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Analogue is the new digital at Antwerp’s Bobonne Records

It’s not all digital these days – some bands appreciate the challenge of analogue recording, says Marc Maes

Located in the outskirts of Antwerp, Bobonne Records was launched as a platform for young artists to release their own material. The plan to open a recording studio came when founder Guido Op de Beeck finished recording tracks with his band Matt Watts & The Calicos. “It had to be an analogue studio; I knew there was a market for it,” Op de Beeck says. “The idea of working without overdubs, no safety nets, capturing the full spontaneity on tape, requiring 100 per cent concentration during the process…”

Op de Beeck teamed up with sound engineer Joan Gimenez (pictured), who, with a two-year education in audio engineering in Barcelona, shared the same preference for the analogue domain.

The whole project became reality in March, with the ground floor of Op de Beeck’s late grandmother’s house (“grandma” is bobonne in Flemish) becoming a recording studio.

Built around a genuine Studer A80 8-track recorder and a D&R Triton 24-channel, eight-bus mixing desk, Bobonne Records’ studio projects a pure vintage atmosphere. The original looks of the house were left intact; a 25cm-thick acoustic glass wall separates the control room from the live room. The latter is equipped with adjustable Auralex and Vicoustic acoustic panels, but Op de Beeck is convinced that preserving the original acoustics adds to the value of the recording.

“The Triton console sounds extremely transparent, with excellent EQs and plenty of headroom,” comments Gimenez. “The desk includes the original [Triton] Floating Subgroup System (FSS), allowing [us] to route any input signal to an unlimited number of outputs. We replaced the original patch bay ourselves, but it’s nice to know that the guy who designed the console is just at the other end of the phone,”

In addition to peripherals like a Summit Audio TLA-100A valve (tube) leveler, a Kendrick spring reverb tank, two Heritage Audio 1073 pre-amps, a Drawmer 1960 stereo pre-amp/valve compressor and ART valve pre-amps, Bobonne uses a MOTU 986 eight-channel A–D converter to bring the analogue sounds into the 21st century. “For vinyl recordings, we handle the whole process,” explains Op de Beeck. “We use the 986 interface at the end of the recording process so that clients can export their recordings to platforms like iTunes.”

Staf Verbeeck, the former owner of Jet Studio in Brussels, takes on the mastering of Bobonne’s tape material. “I’m a fan of what Bobonne does – recording on tape requires full focus from everybody involved,” says Verbeeck, who, alongside teaching tape technology at Brussels SAE, works in his hybrid mix studio in Antwerp. “Soundwise, tape offers advantages in terms of saturation, low-end bump and smoother high end.”

Concluded tomorrow.