Your music, about to be supercharged!

No stranger to acclaim, ace audio engineer and multiple award-winner Shadab Rayeen has recently finished constructing his dream studio. Nishant Padhiar was invited by studio designer Aditya Modi over a sneak peek and discussed how being an early mover in the Dolby Atmos music scene might be an advantage...

Constructing a mixing studio in a residential building must have its share of challenges. How did you control sound and vibration transmission? To construct a studio space in the heart of Mumbai does come with a baggage of technical challenges. The location for instance has extreme road traffic noise, places of worship with loudspeakers playing at various intervals through the day and to add to that, a lot of impact noise from ongoing construction and a newly opened cricket ground nearby. It is a loud environment peaking beyond 87dB on any normal day. Isolating these factors from a clustered activity zone required meticulous planning on the acoustic design and construction engineering front. 

The key was to manage this without losing much of premium square footage. With his trademark sense of humour and an eye for detail, he laid a quirky design brief by insisting that the main studio and all the adjoining spaces need to be flooded with natural light yet sound tight and feel spacious despite the physical constraints. It was quoted in bold that he definitely didn’t want to feel ‘at work’ in a mundane studio environment which causes fatigue since he and his team immersed themselves for long hours in the same space detailing a track or song.

“The client’s participation into the technical realm and a playful approach to the process inspired us to experiment and execute details which deliver on the room design criteria as planned. Undeniably this project involved trials and errors which tested the team’s technical abilities, which was well worth the experience.” Says Rolins Roy (of Rolins Arcoustics), the co-designer of the studio. 

The next challenge was being mindful of the neighbours on all sides. The SPL being reproduced in a studio on the 9th floor with 12 speakers & punchy low-frequency content was sufficient to ‘excite’ residents and pets on all floors above and below. We had to carefully design and execute the room isolation details to ensure a completely floated room decoupled from the mainframe. This was to restrict any structure-borne noise transmission into the skeletal framework of the building.

What is the speaker configuration in the Dolby Atmos Mix room and does it differ to a mixing room designed for multichannel movies? The speaker configuration for a typical Dolby Atmos Music Mix room is a 7.1.4 system - 7 speakers at the ear level, all-around at specific degrees. Dolby Atmos music should ideally be in an equidistant (from listener position) setup, as opposed to an orthogonal setup which works better for Movies and OTT. Also, the speakers should ideally be studio monitors, as opposed to cinema speakers which are recommended for Dolby Atmos mix for cinema. Honestly, when Shadab and I started conceptualising this room, we weren’t aware of Dolby Atmos Music becoming a mainstream format, we had planned to be future proof and also possibly premix the songs that are sent out for final film mixes. But then, happily so, Dolby Atmos Music became a thing. I then contacted Dolby, had a lot of discussions with them regarding the design of the room, the speaker layouts etc. and finalised on the best possible approach. Given the room size, achieving this was certainly challenging, and had to customise some special mounts to get there. Bhaskar from Dolby had visited the room, spent two full days carefully calibrating the room, using AVID’s SPQ speaker processing. The results are phenomenal. 

Being the first studio purpose-built for Dolby Atmos Music in India, what does it signify for the future of Indian recordings? The future looks promising in terms of Dolby Atmos Music becoming a mainstream consumable format, across several streaming platforms and devices. In the meanwhile we are already working on generating content in the Dolby Atmos Music format, to be ready for launch. 

I sense that Indian recorded music (film and non-film) will actively take up this format since it has so much more to offer in terms of immersiveness, spatial spread and general engagement. It’s but a natural transgression, as how we saw a movement from mono to stereo, then to 5.1 / 7.1 and now into 7.1.4 and beyond. And since the consumer does not necessarily need to have that many speakers to consume Dolby Atmos Music and they could do it on single ‘pod’ like devices, soundbars, mobile phones and headphones - this will be far-reaching. 

How many rooms do you have in the whole space and what are they specialised for?Shadab’s space (New Edge Studios) has a total of 3 working studios. One of them has been his long-standing stereo mix room, which we left untouched since it is just too perfect as it is and Shadab is now grown very used to the Eve-audio SC 305’s and their sound in that room. The new rooms we built were a pre-mix / production room, which is also in stereo, but works as a room where multiple engineers can hang-out, ideate, chill-out and generally work on everything up until the final mix of any song. The other room we designed, the star-attraction of this facility is the specialised Dolby Atmos Music room, which consists of the Dolby Atmos Renderer, an AVID Pro-Tools rig running the Pro-Tools MTRX Studio, and a complete Eve Audio (3x SC305, 8x SC208) immersive surround speaker system. The desk is a motorised sit-stand desk to avoid long hours of sitting and working, which is typically the bane of a sound engineer’s posture health. The outboard gear rack is filled with choice compressors, EQ’s and reverb units, which Shadab likes to cycle often, depending on the song. The whole rack is suspended on a rail, which moves backward to reveal a hidden room.