Wired Masters

A new studio facility has opened in South London that includes a Dolby Atmos music mixing room equipped with a PMC monitoring system.

The Atmos studio is the latest addition to Wired Masters, set up by Kevin Grainger with Cass Irvine in 2003, with the new facility designed and built by Mark Russell, of Recording Rooms, who worked closely with PMC’s Phil Millross to ensure the acoustics and monitoring system conformed to Dolby’s recommended reverb times, frequency response and SPLs.

The PMC system chosen for this 7.1.4 room includes Active PMC6-2s for the LCR channels; two active PMC8-2 subs; four PMC Ci65 surround speakers and four PMC Ci45 loudspeakers for the ceiling. All of the passive surrounds are driven by Linear Research amplifiers controlled by a combination of Ginger Audio’s Ground Control and Stream Deck 2+ over a Dante network.

‘Cass and I insisted on PMC speakers from the outset because the studios where we both worked before starting Wired Masters [Heathman’s Mastering and Masterpiece] had PMC BB5 monitors, which were the Holy Grail for mixing and mastering engineers,’ Grainger explains. ‘In 2003 we couldn’t afford BB5s so we installed PMC IB2s and worked our way up through the range, eventually buying a pair of BB5s from the Townhouse when that closed and then two pairs of MB2s, which we acquired in 2010.

‘We work on electronic music, and it’s imperative that it sounds amazing in a club and on a huge system at festivals and so forth. I’ve never found another speaker that has that level of details through the entire frequency range and especially at the bottom end.’

The opening of Wired Masters’ new facility in Wimbledon marks the 20th anniversary of the business, which has a long-established and enviable reputation as a ‘go-to’ for mixing and mastering. Artists and DJs that have brought their projects to Wired Masters include Joel Corry, Becky Hill, Jax Jones, Charli XCX, Swedish House Mafia, KSI, Riton, Galantis and CamelPhat. The facility also has an impressive and loyal international client roster including record labels, artists, producers and managers.

‘We started with one room and built our first purpose-built studios in 2008, opening a third studio in 2015,’ Grainger says. ‘Our lease was ending in 2023 so in late 2019 we started looking for a suitable building to move the business to. We finally found premises at the end of 2020. Even though we hadn’t sorted all of the legal side of things out, we were running out of time, so had to take a punt. We started the design at the start of 2021, and we finally acquired the building in summer of 2021. That’s when the fun really started – finalising the design and then the build. That took us through to December 2022 when we moved into our new place and we couldn’t be more delighted with the new facility we have created.’

Housed in a former industrial unit with high ceilings, Wired Masters has retained an industrial feel in its design and boasts many interesting architectural features that give it a unique aesthetic. Alongside the new Atmos room, the facility comprises three impressive mixing and mastering studios, all of which are equipped with PMC monitoring. Studio 1 and Studio 3 boast an extensive collection of analogue processors including equalisers, compressors and limiters by Maselec, Summit Audio, Chandler and Manley amongst others. In addition, there is also a multi-use mezzanine area with an editing suite and DJ booth.

The decision to build an Atmos mixing studio was taken for creative as well as business reasons. The facility was finding that many of its stereo mixes were being turned into Atmos mixes in other studios and the results were not always as good as Grainger, Irvine and their customers felt they should be.

‘People kept asking me if I would do them, so I thought I’d have a go,’ Grainger says. ‘We didn’t have an Atmos room, so I was initially doing them on Apple Headphones. From my point of view 99 per cent of people listening to the Atmos mixes on Apple Music were kids listening on Airpods, so that had to be the starting point. It’s no good if these mixes sound great in an Atmos room, but don’t translate on to headphones.

‘Having said that, I went to a couple of Atmos rooms – PMC’s London demo room was one – to check some of my mixes that had been turned into Atmos mixes by others and I was really unhappy with the results. Yes, they had space, but so much of the energy and the point of the records had been missed. I spend ages getting energy into tracks and ensuring the kick and bass relationship is just right, and this was often ignored in pursuit of “space”, which meant the mixes fell flat. So, we started doing them and people loved them, and they translated really well.’

With Apple Music now firmly behind immersive audio, Wired Masters began to get more and more requests for Atmos mixes, including for songs where they hadn’t mixed the original stereo version. This demand led to Grainger and Irvine deciding that it was time to build a dedicated Atmos room – and to do it properly.

‘In my view, Atmos is here to stay, especially now that the automotive industry is installing Atmos speaker systems in high-end cars,’ Grainger says. ‘The car is the perfect place to hear an Atmos mix because it is an enclosed space where you are automatically in the sweet spot.’

He adds that the PMC monitors in all four Wired Masters studios are exceptional, but the response from clients to the PMC system in the new Atmos room has been overwhelming. ‘We can crank them in the rooms and they just sing. I work loud, and I can with these. The headroom on my BB5s is ridiculous and they’re not fatiguing at all at high levels. The only way to really know how a song is going to translate in a club (especially the bottom end) is to get it up loud and the PMCs can just take it without sounding stressed in anyway. They are a dream to work on.’

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