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Pioneer at Air Studios: This is what amazing audio looks like

Pioneer invited us to hear its home cinema and stereo music systems at George Martin's Air Studios -- we were blown away

Ian Morris

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It's that time of year again, when manufacturers remind us that their CES announcements actually result in a product for people to buy. And so Pioneer invited us along to Air Studios to see -- and hear -- its home cinema and stereo music systems. We gladly accepted the invitation, and were thoroughly looking forward to hearing some high-quality music in a place famous for making it.

Of course, Pioneer also wanted us to get excited about its new stereo audio range. That was no challenge -- as soon as our hosts turned on their new equipment we fell into slack-jawed awe. Pioneer knows how to make incredible-sounding hi-fi gear, and with the help of Air, it sounds like music should.

Crisp high end, beautifully controlled low end and more detail than you could possibly imagine. In fact, we can't help think it's better than actually being there, because unlike singers, CD players don't get tired and grumpy if you ask them to play the same song over and over again.

So, without further ado, take a look at our photos from the day. We'll be bringing you some more product-specific shots in the near future, but for now, have a look around Air Studios, and be amazed at how much love and care goes into producing amazing audio and setting up some stunning equipment.

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As we arrived, we did feel a little excited. Air has a long reputation for being pretty damn terrific. After a bacon roll, we were let into Studio 1, where we'd be spending our day listening to Pioneer AV and stereo gear.
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When we finally got into the studio space, we were greeted by lots of cotton thread on the floor. Pioneer weren't just trying to wind up some local kittens, there was actually a very good reason for this, which we found out pretty quickly.
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Here you can see two intersecting pieces of cotton, and at their meeting point is a speaker.
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The speakers are very precisely aligned, to the point that Pioneer had used cocktail sticks located at the centre of the speaker to line everything up.
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The 5.1 speaker system consisted of Pioneer's very high-end gear. The stereo front speakers were S-1EX-W, the rear-effects channels a pair of S-2EX-W 'bookshelf' speakers. The centre channel was provided by the S-7EX-W and there were a pair of S-W250S-W subwoofers. This image is the point where all speaker lines converge. It's the sweet spot of the whole setup.
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And here's the chair that sits in the best listening position in the house. Guess who sat in it...
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There's no point making sure the speakers are pointing in the right direction unless you use good cable, bound to the speakers in the correct way.
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Once we'd had the demo, we got a chance to visit the control gallery for studio 1. The speakers in here are quite stunning, and probably the best quality sound any human will ever hear. Unless you were in the next room of course, listening to the actual performance.
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You won't be surprised to see faders in a music studio, and here are some.
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And here are some more. Note the hair: perhaps this is the hair of some super-producer? Perhaps that hair fell off a Gallagher brother during a session for the new Oasis album?
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No professional environment is complete without some sort of sticky tape. Here, the 'post-it' tape is used for scribbling on the sound desk, you know, because scribbling on the actual desk would be REALLY bad.
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Here audio is patched into places and devices. This has a wonderful feel to it, and is far more satisfying than flipping some switches, although admittedly with the potential to be far more confusing. On the plus side, you can send audio anywhere just by plugging a cable in.
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And check this out. Hardcore meters. Honestly, you can't beat an analogue meter. These are glorious-looking things. It's interesting to note that this audio desk was custom built for Air Studios when they were based in Oxford Street. When it was installed, the custom Neve desk had to be dropped in with a crane. When Air moved to its new studio complex in Hampstead, they had to take it down the stairs. It took a long time and was probably very stressful. What with this desk being one of only two in the world at the time.
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Neat cables = neat mind. This sure beats our cable-storage facility, which amounts to little more than a big pile of cables all tangled up in a drawer.
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This machine has flashy lights. This is the sort of thing we love, although we have almost no idea what it's for.
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It's not just amazing electronics either, they have instruments. This is something called a piano. It's analogue. Sound is made by smashing some little hammers into some metal wire. Mmm. Hammers.
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And here are the wires that make the sound. How quaint.
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Imagine the buttocks that have rested here. This could be the most famous arse rest in the whole of North London.
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Because Air Studios are in an old church, there has to be a decent amount of soundproofing done to make sure you can't hear the hustle and bustle of London. But it's done so beautifully, it's a lovely place to hang out.
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Even the mugs in this place are awesome.

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