SOHO, MANHATTAN: Brooklyn may be buzzing with new studios, but for many Manhattan remains the mainland.
The recent opening of Sweet Sounds in SoHo shows how strong that sentiment continues to be. A two-room tracking and mixing facility within the downtown epicenter that is 594 Broadway, Sweet Sounds is all things NYC in a nutshell – entertainment, ambition, and expansion.
The space may be fresh, but neither the name nor the game is new for studio owner Dinesh Boaz. Along with a highly capable crew of engineers, Boaz started Sweet Sounds in 2006, operating out of the busy Mercy Sound complex on 14th Street and attracting a growing clientele of hip hop artists, vocal trackers, and electronic music producers.
But Boaz and associates eventually outgrew the space, and the young-but-seasoned proprietor knew 2012 would be the year to make the move, all the better to serve a client list that has included O.A.R., Toots and the Maytals, Mos Def, Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y, Raekwon, Todd Terry, DJ Skribble, Stalley, Trina, Jim Jones, Ski Beatz, Sean Kingston, Talib Kweli and Hank Shocklee.
“The place evolved from somewhere that I’d work on my own music to a commercial business,” says Boaz, an electronic music producer and former DJ. “The last two years we were constantly booked and packed, but it was one room with one booth – the number of clients was always going to be capped. There weren’t any options for us to grow there, so we started looking for a place to go.”
Grow In SoHo
At 594 Broadway, Boaz located the optimal next step – a raw loft space that was ready to be built out. Blessed with abundant natural light from the large east-facing windows overlooking Crosby Street, Boaz knew he had found a place where he could go bigger and better, while staying in the lane that he likes.
“We’re bringing professional tracking, mixing and production to the NYC market in a very high-end space with a high caliber of engineers, yet it’s very accessible,” Boaz explains. “Our pricing model hasn’t changed much from our old space, and our approach to customer service hasn’t either. It’s about working with upcoming artists, but also being able to reach bigger acts now. That’s where we fit in. We are also taking on voiceover projects, and it’s been exciting to work with a new range of clientele.
“Obviously there’s tons of competition in Manhattan, and in Brooklyn as well. We feel like we’re in a good position because we’re located very centrally in prime SoHo–yet our rates are the same as Brooklyn studios and other Manhattan-based facilities. The combination of where we are and the vibe and setup we have created, makes it a big part of the appeal for artists.”
Smart Studio Design
Once he took hold of the space, Boaz enlisted studio architect Douglas Welsh of Box 59 Design — whose experience in studio design developed with his work at Kravitz Design — to maximize the railroad-style layout of Sweet Sounds. Welsh worked alongside acoustics expert Steve Vavagiakis, who also helped see through the vision for the space.
The duo implemented an efficient design that shares the studio’s assets, while still allowing modular use and separation when desired. Upon entering, visitors find themselves in the retro-style lounge, with the entrance to the smaller “Broadway” production suite to their left.
Go into the Broadway suite, and you can see clear through the glass-walled vocal booth that sits in between both that space and the larger “Crosby” control room, then straight on back to the 175 sq. ft. live space at the end. The result: the natural light of the live room’s windows can illuminate all four rooms, or also be cut off by curtains between the spaces, if preferable. Additional acoustics treatment work was performed by Audio Structures (the team behind Rubber Tracks and Jungle City). An inspiring downtown view, including a beautiful perspective of the legendary Puck Building, is there for the taking.
Just as important as the light is the networked workflow that links the rooms for production purposes. “The whole space is plug-and-play with the rest of the space,” says Boaz. “There’s lines of sight from each room, you have the natural daylight in the whole space, and you can connect all of them. That’s the modern vision for a facility, instead of just a traditional ‘A’ Room and ‘B’ room that are separated.”
Gear List Bliss
Let’s get to the gear, because there’s plenty to check out at Sweet Sounds without being over the top.
API 512c, Heritage Audio 1073, and SSL X-Rack 618 mic pres are on hand, as are API 550a and SSL X-Rack 625 EQs. Compressors are represented by the likes of Manley Stereo Variable MU, SSL X-Rack 618, and Empirical Labs Distressors. In the mic locker, the tasteful collection includes a Neumman U 87 and TLM 49, AEA R88 mk2, Mojave MA300 tube condensers, Shure Beta 52a, and a Royer R-121 ribbon microphone.
Closer to the computer, Sweet Sounds has Apogee Rosetta Interfaces, Crane Song Ltd. Avocet Monitor Controllers, a Unitor 8 channel MIDI Interface, and Lynx Aurora 32-channel linked interface. Pro Tools 10 HD systems play nice with Quad Core Mac Pros. Meanwhile, monitoring comes via Focal Twin BE6, Yamaha NS-10s, big-sounding Tannoy DMT System 1200 Fairfield mains, and Avantone MixCubes.
Selecting the Console
But the item that really arrests your eye – and then your ears – is the Neve 5088 console, which is stocked with 5032 EQ’s/mic pres, and a 5043 compressor on the two buss. Boaz and Sweet Sounds Producer/Mixer/Engineer Jason Finkel embarked on a five-month search for the ideal board, considering everything from vintage British desks to no console at all, before finally arriving on the 5088.
“One option was a vintage console, like an MCI,” Boaz recalls. “We spoke to a bunch of different brokers, and it was an interesting process that followed. I’d get texts that would say, ‘This console is $20,000 and we can have it NYC next week.’ We almost put a deposit down on an old Trident 80c coming out of Florida – we were at the finish line, but then we realized we couldn’t actually fit it in the elevator!
“Eventually, David Lyon at Sonic Circus had a Neve 5088 that we decided on. It was a higher price point than an MCI, but we realized we wanted something less than five yeas old, with less day-to-day maintenance: The parts are there, the support is there, the techs are available.”
After all the research, Boaz is confident that Sweet Sounds chose wisely. “Our clients and our staff are really excited about the console that we’ve found – it’s a unique desk to have in this market. Now we have a smaller console, we can expand it, customize it, and add modules. It’s a really great collection of preamps, EQs, a nice master buss compressor, and a beautiful meter bridge.
“I would characterize the sound of the 5088 as really warm and crunchy. It’s a very good mix of modern and vintage.”
It’s clear before long that Boaz considers Sweet Sounds to be a team effort. Whenever possible, he’ll note the contributions of staffers including Producer/Mixer/ Head Engineer Brian Cid, Mixer/Engineer Patrick Billard, Bookings Manager James Gill, the aforementioned Finkel and a team of dedicated interns.