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Sound engineer Troy Kelly in his studio The Armoury with his legendary mixing desk. Photo/Nicola Edmonds

A Wellington sound engineer's world-class studio

Sound engineer Troy Kelly built a world-class studio that’s sought after by creatives big and small.

The deep, leather settee at The Armoury could easily accommodate several clients. It’s sound engineer Troy Kelly’s latest touch as he builds a world-class studio that’s also a “comfortable, personal space”, sought after by creatives big and small, from near and far.

It seems to be working. The soundtrack for the New Zealand movie Daffodils was mixed there, by a music producer of international renown; Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie has recorded and engineered many musical endeavours at The Armoury; and Kelly can be called upon at any hour to record voiceovers for productions all over the world. “The other day, I did a voice record for a company in the Czech Republic,” he says. “An actor from the World of Warcraft game happened to be holidaying here, so he dropped in to record some dialogue.”

The studio’s location in the Wellington CBD is certainly handy, and it’s down a quiet side street – although the latter isn’t so important to Kelly, who thinks the soundproofing is “totally overdone. I can be recording a really loud band, with the volume making my eyeballs shake, and the people in the apartment upstairs don’t hear a thing.”

It’s also very comfy, with “the look of a “secret little whisky bar”, which is exactly what Kelly was going for when he began remodelling the former furniture factory five years ago. Bar the framing, he’s done all the work himself: the flooring, the joinery, the “mid-band diffusers” layered panelling, and the four-degree angling of the walls – all meticulously designed for acoustic perfection.

But the star of the studio is his SSL 4000G mixing desk, bought from Peter Gabriel, which was used from the late 80s at Gabriel’s Real Word studios to mix tracks for big names such as Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, Blur and Madonna. Only 500 of this model were ever made, says Kelly. “Between them, they’re said to have mixed more number ones than all other desks combined.” Next up, he has plans for a new surround-sound system for playback. “I’m constantly tweaking. I try to talk myself out of it, but my creativity always finds a hammer.”

This article was first published in the December 2019 issue of North & South. Follow North & South on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the fortnightly email for more great stories.