Pyramid 8-track studio
In the first of a series of articles on some of the most interesting music studios in the country, we're looking at Luton's Pyramid Studio, an eight-track facility ideally suited for use by the modern electro-musician.
Managing Director Mick Ilka explains that the choice of an 8-track 1 inch format was carefully made. Pyramid aims for quality and it was felt to be ludicrous that 24-track prices had to be paid just to obtain it. Professional effects and instruments along with careful engineering can produce album quality on 8-track, and often this is all that's needed for a musician using advanced electronic equipment.
Pyramid was in fact built in Summer 1982 with the requirements of electronic music makers firmly in mind. It occupies the original premises of Don Larking Audio Sales, now about 100 yards away around the corner, and called extensively on Larking's huge range of studio gear in choosing equipment. Almost every popular model of monitor speaker was taken into the control room, and the eventual choice was a pair of Lockwood cabs loaded with 15 inch Tannoy Super Reds; these speakers, Mick believes, give a certain energy to the monitor sound without the physical and mental fatigue caused by having to work at high sound levels.
The tape machine is an MCI 8-track, without noise reduction, and using exclusively new Ampex 456 tape. Recorded tracks can, if desired, be transferred to 16-track at Larking's and perhaps overdubbed in a London studio. Often this isn't necessary, because fast tape speed (30 ips) and the high quality of the machine makes a lot of track bouncing possible if desired.
The whole studio is surrounded by a grounded wire cage which cuts out the effects of RF interference, and particularly CB. Acoustic construction was also carefully supervised, although most of the instrumentation would be DI'd.
Pyramid weren't prepared to compromise on the quality of outboard effects, and the standard reverb is the programmable Lexicon 224 Digital. There's a choice of digital delays including DeltaLab, Bel Flanger, Scamp EQ and Dynamite Expander/Gate, and a 16/8/2 desk and matching patch bay. Mastering is usually on a Revox.
One of the big selling points about Pyramid is that the hire charge includes the use of some very advanced electronics. There's a MicroComposer MC4 with two analogue interfaces, one for a Jupiter 8 and the other for an Emulator which is occasionally available. There's also a Linn LM-1 which can sync to the MC4; the MC4 itself can be operated from a tape code recorded as low as minus 20 dB, so there's no chance of bleeding onto adjacent tracks before it's erased.
The control room has been made as spacious as possible, since a lot of the DI'd instruments are used in there including the Jupiter. The studio area is comfortable though, and has an isolated booth just large enough for a conventional drum kit; the control room acoustic is completely flat, which tends to bring in a lot of business purely on the mix-down side, as does the use of the Lexicon. Outside engineers are welcomed, although there are two resident engineers who also specialise in the production of radio adverts. For this kind of work there's a pair of Auratones and a radio/cassette machine to get the feel of a piece on an average hi-fi or transistor radio. A fair amount of masters have been made at Pyramid, which certainly isn't limited to demo quality, and the soundtrack for the TV pilot of 'Energy Matters' was recorded there.
As previously mentioned, the booking fee is very reasonable considering the amount of gear that's included. For the cost of hiring a Jupiter 8 you could record three tracks at Pyramid with one. The standard charge is £8 an hour, or £125 for a 12 hour day including all the studio's instruments. Rates for additional equipment and tape machines, or for block bookings, are negotiable and the studio takes outside work 4 days a week although they say they could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
Pyramid's of special interest to the electronic musician due to its unusual facilities, and because it's relatively inexpensive — and only an hour from London, minutes from Luton's railway station — it's bound to appeal to many other musicians too.
Pyramid Studio is at (Contact Details).
Feature by Mark Jenkins
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