About SHIMMR Studios
Shimmr Studios is a state of the art recording and music production facility located in Chennai. Inaugurated in November 2013, it was a dream come true for Ashwin Vinayagamoorthy, a passionate Music Producer who completed his academics from the Full Sail University, Florida.
Setting up the Studio
According to Ashwin, the room is a creator’s vital weapon, second to his ears and brain. So the room designing and acoustic treatments were done with extreme care. “We hired some of the best studio designers and acousticians in the US with the help of my instructors in Full Sail. The quality of people on board was fascinating. We never met in person. All our meetings, ideas, and submissions happened online”.
He wanted the room to be as musical as possible so the floors and walls were done with solid wood; as wood has a natural ability to shape the room sound. “I wanted a very natural, musical and cohesive frequency response so my sound could be enjoyed in an emotion-filled environment rather than a room fitted with carpets that sucked the life out of a performance”. It took almost one year to complete construction and acoustics. Most of the materials for the acoustics are custom made and imported from the UK. The room sounds live with the right amount of diffusion and absorption. He avoided using glass in the recording space and went with a CCTV camera system instead.
The studio is a perfect hybrid setup. It utilizes the best of both analog and digital worlds to give creators and engineers a wide range of choices to work with. The studio does not have something like a single SSL or NEVE console sitting at its heart. Instead, it uses a variety of preamps and saturation units to give a wide variety of colors. The Digidesign D-Command sits in the center for control and metering.
The studio runs Protools 11 HD with 2 Avid HD I/O’s at its heart for conversion. The Focal SM9’s are the primary speakers in the studio. The studio also features the classic Yamaha NS10’s. The NS10’s have a huge reputation for accurate midrange and translatability. They are driven by an amplifier made by Chennai based brand Torvin. There is also a pair of Unity Audio Rock MK2’s for programming and production. All the speakers run through the XMON monitor controller. The Digidesign D-Command control surface integrates seamlessly with the Protools system to provide a very cohesive work environment.
Moving onto outboard gear – Dynamic range processors include a range of compressors of every type. The iconic API 2500 takes the role of VCA style compressor. Although it works best for rock, Its an extremely versatile compressor. Perfect for Drum bus, Mix bus, and synths. The Slate Pro Dragon is the studio’s FET compressor. It is a 1176 clone with added features for character and tone shaping. It gets used extensively for tracking drums and Indian percussion. For Opto based compressors, there’s the Shadow Hills Optograph and the Retro Sta-Level with custom tubes. Both work very well with vocals and bass. For bus compression the studio uses 2 major pieces, the Dramatic Audio Obsidian, which is an SSL G-Bus Clone and the Rupert Neve designs Portico MBP. The MBP is also an excellent piece for mastering scenarios. It features a compressor and limiter along with a Stereo Field Editor in addition to the iconic silk circuitry.
For EQ, there’s a mix of very clean and transparent EQ’s like the Kush Electra’s and the Dangerous BAX EQ to ones that impart a ton of color like the Chandler Little Devil 500 series EQ.
Saturation and distortion can add a lot of vibe to a mix. This is one department where software still has a long way to match their hardware counterparts. At Shimmr studios, there’s a piece for every kind of distortion. There’s the UBK Kush mod of the iconic Empirical Labs Fatso. It is primarily a compressor which saturates signal in relation to how much it’s being driven. It can add a lot of excitement to boring keys/synth parts. The Rupert Neve Designs 542 Tape Emulator adds a vintage vibe to anything that you put through it with authentic tape saturation. It also features the Rupert Neve Silk circuitry for added high end/mid range push. Finally, for extreme distortion needs – the Thermionic Culture Vulture, which gets used mainly in parallel for basses/vocals/guitars and keys.
The preamp selection of the studio, just like the EQ’s, is a mix of clean and colored. The Avedis MA5 and the Rupert Neve designs portico channel strip provides very clean signals. Some, like the Shadow Hills Monogama and the Chandler Little Devil Series preamps, have controls that let one dial in the amount of color through a switch between transformers or with a feedback circuit respectively. For some extreme coloring, the Dave Hills Europa preamp lets you dial in the amount of odd and even harmonics. There is also a Retro Powerstrip Channel strip with has a tube preamp, a compressor, and a pultec style EQ.
The studio also features a very wide range of vintage and modern effects processors. From the classic Yamaha SPX 90 and the Lexicon MX400 to the Bricasti M7and the Eventide Eclipse.
Everything is finally summed into a Dangerous 2 Bus Summing mixer.
Moving onto microphones, the studio features some boutique pieces like the Blue Bottle Tube Microphone with interchangeable capsules. This works with mics from Lauten Audio and the Brauner as the studio’s primary condensers. Pencil condensers from Shoeps and Miktek are also available for stereo miking setups. In addition to these, there are the classics like the Shure SM57 and the SM 58, Aston Origins, Aston Spirit, Prodipe Pro TT1 and the Audio Technica ATR 1300.
Lastly, the Jam Space in the studio features a variety of instruments. Synthesisers (Moog Sub Phatty, Moog Little Phatty, Juno JX3P, Roland V-synth), Guitars (Taylor 214CE, Godin Exit 22, Yamaha Classical), Drums (Roland V-Drums) and MIDI controllers (Arturia Keylab, Roland A49).
- Vibe – The general vibe of the studio is crucial. It is a creative space and needs to be treated like one. Everything from the colors, lights, ambiance and most importantly the people all contribute to the overall vibe.
- People – Skill and Knowledge don’t mean much if everyone can’t work well together. In this studio, attitude, respect, and passion are what really matter.
- Organisation – Everything needs to be neatly organized so that anything can be reached immediately. Cables, Microphones, Guitar picks – everything needs to have its place. Each minute wasted trying to find something kills creativity.
- Jam Space – A space where anyone can just pick from a range of instruments and start a jam. The lounge at Shimmr Studios specifically caters to this need with everything from guitars, basses, and keyboards to drums, cajons, and shakers.
- Good quality peripherals – A lot of people tend to put up studio spaces and skimp out on the smaller things like cables, tuners, drumsticks and other accessories. Most often these can end up slowing down sessions and ruining the vibe. It is absolutely essential that there are regular checks and anything that needs to be replaced is taken care of.
Shimmr Studios aims to be the next big music production hub in Chennai with an intense eye for detail and an equally driven passion for music, Ashwin hopes that this will soon be a reality.