How The President Of Shaw Communications Built A Pro-Grade Recording Studio In His Home
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Peter Bissonnette had been making music for over 40 years. He’d studied sound engineering, played in bands and engineered their albums, and cobbled together various recording rigs along the way… but all on the side while he pursued his ‘real’ career in Telecommunications as President of Shaw Communications Inc. It’s a common story with a common problem: it left his dream unfulfilled of having a truly professional-grade recording studio in his home.
But with his retirement finally around the corner, Peter decided it was high time to make that dream come true. He wanted a system that challenged his need to continue to learn in his retirement years. He knew he needed to step up from his current rig – built around an Allen & Heath board – to a console like in a big studio. “I wanted it to be really professional,” Peter said. But he was unsure about whether to go with an analog board or if there wasn’t a better solution when it came to his needs and desires. And that was just the first of his many questions.
So Peter did what he’d always done: he contacted a major retail music shop. As always, the rep had suggestions. But in the back of Peter’s mind, he knew this wasn’t going to be just another trip to the gear store, then back home to patch things together. This was different. Too much was on the line this time to not get direction from a real pro.
That’s when he decided to visit some credible studios. And that’s how a total stranger, running a studio in the Calgary, Alberta area, told Peter that if he wanted to step up to a pro-grade studio, he also had to step up to a pro-grade rep. He had to talk to a fellow named Bryon Low from Annex Pro.
“Bryon’s the man,” was how he put it. That total stranger ought to know, since Bryon had helped him build his own studio. And that was just one of many studios Bryon had successfully built over the course of his 25+ years with Annex Pro, during which time he’d earned the uncontested designation within the industry as ‘The Pro Tools Guy’ in Western Canada.
So Peter called Bryon with his long list of questions, particularly what would be the best type of console to go with. In Peter’s words, “Bryon followed up so unbelievably with details. He gave me all the confidence I needed that he knew what was the best way for me.” Peter had found his pro-grade rep. Now it was time to find his pro-grade rig.
Peter’s new studio would ultimately include a Focusrite ISA828 preamp, a Neumann U87 mic, Genelec 1032BPM and Focal Alpha 80 monitors, and at the heart of it all, Avid’s S6 M40 control surface.
But when Peter was originally listening to the music shop rep, the ProTools HD solutions hadn’t been suggested. Since Avid’s HD line was clearly the solution of choice for the studio owners he’d researched, Peter decided a ProTools HDX system and S6 M40 control surface was the smart choice.
And once Peter connected with Bryon, he knew he was safely in the hands of a ProTools HD master. “I was actually a little worried about being too much of a layperson for Bryon to deal with,” Peter laughed later. It wasn’t long before he benefitted from what the Annex Pro team had learned over 30+ years of providing bespoke white-glove service: clients want a rep that knows it all but is still approachable, no matter how much the client knows.
“Annex Pro more than lived up to their reputation of being professional, easy to deal with, very thorough and flexible with an overarching level of service you would expect, but that you don’t very often experience. Now I’m proud to have a truly professional studio in my home, and I have the confidence that Annex Pro’s team is behind me all the way in keeping my rig running smoothly.”
Or as Annex Pro Founder and President Kerry Corlett puts it, “Complex equipment can be intimidating, so if you’re not highly technical, we can make it possible for you to easily access what pros use, if you have the budget.” Which is exactly what Peter discovered when working with Bryon.
After looking at photos of the space in Peter’s home, Bryon pulled together concepts of what would work where (including high-end Blackmagic Design video camera equipment and custom LED lighting for the filming Peter wanted to do). “Bryon’s credibility with me was as high as it can be,” Peter said. “I trusted him because he did what he said was going to do. He was very detail oriented. He was very thorough. There was just a continued reaffirmation that I was making the right decision both in what I was buying and where I was buying it from.”
After pre-building and pre-testing the system at Annex Pro’s Vancouver headquarters, Bryon personally drove it down to Peter’s home outside Calgary. When Peter opened the door and saw Bryon’s face, he turned and called to his wife, “Santa’s here!” By the end of the day, Peter was listening to his up-and-running Pro Tools system. “That Neumann U87 coming through those preamps,” Peter gushed, “it’s like liquid gold.”
As usual, not everything went to plan, but Bryon knew how and when to adjust. And after he’d come back for two extra half-days to tweak and manage extra setup tasks, Peter was more than ready to run with his new pro-grade studio.
“The ultimate test is how you feel about the output,” Peter said. “I feel really, really good about the output and how the system sounds. I’ve had people come over and they’ve been blown away by how it sounds.” That’s not surprising considering Peter’s system is basically the same as the one Bryan Adams had installed in The Warehouse Studio to replace an older analog system.
But it didn’t take long for Peter to discover that being the proud owner of a complex professional recording system wasn’t an adventure he wanted to go alone. Fortunately, when he suddenly couldn’t get any sound to come of his system one day, help was only a phone call away. “Bryon took about an hour to walk me through a firmware upgrade I needed,” Peter said. “I told him I didn’t want to be calling every day, but Bryon said ‘I’m available 24/7, so call or email,’ and he’s been true to that.”
Peter started working every day, laying down tracks, and falling in love with his Pro Tools system. “I’d said to Bryon, one of the things you could really help me with would be to put together a couple of Pro Tools templates for me. And when he got here, he had done that and more. It was unbelievable.”
But then one day he phoned Bryon with a whole new challenge to solve. The studio in Peter’s home in California just wasn’t good enough anymore. He wanted it to emulate what he had back in Calgary. So Bryon arranged for a smaller 16 channel Pro Tools S6 board to be shipped down with Genelecs and the same Focusrite preamp. “It was so good the first time, I’m doing it again,” Peter laughed.
“Annex Pro more than lived up to their reputation of being professional, easy to deal with, very thorough and flexible with an overarching level of service you would expect, but that you don’t very often experience,” Peter said. “Now I’m proud to have a truly professional studio in my home, and I have the confidence that Annex Pro’s team is behind me all the way in keeping my rig running smoothly.”
The Next Step
Are you curious to know what a professional recording studio would look like in your world? Are you insistent on having private access to ongoing support virtually 24/7? As Peter discovered, it’s possible with Annex Pro in your corner. Just ask the pro clients we’ve been fortunate to serve over the years, from Sarah McLachlan to Elvis Costello and AC/DC, to name a few.
With offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, together with a network of reps across the country, and unlimited email and phone tech support, Annex Pro has you covered.
So if you’re considering stepping up to the pro level, your next step is to reach out to Bryon Low at 800-682-6639 ext. 107 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to making your recording dream come true.