"The idea to group a number of audio and audio-related companies under one roof came in 2008 when I took over a 500sqm building, previously owned by (former mastering company) Digipro," says mastering engineer Sander van der Heide, owner of Studio 41. "At first, we used Digipro's studio configuration, which allowed us to start our activities immediately and to rebuild the other rooms step by step."
Van der Heide, with his long-time experience as mastering engineer at Wisseloord since 1993, Galaxy Studios (2002) and Polygram's Polyhimnia studios (2004-2008), launched his own company Saint of Sound two years ago. At Studio 41 he now has a completely new studio and two mastering rooms: Mastering 1, which has a lot of analogue equipment and a surround system, and Mastering 2, where his colleague and junior master engineer Pier Durk Hogeterp takes on the digital domain.
"We concentrate on CD mastering but as we gradually added surround mastering for music DVDs, we decided to set up a DVD authoring room," explains Van der Heide, "We founded a separate company, Pixility, to deal with DVD and Blu-ray authoring in a specific studio. The advantage is that both activities offer nice crossover possibilities – when a client comes in with a music-DVD mastering assignment, we now also get the authoring job, which makes it very interesting."
In the Studio 41 building, Van der Heide built his working environment from scratch – all of the rooms were stripped to the ground and provided with new acoustics by acoustics designer David Van Olst of GoedGeluid. The two knew each other from Wisseloord and Van der Heide was impressed by Van Olst's approach, which was based on more than the purely scientific measurements of a room. "He really focuses on what the client wants to hear, and in the case of the Saint of Sound rooms, David managed to get a very equal spread sound by using resonance panels, resulting in a lively mastering room," he enthuses.
Another key element of the Saint of Sound configuration is the vintage Dunlavy monitor speakers for which Sander searched around the world. "These speakers were recommended by people like Bob Ludwig and Darcy Proper – the problem is that they have been taken out of production since the mid-'90s. I managed to buy two pairs of the legendary Dunlavy SC 4 in the US and one set in Belgium – they really sound excellent," he says. Also available at Saint of Sound is the Elysia Alpha mastering compressor, a unique piece of equipment, according to Van
While launching Saint of Sound mastering, Van der Heide went on the lookout for other companies interested in a room in Studio 41 ("The 41 refers to the postal address, and I thought Studio 41 was a better and more independent name for the building," Sander says), rather than building a huge recording complex himself.
"The basic idea was to find companies in the same business, without any obligation to collaborate or work on each other's projects but to establish a healthy complementary relationship between them, becoming a bonus for everybody involved in this one-stop site," Van der Heide adds. "But we can handle A-Z projects here as well."
With the GieSound mix and overdub studio, Studio 41 continued the business line – owner and mixer-producer Guido Aalbers has a pied ê terre in the Soest-based multiplex. "Depending on the budget I record in studios throughout the Benelux, but as my outboard gear continued to grow. Mixing in recording studios became a whole operation: a car full of flight-cases and speakers, patching and adjusting the equipment – I prefer to have a control room of my own, a studio that I can work in when I want – and that's what I have at Studio 41," says Aalbers.
With his "thick organic mix" baseline, Aalbers' professional resume includes mixing and production assignments for international bands like Coldplay, Live and Muse, as well as national acts such as Bertolf, Anneke van Giersbergen and Miss Montreal.
Initially Aalbers wanted to buy a Neve console for his control room – but the relatively high investment and the fact that he only needed a couple of preamps instead of 40 Neve preamps inspired Aalbers to have a console custom made by German engineer Steffen Mƒller. Based on his specs, components and features, Müller suggested building a modular console.
"I wasn_t going to use all the features of a Neve console for mixing and overdubs anyway, so we started with the best components offering 'Neve-type' summing and classic EQs – the Aalbers Media Console 01 can be expanded with extra channels when I decide to," explains Aalbers, adding that he uses DynAudio Air 12 monitors and "a butt-ugly" JVC Boombox for mixing.
GieSound is equipped with a Pro Tools HD2 system, allowing him to exchange working experience with his neighbours of SoundFocus, an audio description and sound design company who also found their home in Studio 41.
"Soundfocus specialises in audio description for movies, documentaries and web clips, so that blind people are able to 'know' the action on the screen," continues van der Heide. "It also does subtitling for the hard of hearing – the subtitling department provides our Pixility DVDs with subtitles."
Finally, Masters Of Media takes on CD and DVD manufacturing, the design of CD and DVD inlays, online distribution and website design.
"The main idea behind Studio 41 is to get people out of their home studio and over here," concludes Van der Heide. "We do get a lot of assignments via the internet, but we would like them to be in the building during the sessions. In the end, it all comes down to communication about how things should sound – things you can't put in an email, but have to experience yourself."