It was 1986 when I first got wind about the new studio that my old friend David Amlen wanted to build. Initially it was a home studio, but soon it became a world-class facility designed to cater to the leaders of the industry.
After searching for a space that would have ample room for a large sound floor and adjoining recording rooms, a small team of us began the construction which would consume the next six months of our lives. Demolition was short-lived and had its thrilling moments of ductwork falling on our heads and smashing through walls during demolition. It also had its unfavored moments of disposing of the debris and the never-ending clouds of dust.
I always wanted to be an architect as a child, but more fascinating at this point was actually taking their drawings and building our dream. We wanted a completely silent room, a facility that would have the ability to record the most subtle of sounds without a trace of noise from the outside world. New York City is a difficult place to achieve the silence we sought!
In order to eliminate the subway rumble from a block away, street noise and generally any sound that would vibrate the building we needed to build a box within a box. The box needed to be suspended literally within the space -- which would create an air pocket around it. The air pocket would be one of the primary means of blocking outside sound. But suspending tons of flooring, ceiling, and walls, was easier said than done.
The plans called for a spring-loaded floor, using the springs as an acoustical absorber. We laid the springs out on the floor and built an extremely thick floor over them. The floor did not touch the outer walls of the space, rather it ended about a half-foot in. Next we built the walls on the suspended floor and then hung the ceiling directly on the walls. This completed the frame of each of the recording rooms, which were all independently suspended systems. Behind the walls and above the ceiling we used an acoustical fiberglass, really a big sponge-like substance to provide additional baffling against any outside sounds.
With these important steps finished, treatment was placed on the walls, and the lighting and wiring were put into place. Finally, we installed the equipment into the control room and tweaked the speaker system and started selling time.
A few of the major tricks about construction I learned on this job were, that the more accurate we were with cutting the materials straight and adhering to exact measurements, the tighter the room would become. Because Sound on Sound was constructed by the owner and friends, we could arrive at that kind of perfection without compromising our goal. We wanted very much to create one of the best recording rooms in Manhattan.
During my stay over the next few years as both Audio Engineer and Studio Manager, we went on to record some musical giants including Vernon Reed with Living Colour, Ron Carter, Rickie Lee Jones, John Abercrombie, Mick Jagger, Judy Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many others.
Sound on Sound subsequently built a second room and upgraded its first room with next generation state of the art equipment. Sadly, they shuttered their doors in 2007.