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Inside Ibiza’s Metrica Sound recording studio

Opened in June 2018 Metrica Sound Ibiza is a state-of-the-art recording studio designed as a creative hub for Sfëar 3D audio and Binaural projects. Simon Duff sent PSNEurope this report...

Metrica Sound is located in the fashionable Playa d’en Bossa EDM clubland district of Ibiza and part of the Hotel Garbi complex. The main trio behind the project are producer and engineer Javier Ferrer Serra, musician and producer Matias Kamelman, and head of operations Sham Faure who has extensive knowledge of running record labels and radio stations.

The studio consists of a 70m live room, that doubles as the Sfëar 3D mix facility using Slate Digital Ravens. A 60m control room is based around an AVID S6 console, Apple Mac Pro Core Pro Tools 2018 and Philip Newell monitors. The facility includes extensive office and artist spaces. Metrica was conceived and designed by Phillip Newell and executed and crafted by Joules Newell and his team.

Sfëar is the brainchild of Adan Garriga, director of the AV technology research team in Eurecat and the manager of Sfëar. The immersive audio technology features real-time 3D audio plugins and sound rendering software, which is fully compatible with all common Digital Audio Workstations. The 3D audio produced can be rendered to a loudspeaker set up, as well as binaural using headphones and head trackers. Metrica has installed a surround sound monitoring system for Sfëar that incorporates 25 PMC two series active monitors complimented by three PMC Sub2 subwoofers. Pro Audio Ibiza supplied the PMC loudspeakers.

Using its layout calibration tool, Sfëar’s sound rendering software for both channel and object-based mixing, makes the system aware of the position of each loudspeaker. This calibration can be saved for later use and even for adapting previously made recordings to a given layout. “Immersive sound is the future – and it is here, today,” Javier says. “When it was first conceived the world wasn’t ready for it, but now it is and you can hear 3D and binaural sound in many places, even YouTube.

This means there is a requirement to produce specific content and that’s where Metrica comes in. Our aim is to produce 3D and binaural content and help the music industry embrace this revolutionary technology, which in our opinion, it desperately needs. The idea is to turn music from simply ‘listening’ into an experience.”

A key audio feature of the studio is the integration and solid fusion between analogue and digital, as Serra explains. “We have 20 analogue pre-amps, including Audient, API, Drawmer, Thermionic Culture and Heritage Audio to give us an interesting analogue palette of colours to choose from and add warmth if needed and wanted. In addition to the signal chain, we have some EQ and compression analogue processors, such as API, Distressors and Universal Audio. They all coexist with a UAD Ultimate Pack which has a very strong and powerful combination of digital preamps and a large list of plugins. Our list of DAWS is not any less interesting, Pro Tools 2018 is our main tool, but we also use Ableton Live, Logic X and Cubase 9.5.”

The back line kit is equally impressive, including some classic guitar amps such as Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, Marshall JCM 900, Vox AC30, and Fender Twin Reverb. State of the art synths include a Nord Lead 4, Matrix Brute, Dave Smith ́s Prophet 6 and OB6, Korg Kronos and Akai MPCX along with Komplete Kontrol. In the microphone store all of the classics from Neumann, Sennheiser, Audient, Audix and Shure are available.

Shams summarises how the first three months of business have been. “We are grateful and happy to have exceeded our expectations in our first three months. The studio is fully active on the different commercial work around recording, mixing and mastering, voice overs, productions for musicians, and commercials. We are also leading two large-scale research programs – we have had master classes. We do live radio broadcasts on major Ibiza Radios weekly and we are forecasting three very big 3D production deals for the winter. We are offering a creative working space where anyone can come and feel part of the Ibiza spirit.”

Recent clients include Martin Garrix, rated as one of the world’s best DJs, who’s recorded a number of voice overs and music work on some of his own productions.

Other high profile clients include Black Coffee, Chelina Manhuhutu, Robin Schultz, Nina Kravizt and Barbara Tucker. Work on Banjaara, an experimental cross-genre music project that Javier and Matias are working on, is ongoing, with their album release mixed using Sfëar, imminent. Both share an interest in Neuroscience and quantum physics, and their meeting place within music, with ambitious plans to further music into the health sector.

3D projects on the way include a recording by the Kiev Philharmonic, of four key works by Mozart, aimed to get a world class 3D classical recording and mix. This is being called Metrica’s Space Symphonic Project, and includes the involvement of maestro Claudio Ianni as both arranger and conductor. Claudio has an Oscar and several other award-winning movies to his name, Javier adds: “When we first contacted him about the project, he was fascinated by the idea, and immediately suggested we should meet so he could hear the 3D. In this context, we asked him to also address an audience in Ibiza to tell his experience, and the outcome was amazing. The level of attendance and interest was amazing and the master class was brilliant. Another important part of the project is the involvement of top film industry sound engineer Jose Vinader. His input and expertise will be crucial as we venture into the void of 3D mixing of a symphonic orchestra, especially on the recording side.”

Metrica is also involved in an important upcoming Metal Festival in Ibiza and a work for a major restaurant in Barcelona for which Metrica is designing the musical landscape for a 3D installation.

In regards to hotel brands, Metrica is working with some of the major companies on the island in a variety of ways, from music production for its different promotional platforms to specialised music curator services for the hotels. Also on the corporate side, Metrica are working on several publicity and commercial campaigns and are starting to make inroads in the video game industry.

The company also has involvement with several leading audio brands for distribution, including Fractal Audio and K-Array Loudspeakers, which is working with Metrica, not only on the distribution side, but also on the research and development side. Matias has been an Ibanez Guitars endorser for many years, and both had been talking for a while about the potential of the guitar as having an important role in the pioneering field of 3D audio.

This journalist can personally testify to the extraordinary results that Metrica is achieving with Sfëar. On visiting the studio in August, PSNEurope was given a stunning demo of the system in the Sfëar studio. This included playback of a 3D track composed by Javier, with Matias supplying guitar work. A wonderful pulsing slice of ambient techno, and contemporary classical, that was used for the 2016 Sonar Barcelona exhibition.

Conceived for showing the possibilities that Sfëar has to offer, the surround sound detail and ambition is absolutely stunning, 360 degrees of immersive extraordinary warmth, unbelievable spatial accuracy and overall power, movement, clarity and depth.

Sfëar looks set to become a 3D audio force that will succeed and win through in the coming years across the music industry. Last word goes to Javier : “As you can see, we bet strongly on this new format, mainly because we know it. When people hear what we do here, nobody is left indifferent, the experience is so massive that you crave for more.”