As I write this post, we are about halfway through the construction of the studio. As the launch date grows nearer, it has become clear that the lengthy process of launching the studio is worth documenting.
Though we have captured every detail of the studio launch, from designing the space in the abstract to finding a suitable location (and all the logistical stuff that goes along with that), we wanted to hit the ground running and get something out there while the launch is still underway. For that reason, the scope of this series is limited to the construction of the studio – all other elements of the design and launch process will be covered in future content, and those of you who are interested in that sort of thing can feel free to ask questions in the comments below!
It struck us that a series on R1N’s construction would be of special interest to those who are curious about our history. We also thought that the series might help everyone better understand some of the finer details of the studio, including some of which that we wouldn’t be able to show off once the studio is completely finished.
So with that in mind, we are backing up to the beginning of the project and retelling the story from the start. The first phase of the build was demolition, which commenced August 15, 2016, although the design process had been underway long before that point. Back in February, the concept for the facility first emerged, and we started the initial design process. Try as we might to accelerate things, we found the build-up to be tediously slow. To transform our idea into a reality we had to, as Shakespeare writes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, give “to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.”
We leased a space in early April, and from then onward we negotiated… and we waited. We poured over contracts, finalized design details, and patiently waited to be assigned our building permit. Soon, however, we could finally begin.
The basic layout of the studio design consists of a tracking room, a control room, three isolation booths, an office/lounge, and a reverberation chamber. The first priority in our design brief was to create a functional space that also maximized comfort. That’s why, for example, the tracking room not only has ideal sightlines to our other recording spaces, but will also have comfortable furniture and natural lighting.
Here’s what our space looked like before demolition began:
We are setting up shop in a re-purposed warehouse located in Asheville NC, which had previously served as the administrative offices for a chemical manufacturing company. So understandably, the space required quite a few modifications. Basically every non-structural wall had to go, as did the fluorescent lighting and the linoleum floor. We didn’t make those removals for purely aesthetic reasons (although I don’t think any of us will miss those floors).
Here’s how things looked after two days of tearing things up:
Our chief consideration was soundproofing, which, as you probably know, entails the isolation of certain sounds within separate confined spaces. Just like you don’t want to overhear your roommate in the living room loudly reminiscing over last night’s Narcos while you are in your bedroom trying to sleep, we strive to avoid unwanted interference between the various sound sources that we’d need to record at the same time.
Crafting the perfectly soundproofed studio is, perhaps unsurprisingly, quite tricky. For one thing, the physical spaces must be completely decoupled from the larger structure. If the tracking room and the lounge share any material, sound will carry from one room to the other. And if you’re jamming away in the tracking room, you can bet that people in the other rooms will hear it.
Avoiding this phenomenon involves a unique framing process. We had to take out the non-structural walls in order to rebuild them as “rooms within rooms.” Notice in the picture below that there are two wall assemblies framed side by side.
Through framing the studio in this manner, we ensure that there is no transmission of unwanted sound through shared beams, studs, joists, etc. The double framing creates a shell to contain the sounds emanating from the space within.
The same principle of soundproofing applied to the floors. Oftentimes studios will “float” the floor by adding a new floor on top of the existing one. Fortunately for us, however, the old warehouse sat atop a concrete slab at grade, which meant that the earth itself acted as our damper, preventing the slab from vibrating or transmitting sound.
To give you a rough sense of our progression, we started framing in the tracking room:
After that, we moved on to the isolation booths:
Then, we turned to one of the non-recording spaces, the office and lounge. This room was no less important, however, since we wanted it to incorporate a reverb room and to serve as a loading zone.
From there, we concluded by framing the control room, the epicenter of the studio:
We breathed a sigh of relief. We’d finally started to build momentum, and all seemed to be going pretty well. Unfortunately, just as we were wrapping up framing, we noticed a devastating mistake. Our window assembly between the tracking and control rooms had a major problem.
As it was originally laid out, the assembly would have introduced an asymmetrical surface in the control room. Had the window been designed correctly, our left and right studio monitors would have reacted to sound wave reflections in the room in the same manner, thus producing an even and balanced audio signal. But this asymmetrical window design would throw off that balance, thereby compromising the purity and neutrality of our most crucial listening environment.
We couldn’t help but berate ourselves a bit; we should have caught this mistake. As a result of the misstep, we found ourselves facing a set of undesirable choices—we could either settle for a less-than-ideal control room, or have to toss out a lot of great work to get exactly what we wanted. We chose to rebuild, and I’m glad we did. Our space, and thus, the experience of those who rent it out, will benefit greatly from the effort.
Continue Reading – Part 2 of the R1N Recording Studio Build Diary
Additional Contributions by: Tyler Sullivan.
Did you know you can have all future entries in the R1N Build Diary and other content like it delivered right to your inbox?
For those of you interested in what the completed studio will look like, check this out. And f you are curious about the recording equipment we’ll be stocking this place with, have a look at our gear list.
If the R1N Studio has you excited enough to want to record (at a HUGE early adopters discount, mind you), give us a shout and we’ll get you booked.
Finally, beyond recording kick ass records, R1N is devoted to helping new bands and artists gain an advantage over their more experienced competition. If you want to learn more about what R1N is all about, I have written a manifesto that sums that up nicely.