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Striking Gold at Eldorado Recording Studios

By Steve Harvey. Eldorado Recording Studios sports gear from the 1950s and a track record that includes seminal albums by My Chemical Romance, The Offspring and Jane's Addiction.

Burbank, CA (April 26, 2018)—Some studios take pride in having been in continuous operation for decades. Eldorado Recording Studios kicks that up a notch, proudly touting equipment that has been in daily use since the facility was established in the 1950s.

Eldorado started life as a workshop for Johnny “Willie and the Hand Jive” Otis at Hollywood and Vine in 1954. Damage caused by the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake forced Eldorado to relocate, first to a temporary home at Track Records in North Hollywood, then back to Hollywood, in Marvin Gaye’s former studio on Sunset Boulevard. In 1996, owner Gary Gunton acquired a building in Burbank and renovated it completely, bringing in acoustician Steven Klein to design a one-room studio with multiple iso booths.

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Eldorado’s house engineer-turned-producer for many years was Dave Jerden, who racked up an impressive credit list ranging from Byrne and Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts through Jane’s Addiction (whose Nothing’s Shocking was one of the last projects recorded at Hollywood and Vine) and The Offspring’s mega-multi-million-seller, Americana. “This studio was specifically designed for Dave Jerden when it was built,” says Rob Strickland, who acquired Eldorado’s Burbank facility in January 2005, shortly after Jerden moved on.

“We’re super proud of the live room; we feel like it’s one of the great drum rooms, and a lot of people agree,” he says, most notably FXpansion, which recorded its BFD acoustic drum library there.

As originally conceived, the facility—an anonymous gray block on the outside—encompassed a very large control room, over 28 feet by 28 feet, and a tracking room of almost the same dimensions. Five iso booths of varying sizes, plus a mic locker that doubles as an iso, with tielines interconnecting all the spaces, complete the facility’s floorplan.

“I also feel fortunate to have gotten this equipment lot in 2005. It goes back to that ’50s start,” continues Strickland, pointing to a triple-wide rack loaded with original UA 176s, Teletronix LA-2As, Cinema Engineering Type 4031-B equalizers, a Fairchild 660 and 670, and other units. Antelope Audio recently modeled one of the Lang PEQ-2 units for a plug-in, he reports.

“And I got all the original mics,” adds Strickland, including a “really special” Telefunken 251.

The property was, for a time, under threat of acquisition by the City of Burbank under the rules of eminent domain. “As soon as we knew it wasn’t going to happen, we remodeled this control room,” says Strickland, who called in Bruce Millett of DeskDoctor. Subsequent remodeling work has also given the kitchen, lounge and office space a refresh.

Eldorado has long been a Solid State Logic house. The Burbank location opened with an E Series desk and soon attracted producer Rob Cavallo, who brought in projects including My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade. The studio also drew mixer Rich Costey, who took up residence and added Sigur Rós, Muse, Vampire Weekend and numerous others to the client list.

“During the six-year period that Rich was here, we put some G modules into the E Series, then we went to a K Series,” says Strickland. About a month ago, a new SSL Duality Delta SuperAnalogue console replaced the K Series. “We felt it was a natural extension to our history with SSL,” he says.

“The responses we’ve been getting so far really have been positive. We’re excited because we feel this desk is so versatile that it will be able to handle a lot of different requests. We wanted a large-format console because, in a way, we are the last of a dying breed of big, one-room studios.”

Chief engineer Phil English chimes in, “Obviously we looked at other consoles, but nothing has the same flexibility as this.” The Duality offers familiar analog console functionality for old-school clients, he says, but with integrated DAW control and Delta-Control DAW-based automation features enabling modern workflows.

“It really is wonderful to be able to match the home studio experience in a facility of this size and be able to jump from song to song, depending on how the artist feels at any given moment,” agrees Strickland. “And one of the nice things is that it has a feed for a second DAW. Some of our clients will be quite pleased to bring in their rigs.”

The new console is flanked by racks of Neve, Focusrite, API and other modules, but, says English, “The thing that surprised me is that in the tracking sessions that we’ve done since it arrived, I’ve found myself using a lot more SSL console facilities than I would have imagined. The pre’s are great and the VHD [variable harmonic distortion] is really useful. All the guitars on the record we’re working on started out on 1073s and moved to those.”

The control room may be large but it’s cozy, and that’s by design. “Rob’s done fantastically well at making it feel comfortable and intimate. I’ve done sessions with five-piece bands, with both guitarists and the bass player playing in here with the producer, an engineer and an assistant—and there’s still room for three big pedalboards—and no one is cramped,” English reports.

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“When people come in for the first time, you might be sitting chatting for five minutes before they even realize there’s a Hammond organ over there. And a tape machine. And a grand piano,” he laughs.

The piano used to be in the largest of the iso booths that, as part of the remodel, has been turned into a B room equipped with a Custom Series 75 powered by Neve console, racks of outboard and PMC monitors. “We can be a one-room facility, where you get the run of the entire building, but for local groups and people who don’t have the budget, we also do business out of this B room. Dollar for dollar, it’s a big bang for the buck,” says Strickland.

“And we can still run the A room for mixing, or with the vocal booth, without getting in anybody’s way. So we have the best of both worlds.”

Eldorado Recording Studios •