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Studio SOS: Darius Timmer

SOS Awards Prizewinner: Amsterdam Install By Hugh Robjohns
Published November 2013

Darius Timmer's all-new studio, with the SOS Awards prize set up and Auralex foam fitted.Darius Timmer's all-new studio, with the SOS Awards prize set up and Auralex foam fitted.

This month, we travel all the way to Amsterdam to help last year's SOS Awards prize winner set up his brand-new, £14,000$20,000 studio!

Darius Timmer has the honour of being our very first SOS Awards prize winner in mainland Europe. He hails from Amsterdam and is a keyboard player, performing regularly with a couple of bands, one of which includes his vocalist girlfriend. He also composes and teaches music, and supplements his income by mixing other people's material.

Normally, Paul White and I both help the winner to install the prize equipment, but on this occasion the only workable date for Darius happened to be when Paul was away on holiday. So while I made a (quite literally) flying visit early in the morning across to Schipol airport on the outskirts of Amsterdam, my SOS colleagues — Publisher Andy Brookes and News Editor Will Betts — braved the overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland with a car crammed full of expensive toys — over £14,000$20,000-worth, in fact, and all provided by Source Distribution and DV247, with Dolphin Music contributing a kit of Auralex acoustic foam. Andy and Will were not just delivery drivers, though: they both helped enormously with installing the equipment, at the same time as filming the process.

Flat Response

When we informed Darius that he had won the SOS Awards prize, he was living in a small flat that simply didn't have the space for all the new toys we wanted to give him! So, spurred on with the pressing need for more space, Darius and his girlfriend decided to get a larger apartment in a residential area of Amsterdam, about a mile South of Centraal Station — and they'd only moved in a few days before our visit! By the time I arrived from the airport and climbed the typically narrow and twisting stairway into the flat's living room, I was greeted by the sight of Andy, Will and Darius peering over a veritable mountain of boxes, enjoying a well-earned cup of coffee with some delicious Dutch biscuits — which made a pleasant change from the traditional Hobnobs!

Darius had already commandeered the large room at the back of the apartment, overlooking the quiet garden, as his new studio room. Thankfully, as his girlfriend is also into recording and performing, there was no problem with this generous allocation of space in the flat. Darius had installed his previous Mac-based recording setup almost as soon as he had moved into the new apartment, including his vintage keyboard rack comprising a Roland Juno 60, Korg MS10 and a slightly tired Yamaha DX7 with a broken key. However, with the prospect of shiny new toys to play with, he was very happy for us to reorganise things to install the new equipment.

Room For Improvement

The first priority was to do something about the acoustics. The room was large, but more or less square, albeit with a chamfered corner housing a fireplace. One side wall contained large glazed double doors leading to the sitting room, while the other had a pair of patio doors opening out to a balcony. A single door on the back wall led to the hallway. The floor was wood laminate and the walls painted plaster, mostly on brick. As a result of all these hard surfaces, the room was quite lively with some very obvious flutter echoes.

Darius wanted his work desk set up more or less in the centre of the front wall, with the keyboard rack to the left-hand side — and given the location of the doors and windows, that was really the only practical solution anyway. As is so common with rented property, Darius couldn't glue anything to the walls, but was quite happy for us to use picture hooks or screw fittings to secure any acoustic treatment. The aim was simply to try to tame as much of the room's liveliness as we could, while also doing our best to deal with the inevitable LF standing waves. Clearly, we needed a plan if we were to get the room treated and the equipment installed by the end of the day.

The ceiling cloud was constructed by gluing some Auralex foam to a piece of MDF, which was then suspended above the listening position using wires and hooks.The ceiling cloud was constructed by gluing some Auralex foam to a piece of MDF, which was then suspended above the listening position using wires and hooks.With the side walls relatively far away from the listening position, the side mirror points wouldn't really be a problem at all, but the ceiling mirror point definitely would be, so some form of ceiling cloud seemed a good idea. Dolphin Music had kindly sent over a standard Auralex room kit of foam panels, which included some bass-trap modules, and Darius had also salvaged four large foam bass traps from his previous studio. Since the latter had already had wooden mounting battens glued on we decided to install those rather than work out a way to fit the supplied Auralex traps — at least in the first pass! The door and cupboard locations made it impractical to fit the bass traps in the room's vertical corners, so we opted to install them along the ceiling/wall boundaries instead. Three traps mounted end to end covered the entire length of the front wall very nicely, and that left the last one for the back wall where it could be supplemented with the Auralex bass traps. The remaining collection of two-inch Auralex foam panels in the room kit were to be distributed around the remaining wall surfaces, to break up and damp down the room's reflections.

To build the ceiling cloud we would need a board on which to mount some foam panels, along with wire or chain to suspend it and some ceiling hooks. We would needed a selection of rawl plugs, plasterboard fixings, screws and nails to fit the other acoustic panels on the walls. That meant hopping on a tram for a quick trip to the local DIY store, with a brief detour via a supermarket for some lunch ingredients on the way back.

Foam Sweet Foam

After some refreshments we built the ceiling cloud by simply gluing two square foam panels to the front of a suitably sized piece of MDF board. Once the glue had set we suspended the board from two lengths of wire threaded through holes drilled through the corners. The ceiling mounts comprised some cup-hooks screwed into self-drilling metal plasterboard plugs wound into the ceiling, and by adjusting the lengths of the wires we were quickly able to centre the cloud panel above and in front of the listening position where it would control unwanted reflections from the ceiling.

As mentioned earlier, Darius's old bass traps each had four wooden battens glued on to them, so we simply installed more rawl plugs in the walls and ceiling and then screwed the panels into place along the front wall. When I say 'we', what I actually mean is that Andy wielded the power drill and screwdrivers — his height and strength made the job look much easier than it really was!

While Andy was climbing the furniture and drilling holes all over the room, Will and I set up a production line to glue old CD-Rs to the top-centre of the backs of the Auralex foam panels. This is one of Paul White's favoured solutions for this kind of situation, as the centre hole in the CD can be slipped easily over a nail or screw head in the wall and the foam panel hung like a picture. Unfortunately, we had a few irritating issues with the instant glue taking rather more than an instant to set — there's nothing quite so frustrating as hearing the 'whoosh-plop' of foam tiles falling to the floor behind you just after you've hung them up.

Despite our bonding troubles, by the end of the afternoon we had installed the bass traps along the top of the front wall, constructed and hung the ceiling cloud, and attached foam panels across the front wall, fireplace wall, above the sitting room doors, and along the back wall. The room was already sounding a great deal better behaved, but we were running out of time for the equipment installation. However, Darius was happy to complete the remaining acoustic treatment later, so we left him with a large box of Auralex panels, some tubes of glue, and the job of fitting the remaining bass traps at his leisure.

Plugging In

As most of the prize equipment came from Source Distribution in the UK, everything came with standard UK mains cables or wall-warts — which wasn't much help in an Amsterdam flat fitted with standard European CEE 7/x wall sockets! Oops. Fortunately, we had already spotted this particular fly in the ointment, and had sent Darius out while we were installing the acoustic panels to purchase some replacement IEC leads and adaptors.

Darius's prize included an Arturia Analog Experience keyboard, Rode M1, NT2A, NT5 and K2 microphones, a pair of Genelec 8240 DSP monitors, a Universal Audio LA610 MkII channel strip, a UAD2 Quad Satellite card, a Lynx HiLo converter, a Synergy PC system from DV247 (loaded with Eventide plug-ins), and an Eventide Space reverb...Darius's prize included an Arturia Analog Experience keyboard, Rode M1, NT2A, NT5 and K2 microphones, a pair of Genelec 8240 DSP monitors, a Universal Audio LA610 MkII channel strip, a UAD2 Quad Satellite card, a Lynx HiLo converter, a Synergy PC system from DV247 (loaded with Eventide plug-ins), and an Eventide Space reverb...Installing the prize equipment was all pretty straightforward, except that the Internet connection for the flat hadn't yet been installed, which meant we couldn't authorise any of the supplied software plug-ins, programs, or PC operating system. So that left another job for Darius to do after we'd gone!

We started the installation with a pair of Genelec 8240A DSP monitoring speakers, complete with the Autocal setup mic and software. These were driven from a very nice Lynx HiLo A-D/D-A converter. We also set up a Presonus 1602 live and recording digital mixer (complete with Studio One DAW software), and although Darius thought that he would probably end up using this to replace the desk he was currently using for his live band work, he wanted to familiarise himself with it in the studio first.

The front end of the signal chain was taken care of with a Universal Audio LA610 MkII valve recording channel — a modern recreation of Bill Putnam's 610 mic preamp in combination with a Teletronix LA2A optical compressor. Darius's primary mic before his competition win was a Pearlman TM1, but he could now pick between a selection of Rode mics, including a stereo pair of NT5 small-diaphragm capacitor mics, an NT2A or a valve K2 (both variable-pattern large-diaphragm capacitors). A Rode M1 stage vocal mic was also a part of the prize (although I suspect his girlfriend had her eyes on that one!), along with a set of Mogami mic cables.

A very nice — and incredibly quiet — Synergy PC from DV247 was also included, along with a Universal Audio UAD2 Quad Satellite DSP effects engine and a set of Eventide plug-ins, including the Omnipressor, 2016 Stereo Room and SST 282 Space Station. The Synergy computer ships with an 'essentials bundle' comprising Propellerhead's Reason 4 Adapted, FXpansion's BFD2 Lite and Native Instruments's Guitar Rig 3 LE and Kore Player, the latter including over 2GB of virtual instruments from Massive, Reaktor, Absynth and other soft-synths. Additional software to install on the system included Dr Bob's Collector Pack from Arturia, which recreates the Minimoog V and Moog Modular as software instruments, and the pack includes an interesting book and DVD detailing Bob Moog's life and synth designs. a Moog Minitaur, a Slim Phatty, and the Arturia Dr Bob's Collector Pack soft-synth bundle! a Moog Minitaur, a Slim Phatty, and the Arturia Dr Bob's Collector Pack soft-synth bundle!Staying with the Moog theme, Darius was delighted with the hardware Moog Minataur and Slim Phatty analogue synths — as any keyboard player would be — as well as Eventide's Space reverb pedal, which would be an asset in his stage performances. As a vintage keyboard fan, Darius was also very excited to get to grips with Arturia's Analogue Experience hybrid synthesizer. This 61-note velocity and aftertouch-sensitive keyboard controller provides access to 4300 different synth sounds derived from emulations of classic synths, including various Moogs, the Yamaha CS80, Roland's Jupiter 8, Prophets, Oberheims, and more. Yummy!

With everything unpacked, set up, plugged in and tested, and with the chaos of the preceding hours now cleared away, Darius's cat decided it was finally safe enough to venture out from his hideaway behind the sitting room sofa and explore the new boxes and wiring in the studio room. The mountain of cardboard packaging had been shredded and fed into the local recycling bins on the pavement outside the flat, and we even managed a quick dust around with a vacuum cleaner to tidy up the evidence of Andy's handiwork with the power tools.

Our job was done, and Darius was clearly keen to start playing with all his new toys, so we climbed into the car and headed off to find a hotel for the night — but not before finding a very large Argentinian steak and a few nice cold Euro-beers. As it was Will's first trip to the Dutch capital we also had to show him around a few of the popular tourist sights — it's the law, after all — but what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam. Suffice to say we all made it back home the following day!  

Reader Reaction

Studio SOSDarius Timmer: "I must say I've been incredibly lucky to receive this prize at this moment in my career. I've just started mixing and recording slightly more regularly and all these toys fit in perfectly with my every need. I've been using the UAD2 Quad Satellite to increase my options in mixing, though with the LA610 and the Lynx HiLo things have been sounding much better on their own. I also immediately attached the Arturia MIDI keyboard to both of my Moogs, which I now run through the hi-Z or line input of my preamp, so they're always ready to play!

"I used the room-correction system to check for any acoustic problems, and after the acoustic treatment the room was almost competely dry! It sounds so much better than my previous studio.

"I want to add a personal thank you to the SOS team — all the projects I'm involved with benefit from this prize too! Not only can I use the StudioLive mixer for my covers band, but I've been writing a lot for Bam!, which is the electro-pop duo I play in with my girlfriend, using the new Moog synths and the software from Arturia and Eventide. If you want to check out some of the music we make, visit

"The prize also helps my girlfriend's indie folk-pop band, Tessa Rose Jackson. They've been playing a lot and the band's really doing well at the moment, so the guitarist is now borrowing my Eventide Space pedal, and the drummer's borrowing some mics to record some stuff for himself. All the Mogami cables are now in use in our live rigs, so you can safely say that everybody's profiting from this!

"We're actually hoping to play in England some time soon, so check for news.

"Once again, thank you guys so much! Who would've thought I would be the first non-UK winner? I hope you enjoyed your stay in Amsterdam, and hope to see you guys again some time soon.”

It Could Be You!

Voting for the 2014 SOS Awards has already begun — and like last year, there's an enormous studio bundle up for grabs! This year's prize has been donated by Sonic Distribution, and includes a whopping £16,000$22,000 worth of gear from SE Electronics, Apogee, Rupert Neve Designs, SM Pro Audio and Waves.

To vote for your favourite products, and for your chance to win this huge prize bundle (which, of course, includes a visit from the Studio SOS team), visit

Installation Video!

If you'd like to see the Studio SOS team in action, go to and check out our installation footage!