixing and surround. So Studio D filters into the mainrooms. They do all this Pro Tools work but realize there arelimitations, and when they see that there's an SSL room, it tricklesdown to some degree. That's been a benefit. Unfortunately, there's nota lot of artists with big budgets who can spend $2,500 a day, so you dowhat you've gotta do. This Pro Tools room is less than $1,000 aday.”
It's all part of a business plan that Sound on Sound has studied andimplemented since it opened. “Studio D will never compete withour main rooms; the idea was to supplement them,” Amlen says.“You don't want to cannibalize your own business, so you ask,‘What's the hole?’ The hole is people would come in andneed high-end monitoring and outboard gear for mixing and livetracking, but for overdubs, they needed something more intimate. Now wehave a soup-to-nuts equation.”
David Weiss isMix's New York editor.