“The ASP4816 just fitted our space and workflow perfectly,” says Anneliese Shaw, owner and co-founder of Grand Chapel Studios, a residential recording studio with an unusual aesthetic – and quite the backstory – located in a small village in the Bedfordshire countryside.
“We are incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon it”
“I bought the building as an empty shell back in 2011,” explains Anneliese, who had outgrown her tiny bedroom project studio, and was ready to create her dream studio together with her best friend and co-writer Michael Pearce – “the best sound engineer I’ve ever worked with” – in an old Methodist chapel.
“It was in a sorry state and had been structurally neglected in its latter years. Built in 1842, there were many original features that retain their beauty today; the gorgeous organ and pulpit are part of its Grade ll listed status. A large, expansive main room (22ft ceilings) with a fantastic reverb hooked us in straight away,” she says. “The chapel was obviously built with acoustics in mind – and boy is it beautiful. We are incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon it.”
“a solid, reliable studio experience, with all the capability of other mid-high end residential recording studios”
Deconsecrated in 1990, the little chapel had been occupied by a double glazing firm in the interim – “ironic really, seeing as the old 12ft windows had holes in them and the oak frames were all rotten” – but Anneliese and Mike could see its potential (as well as daylight through the porch roof) and have poured “a lot of love, and all the money we had in the world” into its regeneration.
The pair have worked hard over the past eight years, steadily reinvesting all their earnings back into the studio, with the aim to “create an environment that wasn’t like other studios.” The live room is testament to that, comprising an upper gallery, two iso-booths and numerous gobos and acoustic room dividers built around the old organ and pulpit, which help maintain the ecclesiastical feel.
It’s also packed with an eclectic array of instruments, including two uprights and a grand piano, various drum kits, tubular bells, a Dulcitone and “all sorts of antique and music shop finds that we use to achieve sounds that can’t be found elsewhere”, adding to the ambience.
To ensure “a solid, reliable studio experience, with all the capability of other mid-high end residential recording studios”, there is no shortage of high-end kit (see website for full list) in the mix and control room, which is fully soundproofed, purpose built and integrated. The system is centred around the Audient desk.
“there is so much control just sitting at your fingertips whether you’re recording, mixing or mastering”
“The lovely ASP4816 was our last big purchase and just slots right in,” continues Anneliese. “From the superb preamps, the switchable inline architecture, those gorgeous splittable EQs (thank you so much for the switchable Hi/Low shelves, 18kHz is just a joy!) and the routing abilities of this desk, it simply lets us work how we want to. Obviously a lot of work is done in the box, but getting it there in fantastic condition is just a breeze and routing it all back out to the desk when needed is also a simple process.
“It’s really become the centre point of our studio; there is so much control just sitting at your fingertips whether you’re recording, mixing or mastering. It’s so nice to be in front of a tactile surface and not be grabbing the mouse all of the time to access common functions – they’re just there within arm’s reach.”
Grand Chapel Studios attracts a diverse client base ranging from signed musicians to voiceover work for the computer gaming industry. They also offer the studio for no charge with their ‘One Day A Month’ scheme, answering applications via their website. “It’s a chance for a band to work with us as a producer/engineer team, or to use the day for filming a live music video, taking advantage of our great live room sound” explains Anneliese. With its unconventional good looks, it’s no surprise that it’s a popular video location too.
Despite Covid having slowed things slightly, Anneliese is happy that they are able to work at all. “We can record a lot of people and achieve good separation in our live room; luckily we can continue with projects with up to eight individuals at a time. Clients seem to be happy with all the hand sanitizing stations and reminders to wear masks when needed. Working well as a team has never been so important.”
iD14: “the ADAT expansion just makes it a superb, flexible centrepiece”
Indeed chief engineer, Mike spent the earlier lockdown working away from Anneliese and the Chapel, relying on an Audient iD14 audio interface in his project studio. “It’s just a great little piece of equipment, sounds fabulous and the ADAT expansion just makes it a superb, flexible centrepiece. He wants an iD44 now…”
As we go into the new year, Anneliese looks forward to some new creative adventures, which could help Mike’s wish become reality. “Yes, some projects have been put on hold til the summer of ‘21 but the pipeline is looking good,” she says.
Audient can’t wait to hear how it all goes.