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.

Marc Alan Goodman’s Building Strange Weather Blog: The Timing Game

June 15, 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, and #11 Plumbing Inspections aka More Delays

WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN: After six months of screwing around we’re back in business.

My last blog post was published five months into what was essentially a six-month standstill of our work building the new Strange Weather Studios.

The plumbing inspection happened the day before the chief at the Department of Buildings agreed to look at our plans – we passed the plumbing inspection but we failed for the gas lines. However right after the plans were signed off by the DoB, our plumber was working on a different job site and asked an inspector to come take a look at our place if he had time. He swung by that same day, and now that the inspection is over, things are starting to move fast.

The electrical contractor came in to start running wires around the studio. It had been so long since the electrical crew had been in that the staff had changed, and the new man now in charge of our site, Paul, is fantastic. He’s asked me detailed questions about the plans every day, and even offered to come in and do some pro-bono work when we do the low-voltage technical wiring so he can see how it’s done.

Wirework at Strange Weather

The electrical has been going in really fast, and the work looks great. He’s also running all of the security cameras lines for me. I need to figure out what to do about a door intercom before he wraps up so I can get him to help out with that as well.

Now the timing game begins.

Our contractor Tony and his studio construction crew from North Carolina are working on another of Wes Lachot’s studios in Dubai right now, but before he even gets in we need to put three layers of 5/8” sheetrock on the ceiling, mudded and taped on each individual layer and with acoustical caulk between the drywall and the brick walls. It’s all hanging from springs that we put in months ago.

But of course things in Dubai aren’t going smoothly, so Tony will probably be pushed back, which means pushing back Thom Canova, our technical wiring guy – also from North Carolina. Once that job is done the electrical crew comes back in to install all of the outlets and switches. Then the drywall crew puts sheetrock on all the walls, followed by the HVAC crew coming in to install (or rather reinstall) the duct-work.

After that Tony and his crew return to frame the soffits, which then need to be covered by the drywall crew. You’re probably getting the idea. Everybody wants to know exactly when I’ll need them, and at this point it’s imperative that things keep moving smoothly. We’ve already spent more than enough money dealing with down time.

The other half of the timing game is that we need to start predicting all the way to the end. Our calendar at the current space is already booked through a good portion of July. If things move smoothly, and I truly hope they do, we could be moving in mid August. That means it’s about time to start putting off work. In addition to that I got in contact with API about assembling the rest of our console. They need a couple months advance lead to build the third bucket and prepare a crew to come install it.

If things start slipping behind now all of the sudden I’ll have unnecessary down time at both studios, and that’s a real potential killer.

Now that it’s all coming together we’re also coming towards the end of our budget. The six months of holdups and extenuating circumstances at home (my wife has been out of work with severe back problems for almost two months) are eating away as well. This is definitely the scariest part for me so far, but hopes are high. I’ll keep you updated as things develop.

Click to see photos of the studio in progress at the Strange Weather 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: Plumbing Inspections aka More Delays

March 28, 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, and #10 A Control Room Is Born.

If you’ve been following this blog you may be wondering why there hasn’t been an entry in about four months. I promise you I am no less confused about the issue.

Last time we spoke Tony and his crew were up from North Carolina framing out our control room. We had to tear out the HVAC that had previously been installed and redo it, but this time the crew did a great job and it looks awesome. Shortly after they left we got ready to call for a plumbing inspection. The city needs to make sure that all of the new gas and waste pipes for the building are up to code before we’re allowed to seal up the walls. However this has caused a bit of a problem.

The studio plumbing is finally roughed in, waiting for an inspection that seems like it will never come

When our plumber went to finalize his work for the inspection, he realized that there was a mistake in the riser diagram.

When you call for an inspection you need plans that are stamped by the NY Department of Buildings. They’re supposed to fully review the documents before they stamp them, but occasionally things slip by, just like they slipped by us. The riser diagram is essentially a table of contents for the plans. It’s on the top of the first page, and is a quick overview of all the work that is being done. Apparently that’s as far as the inspector will usually look. Since ours had a mistake we had to go back and file it again.

Then came the trouble. Due to the holidays, communication slowed down significantly, and it took us almost all the way until Christmas to get the necessary changes fully sorted out. The whole thing is complicated by the fact that we essentially have three separate jobs, one for the ground floor studio, one for the apartment upstairs, and one pertaining to the boilers. The plans for the first floor need to show the work from the second floor as “existing” rather than “new” on the riser diagram, and vice versa, and it’s unclear how the DoB wants the boilers to play in. This has caused endless confusion for my expediter who I personally believe may not be paying very good attention. In early January we filed the new paperwork and sat on our hands waiting for the city to get back to us.

At the beginning of February the stamped documents came back to us, and my contractor realized that the new boilers weren’t listed on the first and second floor plumbing plans! Nick (the contractor) assured me that the inspector would most likely fail us, so we went back to the drawing board. This time I got myself, Nick and Hannah (the architect) in a room together to nail down all the details. I figured we could do it by email the first time and it bit me in the face, so this time I made sure to be on top of it. Everything got cleared up, and we were ready to submit a second set.

Once again the documents went to my expediter and we sat around for a month while they went who-knows-where. Last Tuesday I got an email saying that we had an appointment with the Department of Buildings to get the new sets approved. But when Tuesday came around and I asked about it I found out that the person in charge of reviewing our plans had just been hired and this was their first week. So the DoB needed to postpone.

One week later I’m still waiting to hear from my expediter about when our new appointment will be. Once it happens we should be able to call for the inspections and get this all over with. The biggest fork in the eye is that the inspector likely won’t even show up! When you call for a plumbing inspection in Brooklyn you set a date and time. If the inspector can make it he or she inspects, but if not you automatically pass. I’ve been told that they only show up about half of the time.

I can only imagine that if I had an additional couple dozen thousand dollars or so to spend on an expeditor we never would have had this problem. As far as I can tell the expeditor system is simply what replaced good old-fashioned bribery in this town. The more you pay your expeditor the faster you can get your job done, and if you don’t have one at all, and you’re going to the Department of Buildings hat-in-hand, don’t ever expect to work.

Marc Alan Goodman's Strange Weather is a recording studio currently located in East Williamsburg pending the new build-out in Williamsburg proper.

As for right now I’m just learning to be patient.

I look around at all the other construction in the neighborhood and plenty of places have been working just as long as I have, if not longer. So I’m keeping my head up. The only worry right now is scheduling. Once the inspection is over with we can close up the studio’s ceiling and frame the iso booths and lounge, which means bringing Tony and his crew back up from NC. However they’re working on a number of studios right now (Tony just informed me he’s headed to Dubai for two weeks to work on one of Wes’s new designs), and I’m hoping that won’t cause more down-time.

There is good news. Daniel Schlett’s been working his tail-bone off at the current studio, which is keeping us above water money-wise. We’ve worked with a ton of really great artists, and we’re busier than ever. If there’s one thing that makes me feel good about this whole project it’s the fact that if we keep booking more gigs at the rate we have been over the last two years we’ll be completely saturated by the time we move.

- 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: A Control Room is Born

November 9, 2011 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, and #9 Rain, Rain, Rain.

Wow, what a month. If you remember last time we were held up because of rain, and I was watching it fall through and collect in our basement, wondering when we would get an opportunity to seal up the roofs. That opportunity finally came, and inside work has seriously begun. But first came AES.

In no way could I have expected the outpouring of support for the build we received during the convention. It seemed like every person we spoke to had heard about the build and had great things to say about how excited they are to see the place finished. After a year of toiling with what has felt like minimal results my ego got the boost it needed, and the excitement has returned. I’d like to take a quick moment to thank all of you reading this. Just knowing you’re doing that is moving this project along more than anything else.

Framing the control room at Strange Weather

Getting back to business, the Tuesday following the Convention Tony Brett and his crew came up from North Carolina to frame the control room. I don’t think I’ve ever met a better crew of guys in my life. To call them craftsmen feels like an understatement.

First thing on Tuesday they walk into the space and immediately discover everything I’ve been doing wrong, but in a very constructive way. One look at the few existing HVAC problems and Tony was able to tell me exactly what I needed to change to make it work.

At some point our engineer had switched out the split units (where the compressor is outside and the air handler is inside) for combined units that are entirely outside. While this does put the fan in the air handler farther away from the actual control room, it also means that there’s nothing isolating the ducts on the outside from the ducts on the inside; hence, mechanical noise such as rainfall could become a serious problem.

The solution is relatively simple in that we need to insulate the ducts that are outside in some way, but without that knowledge now we could have had a serious problem on our hands further down the road.

Fresh concrete on the control room floor, with PVC pipes running underneath. The wood box will be the cable trough for underneath the console.

After analyzing the mechanical plans further, I am now going back to my engineer to redraw the entire thing. If we had installed the rest of the HVAC to the current plans it would have all had to be torn out. In an hour Tony had saved me more money than it was costing to put them up in a Brooklyn hotel for the month of work they’ll be doing.

The next big discovery was the centerline of the building. We had already laid out PVC piping for the studio wiring under the control room floor. The floor is cement and we had poured a new layer on top of it.

But when we measured the room to figure out where to place the pipes, which need to come up exactly under the console, racks, and patchbay, we worked from the center of the back wall. It turns out that the rear section of the building, which was built after the front, skews away at a slight angle. It’s only a difference of two or three inches, but suddenly it was clear that not having a definitive centerline to work from would have a severe effect on the symmetry of the place.

Out came the laser levels and scientific calculator, and a few tough measurements and trigonometric functions later, Tony had discovered a centerline that could be followed through the entire building without having to change the plans in any way. And then, the real work began.

Shaping up!

The framing of the control room itself seemed to happen in a flash. The guys knew exactly what they were doing, and weren’t afraid to go back and recut a piece of wood seven or eight times in order to get the exact angle needed to make the room fit together. If I had to guess I’d say that they were working well within a sixteenth of an inch tolerance, and doing so with ten-foot pieces of lumber from a New York yard, some of which were straight and some not so much.

The front corners of the room were most perplexing to me, where multiple angles on multiple planes intersect, but Tony and his crew didn’t even flinch. By mid-Sunday afternoon the control room was standing as it’s going to stand from now on, and it finally looks like we’re building a recording studio.

On top of all of that, the guys helped me identify a number of problems I need to deal with including leaks, plumbing and electrical issues, and dozens of other things. I thought that being a year into this project, I had a pretty complete understanding of the plans, but suddenly it was like I was looking at a whole new set.

I have my work cut out for me over the next few weeks getting everything in line for them to come back up and help finish the framing, but for the first time I feel like I know exactly what it is I need to be doing.

Other parts of the project are coming along as well. In the apartment, all of the walls are framed, the plumbing is roughed in and the electric is all in place. Next step is to get an inspector to sign off so we can sheetrock the walls. However the riser diagrams on our stamped plans are missing one HVAC unit and a boiler, which means we need to get the plans changed before we can move on, and as I’m sure you know now, getting the Department of Buildings to do anything is a nightmare. Hopefully we’ll have all of that lined up just in time to sheetrock the studio as well.

Oh, and my neighbor who’d disappeared after demanding that I remove a tree finally sent a check, which at this point I had all but given up on receiving. Things are looking up and up.

You can head over to our photoblog at http://strangeweatherbrooklyn.blogspot.com if you want to see more pictures of the control room framing process, and as always please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all.

And thanks for reading!

- 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.

 

Review: 2Q Intelligent Talkback Remote by Marc Alan Goodman

November 2, 2011 by  

Communication is vital in any recording studio, but the separation between the musicians and engineer will strain the conversation without a proper workaround.

Artists often come into the studio ready to bare their souls which can lead to extremely personal, and productive interactions during a session. However, in most studios there is more than a figurative wall between the musicians and the engineer.

Since that wall went up engineers have been looking for ways to get around it, to enable an ongoing dialog so the musician does not feel like they’re trapped alone in a fishbowl.

2Q: "The Intelligent Talkback Remote"

The obvious solution has been the talkback button – simply, a microphone in the control room which allows the engineers, producers, or whoever is isolated from the musician to share their input. Originally the talkback mic was just left on all the time, but in order to prevent feedback through the studio’s monitors it has over time been connected to a simple momentary switch. This switch is the only thing preventing clear communication between the two rooms, and it always seems to do a good job of it.

Our control room – at Strange Weather – has become crowded with gear over the past few years, and as a result it’s difficult for anyone other than the engineer to sit at the desk itself. When another band member, producer, or anyone else in the room wants to be able to speak with a musician in isolation they have to get right into the engineer’s space. To top it off, when conversations get excited people often forget to press the button and end up talking to themselves.

The 2Q Wireless Talkback Remote system – developed by Techshop NY – is not a new idea. I’ve worked in a number of SSL rooms over the years where the house tech had rigged up a similar wireless talkback system using garage door openers. However they were always directional, never seemed to work right, ran on batteries which died quickly and you had to be able to build it yourself.

The 2Q solves all of those problems.

The package includes two remote controls, a receiver, and a wall wart power supply. At our request it came wired up to interface with our API 1608, so all we had to do was plug in the 5-pin XLR to the remote port on the desk and plug in the attached wall wart. The remote controls could then activate the talkback microphone from anywhere in the room.

First things first, as soon as we had it plugged in I moved from the desk to the couch while the musician was warming up. We were tracking some preliminaries for the new Alfonso Velez album, and the drummer wanted an opportunity to get used to the kit and move things around.

Normally I would sit at the desk so I could quickly answer any questions he may have or make any adjustments to the cue mix. However this time I got my head out of the computer monitor and was able to respond in a timely manner by using the remote.

Once we got going I gave the remotes to the bass player, who was in the control room, and the drummer who was in the live room. Alfonso had a scratch vocal mic set up so it was easy for him to communicate, but not so easy for other people to reply. Now, when the bassist had something to say to the drummer he didn’t need to lean over and get my attention at the desk, he could simply push a button. The drummer, on the other hand, didn’t need the button to talk, but whenever he felt like something was going on in the control room that he couldn’t hear all he had to do was press the button and he was part of the conversation.

The 2Q system is made by Mike Donahower out of Tech Shop NY.

After the session we spent a bunch of time trying to trick the 2Q. We put the remotes under pillows, we brought them down the hall, and no matter what we did they worked flawlessly.

The 2Q is a simple solution for a simple problem, and it does a fantastic job of it. It may not be in the signal chain, but it’s amazing how much improving communication can improve both people’s moods and their performances. I’d been considering building my own system for the same purpose, and now that I have it running I can’t believe I put it off for so long.

- Marc Alan Goodman, Strange Weather Brooklyn

The 2Q Wireless Talkback Remote ($270) is available through Redco Distribution or directly from Tech Shop NY via www.twocue.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: Rain Rain Rain

September 16, 2011 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 and #8 The Joys of Home Ownership.

Just when I thought the Department of Buildings would my biggest road block, nature stepped in and showed me who’s boss. The structural repairs to the building have been finished for weeks, but the holes in the roof and walls they caused can’t be sealed up until the rain stops.

First was the storm two weeks before Irene. That was actually the worst since we weren’t expecting it. The roof was still wide open with a piece of plywood laying over it that read “CAUTION: HOLO ROOF”. An intriguing typo! Maybe I was too excited about the possibility of owning a “holo-roof” (holographic?!) to worry about the potential repercussions. Meanwhile, the rain was excited about swooping right in and soaking the hell out of the place. And insects were excited about the new stagnant lake that developed in my basement. It’s like a party down there.

Not much can be done while we’re waiting for the weather to take our side, but we’ve been doing it anyway.

The original chimney was removed (causing yet another hole in our exterior) and is now being replaced by one along the north wall, which will eventually go through the studios only closet space (who needs storage anyway?). The plywood radiant flooring system has been installed in the second floor. This took quite a bit of rain as well, but seems to be fine.

And the real exciting step forward is that the springs and grid to hang the ceiling of the studio have been installed. Right now the grid is pressed up against the ceiling joists, but once we hang three layers of 5/8 drywall from it the springs will compress and the ceiling should hang about three quarters of an inch below the joists. We were able to keep the drop so minimal by hanging the springs from the sides of the old wooden joists instead of from the bottom, as we would have had to do if we had completely replaced the structure with steel. Our planned ceiling height is only about ten feet, which while comfortable doesn’t leave us a lot of room to play with. Six inches saved feels like a mile.

Then, two weeks after that first storm, Hurricane Irene came to visit. If you were in NYC you know, but if not it’s hard to describe what a strange occurrence it was. Just ten or so blocks from here people were all evacuated from their homes, and due to the transit and taxi shutdown the whole city was quiet. Luckily for me both my current and future studios are set on higher ground. All we got was a slight addition to our basement lake. There were a couple of things stored in the basement on top of wood palates, including our RPG diffusers for the back wall of the control room. It seems like everything most likely survived, if damply.

The good thing the hurricane brought was a couple clear days afterward, which gave us time to put a first layer down on one of our four (!) roofs and to pour the concrete roof over the control room. Once that was done we got right into hanging the HVAC ducts. In order to keep them quiet Wes [Lachot, studio designer/acoustician] specified an extremely low air velocity for the system, which means we need to have huge ducts. However one look at them told me they were too huge.

The view down Graham Avenue, post-hurricane.

I had to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate our needs in order to size them in a way that wouldn’t cost us the ceiling height we had just saved in the live room. Our engineer, Bruce, while obviously overworked still made time to work out the details within a couple of days of my asking.

Now, it’s the Tuesday after Labor Day, and I’m sitting in my apartment, listening to the rain again, wondering when we’ll get a chance to finish the roofs. As soon as we do we can start the inside work, including framing everything out and the wiring, but until then I’m keeping myself occupied by designing our new headphone distribution system. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

As always you can catch weekly updates on our photoblog at http://strangeweatherbrooklyn.blogspot.com and you can feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

- 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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