The Capitol Studios complex opened in the Capitol Records Building, a futuristic new building in the heart of Hollywood, in 1956. It has since hosted some of the most treasured recording artists in music history, from Frank Sinatra to the Beastie Boys. It is owned by Capitol Records whose parent company is Universal Music Group. Drew Waters is the current Head of Studio Operations, Archives & Strategy. Paula Salvatore has been the studio manager for over 20 years. An additional studio by Capitol Records was built in New York City.
Capitol Records Building
The Capitol Records Building, also known as the 'Capitol Records Tower' is a Hollywood, Los Angeles, California landmark. The building was designed by Welton Becket, noted architect. The building is 13 stories tall and 150' high and is a modern, striking, earthquake-resistant reinforced-concrete structure.
The ground floor, the only rectangular part of the building, is actually a separate structure which surrounds the tower and was joined to it after the entire tower was completed. It houses the Recording Department offices, two mastering rooms, three recording studios which were designed by Vincent Van Huff, Jeff Cooper, and Jack Edwards, plus six production/edit rooms.
To prevent the hum of fluorescent lighting, the fixtures' ballasts were mounted outside the studios. The heating and air conditioning system used "decoupled ducts, sound traps and soundproofed vents."
The exterior walls are 10-inch-thick concrete. A one-inch air gap separates the outer wall from the studios' inner wall, which in turn stands on a floor which "floats on a rubber-tiled, 3-inch concrete slab. This upper slab floats on a layer of cork, which rests on the 6-inch concrete foundation slab."
The studios' interior walls were built with shutter-like baffles. One side is birch wood, which creates a hard sound, and the other is fiberglass, which has a softer sound. Ceilings are suspended beneath thick rock-wool soundproof insulation.
The Capitol Studios feature unique echo chambers. They are subterranean concrete bunkers built 30 feet underground. The sound isolation and acoustic properties allow recording engineers to sweeten tracks with a rich reverberation.
The echo chambers were designed as trapezoidal rooms by recording artist and sound expert Les Paul. They have 10-inch-thick concrete walls and foot-thick concrete ceilings. With speakers on one side and microphones on the other, they can provide reverberation lasting up to 5 seconds. Sound engineers "use them like an artist's palette," as one Capitol worker put it. Sound from the studios is sent to speakers in the echo chambers, and picked up by the microphones. The amount of reverberation is controlled at the sound mixing board.
The studios are threatened by the construction of a nearby condominium building and underground parking lot, which would involve heavy equipment working within 18 feet of the underground chambers.
- Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, 1957, Issue 04
- Pool, Bob - Plan to build next to Capitol Records studios sounds just awful to music biz. Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2008
- Schoenherr, Steven E. Recording Technology History. Department of History at the University of San Diego, [July 6, 2005]. Includes Pictures of Studio A