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Bösendorfer Phoenix Imperial 290


Bosendorfer Imperial


Bösendorfer pianos deservedly enjoy a reputation for being special. They are hand-built by master craftsmen in the old tradition, using only the finest materials throughout the instrument. The company produces remarkably few pianos each year – somewhere around 200. Currently they are producing very few - if any - Imperial concert grands, so their flagship model may well be increasingly hard to find in the future.

The Bösendorfer Phoenix we use for recording is a very special instrument. Prior to being fitted with Richard Dain's pioneering Phoenix bridge agraffe system at Hurstwood Farm Pianos, it was used for recital work by András Schiff, and has since been used for recording by André Previn and many others with the Phoenix system installed.


Richard Dain

Richard Dain of Hurstwood Farm Pianos, developer of the Phoenix bridge agraffe system


What is the Phoenix system?

This is a series of bridge agraffes that transfer the strings' energy into the bridge itself, which in turn passes the energy into the piano soundboard. The agraffe body is made from manganese bronze. It contains stainless steel depressor rollers and beryllium copper knife edges are found at the point of string termination.

The result of this system is increased sustain and immense clarity, especially in the treble registers.

The traditional bridge system, whereby the strings pass around angled pins, has gone fundamentally unchanged for well over a century, and delivers lower efficiency whilst putting unwanted stress on the soundboard.

Such stress, resulting from a downwards load applied by the strings typically of about a half tonne, is eliminated by the Phoenix system, leaving the soundboard more free to respond to vibrations. The more efficient conversion of vibration energy in the strings to vibration energy in the soundboard enables the pianist to achieve the same sound volume with less finger energy input. This enhances accuracy and confidence from the artist.

Further to this our piano has a key-depth adjustment system, again innovated by Richard Dain. The resulting keyboard touch can be made to vary from light, delicate and fast, all the way to heavy and powerful - and anything in between - in a matter of seconds. Adjustment is made via a lever located under the keybed.

Pianists with smaller hands may well opt for a lighter touch when playing technically demanding works. Those requiring greater power from the piano may lean towards a heavier touch. It usually takes a few minutes for a pianist to find their optimum setting, which is then noted for future reference.

Some pianists report that the piano has an easier action than most concert grands, even when at a standard setting. Interestingly this is likely to be a product of the increased efficiency of the Phoenix system, as in every other respect the action itself is standard for a Bösendorfer 290.

The piano is kept meticulously well-tuned and voiced. The tuning stability is excellent, but we can fine tune unisons during recording if necessary.



House Engineer and Producer


James Bacon's 25 years of experience as a producer, engineer, composer, songwriter and classical pianist means that artists recording here receive a careful, informed, open-minded and creative approach to the recording process.


Equipment & Recording Techniques


We offer some special microphones and preamplifiers for your recordings


se rnr 1   rnr 1



At the heart of our collection are a pair of Rupert Neve + sE-designed RNR 1 active ribbon microphones, which deliver all the warmth and realism of the classic ribbon mics favoured by studios for decades, but with an extended frequency response from 20 Hz through to 24 KHz - the world's first ribbon mic to achieve this. They form a wide stereo pair.

More information on the RNR 1 can be found here.


The central region of the audio image can be captured using a pair of Neve + sE-designed RN 17 mics, which are specified for both exceptionally low distortion and enormous headroom (150 db). They are wonderfully natural, and do not rely on hyping any aspect of the audio spectrum to quickly impress.


sE RN17   sE RNR17


Alternatively we have a pair of Sontronics Sigma ribbon microphones, which not only capture piano beautifully, but also violin, cello, vocals, spoken word, acoustic guitar and so forth. Warm and silky, with a smooth top end.





Other mics in our collection include a Sontronics Apollo stereo ribbon mic, two Rode NTK valve mics, and an AKG D112.


No microphone - especially a low-output ribbon mic - can fulfil its potential without a quality pre-amplifier.

We find the combination of RNR 1s and classic Neve 1073 mic pre-amps to be a thing of beauty.


Neve 1073



Chosen for its transparency and fidelity, Focusrite ISA 428 MkII pre-amps are a superb match for our other mics. The smooth and open-sounding clarity of this combinaton is the result of many years of studio refinements.


Focusrite ISA 428 MkII



We also appreciate the sound characteristics and low noise of valve microphones, and offer a pair of Rode NTKs, with upgraded valves, alongside a pair of sE 2200Ts.

For drum kits, we have the industry standard AKG D112 kick drum mic, for use with any combination of the Neve and Rode mics of your choice.


For ensemble recording, we currently can track with up to 8 mics simultaneously.


Analogue-to-digital conversion, and beyond.


Perhaps the most vital component in the overall fidelity of audio capture is the audio interface. This is where analogue signals are digitised, ready for mixing, editing and mastering, within sequencing software. The analogue-to-digital performance of Universal Audio's Apollo Duo is truly world-class, delivering audio capture at up to 192 Kz.


It also serves as a hardware platform for Universal Audio's prestigious software plugins, which include amazingly accurate recreations of some of the finest hardware units to have graced the recording industry (see below under Mastering).


Universal Audio Apollo



Software and Technology


Today's digital recording allows unprecedented flexibility.  The right software - in experienced hands - facilitates quick and seamless edits, making the process of sound capture and mixing pleasurable, and allowing countless creative possibilities.

Studio Specs:

Apple Mac, 2.3 Ghz quad-core processors, 1 Terabyte hard disk, 16 GB Ram, running Cubase 6.5 and a variety of high quality plugins including Altiverb 7 convolution reverb. We capture in 32-bit audio.

What is Altiverb?

Altiverb is the industry-leading convolution reverb program.  Imagine your piano recording being staged in one of the world's famous concert halls, or for that matter in any number of smaller auditoria, including some of the world's great recording studios’ live rooms or the grand spaces of European stately homes. 

Now this is possible with Altiverb.  Actual samples of the reverberation of acoustic spaces are applied to your recording.  The ambience is completely convincing, far surpassing previous digital "modelling" reverbs. Using Altiverb also eliminates the enormous costs and risks involved in hiring concert halls and provides the flexibility to meet the requirements of a broad range of production styles.

You can visit the Altiverb website for further information.


altiverb pic

click to enlarge


Mixing and Mastering


Mixing is the first stage of presentation of a multitrack recording, and involves the balance between the different microphones, the way they are blended and panned, and such matters as individual channel equalisation. It is essential to optimise this stage of audio work before mastering.

Mastering then involves adjustments to the overall tonal balance of the mix. Equalisation, compression and limiting can bring a professional polish to the mix.

We work to produce natural and rounded audio masters with depth, warmth and clarity, and are keen to avoid any participation in the so-called Loudness War. We strongly believe that the retention of the dynamic range is integral to an enjoyable and authentic listening experience.


Hardware devices


• TC Electronic Finalizer Plus

An industry-standard mastering processor with a clean and transparent sound that can readily be tailored to enhance a range of programme material.

An indispensible tool, when used sensibly and carefully.

TC Electronic Finalizer


Software devices


• Universal Audio's Powered Plugin Suite adds an array of prestigious, digitally modelled mixing and mastering tools - as well as special effect units - based around many of the classic analogue units of the past. After careful auditioning of the current range, we have selected the following for professional studio use.

(Click images for more info)


• Fairchild 670 stereo tube limiter

Fairchild 670


• Fairchild 660 mono tube limiter

Fairchild 660


• Pultec Passive EQ collection

Pultec collection


• Millennia NSEQ-2 Equaliser

Millennia NSEQ-2


• Neve 33609 Stereo Bus Compressor


• 1176 Classic Limitier Plugin Collection

1176 Classic Limiter Collection


• Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier



• EMT® 140 Classic Plate Reverberator


• EMT® 250 Classic Electronic Reverb

EMT 250


• Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb


•Cooper® Time Cube Mk II Delay

Cooper Timecube


• EP-34 Tape Echo



• Fender ’55 Tweed Deluxe


• Softube Vintage Amp Room

Softube Vintage Amp Room


• BOSS® CE-1 Chorus Ensemble

Boos CE-1



• In addition to the Universal Audio devices above, we offer:

Steven Slate Virtual Console Collection



Put simply, using the Virtual Console Collection provides the analogue "glue" that traditional mixing consoles bring to the summation of individual channels. This sense of sonic homogeneity is precisely what digital mixes often lack.

The VCC is the result of painstaking analysis of some of the great mixing consoles from the 20th century, coupled with ingennius programming by Fabrice Gabriel.

This device is especially suited to mastering multitracked recordings.


Steven Slate Virtual Tape Machines


We love these tape machines, and having demoed many competitors, chose these as stand-out favourites for warmth, transparency, realism, and mix "glue".


Eiosis AirEQ Premium

An innovative and beautiful EQ for mastering, AirEq goes beyond the standard parametric EQ, offering features for contouring the curves and characteristic of each band. The traditional bell-shaped curves may be smoothed out for a gentler effect.

Careful auditioning has made this a favourite on the mix bus.


Other instuments available for recording

For singer-songwriters, who may be multitracking, we offer a limited, high-quality range of instruments for use in recording. Please note that this collection is not for sale.



Handbuilt in 1983 by Pete Stevens and Ian Waller - a true masterpiece from Electric Wood. Wenge facings.

With its active circuitry, unique tone controls, jack and XLR outputs, the Wal Custom Mk 1 is arguably the most versatile bass guitar ever made, and as such it is ideal for studio recording. This bass records superbly via DI, or with Universal Audio's bass amp modelling software.


Wal Custom Mk 1




A very well-made strat from 2014. Built to original specs, no frills.


Fender Stratocaster




Bare Knuckle pickup in the neck position. Played on countless records already, this one always sits in the mix.


1973 Fender Telecaster




Beautifully constructed guitar with a humbucker at the bridge and a P90 at the neck. Combining those two pickups gives a very distinctive sound.


Duesenberg 49er





50 Watts of hand-wired, all-valve, classic British amplification.


Burman Pro-Series 501



Virtual instruments

We offer a range of virtual instruments to embelish recordings across a range of styles:


• Garritan Personal Orchestra


Garritan Personal Orchestra


This is particularly useful for film coposition, and for when realistic orchestral textures are required to fill out the sound of live acoustic recordings. The 16 channel mixer for this instrument allows for separate staging and effects to be applied to each channel. It is versatile and easy to use.

• Other available virtual instruments include Steinberg's native synth collection, Novation Bass Station, Novation V Station, and Halion.



VIDEO services.

For those wishing to produce video, we have 3 Sony DSLR cameras, each capable of full HD capture at up to 50 fps. We have mutlipurpose 18-55 mm lenses for each, and for wide-angle shots, we have a Sony 10-18mm lens.

We have a range of studio lighting equipment, including softboxes, LED units and backdrops.

Adobe Premiere is used for editing, as part of the full Adobe Creative Suite.

Your final cut can be exported for DVD or for Youtube HD.






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