Choosing a pair of studio monitors is a very personal business. What works for one person may not work for someone else. No wonder, then, that when composer and producer Marco Martini and Sam Wheat, formerly chief engineer at London’s Metropolis Studios, agreed to share a studio together they demo-ed numerous monitoring systems before finding one that suited them both.
“We were looking for an all-round true reference monitor, a system that sounded great, wasn’t coloured and was also ‘fun’ to work on,” Sam Wheat explains. “Speakers are so subjective, but you can tell when one works with a room and has the right balance and power. We tried five different makes and models but, in the end, it was PMC twotwo6 monitors that ticked all the boxes, so that’s what we went with.”
Having worked with PMC speakers at Metropolis, Wheat knew what the company’s larger monitors were capable of and was more than happy to include the company’s nearfield products in the shoot-out.
“Something I look for is the same sound at low and high volumes,” he says. “I know PMC are great at this, so I was very happy to hear the same quality in the twotwo6’s. Initially we were looking for a three-way design because that was what had previously been in the room we are sharing. However, the PMCs are two-way, yet they performed better across all frequencies than any of the three ways we tried, which was surprising but obviously great.”
Marco Martini adds that he especially liked their faithful sound reproduction, particularly at low levels. “That really impressed me,” he says. “They are balanced, and the image is excellent. They are great loud and quiet.”
Martini and Wheat’s shared studio is located in the Miloco Complex in North London. It also happens to be right above Funky Junk – handy, says Martini, if they need to borrow additional equipment or get something repaired in a hurry. Initially Martini shared the space with producer Stevan Krakovic, but when Krakovic moved to Frankfurt he began casting around for a new partner and met Wheat through the Music Producers Guild.
“Alongside Metropolis, I’d had a studio in Tottenham where we were developing artists, but I decided to focus more on mixing and had become less involved in that space, though it is still going strong,” Wheat says. “When Marco got in touch it was the right time because I was looking to get involved in a studio share after the period in Tottenham.”
The studio was previously a mastering room and acoustic treatment was already in place when Martini moved in. A quick check by Munro Acoustics showed that the room had a very even frequency response and reverberation time, so no further treatment was necessary. With natural light, a communal kitchen and lounge and enough space for a large control room and booth, the studio is ideal for mixing, recording vocals and overdubs.
Both partners run their own systems – Wheat is Pro Tools and Logic based, while Martini uses Steinberg Nuendo with a "trashcan" Mac Pro, although he also occasionally uses Pro Tools and Logic if he needs to work directly on client's sessions.
“We use UAD and SSL convertors, with the PMC as the main near field monitors,” Wheat says. “Other gear in the studio is API, SSL, Telefunken, Rupert Neve on the recording side with a bunch of synths and noise boxes too. There is also a Rhodes piano in the studio.”
Martini adds: “I always work on multiple projects at the same time so I'm primarily in the box, using plugins from Universal Audio, Acustica, Waves and Native Instruments. I tend to use the outboard gear mostly for recording. If I use it for mixing I re-record the processed tracks straight away, so I don't have to deal with recalls later, with the exception to my trusty Tube-Tech LCA-2A that lives on my mix buss.”
When it comes to artists they have worked with, both men have impressive CVs. Wheat can namecheck many highly awarded and platinum selling artists including John Legend, George Clinton, Rihanna and Amy Winehouse, while Martini has worked with artists like Ed Sheeran, George Michael and Mumford & Sons. These days Wheat is mixing, writing and producing across a broad range of genres and continuing to develop new acts. Martini is also mixing and writing music, as well as tackling post production work such as sound design, foley and voice overs. He is currently mixing an album for an Italian electro-pop band that he produced and will soon be starting work on an animated series for the BBC.
“With a shared studio like this, flexibility is key,” Wheat says. “Also, the ability to go loud for short periods is important for the writing and production stuff. It took a month to test the PMC 226 monitors against two and three-way speakers from other very established brands, but we settled for the twotwo6s because we love their very precise stereo imaging and the almost brutal clarity of them, which really helps us understand what is going on in a mix. When we do let other people use our studio they also love the sound of the room and especially the PMC monitors.”
PMC is a UK-based, world-leading manufacturer of loudspeaker systems, the tools of choice in all ultra-critical professional monitoring applications, and also for the discerning audiophile at home, where they provide a transparent window into the recording artist's original intentions. PMC products use the best available materials and design principles, including the company's proprietary Advanced Transmission Line (ATL™) bass-loading technology, cutting-edge amplification and advanced DSP techniques to create loudspeakers that present sound and music exactly as it was when first created, with the highest possible resolution, and without coloration or distortion. For more information on our clients and products, see www.pmc-speakers.com.