Radio Katowice, the largest regional station in Poland’s national public broadcasting network, celebrated the 95th anniversary of its founding with a total renovation of the control room attached to its Concert Studio. The refresh includes a new acoustic treatment and the installation of a full complement of new audio equipment, including a Solid State Logic Duality Fuse 48-channel “SuperAnalogue” mixing console.
Polish Radio Katowice was established in 1927, and the current building, constructed after World War II, has undergone several renovations in the decades since. The Concert Studio, a two-story-high, 185-plus-square-meters space with seating for up to 180 people, was modernized in 2001, according to Krzysztof Kurek, the principal sound engineer at the facility. Still, it was time to overhaul the control room. “We tore the control room apart and redid the whole thing from scratch,” Kurek says.
Out with the old, in with a new SSL Duality
When the control room was refurbished two decades ago, along with the Concert Studio space, the workstation and control surface were state-of-the-art. “It’s great as long as it’s modern, but once it’s not, you can’t even update it,” Kurek says, pointing to the challenges of updating and maintaining software and operating systems and older computer equipment.
In place of the previous digital audio system, the Radio Katowice sound engineering team installed an SSL Duality. Warsaw-based distribution and integration company Audiotech Commercial supplied the latest version of the SSL console, the Duality Fuse. It features an integrated Fusion multi-processor that provides control of drive, equalization, compression, image width and other sonic color enhancements with flexible routing and patch access from the desk’s inputs and buses.
48 channels of SuperAnalogue Duality sound
“One of the reasons we chose the desk was because it’s analog,” Kurek says, noting that a computer and DAW are almost certain to fail at some point in their lifecycles. “When we were thinking about which desk to choose, we said, ‘Duality is the best because it can work with a 24-track tape recorder instead of a computer.’ That was one reason why we didn’t choose a hybrid solution.” He continues, “We also wanted to get something that we could use for ten or more years. Also, the old system was 32 channels, and we thought we needed more. Now we’re very happy to use 48 channels. It’s perfect for what we’re doing.”
Regarding the latest iteration of the Duality desk, Kurek says, “I tested the Fusion rack unit, and when I listened to how it sounded, I thought it would be great to enhance rock music or other modern music. I didn’t think I would use it here at the studio, but once you have it on the desk, it takes just one push of a button. I’m even using it on choirs. Once you turn it on, it always makes things better.”
A legacy of recording live performances
For many years, venues such as the Radio Katowice Concert Studio were the only places in Poland that could record live performances by large orchestras, choirs and big bands. Over the years, the Radio Katowice performance venue has hosted some of the country’s most notable singers and songwriters, including Ewa Bem, Krystyna Prońko, Stanisław Sojka, Józef Skrzek and others.
Only after 1989, when the country began to transition to a democracy and market economy, could private individuals build a studio or have access to quality audio equipment. But even modern private studios in Poland cannot accommodate large ensembles, Kurek says, so the radio station’s facility still plays a vital role in the culture. Since installing the Duality Fuse, Radio Katowice has also presented renowned poet and lyricist Jacek Cygan and composer Jerzy Filar, celebrating 50 years in the music business, performing live in the Concert Studio.
The seating on the studio’s lower level can be pushed out of the way to provide a larger floor area for especially big ensembles, with adjustable acoustics. “We split the signals for the desk doing the live mix for the people, and I do the mixing for the radio or the internet,” Kurek says. “We knew that we would need the desk for that kind of live mixing as well, so having a full channel strip on every channel was important for us. We also have some outboard gear, but since there’s a whole channel strip on every channel of the Duality, I can mix the whole thing using just the desk. Plus, it has the SSL bus compressor and the Fusion!”
All images: Łukasz Kornafel