“Manifold must be one of the finest music-dedicated studios built in the world in the last decade. ” — Alex Oana, Manifold Recording: Inside the Miraverse
Manifold Recording is honored to have been nominated for a TEC Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in the Studio Design Project category. We congratulate and thank Wes Lachot Design, and especially Wes Lachot, who succeeded brilliantly in helping to realize this ambitious project. If a picture is worth a thousand words, and then the 10,000 pictures I have taken of this project during its four years of construction suggest just how much could be said about what he conceived, drew, detailed, and then argued for in its implementation. But there is much more to this creative achievement than meets the eye, or the ear for that matter.
“we wanted to reboot the music industry by reinventing the role of the recording studio”
When I first sat down with Wes, he asked the question that every studio designer must ask: what do you want to do? I told him that we wanted to reboot the music industry by reinventing the role of the recording studio. We agreed that we would need to honor the laws of physics (especially acoustics), but in all other ways we would seek to be the change we wanted to see in the world. We would be a model for acoustic and technological excellence, but we would also be a model of transparency and collaboration. We would be an ideal environment for musical performance, but we would also be a model for entrepreneurial innovation and economic sustainability. We would honor the great teachings of organic architecture and sacred geometry by becoming the best example of those teachings we could be. All of this was discussed before Wes put pencil to paper and began drawing the lines that ultimately became footings, walls, structures, buildings, and operating commercial facilities. In accepting this commission, Wes accepted the whole of the project, and he delivered brilliantly, even when certain aspects seemed to be in irreconcilable conflict. Such is the nature of an outstanding creative achievement.
Wes initially designed a main studio with five acoustic spaces ranging from dead (Booth C), to dry (Booth B), to live (Booth A), to intimate (Sound Locks 1 and 2), and each of which can be used to augment the 1380 sq ft / 32,000 cu ft Music Room. He defined a Loggia off the Music Room that adds an intense reverb chamber, its symmetry providing a true stereo reverb. All told, we can open up more than 2500 sq ft of tracking space exclusive of the control rooms. He gave every room in the main studio access to daylight above and views of nature through glass windows. From the control room it is possible to look straight through the whole studio into a beautiful terrace surrounded by trees. He created entirely new acoustic designs that integrated perfectly with our architecture, including bass-trapping structural columns (using RPG DiffusorBlox), a 60-panel tessellation of golden rhombuses for the Music Room cloud, and a bi-axially symmetric QRD pattern implemented with dichroic glass in the main control room, and extensive use of symmetry and proportion so that the very scale of the rooms was in tune with musical fundamentals.
“He sets his mind to work on unknown arts and changes the laws of nature” — Ovid, Metamorphoses
It is difficult to say to what extent progress on the studio changed our own goals for the project, or to what extent the fact of the studio began to change the world itself, but after the plans had been approved, planning and zoning approval (which required changing local ordinances), and construction had begun, it became clear that we needed to expand our mission and our technical objectives. Wes artfully added a second building to what was supposed to be a singular structure, and he ultimately gave us the most elegant solution to the intractable dilemma of analog vs. digital console technology: a second control room. This freed up us to really optimize each control room to its specific purpose. Wes helped us select our analog console: the amazing API Vision, with 64 channels fitted in a 96-channel frame. He worked his magic to accommodate a 96-channel Harrison Trion console for video, film, and post work and then designed (with RPG’s help) an optimized environment for surround mixing that we call a fully diffused reflection zone (FDRZ). With Antelope clocking, Harrison digital audio infrastructure, and a Blackmagic Design Broadcast Video Hub, we can send 512 channels of 96K audio between the API Vision to the Harrison Trion, and we can route 72 HD SDI video signals to 144 separate outputs, including more than 40 monitoring positions accessible from wall panels in the main studio, allowing either control room to be master, monitor, or fully independent from the other.
It should be no surprise that our decision to open our construction process to the world was met with great enthusiasm and encouragement from the internet community. Our construction blog has driven more than 500,000 page views from readers all over the world. When we claim broad-band bass trapping in our main control room down to 24Hz, we have the photos and the acoustic math to prove it! Numerous studio projects have specifically cited Manifold Recording as their inspiration to build a new facility, several with Wes Lachot as their designer. Talking with many of the attendees at the AES conference in 2011, there is a very real sense of a renaissance in the recording industry. In no sense is it a return to “the good old days”, but rather a sense that there are new days ahead, full of possibilities for those who are prepared to engage them. This is precisely the future that we anticipated when we began our project in 2006.
It is still early days, but we are thrilled with the projects we have already completed. We thank those musicians who agreed to be “test pilots” and to help us debug the studio before opening our doors. We thank the clients who lined up at our door this summer and forced us to open before the award’s August 31 deadline. We thank our industry partners who provided the materials, products, services, and support needed to advance the state-of-the-art in order to achieve our project goals. Special thanks go to API, RPG, IAC and Wes Lachot Design for helping support our Mix magazine cover story. Special thanks also to Alex Oana and the folks at Pro Audio Review for their visit to and review of Manifold Recording. The buzz you all created surely played a role in our nomination. And it will surely play a role in defining the future direction of the industry. Thank you!