Recording Studio Sweet Spot: Sound Spa Productions – Edison, NJ
September 29, 2013 by David Weiss
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: New Jersey is the cradle of audio engineering.
Formerly known as Menlo Park, the New Jersey township of Edison, NJ changed its name in 1954 to honor the inventor Thomas A. Edison, who set up his groundbreaking research laboratory there in 1876. By the time of his passing 55 years later, Edison had earned a record 1,093 patents for creations including the phonograph, a stock ticker, the motion-picture camera, the incandescent lightbulb, a mechanical vote counter, the alkaline storage battery including one for an electric car, and the first commercial electric light.
Edison had maximum personal fondness for his phonograph. He was pleasantly surprised in 1877 when his very first attempt at the tin foil phono worked, a moment that led to him eventually founding one of the earliest record labels ever, with the National Phonograph Company. On Edison cylinders and discs, NPC released selections in instrumental, vocal, spoken word, spoken comedy, foreign language and ethnic, religious, opera and concert recordings.
This is where recorded music, as we now know it, comes from.
Acutely tuned to this is Stephen DeAcutis, Founder of the Edison, NJ-based recording facility Sound Spa Productions. A mixing, tracking, and production studio in operation since 1990, it counts John Mayer, Corey Glover (Living Color), Joe Lynn Turner, and even the late great Laura Brannigan as its clients.
No doubt, the Neve 5088 32 channel frame console with Martin Sound Flying Faders 2 is a draw, as are MCI and Studer tape machines, and expressive analog outboard including a Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, Cranesong Ibis EQ, and Audio Technologies Tube Link tube compressor. Two live rooms, one sufficiently sizable for cutting drums, add appeal.
But another draw is DeAcutis, whose passion for his craft is tangible at first contact. He’s a true pro who’s proud of his room, but you can tell he’d prefer that his studio do the talking.
Facility Name: Sound Spa Productions
Location: Edison NJ — Home of The invention of recorded sound
Neighborhood Advantages: Close to malls trains and starbux/Dunkin D’s and lots of wilderness
Date of Birth: 1990
Facility Focus: Mixing, Production, Tracking
Mission Statement: To capture as honest a representation of the artists vision whether it be from a performance or mixing standpoint.
Clients/Credits: John Mayer, Corey Glover(Living Color) Laura Brannigan, Mike Ciro (Alejandro Sanz},Bobby Bandiero(Bonlovi), Joe Lynn Turner, Demi Lavato, Gad Elbaz, Glen Burtnik, Bebe Buell, Nir Z (drummer for Chris Cornell)
Key Personnel: Stephen DeAcutis — Founder; Nejat Bakin, Lenny Grasso, Steve Sadler — techs
System Highlights: Neve 5088 32 Channel frame (11 stereo) 58 channels at mixdown, and 41 of Martin Sound Flying Faders 2.
MCI 16-24 2” tape and Studer A-80 half-inch mixdown machines
36 channels I/O of Apogee/Crane Song AD-DA
Nuendo and Pro Tools
I describe the Neve as very deep and wide sonically, with a large-format console feel — very solid. It has a real high resolution feel, combined with the weight and size you need for the aggressive stuff.
It will sonically optimize any style at the highest level. You can really feel the iron that is incorporated in the design of this console.
I can accurately achieve a final mix that needs very little, if any, 2-mix processing — which is the purist way to optimize the quality of the 5088.
I recently installed the board, so the few clients that have had the pleasure of taking mixes home have been really pleased. Comments like “amazing” and “didn’t think your mixes could get any better” have been spoken.
And an extensive outboard/hardware collection (to much to list) making Sound Spa a very powerful mixing and tracking room.
I have so many wonderful boxes that it is very hard to single out any one of them, as I love them all for different reasons. Not to mention the guys making these boxes all deserve to get the props for the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into these things. All these guys are having to follow some pretty hard acts and industry standard pieces, and are doing a great job to say the least.
The Shadow Hills Mastering Compresser is a great piece for the 2 buss, as it adds width/size and a sonic character that takes an already balanced and musical mix, and adds a wonderful polish that can be a subtle boost in presence or a very noticeable VCA-style smack without losing your overall frequency intensions.
The Crane Song Ibis is a very powerful program EQ that I use daily on the 2-buss. I like it for adding urgency and presence, and a little goes a long way. Very quiet unit as well. I do not like to add noise to the program. If a processor is going to introduce any noise at all, I’d just as soon bypass it.
I have a unit called the Audio Technologies “Tube Link” which is one of the most quiet and transparent tube comps you will ever hear.
I went to AES a few years back looking for a new compressor (when I was obsessed with compression). I brought a rough mix of a rock joint I did with Corey Glover, and I stumbled upon the AL.so Dynax2. I ran the mix through this box and the urgency and aggression it added got my attention fast. Its living on the drum buss at the moment, but that could change any day.
Sony C-800 and Neuman U-47 among 2 of the many mic choices
Distinguishing Characteristics: My ability to navigate Sound Spa to accomplish every task in the process of making a great recording from the ground up to the finished master.
The live room is 10′ by 20′ with an adjacent room that is about 12’ by 20’, that I use primarily for the room mics when cutting drums.
I can track 4 and 5 piece bands comfortably and the intimacy of the room can actually be of an advantage in terms of the musicians feeling like they are in a rehearsal environment.
The room has a nice contained and open sound and when combined with the room mics, usually large diaphgragm condensers in the adjacent room, the end result is very pleasing. It’s not that far removed from the size and depth of a larger space, and when putting a couple EL-8′s on the room mics in Nuclear mode I can get airplane hangar bombastics quickly and realistically.
Also the aux outs on the Neve are gorgeous sounding and transformer-balanced, which when combined with the Crown amps make the headphone mixes a joy to listen to and track with. That is exciting.
The building is on fire, you only have time to grab ONE thing to save, what is it?
Larry my cat and my 1980 BC Rich Bich.
Rave Reviews: The sound. That clients feel very relaxed and are able to create without any pressure.
Most Memorable Session Ever: Tracking Core Glover on a song I wrote for my mom.
Session You’d Like to Forget: The session I had to cancel on 9/11/2001.
Dream Session: To record a song/album with the Beatles, tracked and mixed.
– Stephen DeAcutis, Founder, Sound Spa