It’s always a pleasure when a client comes to us with a clear vision of what they’re after, so when Ben Baptie got in touch with a well researched shortlist of equipment for his new “Studio 5” space in North London, we were more than happy to help. After months of hard-work planning, designing and preparing his new environment for the big install (amidst a global pandemic, no less), it was time to start lifting and shifting.
An established Mix Engineer, Producer and Collaborator, Ben’s engineering credits span across a growing list of critically-acclaimed records from the likes of Arcade Fire, Ray Lamontagne, The Strokes and Moses Sumney, to name just a few. Having spent his formative years assisting Grammy award-winning Mix Engineer Tom Elmhirst on high-profile projects (such as Beck’s ‘Morning Phase’) at New York’s Electric Lady Studios, he returned to Strongroom here in London, quickly establishing himself as one of the the go-to engineers for Indie, Pop and Folk artists. That experience no doubt helped sketch a blueprint for how his own studio would eventually look and feel, and fortunately, we were there to document much of Studio 5’s transformation.
Centred around a stunning 32-Ch Neve Genesys Console, the first thing that strikes you about Studio 5 is the sheer accessibility of everything. Whether it’s the collection of vintage drum machines, synthesisers or outboard, it’s all within easy reach, patched-in and ready to inspire creativity. A spacious rack of gear stretches across the wall to the right of the console, featuring a few studio staples (UA1176, Neve 33609) alongside some more esoteric examples, including a vintage Korg Echo Mixer, DeltaLab Effectron and Hawk Reverbs. With the addition of the Tube-Tech CL1B, Pultec EQP1-A and a pair of Retro Instruments Doublewide II Compressors, all bases were covered. Up top, an impressive selection of more unusual echo units, 500 Series and unique sound toys; among them a rather lovely Keio (Korg) Mini-Pops 7, Korg Rhythm-55, and Roland TR-707.
As with any good studio, the room needed to inspire creativity as well as provide a critical listening environment for mixing, and so ensuring ideas could be captured with minimal fuss was crucial. High quality, plentiful I/O was provided courtesy of two Antelope Audio Orion 32HD converters; each unit capable of streaming up to 64 channels of 24bit/192kHz AD/DA conversion, whilst several high-quality Neutrik bantam patch-bays enabled reliable and fast interconnectivity.
ATC SCM50ASL monitors were selected for main monitoring duties; chosen for their unparalleled mid-range clarity, accuracy and detail. Whilst by no means bass “shy” speakers, Ben opted to pair these with the Genelec 7370a Sub, giving him the flexibility to reinforce the low-end for even more definition and impact when needed.
Of course, no amount of expensive monitoring can substitute an acoustically sound environment. Our acoustic partners at Sound Zero Acoustics worked with Ben every step of the way throughout the consultancy, ensuring each and every nook and cranny was observed, measured and tested for optimal acoustic performance. Almost uniquely in this industry, Studio 5 is abundant with natural light, and upon entering it instantly feels both welcoming and fresh whilst simultaneously cosy. It was important then, that the solution wasn’t only effective in controlling unwanted standing waves and problematic frequencies, but also fulfilled an aesthetic purpose in-keeping with the natural finish and overall ‘vibe’ of the space. Cloud diffusers were fitted with wifi-enabled ambient lighting and finished with Art Deco inspired black walnut surrounds, whilst wall baffles and panelling were kept neutral, clean and attractively unimposing. In the booth, a solid wood Quadratic Acoustic Diffuser was installed, dampening just enough of the sound so as not to completely remove all sense of environment.
With so much consideration involved, it’s no wonder the finished product looks and sounds as good as it does. State-of-the-art technology paired with vintage styling is always a winning combo in our book, and Studio 5 represents what months of hard work, tireless planning and an industrious attitude can achieve. Hybrid studios are fast becoming the way forward for engineers of all disciplines – and when you’re trying to get the most out of a limited space, it’s obvious why. Compact analogue consoles now combine clever digital control and integrated DAW functionality with world-class tracking facilities and hardware, as well as providing a responsive and engaging way of working with sound. Simultaneously operating within ‘the-box’ offers the best of all worlds; speed, reliability, consistency and convenience are invaluable when working to tight deadlines in high-pressure situations.
One thing’s for certain, if Ben’s impressive back-catalogue of work gives any indication of what’s to come, then we’re very excited to see how the studio evolves and, more importantly, hear the results!
“Working with Nick, and all at Funky Junk, was an absolute pleasure. Their level of insight and knowledge helped me on a daily basis, as well as great communication skills and professionalism. Without their help my studio definitely wouldn’t be what it is.” – Ben Baptie (Beck, Mark Ronson, Lady Gaga, Moses Sumney, London Grammar)