The control room of the new space of One Louder Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo credit: Rudy Harris Photography.
Cincinnati’s One Louder Studio represents the fulfilled dreams of owner and engineer/producer Mark Lienhart – truly lifelong dreams, as he points out: “I’ve been in the music industry since I was 18 months old, which is ridiculous sounding, but my grandfather had an 18-piece jazz band and I was raised in it. Then I was in bands from age 13 or 14 onward, and studied A/V production in college. At a pretty young age, I realized that I wasn’t getting what I needed out of the studios we were working in. Building and operating my own studio was always there as a goal and dream. I suppose it was my destiny.”
The studio has grown organically since its origins in its first location in Hamilton, Ohio, with Lienhart upgrading gear along the way, remodeling his space and finally moving to a larger permanent space, where he has achieved sonic nirvana with a workflow that results in the sound he’s always strived for but could never quite attain. “I always wondered how the major-label engineers got that last 10% or so of sound quality. I worked and worked, studying the science and art of recording, but I just couldn’t quite get there. As much as people say that the gear doesn’t matter, they’re wrong – the gear is that last 10%! Nothing I did would make the sound perfect until I found the gear that complemented what I was doing.” And this gear has been assembled in Lienhart’s new space thanks to a close relationship with GC Pro – specifically with GC Pro Sales rep Jim Kinney, who has worked with Lienhart at every step of the way in outfitting the new facility. “Jim doesn’t talk to me like a salesman; he talks to me like an engineer, which I very much appreciate,” Lienhart notes. “That makes a huge difference. He really knows what he’s talking about, and he understands my perspective, so he can recommend the right tools for me.”
Lienhart’s tenure as a studio owner has humble beginnings – a few mics and an interface, purchased at the grand re-opening of Cincinnati’s Guitar Center in 2007 or so. As he recorded more and more in his band’s rehearsal space, he started to get calls from other acts in the area. Word was spreading, and the records were getting better and better. Before long, Lienhart and his wife made the decision to take the studio to the next level. After moving to a space near the University of Cincinnati, he made a significant upgrade to his setup, working with Kinney to set the facility apart from other mid-sized studios in the area.
Engineer/producer Mark Lienhart, owneer of One Louder Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo credit: Rudy Harris Photography.
Despite Lienhart’s growing arsenal of amazing gear and his increasingly masterful engineering/production skills, he felt that the studio was not quite meeting its potential: “It’s hard to set yourself apart, because there are so many smaller studios out there now. On one hand, that is great for music and artists, but on the other hand, it sort of de-values the professional studio, set up and run by someone with real expertise. It can be a challenge to convince potential clients that what you’re offering is a step up from the average project studio in terms of gear or level of production. So even though we were making great records at that facility with artists I love, I knew we could do more. My wife and I agreed, it was getting to be time for us to take a leap forward in terms of gear and the facility itself.” So a major shift was on the horizon – moving into and outfitting yet another space, his current one. It’s been an inarguably fast rise, and GC Pro has been his number-one resource for the right gear and service.
The centerpiece of the new facility, in operation since June 2014, is the Slate Pro Audio RAVEN MTX console, an acclaimed, state-of-the-art multi-touch touchscreen interface. “We were considering several great options for consoles, but Jim was wise enough to take the conversation in another direction – ‘Have you ever considered the RAVEN?’ – and he set up a demo for me at GC Pro’s Hollywood showroom with some sessions I had tracked. I got behind that console, and it was absolutely the most intuitive way to mix. I immediately understood how it worked. The tactile response is extraordinary. I was able to edit and mix right there at the demo session. Saying that I was sold on the idea right away is an understatement. It was a revelation.”
Kinney and Lienhart interfaced the RAVEN MTX, running Pro Tools HDX, with a custom analog board that they designed themselves with all of Lienhart’s favorite outboard gear – pre-amps, EQs, compressors and the like. Lienhart adds, “We created a setup that blends analog outboard gear, Pro Tools and the RAVEN MTX interface. I have so many flavors to choose from, and all these elements work together marvelously.” The setup is complemented by Genelec 8050 Active Monitors, also sourced through GC Pro, and the classic Yamaha NS10’s, which Lienhart acquired from a retiring prominent voice actress who had used them for years in her home recording space – but uniquely, never for music.
A final touch was acoustical treatment. Lienhart recalls, “Jim arranged for Jay Porter from Radial and Primacoustic to do a 3D rendering of the room, based on the architect’s drawings and our specs, and he recommended several pieces of Primacoustic treatment, strategically placed in just the right spots. It was the perfect solution for controlling the sound in the control room and the tracking room.”
Lienhart is thrilled with the results: “The undertaking of rebuilding my studio and workflow from the ground up was hard work, but the records we’re making now – the sound is incredible. I listen to them and literally can’t believe we made that happen at our facility. I definitely could not have done it without the help of Jim and GC Pro, because at every turn, if I had a question, Jim had the answer, or knew how to get it. The last high-profile client I had, he got choked up and said that we brought to life the sound in his head, which is the biggest compliment you can get as an engineer or producer.”
About Guitar Center Professional/Guitar Center
Founded in 2001, Guitar Center Professional is the outside sales division of Guitar Center that focuses on the needs of professional users. Its clientele includes recording studios, audio engineers, producers, recording and touring musicians, live sound venues, post production facilities and more. Emphasizing extraordinary individualized service via local account managers, GC Pro offers expert consultation and a comprehensive selection of the world’s finest equipment for music and audio professionals. More information on GC Pro can be found by visiting www.gcpro.com.