by Jeff Touzeau
Two years ago, in the middle of one of the worst economic environments in recent history, Louis Benedetti began searching for the ideal location for a new recording studio. His heart was set on New York City, which he knew would provide a vibrant backdrop that would be ideal for his business. “I’ve had studios in different locations such as Miami and New Jersey, but just felt that New York City was the missing link for us,” he recalls.
Before he began his ambitious project, Benedetti was well aware of the challenges: “There is this mentality in the industry that the commercial studio market is shrinking, but I think we are just in a recycling mode,” he says. “It is clear that some of the very big studios are now longer functional for today’s market. Therefore, we needed to build a studio aligned with what the market would support today.”
With the help of real estate agents, Benedetti found what he considered to be the perfect location — an old bank building on the corner of Thompson and Broome Streets in the heart of SoHo. And while many would be dissuaded against investing in a studio amidst such a stifling economy, Benedetti saw things differently: “There is this old Chinese saying that says ‘where there is crisis there is opportunity. In my experience working with so many different studios in so many different markets, I’ve been able to learn from other people’s mistakes and absorb the great things that I’ve seen other people doing. I figured I could come up with something unique and fill a gap in the industry.”
Benedetti’s hunch was right. Thompson Studios was getting bookings even before the construction was completed. “We barely finished the facility and I already have two of my rooms fully booked,” he says. To get the facility off to the right start from a technical perspective, he enlisted the help of New York-based acoustic firm WSDG. “John [Storyk] came up with a fantastic acoustic design that was perfect not only to help us achieve the acoustic performance we needed, but also meet the isolation requirements. We could not have done this without them at the level that we wanted to,” Benedetti observes.
The design included a live room and two adjacent control rooms: one with an SSL 4000G series console with automation and total recall, the other with a Neve 8108 console. It also consisted of a production room, a Pro Tools suite. Special care was taken by WSDG and Benedetti to ensure that there was sufficient isolation not only from the noisy bustle of New York City but within the facility between rooms as well. “We had a two wall isolation system in the beginning, and then we realized that wasn’t going to cut it,” Benedetti recalls. “John suggested that in a situation like this, where there are two control rooms in close proximity connected to a live room, that we needed to have a more robust solution and move to a three wall isolation scheme.” This solution was implemented before the facility was opened, and Benedetti says that work can be done in any of the rooms simultaneously without any interference whatsoever.
From a technology and equipment perspective, Thompson Studios has a huge advantage since Benedetti studied electronics and has provided technical services to many studios over the years. He is a specialist in analog gear and has refurbished SSL and Neve consoles in many studios over the past several years and through his affiliation with 81series.com. This experience gave him unique perspective on the needs of today’s clients: “When building this room, I decided to combine the best of both worlds in analog and digital,” he says. “We have the know-how to manage the analog rigs, but also able to offer the best in digital technology.”
Over the years, Benedetti has amassed a very impressive collection of microphones and mic pres as well as a considerable collection of keyboards, synthesizers and other gear. In fact, production assistance is one Thompson Studios’ key offerings. “We are not just a tracking and mix room,” he says. “We address the production side as well and provide all the instruments in our facility to whoever wants to work on them.” This gear includes vintage Roland TR 808 and 909 drum machines, as well as stalwart production tools such as the Akai MPC series. The studio’s gear collection includes heavyweight preamplifiers from API, Chandler and Neve — including several original 1073 modules — and compressors and EQs from the likes of UREI, Pultech and Universal Audio. In the microphone department, Thompson Studios offers a vintage Neumann U47, a Telefunken 251 and a host of other mics depending on what is required for the job. As expected, Thompson Studios also has an impressive selection of monitors, including Boxer T5s coupled by Two Genelec 1094 Sub-Woofers, Yamaha NS-10′s, Barefoot MM27’s and Auratone Speakers.
From the beginning, one of Thompson Studios’ mantras was to be as flexible as possible to accommodate a range of music genre and projects: from jazz ensembles, to hip-hop & R&B to post production work. This flexibility is manifested in both the acoustics and integration. “The live room is great for drums, strings and brass — everything we’ve tried has sounded great,” Benedetti says. “Also, the studio is wired in such a way that any of our control rooms — including the production suite —has access to either of the two iso booths, the live room, or everything at the same time.”
Benedetti’s optimism is infectious, and squarely rooted in his years of experience. Not only does he have an outstanding recording space situated in an ideal location, but he also has a concise vision: “Everyone is talking about home studios,” he says. “If we can provide the comfort that people expect in a home studio setting at a reasonable price, while still providing key elements of what the big commercial facilities provide — for example the sound quality of an acoustically treated space, the right equipment and technical expertise — we will have achieved our goal.”
There’s more (virtual tour): http://www.stclairphoto-imaging.com/360/360tours/Thompson/TourWeaver_Thompson.html.
Photo credit: Cheryl Fleming