Treetop Avenue Studio, Ipswich
Having covered most studio track configurations in these pages, this month we've chosen to look at a newly-opened 4-track studio that goes by the quaint name of Treetop Avenue Studio, Ipswich.
Occupying the top two rooms of a large country house, the studio has been created by two recording enthusiasts Andrew Fryer and Adrian Wykes, who act as 'house' engineers/producers as well as looking after the business.
Before we give the wrong impression there is nothing unprofessional about the facilities and no lack of experience amongst the owners, for Andrew is a graduate of the famous Surrey University Tonmeister course: a highly respected curriculum dealing in all aspects of modern recording. The skills he acquired have been applied to the design and construction of the premises, which have received extensive soundproofing treatment, enabling a full session to be run whilst householders sleep soundly below on the next floor of the house.
The first session undertaken by the studio was to record some jingles, for David Jensen's Radio One show, by Dolly Mixture — three girls who shot to fame as the backing singers for Captain Sensible on his number one hit single 'Happy Talk'; and one of whom just happens to be Adrian's sister.
As far as most 4-track studios go, Treetop is well served by equipment. The multitrack machine is the ubiquitous Teac A3440, with Tandberg Series X10D and Akai 4000 DS stereo recorders for mastering and tape echo. The mixing desk is an RSD Studiomaster 16/4/2 offering many facilities that help ease an engineer's life during a 4-track session, but the proprietors are not over enthusiastic about its microphone input stage, which tends to be noisy.
For monitors, two Wharfedale 50 watt hi-fi speakers are used driven by a Quad 303 amp. Most of the serious mixing is done on a pair of AKG LSM50 micro-monitors, as they most closely resemble the sound reproduction of a radio speaker; an essential consideration when aiming for a commercial sound that'll come across well on the airwaves.
To ensure optimum recording quality, four Rotel RN580 Dolby B and C noise reduction units are utilised. These were purchased in a sale, discounted for £40 each, since the inclusion of Dolby C within most recorders made such stand alone units obsolete.
A fair collection of good quality microphones are available for use: Calrec 652s, Sennheiser 421, Shure SM57 and AKG D80s plus a few C-ducer contact strip mics for drums etc.
On the signal processing front there's a dbx 118 compressor/expander that takes care of over-enthusiastic vocalists and extrovert bass players, an Accessit noise gate and stereo spring reverb, and a small Echotec MX99 analogue delay for repeat echo and hard reverberation effects. Used in the signal path ahead of the reverb spring, it can help achieve a more realistic treatment.
The two rooms that comprise the studio are both approximately 10 x 14 feet - a bit on the small side perhaps but still capable of accommodating an average four piece group, and for anyone unable to do their own recording or afford the price of a larger, better equipped studio, then Treetop Studio will seem like a godsend.
The main recording area is light and airy which helps reduce any feeling of claustrophobia and houses a useful crop of instruments - Vox Continental 301 organ, Yamaha CS15 synth, WEM and FAL amps and an old overstrung Hopkinson piano; not bad for a small studio.
The above facilities can be hired for a very modest £4 per hour including the invaluable expertise of the studio owners. For those readers looking for a progression from your Portastudio or a chance even to begin some recording, then Treetop Avenue Studio may well be right for you.
Feature by Ian Gilby
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