Musician and sound engineer Mike Johnson had been recording and mixing sound professionally since 2002, but was tired of being stuck with a sub-par product because he was using a sub-par facility.
“My ears are useless if I’m not hearing the truth,” he says.
Realizing how important recording rooms are, Johnson began a quest for precision and perfection, and decided to build his own studio.
“I’ve built home studios wherever I’ve lived. As I grew as an engineer and musician, my standards for recording grew as well, culminating in this exact studio. I’ve created a place that makes me not only want to record my own music, but to share the opportunity with other musicians as well,” says Johnson.
“I knew if I was going to make it all worth it, I would need to do it 100% right, all the way,” says Johnson. So he hired Wes Lachot of Wes Lachot Design to design Clear Track Productions. Lachot has recently reworked the acoustics of Electric Lady Studios in New York City, and designed studios in which artists such as Aerosmith, REM and The Dixie Chicks have recorded.
What makes Lachot a top designer is that he designs his studios to be acoustically correct first and foremost, rather than designing for aesthetics (which can lead to flaws in the quality of sound being recorded).
With Clear Track Productions, Lachot has managed to blend aesthetics with the practicality of an acoustically correct space by lining the walls with acoustic panels in a puzzle-like formation. These panels give the room a neutral sound, which means whichever instrument or sound is being recorded will remain true to that sound in the recording.
“Once you walk through Studio A’s oak door, you immediately step into another world,” Johnson’s wife Elizabeth describes. “Anyone can feel how much care went into creating this place.”
Studio A comes with a tropical-themed private lounge, complete with a kitchenette, entertainment center, and miniature carp pond, offering both privacy and relaxation during the recording process.
“It’s as good as it gets,” says Johnson.
Johnson did not skimp on equipment quality either, opting to use tape rather than digital to record on. Clear Track Productions utilizes a recent piece of equipment called CLASP, which allows recorders to have the “ease of digital with the sound of analog from actual tape,” says Johnson. This equipment allows artists to record on tape free of charge.
Not even a week into the studio’s opening, two projects have already been underway, filling up both the A studio and the B studio. Artist Hana-Li is recording her album in Studio A, and Studio B is occupied by a fundraising album produced by the Tampa Bay Informer’s own Sirio Balmelli.
“It’s so pro,” says Hana-Li of the studio.
“People are welcome to tour,” says Elizabeth. “Just call.” The number is (727) 449-8888 or (866)963-3108 toll free.
Clear Track Productions is located at 816 Franklin Street, Clearwater, Florida 33756.
Mike Johnson and Sirio Balmelli supervise production - Photo by Brad Kugler