At the heart of Sleeper Sounds Studio A is their brand new Sound Techniques ZR16 console. Installed in late 2021, the desk is currently the only Sound Techniques console in Europe, the first in London for 50 years, and replaces Guy's original EMI TG12345, originating from Abbey Road. No pressure then.
Sound Techniques is a brand that flies relatively under the radar, unless you're in the pro-audio world, in which case it's one of the most legendary names in the business. The journey began as a studio in 1965, where its disruptive influence amongst the studio titans of the era and innovative 'American-style' acoustics attracted the likes of John Cale, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, Sandy Denny and Pink Floyd through its doors.
It was here that owners Geoff Frost and John Wood built the first Sound Techniques console; The A range – which gained its industry credentials via tracks from The Beatles including 'Hey Jude' and albums from Bowie, Queen, Elton John, The Doors, Deep Purple and Genesis. Such was the clamour for the sonic character of the desk, the pair began to manufacture units for other studios. Frost ran the workshop upstairs, whilst Wood ran sessions below. When the red light came on in the workshop, Frost and crew would down tools until the end of the take. The original Trident Studios console was a Sound Techniques build, and other customers included De Lane Lea, Kingsway, Sunset Sound and Elektra Studios.
The company ceased operations in 1974 after their lease expired and has laid dormant since, until Danny White and Geoff Frost met in 2014 and Danny agreed to restore it to its former glory. Having gained the original designs, blueprints and original input and output transformers, they had everything they needed to faithfully recreate the Sound Techniques module. The modern-day reproduction replicates the sonic characteristics and look of the original, but contains modern electronics that improve the operational efficiency and longevity and make it far easier to maintain. The team consists of Gareth Connor, Graham Mines and Neil McCombie. Collectively, thay have decades of technical expertise with the likes of Soundtracs, Calrec and AMS Neve, and have painstakingly re-worked the console to ensure it meets the demands of the most discerning engineers of the modern day.
The ZR is essentially an 8-bus, inline monitoring console with fader swap, six mono aux sends, two foldback sends with pan and eight mono/four stereo groups. The input module is where the Sound Techniques character truly lies, with its transformer-balanced, variable impedance preamp, inductor-based EQ (expanded beyond the original to meet modern requirements) and a dual class A transformer drive. Customisation includes input channel counts, finish, automation and more, including a fully customised or even remote centre section. The desk has been developed to be entirely modular; you don't even need a screwdriver to change parts. It also allows for remote master sections, saving the expense of a centre section and improving its integration with a DAW.
So what's it like to work on the new desk? We spoke to Assistant Engineer Claude Vause who gave us his verdict:
"I absolutely love it! It's very versatile, allowing us to work in many different ways that we weren't able to before. It's been the perfect new addition to Sleeper. The TG definitely left big shoes to fill for the new console, but the Sound Techniques has more than beat our expectations. It's super punchy, super detailed and has a lovely colour/character to it.
From the impedance matched gain to help get the best sound from your mic of choice, to the EQ section, it's incredible, with a nice pultec style boost & cut in the low end. The bus compressor is a great, as well as the ability to run the desk split or inline, there's even more neat little features I enjoy, even down to the satisfying knobs and switches. Not one thing was overlooked in the design of this console.
It's also a lot less temperamental and more reliable, also definitely more versatile. With the TG as it was a split console, you were having to decide how many pres you'd want vs how many monitor outs you wanted which can be a bit frustrating on big sessions."