116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MY BIZ: Cedar Rapids recording studio helps artists get ‘final mix’
Two friends started The Sound Box in 2015
By Steve Gravelle, - correspondent
Dec. 18, 2022 5:00 am, Updated: Dec. 20, 2022 11:17 am
CEDAR RAPIDS — The nondescript building in southeast Cedar Rapids wouldn’t draw a second glance, but it’s building a reputation.
“I had a passion for music, so it all kind of began with that passion,” co-owner Richard Shultz said one afternoon last week. “When I was a kid, I didn’t really have a place to be creative that I knew about.
“Why couldn’t I be that individual and provide that service here? It just kind of made sense.”
After graduating from Washington High School, Shultz, 37, worked in construction before heading to the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, graduating in 2011. That’s where he met Nebraska native Jon Limmer.
“I went to college for recording engineering, met this gentleman,” Shultz recalled. “We did our thing there and graduated, and I came back to Iowa, thinking, ‘Hey, I want to eventually build a studio.’ Started out in my mom’s attic, actually, and found out that’s only going to work so long.”
Drawing on his construction skills, Shultz started turning the building into a recording studio. About the time The Sound Box opened in August 2015, he gave Limmer a call.
“He was living in Nebraska at the time, my best friend and brother,” Shultz said. “I said, ‘Hey man, I need your help up here. I’m trying to do this studio, and there’s only one person I want to bring in and that’s you.’”
“So I picked up my life and moved to Iowa,” said Limmer, 33. “We had been talking about it a long time.”
‘Build it, they’ll come’
The area’s rappers, musicians and spoken-word artists have responded.
“Like they said, ‘You build it, they’ll come,’ ” Shultz said. “Slow and steady wins the race. We’re slowly building the word, making sure we have the quality and bringing good people in. The No. 1 thing I did was bring in Jon. He’s been a vital part and partner in actually making this work.”
When COVID-19 idled recording and performing, Shultz and Limmer used the downtime to build a new state-of-the art main studio they call The Bridge — “It looks like a spaceship,” Limmer said.
What had been the main studio became the Sound Lounge, customized to record podcasts and audiobooks. A larger performance studio allows for a full-band setup with isolation booths for vocals and guitar.
“We’re turning this into our Studio B so we can run simultaneous sessions,” Shultz said.
Out of that work came the company’s mission: “Striving to capture accurate tone and translate the artists' vision to the final mix.”
⧉ Related article: Breaking the music industry in Iowa
The Sound Box’s workday is organized around the reality that many local performers have day jobs, too. The owners are supplemented by four engineers who work as independent contractors, and two music producers/songwriters are available.
“Richard handles the morning shift, I guess you’d call it, and I would be afternoon, evenings,” Limmer said. “We’ve got a new person that we’ve brought on, he is now doing night shifts. We can cover almost all hours of the day.”
“You get a phone call from an artist, and artists love their music,” Shultz said. “It’s close to their heart, and it’s ‘I need a copy of it right now.’ It’s 2 o’clock in the morning, I’m sleeping. So we set up systems that make it easy to do file transfers and things like that. Organizing literally how the studio runs itself.”
Rap and hip-hop have been Sound Box staple styles, but it’s drawing from all genres. Local notables such as Kevin Burt and Alisabeth Von Presley are clients.
In addition to podcasts, audiobooks and music, The Sound Box has produced sound for two short films, “and we have another one coming up soon we’re going to do post-production for,” Limmer said.
Shultz draws on his own experience to ensure The Sound Box is user-friendly.
“In high school I was in the marching band,” he said. “ I started making hip-hop beats on the MTV Music Generator on the original PlayStation. We would do some nerd stuff, we would take the PlayStation out and put it to record into a little four-track recorder and make CDs.
“I was in marching band, and it was like ‘You’re making these little CDs?’ It just all started from there, then you’d get people trying to sing and rap and do whatever they’re doing. It just evolved from that.”
“We try to keep the costs down and the quality high and make it easy for people to come in and do it,” Limmer said.
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AT A GLANCE
Owners: Jon Limmer, Richard Shultz
Business: The Sound Box
Address: 1044 Mount Vernon Rd. SE
Phone: (319) 883-4400