POWELL — Rob Rumbolz seems a little like the proverbial kid in a candy store these days.
As he sits at the control desk
of Northwest College’s new recording studio in the Nelson Performing Arts Building, he extols the studio’s design, sound qualities and technological advancements.
Rumbolz, who oversees the NWC music technology program, points out the cityscape diffusers in the recording and performing rooms of the studio.
Designed to break up high-frequency noises, the diffusers look like what their name suggests — city buildings and skyscrapers of varying heights, alongside each other — only upside down, hanging from the ceiling.
Wooden diffusers — squares with slats alternating from vertical to horizontal — line the wall behind the desk in the control room, adding beauty while breaking up mid-tone frequencies.
Together, the diffusers work to break up “standing waves” — waves of sound in lengths that tend to repeat throughout a room, based on its shape and ceiling height.
“If you have a 10-foot wave and a 10-foot ceiling, that wave is going to say, ‘Oh, goodie,’ and build up,” Rumbolz said.
Air flow through the room is conducted through large air ducts that move the air slowly enough that it doesn’t make a sound. Computers with fans and anything else that makes noise are located in a separate control room and operated remotely.
In an ideal recording situation, Rumbolz said, “you’re hearing all the frequencies you need to hear, without hearing anything added by the room. You need to know that what you’re hearing out of that speaker is what’s really there.”
That’s the only way to know whether recording levels are set precisely right for different tones or channels, and whether music is mixed correctly, he said.
Through a large window, Rumbolz is able to see the performing room, which will be used by student musicians and for recording programming for the college’s radio and television stations.
The sound in that room can be sculpted to meet varied recording needs by opening long, decorative wooden cabinets to reveal the sound baffles hidden inside. With the baffles folded out of view, the room has an echoey quality; with them open, sounds stop immediately without bouncing. Opening some and leaving others closed creates a multitude of sound quality variations.
On Oct. 16, Rumbolz was continuing his work to pull and connect signal wiring in the recording studio — a task he expected to complete soon.
“It’s kind of a right of passage,” he said. “It’s almost a tradition that, if you’re going to have a recording studio, you do the signal wiring yourself.”
But when engineers saw the 24-page sound design plan developed by high-end studio designers with Walters Storyk Design Group, “they saw the plan for than and they said, ‘Oy vey, I can’t believe you’re going to do that yourself,’” Rumbolz said.
The recording studio’s unique location off the stage in the building presents opportunities unheard of in a college setting, Rumbolz said.
Putting the studio there “was the idea of Kerry Boggio of Red Lodge, who was one of the most highly respected television sound mixers in Hollywood,” Rumbolz said.
“He thinks there is nobody who is offering broadcasting that has a recording studio like this right next to the auditorium.”
Thanks to that location, Dennis Davis, NWC assistant professor
of journalism and mass
communication, will be able to have his students broadcast performances at the college over the college’s radio and television stations.
“I’m excited to be working with Dennis more,” he said. “It brings new life into my program, and it brings new life into Dennis’ program.”