Over its 46-year lifespan, RAK Studios has been the choice of a fleet of iconic musical pioneers, ranging from David Bowie and Pink Floyd to Adele and Arctic Monkeys. Now, the famous London facility is leading the way forward again, this time with a top-to-bottom rebuild of its historic Studio 4 into a Gold Standard space for immersive mixing, complete with a scalable 9.1.4 monitoring solution based around Genelec’s ‘The Ones’ Smart Active Monitor family.
RAK had been having creative and commercial discussions about building an immersive space for years, with Studio 4 always earmarked for the project. However, it was clear that flexibility needed to be a key factor so it could adapt to any project that came through the door. The space had to be a state-of-the-art immersive studio while offering a world-class stereo experience, creating the multi-functional room that RAK needed.
“In a project like this, you either do it properly, or you don’t do it at all,” states Emma Townsend, studio manager at RAK. “We just had to tear the whole thing down and start from an empty shell.”
Rebuild, not retrofit
The decision to rebuild rather than retrofit allowed RAK to work out precisely what it wanted to achieve with the space, a process it went through with the support of Level Acoustic Design for the acoustic design and Studio Creations for the build. “From the get-go, we knew this could be more than just an Atmos room,” explains Andy Leese, RAK’s general manager. “We wanted a room that was a master of all trades so that you could do Atmos or stereo mixing or sit in there to have a writing session and collaborate. We wanted it to be a really nice place to spend time.”
“From a design perspective, we worked with the RAK team to balance a number of objectives,” adds Matt Ward, technical manager at Level Acoustic Design. “Obviously, the internal room acoustic had to be world-class. We needed to dramatically improve the isolation, both from the street outside and to/from the accommodation above – which could be hosting producers and artists working in the other studios within the facility. Lastly, the room needed to feel like part of RAK, both in aesthetic and vibe, maintaining the natural daylight of the windows opening out onto Chalbert Street, and providing connection to the other studios.”
Finding the right equipment to achieve its vision led RAK to embark on a thorough due-diligence process. The studio’s engineering team spent time in various rooms listening to monitors from every major brand before reaching a unanimous decision to choose Genelec.
A matching ethos
“We invited the entire engineering team to our London Experience Centre,” recalls Andy Bensley, regional business development manager at Genelec. “They were quite taken with some of the technology inherent in The Ones – things like the consistent and controlled dispersion characteristics, wide stereo imaging and the LF extension of the W371 adaptive woofer systems. Our ethos matched theirs in terms of how they envisaged working in this new format.”
The resulting solution features nine 8361 three-way coaxial monitors in the front and surround positions, with three W371 woofer systems extending the low-frequency LCR performance. Four 8351s serve as the height channels, with a pair of 7380 subwoofers handling system LF duties. GLM software was employed for the primary system calibration, taking care of in-room frequency response compensation, distance delay and level alignment. “The precision of Level Acoustic’s design and Studio Creation’s build provided the ideal foundation for the system to be calibrated,” says Bensley. “From the initial GLM measurements, we were incredibly happy with the setup. It gave us a fantastic starting point to refine the performance and ultimately deliver a Gold Standard immersive system.”
In addition to the Genelec monitors, Studio 4 runs Pro Tools via Avid MTRX and HDX 3 plus S1 control surfaces and also features a Grace Design m908 immersive monitor controller and the classic selection of outboards that you would expect from RAK.
A cutting-edge space
With the project complete, Studio 4 is now a cutting-edge space that still fits with the aesthetic of RAK while also allowing it to offer artists new creative possibilities. “We already had three excellent tracking rooms, but different clients prefer different rooms for different things. The one thing we were missing was a really good listening, writing and mixing room, and that’s what we’ve got now,” says Townsend. “Everyone who’s been in there so far is really happy with the sound of the room. It sounds great.”
“We couldn’t be more delighted with how Studio Creations have realized the design and how the Genelec monitoring system and room interact,” reflects Ward. “The point source design and close-to-ideal impulse response of The Ones series, managed with GLM, gives incredible three-dimensional imaging and detailed articulation to the Atmos array, and the W371 woofers provide a smooth and clear low-frequency extension way down below 20 Hz.”
“We wanted to be able to represent all the diversity of everything that goes on at RAK, and it dovetails so beautifully into all the things we’ve got planned in the future,” says Leese. “It sounds truly amazing, and I think it’s going to sound better over time when the room beds in. We’re so pleased about how it’s all come out. The look, feel, and location of the room in the building was always lovely – and now it’s even better because the internals are just so well done.”