PMC Helps Fluid Mastering Replicate Its Much Loved Monitoring System

When audio professionals invest in PMC monitors they become part of the PMC family, and as such PMC will always try to help if one of its ‘family members’ decides to rebuild their facility or relocate elsewhere. In the case of Fluid Mastering, the internationally acclaimed mastering house set up by engineers Tim Debney and Nick Watson, PMC was happy to assist when Fluid announced it was moving out of its premises in Hammersmith and setting up two new studios in totally different parts of the UK.

As both Tim and Nick loved the PMC BB5-XBD Active monitors in Fluid’s main studio, they faced a Judgement of Solomon – who was going to take possession of these speakers, which had been a vital part of Fluid’s set up since its inception in 2006?

“We obviously couldn’t take one half each,” Tim laughs, “so the only solution was to get a second pair. PMC staff were very accommodating and managed to source an identical system for us, so we didn’t have to draw lots. The existing pair are now in my new studio in Surrey and Nick will soon install the second set in his studio in Bristol, once building work is completed. PMC also came to my studio and helped align them so that they are performing at their best.”

Moving Fluid to two locations instead of one was a big decision for Tim and Nick, who first met while at Townhouse Studios in London. When they first set up the business, London was the obvious base, but more than a decade on both men were living outside of the capital – Tim in Surrey and Nick in Bristol – so the way the pair were working was very different.

“It changed from being at the studios together for pretty much all of the week, to doing rotational shift work,” Tim says. “Nick had a lengthy commute, so it made more sense for him to stay in London for two or three days at a time and do all his work in one hit. My commute was only an hour from Hammersmith, so it was much easier for me to work around Nick’s days. Eventually we realized there was no point in all the commuting time and overheads involved in London premises when we didn’t have the benefit of working with each other anymore. We’d also got to the point where sharing one main studio didn’t give us enough capacity as we were both so busy trying to fit all our work into roughly three long days each a week.”

Although drastic, the solution was obvious – both engineers wanted to stay partners in the business, but they also needed their own studios, and building them close to their own homes was much better than commuting. Tim’s studio, which was built in his garden, is almost as large as Fluid’s old room in London. Nick’s studio will be equally spacious, but due to a few building headaches beyond his control it has taken longer to complete, so he is currently working from a temporary base.

“Our old studios were centered around great outboard gear,” Tim explains. “We both use some fabulous plugins as well, but we tend to get most of the vibe and general tone for a master from our collection of valve and analogue equipment. We’ve had to buy second units of all the bits we shared in London, including another Manley MP, Neve Portico II, and various Prism Sound converters, but from my own point of view setting up a new studio has allowed me to indulge my love for analogue gear and splash out on some new toys.”

Tim’s studio now boasts the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor along with a Cartec Tone Harmonics Compressor. In addition, he has invested in an SPL PQ and an SPL DMC Mastering Console and Hermes router for all the monitoring and routing. But pride of place still goes to the PMC BB5-XBD monitors that Tim and Nick were first introduced to at Townhouse Studios.

“The BB5s have always been my main speakers and I’ve been using them for almost 25 years,” Tim says. “They are the best speakers in the world for mastering because if there are any areas of the mix that need enhancement, you will really hear. I’m still amazed at the detail one hears, and how a great mix and production can sound on them. They’re very unforgiving, which is exactly what you want from a speaker in a mastering suite because it is the last chance to iron out any remaining issues with a track, so you want to hear what’s wrong and make it right.”

In addition to the BB5-XBD monitors, Fluid also has a pair of PMC twotwo6 monitors – currently with Nick in Bristol – that are used as a second listening reference. “They sound amazing, and are a really good contrast to the BB5s,” Tim says. “They give another perspective and allow us to confirm the decisions we’ve already taken.”

Since moving to his new studio, Tim mastered a plethora of tracks, covering many different styles and genres. Among them are projects for Peter Murphy, Brix Smith, Shed Seven, Buzzcocks, The Specials, The Wandering Hearts, Micah McLaurin, Bad Fractals, Tiggi Hawke, GIRLI, Jade Moss, The Wanted Sisters, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott, Chloe Flower, Sea Fever, Dean Blunt, Look Mum No Computer, Blossoms, Xpropoganda, Altered Images, The Teskey Brothers, Melt Yourself Down, The Shires, Red Moon, AURORA, FIZZ.

With Nick equally busy in Bristol, it is easy to see why splitting Fluid geographically and building two main studios instead of one was such a good idea!

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Main photo: Hannah Green