The Creative Science Centre

The Angmering School Recording Studio - more details

DIARY: building and using the recording studio October 1997

Angmering School Recording Studio Project:

Sixth form students -
Peter Akhurst, Philip Machin, Sam Denny, Samantha Woodward,
Jonathan Talbot-Weiss, Tom Billinghurst, Luke Woodham

Teachers -
Jan Meering

22-10-97 Intro. Talk

Gadgets and Gizmos:
A run through the world of electronics and things I have made. Idea to inspire the students into making and getting involved in the project. Talked about toys (flashing juggling balls), instruments (Magnetometer) as well as my altimeter and trip to Geneva. Went OK but was harder than I thought. Difficult to introduce a possible long term project when they have had no previous experience etc..

31-10-97 Workshop I

Building a simple circuit:
The students designed and built a simple LM3909 flashing circuit. Some had problems with the reversing of the copper tracks plan necessary for correct PCB manufacture. Seemed to really enjoy making the project. Went very well I think.

04-11-97 Workshop II

Intro. to mixer design and building some microphones:
Tried to introduce them to the idea of the mixer. Talked about variable resistors (sliders and rotary's) and the theory of the potentiometer. Talk fell flat a little on the demo and explanation of the problems of the two pot unbuffered mixer. However W/S really picked up when one of the students asked if we could make a microphone. So I set them to all make a FET mic, wire it and test it. Really enjoyed this - disaster diverted !

Motto - get them to make as much as they can and leave explanation of the 'theory' to their own questioning.


received some 'comments' from the Angmering lot about the W/S. nice

25-11-97 Workshop III

Building TDA2030 10 Watt amps:
Workshop went well (must make sure FeCl3 bath is concentrated to speed up etching process) all the amps worked. Main problems due to: i) bad soldering, ii) not soldering the odd connection, iii) not soldering connection pins or forgetting to put in components. Trouble sometimes with amp instability due to fly lead pickup on i/p's. The 1R + 0.1microF filter on Amp output found to be very important for stability / quality of sound. As usual 'boys' seem to be happier at getting stuck-in to making things and seem to need less help / reassuring. Realised that I didn't quite know how to help or give the right help at the right time.
Overall went well though.

16-12-97 Talk / Workshop at Angmering

What we've done so far and what's next:
Went over some of the skills learnt over the last few months. Talked about thinking about, designing and making pcb's. Gave them a soldering demo and talked about chemistry of the flux etc. Talked about capacitors and let them wire some up to store electricity to light a LED for a few seconds. Gave them an introduction to op-amps and how it will lead us on to the design of the mixer circuitry. Gave out four handouts on above. They were in good spirits what with Xmas, seemed to take in all I told them + came up with some good questions as usual.
A nice W/S to have before Xmas.

15-01-98 Workshop IV

Building the mixer pcb's:
The first WS of the new year went very well. Discussed the need for a gain and pan control on each input, talked through the circuit design and got them to wire up the pots (one single and one double gang pot). This was wired into a stereo amp which showed the pan(oramic) effect very nicely. Talked them through the op-amp theory again, leading on to the summing amp and then naturally onto the mixer design. They each built a mixer pcb, Philip used his own design. Drew up, etched and drilled the pcb's ready for the nest WS. Talked to Jan about the design of the case, which I hope they can start drilling ready for soldering / wiring all the pots (also in the next WS).

27-02-98 Workshop V

Starting the internal wiring of the mixer case:
All the team were here today except Sam who has changed courses, she still wants to be involved in the project but could not make today. Got the students to fit, wire and solder the slider pots, phono sockets, switches, resistors and LED's. Tested the LED's and all switches worked well. Experimented with the log slider wiring and using a combination of digital multimeter measurements and walkman audio link found the correct connections to the sliders. Got a long way with the wiring today. I think everyone got a go (or two) at wiring, mounting components or soldering. The usual banter continues between Philip and Peter !

06-03-98 Workshop VI

Building the mixer:
A full day workshop wiring up the faders, pots and L and R mixer pcb's. All went very well one channel didn't work at first but tracked down the problem to a few patches that needed re-soldering. Team work throughout the day was very good. Usually a pair of students would undertake any one task. Coped really well with wiring the pan-pots which I thought would be the most difficult part. Tested out four of the inputs with two stereo walkmans, could easily make L and R output a waklman each or mix them up completely, excellent. The first phase of the project has now been accomplished really well and with a lot of fun.

27-03-98 Workshop VII

Continuing wiring up mixer:
Added the master fader to the mixer as well as wiring up the o/p of the L and R mixer boards to the phonos. The joystick control has been fitted but not wired. Got Philip and Peter to make up the VU meter pcb's and test them, worked very well (first time !). The rest of the crew made up some more microphones. Had a relatively relaxed afternoon session, I think we were all a bit tired or in a Friday afternoon mood but despite this still managed to get quite a lot dome.
As usual workshop was no hassle at all.

14-05-98 Progress Meeting with Jan Meering

Jan came over to the University to chat about the future plans of the project, latest photo's and student involvement etc. Booked up some W/S so that we can complete all the equipment so that the studio can be assembled. Look toward finishing all the 'nuts and bolts' of the project by the summer and Autumn as the test runs and recording sessions at the school.

27-05-98 Workshop VIII

Building an active extension lead, mics and boxed VU meter electronics:
An all day workshop with all the group. Most were busy wiring the microphone inserts, fitting clip, heatshrinking and wiring onto the phono plug. Tom and Sam made the extension lead box's. The first dicast box consisted of wiring for 8 phono sockets, load resistors, battery, switch and LED all cabled up to the heavy duty 8 way coax. Roughly 10 m of coax then fed into the other box were decoupling capacitors allowed signal take off for the mixer. This 'active' extension lead allowed the 8 mic's to be powered by one battery and feed to the mixer via a heavy duty lead. John and Luke made the box for the VU meters and Luke did most of the soldering to the pcbs and internal other wiring.
Quite a long day overall, but very productive.

18-06-98 Workshop IX (Angmering)

Finished wiring up the VU meters (Peter wired LED while Tom and Jonathan tested a number of op-amps to find the ones with the lowest offset's). Adjusted both VU meters for equal deflection for same signal. Jonathan and Tom wired up the dc socket for the Mixer. Tested the whole thing out and tried our first proper recording test run.
wiring :
mics to extension lead to mixer to VU meters to recorder
(all cabled with screened phono leads)

Worked really well, good quality. Mixed together three mics and two stereo's. When we played back mix, we were surprised by the result. Sounded as if Paul Weller was jamming in the background to the chatter of the students - really funny ! (got this on video) Confused at the start because the mic's were coming through on both o/p channels. Thought that we were getting cross modulation via the power supply - then we remembered the pan pots !
Used Luke's guitar amp as a monitor.

02-07-98 Workshop X (Angmering)

Jan came over with the school van and we took some 'recording studio' furniture over to the school. Wired up the equipment and spent some time playing around with it all. Philip and Tom are keen to wire things up, but sometimes theres not much for others to do. Will need to really focus in on the recording projects and design them so that everyone gets things to do.

12-07-98 headphone amp

Built Tom and Philips 10 Watt amps into a box to make the headphone driver. Can feed 4 stereo headphones also has i/p, o/p phonos, volume control, power sockets and a transparent lid so that their pcb work can be seen. Very good.

15-07-98 First Test Runs at Angmering

Nearing the end of term now and we all want to use the equipment we have made for a real recording demo before the summer holidays. Made three recordings and learnt a lot about pan, gain and mic sensitivity.
second recording of UTOPIA was much better.

James Mcgreathman and Stephen Snell, reading H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds
local school band UTOPIA:
Russell Thorne (lead guitar and vocals) (recorded twice)
Ian Midgely (bass)
Chris Ladbrook (drums)

09-10-98 Summary and test run

Discussed all aspects of the Rec. Stud. and went through everything we had made and designed. Tracked down a fault to a problem in one of the phono leads. Set up equipment and tested everything. Used the labelling machine - set-up looks very professional now.

13-10-98 Recordings and press day

Tried to do systematic recordings to see the change on recorded sound when changing the pan positions. First run with all pan settings all half way L-R (i.e. recording in mono) then next recording was made with specific separation on each type of sound source (i.e. vocals - centre, drums and percussion - partly left, bass and guitar - partly right). Latter recording sounded much sharper and better tone.
Press popped in throughout the afternoon (Evening Argus and Littlehampton Gazette). Need to get everyone to write down what we are doing, how and what changes, as they do them.

Spring 99

Mocks and final exams over this period mean not too much activity with the recording studio but despite this they did do a number of recording sessions with local bands, Utopia and Widesream. Still experimenting with pan and gain pot settings and microphone positions to get best sounds. The reel to reel tape player is not as good quality as the Sony Professional Walkman and so we must get one of these for the studio.

25-06-99 1st Workshop with new crew

Met the new lot of seven Y8 pupils that will take over from the sixth form :
talked about microphones converting sound into electricity (generators etc.). Also discussed the difference between Mono and Stereo and the fact that we have two ears (speed of sound etc.). Introduced the mixing desk and the pan and gain pots. Talked through and demonstrated building a FET microphone and they each then spent the rest of the time making one up. They then tested their own microphones on the mixing desk and amplifier - playing with the gain and pan pots and listening to their voices through headphones.

Page last update: 28th. June 1999
Contents are copyright Creative Science Centre, University of Sussex.


Dr Jonathan Hare, The University of Sussex
Brighton, East Sussex. BN1 9QJ

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