When building out Hi-Five Studio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ryan Rosmann worked with Vintage King Audio Consultant Scotty Iulianelli to bring in a hybrid console featuring Rupert Neve Designs modules, monitors from ATC Loudspeakers and more.
In the year or so since the studio opened, it’s already created quite the buzz. Hi-Five Studio is currently nominated for a 2019 TEC Award and was recently selected for Mix Magazine’s Class of 2018. Quite the incredible rookie season filled with some stunning accomplishments.
We recently had the chance to sit down with Ryan and talk about his studio build-out process and the hybrid console he created with help from Scotty. Continue on below to see more photos of one of the hottest new studios to open in 2018.
Hi-Five Studio is absolutely gorgeous. How long did it take to build?
It was about a year-long process from start to finish. After we bought the building, Haverstick Designs took measurements and came up with the plan, then we got an architect involved and got all the building permits. It took about six months of planning and six months of construction. Luckily, one of my good friends is a master carpenter so we did the whole thing together. I actually got to be a part of the process and help frame the walls and stuff.
It was kind of daunting. Gavin [from Haverstick] really stressed the importance of extreme attention to detail. Being off by as little as an inch can compromise isolation. We needed isolation between rooms for the iso booths and from external noise. We’re actually across the street from a dog park. Just the sheer amount of materials it took was incredible.
In an era where studios are getting smaller and smaller, what made you decide to build such a massive space?
So many people are trying to get into smaller facilities, but I’ve been there before. If I’m going to build a studio from the ground up, it’s got to have everything I could ever want. I don’t want anything to get in the way of the creative process. I want to be able to leave stuff set up and not have to change everything over all the time, but still have the versatility to work on anything I want.
I think there’s still a reason to track live music with a band and I wanted to be able to do that. We don’t just put drums in a small room and overdub everything here. Playing live in a room together and getting that feeling is crucial. I love it, it’s exciting for me. I wanted a studio where I could achieve that with no compromises, where the studio doesn’t get in the way of doing anything, where I can go from rock in the morning to hip-hop in the middle of the day and everything is there and ready to go. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to find a building where I could make that happen.
When and why did you reach out to Vintage King? What was it like working with Scotty?
Scotty was amazing. We spent so much time at the beginning going through the planning process. He went above and beyond what I needed. We talked about how I should set up my patch bay and he hooked me up with all the gear I needed. Vintage King was instrumental in getting the studio how I wanted it to be. They were a fantastic resource.
You have a pretty incredible equipment list at Hi-Five. What was your thought process when you and Scotty were selecting the gear?
I wanted to make sure I had gear that was versatile enough that I could work with lots of different genres without being limited. At the same time, I wanted cohesiveness, too. I didn’t want 32 different kinds of preamps and EQs. I like to track the rhythm section, or at least the drums with the Rupert Neve Designs Shelford 5052s, then I can pick and choose flavors as I see fit from there.
Also, I wanted to make sure I’m committing to a sound on the way into the DAW and crafting each sound as I'm recording it. I try not to have to fix stuff in the mix. I go for the sound in the room, and I need analog gear to get it done.
Can you tell us a little bit about your custom hybrid Neve console and what makes it so special?
We designed the desk as a "hybrid" console with 16 Shelford 5052 modules and 500 series racks on the front end, with the RND 5059 Satellite Summing mixer and Manley Labs Variable Mu Limiter and Massive Passive on the back end. I specifically didn’t go the large format console route because I wanted to design something to fit my workflow.
I have everything I need on the analog end of things and digital routing so I can use the best of both worlds. For instance, I do all my automation and time-based effects in Pro Tools, but I can still lean on my Satellite mixer, Vari Mu and Massive Passive to do the heavy lifting. I use Pro Tools for editing and cleaning things up, maybe adding a few fun plug-ins here or there, and I can still use my Shelford EQs and analog gear. I can seamlessly patch things into Pro Tools without slowing down my workflow—I love the versatility.
What made you choose the ATC SCM45a Monitors?
The detail in their midrange is something I've never heard before. Once I get a mix sounding right in my room on those speakers, I know it's going to translate right. I was able to go back and listen to old mixes and hear stuff I’d never heard before. There’s something about the midrange detail there that I haven’t heard from any other speaker.
What are some of your favorite mics in the mic locker?
I have a vintage Neumann U87, which isn’t the most exciting answer but there’s a reason you see it everywhere. It’s a workhorse mic and it sounds great on everything. I’ve got a Flea 47 that sounds great on vocals, there’s just something magical about it. I also have a Flea 12. Flea makes amazing microphones.
I’ve got a pair of the Mesanovic Model 2 ribbon mics that I really like. They’re a ribbon mic but they have an extended top-end like a condenser mic. They’re always set up as my room mics. I can do anything with them. I can do horns or drum overheads or guitar cabs and they always sound great. I use those more than anything, that and the Mojave 101 FET. For me, having a really good pair of mics just makes life easier. If it’s up and ready to go and I know it will sound great. I’ll use it because it makes my life easier and keeps the session going.
What EQs do you find yourself reaching for most often?
I pretty much use the Shelford EQs on everything, they sound great. The three bands have the classic Rupert Neve sound, but with more modern updated features. Plus, the "Silk" feature makes it even more versatile because it lets me dial in even more lows or mid frequencies, it basically gives me three different flavors.
What about compressors?
I have a “Blue Stripe” 1176 that I use on almost every lead vocal I do. I just love the sound. It’s really familiar to me, I know how it works, and I don’t have to mess with anything. I plug a mic in and I know exactly what I’m getting. I love that thing. The API 2500 I love for drum busses. The Manley Variable MU is always on my 2-bus to glue everything together in the perfect way.
What’s an average day like at Hi-Five?
Well, it changes all the time, which I love. I can have a day where I’m tracking hip-hip vocals all day, or maybe vocals in the morning and drums in the afternoon, then finish up with another an acoustic guitar at the end of the day. That’s why I built the studio this way, so I can seamlessly work with artists from different genres.
What’s one piece of advice you have for someone building a studio right now?
I actually have two pieces of advice.
First, no matter what, don’t buy any gear until you treat your room. Good acoustic treatment makes a world of difference. Start by taking all the foam off your walls and throw it in the garbage. Do some research and find out how to make or buy really good acoustic treatment, especially for your listening position. You need to know that what’s coming out of your speakers is accurate. Otherwise you’ll mix a song, and even though it sounds great in our room it sounds like trash in your car, so you start to doubt yourself and everything spirals from there.
My second piece of advice is don’t try to get a whole bunch of gear. Find something you like and get two of them. Get two pres, two EQs, two compressors, two good microphones. Just get one pair of items at a time. If I could go back… I bought and sold so much stuff. Just do your research and find out what you like. Call Scotty at Vintage King and find out what's good and get a pair that will last forever. From there you can start adding bits and pieces as you go. Get a good vocal mic, or a boutique compressor, don’t just get a bunch of stuff so you can fill up your rack, because you’ll end up not liking it, selling it, taking a loss on it and buying the gear you wanted in the first place.
At Vintage King, our team of Audio Consultants can create custom studio solutions for your personal workflow. If you're interested in working with Scotty Iulianelli like Hi-Five Studio, please contact him via email or by phone at 248.591.9276 x199. To contact any of our Audio Consultants, you can do so by email or by phone at 888.653.1184.