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Outside, it’s a non-descript, two-story warehouse building located in San Francisco’s up and coming “South of Market District”, hiding inconspicuously beside other similar-looking structures on the block.  But inside, there’s acoustic perfection, sonic flexibility and creative enablement.  Talking House Productions is San Francisco’s newest landmark recording facility and content engine, spearheaded by a collective of producers and songwriters that include Steve Luczo, Pete Krawiec, pc Munoz, John Paulsen, Paul Ruxton, Stephen Smith and Marc Weibel.

The owners, who have a spectacularly diverse set of backgrounds both as musicians and in other industries, intend to create a wide array of content at Talking House as well as utilize it as a platform to develop and promote the Bay area’s most promising local talent.  “[Talking House] is an extremely comprehensive company,” says John Paulsen, co-owner/producer.  “We score films and TV, write and produce original ad music, develop artists’ music and help with their careers, maintain a record label, artist promotion, develop graphic art, the whole nine yards. Whether we’re scoring or working with local artists to develop meaningful long-term career potential, everything we release has to meet the highest standard, no compromises. We need to be free to act on inspiration and creativity, without constraints.”

Talking House celebrated its grand opening in style during the September AES show in San Francisco by hosting an elaborate artist showcase at nearby historic Warfield Theater, which featured Slash, Lars Ulrich, Joe Satriani and other special guests with roots in the Bay area. In addition to sponsoring the all-star jam, Talking House was also featured on the AES showcase tour, providing interested convention attendees a first-hand glimpse at its agile design, innovative acoustics and remarkable technical integration.

The 8,700 square foot facility, which also houses office space and a gallery that doubles as a live tracking room, has been under development for three years, with John Storyk and the Walters-Storyk Design Group spearheading the design and construction team. Dave Malekpour’s Professional Audio Design handled the sourcing and installation of each of the facility’s consoles, which included a like-new SSL 9000K from Hit Factory, NYC in control room A.  Control rooms B and C feature Digidesign D-Command ICON consoles — all three control rooms are outfitted with 72 channels of Pro Tools HD and feature 5.1 Genelec monitoring.

For the owners, technically and aesthetically, the fundamental requirement was about flexibility from the very beginning: “We wanted to have every potential tool that we might need for any type of scenario,” says Paulsen.  “That’s why we called John [Storyk] when we bought this building. We told him how flexible the place needed to be, and he drew this arrangement that you see here on a napkin. [Employing the gallery as a tracking room] was almost an afterthought, but John has enabled us to use it as an interesting live, garage band kind of space.”

The design is centered on a generously sized live room, which features a clearstory skylight and variable acoustics, surrounded by three control rooms and four isolation booths. Each of these rooms is within sight of one another – all rooms all inter-connected by a central machine room.  John Storyk, principal of WSDG, elaborates: “Light, space and eye contact were meaningful to everyone at Talking House and communication is an integral element of this company.  Obviously, having this amount of glass can present some challenging ‘reflective sound issues’.  We stipulated that all the rooms be constructed on split concrete slabs, and we used triple wall construction and sand filled concrete block partitions for between-room isolation.”  This exceptional degree of isolation was critical, since the studio partners wanted to retain the possibility of tracking a diverse range of artists simultaneously and without compromise.

The facility represents the ultimate in flexibility as well. Artists  can access the facility’s full array of mic preamps no matter which room they are working in.  Options include a special preamp rack made by SSL to complement the K series. Dave Malekpour, president of Professional Audio Design, comments: “One of my ideas was to provide them with a very high-end mic pre system that SSL developed to go with the K series, which is even nicer than what is in the console. The cool thing about this is it fits into the way Talking House works – they might be tracking in either of the Ikon rooms and at the same time, mixing on the K, where they might not need those preamps.  So it really expands the use of that preamp system to all three rooms, giving them this unique solution.”

So far, the design concept appears to have hit its mark, says Paulsen: “You have three control rooms looking on a live room, and you’re wondering, ‘How is this going to work?’  It has actually worked out really well.  We’ve had several times where somebody was tracking a vocalist in studio A while I was working on a mix in studio B, then somebody else was on editing and production in studio C.”

Malekpour summarizes the project from his perspective: “The overall team of professionals involved made a big difference – [Talking House] is a very unique client.  They have very high expectations and to do things at a certain level — this makes a project very exciting to be involved with. Pete Krawiec and John Paulson have some forward thinking ideas about production and where this company is going and I think that inspired us to take that added measure of care.”

Moving forward, Paulsen emphasizes the kind of work the team at Talking House intends to seek: “We want to pursue projects that we as a group are passionate about.  If we have a single vision, it’s that we want to produce original content of the highest quality without limitations or compromises.”

Vital Stats:

1) Studio Owners:
Pete Krawiec
Steve Luczo
pc muñoz
John Paulsen
Paul Ruxton
Stephen Smith
Marc Weibel

2) Consoles:
Control Room A – 80 input SSL XL 9000 K with Ultimation
Control Room B – ICON D-Control, 32 faders
Control Room C – ICON D-Control, 16 faders

3) Multitrack, tape and disc recorders
3 x Protools HD3
14 x 192 I/Os
2 x Studer A827
Ampex/Mdi ATR 1″ & 1/2″

4) Monitoring
Studio A mains – Genelec 1038
All studios surround – Genelec 8050
All studios subs – Genelec 7070
Stereo and 5.1 Surround monitoring
Dolby Lake Processors
Video link and monitoring for scoring to picture, overdubbing, voice-
over, sound design

5) Microphones
Neumann, Brauner, Sony, Wagner U47w, Shure, Royer, B&K / DPA, Audio Technica, Sennheiser

6) Outboard
Mic Preamps:
Shep/Neve 31102
24 ch. SSL XL Remote Pre
Millennia HV-3
Millenia HV-3D
Martech MSS-10
2 x Focusrite Red 1 Mic Pre
Avalon M2 MKII Preamp
GML 2 channel Mic Pre w/ PSU
A Designs Reddi
Hamptone HVTP2

Compressors:
2 x Urei LA-2A
2 x UA 1176
2 x Neve 33609
Focusrite 3
DBX 165A
ADL 1500
2 x DBX902 Dessers with Rack
2 x Drawmer DS201b

EQs:
GML 8200
Focusrite Red 2 EQ
2 x Tube Tech PE1C
Tube Tech ME1A

Reverbs:
EMT Plate/Martech Upgraded
Lexicon 960L
Lexicon 480L
Sony S777
AMS RMX16

Processors:
Lexicon PCM42
Eventide DSP4000
TC Electronic M5000
TC Electronic TC1210
TC Electronic Fireworks
(2) Yamaha SPX 990
Lexicon PCM 80
Lexicon PCM 91

7) Instruments and headphones
Keyboards/Synths:
Yamaha DC-7 MIDI grand piano
Hammond B3 organ, w/ Leslie 122
Rhodes suitcase electric piano
Wurlitzer 200A electric piano
2 Muse Receptors
2 Korg Tritons
Korg Trinity
Korg Karma
Korg DW-8000 (vintage)
Roland Juno-6 (vintage)
Roland JX-3P (vintage)
Yamaha CS-15 (vintage)
2 Korg TR Racks
2 Roland 1080s
2 Roland 880s
Studio Electronics SE1
Speck XSum
Signal Transport Synth Driver 2
Baldwin Fun Machine

Guitars:
2 Gibson 335s
Fender Tele
2 Fender Strats
Gibson L5
Gibson Les Paul
Lowden hand-crafted nylon string acoustic
Lowden hand-crafted steel string acoustic
Tom Anderson
Alembic bass
PK Custom bass

Amps:
Roland JC-120
Vox AC-30
Ampeg SVT bass rig
50-Watt Marshall Plexi vintage
Marshall 2000
Peavey 5150
Peavey Classic 50
Ampeg V2
Fender Bassman
Fender Deluxe
Torres Boogie-Mite
Trinity 18-Watt

Drums:
Full kits including:
Yamaha recording custom
D’Amico
PK Custom
Camco
over 10 snare drums, all makers
over 30 Zildjian and Paiste cymbals
wide assortment of standard and exotic percussion incl. 5 congas,
bongos, timbales, chinese drum, gongs, etc.