Westlake Pro’s David Arnold Outfits New Jersey’s latest Commercial Recording Facility PonderRosa Recording Studio

About this Post

Westlake Pro is proud to welcome David Arnold to our team in Nashville. We brought some of his most popular Studio Build Blogs over to our site to give you a look at some of his previous work.


Well, I am officially back from New Jersey…  Even though the install only took a couple of days, the initial design process started over 4 months ago. I was hired by New Jersey’s latest commercial recording facility to outfit, design, configure and install a complete Pro Tools HDX recording system along with a large array of boutique preamps, outboard, and custom wiring and patch bay systems.  It was an absolute honor to be picked to not only design the system but to handpick all the gear that would become PonderRosa Studio.

The System

The system was based around a Mac Pro 12 Core with 40 Gigs of Ram.  The core of the system consisted of a Pro Tools HDX card, Sync HD I/O, (1) Avid HD 16×16, and (1) Avid HD 8×8 giving PonderRosa a total of 24 I/O.  Mixing would take place using (3) Avid Artist Mixers.  I installed a large variety of plugins from Waves, Audio Ease Altiverb 7, Sound Toys Native Bundle, Sonnox Elite Bundle AAX, Brainworx, and Celemony Melodyne.  I installed the Turn Key Set up for PonderRosa before hand-delivering the gear for the installation.  Our turnkey solutions I build for our clients at the shop allow me to fully test the system to its fullest extent before delivering it to the customer.  It is an additional service I offer to clients which helps save time compared rather than doing it on site.  This particular Pro Tools HDX system I built is one of the fastest systems I have ever encountered.  You get the power of Pro Tools HDX DSP processors and plenty of headroom from the Native processor (loaded with 40 GB of Ram). The system was Co-Installed with Pro Tools 10 and 11 HD software.  A Custom Sterling Modular Desk was picked to house all the gear. The custom Sterling Modular Desk is based on the Plan B Design with added space for (3) Avid Artist Mixers.  We added African Rosewood Trim for the Side Panels to give it that extra over-the-top look.

The Front End

After our initial consultation with Tom Askin (PonderRosa Studio Manager and House Engineer), I was given the opportunity to hand-pick all the preamps and outboard gear. We were dealing with a 24 Channel I/O system.  So it made sense to be able to take full advantage of every In and Out the system had to offer.  I wanted to pick out a handful of pres that would fulfill most any recording application that would come up.  I choose a nice mix of colored and clean (and everything in between) preamps that would provide versatility to PonderRosa Studios.  To me, no studio is complete without a Pair of 1073 preamps. We are huge fans of BAE Audio. So it made sense to hook them up with a pair of BAE 1073 preamps in a BAE 2CR Rack.  The 1073 is classic and is a piece anyone will instantaneously recognize coming into the studio.  And BAE is doing it the best in our opinion.

Then, we started to fill in the gaps with preamps from Rupert Neve Designs, Daking, Millennia, Rascal Audio, True Systems, A-Designs, and even the Presonus ADL 600 Anthony Demaria (a truly underrated preamp). After tracking the first band on the last night of the installation we knew then, we had picked out the right preamps to cover PonderRosa’s needs. With the band consisting of Drums, Bass, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Violin. Tracking this kind of band confirmed our preamp choices were right on track.


Then, we started to fill in the gaps with preamps from Rupert Neve Designs, Daking, Millennia, Rascal Audio, True Systems, A-Designs, and even the Presonus ADL 600 Anthony Demaria (a truly underrated preamp).  After tracking the first band on the last night of the installation we knew then, we had picked out the right preamps to cover PonderRosa’s needs. With the band consisting of Drums, Bass, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Violin.  Tracking this kind of band confirmed our preamp choices were right on track.

The use of Outboard Eq and Compression in a modern-day digital studio is a common thing.  Especially with Pro Tools HDX insert capability.  When Tom and I were discussing the possibility of adding outboard processing he wanted to keep it simple upon the initial purchase and installation.  But I would design the patch bay to accommodate future expansion.  We wanted to at least get them (1) a great versatile compressor for tracking with (1) other “Character Eq” along with the 1073 Eqs we had already chosen with the preamps.  We choose the Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor and the Cartec Audio EQP1A. To me, you can pull almost any kind of classic compressor setting out of the distressor. And in my experience, a Pultec Eq is a must when tracking vocals. So the pair together should be able to give them a killer vocal signal chain.

For the most part, I designed this recording system to mainly be a “in the box” set up. Meaning Tom would primarily be mixing in the Pro Tools HDX environment with hands-on control with Avid Artist Mixers.  But we did leave enough room on the patch bay to add a Summing Mixer down the line.  I recommended to Tom that he should at least get a great 2 Buss Compressor to bring a little more life and help glue his “In the Box” tracks together.  It was a no-brainer to add a Rupert Neve Designs Master Buss Processor I have had plenty of experience working with this unit in the studio. And I knew as its name stated….”Master Buss Processor”  It would do just that.  It is more than just a compressor. It adds side chain, limiting, and stereo field editing functions that really help bring a mix to life.  The Silk controls can help add the extra bit of color and sparkle you need.  We also left plenty of space on the patch bay to add an additional Empirical Labs EL8X Distressor or other pieces of outboard processing equipment in the future.

Putting it all together (wiring)

To me, selling gear is not enough when it comes to my relationships with my clients.  Helping our customers put it all together is just as important.  Whether it is a small home setup or a large commercial install.  In this case, not only did I outfit PonderRosa Studio with gear. We also designed a series of Custom Wall Panels (For Live and Iso Rooms), XLR, and High Voltage Patchbays.  We also designed enough DB25 snakes to integrate all the gear into Audio Accessories DB25 Patchbays. Being able to do more for the customer is something I think about here every day. When we design a system of this size, we want to make sure when we hand it over to the customer, they can operate the system without confusion and with ease.  Most companies just sell gear.  And that is fine but making sure our customers understand the full extent of what their systems can do, can make a huge difference when it comes to working with their clients and efficiency in their workflow. I wanted to design a patchbay system that was easy to understand and versatile for all types of recording situations that would come up. 

We wanted to build some extra XLR and High Voltage Patchbays to allow clients’ gear to be patched in or to run high voltage guitar amps through.  These would also integrate with the Custom Wall Panels that found their homes in the Iso and Live Rooms.  We have worked hand and hand with our friends Caldwell Bennet Inc. cabling for over 10 years now.  They have never let us down when comes to working on projects together.  So once the design phase was complete we handed our layout over to C.B.I. to get the cabling built.


It is where all recordings start technically. Nothing can replace a great song, player, and well-tuned instrument. But after that comes the microphone. Picking out the mic locker was a joint venture between Tom and I. Below is a comprehensive list of microphone available at PonderRosa Studios:

  • Peluso P67 Tube Microphone
  • Peluso 2247 SE Tube Microphone
  • Peluso P12 Matched Pair Tube Microphones
  • Peluso P 84 Stereo Kit
  • Royer R121 Ribbon Microphones
  • Coles 4038 Matched Pair Ribbon Microphones
  • Sennheiser MD 421 (6)
  • Audix D6
  • Shure SM7B
  • AKG C414 XLII Matched Pair
  • Shure SM57 (6) 

And Miscellaneous items such as direct boxes were provided by Radial Engineering and A-Designs.

Along with Microphones come high-quality microphone stands to hold them. The classic and iconic Atlas Sound Microphone Stands are what we recommend to our customers. I think we picked out enough stands to help PonderRosa studio out.


For playback, we choose the Crane Song Avocet for Monitor Management and the Elite Core PM-16 Headphone Mixing System for Cue Mixes. The Crane Song Avocet is an amazing monitor management system providing us with unparalleled clarity and detail. We hooked PonderRosa up with (8) Elite Core Audio PM-16 Mixers to allow musicians to create their own mix. The PM-16 Mixers give you up to 16 Channels of custom Mixing with built-in Eq, compression, and an Ambience microphone. The Elite Core PM-16 Mixer is an Ethernet-based system. The custom Studio Wall Panels we designed include Cat-5 Returns for maximum flexibility.

PonderRosa was outfitted with Genelec 8050 Active Studio Monitors and Avantone Mix Cube Mono. The Genelecs are supported by a pair of heavy-duty Sound Anchors ADJ-2 Studio Monitor Stands.

For me, the Avantone Mix Cube Mono is a necessity when it comes to mixing. We only recommend (1) to our clients and the Mix Cube does a wonderful job at not only checking your mixes in Mono but helps tremendously with vocal and bass levels.  We recommend clients start their mix out on the Avantone before switching over to their Nearfields. It is amazing what a little speaker can do.

We also provided PonderRosa studio with a variety of Ultrasone Headphones from HFI-450 to Pro Line 550.

System Test and Tracking the first band

This is the fun part of my job…Tracking the first band.

It’s not that I do not enjoy the dirty work of wiring and installing the gear…because I do.

But putting the mics up and getting signal for the first time is great.

It truly is an amazing feeling to see all of the gear come to life and work together in correlation with each other to produce art…it’s a feeling that is unforgettable.

Seeing the excitement and satisfaction on our customer’s face is the best part of the job.

Note: Before the band arrived we did an extensive amount of line testing and calibration

But it was nice to finally get some juice going through the system. Here comes the money shots!

And speaking of pictures…A huge shout out to Patrick Sutherland for documenting the entire build-out. Thanks, Patrick!

Contact David Arnold at [email protected], or use the form below!

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