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Studio Tour: Compass Box Studio, Ahmedabad : Score Short Reads

1. Tell us about the space 

Compass Box Studio is about 5 minutes away from Ahmedabad airport and is tucked away in the tranquil scenery of the outskirts of the city. The space itself is almost hexagonal, which made the construction much easier since we didn’t have any natural right angles.

This does wonders for drums, electric guitars and loud instruments, and is tight enough for vocal tracking without the need for an additional isolation booth, so it is just one live room. The studio can accommodate up to 7 people playing live – as seen on our YouTube Live Sessions, but again, feels cozy for single and duo tracking. We have been very fortunate in that all the artists that have come to record here love the vibe and the space, and since we are all musicians, we have created a space that we would like to spend time in, with the colours, lighting and mood all contributing to that comfort. 

2. Take us through the process of setting it up

The studio took me about 4 months to set up. The space was already there, so the acoustics, sound treatment, room calibration was all done by myself – thanks mainly to YouTube – meaning this was primarily a DIY project.

The design, sourcing and contracting was all done right here in Ahmedabad – while it had the intentions of being a glorified home studio, I wanted to make sure it was on par with established recording requirements and conditions. 

3. What are some of the studio essentials you would recommend?

It really depends what your studio is going to be used for. If you have a limited space, and you are sure you want to be able to record bands live, sacrificing your control room and allocating as much space to the live room is a good idea – which is what we have done.

That will automatically determine the kind of gear and hardware you will get. I think investing in good quality stands and cables can definitely go a long way. Lighting is an often disregarded studio essential – I believe that since you and your clients will be spending time there, might as well make it look pretty. 

Compass box studio.

4. What equipment do you use?

We are one of the few studios in Gujarat that is fully decked out to record a full band live with 16 channels of multitrack available. At the heart of our studio is a UAD Apollo x8p, with 8 unison preamps which can emulate anything from classic Neves to APIs and Manleys.

We are also in the process of upgrading our Focusrite ADAT extension to 500 series mic pres, which will be populated by Neve 511s, SSL and Focusrite to name a few. We have a drum kit, tube guitar amps, bass amps, guitars and basses – so basically everything you need to come down and record your single, EP or album. Our mic locker consists of Audix, Blue, Sennhiser, Shure, Audio-Technica, sE Electronics, Rode, Avantone, Warm Audio to name a few, ranging from active ribbon mics, matched SDCs, LDCs, dynamics and even tube mics. 

compass box studio

5. Pieces of gear you cannot live without

Probably our mics. The 2 workhorses end up being the WA-47 and the Rode NTR which have found their way on almost every recording we have ever produced here at Compass Box. 

6. Describe your work day

It depends on how many projects we are working on at the same time, Ahmedabad is not known as a hub for indie music work. Since we have the space and the instruments, we typically don’t end up using MIDI and VSTs on our recordings, so a single, EP or album can take some time because we track everything acoustically.

Our Live Sessions – a platform on YouTube where we release a live recording of original indie artists from all over India – are full day recordings, where we start at around 8 in the morning and get done at around 8 in the evening, which ends up being super tiring, but also very rewarding as we have worked with over 40 artists all over India at this point. It’s also so much fun, since the whole Compass Box crew is assembled for all the Live Sessions. 

7. How did you get past 2020 and the releases? Tell us more 

Our Live Sessions had to stop due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, so we did a couple of collaboration projects, and ended up releasing some music, including our compilation album featuring some of the artist from the Live Sessions, on all streaming platforms. Ultimately, none of this would be possible without the team we have here. 

8. What’s your next buy for the studio?

The Cranborne 500ADAT will allow us to interface our outboard preamps like the Neve and SSL into the Apollo, that will ultimately give us 8 apollo channels and 8 outboard pres as well. 

9. Tips to aspiring owners of studios

Know what you want to make your space for. If your space is mainly going to be used for mixing and programming, then you need a very different approach to how you are going to be using your space versus creating the same space for live instruments. Do you want to record full bands? Or just single session overdubs? Knowing this will help with your budget as well as the size.

Also know that while gear it important, it is the last contributing chain to your sound. As Bobby Owsinski puts it, 50% of the sound is the instrument plus the musician, 20% is the room, 20% is where you place the mic and only the last 10% is the mic, pre and other outboard gear.

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