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After four years in the planning the flagship studio at the Academy of Music in Guildford has opened to rave reviews.
Previously office space and a tutor lounge, the studio, based in the Rodboro Building, is one part of the vision of ACM executive chair and Metropolis Studios owner Kainne Clements.
“When I came to ACM in 2013, what was magical was what was going on in the classroom between the tutors and students,” he explains. “Since then I’ve spent years working behind the scenes, whether that’s increasing bandwidth of the communications or building industry connections. This is all part of the learning by doing ethos that we promised – I pledged to bring an immersive, fully connected industry experience to ACM and the new studio is part of that.”
The first thing that strikes you when you enter the studio is just how bright and spacious it is. Neil Martin, Production Services Lead at ACM, who was central to the design, wanted to create a flexible space that was inviting to the students as well as being world-class technically.
To this end, he kept the windows and exposed brickwork in the live room, hiding the metal beam work in the wall, “which was a great reason for making the walls extremely thick”, he explains. While these design features could be a challenge acoustically, Martin wasn’t phased. “The brick actually works well for the sound – it’s an absorber and a diffuser,” he adds. “It’s a nice balance of keeping the original structure of the building, keeping that visible and then designing the shape of the room to try to work out as many of the potential acoustic issues as possible and then seeing how it’s used. I wasn’t worried about how much glass or reflective surface I was putting in because I knew that the room’s so big that we’ll have the space to do the treatment to counteract it if needed as time goes on.”
With room for everything from a band to an orchestra, space certainly isn’t a concern for the ACM team. As well as the live room, a high-end recording space, vocal room and isolation booth are also available for students.
“In the recording space we have used slat diffusers,” says Martin. “The idea behind this is to save space and it’s a brilliant way of flattening out a room. The wood acts as a diffuser reflecting sound back and the gaps tune some of the lumps that we had back down so you get a really flat frequency response.”
In terms of kit, ACM opted for a 24-channel SSL Duality console, with Dynaudio monitoring; Genelec midfields are also set to be installed along with an API lunchbox complete with 500 Series modules which the students will be able to rent out and take from studio to studio. As Martin says: “We’ll keep adding kit as time goes on and as we get feedback from students. Similarly, in the treatment of the space, as tutors use it we can hear a bit more if things will need tightening up.”
The whole system is supported by VDC cabling. “VDC got involved because they make the best cable. It was a mixture of in-house cabling and VDC, which just made it a lot easier. Although in the pipeline for some time, actual build time was quite short so it was crucial to have VDC there and be able to get the ready-made cables.”
The extensive roster of VDC-supplied kit includes Van Damme 48-pair Blue and Black Series, Tour Grade Classic XKE microphone cable and NDW 390 black adhesive heatshrink.
“The other great thing for me that helps take the pressure off is that I can ring up VDC and say ‘I need to do this, can you help?’ – so if I haven’t made a certain cable before they can give me the resource, which makes my job a lot easier.
“I would always use VDC – they’re always my first port of call.”