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High-end studios from coast to coast have felt Timbaland’s heavy tread, and while the Hit Factory in Miami (relocated from New York in early 2005) remains one of his favorite spots, lately Timbaland has logged his most extensive hours at Thomas Crown Studios–his home base in Virginia Beach.

Assembled with creative input from Jimmy Douglass–Timbaland’s key engineer for many years, on many albums–the main Studio A is outfitted for 5.1 surround mixing with a Neve VR-72 console, Digidesign Pro ToolsHD and custom Augspurger monitors. The interior of the two-story complex was designed by Walters-Storyk Design Group in New York, and emphasizes full-frequency response with state-of-the-art acoustics. Now if only those walls could talk.

«At one point, we were in teh same cul-de-sac where Pharrel [Williams] and Chad [Hugo] had their studio,» Demacio «Demo» Castellon recalls. «So you go outside to get some fresh air, and you look across the way, and you’re like, ‘Damn, I wonder what he’s doing.’ This was before The Neptunes opened Hovercraft Studios, but it was cool because it gave us both some edge for a while there.»

With an impressive array of outboard gear that ranges from Empirical Labs Distressor to a Lexicon 960 reverb unit, as well as all manner of microphones ranging from the stalwart Neuman U87 to Audio Technica’s AT4060, Thomas Crown is tricked out for the ultimate in recording efficiency, and it’s built to accomodate the endless permutations of creative experimentation that can redirect Timbaland’s mood at any given moment.

«It does depend on the vibe of the record and what exactly we’re trying to accomplish,» Demo clarifies, «but the main thing is we don’t really ever try to repeat ourselves with what we do, so usually it’s more experimental than anything. And I think that’s something that’s been a part of what’s happening in Virginia Beach for a long time. With Tim and Missy and The Neptunes and Danja–and even before them, with Teddy Riley and new-jack swing–without a doubt, this piece has been a major influence in modern music and in hip-hop and R&B as we know it.