MIX MAGAZINE – From the Ground Up: The Building of Akashic Studio

Located six miles outside of Boulder, Colo., at an elevation of 7,650 feet, Akashic Recording Studio is nestled amidst pine and aspen tress and offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and forests. It’s no wonder that studio owner Prasanna (nee Tim Bishop), a recording veteran with extensive experience in L.A. and Colorado, chose this spot to make the move up from a serviceable 16-track to a truly top-flight facility. Noted designer Rich Zwiebel worked up the plans for the studio, and Doug Kirk served as general contractor. Although there were budgetary constraints on the project, the design and construction team didn’t cut any corners in key areas, and the result is a solid, comfortable, virtually noise-free studio. Since it opened this past winter, Akashic has hosted music sessions in a number of different genres, including jazz, rock, dance/house and even a classical chamber choir. Below, we offer a series of photos taken during the different stages of the studio’s construction, lest we all forget the incredible amount of work it takes to build a studio from the ground up. -BJ (MIX, 1994)

Foundation of the top recording studio in Boulder COThe foundation is 8-inch-thick concrete going down to 24-inch footers buried at least 26 inches. It is laced with high-quality rebar used horizontally and vertically. The soil is decomposed granite, suitable for rugged construction.

The outer walls are grout-filled, 8-inch-thick masonry at 4-foot lifts with rebar every four feet. Zwiebel: “Perched up there on the hill, the studio is susceptible to strong winds, which can give you a low-frequency hum. So having the mass-dead air-mass walls gives you better sound isolation. It also addresses another potential problem: forest fires.”

Engineered trusses support the roof, which is triple-layer 1/2-inch chipboard with 2×4-inch sleepers in between to prevent impact noise transmission, sealed with acoustic sealant from Tremco. Double-thick Fiberglas dimensional tile will go on top.

Drywall framing is steel studs 16 inches on center with crossbraces at 48 inches, all suspended from acoustic isolators from above and from the sides. All inner walls are double-layer 5/8-inche drywall with screws at 9-inch spacing and acoustic sealant everywhere.

In the control room, main speaker pedestals are double-tiered to isolate high- and mid-frequency drivers from the woofers. Sand-filled masonry supports 3-inch flag rock, then bricks support the woofers’ 3-inch flag rock slab. Zwiebel: “One reason to have the control room and recording rooms side-by-side is it’s much cheaper, because you don’t have to have an isolated control room with expensive steel frames and a window in there. But also, Prasanna wanted to bring in the outside as much as possible, so when you’re at the mix position, you’re overlooking the mountains. It worked out fine. If you need to see the musicians when you’re tracking, you turn your head a bit. It’s no big deal.”

HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) designed by David Khan of Acoustic Dimensions and Design Mechanical. High-volume plenums are recessed between trusses with ducts going to them. Plenums are 5/8-inch drywall lined with 2-inch plenum liner and lots of acoustic sealant. All ducts hang from acoustic isolators from Kinetics and are decoupled from the plenums. Zwiebel: “My hat’s off to the HVAC designer. It’s the most amazing HVAC system I’ve ever seen. It’s below the threshold of hearing, even when you’re standing under a heat vent.”

Full frequency-response diffusion with varied well and depth spacing is installed on the entire ceiling of the studio and iso booth, as well as parts of the walls and the back control room wall. Most are now covered with more visually pleasing, acoustically transparent cloth. Duct penetrations are feathered neoprene and acoustical sealant. Under windows are three isolated cable raceways.

The electrical system is new copper cable from the 240V service to a custom-designed, balanced AC60V to ground step-down transformer with surge protection and filtering. All AC runs stay 36 inches from mic- or line-level cables. They are acoustically isolated such that a cable acoustically coupled to one building envelope is decoupled from the other two.

The finished studio, with its heavily modified Tascam 3500 board in the control room, has seen a steady stream of different music sessions.