Berklee-trained jazz pianist and recording engineer Wes Lachot
Having begun his career as a Berklee-trained jazz pianist and recording engineer, Wes Lachot describes his entry into the field of studio design as "coming in through the back door." In actuality, the move from working in the studio to creating spaces for others to do so was a natural progression, informed as much by his professional experience as by a passion for architecture he never thought would impact his professional life.
Since forming Wes Lachot Design in the mid-1990s, however, the Chapel Hill, NC based designer has brought his extensive knowledge of architecture to bear on high profile projects like reworking the acoustics in two of NYC's famed Electric Lady Studios' control rooms, and the design of facilities including ARC Studios in Omaha, NE, and Fidelitorium, in Kernersville, NC.
Lachot's extensive study of architecture enables him to create recording studios that possess decidedly unique characteristics. His work in 2011 on Sound Temple Studios in Asheville, NC, for which owner Robert George asked him to create a sacred recording space, literally a 'Sound Temple', is a perfect example. For the build, Lachot embraced 'The Square', the ultimate expression of Unity, as a main design element and incorporated elements reflecting concepts including 'The Trinity' and 'the balance of the Four Elements' in his design.
On another 2011 project, Truphonic Recording in Charleston, SC, Lachot was required to realize owner and ad executive Bruce Freshley's vision of a luxurious studio atmosphere that would appeal to high-profile recording artists and local music and film industry professionals in equal measure. While the two were very different projects aesthetically, Lachot says, both required highly accurate monitoring that fit into their budgets.
The intangibles are a big factor in any design. Character, vibe, and atmosphere - they matter. They inspire creativity. What Lachot looks for in any loudspeakers inhabiting his rooms, however, is a lack of character. "The main thing musicians care about is that their instrument sounds the way it should. That's why I choose M3As; they don't put their own fingerprint on an instrument, the music just sounds like it did in the room.
That's the highest praise you can give any speaker, he adds: "Speakers that knock you down with extra sheen, or extra presence in the mid-range, may grab you in a fifteen minute shootout, but my clients use these speakers for years. Any qualities that aren't the truth, you'll tire of them. What you want is a speaker that gives it to you straight.
Although Lachot's projects vary widely, his choice of Dynaudio 3-way M3As as soffit-mounted main monitors in most of his recent installations remains constant. "The Dynaudio M3As are simply the most accurate speakers in their price range," he says. "From a scientific standpoint, installed properly, in-wall monitors are ideal because they eliminate rear reflections that cause frequency anomalies. The problem is that in-wall monitors are typically really expensive and, given the state of the music industry, most people putting together a studio can't spend thirty-thousand to fifty-thousand dollars on monitors. The nice thing is that the M3As are a lot less expensive than their direct sonic competitors; I don't think there's another monitor in this price range, or near it, that sounds this good."
Typically, Lachot pairs the M3As with Bryston 4B-SST2 amplifiers. He is looking into demoing the Lab.gruppen PLM 10000Q Dynaudio is currently marketing in tandem with the M3As. "We're getting excellent results using Bryston, but we'll be doing an A/B comparison with the Labs in the near future."
Even for facilities destined to inhabit a very small space, Lachot recommends soffit-mounted monitors. "The physics are unrelenting - installed correctly, they provide full frequency response top to bottom, and detail on the imaging like you've never heard."
That also informs his preference for Dynaudio M3As. "The tweeters are very transparent. You don't feel like you're listening to a tweeter; you're listening to cymbals, the high harmonics of pianos, the sibilance of vocals - which is a rough point for some otherwise really good monitors."
"Even classical musicians love them and they're notoriously picky. I also like the D'Appolito array and the M3A's extended low frequency response. Properly mounted they're very flat to 30 Hz. They're room dependent below that, but I've heard them sound flat down to 26 Hz in larger rooms. We avoid EQ'ing the monitors at all costs. We prefer to use acoustics and to tune the active crossover, using a 24 dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley 10B-LR crossover, which is unique because it's phase coherent."
Beyond that, the M3A's frequency response remains constant regardless of level. "When you're tracking or comping vocals all day, you don't want to be thinking, 'I need to EQ the kick.'" In his own engineering days, Lachot sometimes purposely defaulted to loudspeakers with slightly blurry fidelity to avoid just that kind of distraction, but that's a compromise he prefer his clients won't have to make. "Put bluntly, you can crank the M3As up so the kick is hitting you in the chest, but if you turn them down you still feel the fullness in the bass."