It's not often that a studio is created from scratch in a purpose-built building, but this was the case in question with Metronome.
The studio began life in 1983 as a personal recording tool for its owner, Chris Dennis, whose interest in recording has been with him most of his life. He was, in fact, a founder member of the early Pink Floyd, when they were simply a bunch of innovative Cambridge students interested in music.
Situated in a brick outbuilding, the studio design and physical construction was undertaken by Chris, based on tried and tested acoustic theories, and the end result is a credit to his perseverance. As is often the case with 'home' studios, friends hear about the facilities, use them and soon the studio grows, according to the needs of others. Fortunately, the size of the recording area (17ftx 12ft) and control room (12ftx 6ft) have allowed this to happen. The physical separation of control and recording areas was also a wise decision, allowing full groups to be recorded with no monitoring problems.
Having initially chosen the equipment he wished to install in the studio, based on magazine reviews and advice from friends, Chris made the trip last year to the APRS Exhibition in London to assess the gear himself. However, he found the show a bit inhibiting and left slightly confused.
A quick visit to Don Larking Audio in Luton saved the day. Advice was forthcoming on his choice of equipment and a staff engineer delivered it, installed and wired everything up, and then spent the rest of the day instructing Chris on how to get the best from his newfound baby: service indeed!
With a full 8-track set-up to operate and maintain, Chris understandably found himself, in the early stages, calling up all-and-sundry for advice on the most fundamental problems. But experience is the best teacher, he's found.
Multitrack work is achieved using the Teac 80-8 recorder with accompanying eight channel dbx noise reduction, which Chris reckons produces a very high quality recording - and having heard his work I'd tend to agree. The mixer is a Starsound Dynamix 16-8-2 which is straightforward to operate, whilst monitoring is currently via Quad-powered Goodmans and Tannoy Mercury speakers with a good set of small Koss reference monitors as back-up. These are a limitation on the studio work, which Chris intends to remedy by purchasing a quality pair of more powerful, uncoloured speakers, such as Tannoy Little Reds, in the not too distant future.
Other recorders include a Revox B77 for mastering and a Trio cassette deck for cassette copies. Larger numbers of copies can be catered for also, if requested.
Microphones available are an AKG D12 (used on bass drum and vocals), AKG D190's, Beyer 201s, Shure SM58 and Unispheres.
As may be expected from a modern installation, the effects rack is fairly comprehensive and right up to date including a Yamaha Digital Reverb, MXR Digital Delay, Ibanez Harmoniser/Delay, and Drawmer Compressor and Noise Gates — all of which are easily accessed via the patchbays for quick, convenient operation.
Chris firmly believes that some studios can hinder your songwriting performance, as you often spend more time worrying about getting correct recording levels etc. To this end, the studio, wherever possible, has been laid out for maximum efficiency - everything to hand, tidy and clearly marked.
With the concept of a 'tool for song-writing' firmly in mind, a wide array of instruments have also been amassed to help users, all of which come in the standard studio charge. There's a Juno 60 polysynth and JSQ 60 polysequencer, SCI Pro-One mono synth, Roland MC202 MicroComposer, MPC Drum Computer (with a full set of stage pads), Gibson Les Paul, Fender Telecaster guitar and bass, various percussion and an Orange 120 watt valve amp. The addition of a Hotbox Power Soak means that the amp can be wound right up to give a 'dirty' valve sound yet be low enough in output volume to obtain a good recording.
Located in the Cambridgeshire Fen village of Chatteris, the majority of studio users so far have come from the surrounding area - mostly duos, soloists with an interest in songwriting, with a few groups. Metronome is certainly creating an interest from local musicians which is hardly surprising at the rates Chris charges! A daytime session from 9 am to 7 pm costs a mere £55, whilst the 7pm-11 pm evening session will set you back £25! That's good value in anybody's books, especially considering the number of extras thrown in.
If you're interested (and who wouldn't be) booking details and further information can be obtained from Chris Dennis by telephoning (Contact Details). Give him a call.
Feature by Ian Gilby
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