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Turin’s Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory has major audio overhaul

The Conservatory recently took stock of a range of high-end new gear to tackle an increasingly complex programme of projects. Mike Clark spoke to those involved to find out more

Turin’s Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, with a teaching history that dates back to 1866 when it was initially opened as a music academy, recently installed new cutting-edge audio and production facilities, including a 5.2 surround control room hosting a Solid State Logic AWS948 delta console. 

The control room was designed by acoustic adviser Marco Fringuellino, with an aim to provide a state-of-the-art facility system that would meet international standards.

The project’s ambitious plans were devised by the Conservatory’s Carlo Barbagallo and Giovanni Blasi of Milan-based SSL distributor CaBlaTeam. Musician, composer, producer, and sound engineer Barbagallo also has his own record label (Noja Recordings) and his works have premiered at various international festivals. He studied at the Conservatory’s School of Electronic Music (SMET) and from 2018, was involved in creating the control room. He is now technical manager of the Conservatory’s audio recording, production and artistic documentation and manages the control room.

Barbagallo explains: “Due to our complex educational and production requirements, with music ranging from classical to contemporary through electro-acoustic experimentation to jazz, the hardware chosen for the control room was specified by a team made up of myself, Stefano Bassanese (coordinating SMET lecturer), Renato Campajola (expert in multi-track recording, lecturer in electro-acoustics and microphone techniques at the Conservatory) and Marco Masoero (lecturer in sound engineering at Turin Polytechnic).”

Blasi adds: “The console installed normally comes without a patch bay, but it’s always better to have one to increase flexibility when using the console. The two halls closest to the control room are cabled directly with the console, but the main concert hall is quite a distance away, so Focusrite preamps were connected with the recording computer (an Apple Mac Pro with Bootcamp Windows 10/12core) via redundant Cat 7 cable runs (circa 80ms each). This type of connection was also installed for the two smaller rooms, in the event of having to use the Focusrite preamps.”

The preamps are three Rednet MP8R units and Millennia’s HV-3D eightchannel model, whereas Yamaha A/D-D/A is courtesy of two accelerators and five Nio500-A16. The impressive DAW set-up features Avid Protools Ultimate, Apple Logic Pro X, MOTU Digital Performer 9, Reaper, Sadie 6 Sound Suite and a wide mic assortment, including ribbon models by Beyerdynamic, Royer Lab and Coles. Genelec monitoring is channeled through five Genelec 1237A, two 7360A subs and a pair of M030 near-field boxes.

The Dante protocol means it is technically possible to record activity in all halls connected to the Conservatory’s network, even those not in the same building as the control room. The audio cabling via Ethernet, plus a high-speed fibre network, offers the setup even greater potential, enabling the facilities to be put at the disposal of other (third-party) locations connected to the network, and therefore providing real-time multichannel audio streaming and the ideal infrastructure for remote teaching.

Barbagallo enthuses: “The great versatility of the SSL desk is also thanks to the fact it combines automated control of the studio’s computer-based resources with the possibility of totally analogue recording, taking advantage of its characteristic sound (particularly suited to jazz). Even having studied the SSL in depth before using it, hands-on work has enabled me to appreciate other features; the possibilities it offers in terms of routing and management are surprising, and features such as the Total Recall and parameter automation in both directions via DAW are exceptional.”

After fine-tuning the system, recording activity began in September last year and to date has included compiling the Conservatory’s concerts, recordings by the Conservatory’s Brass Band and by the top graduates from the 2018 Jazz Composition course. Students and staff can also take advantage of free recording and production services.