Located just a few hundred feet southwest of the Memorial Coliseum, there isn’t much on the outside of the building that houses Soundbar Studios, other than the name on the door, that would indicate it contains an elite recording studio inside.
However, when you open the door to 3943 Parnell Ave., you are immersed in what can only be described as a world-class music workshop.
Soundbar Studios may seem fairly new to the scene, having been open under that name for just a couple of years. But the business used to be known as Crush House Entertainment Studios, established in 2011, undergoing a name change when they took over the Digitracks studio in 2019.
Owner Jeb Bartley jumped at the chance to expand his business and take it to the next level when Digitracks became available, immediately recognizing that the expertise of former Digitracks owner Dan Middleton would bring additional credibility and business to the studio. Middleton is well known around the local scene, working with many of the area’s top bands and artists while also spending a good amount of time travelling around the United States setting up studios and installing equipment.
Zack Davidson, Soundbar’s other main engineer, is no slouch himself as he has years of experience working in commercial studios in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, and Costa Mesa, and taught Music Technology at the Sweetwater Academy of Music.
The pairing with Middleton creates a complete team as each brings something different to the table in terms of production and sound development, allowing for many options when an artist enters the studio.
“They are both very talented and that’s why we like having both of them here,” Bartley said in a recent interview with Whatzup.
Bartley and company take pride in treating each artist as a unique business, so they always want to try to do what is best for the artists, whether it’s utilizing their artist development tools, providing opportunities for skills development, or simply offering good, sound advice based on years and years of experience in the industry.
Under the Crush House moniker, Bartley said the company was focused mostly on artist development.
While Crush House is still available to do that, Soundbar Studios is more focused on giving that hands-on, personal touch to every artist, helping them make the best recordings they can make.
“We focus on artist talents and what they want to do with their business,” Bartley said. “We want the artists to make this their studio and have the ability to do anything and everything that any studio in New York, L.A., or Nashville can do.”
Offering Spaces and tools
Soundbar Studios is equipped with everything you need to create a world-class recording.
The state of the art work space houses a myriad of microphones and instruments, updated Pro Tools, and the best plug-ins that both Davidson and Middleton have mastered.
There are two main studios with different attributes, a drum room that is big enough to house a whole band if needed, LED programmable lights in each room so artists can the set the mood that best fits them, and plenty of room for future expansion.
Bartley handles the business side of things in the attached office that also serves as the headquarters of his other business, Contact Financial Services. He has been in music all his life, singing and performing since he was three. While he devotes a lot of time to his financial business, he also has had a busy night life as part of several bands over the years, including Crush, from which the Crush House name was spawned.
He is also the organizer of the Crooked Lake Sandbar Music Festival, the second largest music festival in the United States that takes place solely on water.
When an artist calls the Soundbar Studios to ask how much it costs to record, Bartley tells them that there are no set fees.
The cost “depends on what you want, who you want and how we can even help you,” he said. “Our engineers decide what is best for the artists and bands and we personalize a package just for them.”
He says it would be rare for them to advertise anything like recording a song for “X” amount of dollars because “it just doesn’t do the artist any justice.” What they want may cost more or less than expected.
“We don’t want to waste their time and money on something if it’s not exactly what they want,” Bartley said. “We specialize in creating something for them that they are going to use and will further them in their development.”
Artists that have recently used Soundbar Studios to record include punk rockers B-Movie Monsters, local country stars The Band Cheyenne, multi-genre Tara Renee, rappers e3 and 2RQ, singer/songwriter Jon Durnell, and rockers Hell Came Home and Downstait.
In short, they can work in just about any genre.
Durnell described the studio in a recent interview as having “some of the best gear around” and “some of the best ears around,” which, he says, “is really the heart of a quality studio.”
Durnell works mostly with Middleton when he records and says that Middleton “is a perfectionist that will always go the extra mile. It’s important to him that whatever leaves his studio sounds the best that it possibly can.”
Bartley said that the reason the studio creates enthusiasm is because musicians “come here to be treated like an artist and not a transaction.”
“We want to be a relational business and that’s what we’re known for,” he said. “When you come here, you feel like part of a family. It’s a relationship. I’m not saying we’ve got the best of this or the best of that, but we have everything that any band or any artist would need or want in order to record a radio quality album.”
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