A few blocks down from Penn Station’s 24/7 hum, there’s a new facility coming on like a freight train.
The underground rumble is from GSI Studios. On the eighth floor of a W. 29th Street office building between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, it’s in a West-side corridor that hosts dozens of music studios, both public and private. Engineers, mixers, producers and composers have long been setting up shop on these mercantile blocks – it’s a fluid situation, where long-term recording tenants reside right next to studios that open and close in a blip.
Among the upstarts in the area, bet on GSI Studios to stick. Founded by serious jazzheads that bring a rock attitude to recording, the facility has been busy since Day One in April. It’s an upgrade space for Daniel Rovin, Austin White, Eric Harland, who toughed it out in a smaller studio downtown and then decided they were ready to make a move, ramping up their clients (Questlove, DeJ Loaf, Dave Holland) to this more ambitious operation.
GSI Studios is equipped with a 32-channel API 1608 console and ATC monitors, under the supervision of Head Engineer Josh Giunta and Chief Tech Mike Bocchino. Their control room looks out to a live room that has something special for Midtown Manhattan – make that FOUR something specials. There’s a “secret weapon” B Room, a creative atmosphere where work and play is equally encouraged, plus an in-house record label that central to the business model.
Are you ready to get on board? Co-founder Daniel Rovin dives into the details.
Facility Name: GSI Studios
Location: Midtown, Manhattan (146 w29th Street)
Date of Birth: April, 2017
What We’re All About: Tracking live music & mixing
Owners – Daniel Rovin, Austin White, Eric Harland
Head Engineer – Josh Giunta
Chief Tech – Mike Bocchino
Before We Started This Studio: Austin and I met growing up playing music in South Carolina. By 2007 we both had moved to New York and in 2011 we decided to start GSI Studios just as a project studio. We became fast friends with jazz drummer Eric Harland after meeting him at the Jazz Standard in Manhattan.
We decided to partner and take the leap from a project studio to gut-renovating a brand new state of the art space. Eric also introduced us to our now Head Engineer, Josh Giunta, who was previously engineering at SweetSounds Studio. Our Chief Tech, Mike Bocchino, was a chief tech at Electric Lady.
Our team is unique in that we’re all musicians, so we have a similar vision of creating music in the most pure way possible.
What We’ve Done: Our biggest clients since opening in April have been Questlove and DeJ Loaf. We’ve also worked with a whole host of jazz artists. You name them, they’ve been here – from Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Reggie Workman, Taylor Eigsti, Larry Grenadier, and the list goes on.
Location Location Location: We were already on 28th street before the renovation, but having a centralized NYC location was always one of our biggest assets that we didn’t want to change.
Studios in the area are closing every day. And not many studios in the neighborhood have the kind of live room and state-of-the art facility that we have. Since we work with a lot of touring musicians who aren’t from NYC, it’s more appealing and accommodating for them to come to midtown rather than Brooklyn or Queens, where a lot of studios now exist.
Design and Construction: This was a completely raw space. We built 100% of everything in here, which was by design, because we wanted to design the exact kind of studio we envisioned. We’re friends with Joe Salvatto from Salvatto Sound (who has built and worked at many NYC studios over the last 30 years) and we worked with him to design the studio. He was actually the one who also connected us with Mike, our Chief Tech.
The challenges of building a studio on the eighth floor of a commercial building were not few and far between, which was another reason why Joe’s expertise was so important. I can’t tell you how many permits were involved, but we took great time and care into making sure our sound didn’t disrupt the other tenants, and more importantly that their noise doesn’t infiltrate ours. Of course in NYC we also have to be extremely conscious of street noise…you never want a take to be going great only to be ruined (or improved??) by a siren!
Our wiring expert Matt Snedecor basically wired the whole place — he was a huge asset in building the place from the ground up.
The Equipment List: (Head Engineer Josh Giunta) We decided to go with the API 1608 for two main reasons: 1) we wanted a new console instead of an old one in order to minimize the amount of maintenance. 2) The sound of the API complements the styles of music we record the most; acoustic instruments, bands, and musician based projects.
The sound of the API makes everything gel in a way that makes music sound more complete and more cohesive. The board sums audio in a way that connects the harmonics of the individual instruments, resulting in heavier and richer tones. It makes music sound wider and deeper, with a broader range of space that the ear can fixate on. It makes it easier for an engineer to get finished sounding tracks, it does so much of the heavy lifting for blending a songs parts together.
The more of the boards circuitry you use, the more it adds. I use all of the console for my mixes, summing out all of my tracks to the board, using the groups, using the EQs on each channel, and using the analogue sends.
Some other gear highlights for the studio include:
Manley Massive Passive Stereo EQ – Love how this opens things up on the top end and cleans up low end on the mix buss, piano, drum overheads, vocal groups, etc…
BAE 1073 mic preamp/EQ – My favorite for vocals, kick or snare, bass.
Sony c-800 – One of the most detailed mics I’ve ever used. Most vocalists say the same. I’ve also loved using it as a mono overhead on drums, or as an omni room mic.
Telefunken U47 – a favorite for acoustic bass
Retro 176 limiting amplifier – smooth compression, and sexy feel to the knobs. I like this to keep peaks in order and also to darken up bright instruments.
Instrumental List: A Yamaha C6 grand piano, tons and TONS of drums including a custom Palmetto drum kit, plus tons of basses (and we are NYC’s only Alembic dealer.)
Monitors: (Josh Giunta) When we opened the studio we had Barefoot Mini Mains in our A control Room. After a few months of trying to work with them, we decided that they weren’t a good fit for our room. Each speaker has dual subs, so the bass was too inaccurate for me as an engineer. I prefer having a main that is accurate for detailed mixing, in addition to sounding huge and impressive.