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AX32 User Story

AX32 and MOM Take Central Positions at Metropolis Studios’ New Immersive Room

With leading music streaming services such as Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music having made Dolby Atmos Music a key element of their libraries, the ability to mix – and remix – for this immersive audio format is becoming increasingly important…

The impressive 11.1.8 Dolby Atmos mixing and playback enabled room is currently the highest Dolby Atmos Music resolution in the UK, and the studio design was a collaboration between live streaming specialist Sonosphere and Metropolis Studios. Our long-standing sales partner in the UK, HHB Communications Ltd., provided the lion’s share of the equipment, including an AX32 with 128-ch of Dante and PRO|MON licence with SPQ processing card for speaker EQ, Delay, and distributed Bass Management processing, as well as a MOM Monitor Operating Module for hands-on monitor control.

HHB recently released a great story that dives head-on into all of the details of this immersive wonder room. They allowed us to reprint it here, so here are some of the key takeaways and at the end of this page, you can find a link to the full story on the HHB website.

“The plan was to make the studio as versatile as possible”, states Sonosphere commercial director Jamie Gosney. “We started out looking at building a room for podcasting and immersive content creation for games and other VR simulations. However, in terms of the music market, Dolby Atmos is very much the standard. So, we decided to ‘have our cake and eat it’, and build a room to fully meet the Dolby Atmos Music specifications.”

A key member of the Sonosphere studio team is mix engineer Phil Wright, well known as an expert in mixing live concert sound; his credits range from Paul McCartney, the RPO, Brian May and Benny Andersson, through to the English National Ballet and Katherine Jenkins, and include broadcast mixes for Children in Need and Comic Relief 2020, Lianne La Havas and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

“The whole point of Dolby Atmos is that it is loudspeaker system agnostic,” Wright explains, “you mix one master file, called a Dolby Atmos Master File (DAMF). This is packaged and delivered to the end user where their device plays a version of the content suitable for the equipment attached. You might have a completely discrete 7.1.4 home cinema system, a soundbar, a smart speaker, or headphones and the Dolby Atmos file will be decoded to best reflect the gear you own.”

Dolby Atmos or Ambisonics – Your Immersive Choice!

Wright explains a design philosophy aimed at enabling mix work not only for Dolby Atmos, but for any immersive format. “We decided on three loudspeakers across the back wall, with all the loudspeakers around the room arrayed at 30° of separation to each other, so the setup was completely symmetrical for doing third-order [high-order Ambisonic] work.

Dolby Atmos is more ‘front-centric’ so one of the rear loudspeakers will not be in use, and two of the others will be electronically adjusted for Dolby using a DAD (Digital Audio Denmark) AX32 audio router. The AX32 enables any number of virtual room presets to be optimised for different immersive formats, which are easily recallable via the tactile DAD MOM (Monitor Operating Module) controller.”

Ultimately HHB provided key components for the flexible immersive studio, including the DAD AX32 that provided 32 analogue outs to feed the speakers. As well as 128-ch of Dante and PRO|MON licence with SPQ processing card for speaker EQ, Delay, and distributed Bass Management processing.

The DAD MOM provides tactile user control of the system. Additionally, a Dolby HE-RMU (Home Entertainment Rendering and Mastering Unit) was installed, as well as HHB consulting on technology options and assisting with studio commissioning.

The Dante card on the AX32 is used both for audio routing between the DAW and HE-RMU, as well as in AES67 mode when working with live sources, where the MADI connections on the AX32 allow for further I/O flexibility with external consoles. The rack-mounted Mac Pro workstation hosts Pro Tools, Logic, and Reaper, further adding to the versatility of the room.

The new studio adds an immersive dimension to Metropolis’ comprehensive array of four recording studios and five mastering rooms. The facility is already well known for music, with two thirds of 2021’s domestic Brit Award Winners having recorded there.

(Reprinted excerpt with permission from HHB Communications Ltd.)

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