Analog is king in SoundCastle latest 5.1 studio.

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by steve harvey

SoundCastle has the unique distinction of being the first recording studio in the world to install Solid State Logic’s latest version of its classic SL 4000 console. The result of discussions between SSL and SoundCastle’s owner Buddy King, among others, the SL 4000 G+ Classic combines the proven design and sonic attributes of the original 4000 Series with many of the technological advances subsequently introduced by the company.

SoundCastle, which has dozens of gold and platinum albums to its credit, already features an SL 9000 J in Studio 1. “We decided to go for a J in our tracking room as it would give us a chance to see what we should put in here,” King says of the refitted surround-capable Studio 2, where the G+ Classic now resides. Commenting on SSL’s return to its original black “raven” paint finish for the G+ Classic, he adds, “I think it’s the most attractive music recording desk I’ve seen in 35 years of being in business.”

King had initially considered another 9000 or a digital console for the room. But a straw poll of clients, reinforced by the opinion of acoustician George Augspurger, he reports, indicated a strong preference for an analog desk. Observes chief engineer Thom Roy, “There’s physics that you can’t get away from with analog. Analog is a wonderful land to live in, as long as you respect its limitations.”

Earnest talks with SSL led to an enhancement of the 4000’s classic design to accommodate today’s surround requirements. SSL’s senior VP, Phil Wagner, elaborates, “The addition of the ‘Air Cues’ aux send modification affords the engineer an additional eight sends from the 4000’s stereo cue pot, utilizing the last eight multitrack busses and the SL 653 extended aux master output panel. SoundCastle’s unique implementation provides routing of these busses to the G Series patchable faders and assignment to the compressor and master fader, along with the LCR bus, creating an 8-channel main output.”

“We wanted to retain the 4000 G+ characteristics but take on-board some of the things we really liked about 8000’s, such as surround off the short fader,” comments Roy. SSL also embraced technology from a third party, he notes, indicating the Martinsound MultiMAX EX surround monitor controller factory-integrated into the console’s center section.

Studio 2, which was designed by Vincent van Haaf of Waterland Designs and was first outfitted nearly 12 years ago, boasts a pair of large soffit-mounted Augspurger monitors, incorporating TAD and JBL components. But, as King explains, there are currently no plans to permanently install additional monitors. “We’re going to do surround with ‘speakers-on-a-stick’ so we can still do stereo,” he says. “Plus, we want to get experience here before we build a new room from the ground up that may have speakers built-in.”

Genelec 1031A and 1032A monitors have been selected for 5.1 monitoring in Studio 2. “I have experience in the post community where Genelecs proliferate,” comments Roy, noting SoundCastle’s desire for pm3 certification and Genelec’s recent approval by THX. “I’ve noticed one thing about Genelecs — as you turn the volume up, they just get louder, they don’t change tone. These are the best tools for this market, because they are instantly adaptable, they are extremely reliable, and their performance is known.”

Although Studio 2 is wired for CAT-5 and offers Pro Tools hook-ups, the emphasis is very much on analog. Studer A820 and A827 24-track plus 2-track analog tape machines sit in the machine alcove, and, although digital processing is represented by units such as AMS’ DMX-1580S and RMX-16 plus various Lexicon and Yamaha reverbs, they are outnumbered by the analog classics. Six bays house any engineer’s dream complement of outboard gear, including a Universal Audio 175-B, UREI 1176LN, Neve 34628, GML and API parametric EQs, and a variety of Avalon, Pultec, and dbx equipment.

“We were the first studio to use [SSL’s] Screensound and do nonlinear editing,” reports King. “The rooms where we used to have the Screensounds are becoming writer/producer rooms. We’re throwing out our tech room and machine room concept and changing our machine room to be an information technology and tape transfer room.

“Now we’re really excited to do ‘interactive post development,’ as I call it,” King continues. “We think that there’s going to be a nice future for the repurposing of music assets, because right now that’s being done at video places or in big theater rooms, and the criteria for hearing sound in those places are not necessarily those for the living room. We really would like to do the entire repurposing — from the picture to the programming to the authoring to the design and development. That is the concept we are coming up with for our new company, called PictureTalk. And we want to be able to use classic technology for the new mixing requirements of the new millennium.”

Contact SoundCastle at 323-665-5201 or visit them online at

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