Utilising DAD’s AX32 and MOM for Monitor Control and Audio Processing and Routing in this Impressive Suite
Immersive audio and live streaming specialist Sonosphere, in conjunction with Metropolis Studios, has created a new mix room at its home The Power House, Chiswick, London. The Munro Acoustics designed, Dolby approved studio has a centrally located mix position, with comprehensive immersive audio monitoring designed to cater for all surround formats. The control room pursues an ambitious and flexible new ‘hub studio’ approach.
“The plan was to make the studio as versatile as possible”, states Sonosphere commercial director Jamie Gosney. “We started out looking at building a room for podcasting and immersive content creation for games and other VR simulations. However, in terms of the music market, Dolby Atmos is very much the standard. So, we decided to ‘have our cake and eat it’, and build a room to fully meet the Dolby Atmos Music specifications: an immersive monitoring environment capable of 11.1.8 Dolby Atmos mixing and playback, currently the highest Dolby Atmos Music resolution in the country. The room has been equipped for all possible formats, including having a Dolby Atmos Rendering and Mastering Unit.”
A key member of the Sonosphere studio team is mix engineer Phil Wright, well known as an expert in mixing live concert sound; his credits range from Paul McCartney, the RPO, Brian May and Benny Andersson, through to the English National Ballet and Katherine Jenkins, and include broadcast mixes for Children in Need and Comic Relief 2020, Lianne La Havas and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
“The whole point of Dolby Atmos is that it is loudspeaker system agnostic,” Wright explains, “you mix one master file, called a Dolby Atmos Master File (DAMF). This is packaged and delivered to the end user where their device plays a version of the content suitable for the equipment attached. You might have a completely discrete 7.1.4 home cinema system, a soundbar, a smart speaker, or headphones and the Dolby Atmos file will be decoded to best reflect the gear you own.”
Wright explains a design philosophy aimed at enabling mix work not only for Dolby Atmos, but for any immersive format. “We decided on three loudspeakers across the back wall, with all the loudspeakers around the room arrayed at 30° of separation to each other, so the setup was completely symmetrical for doing third-order [high-order Ambisonic] work. Dolby Atmos is more ‘front-centric’ so one of the rear loudspeakers will not be in use, and two of the others will be electronically adjusted for Dolby using a DAD (Digital Audio Denmark) AX32 audio router. The AX32 enables any number of virtual room presets to be optimised for different immersive formats, which are easily recallable via the tactile DAD MOM (Monitor Operating Module) controller.”
“This was a fantastic project to be involved in. With such a high resolution of monitoring and with the many use cases for the studio, flexibility and ease of use were of paramount importance,” John Johnson, CTO at HHB Communications commented, “we therefore recommended the combination of DAD products for audio routing, tactile monitoring control and high-fidelity D/A converters. Once installed and commissioned the studio sounded fantastic and we set about delivering bespoke Dolby Atmos training so the team at Sonosphere could hit the ground running.”
Ultimately HHB provided key components for the flexible immersive studio, including the DAD AX32 that provided 32 analogue outs to feed the speakers. As well as 128-ch of Dante and Pro | Mon licence with SPQ processing card for speaker EQ, Delay, and distributed Bass Management processing. The DAD MOM provides tactile user control of the system. Additionally, a Dolby HE-RMU (Home Entertainment Rendering and Mastering Unit) was installed, as well as HHB consulting on technology options and assisting with studio commissioning.
The Dante card on the AX32 is used both for audio routing between the DAW and HE-RMU, as well as in AES67 mode when working with live sources, where the MADI connections on the AX32 allow for further I/O flexibility with external consoles. The rack-mounted Mac Pro workstation hosts Pro Tools, Logic, and Reaper, further adding to the versatility of the room.
The new studio adds an immersive dimension to Metropolis’ comprehensive array of four recording studios and five mastering rooms. The facility is already well known for music, with two thirds of 2021’s domestic Brit Award Winners having recorded there. There are many opportunities in the pipeline for the new studio, with streaming and delivery options provided by the Sonosphere team.
Sonosphere commercial director Jamie Gosney concludes: “There is already a significant order book for the room in terms of record labels, who want well-known catalogue content remixed in Dolby Atmos so they can add it to HD streaming services. We are also in talks with a number of live venues, production companies and promotors as the studio can be very easily attached, via fibre, to virtually any venue in the country and used as a live broadcast and streaming hub – thus eliminating the need for production companies to park large OB vehicles outside their venues. We also have the ability to handle soundtracks and post-production for the film industry. The possibilities are truly endless.”