Looking for a fresh benchmark in the studio sector? The pros at Sono Luminus Studios will show you how much you must raise your game.
Working out of their bucolic Boyce, VA, destination studio in you’ll find a squad of audio experts that are working smarter AND harder. Working out of an early 1900’s Episcopal Church in the fertile Shenandoah Valley, they leverage a big live room to achieve their minimalist recording aims — all the way to 9.1.
But there’s a lot more going on at Sono Luminus, including an in-house GRAMMY-winning record label dedicated to high fidelity and “less is more.” They’ve built a big reputation among the audiophile set for their acoustic, classical, and early music releases, with traditional and acoustic jazz on the way.
Artists who seek Sono Luminus Studios out can record here in seclusion, and stay just a stone’s throw away in the college town of Winchester. What sounds are going on out there in the countryside? Read on for an earful.
Facility Name: Sono Luminus Studios
Location: Boyce, VA 22602
Neighborhood Advantages: The studio is located in a small town in the Shenandoah Valley. How small you ask? We only have 1 flashing traffic light!
Date of Birth: The company was founded in 1996. This location was opened in October 2010, and our first recording took place that December.
Origins: The building is a former Episcopal church that was constructed in 1916. With our focus being acoustic and classical music the acoustics of the room proved to be ideal, providing a lush warm sound, with a nice tail, but not so large that it lost definition.
As to the why…There is something especially nice about saving and resurrecting beautiful older spaces. There is a heart and vibe that is just not there in new construction. Using an old space, especially a historic space, has its challenges though as well including replacing all of the wiring, insulation, and noise bleed that has to be taken into account.
Upkeep can also have its challenges. All of that said, it is a space that we love and feel produces a spectacular result in the recorded sound.
Facility Focus: Seriously YES for tracking, mixing, audio post, composition, and mastering. Plus, creating an amazing and peaceful environment in which to achieve it all!
Mission Statement: Sono Luminus is an ultra-high fidelity record label and recording studio focusing on stereo and surround recording. We feature an eclectic mix of classical music ranging across centuries from early music to the contemporary avant-garde.
Allowing for natural ambient acoustics to determine optimal microphone placement with minimal processing, Sono Luminus has become a first choice for a variety of dynamic musicians, both established and emerging. Sono Luminus boasts over 100 titles and owns the Dorian label archive.
Sono Luminus and its artists have been nominated for 17 GRAMMYs, with two wins, and its studio clients include Steinway & Sons, Hännsler, Bridge, and Naxos. More info at sonoluminus.com and sonoluminusstudios.com. Contact CEO Collin J. Rae at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or Caleb Nei at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Record/Label: Our focus is on GREAT music with AWESOME artists, it is that simple really. We’re open to taking on anything if the elements are “right” in our minds.
The studio is still an underutilized asset outside of the label, we have/have had clients like Steinway and Sons, Henssler Classics, a number of indie classical artists and the list is growing and growing.
This is a real area of concentration for us going forward: I foresee a time where we are recording and releasing 6 – 8 Sono Luminus albums per year and the rest is devoted to client based studio business. The day-to-day challenges are album sales and building a list of clients for the present and future. I have no doubt that we will get to where we want to be very soon!
Clients/Credits: There are a lot – here is a list: http://sonoluminusstudios.com/clients/
Daniel Shores – Head Engineer
Dan Merceruio – Producer
Collin Rae – CEO
Caleb Nei – Graphics and Media
Strider Jordan – Photography and Video
System Highlights: We record to Pyramix using the Merging Technologies HORUS converter and Monitor, and mix and master using their HAPI converter. Our mixing and mastering suite features Legacy Audio Speakers, my computer (built by PC Audio labs), my desk and a small couch. Like with everything, our approach is very minimal.
For microphones my primary tools are the DPA 4006s, AEA A840s, and an assortment of Schoeps. We also have a number of other goodies lying around.
No Console: It has been so long, that sometimes I ask myself this question…but here’s the reason why: Our approach has always been to have the cleanest, simplest signal path possible – microphone, preamp, converter, DAW. While there are a number of amazing sounding desks out there, it is just not the path that we felt worked for us.
We also use very little EQ and have no compressors or other outboard gear, so we never really felt the need for that kind of environment. I do enjoy mixing with faders, and use a Euphonix controller with my Pyramix system.
Distinguishing Characteristics: I think that one of the things that sets us apart is that we have a large, beautiful sounding room in the country. This allows people to go on a “recording retreat” to make a record. It is a historic building and it definitely carries that vibe, while at the same time being warm and inviting.
There is nothing fancy about the space. The room has changed very little from the time that it was originally a church. We pulled the pews out, pulled up the carpet that ran down the center aisle, and went to work. I have since built and installed some rounded diffusers to break up the long 40+ foot walls on the main floor level (the room has a full measurement of 65 feet when you add the former altar area), and I have constructed some large 4’ x 8’ rolling panels that have absorption on one side and diffusion on the other to focus in the room when needed, but that is about it. It’s kind of a magical place.
We also have a two-lane bowling alley that was installed in the 20’s…but that’s another thing altogether!
9.1: Just as we do with 5.1 and 7.1, we aim to keep as much of the recording as true and natural as possible, and we do so by having one microphone per channel. We even use a separate microphone for the LFE channel.
While we do occasionally incorporate spot microphones, these are generally for a little additional texture, and not used as the main sound in the recording. We have a central microphone array in front of or in the middle of the group depending on if we are doing immersive surround or ambient — a choice that is made based on the music — and then we position the players around the microphones.
We “mix in the room” by moving players forward or backward, side–to-side, and vertically with the use of risers to capture the best possible blend of the players. This can take some time, and sometimes causes the players to scratch their heads a bit, as you are asking them to sit somewhere different than they normally sit, but after they hear what’s happening sonically in the room, they tend to greatly enjoy it.