A few years ago, I visited the Wenger booth at an AES show and was impressed when I walked into the sound isolation room the company had temporarily installed on the show floor. It was a relief to be insulated from the fatiguing noise of the conference hall. But the room sounded strangely bigger than its elevator-like size would suggest. It turned out this was a V- Room, with built-in emulation of larger environments courtesy, of LARES. A control panel on one wall allowed me to change the acoustic size of the room with just a button push. Neato! Great for musical practice or rehearsal-or anytime an occupant wants to feel like they're no longer caged in a small room. I also noted that the design and construction were both top- notch and unique.

So fast-forward a few years, and my facility in NYC is thinking of adding a prefab sound isolation room. I immediately thought of Wenger and started doing some research. I met with Chris Mislinski, one of Wenger's Sales Managers. We measured the space and made preliminary drawings, and we spent hours talking about Wenger design philosophy. The next day, I visited Outpost Digital just down the street, and Evan Schechtman, President of Outpost Digital, not only gave me a tour of their NYC facility (outfitted with seven Wenger rooms), but he also talked to me at great length about his experiences with Wenger doors and rooms.

Through my discussions with Chris and Evan-and my extreme-geekiness checking out construction details (astute readers may recall I'm a partner in an architecture firm)-I learned about four really nifty innovations unique to Wenger acoustic doors. 1. Unlike other manufacturers, Wenger uses a full-length, cam-lift hinge that's completely outside of the seal. Other manufacturers use hinges that are similar in operation to those on regular doors- requiring gaps in the magnetic seal-while Wenger doors have continuous, one-piece magnetic seals. No gaps = better isolation. 2. Speaking of the magnetic seals, both seals on a Wenger door are on the frame. That way, there's less chance of the seal getting ripped when someone grabs the edge of the door. 3. The outside face of the door is decoupled from the inside face of the door with a neoprene seal underneath a crimp, and the two faces are of different gauge steel. Therefore, vibrations on one side transfer less energy to the other side, and one side doesn't resonate the other. 4. And finally, the threshold is an integral part of a Wenger doorframe, therefore; it's pretty much impossible to botch the installation of a door. I can tell you from personal experience that an improperly installed threshold (where the sweep seal contacts the floor when the door is closed) renders the door pretty much useless. In my Boston studio, I have three $3000 IAC doors that work perfectly. In my NYC studio, I have similar IAC doors, and they suck due to poor installation.

Unfortunately, Wenger makes only one line of doors (with three glass options: solid, accent window, or full window) that tops out at STC 51 for isolation. I wish they made a door with an even higher STC rating. (For comparison, a typical, insulated wall in a house is STC 34, with lots of low-end transmission not really reflected in the STC rating. My studio has STC 59 walls, with good low-end isolation.) But given how light the Wenger doors are, it's impressive how well they perform.

Wenger isolation rooms are as well-engineered as their doors, with similar innovations utilized to reduce transfer of sound from one side of a wall to the other. Modular panels are made of two different gauges of steel with high-density insulation sandwiched in the middle. One full-view Wenger door comes standard with a room, but additional doors and window panels (with two panes of laminated, acoustic glass) can be added. Wiring and HVAC concerns are well thought out, and Wenger can provide some amount of custom work if you need a panel machined out.

As a volume customer of Wenger (with many rooms in NYC and Santa Monica), Evan had only great things to say about Wenger, even stating that he's "never seen a better company in terms of customer service." At Outpost Digital's NYC studios, it took Wenger less than a full business day to install three 10 ft x 11 ft rooms. Evan's electrician wired the rooms the next day. On day two, HVAC was up. The day after that, carpeting was completed. Other advantages? No cleanup, and no sheetrock dust. The rooms depreciate as equipment, so there's a significant savings in taxes. And Wenger can disassemble the rooms and move them to a new facility if need be with no loss in performance. Total cost was approx $260 per sq ft. Having recently built professional studios in NYC with lots of cost-savings measures in place, I can tell you that the Wenger rooms are extremely cost-effective. And given how well they perform-and that Wenger guarantees their performance-they're a no-brainer if you need a sound isolation room with minimal hassle. I should mention that Evan is a drummer, and he keeps a drum kit in one of his Wenger rooms; some low-end transmits as you might expect, but the drums don't seem to bother his staff. Many thanks to Evan Schechtman and Chris Mislinksi for the hours they spent geeking with me. (Pricing is custom quoted; www.wengercorp.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More