Studio Picture Book


Alberts Studio 2 was built in 1976 to cope with the enormous demand for the other studio.  The control room was designed by Jack Metcalfe and was based on the Tom Hiddley Westlake design.  It featured elaborate trapping in the ceiling, back wall and also under the raised floor where the console stood.  The front of the room and front half of the side walls were finished in pine timber paneling, making it acoustically live at the front of the room and dead at the back.

When the control room was completed, they ran into a slight hitch - no console!  Alberts originally ordered a state of art API automated console, but the delivery time kept getting pushed back.  Eventually Bruce Brown flew to the API factory in the USA only to find his new console in bits and nowhere near completion.  They were forced to cancel the order.  As an interim measure, Alberts purchased a baby Neve console (which finally ended up in Studio 3).  They installed this console in Studio 1 and moved their big Neve from Studio 1 to Studio 2 while they searched for another console.

The Yin Yan Duo Session
Studio 2 Control Room during the Yin Yan Duo album recording session, produced by Raddy Ferreira and engineered by Bruce Brown in July 1977
A Solo button is on somewhere!  Wyn specialised in commercials, country and religious albums.  Later Alberts built him his own studio - Studio 4.  Both these pictures above show the old Neve console in Studio 2 control room.

In the meantime, MCI released their JH-500 automated console and Alberts ordered one.  I started work at Alberts in 1978 and my first job there was to install the JH-500 in Studio 2.  In conjunction with Bruce Brown and a team of helpers, we installed this console plus reinstalled the big Neve console back in Studio 1 - all in the space of one weekend!  The Neve consoles had XLR connectors, whilst the JH-500 had to be hard-wired to punch block connectors.  Both studios had to be back on air by 10:00am on Monday morning.  The first job done in Studio 2 on the new MCI JH-500 console was the mixdown of the John English "Words Are Not Enough" album.  Everything worked first time without a hitch.

Alberts Studio 2 control room
Studio 2 Control Room in 1980

An interesting acoustical phenomenon of this room was that with all of the room's front end liveness, the main monitors summed 6dB rather than the usual 3dB.  The MCI JH-500 pan pots dipped 6dB in the centre, so it was necessary to compensate for the panning position in a mix.  Mono mix monitoring was much more important in those days.

Studio 2 featured "state of art" equipment at the time.  This studio was often the first in Australia to have some new device.  It would be safe to say that nearly all major artists in this country recorded in this studio at some time.

Around 1980, equipment in this studio included:

MCI JH-500 42 channel frame fitted with 36 I/O modules and integral tape-based automation system.  This console was the first of its kind in the country and was also the first automated console to appear in Australia.  Each I/O module had 32 groups which was probably in preparation for MCI's 32 track 3" recorder which never saw the light of day in this country.  Each channel had 6 sends, which was amazing at that time.  This console had a quad, stereo and mono mix bus.  The solo system had channel and monitor soloing, as well as solo-in-place functions.  There were two independent stereo cue send systems, as well as the studio monitor section.  Each of these had independent source selection (any aux send, mix bus, etc.) and level controls.  The comms system fed these outputs directly, as opposed to feeding to the aux sends themselves.  This allowed more flexibility in the way the aux sends were used.  The console was the first to use plasma displays for metering.  These meters were very accurate and switchable between peak, VU or fader DC level.  They could be calibrated separately in each mode.  The ballistics were separately adjustable in peak or VU mode and they could meet broadcast specifications for standard peak and VU meters.  The meters also had a spectrum analyser option which was not fitted to this console.  Instead, an Amber spectrum analyser was permanently connected to the stereo mix bus.  The audio electronics ran off ±36V rails.  The headroom of this console was truly awesome!  Each audio stage consisted of a custom made high voltage IC (MCI2002) buffered by two TO-5 transistors running at +4dBm line level throughout.  Even at this level, the console managed a headroom of about 28dB!  All inputs and outputs except for the insert points were transformer balanced.  EQ's were four band switched non-parametric and very accurate.
MCI JH-16 24 track 2" recorder with an Autolocator II.
Dolby A MH series 24 track noise reduction rack on multipin connectors.
2x MCI JH-110 2 track ¼" recorders.  In addition to the obvious job of copying tapes, the second machine tended to be used extensively for pre-delay for the reverb plates during mixdown.
4x Dolby A M361 noise reduction modules.
Some kind of American reverb plate, used as a brighter sounding alternative to the EMT.
EMT digital reverb.  Initially this was a 240T which made it possible for the first time to get much shorter reverbs than any plate was capable of.  This was at a time when digital reverb systems were very rare.  One of the first jobs for this reverb was on the snare in the Reels "According to My Heart" single.  This unit was later placed in a mobile box to share between studios and in Studio 2 it was replaced by the big EMT - you know, the monster with the gear levers that stood on the floor!
Eventide delay.  Mono in, 3 out with each delay adjustable between 0 and 300mS.  This 4U rack mounting device was a monster and spent more time in the workshop than it did doing sessions!  It was later replaced with a Klark-Technic, which did a similar job.  Due to the shortage of reverb devices, units like these were frequently used during mixdowns for additional effects.
The main control room monitors were initially Altec 604e speakers and over the years these evolved to Urie's.  These were driven originally by a Bose amplifer  It was later replaced by an Ampzilla.  This harsh sounding system, in conjunction with the live front end of the control room could produce ear-shattering listening levels.  After my first week of work in this studio, I purchased some ear plugs!
Two independent stereo headphone systems plus a studio speaker system.  These were driven by Crown D-75 amplifiers.
24x tie lines each to Studio 1 and Studio 3.  This enabled 24 track transfers and later the ability to lock 24 track machines together when the MCI Autolock appeared on the scene.  This was still several years before the Cue-Lock synchronisers were released.

MCI JH-500 console
Ralph White - session horn player, song writer and producer, at the completion of the disco album project "Chez Nous" in 1980

Australia's First Harmonizer

One day, whilst Brown and Dunlop were in the middle of recording and producing an all up band track, a package turned up in the control room.  It was an Eventide H910 Harmonizer with keyboard controller that had been tied up in customs for months.  They just couldn't wait to try it out!  They carefully unpacked it, patched it in to the guide vocalist's channel and without warning cranked the pitch change knob!  The take ground to a halt immediately.  Nobody had ever heard anything like that before!

The Brophex

When the Aphex Aural Exciter arrived on the scene, there was initially only one unit in the country.  This unit could not be purchased and had to be hired in for mixdowns.  The charges were based on the number of minutes of finished mix material.  Engineers all over the country had to take turns to use this unit.  Alberts was lucky enough to be one of the first studios to try this unit and it was used the John English "Words Are Not Enough" single.  Before Brown and Dunlop could complete the mixing of the "Words Are Not Enough" album, the Aphex had to be sent to another studio.  The problem was matching the remaining tracks of the album with the "Aphexed" mix.  Hence "The Brophex" was born!  Due to the shortage of electronic short delay devices, Bruce placed an Auratone on a mic stand and set up several microphones at varying distances to form acoustic delays.  He returned these up spare channels on the console and screwed the EQ, pan and phase controls until the sound of "The Brophex" matched the sound of the Aphex.  The remaining tracks were mixed in this way and nobody ever knew the difference!

BAD Productions Studio 2 was mainly used for outside work and was the home of Bruce Brown and Russell Dunlop, who engineered and produced most of the sessions done in this studio.

Space Invaders

There was no such thing as a sampler in 1978, but an automated console opened up new possibilities for the first time.  The MCI JH-500 had a tape-based automation system with switching between up to four automation tracks.  For their Space Invaders album project, Brown and Dunlop recorded drum tracks on up to 20 tracks of the 24 track.  They then spliced these into 2" tape loops.  Some of these were quite large, being strung between bobbins on mic stands half way down the corridor!  They recorded up to four automation tracks on these loops and simply used the selector on the console to switch between verse, chorus, etc.  These drum mixes were then recorded onto a second 24 track to form the final drum tracks.

They also got me to design and build a device which would trigger a sequencer from an audio drum track.  I called this device "The Triggerus Incredibilus".  This enabled Russell to control sequencers and drum machines with his percussion tracks.

Pierre Falco Session
Pierre Falco Session, 1980

Karen Hewitt Studio 2 Recording Room
Karen Hewitt
Studio 2 assistant engineer
Studio 2 Recording Room

Alberts Studio 2 coffee room
Studio 2 coffee room