IoSR Blog : 19 June 2013

Altering the room

Studio 3 was built at the same time as the ITU-R BS 1116 standard listening room, and was partly intended for use to prepare material used in experiments in the listening room. Because of this, it was important to have a similar layout in both spaces, which meant the position of the loudspeakers in Studio 3 was configured to meet the ITU specification. This, in turn, meant that the console needed to be positioned lengthways down the room.

Studio 3 old layout

There are a few downsides to this positioning. Firstly, it means that the engineer is sat almost centrally in the room, which means being sat at the sound pressure node of most of the lowest-frequency modes. This makes it difficult to obtain an even low frequency response even in ideal conditions. Secondly, it means that only one or two people can be in a good listening position for 2-channel stereo replay. Well, unless you're very good friends.

We don't use Studio 3 for listening test preparation very much any more, partly because we can now do most of the necessary audio processing using computers elsewhere rather than needing a large console, and we now usually use more than the 5 loudspeakers afforded by the conventional 5.1 layout. So, as we aren't constrained by the layout of the listening room any more, we've taken the opportunity to look at other options.

Different layouts

Listening is something that we do a lot of on the Tonmeister course. To be able to listen critically, to be sensitive to differences, to be able to identify faults, to have a good idea of what you're trying to achieve: all of these are essential to the audio engineer and all are based on listening. There are many listening sessions throughout the course, including technical ear training in the first year, and listening seminars in the second and final years.

Ideally, these sessions require a high quality monitoring system in a good acoustical environment, as well as enough space to be able to have 6 to 8 students in a reasonably good listening position. Currently, we run these in Studio 2 floor: it's a suitable space, but the time used by the listening sessions is time that it can't be used for recording.

It would be great to be able to move these sessions into Studio 3. If we can rearrange the room so that we can get 6 to 8 students in a reasonably good listening position, then we can run all these sessions in there, freeing up more time for recording. Also, we'll be able to make use of the facilities of the control room to do even more in these sessions. This could include: replaying things via the mixer and modifying the mix during the session; using the various outboard, mixer, and computer processing and listening to differences; listening to material in a range of surround sound formats; or running mixing workshops either of simple mixing tasks or critiquing and manipulating student work.

In order to achieve this, we could position the console so that it faces the far wall in the control room (the console across the room rather than along it). This would mean that the engineer is sat approximately a third down the room, as opposed to being in the centre as now. This will make it easier to achieve a relatively even low-frequency response, and frees up more floor space behind the engineer position, where seats could be placed temporarily for listening sessions and workshops. Suddenly, the room is usable for a wider range of things, and we gain more time in Studio 2 into the bargain.

The plan looks something like this. Let's see if we can get it all to fit in!

Studio 3 new layout

And so work starts

Work is already underway in Studio 3. On Monday, a team of us stripped out the equipment and existing treatment. The cabling is being removed over the next day or two, then the work on refitting the room can begin in earnest next week.

Here's the Sony on its last day in the studio, shortly before being packed off to its retirement home in the country.

Sony Oxford on the last day

And, just to emphasise that we're getting on with work, here's a time-lapse video of us in action.

by Russell Mason