Saga of Capitol Records Studio's Acoustics in Jeopardy


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They were singing the blues in the legendary Studio A at Hollywood's Capitol Records tower.

Pile drivers and excavation would take place only feet away from famed echo chambers beneath the Vine Street tower. EMI is appealing an approval of the project as recording pros fret.

“Losing this place would be a big deal. There's nothing better than this anywhere in the world," said recording engineer Al Schmitt.

Schmitt, a 19-time Grammy winner, was standing over the banquet-table-size mixing board in the Vine Street studio's control room. Punching a button on the console, he played back a silky smooth track recorded minutes earlier by jazz singer Roberta Gambarini. The sound was flawless.

Those involved in Hollywood's thriving music scene fear that's about to change.

A developer plans to build a 16-floor condominium and 242-car underground parking garage next door to the landmark circular Capitol Records tower.

The Los Angeles Planning Commission has signed off on the project, but Capitol Records' parent company, EMI, has appealed to the City Council to overturn the approval. The council's planning and land use committee is scheduled to consider the issue June 24.

Musicians, producers and sound engineers warn that the project would produce noise and vibrations that will make quality sound recording impossible at Capitol's famed studios.

At risk are Capitol's unique echo chambers - subterranean concrete bunkers that allow recording engineers to sweeten tracks with a rich reverberation.

The eight chambers are built 30 feet underground and are about 18 feet away from where pile driving and excavation work would be done for the condominium project.

“There is nothing like these echo chambers anywhere. Nobody can replicate them," Schmitt said.

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