New Room: Figure 8 Recording – Neve + SSL in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

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An audio peanut butter cup has arrived in Prospect Heights.

That’s what Figure 8 Recording has with the console combo that leaves everyone satisfied: Neve and SSL. With a Neve 5316 operating upstairs, and an SSL AWS 900 downstairs, purists of every stripe can track, mix and match to their heart’s content.

The objective of an inspired crew for their attractive facility is simple: provide the highest fidelity possible, but keep it affordable. Everyone from Pussy Riot to Marc Ribot, Here We Go Magic, and Son Lux have already caught on. And what’s the crazy way these guys mix on their SSL? You’ll be green with ergonomic envy!

Eli Crews, Head Engineer lays out this studio’s unique story, and how Figure 8 became Brooklyn’s latest sonic confection.

Upstairs at the 8: 1978 Neve 5316 w/ 30 channels of 33114 preamp/EQ.

Upstairs at the 8: 1978 Neve 5316 w/ 30 channels of 33114 preamp/EQ.

Facility Name: Figure 8 Recording


Location: Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Neighborhood Advantages: We’re very close to Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Brooklyn Museum. Lower Manhattan is 20 minutes away by taxi or on the B/Q or 2/3.

There’s also tons of amazing food around, including the best Jamaican restaurant in town (The Islands) and a rad new beer bar on the corner called Gold Star.

Date of Birth: November 2014 (upstairs studio); December 2015 (downstairs studio)

Facility Focus: Equally well-suited for tracking and mixing, Figure 8 has two rooms that can either be used independently or joined together into one big multi-room facility, complete with video feeds.

While we focus mostly on making records, we have the capability of doing soundtrack work and (stereo) film mixing as well.

Out beyond this vibey live room is a private backyard.

Out beyond this vibey, cork-and-felt-clad live room is a private backyard.

What’s Your Story? Figure 8 owner Shahzad Ismaily needed a place to store all of the amazing gear he had been amassing over many years of traveling the world as a session musician and producer, so we figured we may as well make a recording studio out of it.

Philip Weinrobe did most of the heavy lifting getting the proper permitting, and making sure we wouldn’t disturb our neighbors in our rather residential part of Brooklyn. Eli Crews moved out from Oakland, CA to help with the install and wiring, and brought more gear with him.

Now that everything is in place, we have a focus on extreme creativity, coupled with the desire to be able to capture the absolute highest fidelity possible. Another desire of ours is to keep the cost as low as possible for our clients, so we’re going to maintain our rates at $300-$400/day (depending on the room, not including an engineer) for as long as we can.

Clients/Credits: Marc Ribot, Colin Stetson, Tenzin Choegyal (with Laurie Anderson and Jesse Paris Smith), the Julie Ruin, Pussy Riot, Richard Hell, Damien Rice, Here We Go Magic, Son Lux

For Example… Colin Stetson’s Sorrow, Pussy Riot’s I Can’t Breathe (ft. Richard Hell), Marc Ribot’s soundtrack for the HBO documentary Class Divide, Palm’s debut LP Trading Basics, Son Lux’s Redone.

Key Personnel: Shahzad Ismaily, owner; Eli Crews, head engineer; Philip Weinrobe and Sam Owens, house engineers; Michael Coleman, studio manager

System Highlights: Neve 5316 console (30 preamps, 50 channels at mix); SSL AWS 900/Neve Kelso; Pro Tools HDX with 32 channels of Mytek conversion per room; Stephens 24-track 2” machine; Ampex ATR-102 1/2” mixdown deck; EMT 140 tube plate reverb; loads of high-end vintage and modern microphones; many rare and amazing-sounding guitars, basses and keyboard instruments.

Downstairs: The SSL AWS 900+ accompanies a cork-and-felt clad live room.

Downstairs: The SSL AWS 900+.

Dos Desks: When this particular Neve became available, we knew we needed it. It’s a 1978 broadcast desk, and really just sounds incredible. Plus, it’s in impeccable shape for a desk of this vintage.

When putting together the second room downstairs, we thought we’d give ourselves a completely different approach. We were looking for a more modern workflow, and the ability to flip the desk into a DAW controller, but we still definitely wanted an analog console. Talking it over with our friend Allen Farmelo, he suggested that we look at the AWS series, and we found a decade-old one at a good price. The cool thing is that you can update or upgrade almost every feature on the desk, so it’s functionally almost identical to a new AWS 924, at a fraction of the cost.

So far it really seems like it was the right choice, since we’ve been loving how our mixes have been sounding through it. We have plenty of ways to add “color” to the mixes in that room, including a 12-channel 1973 Neve Kelso that used to belong to Daniel Lanois, so having the SSL headroom and clarity has been an eye-opener.

Both of our main consoles have their strengths, but only the AWS fits onto hydraulic legs that allow us to mix standing up at the push of a button.

See their lift in action:

Distinguishing Characteristics: Aside from the unique approach to the physical space of the studio, the next most distinguishing thing would probably be our synth collection.

All three of the founding members of the studio have strong interests in analog synthesizers, so we have many rare and handmade synths, including a Steiner EVI, a Buchla Music Easel, multiple Moogs (including a theremin), a Prophet 600, a Juno 60, an ARP Omni-2, a Soviet-era Polivoks, a bunch of small Casios and Yamahas, and a number of esoteric drum machines, as well as an extensive and unique modular synth setup.

This is an ever-growing list, and is all in addition to our Steinway piano, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, and Estey pump organ.

The building is on fire, you only have time to grab ONE thing to save, what is it?: Of course, it’s probably the Neve, but that fire better be moving pretty slowly…

Rave Reviews: Mostly, the thing we hear from people is that they feel really, really comfortable from the moment they walk into Figure 8. Since all of us involved in creating the place have spent a lot of time as musicians in other studios, we knew from the get-go what we loved (and didn’t love) about spending many hours in a row in certain spaces.

There’s definitely an emphasis on wood, warm colors, and pleasing lighting. The upstairs studio also has a huge amount of natural light. Plus, having everything you need at arm’s length is important, so we have tried to think of anything anyone may need at a session, and provide those things.

Being at ease physically is a really good place to start from during any creative endeavor, in our viewpoint. Then, of course, it has to all sound good, which we have also spent a lot of time and energy to ensure.

Most Memorable Session Ever: At 10pm one night, Phil got a call to get the studio ready. In walked Richard Hell and Pussy Riot. They recorded their first English-language single, “I Can’t Breathe”. The session went until 7am.

They came back the next day at the same time and mixed until 8am. That was after we had only been open for less than a month! Working with a legend like Richard Hell and cultural forces like Pussy Riot won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Session You’d Like to Forget: I guess we’ve been lucky, nothing is coming to mind for this one.

Blatant Shoutout: Since Bowie is sadly no longer an option, next in line might be Radiohead. They’re welcome to bring Nigel along as well.

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