With Mexico City’s Valenzo Recording Studio truly thriving a year from its opening, Horatio Malvicino, designer and managing director of Malvicino Design Group—an architectural, acoustical and technical systems design and consulting firm based in New York City—has much to celebrate. Part of the cause for celebration is its nomination for the 2016 NAMM TEC Awards in the “Studio Design Project” category.
“The studio market is unbelievable,” attests Malvicino regarding the Mexican studio market. “Over the last two years [in Mexico], I have built three university campuses at seven studios each, and the year before, I built another there that was also nominated for a TEC Award. It’s a growing market, and people still consume a lot of music there, so there’s a real need for production. With this project, the idea was to do something a bit more client-oriented that the typical commercial studio. When you come to Valenzo, you’re coming to a house in a nice neighborhood, but it is outfitted in the same way I would a premium studio in the US.”
“It is owned by Mexican producer/engineer Cesar Valenzo, a producer/engineer in his midtwenties,” explains Malvicino. “He is also the owner of a second-division soccer team in Mexico, so he does music and soccer. He got together with two of his friends—producer/engineers Ignacio Sotelo and Carlos Gonzalez—and decided to build a studio. It is housed in his home, in a very upscale district in Mexico City. We built a new two-story building next to his house; we had plenty of space. One floor houses the studio, which is double-height, and on the top floor, there are residential facilities.”
In the Mexican recording market, there is a notable prevalence of live music tracking; there are far more, on average, live instruments incorporated into modern productions than in most markets elsewhere. For this reason, explains Malvicino, Valenzo was built with a more thoughtful eye on its live room. “The idea was to build a room that would incorporate anything from pop to jazz,” Malvicino continues. “This is why it was important that we had as much ceiling height as possible. Technically, and due to zoning restrictions, we built two floors for the studio and the third floor for the residences. The [live] room had to be suited for all kinds of recordings.”
Not only is Valenzo’s live room spacious, it is acoustically malleable via movable panels and more. “They allow you to adjust the RT60 (reverb time) of the room between 0.7 and 1.2 seconds at 1 kHz,” explains Malvicino. “There’s a lot of diffusion, too. What you get is an ‘airy’ room. Then, the iso room is the opposite; it’s really tight, at about 0.4 seconds of RT. It’s great for tight drums, and there are diffusers on the ceiling that create the perception of a larger room, but one that is actually quite small.”
A world-class critical listening room was a priority when conceiving Valenzo’s control room. The room features two sets of monitors, one being a 5.1 configuration featuring Barefoot speakers and another, a stereo setup, featuring Ocean Way Audio’s AS-1, a passive three-way compact main monitor offering flat frequency response down to 30 Hz. “The room translates everything nicely for when you take it ‘outside,’” offers Malvicino confidently. The room also provides ADAM Audio and Yamaha NS-10 near fields for further reference sources.
Valenzo’s live room is spacious, and acoustically malleable via movable panels, with an adjustable RT60 between 0.7 and 1.2 seconds at 1 kHz.
The console, a 24-channel Solid State Logic Duality Delta, is ready for multiple format production and housed in a 48-channel Pro-Station—or wrap-around—frame to allow future expandability as well as room for more multiple musician work within the control room. “At first, we considered putting in the typical ‘island’ of rack-mounted gear, but we decided to keep it open, to allow for more room and movement. The guys like to do a lot of guitar, bass guitar and keyboard work from the control room, so that extra space is needed. Of course, in the back of the room, you have the typical couch, good diffusion, and some windows above that diffusion to bring in some daylight. The idea was to bring in daylight as much as we could.”
At first glance, the granite-like rock material on the control room’s side walls is striking, adding texture and depth to its aesthetic. When asked about the “rock,” Malvicino replied with chuckle and explanation. “Every interview I’ve done about the studio, people have asked me essentially the same question. ‘How can you put rock in the control room? It’s not rock. We designed a print that I liked and had acoustic fabric custom-printed by a company in the UK. If you look at some of the other studios I’ve designed in the last two years, where you see bricks or rocks, it’s fabric. I just like the idea of that extra visual texture. We can keep the room symmetrical yet still have the appearance of rock—or brick, for that matter—on only side of the room. For another studio in Monterrey, Mexico—a university—we used a brick pattern in one of the control rooms. I think it adds a ‘homey,’ comfortable look.”
Further adding to the custom look of Valenzo were its custom Herman-Miller Aeron chairs. Though Aerons are ubiquitous in the studio market, Malvicino continued his quest to add a unique spin onto nearly every aspect of the Valenzo project. “Herman-Miller now has a division where you can customize your Aerons,” Malvicino explains. “The mechanism is the same as the others, which is what most engineers are used to, but these offer the high back and so on.”
Valenzo Recording Studio is a success story on two distinct levels. Not only has it been internationally recognized as one of the best new studios in the world, it has been solidly booked since its completion. “We opened up over a year ago, and now the guys are telling me they should’ve gotten a bigger space, a second studio. This studio was also the first time a studio from south of the United States was nominated for a TEC Award, so everyone is really excited about it.”
Valenzo Recording Studio
Malvicino Design Group
This article appeared in the February, 2017 issue of Pro Sound News as "Studio Showcase: Valenzo Graces Mexico City With Notable Design"