How Do Coldplay & Ringo Starr Get Such Great Studio Sound?

Behind every great studio is a great studio designer. Gavin Haverstick (studio designer for Ringo Starr, Coldplay, Twenty One Pilots) explains how a well-tuned recording space directly leads to a better listening experience.

Photo by: Isabelle Smith

Proper design and treatment of a room can make all the difference in the user’s experience. Whether it be a high-end recording studio where accuracy is needed to properly record and mix music or a house of worship where a controlled environment is crucial to understand speech and obtaining musical clarity, our job is to make sure that the acoustics of a space enhance how our clients use their rooms.

In a recording studio, if you cannot trust the acoustical accuracy of your room, it will impact how much time you spend on a project and the quality of the end result. Without proper acoustical treatment, mixes will not translate properly to other systems. For large venues (churches, performance halls, etc.) if the room is not tamed and is overly reverberant, speech intelligibility suffers and music can feel harsh or unclear.

Another benefit of a well-treated room is that all of the equipment and gear in the room will perform at its highest level. The best pair of speakers in the whole world can’t overcome a boomy or bass-heavy room. A high-end PA system in a room with a reverberation time that is too long is a wasted investment without addressing the room acoustics.

 Measuring a recording studio is quite different than measuring a house of worship. For instance, when taking acoustical measurements in the Control Room of a recording studio, we are focusing on the listening position (the spot where the mix engineer sits and makes EQ adjustments, panning decisions and other choices) and this is one singular location in the room. For a house of worship, we are concerned with hundreds of seats spread out over a wide area. So, for a Control Room, we are trying to dial in speaker positioning and mix location by taking numerous measurements in a close proximity to each other. In a house of worship, we are gathering data from multiple seats in order to get a sense of how the room is performing overall and how the speaker system is covering the room.

The other thing that differs with these two applications are the metrics that we capture. For studios, we are mainly interested in frequency response, impulse response, waterfall plots, and phase. In larger rooms we do look at all of those things, but we also add in reverberation time, which is the time it takes for sound to decay by 60 decibels (dB). This is a very important metric along with Speech Transmission Index (STI) which gauges how well speech can be heard and understood.

The Earthworks M30 was one of my first purchases when I started my business back in 2009. I also own two (2) Earthworks M23R microphones as well. Earthworks is such a trusted name in the industry and I wanted to make sure I was delivering the most accurate measurements that I could for my clients. We also do projects with government entities and other organizations that require a Class A microphone, so the M30 is a great choice. I can’t tell you how many times I take the M30 out of the case to set up for testing and the client will comment “I love Earthworks microphones” or “That is a nice mic – I need to get one of those for the studio”. Earthworks is synonymous with quality and it gives my clients confidence in us, but more importantly, it gives me confidence in the data we are gathering to help with our acoustical design. As an engineer I like to define the problem before I try to solve it. We have tested hundreds of rooms over the years and every one of them was tested with an Earthworks microphone.

About Gavin Haverstick & Haverstick Designs

Haverstick Designs is a full-service acoustical consulting firm that specializes in recording studio design and architectural acoustics for large rooms (churches, performance halls, etc.) We are based in Carmel, Indiana, but the majority of our work is out of state or overseas. Since Haverstick Designs began in 2009, we have designed studios for artists such as Ringo Starr, Coldplay, Twenty One Pilots, Tori Kelly, David Crowder, Tim Henson, Brooklyn Duo and Luca Pretolesi among others. Owner Gavin Haverstick has a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a robotics focus, but has been involved with music his entire life and was able to combine his passion for art and science in the world of acoustics.

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