The Music Palace is located in suburban Long Island, 25 miles from Manhattan, in West Hempstead. The facility was once a Tupperware plant, standing on the town's one industrial road, but when owner Michael Angelo moved in nearly 16 years ago, he transformed the space into a real-deal recording studio, which got quite a bit of traffic in the '90s, survived the slow early 2000s, and is going strong in 2006.
A self-proclaimed audio fanatic, Angelo has pretty much dedicated his life to perfecting the sound in The Music Palace. "I'm not only an engineer, I'm also a technician, a studio owner, and a hi-fi enthusiast--all I do is study audio, when I'm not sleeping," says Angelo. "And I believe the only thing I'm selling here is the sound. I want people to come here purely for the sound quality. I want to make the best CDs in the world."
The immediately obvious result of The Music Palace's initial Tom Hidley design and Angelo's painstaking attention to the studio electronics and monitoring is an impressive playback environment. An SSL G Series console sits centerstage in the large control room, with outboard racks and tape machines behind it and Kinoshita 4V mains up front. The playback experience is further enhanced by some hi-fi tools. "I've been on a search for the best line stage in the world, and I've found that in the Kinoshita MSP-1 preamp," Angelo describes. "It's just a volume control and selector switch, but the input impedances have been totally customized to match the output of my console or my CD player (a Linn CD12)."
Angelo's approach to refining The Music Palace over the past 15 years definitely incorporates hi-fi philosophy and pro audio practicality. After several really healthy years of mostly hip-hop and R&B records in the '90s, when business started to slow down, Angelo thought, "Great, now I can really do some research."
He started with the electrical coming in from the street. "I got a drill rig and drilled 100 feet into the earth in eight different locations around the building to get a ground impedance below 1/2 ohm. This low ground impedance provides an extremely clean, tight, punchy low end." He then worked on every piece of equipment in the studio so that both his electrical and his gear were stellar.
The SSL console has been in The Music Palace since its opening, with Angelo doing regular maintenance, but the control room also features new Neve 1081s and 1073s in AMS Neve racks. "These racks make Neve modules sound like they've never sounded--you get the best of the classic with the new power supply switch modes." The studio has a Pro Tools HD3 system with Apogee converters (24-in/56-out) and the latest software, and Studer A-820 24-track and 820 2-track machines.
"From an electronics standpoint, I believe I have the most advanced electronic signal path chain," Angelo adds. "Even the mic panel on the studio floor goes right back into those Neves. It doesn't even see the console. And, you can't patch my mics. A lot of things about this setup are old-fashioned--I'm sure some engineers would think it's just ridiculous and not want to work here. And that's fine! I'm not in this for the money."
But as far as regular client, producer/engineer, Robert "Void" Caprio, is concerned, the Palace is the best environment for tracking and mixing in the greater NYC area, though both Void and Angelo mention Avatar's A room acoustics as the best anywhere. "This is a top-notch mix facility because of the high-end monitoring, but nothing else around here really compares for tracking either," Void shares. "Having this many Neves and the SSL console is great if you like to track on a Neve and mix on an SSL. When I'm tracking and have audio coming through the console, I can start hearing what it's going to sound like when it's mixed--I can practically mix as I'm recording."
Void also points out, "You don't get fatigued in this room. You don't have to turn it up too loud to correct anything, you can play at a comfortable 85 dB on the mains all day long and never get fatigued."
Angelo says a few times during the interview that his goal with The Music Palace is "to widen the gap between what people can get in their home studios and what they can get in a professional commercial studio." Clearly, he's worked this from two angles, refining the acoustics and building an amazing equipment arsenal. "I've always thought that a great acoustic environment with great monitoring would have long-lasting value," he says. "Every decision you make here is based on how you're hearing. So, the more accurate the environment, the more neutral and revealing, the more accurate the picture you're trying to paint will be as a final product."
Angelo points out that most musicians and producers are not technicians and sound experts, and his taking on that role seems at the forefront of the business plan here. "I've been in the studio with young bands, and they have 'ears,' and they can give you very creative input while you're recording and mixing their music, but if they're not hearing it correctly, they can't give you accurate input. This is an environment where everyone's input counts, and the engineer can best help these bands paint their picture."
Since different artists are looking to generate different "feelings" with their music, Angelo has subs he rolls into the room, for those in need of some extra thump. So, the accurate environment-TAD-loaded Kinoshita 4V mains driven by Kinoshita mono block HQS4200 amps, with the room acoustics an integral part of the monitoring system--has a "just add subs" option. At the moment, Void is producing and engineering albums for up-and-coming rock bands, and doing much of the work at The Music Palace, including a recent album for Redbank, NJ-based band, Woodfish.
Angelo, who jokes that the Palace is more like a test laboratory than studio, is actually proud of where the studio is at sonically. "It's taken me 15 years to figure it all out, and about three or four months ago, I discovered I was finally satisfied." Of course, this hardly means his quest for perfect sound and the best CDs in the world is over.
The Music Palace
Studio Owner: Michael Angelo Room Design: Tom Hidley Consoles: SSL G modified with custom Gryphon Discrete Class A preamp to monitor console mix bus Recording and Playback: Digidesign Pro Tools HD3; (2) Studer A-820 24-track, 820 2-track; Tascam 24-bit DAT, 122 cassette decks; HHB CD burner; Kinoshita MSP-1 preamp; Linn CD12 Monitors: Mains: Kinoshita 4V; Nearfields: Yamaha NS-10; Tannoy 12B; Auratones, Kinoshita KM1Vs Microphones: Neumann U87s; Kleus Heyme modified U87, U47, C12, KM84; Sennheiser 421s, 441s; beyer M88; EV RE-20; AKG 451s, 414EB; Royer 122 Outboard Equipment: Neve; Summit; Pultec; Massenburg; Manley; Focusrite; API; FM Acoustics; Martech; Alan Smart; dbx; TubeTech; Urei; Lexicon; Yamaha; AMS; Publison; Quantec; EMT; AKG; Drawmer Miscellaneous: Manley Q system