Regular readers might remember a story from January 2014 regarding The Garage recording facility deep in Italy’s Tuscan countryside, created by globe-trotting produce/engineer Fabrizio “Simoncia” Simoncioni, who returned to Italy after working on award-winning recording projects in the US, UK and Mexico for many years.
Simoncia has now decided to move on to yet another new venture: D:PoT recording studio in Prato (also in Tuscany).
The recently opened facility was designed by acoustician Donato Masci’s Studio Sound Service. Masci designed The Garage, so some similarity between the two was almost to be expected.
Masci explains: “The control room has a ‘non-environment’ design, with a solid reflecting front and very absorbent rear and ceiling. The Genelec main monitors are flush-mounted in reinforced concrete to ensure the best possible results and the rear of the room features a very deep bass trap with a custom diffusor optimised with software featuring acoustic scattering (Reflex, Comsol), doubling as a slat absorber and diffusor.”
Here things begin to differ, as the D:PoT control room is slightly shorter, so it was decided to adopt the solution of using two wheel-mounted side islands of outboard racks that can be moved as required. Another (more important) difference consists in a window on either side of the room, through which, from behind the studio’s Solid State Logic 4064G console, the engineer can watch the artists in a neutral vocal and solo instrument booth, or the studio’s live room, which features slat absorbers and resonators to optimise reverb times on the whole spectrum.
The result is a perfectly symmetric room and fact that the windows are exactly the same size and set at the same angle is also an important factor from an acoustic point of view, as Masci explains: “This angle is very important, as it enables the first reflections to be fed behind the listening area, creating the so-called reflection-free zone and giving the room a really spacious feel.”
One of the key aspects of the studio is without doubt the flush-mount format adopted for the main monitors and the concrete structure, which Masci generally proposes to clients, but, as he adds, “The floor is often unable to bear the weight of the wall, or there are other limits that compel us to look for alternatives, which are, in reality, often compromises. It’s not often you have the possibility of designing without having to resort to these compromises – for structural, budget or space reasons – but D:PoT was one of these occasions!”
Equally enthusiastic about the new venture, Simoncioni continues, “We inaugurated the studio in May and immediately began work on a new album by Litfiba, one of Italy’s historical rock bands, led by charismatic vocalist Piero Pelù.”
Picking out which of the array of analogue outboard units flanking his console he is particularly fond of is no easy task, but “Simoncia” highlights the Retro Instruments Sta-Level compressor and the two Retro Instruments 176 limiting amplifiers (based on Bill Putnam’s classic UA 176). “I like the latter, for the ‘old’ colour they give the sound and – a must for me – the harmonic saturation they add thanks to their valves, as well as the up-front sound they deliver, particularly for vocals and electric guitars. Then there’s the less-known IGS Audio Tubecore stereo mastering compressor, a great unit that, thanks to its interchangeable valves, lets you change the overall tone and sound colour, as well as working in mid/side mode.”
The monitors also play a key role: cutting edge Genelec 8351A nearfields with a digitally controlled Genelec 7270A SAM subwoofer with Genelec AD9200 192kHz 24-bit A-D converters; plus Chris Pelonis’ Model 42 MkII mini monitors with a Pelonis LF42 sub. For clients (such as Litfiba) who like plenty of punch, D:PoT runs a pair of older Genelec 1025A four-way main monitors, able to push out very high sound pressure while maintaining a (reportedly) linear response.
Simoncioni added some ”personal” touches to the studio, which run from those of an aesthetic nature, such as the wall covering in the control room, reminiscent of the
handcrafted saddle blankets on sale in El Paso, where he worked in the past, to the custom features he specified for the studio’s modified SSL 4064G console, such as the power supply, sixteen Series E Black EQ, eight Series E stereo channels with ‘Brown’ EQ, LCD monitors and a two-way SSL automation interface for Pro Tools and DAWs in general.
Picture: Simoncia working hard in his new Tuscan base, D:PoT Photo credit: Alessandra Barsotti