By Christopher Walsh Pro Sound, May 2010

Nashville’s Verge Recording is a fine example of the modern recording studio, in which a diversity of commercial and in-house clients accomplish a broad spectrum of audio production. Recently redesigned and constructed by Nashville-based Carl Tatz Design, Verge Recording clearly fits a niche in today’s recording-services market. “People just don’t have the budget to spend as much time in the big studios,” says owner Brian Eckert. “A lot of our clients that are doing album projects will track at a larger studio for a couple days and finish the rest of the project at our place: the overdubs, vocals and everything.” Eckert, a producer/musician, and engineer/musician Greg Strizek are partners in Verge Recording, which serves commercial clients, and the myriad in-house projects of the Verge Nashville family of companies. Verge, owned by Eckert and his wife, Nancy, an attorney, offers a range of entertainment-business services including artist development, management and booking; publishing; and legal representation of artists, songwriters, producers and companies. Verge Recording, also a home base for engineer Dave Bates, is housed in a separate building on the Eckert’s’ property. In its first incarnation, the studio housed a mix room and vocal booth: “Every studio that you start out with turns into a full production facility by the end, “Eckert observes. “I realized, ‘I need to bring somebody in to design this and set it up properly. ‘ The goal was a client-development facility that doubled as a regular commercial studio. ” Enter Tatz, creator of the PhantomFocus System for optimizing monitoring. “Brian had come out to hear one of the Rascal Flatts’ PhantomFocus Systems and see the studio, “Tatz, who has designed personal studios for Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney, recalls. Eckert says he and Strizek were “just blown away by what they heard – the imaging on it the clarity and just the sound of it. That’s what sold me on working with [Tatz]. Jay had the same monitor setup- [Dynaudio] M1s- that we had, so I was able to hear exactly what I’d be getting in my studio.” Tatz designed a tracking room, iso booth and spacious control room (13 feet 6 inches by 16 feet 1 inch with an 8-foot 9-inch ceiling) for Verge Recording. “It’s got a larger project-studio feel to it,” says Eckert, “which is what we were going for. Carl made it feel more like a commercial facility, instead of a home-studio vibe, and a lot of our professional clients prefer that. They almost like the smaller space for tracking, too, like with rock groups. Some of the country groups that we work with-artists that use the same guys on their sessions that play with them live – like the vibe of everyone being in close.” The control room features acoustic louvered sidewalls that act as a sonic lens, absorbing and diffusing the monitor’s mid-and high-frequency first reflections, also redirecting them throughout the room. The front wall is a Carl Tatz Design black-steel, primary axial mode absorber to control low frequencies. The control room houses an Avid Con- troll24 console and Pro Tools HDI2 system; outboard equipment includes Avalon pre- amps, Empirical Labs Distressors, an early 1970s Universal Audio 1176 and a Joe Meek EQ. “We just wanted to have a good, basic set of gear that would work well for vocal chains and for doing overdubs of acoustic instruments, as well as guitar,” Eckert ex- plains. “Being in Nashville, we have the benefit of renting any piece of gear we want, so the patch bay and everything is wired up to where we can bring in racks of Neves or I APls, for example. The concept was to build the room right and spend the money on that and the monitor system. When the client comes in, we can give them a rate that’s low enough to where they can tailor the room for what they need with the gear.” Additional client amenities include a private lounge and outdoor patio. The business plan is a sound one: Verge Entertainment clients Brady Seals and Gwen Sebastian recorded their latest albums here, Eckert reports; publishing companies are sending writers to Verge for demo recordings; and Strizek’s commercial mix business has increased. “We weighed out the cost of going to bigger studios, the money we spent on tracking and working with our artists there,” says Eckert. “I figured we would easily recoup within three to four years if we had our own place. Then there’s the benefit of owning a place that we can get into any time we want to…And having Carl come in and set it up properly, it can compete with a commercial studio. We have the confidence that what we’re hearing is correct.” Verge Recording

Inside The PhantomFocus System

Carl Tatz Design offers a unique component that has attracted many adherents. Principal Carl Tatz�s monitor tuning system, known as the PhantomFocus System, has been employed in more than forty rooms in Nashville alone. The bulk of his design work, says Tatz, is in home based studios and screening rooms. The custom, turnkey PhantomFocus System, which is implemented in nearfield, midfield and main systems, is common denominator in all of them. �I don�t build a studio without a PhantomFocus System,� he says. �It is part of the design, part of the construction budget basically. Its such a dramatic element. That�s what distinguishes my work from everybody else�s: I design a studio around it, and that�s the big payoff. It doesn�t matter if you�ve got million-dollar monitors or a million-dollar studio. It doesn�t mean its going to sound like a million -dollars.� The PhantomFocus System relies on �an amalgam of techniques, proprietary protocols, hardware and software,� according to the companies literature, to create within a wide and multidimensional panorama. The system also incorporates speaker/listener position calculations, proper speaker stands, damping and isolation devices, subwoofer systems, laser alignment, 360-degree phase control, crossovers and EQ. �What happens in these PhantomFocus Systems is, the nearfields have the same low-end frequency response as the bigs,� says Tatz, so you have the intimacy of having nearfields and the best of both worlds.� With the success of the PhantomFocus System and a long list of testimonials, Tatz is now exploring a virtual iteration that would employ headphones. Such a system, he explains, would allow an engineer to take his or her PhantomFocus System anywhere in the world. �Put these headphones on with a laptop, and mix having the best monitor system in the world. You can switch it to a nearfield system and then switch it up on the bigs. The other application is, if you don�t have a PhantomFocus System, you can have one and have the best monitors in the world in an outhouse in Siberia, at considerably less money than a real PhantomFocus System.� Click here to learn more about the PhantomFocus System »