Review: ADAM A77X Monitors

October 10, 2013 by  

ADAM Audio GmbH has been making high quality studio monitors since 1999, and with the A77X they are bringing their flagship dual driver technology to the small studio market.

The top of the AX Series line, the A77X (MSRP: $2,198/pair) is a three-way active monitor, built on the same innovative ADAM design that created the S-Series monitors, which made ADAM a household name with producers and engineers in the 2000’s burgeoning boutique audio subculture.

The basic premise is that a central ribbon tweeter is surrounded on either side by two woofers. One woofer functions with the tweeter as if it were any other two-way speaker, while the second woofer kicks in power in the 400Hz and below range. By effectively doubling the surface area of the woofer for only the low frequencies, ADAM has been able to avoid the pitfalls of standard crossover design, something to which the high retail cost of quality three-or-more-way designs is often attributed.

Like the rest of the AX series, and ADAM’s entire pro audio line, the A77X tweeter is based around the X-ART tweeter – which is not your standard ribbon transducer. This is ADAM’s own proprietary design based on the principles of Dr. Oskar Heil’s “Air Motion Transformer”. It functions by essentially squeezing the air out from between the leaves of a folded ribbon (read more about this here), allowing them to greatly increase the surface area without sacrificing frequency response or adding to the overall footprint.

ADAM A77X: a three-way active near-field monitor with two 7" woofers

ADAM A77X: an active three-way monitor with two 7″ woofers

OUT OF THE BOX

My first reaction on opening the box is that these speakers are larger than I would have expected. ADAM advertises the A77Xs as mid or nearfields, and when set up as nearfields they would most certainly be the largest ones in a multi-speaker setup. They’re also designed to be seated horizontally, which made it difficult to set up both the ADAMs and my NS-10s simultaneously in my studio, and as a result they were primarily compared to our mains – a set of soffit-mounted Dynaudio M3As – which is what we typically work to.

I set the speaker’s frequency adjustments to flat when I put them on the stands, but immediately found myself fidgeting with them a bit. Out of the box they struck me as extremely dark, and I wonder if it’s an intentional move by ADAM to accent the fact that they’re capable of handling much more low frequency content than traditional nearfields.

After a couple minutes of comparing them to our mains I was able to find settings that made them speak in a way I could understand, and I set right in to work on a mix for the band Cheri Cheri Jaguar.

IN USE

The A77Xs are extremely directional speakers, which is a traditional characteristic for ribbon tweeters, and seems to apply to ADAM’s X-ART tweeters as well. I found adjusting to them a little difficult when working at our desk at Strange Weather, since I was constantly moving outside of the sweet spot. However in a smaller room or with a computer setup I can imagine that would be a distinct advantage. Less of the signal is scattered to the side, which means less should reflect back and cancel at the mix position. It almost seems like they were designed intentionally to handle some of the shortcomings of smaller, untreated rooms.

Once I was situated in the center of the room, the A77Xs began to show some distinct advantages over more traditional nearfields. The upper midrange was an extremely easy place to make decisions. Cheri Cheri Jaguar like a lot of reverb on their mixes, and determining exactly how much I can get away with before completely swamping the lyrics can be a difficult task. The upper mids tend to get crowded quickly, and it’s important that whatever monitors I’m working on are particularly well defined in that range. With the A77Xs decision making was a breeze.

A side effect of that midrange clarity is that the stereo imaging was dramatic and clear without feeling overhyped, and when seated in the sweet spot the speakers presented a both pleasing and detailed picture

The band had recorded the drums at home with an Mbox and only a few microphones, but I was able to quickly find any modal issues. Using compression I was able to really bring out the sound of the room without exaggerating the room’s faults. Decisions in the extreme bottom and top-end translated predictably when I switched back and forth with the mains, which was a surprise after having used the onboard equalizers, but a pleasant one.

CONCLUSIONS

The A77Xs are not ideal for Strange Weather – due to their size, their placement disrupted use of our mains, and their directionality meant that I was constantly traveling back to the center of the desk in order to tell if decisions I was making were correct.

However for a smaller room or home studio setup I imagine that their advantages would really shine, and I’m considering purchasing a pair to use with a B-room/editing suite setup we’re potentially putting together in the next year.

ADAM once again live up to my expectation of building dramatically different, innovative monitors, whose particular strengths make them a fantastic choice for nontraditional spaces.

Marc Alan Goodman is a producer/engineer and co-owner of Strange Weather Brooklyn. He has worked with artists such as Jolie Holland, Marc Ribot, Shudder to Think, Dub Trio, Normal Love, Alfonso Velez, Angel Deradoorian and Pink Skull.

New Studio Review: Strange Weather, Brooklyn

May 9, 2013 by  

Generally, I try to stay objective when I write about new studios. But when it comes to East Williamsburg’s Strange Weather recording, I just wouldn’t be telling the whole story if I neglected to mention that it’s one of my favorite studios in New York. By extension, I suppose that makes it among my favorite recording rooms in the world.

Everything about Strange Weather is likeable in my book: The design, the people, the gear, the philosophy. Even the rate is fair. The only thing I don’t like about this place is that the more I talk about it, the more booked up it seems to get, making it increasingly complicated to schedule sessions there for myself. The last time I booked a new project, I had to settle on a date almost 8 weeks out. But like most great things, it’s well worth the wait.

Of course, I should hardly complain. If anyone knows about waiting for great things, it’s Strange Weather’s owner, Marc Alan Goodman. This new studio, which finally opened early this year, was almost three years in the making. This long lead-up time was the product of countless unexpected setbacks and endless red tape that Goodman dutifully documented in a construction blog for this very publication.

Patience though, pays off. His newest room, designed by acoustician Wes Lachot, is the culmination of a line of six studios all by the same name, and it puts any of those earlier incarnations to shame. Goodman, who had spent the past decade engineering, assisting, and amassing esoteric high-end gear that he stuffed into overflowing equipment racks at a succession of cramped, makeshift studios, finally has a little sonic palace to call home for the long haul.

As far as affordable mid-sized studios go, Strange Weather is one of the most uncompromising rooms I know. It has a live room capable of accommodating more than a dozen musicians comfortably, plus two full-sized isolation rooms that might easily fit a half dozen more.

It’s a tracking space that sounds alive and pleasantly reflective while remaining malleable and remarkably well-controlled. Roll out a few of the extra-thick, windowed gobos and you can cordon off bits of the main space with alarmingly little bleed. Put them away and you have an inspiring, open space with an even, bright resonance, thanks to a calculated blend of wood and brick and strategically placed absorption.

Strange Weather Live Room

Strange Weather Live Room

The sight-lines here are phenomenal. Truly a best-case scenario for live bands. The same goes for the amp and instrument selection. This is a studio that seems to have just about everything, from vintage Ludwig drums and an army of tube combos, to keyboards including an Optigan, a Wurlitzer, and a shockingly pristine Mellotron – the original tape-based sampling keyboard.

There are not one, but two pianos: A complex, well-weathered 1907 Steinway upright just dripping with personality, as well as a bright, clean and articulate modern Yamaha grand. There’s even a vibraphone, celeste, and a set of full-scale orchestra bells.

On the other side of the glass, things are no different. Strange Weather’s control room is one part laboratory, one part playground for producers and engineers.

Strange Weather Control Room

Strange Weather Control Room

It’s impossible not to be immediately impressed by the console: A spanking new 48-channel API desk with full-fledged automation, stuffed full of flexible, fantastic-sounding parametric EQs from API and Avedis (as well as some powerful graphic EQs from Aengus –  a real sleeper of a model that has become a fast favorite.) All this feeds a Burl Mothership A/D-D/A system, a transformer-based hulk of a capture device that stands among the smoothest, fullest, and most organic-sounding digital converters I’ve encountered.

The really fun stuff though, can be found inside (and in some cases on top of) the equipment racks. There’s the ADL 670, the faithful Fairchild remake by Anthony DeMaria, as well as vibey old tube compressors from Collins, Federal and Gates. You’ve also got at least three tape echoes, a couple of oil can delays, an Elysia Mpressor, an original Eventide H3000 and a whole rack full of Neve channel strips.

More than any one piece of equipment, what I like most is that Strange Weather is a place of such dichotomies and extremes.

Here, the vintage cohabitates with the modern: There’s a classic old EMT plate as well as a Bricasti reverb – easily among the most-lauded digital processors on the market today. The factory-fresh mingles with the homespun: Some of Goodman’s handmade reissues, like the “SW-3A” and “SW-76” can be found among the conventionally pedigreed equipment. And even lo-fi and hi-fi share center stage: In addition to some of the finest signal paths imaginable, Strange Weather is stuffed to the gills with unconventional sound manglers, like a preamp used by FAA announcers to drive grungy mid-century squawk boxes.

Goodman, only half-jokingly, tells me that the official Strange Weather motto is to “capture everything pristinely as possible – and then run it through a distortion pedal.”

The most essential piece of gear however, may be the control room itself. The experience of listening to music in Strange Weather is more like hearing it in a mastering studio than a traditional recording space. It’s so astonishingly well-balanced in fact, that engineers often use nothing but the mains for playback. There’s a pair of NS-10s lying about for when folks demand them, but often enough Goodman keeps them stored on the floor underneath the console, out of the way of the sight-lines and soundstage. There are few rooms where I’d trust recording or mixing on the mains, but at Strange Weather, it just seems to work.

Back of the control room

Back of the control room

Thanks to Wes Lachot’s painstaking balance of tuned bass traps, broadband absorbers and heavy diffusion, the frequency response is remarkably consistent throughout the room, which means everyone in the room can get a clear picture of what’s going on. It’s even possible to make critical listening decisions from the couch, which is all but impossible in most studios.

Despite all this, Goodman has somehow managed to keep the price point low, and this is reflected in the volume of bookings, as well as the types of bands that come through. Perhaps the person who keeps this studio busier than anyone is house engineer and newly-minted studio partner Daniel James Schlett, who’s been landing a lot of work with the kinds of young, local Brooklyn bands that Pitchfork writers tend to follow and even rave about: DIIV, Amen Dunes, Friends, Total Slacker, The Men. There have also been artists like TEEN, Janka Nabay, and Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic, who brought in his newest home-recorded solo album for mixing.

In an ideal world, we’d have more studios like this one: Uncompromising yet accessible, rigorously designed but comfortable, well-appointed yet affordable, professional but laid back, friendly yet cool. If you thought the bar for New York recording studios was pretty high already, feel free to strap your stilts on. It just got raised.

Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn-based audio engineer, college professor, and journalist. He records and mixes all over NYC, masters at JLM, teaches at CUNY, is a regular contributor to SonicScoop, and edits the music blog Trust Me, I’m A Scientist.

Strange Weather in session

Strange Weather in session

Some of the Strange Weather keys

Some of the Strange Weather keys

One of three desks of rack gear in the Strange Weather control room

One of three desks of rack gear in the Strange Weather control room. More photos here.

Marc Alan Goodman and Daniel James Schlett

Marc Alan Goodman and Daniel James Schlett

 

Marc Alan Goodman’s Building Strange Weather Blog: Strange Weather VI Opens!

January 8, 2013 by  

The final installment of the “Building Strange Weather Blog” series  by producer/engineer and studio owner Marc Alan Goodman. Click to start at Step 1: Finding A New Home#2: Design#3: Waiting For Permits (Part 1) and #4: (Part 2); and #5: Stops & Starts#6: Demolition#7: The Structural Work#8 The Joys of Home Ownership, #9 Rain, Rain, Rain, #10 A Control Room Is Born, #11 Plumbing Inspections aka More Delays#12 The Timing Game, #13 Framing & Wiring, #14 Sheetrock, Soffits & A Race To The Finish and #15 Everything Else.

WILLIAMSBURG: The month of November 2012 was a whirlwind the likes of which I’ve never experienced. Most nights consisted of about four to five hours of sleep, followed by an immediate return to the studio. Here’s how it went…

When we left off last time Tony Brett and the Brett Acoustics crew were days away from coming back up from North Carolina to finish the space and build all of the acoustical treatments. Just before their arrival, Hurricane Sandy hit New York and changed everybody’s plans. We were extremely lucky in that our studio is located up on top of a hill, so damage-wise it wasn’t much worse than any other large rainstorm. However I’d bet every New York engineer has at least one friend who lost everything in the floods, and the city itself was a madhouse.

Daniel James Schlett looking stoic in front of the back wall, which is now a membrane absorber.

First the roads through the city were closed, and then it was impossible to get gas for almost two weeks, which pushed our out-of-town crews back. We were able to delay our first week of sessions by about ten days, but the time lost wasn’t easy to make up.

When things finally started to clear up from the storm Tony was still working on finishing the racks and wall treatments in his shop, so the rest of his fully capable crew (Brian, Ray, and Tiffany) came and started work. First thing, they focused on building the back wall of the control room. From the back of the building we have a cinderblock wall, followed by a tuned membrane absorber trap, followed by a gap, a frame wall stuffed with standard loose-fill insulation and three layers of  rigid fiberglass of varying densities, and wood slats in an absorptive / diffusive pattern designed specifically for the shape of the room.

The membrane absorber and frame wall went up relatively quickly, and once they were in, it was time to stuff the soffits with loose-fill insulation as well. Daniel and I made the trips to pick it up in the band Prince Rama‘s Astrovan, which was kindly loaned to us during the extremely stressful period of finishing construction. I don’t know what we would have done without it, and we owe those guys big time.

We filled the van to the ceiling with tightly packed insulation four or five times before we had thoroughly stuffed the soffits. It was a dirty day, which was followed by another day of Daniel laying on top of the control room ceiling (there’s about nine inches of clearance between the ceiling and the HVAC ducts above it) trying to stuff insulation on top of the machine room, which was supposed to have been done in advance but was apparently overlooked. For nearly two days every time I walked past the access hatch I could hear D’s iPhone blasting ODB. It must have been a serious party up there. Daniel had a pretty good cough for a week or so afterwards.

The soffits looked like this before they were covered with 705

Next up, the crew started mounting the plastic clips to hold the fabric stretched over the soffits in place. This wasn’t an easy job, as the clips themselves need to be mounted at exactly the right height, or the fabric would show ripples stretching the length of the room when they tried to pull it in place. As Tony’s crew became fully engrossed in that world, Daniel and I headed upstairs to his spare bedroom and started on the studio’s wiring. Thom Canova came back up from North Carolina with his new and awesome assistant Hodge, plus we brought in our close friend and fantastic NYC tech Bevin Robinson to help us finish the job.

The five of us made a relatively short job out of stretching Techflex over thousands of feet of cable and then pinning ELCO connectors for the patchbay side. We decided to go with ELCO bays rather than hard-soldered for modularity in the future, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. Pulling an ELCO out of a wall covered with 78 of them and re-pinning it isn’t exactly a vacation, but it’s significantly easier than trying to de- and re-solder traditional bays.

If you’ve never used Techflex before and are getting ready to do an install I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s essentially a woven sheath that you stretch over the entire length of the cable. It keeps it from kinking, and is relatively slick, which means when you’re pulling cables through pipes or around corners together, the friction of their normally somewhat gummy exteriors doesn’t cause them to stick or catch. Getting the Techflex onto the cable isn’t exactly a fun job, and it had my tendonitis flaring up pretty hard by about ten minutes into the two or so days it took us, but later when we actually installed the cables it made our lives about ten thousand times easier.

By the time we made it back downstairs the crew there had just about finished putting up rigid fiberglass (we used mostly the stuff from Knauf, though it’s identical to the more ubiquitous Owens Corning 703 and 705 products) on the outside of all of the soffits, which meant they were prepared for fabric when the room could be properly cleaned out.

Diffusors on the back wall

Next up was installing clips in the ceilings from which to hang the clouds. The clouds themselves were mainly built out of normal drop ceiling frames, with panels custom built by Tony and the guys in his shop. All they needed to do was hang the frames, cut holes for the light cans in the panels, and pop the pre-built panels in place. It was still a couple days of work, but it was a relatively low stress job as studio builds go.

While Ray and Tiffany managed that, Brian spent his time in the control room laying out the diffusive/absorptive pattern on all of the walls. The pattern itself is hard to describe, and is perhaps better seen in photographs, but when looking at it, try to remember that it’s three layers deeper than what’s visible.

Putting it up was an extremely time consuming process, and it had Brian and eventually Tony tied up for quite a number of days, during which the rest of us started putting XLR connectors on all of those cables that we’d run.

The control room consists of three separate credenzas for the rack gear, adding up to eleven racks in total. Each rack is 14 spaces, and has dedicated 16 channel input and output snakes. On top of that each one of the credenzas has 16 dedicated tie-lines to connect outside engineers’ gear. That’s a total of 448 XLR connectors for the rack gear alone.

The control room!

The console itself, being designed for modular studio use, also has XLR and TRS connectors rather than the more traditional ELCOs. At seven per channel, that meant another 336 for the bulk of the desk plus at least 45 or so for the master section. All in all it was a lot of connectors to solder, and we had our heads down for quite a while trying to complete it.

From that point on the timeline gets a bit hazy for me. My sleep fell from about five hours per night to about three, and the solder fumes and anxiety finally started to get to me, but somehow during that period we were able to finish the wall treatments, run all of the cabling, hang the clouds, and clean the place up enough to start hanging fabric on the walls and ceiling.

A last minute catch by Wes [Lachot]– due to a picture on our photoblog – led us to repaint the front wall of the control room black. It ended up being a far better look.

The electricians were a bit of trouble, if only because they must have vastly underestimated the job and were stretched thin due to the amount of work the city needed rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Every contractor I spoke to had ten times their normal workload, much of it in parts of town they normally wouldn’t travel to or out on Long Island, and the electricians were no exception. In the end they finished their work in time, if barely, and we had power and lights in time to open our doors on December 9th.

Strange Weather live room!

The night before we started our first project in the new space, the new Total Slacker LP, I was able to get just under two hours of sleep. The session didn’t start until one in the afternoon and I was still laying on the floor plugging gear into the racks when they showed up, but the moment we set up the first mics, I was astounded.

I’ve never even worked in a space where recording music is so effortless. Not only does the live room sound fantastic, but the control room is so honest that I find myself making decisions without having to second guess. We’ve been using the one pair of monitors, which are soffit-mounted Dynaudio M3As, without any need for nearfields or other references, and have already been doing some of the best work of our careers.

I seriously can’t give enough thanks to everyone who made this all possible, from my wife Brigitte and business partner – the inevitable Daniel James Schlett – to Wes Lachot who saw a dilapidated chiropractors office and knew the studio it could become… to Tony Brett along with Brian, Ray, Tiffany, and Frosty who are without a doubt the finest carpenters I’ve ever worked with, not to mention some of the best people I’ve ever met… to Thom Canova and his assistants Dominic and Hodge, as well as Bevin Robinson, whose technical skills and sardonic wit made an impossible wiring job a reality… to Nick Gangone and his crew who took what should have been a condemned building and made it into a place where I can happy live and work for the rest of my life…to Vinnie Napolitano and his crew including Paul Gomez, who handled the extremely difficult job of running a low noise electrical system while simultaneously putting up with our unusual requests… to Roland and his crew who installed a HVAC system way outside of their traditional specifications which is functioning beautifully… to Bruce Merdjan who designed that system as well as the structural plans which saved the building… to Hannah Purdy, architect and Alexis at CODE who dealt with the impossible NYC Department of Buildings on my behalf… to Dave and Janice at SonicScoop for putting up with my sporadic attempts at the English language… to my family who’s support and understanding have made my entire life possible not to mention this project… and to my neighbors, who have been very kind to a new neighbor who went through two-and-a-half years of construction just to bring more noisy musicians to the block.

Portrait of a crew.

Click to see more photos of the process over on our photoblog!

Marc Alan Goodman
strangeweathersound [at] gmail dot com
http://strangeweatherbrooklyn.com

Marc Alan Goodman is a producer/engineer who’s worked with artists such as Jolie Holland, Marc Ribot, Shudder to Think, Dub Trio, Normal Love, Alfonso Velez, Angel Deradoorian and Pink Skull.

Marc Alan Goodman’s Building Strange Weather Blog: Everything Else

November 8, 2012 by  

Latest in the “Building Strange Weather Blog” series by producer/engineer and studio owner Marc Alan Goodman. Click to start at Step 1: Finding A New Home#2: Design#3: Waiting For Permits (Part 1) and #4: (Part 2); and #5: Stops & Starts#6: Demolition#7: The Structural Work#8 The Joys of Home Ownership, #9 Rain, Rain, Rain, #10 A Control Room Is Born, #11 Plumbing Inspections aka More Delays#12 The Timing Game, #13 Framing & Wiring, and #14 Sheetrock, Soffits & A Race To The Finish.

It’s been a few months since our last entry, mostly because things have been moving too quickly to sit down and document them! Some of the things we’ve accomplished while waiting for Tony and his crew to come back and do the acoustical finish work are: Finishing the drywall, installing the doors and trim, painting, putting in the iso booth windows, installing the boilers for the radiant heat flooring, putting in the light fixtures and taking care of all of the studio electricity. I’ll start at the end.

A few years ago, towards the beginning of the process, I purchased a Liebert Datawave Magnetic Synthesizer from a surplus depot in Kentucky. The Datawave is essentially a series of gigantic transformers and capacitors designed to convert standard wall electricity into a perfect 120V sine wave with less than 0.01% Total Harmonic Distortion. Low THD levels are something that you’ll hear thrown around in audio design, but rarely on the power side of the system.

The Leibert Datawave magnetic synthesizer

It was originally installed in a data center, where the computers were very sensitive to changes in the voltage and quality of the electricity coming into the building. Since the early 2000’s,  magnetic synthesizers have slowly gone out of production and been replaced by  UPS, or Uninterpretable Power Supplies, which are essentially gigantic batteries. The battery is slowly charged, and power is released as a clean, even stream.

The advantage of a UPS over a Magnetic Synthesizer is that it will continue working during a blackout. Since this is extremely important for computer databases, it makes sense for them to upgrade, and the falling costs of battery technologies have driven the Magnetic Synthesizer out of existence.

However for our purposes a UPS would be overkill. We’re simply trying to get clean, even power, not to avoid potential outages. The unspoken downside of the newer technology is that current battery designs only last ten to fifteen years at most. On the other hand, the Datawave is almost entirely made of transformers and capacitors. The transformers will last for hundreds of years if properly taken care of, and the capacitors are relatively easy to replace when they fail.

The most difficult part of the installation was getting the unit into our basement. It weighs nearly 1,500 lbs, and when we took the outer casing off, it cleared our basement stairs by less than half an inch. Now that it’s down there it’s going nowhere for a long, long time. It and our plate reverb will become old friends!

We plugged the unit in and it was working perfectly, I even brought out the oscilloscope to measure it. However the hum from the transformer was audible throughout the whole building! So we were forced to decommission it for the time being until we have an opportunity to build a ventilated room to isolate it. Overall, it was a lot of work for very little reward, but hindsight allows me to see that not every plan is going to  work out fully. If the city power ever gives us a problem we have a solution available on hand.

Also in the basement, we constructed a new boiler room. Previously the boilers had been out in the middle of the space, which is far from legal in Brooklyn. We built a cinderblock room for them to live in, and put three new boilers (one for each floor) as well as two water heaters in it. The manifold system for the radiant heat on both the first and second floors is also laid out in the boiler room.

We used renovation style cans for lighting in the soffits because they’re smaller. Hence more room for absorbtion.

While doing this, I had the electricians wire the rest of the basement for power, both clean and dirty, so I can set up a repair bench for the constant stream of malfunctioning vintage equipment that our studio supplies. As far as I can tell, something breaks every single day that we’re open. I’ve trained myself as a passable tech at this point, and it seems like I’m capable of fixing 95% or so of the problems that come up. It will be nice to finally have a workspace that isn’t slowly eating my entire kitchen.

The light fixtures went in fairly easily. We used renovation style cans rather than normal ones as they’re smaller and better sealed in the back. None are actually inset in the ceiling; instead they’re set in the bottoms of the soffit, which holds the HVAC ducting, and in the acoustical clouds that are going in the live room, control room, iso booth B and the lounge.

I had to come up with some sort of lighting solution for the sound lock, machine room and iso booth A, all of which have rather low ceilings. I ended up purchasing some super low-profile track lighting and placing it around the perimeter of the rooms. It actually looks pretty good, though I’m pretty sure some of our taller clients could clip their heads on them if they get too close to the walls.

The hardest part of this whole period of time may have been the doors and windows. The interior windows (between the iso booths and the live room…we’re leaving the control room window until after the console is delivered) are made of two panes of different thicknesses of glass, set on neoprene and isolated from each other with a neoprene strip.

Doors and iso booth windows are in

Since the intent is to make them air-tight they needed to be EXTREMELY clean. Daniel and I spent about two and a half hours wiping the 2×3-foot iso booth windows down before we were confident enough to install them. There are still a few small specks but they’re hardly noticeable unless you put a light directly on them.

However when we came in the next day to install the larger window between iso booth B and the live room we discovered that the general contracting crew had put them in without us! Some serious scrutiny has led us to leave them as they are, but we probably would have done a more thorough job if we’d been able to do it ourselves.

The doors are all standard solid core particle board. They’re extremely heavy and difficult to hang, but once we got them in place they do a pretty good job of blocking sound even without the door seals installed. For the doors’ windows we cut rectangles out of the door body and had the glass shop build us glass sandwiches with non-metallic spacers. That way, they’re responsible for getting the two panes clean, and they were relatively easy to just drop in the doors and caulk around. A few of them rattled after a day or two and needed to be resealed, but it was a comparatively simple job and turned out beautifully.

Next we wait for Tony and his crew to get back in town and tell us everything we’ve done wrong. It should be an enlightening experience, and at the end of it, two and a half years after this project started, we’ll have a functioning recording studio. I hope.

Double doors from the iso booth into the live room

Click to see more photos of the process over on our photoblog!

Marc Alan Goodman
strangeweathersound [at] gmail dot com
http://strangeweatherbrooklyn.com

Marc Alan Goodman is a producer/engineer who’s worked with artists such as Jolie Holland, Marc Ribot, Shudder to Think, Dub Trio, Normal Love, Alfonso Velez, Angel Deradoorian and Pink Skull.

 

Marc Alan Goodman’s Building Strange Weather Blog: Sheetrock, Soffits and a Race to the Finish

September 5, 2012 by  

Latest in the “Building Strange Weather Blog” series by producer/engineer and studio owner Marc Alan Goodman. Click to start at Step 1: Finding A New Home; #2: Design; #3: Waiting For Permits (Part 1) and #4: (Part 2); and #5: Stops & Starts, #6: Demolition, #7: The Structural Work, #8 The Joys of Home Ownership, #9 Rain, Rain, Rain, #10 A Control Room Is Born, #11 Plumbing Inspections aka More Delays, #12 The Timing Game and #13 Framing & Wiring.

This blog has somehow become a chronicle of hold-ups, but the end is finally in sight.

Back of the control room. We decided to drywall off all the HVAC ducts inside the soffits to save ourselves a little more volume for bass trapping.

We’ve had about a month since Thom Canova was in town putting the bulk of the technical wiring in place. During that time we needed to pull down the improperly hung HVAC ducts in the control room, finish the electrical, put sheetrock on all the walls and rehang/finish installing the previously mentioned ductwork.

Things started out well, our electrician flew through getting the boxes in place. There were a number of spots where it wasn’t quite clear how to hang them. Since we’re using Kinetics Isoclips on a number of the walls, isolating the sheetrock from the framing, the finished wall is pretty thick.

The clips with metal channel in them are about 1 1/8”, plus each wall has either two or three layers of 5/8” sheetrock, and a number of them are going to have 2” Owens Corning 705 rigid fiberglass panels for acoustical absorption. That means that the distance from the wood beam to where the switch has to eventually sit is as far as 4 3/8”.

Depending on what wall it is, some of the boxes needed to be mounted inside the sheetrock, some to the joists, and some of them I hung off of the joists using small pieces of scrap metal as extenders. Then the boxes themselves needed some mass. As far as sound is concerned electrical outlets are just spots where the wall is made of 1/8” thick sheet metal.

Wes [Lachot] had initially suggested Hilti or 3M putty packs for this, but they turned out to be expensive and I found that you can order the bulk putty from a company called Ideal. Daniel and I spent a day wrapping all of the boxes in what is essentially elementary school art class clay. The material is fireproof and doesn’t harden, so installation wasn’t too bad, aside from the obvious globs stuck under our fingernails.

Next we had to pull down the giant HVAC structure that had been prematurely hung in the control room. Neither myself nor the crew had realized while we were putting it up that sheetrock needed to go behind it. However, as has seemed to happen a few times on this project, our HVAC crew was nowhere to be found.

After waiting a couple weeks Nick (the general contractor) and his guys just pulled the thing down and sat it on the floor, but it was a big job, and they had no way to hang it back up afterwards. Then sheet-rocking commenced.

I found it a little difficult to explain to the contractors that the room really needed to be air-tight. Each layer needed to be mudded and taped before the next one went up and the edges couldn’t line up on any two layers, otherwise it would cause an acoustical weak spot. After a week or so of my pointing out small mistakes and making them go back they caught the idea. The problem was that the whole fiasco with the ductwork had put us behind schedule, and Tony and his crew were due to come back up from North Carolina to frame the soffits.

One crew was running around the room building a sheetrock box for the ducts, and the other crew was following them building the frame of the soffits.

Then, as is wont to happen, the other shoe fell. Nick left on vacation for what I had thought was a few days (Thursday to Tuesday). In reality it was from Thursday until two Tuesdays from then. We didn’t really need him to manage getting the sheetrock up, and he made himself available by email, but when it came time for the HVAC crew to come back in and hang their work, nobody showed. Every day we expected them, and every day nobody showed up.

Finally, two days before Tony got to town, Nick got an email from the HVAC guy telling us there had been a family emergency in the Caribbean and they had to leave town. I felt terrible for them, but letting us know instead of just not showing up for a week and half would have been a nice consideration.

The HVAC guys finally showed up half a day after Tony and his crew were already working. This led to an interesting and stressful week.

The HVAC crew were rushing to get the ducts up, the general contractors were following them around building sheetrock boxes to isolate all the ducts, and Tony and his crew were following them framing the soffits. There were tense moments, but somehow everything got wrapped up in time for the guys from North Carolina to get home on schedule, and then off to their next job.

Just before they left I sat down with Tony to make a list of everything we need to accomplish before he comes back to install the acoustical finish work. Some things were obvious, like painting, putting down the floors, and installing the doors and windows, but some would certainly have snuck by me if Tony wasn’t around to point them out.

The radiant flooring plywood panels we used have troughs cut in them. Pex tubing – a kind of strong, flexible hose – gets run through those troughs and filled with hot water to heat the room. However the troughs themselves run all over the place. They’re like little tunnels underneath the walls stretching from room to room. Tony realized we’re going to need to cram them full of acoustical caulk.

The door seals, made by a company in the Bronx called Zero International, need to be custom ordered, and the doors themselves need to be hung at a very specific height to function properly. Right now I’m looking forward to a month of frantically trying to accomplish everything on the list.

Radiant flooring tubes are in.

Click to see more photos of the process over on our photoblog!

- Marc Alan Goodman
strangeweathersound [at] gmail dot com
http://strangeweatherbrooklyn.com

Marc Alan Goodman is a producer/engineer who’s worked with artists such as Jolie Holland, Marc Ribot, Shudder to Think, Dub Trio, Normal Love, Alfonso Velez, Angel Deradoorian and Pink Skull.

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