Studio Showcase: Douglass Recording

By Strother Bullins. Housed in an old garage space in the Gowanus neighborhood, Douglass Recording opened in May after a half-decade of planning and development. The studio was designed by Vincent Van Haaff and Jacques LaCroix, and features a 450-square-foot live performance space with 15-foot high ceilings, dual iso booths and a console-free control room. Packed with a wide range of analog frontend flavors, the studio is centered around a comprehensive Pro Tools|HD rig, and anchored by a monitoring system featuring the Grace m905 Reference Monitor Controller and Barefoot MicroMain 27, ADAM Sub12 subwoofer, and Yamaha NS-10M nearfield monitors powered by a Bryston 4B-ST amplifier.
By Strother Bullins ,

Housed in an old garage space in the Gowanus neighborhood, Douglass Recording opened in May after a half-decade of planning and development. The studio was designed by Vincent Van Haaff and Jacques LaCroix, and features a 450-square-foot live performance space with 15-foot high ceilings, dual iso booths and a console-free control room. Packed with a wide range of analog frontend flavors, the studio is centered around a comprehensive Pro Tools|HD rig, and anchored by a monitoring system featuring the Grace m905 Reference Monitor Controller and Barefoot MicroMain 27, ADAM Sub12 subwoofer, and Yamaha NS-10M nearfield monitors powered by a Bryston 4B-ST amplifier.

Yet the essence of the studio lies in its performance-centric vibe, having already attracted the likes of Vanessa Carlton, Cage the Elephant, Jukebox the Ghost, Grace Mitchell and Lewis Del Mar, among others. “The studio was designed after my brother’s space in Los Angeles, called Perfect Sound, a beautiful studio in the Hollywood Hills,” explains Douglass co-owner Myles Rodenhouse. “They started with more rock and roll [clients], which is what we built this studio with the intention of recording. We’re capable of recording 10 people at once, which works really well with rock, jazz and even classical. Yet Perfect Sound has, for years, been booked out by Top-40 acts and pop stuff, and I think the studio is equipped to handle anything, too.”

“Vincent [Van Haaff] said that we found a good spot and that he could design a great studio in here,” continues Rodenhouse. “He talked with me a bit about the vision for the studio, and we basically created the layout. We put up some walls, which took some time; it was hard to get it through the Department of Buildings. Later on, we got into acoustics.”

When it came to acoustics, the lovely sounding yet reverberant room needed some serious taming. “It was extremely live,” recalls Rodenhouse, “and it was really cool, though—a lot of fun to play with. Even after we put up the walls, the concrete, bare walls and the height of the ceiling would create a huge reverb tail. We would build up walls of go-bos around people that were recording, or put up packing blankets. We did a lot of work on the room, depending on the session. Though it could be cool, it was a big pain.”

The solution to the acoustic tightening, offers Rodenhouse, was balancing all the concrete and block with the acoustics provided by wood treatments and accents. “The wood on the walls really tightened everything up and it sounded great right away. We can leave it ‘open’ and it still sounds like a room, but it doesn’t get to be overwhelming.” A true measure of Douglass Recording’s usability post-treatment can be heard in slight distance variations in instrument miking, says Rodenhouse. “I almost always place the microphone as far away [from the source] as I can now,” he explains. “It still feels really natural. And [overhead] there’s a cloud [absorption and diffusion] system, made of half-cylinders facing the ground, which effectively lowered the height of the space. Sometimes I’ll stick a mic up there to get some of the old character of the room, which might sound kind of fluttery and nasty, but fun to work with if you find the right blend. We sometimes can use our untreated hallways to capture the old vibe of the space, too.”

Regarding the studio’s console-less setup, Rodenhouse explains that it reflects a growing customer base that simply doesn’t need one. “[This is a] real boutique/hybrid studio, where we don’t have this 40-channel Neve or SSL, though we do have great Neve preamps and a great workflow,” he offers. “I think [the configuration] is really effective for creating. It’s a great [setup] for artists that aren’t necessarily going to be turned off to come in and not see a 40-channel board. It’s still great for rock and roll though; I think it sounds just as good as any other studio in the city.”

Building on the artist-centric vibe of Douglass, the studio offers an impressive collection of musical instruments. “The reason why we selected so many [of these instruments] is that a lot of the other great studios in Brooklyn are providing these sorts of things up front,” reasons Rodenhouse. “For me, it was certainly trying to stay competitive. That, and there’s definitely something to offering instruments that are not as easy for home recordists to find.”

It was important for the instrumentation of Douglass to be carefully curated according to its engineers’ personal tastes, explains Rodenhouse. “And I am of the opinion that capturing a great player and a great performance and a great sounding instrument is very, very important. So [while] offering an amazing space with great equipment is very important, great sounding sources are crucial. It just makes us look better and is a real draw on a business level.”

Front and center of Douglass’ instrument offerings are its keyboards alongside a large collection of drums, the latter of which include both modern and vintage kits, and many varied snare drums. “I play piano and grew up on piano, so the centerpiece has always been our Steinway,” offers Rodenhouse. “I found it at the Steinway showroom on 57th before they closed and moved. It’s a really amazing piano; I played through six of them at the time and it was the one that spoke to me the most. We work with an old Bosendorfer tech—James Carney [jamescarney.net], an amazing player in his own right—who really knows his [stuff], knows how to maintain such a piano, has worked on the voicing, and so on. It was originally a touring piano built in 2001; instead of getting sent out to sell, it was selected as a piano for classical touring. I don’t know that it was ever sent out of the United States, but it’s a fantastic instrument and a great draw. We also have two vintage electric pianos, a suitcase Rhodes from 1969 and a Wurlitzer 200A. I actually traded a Rhodes Mark I for the suitcase Rhodes, and took that for restoration—it’s amazing. So yes—we really push for keyboard clients.”

Other equipment highlights:

Preamplifiers: API 3124 (Custom); API 512c (2); BAE 312 (2); BAE Neve 1073/EQ (8); Burl B1; Chandler Little Devil (2); Inward Connection Magnum VU (2); Rupert Neve 511(8)
Equalizers: API 550A (4); BAE Neve 1073 Mic Pre/EQ (8); Pultec EQP-1A3; Pultec EQP-1A (Custom); Rupert Neve 551
Dynamics: BAE 10DC (2); dbx 160x (2); Elysia mpressor; Empirical Labs DistressorEL-8x (2); SK Note Vastaso; Urei 1176 Rev. D

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