Mike Hillier goes in search of the famous north London facility after its major refurbishment
Livingston Studio 2 in Wood Green, London, has undergone a major refurbishment. The studio, which was previously home to Jean-Paul Maunick aka Bluey from jazz-funk band Incognito, is now open as a tracking room centred around a brand new Custom Series 75 console powered by Neve.
There’s a legacy surrounding Livingston, stretching back to the 1980s, which can be explored elsewhere: it involves such high-profile names as producer Jerry Boys, the Buena Vista Social Club, Nick Gold, Björk, producer Marius de Vries and more. More apposite here is the takeover of Livingston by Miloco Studios in 2012, and the refurbishment by in-house studio design and installation team, Miloco Builds. Studio 1 has been operational for a couple of years: now it’s the turn of the Studio 2.
Robbie Dunne, Miloco Gear's sales manager, was closely involved in the refit: “Bluey was using a hybrid set-up based around a summing box. We wanted to go for a more traditional set-up, so we started by looking at new consoles. I wanted the most feature-packed, exciting console I could get in for the budget we had. Burbank [Audio Systems] had just taken over the Custom 75, and the project was to make a cut down 88RS with all original 1073 preamps and 1081 EQs. It's similar in price to the [API] 1608, but feels like you get more bang for your buck as you get all the legacy stuff, the 1073s, 1081s, 2254s, and also modern routing options. We also considered SSL and Audient consoles, but kept coming back to the Custom 75.”
The studio settled on a 24-channel (48-input) Custom Series 75 console with the 2254 compressor option built-in, and Miloco is now the UK dealer for Custom Series 75 consoles.
For recording in Studio 2, Miloco installed a Pro Tools HDX rig with UAD card, using Avid HD I/O convertors, a Studer A80 MkIV 24-track 2-inch tape machine and an Ampex ATR-102 two-track 1/2-inch machine for bouncing mixdowns. Additionally, the room is equipped with a selection of notable outboard, including an API 3124 4-channel preamp, to provide an alternative to the Neve colouring of the console, a Tube-Tech PE 1C program equaliser and DBX, Empirical Labs, SSL and Urei compressors.
The main monitoring is handled by a pair of Augspurger Duo-8 monitors. “We looked at PMC, Quested and some other speakers for the main monitors, but the Augspurgers really carry a huge sound. Main speakers are usually only used for vibe, they lack the detail you need for mixing. This isn't the case with the Augspurgers, they have the detail and people are mixing on them using the nearfields only for reference.”
In addition to installing the Duo-8 monitors in Studio 2, Dunne also installed Augspurger Duo-12s in Livingstone studio 1. “A lot of hip-hop studios in America have been using Augspurgers, the JBL/Urei horn thing is really popular over there and this is a refinement on that principle.
“It's not only hip-hop though, the onboard DSP means these are flat from 20Hz to 20kHz – when we first put the speakers in they weren't great sounding, they were quite bright in the room, but the time and phase alignment, and room management systems on board the amps let us tune them to the room”. Full disclosure here: like the Custom Series 75, Miloco Gear is now also the UK distributor for Augspurger monitors.
The studio is also equipped with a large selection of instruments, amplifiers, and guitar pedals. “We want to aim the studio at indie bands looking to make an album for only a couple of grand. We know people are used to using plug-ins and emulations of vintage gear, but we wanted them to be able to come in here and use the real thing. To be inspired into making great music.”
To this end, the instrument collection in Studio 2 includes a Bösendorfer grand piano, Fender Rhodes 73 MkII stage piano, and Hammond M101 with Leslie 122 cabinet as well as more modern synths, such as a Roland Juno 60, Moog Little Phatty and Arturia MiniBrute. For guitarists, the studio has amassed a collection of vintage, rare and boutique guitar pedals so large it would be easy to get lost in. “We've got three different sets of pedals; pre-amps and boosters, delays and reverbs and modulation.” Among the gems in this pedal collection are a Klon KTR, one of the cleanest boost pedals available, a late 60s Shin-ei/Kimbara Companion fuzz, and a Roland AP-7 Jet Phaser, which combines fuzz and a multi-stage phaser capable of anything from mild phasing to pronounced jet-engine roar.
“We know a lot of bands will track parts at home, and we wanted them to be able to come in and re-amp the parts so we also have a Radial re-amp kit, which will let bands bring their pre-recorded parts and run them out through the pedals or amps, and capture it back in”.
Livingston Studio 2 is now open and taking bookings, and with such great equipment on offer, we can imagine a lot of bands and engineers are going to go looking for Livingston.
Top picture: Livingston Studio 2 opening (L-R) Dave Malekpour (Auspurger); Bruce Millet and Stephen Roach (Burbank); Robbie Dunne (Miloco Gear) Second picture: The tastefully lit live booth Last picture: The studio has been open since 1985