SANTA MONICA, CA—Ronan Chris Murphy, a producer, mixer, engineer and recording artist whose multi-room Veneto West facility in Santa Monica, CA also provides a home base for his educational endeavors, recently made a major change to his control room. Out went the vintage analog mixing console, for many years the centerpiece of the studio, to be replaced by a new set-up that enables the room to quickly be reconfigured to best handle the demands of the work in progress.
“The big thing that changed was realizing that holding onto the console was ultimately doing a disservice to my clients,” says Murphy, who notes that clients almost universally now expect instant recall. And while he enjoyed certain workflow and audio quality benefits with the console, “I was prioritizing things for my clients when really those weren’t their personal priorities.”
Ronan Chris Murphy with his Veneto West’s amply stuffed outboard racks. Murphy, who has experience mixing in-the-box dating back to 1993, says, “Because I shuffle between production, mixing and mastering, I set up a hybrid and modular workflow.” In place of the console is a small roll-around table for a computer screen for his Pro Tools rig and a new Crane Song Avocet II controller, which replaces the console’s monitor section.
“It also replaced some of my conversion,” he says. “Crane Song’s conversion is awesome, and the Avocet II even steps it up another level. This is just a remote that passes no audio. With my modular set-up, it comes with me so I have input switching and speaker selection anywhere in the room.”
He continues, “My 2-bus and vocal EQ rack also rolls with me. When I switch to being the mastering engineer, I roll back to a different place in the room. The rack rolls with me, and we switch from the NS-10s to the big speakers.”
The mains are a one-of-a-kind pair of three-way active speakers with dual 15-inch subs from Belgian manufacturer FAR (Fundamental Acoustic Research). Murphy, a champion of IsoAcoustics decoupling stands since first installing them in 2013, was worried that none of the company’s products were up to the challenge of the very weighty prototype metal speaker cabinets. “They’re about 300 pounds each, with 1,000-watt power amps just for the low frequency drivers,” he explains.
Happily, IsoAcoustics’ new custom-configured Modular Series aluminum isolation stands were equal to the task. “The difference with and without the IsoAcoustic stands was night and day. With them, the accuracy of the low end is just exponentially better,” he reports.
Murphy created Veneto West’s main workspace, a control room and tracking area with no separation between them, from two adjacent apartments. “When we’re doing production work, we can roll around to move the tracking position anywhere in the room,” he says of the new reconfigurable working arrangement.
A third apartment has been configured into an editing, overdubbing and songwriting studio. It features a Mac Mini running Pro Tools with an Apogee Duet 2 interface. The complex also includes outdoor patio space and a barbecue area.
The rolling monitor station and outboard rack are complemented by twin towers housing gear from the likes of A-Designs, Altec, Drip Electronics, Electrodyne, Empirical Labs, Eventide, Great River, Maag Audio, Manley Labs, Pete’s Place, RCM and TC Electronic. “The D&R console has very nice mic preamps but my outboard was better suited to my aesthetic. I almost never tracked through the console,” says Murphy.
“I’m really into Quad Eight-sounding stuff, so you see tons of A-Designs. The A-Designs Pacifica is used for 90 percent of the things that I record; I like the sound a lot,” he says. “The Quad Eight modules are Neil Young’s from Broken Arrow Studios.”
An API lunchbox sits atop one rack. “I stayed out of the 500 world until A-Designs put out the EMP EQ,” he admits. “But I was so blown away by it. Now there are other things, like the Maag EQ, that are only 500 and have become critical for a lot of the work that I do.”
Over the years, that work has encompassed progressive rock projects with King Crimson founder and guitarist Robert Fripp, Crimson alum Tony Levin, Steve Morse and Terry Bozzio; jazz recordings with Chucho Valdés, Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone; and work with Norwegian experimentalist Ulver. Over half his client base is international, says Murphy, whose recent projects have included Italian artist Mike 3rd, Malaysian Top 10 artist Pete Tio and Alexia Vassilou, a multi-platinum Greek-Cypriot vocalist.
While working with Mike 3rd in Italy during April and May this year, Murphy took the opportunity to host a couple of his Recording Boot Camps. “I try and do at least one overseas per year. I did a six-day camp, then the next week, I did a three-day advanced level program for alumni of my Level One program.”
The newly reconfigured Veneto West will be the venue for several upcoming Recording Boot Camps. “We have one in July; it was sold out five days after we announced it,” he says. In September, Murphy will hold a six-day beginner/intermediate level class and a two-day intermediate level mixing camp.