by Jeff Touzeau
Wildwood, NJ (February 26, 2007)–Drew Hofmann could not have picked a more idyllic geographic location to Roselane East, an inspiring, yet modestly sized facility with an emphasis on creativity and performance. Hidden in a quiet residential section of town, the Wildwood, NJ-based studio is just a short walk away from one most beautiful beaches on the east coast–a ten mile stretch of sea and surf that casts a dramatically different mood with each season.
Roselane East’s live room Wildwood, NJ is also the self-proclaimed “Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, having hosted many influential artists from the ’50s such as Bill Haley and His Comets and Chubby Checker during the genre’s formative years. During the last decade, the entire city’s identity has been recast to embrace the “Doo Wop” theme–it’s all very cool, very rock ‘n’ roll and a perfect backdrop for a wildly creative recording studio like Roselane East.
Unlike so many other studios that have relatively antiseptic and dry interiors, Roselane East immediately commands your attention the second you walk through its doors. Hofmann is the owner of Roselane East and Con-Hof Music a professional audio retail outlet based out of the studio, but also available online. The studio operation was sparked by Hofmann’s need for his own recording studio and a collaborative environment where he could work on projects with other people. As the design and construction process unfolded however, Hofmann became acutely aware of the studio’s commercial potential–it was very clear that it could fill a distinct niche in the market from a geographic, a technical and a creative perspective.
Roselane’s control room houses a Sony DMX-R100 consoleOn the suggestion of Gary Belz, owner of East Iris and House of Blues Studios, Hofmann contacted Nashville-based studio designer Michael Cronin. Cronin’s company, Michael Cronin Acoustic Construction, designed Nashville’s Blackbird Studios, Masterfonics, and many other highly successful facilities in and outside of Nashville. Cronin, who shared Hofmann’s artistic passion, was on board with the vision of the studio and began working on a design.
They set out to create a facility that would excel for mixing and overdubs, but would also be suitable for tracking. Hofmann recalled: “My brief to Michael was that it needed to be able to handle everything from tracking strings, to rock groups and everything else in between.” The facility features no compromise construction, including discrete concrete slabs and room within room isolation. “There is about 40db isolation at 100hz in there,” said Cronin.
iso boothOnce the infrastructure was completed, Hofmann hired some very well-known blues artists to work on paintings that would grace the interior. The artists included Brent Spears, Scott Guion, Andrew Wood and John Bok, as suggested by Belz. The work was done in painstaking detail, with artists coming in and out over a two-year period. In addition to the painting, Hofmann specified elaborate woodwork for the interior, imported from Bangalore, India. After the interior decor was finished, Cronin came back in and applied acoustic treatments, which included baffling and Modex acoustic panels in the live room. George Hajioannou, of Studio Logic Sound, was the studio’s system designer and integrator, and he recommended Dennis De Camillo to wire Rose Lane East. De Camillo was working at The Hooters’ Elm Street Studios in Conshohocken, PA at the time he met Hofmann, and after wiring Rose Lane East, he took on chief tech duties at Paisley Park.
Outboard racks Hofmann’s equipment choices complemented Roselane East’s aesthetic strengths: a Sony DMX R-100 is the recording console, and equipment from manufacturers such as Summit Audio, Manley, API and Telefunken grace the elaborately crafted racks. For recorders, Hofmann insisted offering as many formats as possible: 2″ tape (he has an Otari MX-80), Pro Tools, Nuendo, Logic, iZ Radar, and Digital Performer. For monitors, he chose new Yamaha HS80s (“the new powered version of NS10s,” Hofmann points out), Mackie 626s and Quested F11s for nearfields.
studio racks by Jon BokAfter everything had been installed and all the workers, artists and technicians went home, the moment of truth had come. For Roselane East’s first test session, Nashville engineer Steve Bisher (Vince Gill, Amy Grant) brought in three members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, consisting of a cellist and two violinists. The session was a success, and the studio quickly began booking artists in many different genres, including rock and jazz.
One of the more interesting sessions came when Grammy-nominated producer/engineer Jeff Glixman (Kansas, Eric Clapton) brought in Orange Sky, a reggae/rock band from Trinidad. Kansas drummer Phil Ehart produced the band and according to Hofmann, appreciated Roselane East’s selection of over 40 exquisite snare drums.
The “snare” room at RoselaneWhen the studio isn’t recording music, it attracts pre-production work and has done commercials for companies such as Lexus, GM and Chevrolet. Additionally, Hofmann and his father developed Con-Hof Music approximately six years ago.
Con-Hof Music, a retail operation run out of the studio and soon to expand, carries everything from preamplifiers, to converters to acoustic treatment products. One of the differentiating aspects of Hofmann’s business model is that studio clients can listen to–and purchase if they choose–just about any piece of gear on hand at Roselane East. Indeed, there is a variety of esoteric gear available, such as Brady Drums, Z.Vex stomp boxes, and Brauner Valvet mics.
“All products for sale are setup and ready to be demo’d in the studio-for instance, if someone wants to try a Gefell or Neumann microphone, we’ll record them, and they can leave with the CD of their recording,” says Hofmann. “They can then make their purchasing decision based on actual recordings made with the equipment.” Con Hof also offers an extended list of specialty items for rent through Blackbird Audio Rentals (www.blackbirdaudiorentals.com).
Another control room perspectiveSince opening Roselane East, Hofmann continues to make significant investments and improvements to the existing sonic infrastructure. Recently, he brought in Nashville-based acoustic designer Carl Tatz to install a dedicated PhantomFocus system, which is designed to improve and maximize overall monitoring performance. Tatz has already installed this system in over 15 studios, including Nashville’s Platinum Labs, personal studios for members of Rascal Flatts, and most recently, Tom Keefer, of Cinderella.
“My system can be applied to any type of system, since monitor choice can be very subjective,” says Tatz. “The end takeaway is dramatic–it’s all about improving the imaging in the sweet spot. Even before I get to the step of tuning the room, the imaging is spectacular. The speakers go away, and you have this holographic thing where left and right disappears–you’re now listening to the music.” Tatz also created digital EQ presets for the room, so engineers can instantly dial in a preset for a particular monitor system.
In addition to upgrading its monitoring environment, Roselane East continually updates its equipment arsenal as well. Recent additions include several channels of preamplification from Old School Audio, as well as upgrading all of its Pro Tools, Nuendo and RADAR systems. “In fact,” Hofmann informs, “Right now, Dale Eberson (tech at Conservatory of Arts & Sciences in Tempe, AZ) is working on a Rose Lane edition Old School Audio pre-amp.”
The Loft Recording space View from the loft recording spaceAs for his future plans, Hofmann says he’s in the process of building another studio on his five-acre estate in Lake Arrowhead, California that will feature an API Legacy console. He’s also in the process of expanding his current facility in Wildwood: “We are planning to put in another live room, as well as a slate-walled drum room.”
Tim Day, a freelance producer/engineer who brought in Philadelphia-based band Stranger’s Vibe this January, describes his overall impressions of Roselane East: “The first thing that grabs you right away is the vibe–it just oozes creative possibilities from top to bottom. The band got right onboard with it and went right to work. We did the whole project from start to finish, which included eight songs. For the band, walking into Roselane East was like walking into a temple. It brought this whole other level of magic to the performance–you expect something very special is going to happen.”
Designer Michael Cronin agrees: “The whole idea is that you are in a surreal world. There is nothing to distract you and nothing that connects you to the outside world. The location is amazing: you can go down to the beach and go for a stroll, then come right back in and go back to work.”
VITAL STATS: ROSE LANE EAST
Studio Owner: Drew Hofmann
Room Design: Michael Cronin
Consoles: Sony DMX R-100
Multitrack, Tape & Disc Recorders: Digidesign Pro Tools HD2 Accel; iZ Radar 24 Nyquist; Steinberg Nuendo; MOTU Digital Performer; Emagic Logic Audio; Otari MX80
Monitoring/Amplification: Genelec 1031A, 1030A, 1029, 7050 sub; NHT U2 sub; Quested F11 5.1 system; Yamaha HS80
Microphones: Neumann; Sennheiser; beyer; Gefell; Schopes; AKG; Shure; Sontronics; Brauner; CAD; Telefunken; many other boutique and rare microphones are available through Blackbird Audio Rentals
Outboard:API; Emperical Labs; GML; Manley; Avalon; DW Fearn; Focusrite; Great River; Langevin; Old School Audio; Summit Audio; Telefunken; Vintech; Neve; SPL; Tubetech; Universal Audio; Eventide Eclipse; Kurzweil KSP-8; Lexicon; TC Electronic; TC Helicon; Yamaha
MIDI: Access Virus; GigaStudio 160; Korg Ex-800, Triton, Wavestation SR, O3R/W, MS200R; Kurzweil 2500R; (3) MOTU MIDI Timepiece AV; Novation A Station; Roland JV 1080, VP 9000, XV 5080; Steinberg Midex 8; Studio Electronics SE1X; Yamaha Ex 5R, CS6R, TG 77