The University of Surrey, home to the revered Tonmeister sound recording degree, unveiled its revamped Studio 3 in January. The four-year Tonmeister course is taught at the multi-studio recording complex on the university’s Guildford campus. “The first in-take was in 1970 – I think this will be our 40th year of graduates,” says Tonmeister programme director, Dr Russell Mason.
Studio 3 was built in 1999, the initial purpose being to increase the number of students that could be enrolled on the course. The room has now undergone a major refurbishment in terms of both acoustic design and layout. The 96-channel Sony Oxford console from that era has now been replaced by an AMS Neve 88D.
Mason explains that the need for a new console was a deciding factor for the refurbishment: “The main reason was to replace the Oxford,” he says. “We took it as an opportunity to redo the acoustics in here – to turn the room around to make the space much more flexible so we can have listening seminars in here as well and to do it up.”
John Flynn and acoustician Sam Toyoshima of Acoustics Design Group carried out the redesign work. The partnership has undertaken projects at legendary facilities such as Abbey Road and Sarm West, an indicator of the quality of work that was sought by the Tonmeister academics.
The new AMS Neve 88D features a classic analogue front-end with up to 1,000 channels at 24-bit/96kHz. Tutor in sound recording and studio support engineer, Alan Haigh, adds: “It’s got the same back-end as the DFC (AMS-Neve DFC Gemini), the big film console, so they can learn the software from that, and its got Encore Automation which is the same across all Neves like the 88RS, so [the 88D] sort of ticks every box, really.”
Due the multi-disciplined nature of the Tonmeister course, it was important to the course administrators that students have access to a desk that would prepare them for high-end studios and dubbing theatres. “We looked at a lot of desks and actually visited a lot of manufacturers and tried them out,” explains professor Tony Myatt.
“We were looking for something that was a music mixing desk but also a desk that people could mix to picture — something that you would find in that sort of environment. The Neve sits in the middle of those two worlds,” says Myatt. The new console carries two quad MADI cards and runs on two DSP engines of 500 channels each.
“The reason we’ve done that is that if anything goes down we can carry on while we’re getting the other one replaced without losing the room,” explains Haigh. “We’ve got 56 in and outs of Pro Tools and also Pyramix here as well because we use that in the classical studio, and you can mix from that in here equally well.”
The refurbished studio is now equipped for mixing in stereo and 5.1 surround sound. Monitoring is courtesy of a 5-channel ATC system, while a Genelec subwoofer handles low frequencies. “The monitor speakers are the same as before, ATC 100s,” says Haigh. “We had them in the year 2000 and we’ve got them in the other studio as well. If the place burned down we’d buy them again. The design hasn’t changed, its one of these great things, they cost a lot to start with, but once you’ve got, you’ve got them forever.”