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24 l September 2014

studio BELGIUM Grandma’s recipe for Bobonne Records

It’s not all digital these days – some bands appreciate the challenge of analogue recording, says Marc Maes

LOCATED IN the outskirts of Antwerp, Bobonne Records was launched as a platform for young artists to release their own material. The plan to open a recording studio came when founder Guido Op de Beeck finished recording tracks with his band Matt Watts & The Calicos. “It had to be an analogue studio; I knew there was a market for it,” Op de Beeck says. “The idea of working without overdubs, no safety nets, capturing the full spontaneity on tape, requiring 100% concentration during the process…”

Op de Beeck teamed up with sound engineer Joan Gimenez, who, with a two-year education in audio engineering in Barcelona, shared the same preference for the analogue domain.

The whole project became a reality in March, with the ground floor of Op de Beeck’s late grandmother’s house (“grandma” is bobonne in Flemish) becoming a recording studio.

Built around a genuine Studer A80 eight-track recorder and a D&R Triton 24-channel, eight-bus mixing desk, Bobonne Records’ studio projects a pure vintage atmosphere. The original looks of the house were left intact; a 25cm-thick acoustic glass wall separates the control room from the live room. The latter is equipped with adjustable Auralex and Vicoustic acoustic panels, but Op de Beeck is convinced that preserving the original acoustics adds to the value of the recording.

“The Triton console sounds extremely transparent, with excellent EQs and plenty of headroom,” comments Gimenez. “The desk includes the original [Triton] Floating Subgroup System (FSS), allowing [us] to route any input signal to an unlimited number of outputs. We replaced the original patch bay ourselves, but it’s nice to know that the guy who designed the console is just

at the other end of the phone,” In addition to peripherals like a Summit Audio TLA-100A valve (tube) leveler, a Kendrick spring reverb tank, two Heritage Audio 1073 preamps, a Drawmer 1960 stereo preamp/ valve compressor and ART valve preamps, Bobonne uses a MOTU 986 eight-channel A-D converter to bring the analogue sounds into the 21st century. “For vinyl recordings, we handle the whole process,” explains Op de Beeck. “We use the 986 interface at the end of the recording process so that clients can export their recordings to platforms like iTunes.”

Op de Beeck loading up the Studer A80

“The main prejudice we’re dealing with is that young bands think recording in analogue makes the whole much more expensive” Guido Op de Beeck

Guido Op de Beeck and Joan Gimenez in the Bobonne control room

Staf Verbeeck, the former owner of Jet Studio in Brussels, takes on the mastering of Bobonne’s tape material. “I’m a fan of what Bobonne does – recording on tape requires full focus from everybody involved,” says Verbeeck, who, as well as teaching tape technology at Brussels SAE, works in his hybrid mix studio in Antwerp. “Sound-wise, tape offers advantages in terms of saturation, low-end bump and smoother high end.” “Staf was very helpful in getting the studio started,” comments Op de Beeck. “He’s a true Studer expert and assisted in calibrating the A80 – quite important because we want to have masters directly from tape.”

Bobonne studios’ microphone collection, which includes Shure’s SM and SH series, Oktava, Electro-Voice, Neumann KU 100 and Sennheiser MD 421 mics, is topped by a vintage RCA Type 77-D ribbon microphone. “Rather than vintage, I would say [these mics are] ‘high quality’,” says Gimenez. “The combination of

microphones and reverbs urges our clients to make choices before the actual recording sessions start – not easy but the result is so much better.” JBL 4312 nearfields, Yamaha NS-10s and ’70s Auratone monitors complete Bobonne Records’ studio configuration. All of the cabling – some 800m altogether – was soldered and

installed by the two audio engineers. The studio further offers an impressive backline and music inventory, their “pride and joy” ranging from 1960s Gibson and Fender guitars to 1930s gypsy guitars, Hammond and Fender Rhodes 88 MkI keyboards and Ampeg, Fender and Vox amplifiers. Guido and Joan are aware that, for upcoming talent, recording in analogue is not evident – in the first months after opening, the studio mainly attracted established bands such as folk rock trio

Laïs, who came to record vocal sessions at Bobonne. “The main prejudice we’re dealing with is that young bands think recording in analogue makes the whole much more expensive,” concludes Op de Beeck. “In that respect, artists like Jack White are the perfect advocates for analogue recording. He’s well known with the younger bands, and demonstrates that the complexity of his sound is perfectly captured on analogue equipment.” 

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