MIDTOWN, MANHATTAN: Blink, and you might miss it. The action in the NYC studio scene right now is raging fast and furious, with noteworthy new rooms opening up at a pace almost too fast to keep track of.
The latest big-time addition to the cityscape: Q1 at Quad Recording Studios. The flagship revision to this storied facility, Q1 represents the latest evolution in NYC’s world-class studio offerings for artists, producers, mixers, and songwriters in search of new creative options and inspiring surroundings.
With its arrival, the fascinating timeline of 723 7th Avenue gets yet another update. The seeds of this new room were sown in Quad’s 2010 sale of its 8th floor — emerging lean and mean, Quad President Ricky Hosn and his staff embarked on a $500,000 overhaul of its remaining territory, the 3500 sq. ft. 10th floor.
Ask Hosn about the current NYC studio climate, and he’ll readily admit that navigating the scene is more challenging than ever. “It’s kept us on our toes,” he says, “and restructuring the place was essential for us. Quad was five floors at one point, but the market won’t sustain that anymore. We had to reinvent ourselves, to move in step with a changing of the times — we feel we have the right formula now.”
Making the Update
The results of the remake are as easy to see as they are to hear. Visitors step off of the elevator directly into the atmospheric Qlounge, complete with a pool table, bar and a carnivorous fish tank (show up for feeding time – if you dare). Those familiar with the powerful audio pod previously known as Studio D – now Q2 – will be happy to know that that room remains intact, although it is equipped with a new lounge that flanks it to the left.
Also with a brand new lounge is the latest addition Q1, a space designed to make all kinds of waves. At 320 sq. ft., the comfortable Larry Swist-designed control room may seem slightly compact, but once the advanced functionality and exhilaratingly loud and accurate acoustics have been experienced, size no longer matters.
To the contrary, Q1 is already making a big impact with its extreme flexibility, both in workflow and capabilities. “In the past a studio would have a mix room, a production room, a tracking room,” Hosn explains. “We said, ‘Let’s put all three together, and make a room where any producer, engineer or artist can walk in and feel at home.
“That’s the approach we took. There’s a producer’s desk in the back where you can sit, listen accurately, and work. The producer or artist is never sitting too far from the controls and the engineer. It’s geared around the artist and production, and that’s the trend we see: A lot of producers are handling the whole project, and we built it around that reality. It’s the same principle we had with creating Studio D five years ago, but we made this a bigger format, with better gear and a much bigger live room, so you really can handle any kind of music project.”
Outfitted with oiled walnut wood appointments, Swist’s pleasing design employs generous views to the outside and the adjacent control room, providing Q1’s users with an expansive experience while they work. “Windows were essential: You’re in Times Square so take advantage of it,” Hosn says. “Both the live room and control room have windows out to Times Square, and the window between the live and control room is bigger than most windows in the city. You feel like you’re right next to the artist — it just feels like one big room between the control and live room.”
Once clients get settled into the welcoming environment, things get increasingly interesting. While the ICON control surface won’t raise any eyebrows, the Pro Tools HD 4 Accel 9.0 system is to be expected, and the comprehensive list of plugins is de rigueur, where the signal can flow from there is unique: three different summing mixers – a Chandler 16 x 2, SSL X Logic 16 Channel, and a Manley 16 x 2 Custom mic/line – flanked by a who’s who of outboard gear.
“We had the opportunity to go with a typical analog desk, but we said, ‘Let’s do something different and get creative with the equipment,’” Hosn says. “We focused on summing, with three summing mixers to give the engineer more of a choice for the sound. This is the best of the summing world: Chandler comes from the old EMI consoles, SSL is the industry standard, and we have something different in the Manley mixer, which is amazing on vocals. As far as outboard gear, we went for — not vintage, but brand new — Chandler, GML, SSL, Manley EQ/compressor, and of course the Universal Audio units like the 1176 and LA-2A.”
For monitoring, a pair of Augspurger Dual 15” main monitors, custom built by Professional Audio Design, supplemented with 2 subwoofers, throws down the gauntlet for mega volume listening in NYC. In a recent visit listening to hip hop, pop and rock through these speakers in the tight, well-tuned room was a sonically exciting experience, revealing extremely high levels of full-frequency detail cleanly across the stereo field. For those who need to craft, check or just feel their mixes at massive SPL’s, Q1 may well become a mandatory stop on the way to the mastering lab.
According to Swist, whose credits include Tainted Blue, Premier’s Studio E, Eastman School of Music, SUNY Fredonia, and The Lodge, the directive for Q1 was to create a warm but contemporary look and feel. “We used a lot of sharp lines, and the sound has got to be there — the acoustics need to be spot-on because people are going to mix in there,” Swist notes. “The challenge today in an NYC facility is that you don’t have the cubic footage you used to, so you have to spend more time in the design phase ensuring that the room will translate in the outside world, especially with bass response. It also has to have a broad sweet spot. It’s easy to make it work right in the middle, but to make the room work for the producer standing next to you or in the back is a challenge.
“Most live rooms have an idiosyncratic quality to them: The great engineers find its good characteristics, the right places for the drums and mics, and use gobos,” Swist continues. “My approach is to keep it a relatively active room, and then you can come down from there. So Q1’s tracking room sits in a relatively live place: It’s good for drums, but reverb times can be cut down with gobos and more acoustical absorption. I think the live room is larger than most. It’s not huge, but then again most people are just putting in booths in a production suite today. This offers the ability to actually track a band. A lot of those rooms are going away, and this fills that void.