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Angel Studios

So, you've got three million pounds to spend and you want to build your own studio. A problem that many of us will doubtless face during our lifetimes, what with the extensive income tax cuts and petrol getting so expensive, it could be cheaper to knock up a 24 track in the backroom than drive to one in town.

Bearing this very real poser in mind, One Two decided to look at what is probably the latest major studio to have been completed in Britain — it was officially opened only a matter of weeks ago, has taken three years to build and belongs to the De Wolfe company already known for their smaller recording HQ in Wardour Street, a mere stoat's belch from the Marquee.

It's at 311 Upper Street, Islington, and has been christened, not surprisingly, Angel.

The first thing you do is go out and find yourself a soundly built, late 19th-century United Reformed chapel that has a congregation of about six and is looking to sell.

The main room should be 60ft long and around 60ft high and as luck would have it, there may well be a fully functioning pipe organ crouched down at one end. If it's an architecturally listed building then the government could insist that you preserve certain parts of the exterior and interior. You may, for example, find yourself storing away considerable lengths of balcony rail for the eventual perusal of studious timber types.

You'd obviously want to ensure you got one big room out of all that space. There is such a thing as acoustic compression where, no matter how much echo or reverb you tack on afterwards, a band playing in a small space ends up with a small sound.

Still 60ft high is pushing it a bit. Ideally you'd want a room that's 16ft from floor to ceiling but has a further 8ft gap above filled with hanging baffles of fibreglass about four inches apart. These will absorb any over-excited bass notes and prevent them bouncing and booming around the studio.

Of course you wouldn't just build downwards from the roof, you'd also stack up from the floor. After all a few yards away there's a busy high street... lorries, cars and Renaults which don't count... and the studio needs to be isolated from the vibrations that are passed into the church foundations, robust though they may be.

So you put down 14 layers of flooring, comprising ⅝ in chipboard, ½in rockwood, ½in sheets of rubber, more chip and so on until it's four feet off the ground. Then you top it with ¾in oak flooring and at the same time cover all the walls with American Red Oak panelling, partly for the acoustic properties, but also because it looks nice.

About this time you might realise there isn't a single parallel wall in the entire building. That's to prevent certain frequencies bouncing backwards and forwards creating standing waves and adding an unnatural coloration to the sound.

And you'll find that around the edge of the main room are four additional booths behind sliding glass doors. All are of various sizes and individual acoustic characteristics — some live (ie reverberant), others dead. Yet each can have its tonality altered by pulling thick curtains across the panelling.

The fact that all this mass of timber is slightly heavier than the pews that used to occupy the space, yet the foundations have shifted not a millimetre, is a tribute to the brickies of the 19th century.

You don't want to construct all these wonderful rooms and then have the heavy metal guitar solo leaking next door and giving the sensitive flautist heartburn, so the booths have to be insulated from each other by massive 450lb doors containing a 2in thick filling of dry sand.

Once you've touched up the organ, bought it a new motorised air pump and shifted said pump out into the hallway so it can't be heard, you're about ready to start buying large lumps of electronics for the control room, and the matching mixdown booth directly below it.

If you're like chief producer John Timperley you will have spent the major part of your effort ensuring that the studio itself is the major sound shaper; that the dimensions and materials create the desired liveness and tone, rather than investing in racks of rapidly outdated outboard gear to do the job.

There'll be the occasional AMS DMX 15 stereo delay and harmoniser, the AMS reverb and three classic valve EMT echo plates, 20 years old and worth their sound in gold, but otherwise you might plan on hiring in anything that's required.

You won't be hiring the desk. That'll be a 40 input/24 output Neve of late Seventies design, linked to a Melkuist computerised mixdown facility. At the other end will be an Ampex 24 track recorder which can memorise four EQ/bias settings according to the tape and session that's due to be spun round its reels.

Not far away will be the Culock-3 remote controller and a top quality U-Matic video player for all those video soundtrack mixdowns that come your way. The control room will be mimiced in the mixdown room, all bar the window that looks out on to the studios, and there'll be 48 patched inputs and outputs to link the two rooms together.

But if you were to be looking through that studio window, then in the last few weeks you might have seen the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Bonnie Tyler, Elaine Page or even the reflection of... gulp... Mike Mansfield sitting at the desk slaving over a bit of nonsense for Channel 4.

Even if it was empty you'd still spy the £20,000 Grotrian Steinweg grand piano; a breed of jo which is apparently constructed by the other Steinway brother. And there's always the organ and the seats for the choir around it.

So that's it, grand total £3 million give or take a few hundred thousand, plus 15½p for the stamp. Remember to tell your mother and put down some newspaper first. Next week, how to build a Fairlight Computer Keyboard from two Fairy Liquid bottles and a pipe cleaner.

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One Two Testing - Copyright: IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


One Two Testing - Jan 1983

Donated by: Colin Potter



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