Looking to the future of Dolby Atmos at Soundville
Switzerland's Soundville Media Studios is a leading multi-purpose recording and mixing facility. With over 40 years of experience, studio founder and sound specialist Rene Zingg's dedication to his craft is unwavering. Part of Soundville's success can be attributed to its collaboration with fellow Swiss brand Merging Technologies and their shared vision for the future, particularly regarding Dolby Atmos.
Zingg's love for audio stems from his upbringing, influenced by his father's interest in recording and filming. As a musician himself, Zingg naturally gravitated towards the technical side of music production, handling all the recordings for his band. In 1979, he turned his passion into a career when he established Soundville. Collaborating with renowned studio designer Tom Hidley and architect Thomas Rast, Zingg crafted a studio space that laid the foundation for Soundville's future. Once the space was complete, the Soundville team set about acquiring the equipment they would need to become a leading studio. Crucially, the partnership with Merging Technologies played a vital role in Soundville's success - a relationship that dates back to the ‘90s when Zingg first came across Merging at an AES convention.
“I would go to every AES, and around 1995 everyone was launching their own DAWs,” he recalls. “At every other booth there was a new company launching a new DAW. There was Sound Tools by Digidesign, which was upgraded to Pro Tools, and then there was Merging coming up at the same time. So, I went through all these different manufacturers and compared them, and at the end of the day, it boiled down to Merging and Digidesign. The dealer for Digidesign in Switzerland was on the same plane as me and we discussed this; in the end, I decided to make my decision on the people rather than just the DAW. With Digidesign, if I had a problem, I would have a nine-hour delay, whereas with Merging I would have zero hours delay and they are a two-hour drive away. It was easy. And with Merging, from the first day, everything was of the highest possible quality. So, there were technical reasons, logistical reasons, and it was simply the best. It was obvious.”
Today, Soundville boasts a complete range of Merging products. “We have one Horus, four Hapis, three Anubis, three Pyramix,” explains Zingg. “The Dolby Atmos team were so impressed, they said they have never heard such precise low-end.”
“The Anubis is unbelievably flexible,” continues Zingg. “You can select as many sources as you wish. And we have the Pyramix output. Within Pyramix you can do Atmos mixing even without using the renderer because you can address everything up to 22.2. Then we have the return from the Dell renderer in Atmos – 7.1, 5.1, stereo, and the binauralisation, which is routed directly to a headphone output of one of the Hapis.”
While Atmos has gained significant attention in the industry, Zingg believes its adoption will evolve gradually rather than rapidly flood the mainstream. Undeterred by the lack of demand in Switzerland, Zingg remains committed to promoting Atmos. In fact, Soundville is currently undergoing construction to accommodate four dedicated Atmos rooms. Zingg's conviction in the format's potential is evident, and he views it as an opportunity for experimentation and creativity. With an increasing number of clients experiencing the magic of Atmos, Zingg anticipates a rising demand in the future.
“Back in the old days when we had mono, we found that we suddenly had stereo, but a lot of people didn’t know what to do with it, so you had people putting one voice in one speaker and another voice in the other – people were spending a lot of time working out how to properly use stereo,” recalls Zingg. “Today, everything with stereo is fixed and you can’t do anything new with it. But now, we have Atmos, and it’s so beautiful. You can experiment, do new things, and try out whatever you wish. Clients are freaking out as soon as they hear it. The demand will come.”