Joe Galdo co-founded South Beach Studios in 1992 with Island Records’ Chris Blackwell. MIAMI, FL—Miami Beach’s famous Collins Avenue, lined with nearly thirty blocks of restored Art Deco hotels dating back to the 1920s to 1940s, attracts thousands each year to the area’s warm sandy beaches, exciting nightlife and eccentric cultural atmosphere. Immersed in this strip is the long-standing and well-known South Beach Studios, the in-house recording studio at the Marlin Hotel.
Built in 1939 by architect Laurence Murray Dixon, the Marlin boasts the luxurious vacation experience the area is known for, with 15 customized, high-tech rooms and a recording studio with a reputation for playing host to many of the music industry’s top artists/producers/ engineers, including U2, Beyonce, Pharrell Williams and Tom Lord- Alge.
“We’re very fortunate to have a good amount of repeat artists here,” said Joe Galdo, South Beach Studios co-founder, along with Island Records’ Chris Blackwell. “Many artists have come here over the decades because they feel comfortable and open to create here. Our goal is to accommodate the artists so they can create and capture their best work.”
Since the studio opened in 1992, Galdo said it has continued to hold up the mission of putting the artists first, providing them with a studio atmosphere where they can be comfortable and creative while producing music.
“They are not here to be entertained; they are here to work, and our priority is to accommodate the artist so they can be productive, industrious, yet have a fun time of it,” Galdo said.
Tom Lord-Alge with the SSL G+ console in Studio A. The destination vibe of South Beach Studios also gives visiting musicians a casual experience, with individual lounges for each studio, including a shower in Studio A’s lounge to wash off the sand from the beach or freshen up after a long session. Being steps from the ocean, South Beach Studios also gives artists a chance to take a break for a swim or to grab some food from the variety of nearby restaurants before returning to a recording or mixing session.
However, Miami’s South Beach wasn’t always the prime vacation spot that it is today, as South Beach Studio co-founder Chris Blackwell discovered when he purchased a strip of hotels, including the Marlin, in 1988.
“In 1987-88, South Beach was a pretty depressed area. It was full of petty criminals and had a poor, elderly population,” Galdo said. “Chris Blackwell is the type of person who tends to go in the opposite direction of ‘normal,’ and is drawn towards life’s natural chaos where new energies are fermenting and being nurtured.” Which is why he chose to stay in the quaint village of South Beach, instead of the then-hip Coconut Grove area.
While South Beach had decades back lost its tourist appeal, Blackwell saw potential in the area of rundown Art Deco hotels, and decided to purchase and renovate quite a few of them. He had recently sold his record company, Island Records, to PolyGram, making the financial part of this project easier.
“He fell in love with South Beach. As rundown as it was, you had the wonderful Art Deco architecture and the empty, but beautiful beach,” Galdo said.
While Blackwell no longer owns the recording facility itself, the success of South Beach owes a lot to his purchase, commitment and persona. Galdo has a photo of the group the day Blackwell purchased the hotel, and the beach behind them is totally empty and desolate. If you were to travel to the same spot today, Galdo said you wouldn’t be able to recognize the beach from the picture.
The heart of this estimated 2,500-square foot studio/lounge area on the ground floor of the hotel is Studio A, equipped with a 64-channel SSL 4064 G+ Series console with Ultimation/E & G Series EQ and eight Stereo Modules.
Dave Malekpour, president of the pro audio equipment sales, technical services and consulting company Professional Audio Design, Inc., noted that he was involved with supplying some of the gear for the room as it was being built in 1991, and continues to help upgrade the studio when needed.
Most recently, Professional Audio Design, Inc. provided the studio with a set of custom, PAD-designed Augspurger GA 215VS-A3 loudspeakers.
“This type of speakers have been around for a long time, but in a way, they have gone through a renewal because they are reaching a lot of users,” said Malekpour. “People want high-quality audio and something that can really drive the low end accurately, as well as something they can still mix on.”
In 2000, South Beach Studio expanded, creating Studio B to accommodate Grammy-winning producer and engineer Tom Lord-Alge (Peter Gabriel, Marilyn Manson, Live), who was constantly renting out the studio for work since he had been introduced to the studio and the South Beach area.
“From his initial session in 1995, Tom had worked here more and more so that by 1997, he committed to buying a home here in Miami Beach, and this has fortunately for us and the community been his home studio ever since. So, he was our initiative to build the B room— because eventually the A room became his,” Galdo explained.
Housed in the vintage, art deco Marlin Hotel, the studio is steps away from the beach and other amenities. It was Lord-Alge’s influence that brought the SSL G+ console to Studio A, while in Studio B, Malekpour supplied the studio’s first set of custom Augspurger monitors. Recently, Malekpour installed the same monitors in Studio A, as a way to keep sound consistent for artists that work in both rooms.
“Tom was probably content working on the Genelecs, but for the clients often working in both the B room and A room, they needed the sound and power, so Joe asked to upgrade the room with the same speakers,” Malekpour explained. “And now both Tom and the other artists love them!” Both Studio A and B offer Yamaha NS-10s for near field monitoring.
In terms of outboard gear, Galdo said the studio offers its artists a collection of both analog and digital gear, from Neve preamps, to Studer and Sony Multitrack Recorders, to Avid Pro Tools HD.
“We live in a different culture now. Up-and-coming engineers sometimes come in with their laptop and mix pretty much in the box,” Galdo said. “They may have all the plug-ins. However, in my opinion, the plug-ins are a caricature of the very real outboard gear installed right behind them. I try to get our studio team to help educate the artists that yes, you can mix in the box, but if you use a talented and knowledgeable engineer with this real outboard gear, their mix will be much deeper, wider, taller or three-dimensional.”
But it’s the combination of the upscale Miami Beach atmosphere with the casual workspace of the studio and the quality gear and staff at South Beach that keeps the artists coming back.
“We’re a place that’s been around for a moment—21 plus years—and try to think of ourselves as a place you’re at ease in,” Galdo said. “We accommodate, facilitate and cooperate, with an attitude of gratitude, deeply appreciating that artists choose us to come and work at our spot. It makes us very fortunate to be here.”
South Beach Studios
Professional Audio Design, Inc.