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New Uni of Westminster studio provides “real world skills”

SSL Duality and PMC monitors installed in Harrow campus flagship rooms

The University of Westminster has opened a new state-of-the-art recording studio on its Harrow campus. Equipment from SSL and PMC feature on the spec sheet, while the completed facility is said to be on a par with commercial recording facilities.

Alan Fisher, previously acting Dean and Head of the University’s music department, says: “We realised some years ago that we needed an acoustically accurate recording studio that was of sufficient size to accommodate a large group of students. It has taken five years to accomplish our mission, [but now we can] educate students [with] the techniques and skills they need to progress in the real world.”

The development includes a large control room (for up to 25 tutees) equipped with an SSL Duality console and the first pair of PMC QB1A main monitors to be installed in Europe, in addition to a 5.1 surround sound monitoring system featuring PMC twotwo.8 boxes.

An adjacent live room of equal size features PMC twotwo.8 monitors in a 5.1 configuration, so that it can be used by students studying audio techniques for television, film and computer games.

The control room is permanently linked to the University’s existing live spaces, including its large performance venue, so that concerts and performances can be recorded.

The entire facility was designed and constructed by Peter Keeling of Studio People working alongside technical installation specialist Bill Ward of Langdale Technical Consulting. Ward notes: “This was a big install with an SSL Control Room housing the 48-channel Duality console, a machine room, live area, vocal/drum booth, three rehearsal rooms, two performance rooms, a fully equipped live venue and, just for good measure, two further spaces allocated for future use and expansion.

“It all equates to a lot of rooms that all need interconnecting, over some huge distances and with a complex variety of cabling and infrastructure options. There was only ever going to be one shot at getting all the cabling installed.”

After looking at all the options, Langdale chose Van Damme cable and used vast quantities of Van Damme analogue Blue Series, video, HDMI, data and control cable, along with connectors, patchbay and studio hardware – all supplied by VDC Trading.

“We designed a complex multi-room system and I have to say Westminster University now has in its possession one of the finest audio recording facilities to be found at any university in the world,” Bill Ward adds.

Colm O’Rourke, the studio manager (pictured top, right, with Richard Evatt), specified the equipment for the flagship rooms, in consultation with other members of the faculty. The equipment was sourced and supplied by Yan Gilbert-Miguet and Neil Boia of Academia.

“It was a collaborative process, particularly for the big ticket items such as the console and the monitors,” O’Rourke explains. “We listened to a number of different monitors but the only ones that really impressed us were the PMCs.

“We are delighted to be the first facility in Europe to install the new QB1As. They are incredible monitors – really powerful and transparent. Although we all have very different musical tastes and different views on what a good monitor should sound like, PMC was the only brand on which we could all agree.”

Bringing a large-format SSL console to the University had been a long-standing ambition for the teaching team. “It was the one thing that students would give feedback to us about,” explains O’Rourke, “so we were confident if we only installed equipment with a global reputation for excellence, we would attract the best students from around the world to study with us.”

The University also invested in more Tubetech equipment and has added to its stock of Prism Sound conversion, increasing the number of multichannel converters it owns from three to nine.

The UoW has been running BA courses in Commercial Music, a BMus in Commercial Music Performance and MA courses in Audio Production, Sound Design and Music Business since the early 1990s and many of its alumni have gone on to careers in a broad range of industries. Every year over 600 students use its recording facilities, which include 13 other smaller studios as well as the new rooms.