Inside Mobile Sessions: Pro recording and production on the road

In 2018, music manager Christine Hufenbecher and audio engineer Kenny Moran founded Mobile Sessions, an L.A.-based, Dolby Atmos-equipped mobile recording and production studio inside a custom-designed 30ft RV that boasts a tech spec to rival any major facility in the business. Headliner caught up with them to talk business trends, changing the mobile studio game, and the Merging Technologies kit that has been so central to its success…

Tell us about the origins of Mobile Sessions?

Christine: This venture started at the end of 2017. We had met at a studio in L.A. before, I was on the management side and Kenny was on the engineering side, and we decided we wanted to do a studio project together. Tons of studios were really expensive, and we thought, hey, we already have the vehicle, so why don’t we put a full studio inside this 30ft RV and make it the same quality as any major studio in L.A? But we’ll make it more convenient and more versatile.

Kenny spent a year ripping out the traditional RV furniture and building out the studio. Then we officially launched at NAMM in 2019, so we came in right before the pandemic when mobile recording started becoming a thing. We were building our clientele, doing live recordings, studio recordings, and offering the RV as a VIP space at festivals. Then, during the pandemic, we were able to roll up to people’s houses and do safe recordings while studios were closed. Then the whole mobile recording business developed from there, so we were there right before it blew up.

How competitive is this market? And how has the market changed since the pandemic?

Christine: Mobile recording has been around for some time, but the way we have constructed it is like nothing else out there. We have a Dolby Atmos setup - no one can do this to the extent we can. We can record full orchestras, we can pull up to venues, we can do everything from small indie artists to big productions. We are ahead of the game.

Tell us about the setup of the studio?

Kenny: Originally, gear-wise I wanted to make sure we were in a place that far exceeded any kind of remote or simple mobile setup. In L.A. there are broadcast and video trucks everywhere, but they are not music-centric. They are meant to do video and capture audio as needed, which is very different. We wanted something as good as any studio in the city.

The first room has an SSL console in it and all of the top outboard gear I would be using if I was at Capitol or any major studio. That set us apart immediately from anything else. We were thinking over the past few years that we wanted to be able to do Atmos, so we started speaking to Dolby and Dynaudio (whose monitors we use throughout) about it. We had several meetings about design - where can it be, how can it be? So we essentially had the SSL room as the back half of the RV, and there was an isolated room for vocals and acoustics, and then there was the lounge. I thought, if I tear apart the whole lounge and make that the Atmos room we would have so much more space. Now it’s a 7.1.4 Atmos room.


The other aspect was that mixing in Atmos is cool but producing and writing in Atmos is where it’s going to be, so we had Dolby tune the room so that we can record and write in Atmos in real time. It’s shockingly powerful. We can go anywhere from 1-128 channels coming into the SSL room, then we can take those inputs and feed them directly to the Atmos room, so we can do both at the same time. No other studio at this point can do that. We have seen some trying to pop up around us, but they are very minimal in their capabilities.

Presumably this is a shock to people expecting a mobile set up to be more minimalist?

Christine: People have built their own studios, but they do it more for personal use. We are a commercial studio and we have all of the extras in mind.

Tell us about the Merging Technologies kit you use.

Kenny: I had just started working with a major artist and all he would use was Merging Technologies systems. I really dived into Merging and about a month later I was introduced to the new Anubis they had been working on. So, I started using the Anubis, and the Atmos setup is based on two pairs of Anubis and a Hapi, and it powers the entire Atmos room and runs on AES67. There are two key things for me with Merging. One is the sound quality. As you can see by the other gear in the studio, sound quality is paramount, and Merging fits right in there because their ADDAs are amongst the best in the world, so the quality is astonishing.

Kenny and Christine with Fatboy Slimin the Mobile Sessions studio

Kenny and Christine with Fatboy Slimin the Mobile Sessions studio

The other point is that one Anubis handles everything from the EQ: it’s the controller, it’s the routing, the delay times. It’s all set inside the Anubis and that is what did the entire tuning for the room. It’s really, really powerful in a small box, which is exactly what we needed. So, Merging has worked out incredibly well and with running AES67 that allows us to have inputs coming from everywhere.

The studio can take any digital input - we have inputs for MADI, Dante, AES67, AES50 and analog. That’s part of my live background, that it doesn’t matter if we roll up at a house that has no connections, or the Staples Center or the Hollywood Bowl, we can take full MADI inputs and run it all directly into what we are doing. And Merging is a huge part of that.

How high is the demand for Atmos in a mobile studio?

Christine: We see demand for all sorts of projects. And Dolby Atmos mixing has been on the rise, we are definitely seeing an increase. There is no question that Atmos is on the upswing – the requests for it are really ramping up.