Grammy-nominated mastering engineer Sangwook ‘Sunny’ Nam has installed a pair of custom ATC SCM150ASL PRO three-way active loudspeakers at his Jacob’s Well Mastering facility.
“The reason I decided to go with ATC is that I had used ATC speakers during my time at The Mastering Lab (TML),” states Nam. “TML has a very unique signal chain. While it’s a commonly held belief that one has to have the cleanest signal path to be of service as a top-quality mastering studio, this is easier said than done. TML has ploughed its efforts into realising this simple but demanding belief since 1967, designing and building equipment in-house to achieve the cleanest possible signal path. A lot of elements in the signal chain there are quite unconventional, requiring extra effort from mastering engineers – unlike using modern equipment in other mastering setups. So the most important thing that I learned at TML is how to evaluate the elements of the signal chain that can serve to implement the best transfer system.”
Which was exactly what Nam took with him when family commitments compelled a cross-continental move: “My wife was hired by one of the Ivy League colleges and wanted to take our kids with her. I sort of commuted for about a year before deciding to stay with my family.”
Nam chose to build his own Jacob’s Well Mastering facility close to his newfound family home: “My studio sits on a riverbank of the Connecticut. It was originally a big storage unit attached to a small office building, so I built the studio inside it from the ground up. My room is designed by Rick Ruggieri, who designed TML’s room in Ojai [California] – basically, it’s the same design, but scaled a bit differently because my room is built for stereo channel mastering only. The uniqueness of my room lies in the placement of the equipment rack behind the engineer. To achieve the cleanest signal path possible, putting nothing between yourself and the speakers is pretty obvious. This makes it much harder for the engineer to work, but both TML and myself don’t mind going the extra mile to maintain our philosophy at every stage of the signal path, and, actually, once you’re used to that placement, it’s not that hard to work in that way.”
Fulfilling the SCM150ASL PRO order was far from standard practice for ATC since soffit mounting was the order of the day. Concedes Nam: “This is quite rare in mastering studios, but this setup works for me, and Rick did wonderful work to mitigate the problems that could come out of the soffit design. Also this enabled me to put in a big window through which I can enjoy the beautiful view of the Connecticut river without affecting the room acoustic. ATC handled all my requests for a custom wood enclosure and different placement of the mid and tweeter units with grace. The amp pack was also sent separately to JCF Audio, who built all of my custom transfer system, for modification to suit my needs.”
As for the finished result: “With the design of the room, the ATCs translate the sound that I’m getting into other speaker systems very well. When it comes to speakers, most of the time people talk about bass and high frequencies, but, for me, midrange is most important, because that’s where most of the music is. The biggest strength of the ATCs are their ability to present the midrange at its best, which helps me a lot in terms of evaluating the mix and deciding what to do with it.”