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Pro Sound News: Finding Inspiration in The Hamptons: MonkMusic

By Jacques Sonyieux

Multi-Grammy winning engineer and studio veteran Cynthia Daniels is exactly where she wants to be in her career trajectory — recording celebrities and top-tier music clientele in MonkMusic — her brand new John Storyk designed recording studio in East Hampton, New York. In case you've never heard of it, East Hampton is one of America's chic seaside treasures — a geography known for its rich American history and its breathtaking natural beauty.

What was originally intended as a vacation home for Daniels — who began her recording career at A&R Recording in Manhattan during the 'golden age' of commercial studios under the tutelage of Phil Ramone and others — ultimately evolved into a first class, commercial-grade studio catering to the needs of part-time and resident celebrities such as Alec Baldwin and Paul McCartney, as well as a broad range of local and out-of-town musicians.

Daniels explains how her studio began a metamorphosis from a simple vacation home bedroom outfitted with production gear to a full on, professional-grade facility. "Slowly I began crowding all my New York City work in between Tuesdays and Thursdays — all day, all night. In East Hampton, I had a small space and began implementing small home acoustic treatments, and actually got a decent sound out of the place." Soon afterward, she began doing ADR sessions there while extending her client network of celebrities and musicians. "Basically, the celebrity business is voiceover and ADR for film, TV and ads," she observes. "People who stay out here don't want to have to go to the city, so there was a real niche."

As a result, more and more clients began finding out about East Hampton's hidden gem and business grew. "I began developing a big music clientele, and my personal space in the house was becoming increasingly unacceptable to me," Daniels recalls. "You cannot explain to people that you are doing "A" level work in a "B" level space. Professional musicians and celebrities have very high expectations.

Having spent a lot of time over the years at New York City's top studios and knowing exactly what she wanted, Daniels recruited acoustic architects WSDG to design a new space: "I was on a fast track to get up and running as quickly as possible and I was very familiar with their credentials, having worked in several Storyk rooms in the city," Daniels recalls. Since the studio was situated in a residential environment in the Hamptons, Daniels required no-compromise isolation — both from the inside of the studio to the outside world and vice versa. "We needed sand-filled cinderblock wall construction, along with lots of soundproof windows and sliding glass doors for complete isolation and to take advantage of the East End's beautiful natural light," reports Daniels.

The studio, which consists of a dedicated mix room, two isolation booths, a drum room and a separate machine room, was built as an entirely new structure adjacent to her house, complete with a decoupled concrete floor system to ensure maximum isolation. WSDG project manager Matt Ballos oversaw the design, while Judy Elliot-Brown and Mike Donahower handled the installation and systems integration. For Daniels, an accurate surround mix environment was critical to the overall success of the project. "In designing the room, I wanted a large, comfortable and accurate 5.1 mixing space." Also, Daniels, who is a self-proclaimed 'noise nut', insisted on a separate machine room to ensure peace and quiet in her mixing space. "Extraneous noise really bugs me," she says. "The breathing of a drive or a fan or in any piece of gear is not acceptable to me in any mixing space."

From an acoustic perspective, Daniels could not be more pleased with the outcome: "Not only does it sound great, but it is also versatile, with plenty of natural light," she says. "Sometimes I have a string quartet in the control room, because we designed it so that I could engineer from any of the booths to get a different sonic quality from various rooms. Also, I have a lot of windows and it is beautiful out here."

Not surprisingly, Daniels already had a well-apportioned collection of gear that was just waiting to be integrated into the new space. "I've been acquiring over the years and continue to outfit the place with vacuum tube and solid state preamplifiers and compressors," she says. For a console and monitoring, she chose the Avid C| 24 coupled with Genelec DSP monitors. "I was really happy when Mike Chaffee and Genelec came out with the 8240A because there was finally a computer controlled DSP network in which I was able to run my own frequency sweep with their DSP technology and tune them to whatever space they were in. This DSP network allows you to use different settings for different listening positions in 5.1 and even different types of music," she elaborates. For preamplifiers, she relies on her collection of outboard mic pres from a range of manufacturers including A-Designs Pacifica, Neve, Millennia, NPNG and many others.

In the microphone department, Daniels recently acquired three new large diaphragm condenser microphones, each of which she says get extremely high marks: UM25 and UM17, both from Tab Funkenwerk, and a vintage AKG C12 from the '50s — which she says she chose after listening to some 40 odd different C12 capsules with friend and mastering engineer Alan Silverman. "I have found with the older microphones that every one of them sounds different depending on its history and its construction and how its components have worn," Daniels observes. "You can't go by a brand, you have to go by how a microphone sounds."

Perhaps the best attribute of the new studio is what cannot be seen: "As you move through the projects and the years, your ambition can come and go," says Daniels. "Having this space has given me a huge jump start in my creativity. It is an inspiring place to be and also inspiring to the musicians who come here."

Jaques Sonyieux is a devout explorer of recording studios and the artists that inhabit them. Please send any tips or feedback to Jacques at:


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