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Have a mastering project you want to discuss? Get in touch with our Mastering Engineer Manager Ellie!
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L2V with Young Athena

Live To Vinyl with Young Athena on the 27th of January. Tickets still available!
Book here
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Atmos: In Conversation with Matt Colton

Atmos: In conversation is our series of interviews about all things Atmos and 360 RA. 

In this issue we sat down with Matt Colton, mastering engineer at Metropolis Studios, to talk about his recent work on James Blake’s recent album “Playing Robots Into Heaven”.

How long have you been working with Atmos? 

Matt Colton: I have been working with Atmos for a couple of years now since Apple adopted the format.

Is your workflow different when you work in Atmos? 

Matt Colton: It’s different in that I work entirely in the box when doing Atmos mixing and mastering, whereas in stereo I often use a bit of analogue outboard equipment. 

But the principles I bring to Atmos are the same – trying to be musical and focus on the musicality of the project over and above all else. Trying to best serve the music, and present it in the clearest and most honest way to the listener, whatever the format is that I am working towards, be it digital, vinyl, Atmos or whatever.

Is it helpful to the engineer who has mastered the project in both stereo and atmos? 

Matt Colton: I think it’s a massive benefit; the stereo currently invariably is done first, and that means I have gone through the whole approval process with the creative team to get the stereo masters approved and over the line. I know what the creative are looking for, I know what they are listening out for, I know their aims and ideals, and I know what pitfalls and problem areas exist in the album.

If I have done the stereo masters, then I have been through this whole stage of learning about the record, which a third-party engineer hasn’t. As a result, I can bring all that knowledge to bear on the Atmos part of the project as well, whether I am Atmos mastering or Atmos mixing and mastering.

I think it brings greater sonic consistency between the various different delivery formats, and I think also makes communication between the engineer (i.e. myself) and the creative team quicker and easier, because those lines of communication are pre-existing.

Have you worked with James Blake before?

Matt Colton: I have worked on most of the music James has released, from the ‘CMYK’ EP onwards. I mastered his first 3 albums for all stereo formats, did the vinyl mastering for his 4th album and now have mastered all stereo formats and mixed and mastered the Atmos release for this album, ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’.

Tell a bit more about the project. 

Matt Colton: It’s one of my favourite things James has done, it really harks back to his early output, when he was a young experimental electronic producer living in London, and it’s heavily indebted to London and the sound of this city.

He’s much better at writing hooks now than he was around the time of his first album, and that shows on this record, but it contains much more of the spirit of wild abandon that made his debut album so compelling.

He called me up and said that he didn’t want to get this record mastered in the States, it had to be done by me, because he wanted to maintain the heavy dancefloor bass throughout.

What is your favourite track and why? 

Matt Colton: ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Loading’ are obviously great, but I also really love ‘If You Can Hear Me’ because it’s so unadorned – the emotion really comes through on that track.

Why have you decided to bring Corinne Bailey Rae’s Atmos forward and talk about her album in this interview as well? 

Matt Colton: Because it’s the best record [Black Rainbows] she’s ever made and one of my albums of the year, it’s breathtaking, the performances are great, and the writing is incredible – inventive, psychedelic, wild and engaging. The whole record totally moves the needle of what a lot of people might think of Corinne as an artist. Everyone should check this record out.

It works so well in Atmos because the sound stage on a lot of tracks is vast. The stereo mixes are very upfront and in your face and work great because they are so bold, and the Atmos is a kind of counterpoint to that in certain ways in that we were able to open up the space a bit more which creates a slightly different listening experience. It’s another way to immerse yourself in a truly great album.

Listen to our latest Atmos releases here.

Brit Spotlight: Stuart Hawkes

Recently we sat down with Stuart Hawkes to talk all things tech, work ethics, cryptic client briefs, and celebrate his nominees in 6 different categories at this year’s Brit Awards. 

Six different categories and so many years in a row that you’ve been nominated.

Stuart: Yeah. Well, I’ve been doing this for a long time. *laughs*

Do you track which category you’ve been nominated most in?

Stuart: In the Brits, it’s such a variation. I think it might be pop and dance. I have mastered a lot of pop music. More recently, I’ve done more grime, stroke, and hip-hop stuff. Like Stormzy, J Hus, Headie One, and most recently Clavish,

Is there a nominee this year that stood up for you?

Stuart: Kojey Radical. I think that [Reason to Smile] was just such a brilliant album. Every track is good. So many people I know loved it. It’s great to have worked on it because it stands out.

As a mastering engineer, you work with an enormous array of different people. How do you approach your relationship with the artist? 

Stuart: Every artist has different needs. Because quite often, you’re dealing with the artist’s music, and you never speak to them. I’ve never spoken to Charli XCX, for example. But I’ve done three, four albums, a couple of EPS, loads of her singles. Yet I’ve never actually spoken to her. All of the communication with that particular act goes through the label’s A&R. Whereas, with other artists, you’ll get far more… With Kojey Radical, when we mastered the album he came in. This was the first time I worked with him. And already he was here. So every artist is different. Some of them don’t get technically involved. They’re very artistic. And not so technical. A lot of the time, I’d say most of the time, you’re not dealing with artists you’re dealing with the mix engineer, or the producer or the label, the management, or combinations of. The relationship with the artists varies from job to job.

Do you think it helps to know the artist personally, or it doesn’t matter to you?

Stuart: Does it matter? It can help my job, it depends if they’re calling the shots. Recently, I did an album with one female pop star. And she came in for that. And she wasn’t involved. She didn’t mix it, she didn’t produce it. But she had a say on how it all sounded. So the most important thing from a mastering point of view is to have a working relationship and good communication with the person that’s calling the shots on how the project sounds. If that’s the artist, then it’s important to have that relationship or that communication with that one person. This is what’s truly important. I mean, it’s great to know the artists because the relationship with the music gets a bit deeper and you get closer to the project. You might have more of an understanding of the project, but it’s not essential from a mastering point of view. It’s a very technical stage. You need to be involved with the people that are calling the technical shots. Just depends on who that is.

Have you ever had that you mastered an album or a track, and then the artists came in, and the personality and the music clashed?

Stuart: Suppose to a degree, yeah, that does happen. I mean, you could almost say that with the album I mentioned earlier. We did it last week. She came in. She just found it all too loud and full-on, but that was the album she had made. So it was kind of like, well, I can’t undo that. I can’t deal with that at the mastering stage. Because that’s how the album sounded. Generally, the artists would match the music they’re making, although they can be steered somewhat by the label to make a certain kind of sound. 

The list of your award nominations is endless at this point. Do you still get the feeling of excitement when you put on something and you genuinely like it? 

Stuart: Yeah. God, yes. All the time. Although it’s funny, do you always recognize that something’s good? You don’t really…Well, I don’t. Sometimes it smacks you in the face. When you’re working on a track or an album, you’re kind of heavily involved with frequencies and levels and distortion and shapes of the sound of the music. You get involved in it on a technical level, but not so much on an artistic level. It comes back to when I am sitting in my car and a track comes on. Or I am sitting in a pub or restaurant or whatever, and an album comes on and I  go, wow, this is great. And then I realize that I’d mastered it. But I was never really listening to it as a piece of music. I’m listening to the music technically. You’re not always switched off from it. Sometimes it’s like this *gestures at the studio around*, when I sit back, just dummy running something for a vinyl cut. But then you just put it on and play it through as an album. And it’s the first time you sit back and listen to it without worrying about anything technical. Quite often you’re not listening to it musically. You are listening to it technically. But, you know, sometimes you’d certainly put on stuff and go Wow. Definitely. Stuff grows on you. As you get closer to the track, you listen to it again, more technically. You do need a bit of distance to appreciate how musically good an album is. You need to get out of the [mastering] room. Stop looking at meters. Just use your ears. 

Do you find it hard to do?

Stuart: Listen to music? Yeah, well, when I’m in here, it’s all technical. But nearly every time I’ve mastered an album, I would send myself a link, and then on the way home, I would listen to it on the train, because then I’m listening to it as an album and I can switch off from what meters are doing and thinking about changing stuff. Just listen to it from beginning to end at the same volume throughout and in the environment that other people would normally listen to it in. Mostly being out and about and on their headphones. And that’s great. That’s when you get to judge the mastering. 

What is your usual workflow when you’re mastering an album? 

Stuart: There’s no specific workflow. It’s different for every job. I think what is very important is to have an understanding of what the client has been listening to as well. And what you’ve got. Because you might have a whole set of pre-masters to master from. The files that you’re working from, but then that’s not necessarily what the clients were listening to. They might have a set of MP3 refs or something that they’ve been listening to, that have been compressed a lot more or EQed and changed into MP3s and dicked around with. And you’ve got something else. It’s important to listen to both to understand what to do, and what not to do. Sometimes you don’t want to wander too far from what the clients have been listening to if they like it. The workflow must include an understanding of what the client does and doesn’t like about what they’ve got. But there’s no specific thing that I do. I think… Well, is there? I mean, I’ll get all the tracks in the right order. And just start to listen to it, and then just jump in to see where it takes me. Because I will stick around with stuff for ages, go back and forth, and change my mind… *laughs*

Do you think you’re a perfectionist?

Stuart: Yeah, I think. You have to be. But you don’t know what perfect is. Quite often in this job, you’re not trying to please yourself, you’re trying to please the client. So you have to put yourself in the client’s shoes. I’m an audiophile. And I like things to sound nice. I mean, technically correct. That does please me, but then you might hear the track and then hear the file that the clients approved or the producers approved. And it is super loud or squashed and sounds quite edgy. So you’ve got to go with the assumption or ask if that’s the effect that the client wants. So you might have to do something that’s kind of counterintuitive to being a perfectionist. You’re making something to the brief that the client wants. What’s the perfect haircut? There isn’t one. If the client wants it to look messy, then you can get it to look messy. If they want it to be super slick, then you do that. It is a taste thing. All you’re doing is just trying to understand what the client wants, and then achieve that as well as you can. There’s no definite way to master a record. If I’m just sitting here, I haven’t got a ref, I’ve got a very low-level premaster that sounds very clean. And I haven’t spoken to the client. I’ve just got to do what I like and what I think the client will like, first of all. And then give it to the client and let them say if they want it louder or more compressed or if they want the bass end to be ridiculously big or disproportionate to the top end. 

Do you prefer to have a clear brief or just go with the flow?

Stuart: Good question. I prefer to have a bit of guidance. I think it’s good to know because sometimes it’s quite wild how differently I might do something to how the client wants it. If you’ve got no instruction, it’s down to interpretation, isn’t it? You might do something and think, Oh, I’ve got to make it sound raw and make it very aggressive. And then you do that. And the client will come back and say, No, we wanted this to sound organic and jazzy. 

Does it feel like solving a riddle sometimes?

Stuart: I had a client once who said to make the sound more yellow and less orange. It was sort of cryptic. *smiles* Or they can say something like, can you make it louder. But more dynamic. You’ve got to squash it, but give it more dynamic. Just things that completely throw you. And we ask if they’ve got any references. A lot of people interpret that as other tracks that are out there that they want it to sound like. We [the studio team] mean the limited reference versions. I still think it’s quite handy to know what tracks people like the sound of. But you might get a rock track, and then they’ll send you an Adele track as a reference. What are you supposed to make of that? I don’t know. Sometimes you have to take the brief that someone gives you with a pinch of salt as there’s only so much you can do. They might have done their mixing on a laptop while waiting for the bus. And then they’ll send you a mix that’s been done by one of the top guys. And it’s an amazing-sounding mix. And they’ve sent you this first attempt at a mix ever wanting to sound like this. It is not going to happen. Even if you try your best.  

Do you have a favorite piece of studio gear and why?

Stuart: My big speakers. Why? Because you can hear what you’re doing. There are two schools of thought and this comes back to the sound systems. What’s best to have really good speakers or a really good signal path? Because the audio itself doesn’t go through the speakers. You’re just hearing it through them. So the argument would be that it’s best to have good digital to analog converters or compressors. If there’s a bad bit in the audio chain, it will never sound good, which is true. I would find my job impossible to do if I couldn’t hear what I was doing. My favorite thing is PMC BB5 XBs that cost a bloody fortune. It’s not about the speaker itself, but the acoustics as well. Because if you want to know what’s going on with the bass end down at 20 hertz, there’s no point in putting it on the little PSI nearfield. If you can’t hear it, you won’t reproduce it. Even if you’ve got these great big speakers, if the room is not right, you won’t hear it. There is this whole sort of relationship between the speakers and the environment, which is very important. Hearing what you’re doing is the most important thing to me. So, I’d rather have none of this kit, but just a computer to work with. As long as I’ve got these. It’s the most expensive bit of kit in the room. 

Finally, a message for the BRITs nominees? 

Stuart: Well done. And I hope you win.

Listen to Stuart’s latest releases here

Atmos: In Conversation with Mike Hillier

Atmos: In conversation is our new series of interviews about all things Atmos and 360 RA. 

In this issue we sat down with Mike Hillier, mastering engineer at Metropolis Studios, to talk about his recent work on Kasabian’s The Alchemist’s Euphoria and Pip Millett’s When Everything Is Better, I’ll Let You Know as well as the challenges of remastering projects in Atmos. 

Tell us a little bit about your recent Atmos projects. How about Kasabian’s The Alchemist’s Euphoria

Mike Hillier: Both my recent projects [The Alchemist’s Euphoria by Kasabian and When It Gets Better I’ll Let You Know by Pip Millett] are presented in a similar way, but there were different challenges for each, and compared to a lot of the other Atmos work I’ve done. 

Working on Kasabian, in particular, was interesting. It’s a very dense, hard hitting record. The expectation is that those types of albums don’t spatialize very well. Because, as you start pulling guitars away from the front, where all the density lies in the mix, you start weakening the effect. In a stereo version your guitars, your bass and your drums are all piled on top of each other, and mixed in a way that feels like an assault. It’s very aggressive, direct and punchy. And suddenly you pull things out of that. And that wall of sound now has a hole in it. Because everything’s carved really carefully, the kick occupies one space, and then the bass, the guitars just above that, the vocals just above at the top of the drum kit. It’s a very precise base, and you pull the guitars off to the sides. And there’s this hole where the guitars used to be in the mix, it doesn’t sound wonderful. Working around that was quite a challenge. I aimed to maintain the sense of energy, density, and impact. Whilst still giving this record a sense of space and movement in 3D rather than stereo. This was the biggest challenge on Kasabian’s record. To a large degree, a lot of that was using height to build a three dimensional soundstage at the front, with just a touch of additional width. And then use the sides and rears more for effects and ambiences. Therefore giving the songs this ability to still have most of the music at the front but with a sense of space, but also have an impact. 

With Pip Millett, it was kind of similar, but suddenly it’s not dense anymore. There’s actually quite a lot of space in it. But it’s eclectic. It’s all acoustic instruments, for the most part, so there isn’t much freedom for movement. In this case the way to create a sense of space involves trying to use the arrangements themselves to build the sense of movement, rather than actually having things move. It sounds weird to me as a listener if acoustic instruments are wandering around the room. That’s just not how things work. I was [listening to someone else’s mix] last week, and they played me a track and all of a sudden the snare drum started bouncing around. It was never in the same place twice. And I hated it. Because it’s a really good song. But why is the snare drum just everywhere? Snare drums don’t do that. I do feel with both of those albums, one of the things that I tried to do is create a sense of space whilst remaining true to what the song was trying to do. It is important for me to not lean on the immersive or spatial aspects too heavily, because then it’s going to sound like a gimmick. And so the trick was to deliver something that had spatial elements, but ones that worked and fitted with the music. 

Let’s talk about the potential for recreating old mixes and how you approach projects like that? 

Mike Hillier: I have done a couple, I did ‘To Build A Home’ for The Cinematic Orchestra. And currently I am working on another project, which is going to be very interesting once we’re allowed to talk about it.

There’s a myth out in the music industry about how it’s impossible to recreate the original mixes without all the recall sheets and notes.

Mike Hillier: To a degree that can be true. With ‘To Build a Home’ it was actually very easy. We were somewhat fortunate with the multi-tracks that were sent over. Whilst they needed work to sound like the mix, they didn’t need too much. 

Did you have to recreate the whole song? There wasn’t just one stem or one channel to recreate?

Mike Hillier: Yes. The whole song. For that song I sat down in Studio E and mixed it from the multi-track recordings. The reverbs were in the session. Some of the automation was actually there too, so I wasn’t starting completely from scratch. I was given a Pro Tools session. And I think the idea was that the Pro Tools session would be enough. And I hit play and was like: ‘Well, this doesn’t sound anything like the mix.’ Actually, that Pro Tools session then went to a console. And then the team printed the mix through the board. So the whole board needed to be recreated. But through chatting with Jason [Swinscoe from The Cinematic Orchestra] I was able to get to know what the board was, it was a Neve. So I was able to recreate certain elements of the sound in that way. And then I was going through it by ear. There were notes written down of some settings, no EQ or anything, but there were some level settings written down. Where it becomes really difficult is where you’ve got to work all of that out. In your average pop arrangement, there will be a lot of fader rides. The bass might come up a dB for the chorus, right? Cool. But the horn section might go up 3 dBs, the chorus down two dBs for the next two bars, then up a dB for one bar, then down… You could be doing all sorts of stuff. And if there are no notes on any of that, you just got to either gas or pass. With the other project I was working on, there were no notes. 

There were no notes at all?

Mike Hillier: No recall notes, no reverb settings, no delays. The first thing I did was just bring it up flat. And listen to it. And as I was going through it, I thought ‘alright, everything is here’. Until I realized that hi hat was completely different. The hi hat pattern that I had on the multitrack is a single hit quarter note. I might be wrong about the exact length of the note. But on the record it’s got a 16 pattern *imitates* But I’ve just got *continues to imitate* Well, everything else sounded like it was right? Did they swap just that one part? I threw a 16th note delay on it. And that worked. But it was complete guesswork. Move on. Next challenge. The next thing I discovered was that the BVs definitely had loads of effects on them. There’s chorus, there’s definitely some reverb, a bit of delay. But there are 1000 choruses in the world, and 1000 reverbs. And so you’ve got to listen and try to narrow it down. Stylistically you know that that is definitely not a plate reverb, it’s more of a room sound. It’s an 80s recording, what would they have had access to? There are no notes, so I have no way of picking the exact unit. That’s impossible. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who has ears good enough, that they could be like, ‘oh, that’s definitely an EMT 250, set to these precise settings’. So you just go ‘I’m going to use something that seems era appropriate’. Does it sound close? Yes or no. And then you try a few out, because the first few don’t work. Eventually you find one that seems close, tweak it a little bit, and then you just move on. There was a lot of guessing at what type of effects they would have had access to, and would have used, and then yet, because of the age of the recording, I have also guessed that certain techniques that they might have used and might not have used. But as you get closer to the modern era, that’s going to get more and more difficult, because there is music that came out in the 90s. But it was actually trying to be 70s. So would the band have used 90s techniques or 70s techniques? I don’t know. Would they use 90s equipment or not? I don’t know. And if you’ve got no notes, you’re going to start to chase your tail. 

Is it an enjoyable process for you to play detective when you don’t have the notes? 

Mike Hillier: It’s actually fascinating, and quite a lot fun. It’s a lot of work. It takes a lot of time. There was a bit, I have no idea if it was accurate. But the chorus I ended up using was not even a chorus effect. It was an Eventide harmoniser. But it sounded right. So I left it, it was invented around then and it’s possible that’s what they used. And I did some reading to find out what studio it was recorded in, who did it. 

Listen to our latest Atmos releases here

Get the human touch to your music

You’ve recorded your track, perfected your mix, why is it essential to now master your music?

 

There is so much music out there, now more than ever, and how we listen to music has drastically changed. Instead of buying an album, the majority of people acquire their music digitally and combine tracks into playlists featuring multiple artists, often from different genres. With this change to the listening experience, it is now more important than ever to ensure your music stands out amongst the noise. 
The right master will bring your song to life. From emerging, independent artists to established Grammy and Brit award winners, Metropolis’ mastering engineers are trusted the world over to get the very best out of every track.
From virtual gigs, to algorithms influencing what we hear, technology certainly is an undeniable and vital force in the music industry. Here at Metropolis, we embrace technology and all of its benefits but when it comes to music, the human touch is something that just can’t be replicated.

We’ve all been there, when the Instagram filter just doesn’t quite work, or spell check auto corrects to the wrong word – it’s part of life. But don’t let these types of flaws creep into your music. Unless there is a real, experienced person to actually listen to your music and judge how the processing is enhancing or deteriorating the sound, you just can’t guarantee the results.
By using the latest technology AND the best sound engineers the music business has to offer, we at Metropolis offer an unparalleled service which combines these two powerful forces to create the best possible outcomes for your music.

You access our online, professional mastering services via our portal here. Depending on your timeframe, you can select a specific mastering engineer, or you can simply select the first available engineer option fur a faster turnaround.

Metropolis hosts the world’s first 5G festival

Last week we had the pleasure of being one of three venues to host the world’s first 5G Festival.

Over the last two years, nine heavyweight organisations have been working collectively on an initiative dubbed 5G Festival exploring the untapped potential of 5G for the music industry as part of a wider £200m DCMS 5G Testbeds & Trials Programme. Providing a blueprint for how technology can play a key role in the future of the sector, consortium partners include Metropolis Studios, Mativision, Digital Catapult, Sonosphere, Audiotonix, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, LiveFrom, Virgin Media O2 and Warner Music Group.

The award-winning 5G Festival culminated last week with a ground-breaking live experience which took place across the three consortium partner venues: Metropolis Studios, the O2 Blueroom at The O2 and Brighton Dome.

(c) TOMROW.LAND

Last week’s final showcase featured demonstrations of the technical milestones achieved during the course of the project – in particular solving the issue of latency (delay) between artists collaborating remotely from different locations. The live show, curated by Music Director Kojo Samuel, featured 22 musicians spread 100 miles apart from eachother across the three venues, performing seamlessly together in a completely first of its kind concert.

The core band for the show consisted of backing vocals, drums, keyboard with guest appearances from singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner and Alt Folk band Memorial at Brighton Dome who also hosted an in-person audience. The O2 Blueroom in London hosted the string section and rising star guest appearances from BRIT Award nominee, Lola Young, and Natalie Lindi, part of the MOBO Unsung Class of 2021. Metropolis hosted Owen Williams on percussion, Dishan Abrahamas on bass, Sipprell on vocals and London-based rock duo Pearl Harts which was live-streamed to the other venues as part of the hybrid festival experience.

(c) Jamie MacMillan

5G Festival is a unique R&D trial that enables the power of 5G and other technologies to communicate the “live-ness” of an experience wherever musicians or audiences are located. Since early 2020, the partners behind 5G Festival have experimented with understanding how collaborations and performances across multiple venues in different geographical locations can transform the work of artists and producers around the world, combined with innovative and memorable live experience for audiences in-venue and at home.

The project itself focused on three Use Cases. The first solved how artists can work, collaborate and rehearse remotely with ultra low audio/visual latency. The second case looks at how to distribute immersive content from physically separated artists and bands to audiences at home using latest cutting edge audio and video technologies. The third addresses a hybrid of the first two to deliver in venue experiences.

We will be publishing our finding in due course but the showcase itself, provided the clearest demonstration yet and a glimpse into the meta-future of the impact advanced digital technologies will have on the music and live arts sector. Bringing together 5G as part of a range of connectivity solutions for this type of event has also highlighted other environmentally positive workflows as well as a series of different commercial products and services which the consortium parters will continue to explore and develop as a legacy of the project.

(c) TOMROW.LAND

Gavin Newman, Brand Director at Metropolis Studios, said: “After a rewarding 18 months of pioneering R&D and practical trials, we are delighted to finally share our findings with our wider tech and music communities. In particular for Metropolis Studios, the delivery of seamless low latency audio/visual workflow enabling artists to work together remotely over a 5G network, as well as the ability to broadcast live performances in any immersive audio format, are two huge cultural and commercial step-changes for the industry which we intend to develop further as a legacy of this project.” 

(c) TOMROW.LAND

 

Read more about the build-up to the launch here

3D/Atmos Dolby In 2022 At Metropolis

In July 2021, Metropolis Studios launched a new state-of-the-art 3D audio mixing facility at the heart of our West London complex, currently the highest resolution Dolby Atmos mix facility in the UK.

Our Target

Our target was to enable established and emerging artists to unlock the exciting potential of 3D audio. Pursuing a flexible ‘hub studio’ approach, the room allows for multiple mixing desk-based workflows and is also connected to both Studios A and B allowing us to record and broadcast live in any immersive format, something we are just beginning to realize the full potential of.

Working With The Community

Combined with our active 5G Testbed and Trials Programme funded by the UK Government, an R&D project showcasing the power of 5G to enhance seamless live artist collaboration across three world-leading venues (the O2, Brighton Dome and Metropolis), we’ve expanded our expertise in immersive audio exponentially.

We have been working closely with the wider music community to share our knowledge, hosting regular industry demos and endless philosophical debates about immersive audio technology, how the landscape is changing, we think positively, in a similar sort of paradigm shift in the 60s that saw mono evolve to stereo.

Talk To Us

We have been faced with, and understand, much of the scepticism surrounding immersive formats, which in part has not been helped by the volume of inconsistent and often very badly mixed audio content available to music consumers. Together with no clear path as to how the extra outlay in mix costs will drive revenue, we clearly see that creativity has really been hampered by many of those who would normally be leading the charge. We’ve addressed this by working collaboratively with artists and producers to ensure all our immersive masters are aligned with their creative vision for the music.

We appreciate that we are in a privileged position having 40 years of experience and the best Mastering team in the world to draw from so we encourage you to come and talk to us about the format to ensure your music is handled by those who have earned the right to do so. Be wary of being dictated where you have your content mixed and mastered and don’t compromise on quality by settling for budget solutions.

Highlights So Far

Since our launch, we have been lucky enough to mix an incredible array of artists in Atmos including:

  • Major Lazerㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
  • Kali
  • The Amazons
  • Koven
  • Jack Savoretti
  • St.Vincent
  • Rag ‘n’ Bone Man
  • Disclosure
  • Little Simz
  • Alvaro Soler
  • Yonaka
  • Billy Marten
  • Don Broco
  • Cautious Clay
  • Milton Nascimento
  • Bonobo
  • Anne-Marie
  • Metronomy
  • George Ezra
  • Bonobo

We want to highlight two Atmos projects that we are particularly proud of, Bonobo’s incredible new album Fragments” released on Ninja Tune this month, mixed in Atmos by Mike Hillier, and “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” by Little Simz, released in 3D in December and mixed in Atmos by Liam Nolan, both available to listen to on respective DSPs.

“‘Mixing ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ in Dolby atmos was a fantastic experience. I approached the mix with the intent to immerse the listener further into the album by extending and building upon the already great stereo mix and letting the music envelope the listener.

This album lent itself well to the process because all of the tracks were already so engaging that visualizing them in a 3D space felt easy and natural. When it came to feedback and review, this process involved a playback of the album in atmos at our studio, with Little Simz providing mix notes as we went, which made the process very easy and efficient.” – Liam Nolan

Get In Touch

To find out more, enquire or book your mix head to our 3D/Atmos Page.

Metropolis Studios Celebrates 6 BRIT Award Winners!

Following on from the BRIT Awards 2022 ceremony at the O2, we would like to send a HUGE congratulations to the 6 winning artists who mixed, mastered and/or recorded here at Metropolis.

Adele

Adele went home with three awards for Album of The Year (30), Artist of The Year and Song of The Year (Easy On Me), all of which were recorded at Metropolis.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had the pleasure of working with Adele, having previously been her studio of choice for two other albums (21 and 25). We are also extremely proud of our Studio Engineer, Liam Nolan, who won two Grammys for his work on her album, 25.

Little Simz

It comes as no surprise that Little Simz won her nomination for Best New Artist. We were lucky enough to have Little Simz choose Metropolis as one of her recording and mastering facilities. Our Mastering Engineer, Matt Colton, had the pleasure of mastering her debut album, “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”.

Becky Hill

Having received her first-ever BRIT nominations this year, we couldn’t be happier for Becky Hill being awarded Best Dance Act. Our Mastering Engineer, Stuart Hawkes, had the opportunity to master some of her tracks such as “My Heart Goes (La Di Da)” and “Better Off Without You”.

Ed Sheeran

The BRITs in 2022 saw a number of changes to awards categories in order to create even more opportunities for artists to be recognised. The recipient of the BRITs’ first-ever Songwriter of the Year award tonight was Ed Sheeran.

We are always delighted to be Ed’s studio of choice. Our Mastering Engineer, Stuart Hawkes, has mastered some of Ed’s work, such as “÷”, and our Chief Studio Engineer, Paul Norris, worked with him on his second album, “X”.

Dua Lipa

Having previously won 2 BRIT awards last year, Dua Lipa took home the gold for Best Pop/R&B Act this year.

We’ve really enjoyed seeing the songstress go from strength to strength over the years and are even happier that we got to play a small part in her journey. Her remix album, Club Future Nostalgia, was mastered by our very own Matt Colton.

Inflo

The genre-straddling producer known for his work with Adele, Little Simz and Michael Kiwanuka, walked away winning Best Producer at this year’s BRIT awards.

Having had worked on award-winning projects including two of the five albums nominated for album of the year at this year’s BRIT awards (Adele’s “30” and Little Simz’ “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”) we are grateful that he chose Metropolis as one of his bases.


Get In Touch! 

Why Does Audio Mastering Really Matter?

Music is the quintessential expression of what it means to be a human, and as an artist, you put your heart and soul into your music. But how do you make sure your music reaches its full potential?

In the modern world of music production, technology has enabled artists to create music in their own home-built studios. They are able to get the basics done in this home studio, but that is simply the first part of their musical journey. 

After a record is released, one of the worst things that can happen is to realise that your track sounds dry, empty, and one-dimensional. This may increase your song’s skip rate and ultimately put your audience off. As a result, the Spotify algorithms won’t work in your favour and curators will be less likely to add your release to their editorial playlists.

What is Music Mastering?

Not everyone is aware of how important music mastering is. It’s audio mastering that makes a good record sound exceptional and ready for streaming platforms. There are many automated mastering services that are cheap, but they usually apply a pre-used template to your music that will just make it sound louder. The right master will bring your song to life. Our Grammy award-winning engineers are the best in the business with an impressive tally of global hit records between them and over 100 years of combined experience. They are here to help you bring your music to life.

There is so much music out there, now more than ever, and how we listen to music has drastically changed. Instead of buying a record or an album, most of us acquire our music digitally and combine them into playlists, listening to one song after the next (with varying genres). With this combination, audio mastering is now more important than ever to add that crisp refinement that will have your music stand out amongst the noise. 

How do you get your music ready for the release?

Let’s take a quick step back to review the three major components of making music for commercial use. The very first step is recording the music in a recording studio, however, these days many artists record their vocals in their bedroom. It is then sent to a professional to be mixed. In this process, all of the different elements in the track are combined and refined to ensure the music sounds balanced so, for example, the bass doesn’t drown out the bass drum and the vocals are clear without overpowering the instruments. 

Finally, audio mastering comes into play. Here, an audio mastering engineer takes a fine-tooth comb to your finished track, gives it a final polish and ensures it’s suitable for mass distribution. This process prepares music to be listened to anywhere, not just an acoustically perfect studio where the music has been produced. It can be listened to in different environments such as with headphones, soundbars, or even speakers in a car. 

The will mastering engineer will use a similar process to ensure that the music sounds amazing in all different formats. They also take into consideration the overall meaning and tone of the music, enhancing the overall sound quality to match that message. It is an iterative process and the ears of a mastering engineer work to consistently refine the audio to perfection. The art of mastering is similar to using Instagram filters; touch up and add to your photos to make them look amazing. This is exactly what our engineers do to your music! 

Think of mastering as the Instagram filters you apply to your photos to make them look amazing.

At Metropolis Mastering, we have some of the most sophisticated and experienced mastering engineers in the business. They have won Grammy awards and worked with the biggest selling artists ranging from Adele, Led Zeppelin, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Amy Winehouse, Elton John, Lana Del Rey, Stormzy, Headie One, George Michael, Rita Ora, Gorillaz, U2, Blur, Ellie Goulding to name a few. 

However, Metropolis is not just here to tune up your music, instead, we will help you reach your full potential. We know what it takes, and what is needed to give that song or album the final touches it needs to make it the best it can possibly be. Our mastering rooms were designed and built to the highest possible specification, to ensure they have the perfect listening environment for discerning ears. 

Described by specialist audio manufacturer PMC as “the best audio environments in the world,” the rooms have to be experienced to be believed. The results speak for themselves and the mastering house has earned a reputation as, arguably, the best mastering house in Europe, if not the world.

Sounds good, why not use an automated mastering service? 

It might seem simpler or faster to push music through an automated mastering service, but at most these systems and tools only produce an average audio mastering. In reality, these types of systems simply apply a templated audio enhancement, which is not complex enough to account for the nuances of music. There’s no way to iteratively make changes to it, provide any real direction of what you want your output to sound like, and more often than not, it ends up usually only being a louder or denser version of your song.

An automated system such as this may be well suited to stock market trading, but music can rarely be based on metrics and numbers. While elements of music can be relatable to mathematics, the combinations that are used, and the music generated by artists are truly a unique piece of art, that requires a bespoke approach to make that music realise its full potential. This is exactly the type of focus our engineers provide towards mastering your music. 

Our engineers understand that wholeheartedly and ensure that we take the necessary time with each of our clients and their partners to produce something exquisite, satisfying, and release-ready every single time. If you are looking for something that gets your music ready on a smaller scale, then AI might be a good way to see how a small sample size reacts. 

If you are looking for a professional mastering service, where the nuances of the music that you produce can be properly finished, then do not even consider AI when it comes to audio mastering. The machine learning behind it will only push facts and raw data, without thinking of what the actual needs might be. 

We work with you to make sure that we capture your true essence and get your tracks radio-ready. 

Sounds good – but it is hard to get into your studio. 

That’s okay. We are not opposed to technology one bit. Long before the pandemic we completely redesigned how we work to offer an online mastering service. You access our online, professional mastering services via our portal here. Depending on your timeframe, you can select a specific mastering engineer, or you can simply select the first available engineer option fur a faster turnaround.

Then it is a simple process of selecting your desired mastering service, and securely uploading your music files to us, with any specific instructions and reference tracks you want us to consider (if you have a clear idea of the sound you aim for). This is where our mastering engineers really shine. They take the time to fully listen and appreciate the music you have created and use all the audio mastering tools at their disposal to finesse the track and prepare it for mass distribution. 

They will then give you back your mastered audio ready for distribution. Not only that, if you’re not fully satisfied with the finished result you are allocated one revision free of charge. But don’t worry, that does not happen too often.

Humanisation of Music

Always consider the pros and cons of going with an AI audio mastering service. With no one behind the steering wheel, be prepared to receive results that will be disappointing. If there is no proper feedback loop or experience behind the audio mastering, then you will simply keep using their service over and over again, expecting different results. 

Since we’ve been offering online mastering, we’ve been able to provide music mastering engineers at the top of their game to a global market. So long as you have an internet connection, we have you covered, working tirelessly to provide you with our mastering services, to help you produce the best quality records in the business. We’re an industry favourite mastering house, not without reason.

Metropolis Studios celebrate 5 BRIT AWARD wins

Following the BRIT Awards 2021 ceremony at the O2, we send huge congratulations to the four winning artists who mastered and recorded here at Metropolis

Testament to Metropolis Studios’ accessible yet high-spec facilities and top-level engineers, winners include some of the world’s most exciting independent and major label artists.  

Pop superstars Little Mix took home Best British Group, the first female group ever to do so. Their #2 album Confetti was recorded in Studio E with Paul Norris engineering. Arlo Parks, meanwhile, picked up the Breakthrough Artist award with her acclaimed debut Collapsed In Sunbeams, mastered by Metropolis’ Matt Colton. Dua Lipa, who wowed audiences with a stunning live performance, was awarded Mastercard Album of the year and Female Solo Artist. ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ from the award-winning Future Nostalgia was mixed in Studio C with Harpaal Sanghera assisting while the celebrated remix album, Club Future Nostalgia, was mastered by Matt Colton. Finally, rapper J Hus was awarded the prestigious Male Solo Artist with his album Big Conspiracy, mastered by Stuart Hawkes.

Also, in a surprise treat for fans watching, superstar Elton John made a special appearance alongside Years & Years’ Oli Alexander as the pair performed a new version of the 1987 #1, ‘It’s A Sin’. The cover also features Petshop Boys’ Neil Tennant, was recorded at Metropolis Studios by engineer Alex Robinson with Harpaal Sanghera assisting, and mastered by Andy ‘Hippy’ Baldwin.

 

 

Commenting on last night’s winners, Metropolis Studios CEO Richard Connell said, ‘We are incredibly proud of the 2021 winners who chose to work with us on their amazing releases, and all of this year’s BRIT Awards nominees. What we do at Metropolis through the marriage of our state-of-the-art equipment and our industry leading team is create the environment for any artist – established or a future rising star – to realise the full potential of their creative vision. I am so proud it’s working so well and I believe the quality of this year’s winners shows that.’

Ahead of last night’s ceremony, Metropolis was primed for a strong selection of award-winners with 63% of the domestic nominees having all worked at the cutting-edge studio.

 

FULL LIST OF METROPOLIS-ASSOCIATED WINNERS

Female solo artist
  • Dua Lipa – Club Future Nostalgia, mastered by Matt Colton with single ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ mixed in Studio C

Best Group
  • Little Mix – Confetti, recorded in Studio E with Paul Norris engineering

Male Solo Artist
  • J Hus – Big Conspiracy, mastered by Stuart Hawkes
Breakthrough Artist
  • Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams album, mastered by Matt Colton

 

 

 

Metropolis Collaborating on Pioneering Immersive 5G Festival Experience

Metropolis Studios, alongside leading organisations from across the UK’s arts, entertainment and technology industries are collaborating to create the first-ever hybrid 5G Festival. The R&D testbed will utilise the power of advanced digital technologies enabling artists to broadcast live direct to audiences from remote locations and venues, as well as producing novel immersive in-venue experiences.

The pandemic may have changed the habits and appetites of consumers for the long term, as audiences increasingly look for remote, digital and blended experiences. 5G Festival imagines the “festival of the future” when artists and audiences can gather and connect both in-person and online, with the power of 5G to communicate the “live-ness” of the experience wherever you are. The collaboration is led by Digital Catapult, the UK’s leading advanced digital technology centre and 5G specialist, and brings together Metropolis Studios Mativision (5G, 360° immersive live streaming and distribution platform); Warner Music GroupBrighton Dome & Brighton FestivalThe O2 and O2 Academy venues; Sonosphere (immersive audio and live streaming); Audiotonix (mix consoles and AoIP networking); LiveFrom (blockchain ticketing). As part of the wider £200 million 5G testbeds and trials programme (5GTT) funded by the UK Government, the 5G Festival will produce a 5G powered, live immersive collaboration platform for artists and enrich the live festival experience for audiences at home and in venue. 5G Festival is using 5G and its ability to transmit with low latency (delay) and in ultra-high bandwidth to allow physically separate artists to produce immersive live, collaborative performances across multiple venues within a live and remote immersive environment. In practice, this means musicians can write, produce, rehearse and perform together from different locations at the same time, completely in sync with one another resolving what is today, a very real world problem The core 5G infrastructure is based on Digital Catapult’s 5G Testbed, which spans three sites across Brighton and London, and offers technologically complete end-to-end, standards compliant, commercial and open source network services. 5G Festival will use Mativision’s network-ready 360° content distribution platform, and O2’s public 5G network to support the scale of the project. 5G Festival will also explore opportunities for digital transformation and capability building for the UK’s world-leading live music, festivals and events sector. The O2 Lab will be developing the customer-facing mobile application for the project. BDBF’s festival team will be producing the showcase event with artists distributed between the three venues to help demonstrate both the technology and its commercial viability. In March 2021, the first trials experimented with the effects of audio latency (the delay in the amount of time is takes for sound to get from its source to a listener’s ears – i.e. from one musician to another) on the performers’ ability to play together, dialling the amount of delay (latency) up and down to showcase the power of 5G technology and test the musicians’ and singers’ ability to cope with latency, as well as what the delay limits were before a performance fell apart. “The trials produced fascinating, and some unexpected results,” says Sonosphere’s Andy Robinson. The next trials will take place during June 2021, with a final showcase event planned for early 2022.  
“As a world leading recording studio, our ability to help develop and facilitate artist collaboration to the highest quality will always be our priority and part of our core services. Enabling artists and producers to connect remotely over 5G so that they can work together seamlessly solves an existing issue that the studio faces daily. Metropolis are also perfectly placed to broadcast live artist performances and guest collaborations over a 5G network to partner venues O2 and Brighton Dome as part of the 5G Festival, and also to viewers at home supporting unique branded VR fan experiences.” – Gavin Newman, Brand Director at Metropolis Studios


Get in Touch

For Metropolis Partnership enquiries please contact Gavin. Email gavin@https://www.thisismetropolis.com