Jungle City On Top Of The World

On Top Of The World: Jungle City Studios Shows NYC In A New Light

by Janice Brown

CHELSEA, MANHATTAN: NYC is quite literally the backdrop to Ann Mincieli’s brand-new Jungle City Studios. One step into the top-of-the-world Studio A, with panoramic views uptown along the High Line and west to the Hudson River, and you’re hitting the Alicia Keys chorus of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind;” it’s a cinematic moment.

This is how Mincieli — Keys’ longtime engineer and studio coordinator — conceived of the deluxe studio facility, incorporating the best of everything she’s encountered in studios around the world to her own vision for a top-of-the-line and uniquely “New York” studio experience.

She’s quick to reference Hit Factory Studio 1 as her all-time favorite live room, but also mentions immersive destination studio experiences in France and Germany, as influential in her designs for Jungle City, located on W. 27th Street.

“I wanted to find the ultimate location that really represented New York City with the views, the art and culture,” Mincieli shares. “This is such an up-and-coming neighborhood — you have the art galleries, the High Line, views of the Empire State building and the water. And there’s a luxury hotel [Hotel Americano] opening right next door which benefits us so much because people will stay there and work here.

Looking at the post-Hit Factory/Sony/Chung King/Clinton NYC studio landscape, Mincieli saw a void. “I wanted to bring something back to NYC, to the industry here, give people something they can be excited about. A real experience. Not just to bring back the clients from NYC, but from around the world.

On the day of our visit, in fact, the Japanese pop band Dreams Come True were recording in Studio A with Ed Tuton. Downstairs, Swizz Beatz had been working out of the Euphonix room, and Keys has been in working on a couple projects, including material for her next album. Like Keys’ Long Island recording studio complex, The Oven, Jungle City was devised by Mincieli with superstar artists in mind, and designed with signature features by John Storyk and Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG).

Jungle City Style, Sights, Sounds

Situated on the top two floors of a brand-new building, Jungle City’s three studios provide distinctly different environments, though all feature the custom Augspurger mains with Aura subs — an expensive custom system (painted at a car dealership for extra flash) but a necessary expense as Mincieli sees it.

“The Augspurgers sound incredible,” she notes. “They’re loud, the image on them is great. It’s a no-brainer. People come in and it’s psychological — they’re relieved to see them. You have to give the clients what they want.” For that matter, Mincieli sourced what she determined was “the best of everything” for every aspect of this facility — that is three impeccably equipped studios, lounges, kitchens, bathrooms, the works. And though she knows her audience well, she did her homework.

“I co-designed the studio with a lot of research, input from artists, labels and producers on what they felt the industry was missing,” she explains. “I’d ask them, ‘What would you like to see in a studio in NYC?’ ‘We want light. We want it to feel like home.’” From the Louis Vuitton wallpaper and fabrics in the control rooms to the tastefully appointed lounges, to the unique acoustic treatments, the Jungle City interior design — coordinated by WSDG’s Beth Walters — lends that opulence of a high-end hotel, or home.

And then there’s the gear. Knowing what her network of top-tier artists and producer/engineers would expect, Mincieli handpicked all the gear with attention to every last detail for different users and workflows.

“There are so many ways to work now,” she notes. “Different mixers mix in different ways — some have migrated all in the box, some are half-in half-out, some are SSL, some are Euphonix. So I wanted to give people a few different flavors. The two mix/overdub/production rooms are very versatile with both the retro and cutting-edge technologies.”

And each has its own flavor of console: one with an Avid D-Control, and the other a Euphonix Fusion System 5. Both have Pro Tools HD3 rigs loaded up with plug-ins and corresponding iso booths. Along with the 32-input D-Control, the ICON room highlights include “the newest Avid HD IOs, Dangerous summing and the great [Antelope] OCX-V clocks.” Across the way, the Euphonix room offers a whole ‘nother experience.

“The integration between Avid and Euphonix is just incredible,” Mincieli says of the S5 Fusion.

“They’re taking advantage of the EUCON control so the features and plug-in channels that you see in Pro Tools show up on the desk. It’s a dual-purpose desk and control surface. I have 16 channels of Euphonix mic pre’s, and running at 96K, I can still get 64 channels of EQ and compression. And when you want to be all in the box, you can use the EQs, compressors, the bussing, and it’s all digital — it all converts via the new Avid Digi I/Os and Avid also made a new MADI converter specifically for this desk.”

Mincieli adds, “I love the way it sounds: the EQs, compression, the stereo bus. You can pull a compressor up in Pro Tools and control it without having to look at a monitor. And the 7.1 surround and film panning is insane — I can do a 12.2 mix in here. This is the wave of the future.

Upstairs in Studio A, Mincieli went retro-futuristic with the centerpiece 48-input SSL Duality analog console, Pro Tools HD3 and a rare 1968 EMI TGI 12345 Mark 3 console she’s completely restored. The EMI sits to the right of the SSL, side-car-style. “You can use it in a variety of ways,” Mincieli notes. “The EMI console can be used for mic pre’s, for the EQ/compressors, and it’s a fully patchable console.”

And of the sizeable control room, Mincieli shares, “I wanted one big old-school control room so we could accommodate artists who want to have their four guitar heads, or several keyboards in there with them.” With the unique clear glass diffusion panels across the back wall windows, the clients are working inside a North and South facing top-floor studio.

On this, the studio’s ultimate wow factor, John Storyk describes, “To maximize the impact of the studios’ expansive North and South picture windows, we floated the custom Augspurger Dual 15 Vertical main speakers in an outsized glass speaker baffle. This is only the second time we have done this, creating a kind of transparent ‘wall of sound’ between the live and control rooms.

“This provides artists and engineers with the creative advantage of full visual connectivity plus, NYC’s ultimate eye candy, views ranging from The Empire State Building to the Hudson River. The audio sound field is extremely accurate throughout the full frequency range, particularly at the critical low end, necessary for many of Mincieli’s demanding urban music clients.”

Monitoring accuracy is paramount in these environments, as Mincieli points out more than once during our tour. Just prior to opening, in the first week of January, she worked closely with mastering engineer Dave Kutch and WSDG’s Dirk Noy to tune all three Jungle City studios over four days. For an inside look at Jungle City, check out this video documenting that tuning process:

Jungle City’s Studio A live room — with 14’ ceilings, inspiring views and glass-encased iso booth — is tempered by entirely custom acoustic treatments and programmable color LED mood lighting. “Drums sound great in the big room,” Mincieli assures. “And the shades are remote-controllable via the Crestron system. You can close the shades for 40% deadening.”

Clients on both floors can easily access a terrace, and if that’s not enough fresh air, they can hit the 2400-square-foot rooftop deck. Sweet!

Jungle City was an ambitious design/build carried out by an expert team. “Our project manager, Joshua Morris; systems designer Judy Elliot-Brown and studio builder Chris Harmaty of Technical Structures all fully embraced the complexity, and scope of this project,” Storyk notes. “The ultimate goal was to realize Ann’s dream of making Jungle City a significant addition to NY’s recording industry.”

The Future Is Now…

The Jungle City layout provides ample space for the modern artist doubling as producer a la Keys, Kanye West, Jay-Z, in that they can maximize production by running two rooms at once and jumping between projects. And the construction will continue.

When all is said and done, Mincieli reports, Jungle City will encompass five studios, including a second Studio A-style room. Inspired by Jungle City, Keys will build an Oven Manhattan location.

To continually tailor the studios to top-tier clientele, Mincieli draws insight from everyday experience with these artists while always looking ahead. “With a new studio, I’m looking to see what’s next,” she notes.

“What can I do? How can I be out front of everything that’s coming. The record labels didn’t do that, and it hurt everyone. We’re catching up now, but artists [at this level] need to have people in place with that foresight. And the artists and the labels need to be looking to the future.”

In this age of major releases leaking early and often, security is a huge concern, and protocols are in place at Jungle City.  “I don’t have any of my rooms networked together,” Mincieli points out.

“Artists bring in their own drives and I don’t have copies of anything when they leave. I will have the ability to store anything the labels need me to store (in a fireproof safe) but until then, I have these internal SATA drives on the computers. You can’t pull them out so you are forced to copy your stuff onto an external drive and take it with you when you leave. And then we’ll erase SATA drives. You don’t want to be the studio who leaks someone’s album.”

Leak-proof, airtight and on top of the game, Jungle City has arrived. Records are made to be broken, and elite studios are designed to be outdone. Just don’t be surprised if it takes the world a minute to surpass the new standard that’s been set on West 27th Street.

To book Jungle City, visit www.junglecitystudios.com.

And for more on the Walters-Storyk Design Group, visit www.wsdg.com.

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