System Designers At Work

Oct 6, 2010 5:11 PM, By Blair Jackson

WHOLE-STUDIO SOLUTIONS FROM A SINGLE SOURCE

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PAD was the system designer for engineer/producer Yaron Fuchs’ personal studio.

PAD was the system designer for engineer/producer Yaron Fuchs’ personal studio.

With technology changing by the minute and becoming ever more complex in some ways (but simpler in others), it’s getting harder even for seasoned audio pros to keep up with dizzying shifts and trends. Owner/operators may wonder: How do I integrate new gear into my old workflow—or should I try? What new equipment or way of working will increase my efficiency but not present too drastic a learning curve? Do I have to throw out all my analog boxes and switch to plug-ins? How can I get the most bang-for-my-buck outfitting this cool room off of my garage?

There are a few ways to answer those and other questions. Hundreds of clicks around the Internet on manufacturers’ Websites and in audio chat groups could shed some light. Perusing magazines like this one could point you in some positive directions. Or you could try the route that an increasing number of overworked and/or befuddled folks have tried: enlist the services of professional systems designers. Thousands have worked hand-in-hand with these largely unsung experts in gear selection, integration and work solutions to find the most comfortable and economical path through the new technology minefield. We recently checked in with reps from four successful firms in the system design world to learn more about what makes them tick and the range of services they offer.

PRO AUDIO DESIGN
Playing in bands, working in studios and bartending. That’s how Dave Malekpour sums up his life in the Boston area before he got involved in the world of professional audio in the mid-’80s, first as part of a local studio design, installation and maintenance concern, then as head of his own company: Anything Audio, founded in 1989, which morphed into the now-giant Pro Audio Design in 1993.

Dave Malekpour of Professional Audio Design

Dave Malekpour of Professional Audio Design

“The first person I hired was a tech, so it was me and him, and my concept was sales and service combined—try to connect things in a holistic way,” he says. “I’ve had this system design approach from the beginning. What does this connect to? How are you using it? What does it need to talk to? How does it all go together? My vision was to do everything because I saw a lot of gaps where people weren’t really thinking through the whole process. I saw people come over from the music store, having spent a hundred grand on equipment, and ask, ‘How much does a patchbay cost?’ ‘Okay, it’ll be like twenty grand.’ ‘Uh, I don’t have twenty grand. I thought it was going to be a grand to buy all the cables and patchbay.’ So we focused not just on the system design, but also on value engineering—helping customers to figure out the best way to spend their money on the end result, and working with them through the whole process. Our job is to help people with their vision and translate that into something that can be built or accomplished.”

From the beginning, Pro Audio Design catered to a broad spectrum of clients. Malekpour notes, “We were an ADAT and Tascam service center at the same time we were refurbishing SSL and Neve consoles and equipping high-end studios.” He notes that in 1999, his company sold 49 refurbished SSLs, around 30 Neves, 12 Euphonix “and a bunch of APIs. I had nine service techs doing console work. In 2009, it was probably a dozen SSLs. Obviously, the market has changed, with more people working in the box instead of on big consoles. We still have four full-time service techs, but they’re doing a broader range of things. They’re doing more repair work, more installation work. We’ve broadened out into some commercial installations, like churches, helping out theaters and nightclubs.”

Pro Audio Design still does a lot of high-end studio work—sometimes with the Walters-Storyk Design Group—that involves new or restored consoles, but Malekpour notes, “I don’t have a particular agenda. I mean, I personally love consoles—I won’t lie—but I also sell control surfaces. We just did an all-control surface project with some good front-end gear and some plug-ins. I try to look at, ‘What are you trying to do?’ I don’t really care what the brand is. To me, if we do our job right, you’re going to be happy with the system and you’re going to get good results, and we’re going to have those customers for a long time to come.”

The company has weathered the down economy surprisingly well—in part because they’ve developed such a diverse client base, but also, frankly, because “we’ve done a lot more liquidations, helping businesses change their positions—and not necessarily just going out of business,” says Malekpour. “When the Hit Factory closed, they contracted us to liquidate the facility, and we also sold the consoles from Allaire [in upstate New York], which was just about my favorite studio ever. But we’ve also done work for some big television companies where they want to get rid of older technology so they can put in something new, and we’ll help them on both ends of that. We sold Quad Studios in New York to the current owners and helped them in repositioning. We do asset appraisals, too.”

This self-proclaimed gear-head has always been more than just a salesman or company executive. He built and equipped his own personal studio—“I’m as proud of my patchbay as anything,” he says with a chuckle—and recently co-produced, engineered and played lead guitar on the just-released self-titled debut album by Jackson Wetherbee.






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