Ole Bunke (left) and Gregor Zielinsky at work in the control room adjoining the large recording studio. Two Neumann KH 420 are used as stereo main monitorsSpecialising in both high-quality and innovative 3D recording, Hannover’s Tonstudio Tessmar makes extensive use of microphones from Sennheiser and Neumann to create immersive experiences in the controlled acoustics of the studio’s mastering suite, using Neumann studio monitors and a Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar.

‘Ever since I was young, I’ve been fascinated with tape recorders and audio technology in general,’ says studio owner Karl Tessmar...

‘When Windows PCs became powerful enough to make acceptable sound recordings, I set up a small studio at home. Over the years, I was able to successively expand the technical equipment and regularly keep it up to date.’

From what was primarily a leisure activity, Tessmar pursued his passion after retirement. Having found a suitable plot of land on a business park in the north of Hannover, he gathered a team of experienced specialists, who drove the ambitious project with great commitment. Planning and construction work took around two years. The leaders of the project’s various workstreams got together weekly to exchange ideas and to manage the complex construction process in the best possible way.

Special attention was paid to the large recording studio, which is designed as a solid room-in-room construction that is decoupled from the rest of the building. All inner walls, the solid floor slab and the ceiling are mounted using matched elastomer elements that decouple any vibration. A further feature is the sophisticated suspension of the individual foundation elements below the base plate to prevent free-standing wall liners from tipping.

TessmarThe recording room is cooled by convectors installed under the ceiling and have cold water flowing through them, eliminating the need for fans and avoiding any potential interference from them.

The adjoining control room is separated from the musical activities in the recording studio by three panes of glass (18mm thick) and is also designed as a room-in-room construction with silent cooling.

Tessmar is a self-confessed fan of 3D sound worlds, which is why there is nearly always a microphone set-up suitable for three-dimensional recordings installed alongside the conventional microphone arrangement. The mic array with four Sennheiser MKH 800 Twin studio condenser microphones goes by the name Twin Square and was designed and developed by tonmeister Gregor Zielinsky.

The dual capsules (front/rear transducers with cardioid pick-up patterns) of the four MKH 800 Twin are arranged at two height levels. The lower level is a classic A/B constellation, with a width that can be varied depending on the type of ensemble being recorded. The upper level of the Twin Square is noticeably closer together; the elevation is approximately half of the base width and can be adjusted by ear if necessary.

In the Twin Square array, a runtime-based stereo pair is formed at the front and rear in both horizontal and vertical planes. The results are impressive and are certainly a match for the cube array concepts that are familiar among sound engineers. However, the square array is much easier to handle and is a cheaper option than cube arrays with their eight or nine mics.

At Tonstudio Tessmar, the eight discrete microphone output signals (four dual capsules) of the Twin Square are recorded separately for subsequent evaluation. 3D mixes do not generally observe the ‘pure doctrine’ of sound mixing. Instead, the outputs of the square are expanded from an artistic perspective by adding the signals from the spot microphones – a puristic ‘square only’ approach is reserved for special applications. The lower level of the square is not only used in a 3D context at Tonstudio Tessmar, but is also regularly employed as a main microphone (runtime-based stereo) for recording classical music.

The studio’s 3D control room – which also serves as a mastering suite – is designed for the reproduction of 9.1 surround (Auro-3D) and 7.1.4 surround (Dolby Atmos). The studio monitors are supplied by Neumann. Placed at ear level in the 3D control room are three Neumann KH 420 tri-amplified mid-field studio monitors (LCR) and two Neumann KH 310 three-way close-field monitors (LS/RS) in a 3/2 arrangement in accordance with Recommendation ITU-775. If a Dolby Atmos mix is required, two additional KH 310 studio monitors in the rear area of the room are also used. The bass range (.1) is reproduced by three Neumann KH 870 subwoofers.

Studio owner Karl TessmarFor the elevated loudspeaker level, which is installed at a height of around 3m, a distinction is made between an arrangement for the reproduction of Auro-3D (four Neumann KH 310, outer loudspeaker circuit) and Dolby Atmos (four Neumann KH 120, inner loudspeaker circuit).

‘In my opinion, Auro-3D is the better sounding format, although Dolby Atmos is likely to have better commercial future prospects not least because of its strong presence in cinemas,’ Tessmar says.

In addition to the Neumann monitors, the 3D control room also has a Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar that, in spite of its compact dimensions, is an excellent option for reproducing 3D audio – especially in the home entertainment sector. Its automatic room calibration system adjusts the sound reproduction to its environment.

The technology of the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar, which makes it possible to position virtual loudspeakers in the room by using reflections, was developed in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute. In addition to compatibility with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and MPEG-H, integrated Upmix Technology manages both stereo and 5.1 content.

‘I feel that the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar reproduces 80 per cent of the experience that you can achieve with separately arranged loudspeakers,’ Tessmar says. ‘However, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that the achievable sound quality depends to a large extent on the nature of the room in which the sound is being reproduced.

‘Of course, you also have to remember that the alternative would be to set up numerous loudspeakers throughout the room, which, in the case of Dolby Atmos, would be at 12 different positions – something that is not possible in all cases or not desirable.

TessmarA highlight of Tonstudio Tessmar is its 190m² recording studio, which also features a mobile stage that enables it to be additionally used for concert performances with up to 160 guests. Due to its variable acoustics, together with the additional possibility to electronically extend the reverberation time, the studio can be adapted to a wide variety of recording requirements. With a height of up to 8m metres, the space is equally suited to classical recording and for jazz and rock/pop productions. The artificial extension of the reverberation time is achieved by two Sennheiser MKH 8090 RF condenser microphones (wide cardioid) mounted on a T-bar on a high stand, with the output signals fed to a DAW controller.

At the controller, the microphone signals are extensively processed and enriched with the emulation of a reverb processor, before being reproduced via eight Neumann studio monitors (six KH 120 plus two KH 310) distributed around the room.

Alongside the large studio, Tonstudio Tessmar also has two other smaller recording studios for speech and vocals recordings, as well as a control room (two Neumann KH 420 as stereo main monitors and two KH 870 subwoofers) with direct visual contact with all recording areas. In addition, there is a generously sized mastering and 3D studio on the first floor of the building.

The regular studio team includes tonmeister Gregor Zielinsky (producer, 3D specialist), who focuses in particular on the musical genres of classical and jazz. Sound engineer Ole Bunke is responsible for rock and pop, while also looking after the field of new media and acting as the contact partner for event and marketing activities.

‘The thought of being a pensioner who spends all his time playing golf was never my idea of happiness,’ says Tessmar. ‘I’m really happy with my decision to build this studio.’

Tessmar has now discovered yet another passion to follow on from his home recording phase: ‘Some time ago, I started to learn how to play the piano,’ he says. ‘I must admit that I don’t find it quite as easy as I might have done when I was younger – but I remain optimistic.’

More: www.tonstudio-tessmar.de

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