Dave Malekpour hasn’t just helped define the sound of hip hop, he’s had a profound impact on the design of modern recording studios. His approach to workflow and loudspeaker technology has been a seminal influence on recording engineers and producers alike, and his speaker brand Augspurger counts Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Coldplay and Alicia Keys amongst its users.
Based out of Massachusetts, Malekpour runs both Pro Audio Design (PAD), purveyors of studio equipment and design support, and loudspeaker specialist Augspurger Monitors. Calling on his experience as a musician and engineer, his ability to fine tune his systems is legendary, and so is his work ethic. He starts the day with an hour of Crossfit. “Then it seems work is easier and it benefits my health and stress!” he tell us.
Malekpour founded Pro Audio Design in 1993, with the aim of fully integrating studio design and equipment retail. In 2000, he launched Augspurger Monitors, after demand surged for his own custom made enclosures.
More recently he’s added Studio Float to his portfolio. Studio Float sells Iso Raft, a dedicated construction isolator for use in recording studios, music venues, theatres and nightclubs. Iso Raft blocks utilises a novel sandwich construction joined by a silicon de-coupler, and prevent noise escape.
Audio Media International caught up with Dave Malekpour in Los Angeles, as he completed a few days reviewing a site for a project PAD are designing for Top Dawg Entertainment’s new HQ.
“I’ve also been looking at a new Dolby Atmos mixing suite for a client in a nice Downtown location, and tuned a couple of studios,” he confides, “Studio City Sound’s Augspurger Duo15-Sub18s in their classic SSL 4K room, and (film and TV) composer Tony Anderson’s private studio which is quite a nice spot in an outbuilding behind his residence…”
Malekpour clearly likes to make a difference: “I think one of the things that brings me satisfaction is helping our clients achieve their goals, and being part of their successes using the rooms we create and speakers we build.”
Making a deeper connection
Dave Malekpour says motivation comes from being able to create a product that inspires artists, while giving producers and engineers the information they need to make sure their work sounds as good out of the studio as it does in the room.
Dave Malekpour: “When we got to build Jay-Z’s first home base in NYC Baseline studios, that gave him and his team a place that they could really create and push the envelope. When Young Guru first heard the Augspurger’s we put in, he said it changed everything for him as an engineer, but also for the artists and producers working there.
“The early days of hip hop were a formative time and bringing in huge power amps and 18-inch subs wasn’t the norm. Today we have full range systems in every installation.”
“I think when you can hear the music like a performance in a sound stage around you in your own studio, this allows a deeper connection to the creative process. Today we can record down below 20 hertz with today’s DAW if your converters are up to it.
“We need to hear the entire range of low end to get the balance right, to get the vibe right, to get the top end and mid-range to highlight to vocals, and we aim to make that limitless, where you can create any sound and the systems and rooms do not prevent you from reaching new heights in music.”
“Teddy Riley, Rodney Jerkins, The Weekend, Coldplay, and mix engineers like Jaycen Joshua, Jean Marie Horvat, Rich Keller, Dave Pensado, Rafa Sardina, Jose ‘Hyde’ Cotto, Bob Horn, and many others all use their systems in different ways, make different music and craft their sound on our systems.
The business of inspiration
While PAD and Augspurger Monitors are in the business of inspiring artists and recording engineers, Malekpour himself was famously inspired when he first heard Dynaudio Acoustics M1 monitors on a visit to Abbey Road back in the 1990s. Have any brands, or equipment, made him catch his breath since?
“Well, that was a magic moment for many reasons, just being in Abbey Road at that time was something special,” he recalls. “Geoff Emerick gave me a tour and we went to the mic locker, and had lunch with the engineers in the cafeteria. Wow! But yes, hearing the Dynaudio M1 that Andy Munro created was really eye opening at the time when there weren’t too many high-end nearfield or mains at the time.”
There are only so many Eureka moments in this business, says Malekpour. “But there are some standout moments. Listening to the Augspurger Duo8’s with Sub12’s we designed and created in a shootout Vintage King arranged in Malibu at Woodshed studios against all the top brands in our business was one of them. We wowed a room full of top engineers and were chosen by Woodshed on the spot. I knew we had created something special.
“We had been working on it for about 2 years and the goal was to create a smaller speaker with a new horn that would couple with an 8-inch driver and get the speaker closer to the listener and to fit smaller rooms. But we had never had the chance to AB against the other top brands. When we got that chance the night before the shootout when setting up, it was a clear winner, and that was without the sub woofers which when added really changed the game for us.”
Working for top artists is inspiring, he adds. “We have to push ourselves to make the best products, design the best rooms and that technology is making things easier, more fun and incredible sounding.
“For Snoop’s studio, he wanted to have his equivalent of the Starship Enterprise, complete with wraparound console system and his command throne in the centre!”
“Each one is unique and individual, though one thing is common to all, and I think it’s connecting with their music. When you feel the music, you can put that into your performance, writing and create a connection for the listener to experience. I think our speakers do that in a way that’s really emotive yet very accurate, and detailed, so you are getting the truth and can really feel when it’s right.”
Technology Vs Art
Technology can sometimes stifle creativity, concedes Malekpour, either by offering too many choices or inviting creatives to chase a sound instead of a great song or vocal performance.
The ultimate artist experience is when technology is not part of the creative process, he insists. “You aren’t thinking about if the speaker or room or if the microphone is doing something, you just create and feel you have no bounds. We aim to provide a feeling of being unlimited except by your own creativity, not the room, system or technology. At least that’s my ideal vision of what we are trying to create with our work.”
“Really, what makes a great recording starts with a great song, which, let’s be honest, can be captured on an iPhone without the complications of a studio,” says Malekpour. “What we aim to do is seamlessly integrate the required technology for today’s high-end recording processes, while allowing the artist to focus on the music and the creative process.”