Setting Up the Mix House

Apr 1, 2001 12:00 PM, JOHN KLETT


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Mike Shipley and I were walking around the AES show in L.A. last September, trying to work out some scheduling issues for something, and he mentioned an Aerosmith mix that might happen in a house somewhere near Boston from the middle of November to the middle of January 2001. At that point, it was all up in the air; nothing was really set. Based on what he was telling me, I figured this would be six or seven weeks away, and no one had even looked at the house. We agreed that [studio designer] Francis Manzella and I should at least go look the following weekend. So we did, and we came away with a rather large list of things that would have to be done. Two weeks went by before we got word that the project was a “go,” and we had five weeks to make it happen.

Fran issued a set of plans for acoustical treatments that would be applied to the mix room and specifications for beefing up the floor structure so it would hold nearly three tons of equipment. That part of the house was built in the early 18th century and had floor joists made from tree trunks split in half. A door and several windows needed to be blocked off so the neighbors would not be disturbed. Fortunately, Joe Perry had a tap into a good contractor who could do the work. I was left with pretty much everything else.

The house had a 60-amp service from sometime in the late ’50s, so we would have to bring in a new 200-amp service. Joe pointed out that the power sometimes goes away in the winter when it snows, so we were looking at a UPS [uninterruptable power supply] and maybe a generator set. I went with an 18KVA Liebert UPS with an extra battery cabinet. This would hold the entire system up for about 45 minutes if the incoming power went down — plenty of time to shut down or change over to a generator. As an added benefit, the UPS was a double-conversion type, so it also provided rock-solid line output regulation no matter what was coming in. The noise floor of the SSL 9000 J that was rented for the project is so low that you can hear any residual system noise, so I opted for ground isolation after the UPS, and an EquiTech wall-mounted balanced power distribution cabinet. Once again, Joe came through with a great electrical contractor. I called the manufacturers and arranged the purchases and deliveries and handed off as set of plans to the electricians. They got the new service, a new ground field and all the wiring and panels in place before the electrical equipment arrived.

The audio wiring was mostly prefabricated. I spent quite a bit of time on the phone making sure everyone was busy and no one had to wait for anything. There was no time to waste. Jack Kennedy, who's a wiring specialist, and I arrived 10 days before Mike was schedule to start mixing. Because we were taking everything out after the mix, we had to be creative with how we ran wire. There were fireplaces in both the mix room and in the “machine” room where all the Pro Tools systems were, so we ran all the wire down to the basement and back up through the ash cleanouts. Fran showed up on the last day to take some measurements and had the contractor fabricate a set of dual-tuned Helmholtz resonators that smoothed out a couple bumps at 60 and 80 Hz. We delivered the room the next day in the afternoon — just six hours behind schedule.

John Klett is a technical audio consultant. He's on the Web at

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