“The most important piece of equipment in a recording studio is the control room,” says Phil Greene, chief engineer and part-owner of Normandy Sound, located in Warren, Rhode Island.
It’s that kind of thinking that led Normandy, one of the first 24-track studios in the region, to become the first facility in the six states to feature a certified Live-End/Dead-End control room.
Since the new room opened last October, business has been good, but that’s not necessarily due to the new control room.
One of the more important clients has been Billy Cobham, who came to this mill town from his home in Switzerland, on a blind recommendation from his bassist Tim Landers, to record two albums that were quickly picked up by Elektra/Musician.
R-e/p spoke with Normandy’s chief engineer Phil Greene on two occasions: the first was in January, while tracks for the Cobham session were being laid; and the second was in March, right after Cobham’s tour with Bobby and the Midnites, during the grueling 12-day mixing session.
Greene wastes no time explaining what the LEDE concept means to him. “It’s as close as you can get in reality to an anechoic chamber at the front of the room,” he says.
“Obviously you have the window and the console, but there is an essentially uncolored signal path between the speakers and the ears, with no phase or frequency-response abnormalities — you hear the speakers, not the walls.
“Of course, if the whole room were an anechoic chamber, you’d go crazy, so the rear wall is diffuse reflective, more or less centered towards the mixing position.”
“Not only does it recreate some ambience, so that you don’t put huge amounts of reverb on the tape, it also improves the sense of where sounds are coming from in the stereo field.”
Arguments can be (and are) made that such a “clinical” environment bears no relation to the outside world, and that this concept is just another room that a producer has to get used to before his or her product will translate well to the street.
But Greene still feels it is useful. “Of course it’s unrealistic; every listening environment is. But what this concept does is eliminate one generation of listening error, which is the almost random effect that a room usually has.’‘