Pearl Music Control Room
A spacious and comfortable environment with vaulted ceiling, the Control Room is well-equipped for music mixing, film scoring and postproduction. No longer available for open bookings, Pearl Music continues to be home to composer/producer Richard Zeier‘s personal projects that include live music recording, and TV/film soundtrack production. Additional capabilities include vocal and instrument overdubs, voiceover recording and audio restoration. Pearl Music also serves as a test site for auditioning products developed by Rock It Science Audio.
Pearl Music Live Room
Enough space to comfortably accommodate a basic rhythm section or a larger group of musicians that really like each other a lot. Pearl Music has a 25 year history that has seen it’s share of legendary musicians and artists lay down tracks in this room.
Pearl Music maintains an array of software and hardware tools that allow for both live recording and/or virtual production of music tracks. The studio consists of a 20′ x 16′ Control Room with a vaulted ceiling that is 13′ high in the center, and a 12′ x 14′ Live Room. The larger Control Room works well for us because this is where most of the work is done. It allows for a rack of keyboards including an old Prophet 600. There’re also a few vintage pieces like an Otari MTR-12 1/2 track reel-to-reel machine, and a Roger Linn Akai ASQ-10 midi sequencer from the 80’s. There’s also a classic black leather client’s couch behind the mixer’s chair that we refer to as the producer’s seat, but any session guests will find it comfortable.
Of course, we would be remiss not to mention the most important aspect, the room acoustics. The natural symmetry of the room dimensions, along with the pitched ceiling, allow for great acoustics with only a modest amount of treatment. The Big JBL-4412As together with a 12″ Klipsch subwoofer sound good loud or soft. The nearfield Adam AX7s are a great compliment to focus on details. We normally check our mixes in Wavelab using Sound ID Reference calibrated headphones, and seldom require more than a little tweak or two to get it right.
The smaller Live Room works because we do so much more composing and mixing at Pearl Music, and much of the live recording is one instrument or voice at a time. But it’s still nice to have a live combo once in a while.
We maintain a good selection of quality microphones to cover every need from vocal overdub recording to a full rock band, or even a horn section or string quartet. We can record up to 20 analog inputs into Pro Tools or Nuendo through SSL Alpha-Link converters, with the same number of analog outputs also available.
The signal routing is handled through our “Rock It Science Audio” modified 32 channel Soundcraft Ghost using mostly direct channel outputs for recording. The monitor section is used to route the computer audio to either the big JBL 4412As or the Adam A7X nearfield speakers. The console is also used to set up headphone feeds to the studio.
Our primary vocal chain is a Lauten Eden LT-386 tube mic through a Manley Core tube channel strip. We also have quality interfaces for direct recording of instruments, including Richard’s own design the Axe Integrator. Our outboard racks may appear a bit light compared to some studios, but that’s because we mainly mix “in-the-box” and have more plugins than what’s allowed by California law (please don’t report us). However, we do have 6 outboard mic pre’s including three Rock It Science Audio custom-built models.
Although we have the capability to mix through the console (analog style), we have found mixing “in-the-box”(the computer) to be the most efficient method with consistent results. We normally record 48kHz 32bit files but can also do 44.1/88.2/96kHz or even higher if required. We can export stems into mono or stereo wav files, and encode any type of compression, with our preference being HD-VBR mp3 files. We also can sync audio to any type of HD video and have a 55″ monitor between the main speakers. At the present time we do not do any surround mixing, but we’ll keep the website posted when we finally add Dolby Atmos capability.
The two studio computers are both in-house modified PCs, with the main Nuendo/Pro Tools computer boasting a fast 16 core XEON Gold cpu with 64G ram. The recording drive is a 2TB NVMe, with an additional three 1TB SSDs filled with loops, sound FX and virtual sample libraries. The humble satellite computer features a pretty snappy 8-core Ryzen cpu with 64G ram. With three total TBs of SSD storage, there is currently almost two TBs of samples loaded from the Vienna Symphonic Library. The two computers are linked via a Gigabit Ethernet connection using VSLs Ensemble Pro technology that allows for an almost unlimited amount of midi and digital audio transfer between Nuendo and the satellite computer. You probably need to work with it to fully appreciate the power and flexibility.
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Where we've been?
Starting in 1996 with an Akai 12-track analog tape recorder, a 32 channel Soundcraft Ghost console, and a hand full of rudimentary microphones, we opened our doors as Pearly Gates Productions, and began recording projects for local Christian musicians and even tracks for a revival record featuring famous 50’s artists, The Four Preps.
By 1998 we became digital pioneers by purchasing a system from Ensoniq called Paris (Personal Audio Recording Integrated System). Paris was based around 16 channel computer cards that ran 44.1/48kHz 24-bit audio that had a sound as smooth as analog tape (unlike Adat digital) and allowed for plugins and track editing and automation, all on a computer screen. Eventually, we were able to upgrade Paris with two additional computer cards that gave a total of 48 channels of 24-bit good sounding digital audio. Our mainframe rack was configured with 12 analog inputs and outputs, and we were rockin’ the house.
These pictures were taken shortly after Paris was installed. Notice the Akai 12-track machine is still in the rack on the left.
Check out the 15″CRT monitor (so 1998). The Paris controller is on the left while the Akai auto-transport is still fully operational on the right.
For a few short years, while ProTools was desperately playing catch-up, Paris gave us a huge advantage that allowed us to keep pretty busy. Producing two albums for Grammy nominated artist Graham Dorsey, and albums for crooner/guitarist Erik Jay, Christian artist Frank Giraldo, and Christian Prog-Metal band Masquerade.
Probably the most prestigious project was the recording of the entire New Testament from the Bible, with different voiceover artists for each book. The final product included music from various artists mixed in for dramatic effect under the reading. In my opinion, quite possibly the best audio presentation of the New Testament ever recorded.
The process of working on various projects brought a wealth of talent through our doors, including A-list players and performers like James Gadson, Pedro Eustache, Richie Gajate-Garcia, Wayman Tisdale, Chi Coltrane, and Chalo Eduardo to name a few.
By 2002 Pro Tools had finally come out with a system that was competitive with Paris, albeit much more expensive. However, with a well-funded marketing campaign, eventually Pro Tools became established as the industry standard that it is today. Meanwhile, Ensoniq had been sold to Emu, in hope that the combined resources of both companies would be enough to maintain market share. Unfortunately, it proved too little and too late to keep Paris alive, and in 2002 all support for Paris was discontinued.
Fortunately for us, Paris had developed a dedicated user group that was able to keep Paris going with updates including a patch to run it on Windows XP. But things were never quite the same at Pearl Music after that. We were barely paying the bills before that and had little to invest in a new Pro Tools system. So, we settled for a native version of Pro Tools in hope of meeting client expectations. However, Pro Tools native running on a single core computer circa 2004 was not an effective alternative, and we continued to use Paris as our main DAW for a few more years. In fact, we still have a working 48-track (3 DSP card) Paris system on the premises today for archival purposes.
We continued to make ends meet by taking smaller sessions and by me doing more independent tech work for other studios. I released a solo album “Phenomenation” in 2006, hoping it would garner enough attention to draw new clients into the studio. Although the album got great media reviews and airplay on 4 continents, it lacked the promotional muscle to become a visible calling card for Pearl Music. After a couple more years of hustling between gigs, I finally took a full-time job outside of the music industry, never to be heard from again. But wait… the story doesn’t end there.
Karen Childs composed the score for the Oscar nominated film “Speaking in Strings”. She not only used Pearl Music to record the string section but also pulled me in to create a couple of guitar-based cues with her.