Gie Whiz! A BBC Neve renaissance at Guido Aalbers’ GieSound30 December 2015
Spring 2015 saw GieSound Studio move from Soest to Zwolle, where mixer–producer (and Neve superfan) Guido Aalbers built his new studio complex, writes Marc Maes
GieSound’s first studio was located in the Studio 41 multiplex site in Soest, a ‘creative hub’ for mastering, mixing, DVD authoring, audio description and post-production companies opened in 2010. “The combination and integration of the different elements of the sound recording process was nice to work in but I felt somewhat limited in my possibilities,” says founder Guido Aalbers. “In Studio 41 I had a control room plus a very small recording room; when I wanted to record bands I had to travel to other studios in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, my gear packed in flightcases.”
Leaving Studio 41 was not a certainty, admits Aalbers, but in the end he wanted to have a full band-capacity recording studio, offering the same quality that brought has since brought in mixing and production assignments for international bands like Coldplay, Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, Franz Ferdinand, Counting Crows… “Studio 41 was no longer an option, also because the facility – located in the middle of a housing estate – would require a substantial investment in insulation.”
Without really looking, Aalbers (pictured) almost accidentally bumped into a building on an industrial site in Zwolle: a huge, newly built business unit. “The big advantage was that the premises were completely new and empty, allowing me to start from scratch building my own studios,” continues Aalbers. “In February this year, I started to design and construct the two recording studios – one 40m² studio, and a smaller, 20m² one – and a control room. It has become a group effort, with lots of help from colleagues, studio owners and studio builders, cutting costs wherever possible without giving in on quality standards.”
The new studio’s control room continues on the path chosen by Aalbers in the past: “I have always been a Pro Tools aficionado, using HD3 as a ‘tape machine plus’ to offer more options than a standard tape recorder. I use an analogue console and lots of analogue outboard gear from brands such as Neve, Summit Audio, Chandler Limited, SPL, etc. – I get good results thanks to this combination: it’s much more ‘relaxed’.”
GieSound’s recording console is a custom-made, modular, 36-input desk configured by German engineer Steffen Müller. Based on Aalbers’s specs, the desk features offers ‘Neve-type’ summing and classic EQs, with the option to add extra channels. “This is a pure mixing console, equipped with elements from other consoles,” explains Aalbers. “I’m a Neve fan and work a lot with Neve or Neve-based equipment – the mixing desk is actually sort of a ‘BBC Neve’ console. Steffen also put together extra compressors and limiters for me, featuring Neve transformers, so you might say that Neve is the path we follow at GieSound.
“For the new studio I’ve also added some extra recording preamps like Neve 4081s, allowing me to record a complete band.” Other new pres include a Dizengoff D4, Audient ASP008, Warm Audio Tone Beast, Universal Audio LA-610 MkII and a Chandler TG Channel.
Rather than going for a completely new configuration, Aalbers decided to continue using the basics of his Soest control room, including its DynAudio Air 12 monitors. “The big investment here is the infrastructure, the design and acoustics of the studios: it was a real trial-and-error process. I specifically wanted the big live room to get a specific ‘drum sound’ colour,” he says. “Test sessions with drummers resulted in a very ‘lively’ acoustic. With the option to record full bands, I invested quite a lot in Neutrik patch panels and a Behringer P16 Powerplay headphone monitoring circuit, allowing individual musicians to get a perfect personal headphone mix.”
The first test recordings at GieSound took place this spring, and since 1 May GieSound offers a fully fledged recording facility. (The building also comprises a cosy relaxation room, kitchen and a spacious car park.)
“I’m convinced that bands attach more importance to the ‘who’ rather than to the ‘where’,” concludes Aalbers. “The choice of the mixer, producer or engineer is crucial, more today than in the past. In this respect I see people travelling from abroad or from the other side of the country to record with me. Selling a ‘no’ is not the option, and the new studio opens new perspectives.”