Imagine Sound Studios, Switzerland.
Luciano Home Studio.
A very low room proved a huge challenge as a starting point.
Broadband absorber back wall in modular structure. Membrane absorber side wall. Broadband absorber in ceiling above console
The original space was a highly compromised room, but we were faced with the only available room in the house. We had many discussions over the acoustic issues such as sound leakage to the rest of the house, limitations of low frequency control, and the seriously compromised final room height. As the studio was deemed of a temporary nature, the house was very large, and there were no neighbours to disturb it was decided to go ahead and see. The studio was core to Luciano staying in that house, if the studio had to be compromised then a longer term search would be needed for a later more ideal space, or construction of a further underground space would be carried out.
As too much time had passed where Luciano was not able to work on his projects, and the projects were potentially worth more than it cost to build the studio it was decided that we had to go ahead and get him in there working as soon as possible. From the point we said “Let’s do this” to the team walking in there was just four weeks, including all materials sourcing and supply through our supply and logistics partner Reflexion-Arts.
Work started with a very experienced team. Joules, 35 years-experience. Gari, 17 years-experience. Miguel, 24 years-experience. Eliana, 17 years-experience. Joe, 32 years-experience. Alvaro, 5 years-experience. Picho, 3 years-experience. All in total bringing a cumulative 133 years of studio experience to the project.
Timed power control unit.
We will start with a rather comprehensive home studio for the DJ / Producer Luciano.
After having installed a studio for Luciano in Barcelona we were approached to move the installations to Lausanne Switzerland in the winter of 2015. In order not to get bogged down in paperwork we decided to do all the work within a 90 day permitted working timeframe where our presence is not under large amounts of permissions and paperwork.
The brief was to build a better version of what we had done in Barcelona as now we all knew much better how Luciano wanted to work with his equipment and how it all needed to fit together. It was one year after we had first assembled everything for him and he had now got an idea of the ideal workflow that he needed. The initial brief was difficult as he had a great degree of uncertainty as to whether the new location would be long term or not.
Imagine Sound Barcelona before being moved to Switzerland
Power board Powercon connection system
Either way he had to get working on his future productions, so we could not hang around for too long. It was decided that as we had largely lost all the cabling from Barcelona as it all now did not fit the new studio we would not repeat that error, the new studio was to be designed on a flexible, re-configurable multi-pin system so items could not only be moved about, but they could easily be taken to a new place and re-installed at zero materials cost. It was discussed and decided that the initial investment would be significantly greater than normal hard-wired cabling, but if Luciano were to move installations just once the investment will save a vast sum of money in the future. As high-quality cables can last many decades, this cabling system could easily see a few moves.
Even the main studio electrical power board was built with a CEE-63A input plug and Powercon output connectors to every circuit, it can simply be unplugged, lifted from the wall, and re-installed in the new studio. Inevitably some cables will not be recoverable, in order to create a tidy installation about 20% of the cheaper cabling was hard-wired and will need to be cut free. Studio lighting systems and controllers are mounted on a removable panel and are again, easily transportable. It was indeed a complex and unique design exercise, but one that has resulted in a very good long-term investment in studio infrastructure.
Not only were technical items designed to be recoverable, but much of the acoustic structure was built in a modular manner to be removable with the least possible impact, it is estimated that up to 50% of the acoustic treatment is able to be re-used in future projects. Frame joints and board joints were aligned so as to allow modular removal, support structures were made from specially damped Unistrut frames and hanging baffles were of a standard board size.
Unistrut modular support systems
Acoustic design was highly constrained by the space, the low ceiling height was a huge issue and special new methods had to be used to modify older techniques to deal with this, a broad-band absorber was built over the console in the higher level, and a great deal of broad-band absorption was used at the rear of the room.
A membrane absorber had to be employed on the only planar side wall and individual small acoustic panels had to be used in the shelving that was pre-existing on the other side wall.
A large and massive front wall structure was employed to install the loudspeakers and almost all of the space behind this was utilised for equipment and ventilation.
As there was no space for a good silenced combined ventilation and air conditioning system the space behind the wall was also used as an air conditioning plenum where two split units cooled it to a cool 18 degrees C and two silenced fan units blew this cooled air into the control room. Fresh air had to be ducted into this space from outside.
A comprehensive extra-low-impedance electrical system was installed along with a high quality LED based lighting system.
The extra low ceiling height of the studio meant that normal downlight LED lighting systems could not be used as we simply did not have the height between the ceiling slab and the final finish to accommodate a GU10 fitting and lamp.
All of the rear of the room was illuminated with LED tape, and the walls were fitted with twin-circuit RGB LED tape. All lighting is DMX controlled.
All acoustic materials and the final industrial fabric that is acoustically transparent are class O fire rated for protection.
The mixing console, an SSL Duality, required splitting in two to bring down the stairs, the console was reassembled in the room, all work was done in communication with SSL.
The entire studio was fitted with a 10Gb network system and this was integrated into the house system, but segregated, to allow access to material from anywhere in the house on dedicated sockets.
Rack cabling and console to rack wiring was all done by our specialist cabling team.
The monitoring loudspeaker system was a special custom hybrid version of the Reflexion-Arts 239 system and a custom VLF extension designed by us. We also provided custom DSP processing algorithms for this system. As a part of this we provided Luciano with a very accurate flat response from 10 Hz to 20,000 Hz, while also providing some custom tailored pre-set balances to allow a very good nightclub simulation balance for writing purposes. All settings are switchable through a custom control panel we engineered for the studio.
Electrical power distribution was all designed and engineered by our team, this includes a special “last man out” switch that allows all systems that are not critical data systems to be shut down from one single point when Luciano leaves his studio for periods of time. It incorporates a sequenced time delayed start facility to ensure that everything starts in the correct order. With the unusually large amount of equipment Luciano has it would be unreasonable to expect anyone to individually switch every item on and off when they enter or leave so this function was essential.
Just accommodating all the equipment in a manner that will not ruin the room acoustics is no easy task, as a result we had to design all the studio furniture from zero. All equipment racks were CAD designed on-site and CNC manufactured in Portugal, they were shipped out flat-packed and unpainted and assembly and painting was done on site. The Logic, keyboard, workstation was hand crafted by our team on-site to custom fit all of Luciano’s equipment exactly as he liked to work with it equipment was arrayed as it needed to be used and it was then figured out how to make that layout fit.
All computer screens are controlled through a 4 x 4 DVI matrix switcher so both the Pro-Tools and Logic systems can be displayed wherever the most convenient place to operate from is. An enormous USB system controls all keyboards, sound modules, and MIDI systems, and each equipment rack receives USB, audio, network, and power.
Audio cable path layout, power cable layout, and all cable runs are carefully geometrically arranged as to never create a physical loop around the room of system earth and signal screen path, this is for EMI signal induction interference reasons. Despite the studio having hundreds of items of equipment there was never a signal noise problem on any item from day one. We did not have to de-bug any ground loop issues, or electromagnetic interference issues at any point in the project as the system topology was properly designed from the beginning.
One of Luciano’s specifications was to create a separate quality control mastering space. While the main room has excellent acoustic properties and plenty of space for the sound to be controlled it is still predominantly a creative space. Considering the amount of equipment in the main space it is a testament to the robustness of the acoustic principles employed that the room is so free of problems. However as with all creative spaces it is essential that before any result is released to public release it be finally quality control checked in a better environment. This is the mastering process.
In order to provide Luciano with a mastering reference we designed and built a much more ideal space (although smaller) adjacent to the main room. where a simple mastering set-up could be mounted. As a second reference it was decided that we needed to use a different monitoring system in this room. We would normally suggest our standard systems, but as the main room had one of those we chose the PMC MB2A as an excellent, different, reference.
While we believe firmly in the quality and principles of the systems we use now– Electromotive Laboratories monitoring systems – when we are asked for a different alternative we really like the PMC professional large series loudspeakers. As Luciano asked us if we could find somewhere to store his vinyl collection in the studio we took immediate advantage of the immense weight and acoustic properties to build a front wall from all of the discs, weighing in at almost three tons the front wall is a perfect non resonant baffle for the loudspeaker systems while using zero room space for the record storage.
This room was the first room we ever lit with only LED tape, the 14 w/m tape provides a beautiful relaxing shadow free almost outdoor light feel, additionally the RGB coloured wall lights allow us to vastly change the mood of the room
The back wall has a full bandwidth absorber, and side walls are heavily damped.
It took us, as a team, 133 years of learning to collectively learn to build this beautiful place from scratch for an incredible artist in just 90 working days.
Julius Newell Acoustic Engineering (Unip)Lda
VAT PT 514142928
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