- Published on Wednesday, 21 February 2007 13:48
Fraser T Smith is a musician, composer, producer and re-mixer with a rapidly escalating and diverse reputation that includes co-writing with, and production for Craig David, Kano,Jamelia; a collaboration with Damon Albarn; and remix credits that includeWhitney Houston and Beyonce’s latest single ‘Listen’.
His studio base is a Pro Tools-equipped, mid-sized programming room within the Matrix studio’s Fulham, London facility. The interior acoustics were installed by a major studio design company but the space is an odd shape due to the structure of the original building and this was beginning to cause problems, as Fraser explained: " These production rooms were built so you could create a vibe, get the stuff down and mix elsewhere but over the last two years the business has changed so radically that you need to rethink the whole acoustics of your room."
"There are so many people in my position making records in rooms like this or even in basements and attics, working totally ‘in-the-box’. However more and more labels are expecting you to mix the whole thing down so monitoring and the quality of your room is now such an important feature. Even if you are just doing stuff at demo level the artists and the labels are never happy with just a rough mix."
"The music business is such a competitive business and it’s getting smaller and smaller - you just can’t afford to be giving out mixes to anyone, on whatever level, that are anything less than great sounding. And you need to know that it will be the same as in your room. I’ve had many meetings in A&R offices where I cannot believe how the mixes sound so different."
"I come from a musical background and vibe is all important. But there is nothing that kills a vibe more than walking out of the studio with what you think is a great sounding mix on a CD in your hand or on an iPod, and finding it sounds rubbish. If it always sounds good in the room but the mixes don’t travel, the vibe’s gone and so has your reputation. I had to get into the study of critical listening because I am passionate what I do and present."
Fraser chose to upgrade his monitoring with a pair of Genelec 8240A DSP monitors and sub woofer supplied by London dealer, Studio Creations. The AutoCal process to optimise the monitor performance within the room was carried out by Steve Fisher from SCV.
"It was actually gratifying to have someone come in, read your room, and see where the acoustic problems were. I saw why the kick drum sounded different when I took mixes out of the studio. There was a large low frequency peak of around 10 dB and the calibration brought it into line. There were also various spikes in the mid ranges while the high frequencies were fine, which you might expect. This process just brought it all back in place."
"I also had another problem that the Genelec DSP monitors helped with - due to the way the room is shaped what we were hearing was going to be slightly different from left and right . Again the DSP speakers managed to balance that out."
"So peace of mind again - now you listen to the low end in the room, take a mix away and it sounds just the same, which is what you should expect of a studio."
Before trying the Genelec DSP monitors, Fraser had been contemplating extensive acoustic treatment in the studio but that was going to be problematic.
"No amount of traps and wedges were going to really cure the problem 100%; being bespoke treatment it was going to cost several thousand pounds, and I’d have lost quite a few feet of valuable space. If I decided to move tomorrow I would have to leave all that behind. With these speakers I could move to any room and have the piece of mind that they could just be retuned."
While there are ‘more traditional’ ways of solving acoustic problems, Genelec’s DSP monitors were a powerful enough tool to overcome mixing anomalies such as this, effectively ‘becoming’ speakers designed specifically for this room.
Fraser notes that there are many musicians and producers in similar situations with the same kind of problems as he had - "These Genelec’s are really great. I’m keen to spread the word."