Legendary amp-maker Marshall has built a world-class recording studio next to their Milton Keynes factory in the UK. “This has been a passion project for the Marshall crew,” said commercial director Alex Coombes, “our ambition was to build a versatile and flexible commercial multimedia facility to serve the modern entertainment market, and at the same time to promote young talent and give something back to the artist and producer community.”
The spacious new-build facility is on the site of an old theatre, adjacent to the Marshall factory. The live room has a stage with lighting and PA, along with an artist green room, bar and reception area – with the large recording control room featuring a 40-channel vintage Neve 8048 console. The self-contained studio has the benefit of ample parking in front …and a ready supply of Marshall amps and Natal drums!
Producer Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Feeder, Therapy?) has already been in the studio recording rockers Bad Touch. “I love the new Marshall Studio – a fantastic live room big enough to track a band – in fact, big enough to track a decent-sized orchestra comfortably. The vintage Neve desk sounds glorious… anything coming through those mic pres sounds, well, better! A great microphone selection to cover all eventualities and if you can’t see something you like, lots of equipment is pretty much two minutes away in the factory ….what’s not to like?”
A loading bay with ramp leads directly to the stage in the 273m2. Marshall live room, with a reduced ceiling-height area for more intimate recording located in front of the separate artist Green Room. Over 100 microphones are available, and the entire facility is equipped with tie lines, speaker connectors and AoIP Ethernet links. Four Focusrite RedNet A16R 24-bit 192kHz 16-channel analogue interfaces feed the Dante digital network, with an Avid HDX card providing the workstation link to Avid Pro Tools | Ultimate. “Every part of the building has a mic tie line, a speaker output, and an instrument output for guitar amps, plus you’ve got data via RJ45 for monitoring or remote connection via six Focusrite RedNet AM2,” explains studio manager Adam Beer. “We can take any Dante mic preamp, put it anywhere in the building, it will come into our main network and we can record it directly. It means that the whole building is effectively the studio, even the office at the top!”
Adam arrived at Marshall after a decade of experience in both recording and live sound. “I think we can do everything here. We’ve got a world-class recording studio, it’s a concert venue with capacity for an audience of up to 250 people and we can do video filming – for product reviews, podcasts, live concert streams – you name it, we’ve set up a place that can allow creative people to fulfil their potential, whatever they want to do. I think it’s a massive vote of confidence in the creative industry from Marshall. It’s a privilege and an honour to be heading it up.”
Front and centre in the control room is the unique vintage Neve 40-channel console, with a separate custom analogue patchbay installed to the side. Configured by renowned Neve expert Blake Devitt, the console frame came from EMI Pathé-Marconi studio in Paris and is populated by a superior selection of hand-tweaked modules. To the left are 24 channels with 1093 modules, whilst the right 16 channels include an additional eclectic mix of 1065, 1066 and 1095 modules. Devitt will need no introduction to audio pros, having been responsible for several major renovations and studio installs in recent years, including the huge Neve at Adele-producer Paul Epworth’s studio, ICP studios in Belgium, and Miloco’s well-known Pool studio. A clever re-build of the desk has made space in the centre of the Neve for the all-important Pro Tools screen and keyboard, with Devitt building three new low-noise busbars, including one for solo-in-place, for the Neve summing system.
“The limiting factor for many vintage consoles is the record/overdub/mix modes in the master section – which of course only made sense during the tape era,” Devitt explains. “This mixer, as it has been re-configured, gives you two completely separate consoles which can be used for whatever the producer wants. I’ve even made the patch section ‘plug in’ in blocks of eight by changing the sockets underneath to reflect custom configurations, so the mixer can be set up without filling the patchbay with a nest of cables.” Blake explains he has applied his no-compromise ‘1% better’ audio fidelity methodology to every channel on the Neve, a concept which he says will apply to every equipment decision at Marshall.
Studio Manager Adam Beer reveals that even the very first recording session was a success: “Romesh Dodangoda (Bring Me The Horizon, Motorhead, Funeral For A Friend) produced some amazing recordings on the first test session, and the band went away very happy.”
The commitment of a major MI brand to such a significant new facility holds out hope for better grass-roots artist development in the UK. “I think that having everything under one roof is such a sensible way to go for the company and for the industry itself,” says Beer. “You need to be providing something for everyone, and every type of performance. I think that the spirit of Jim Marshall really lives on in this place. Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet Jim, from what I have been told, this is exactly the kind of thing he’d want us to do.”