Inside Sonic Pump Studios: Atmos, rock roots, and the future of music in Helsinki

Located in the heart of Helsinki, Sonic Pump is one of the Finnish capital’s leading studios, boasting a rich rock heritage but an incredibly eclectic clientele. Headliner took a trip to the city for a chat with sound engineer and musician Aleksi Wilberg about the local music scene, the trends shaping the studio market and the demand for immersive services.

The moment one sets foot inside Sonic Pump Studios, the facility’s status as a legendary heavy rock location is made immediately apparent. Its walls are lined with award winning records from many of the enormous acts to have pass through its doors. The studio was founded in 2000 and is owned by revered rock engineer and producer Nino Laurenne, who counts among his clients the likes of The Rasmus, Amorphis, Lost Society, Sonata Arctica, Lordi, Wintersun and Finntroll.

However, there is far more to Sonic Pump than standing as a hub for rock and metal. While it still welcomes plenty of these artists, its customer base spans all manner of styles and genres, from EDM and pop to big band jazz and folk outfits. Indeed, the space lends itself well to such a varied range of projects, boasting two large live rooms and 20 mini production rooms.

It's also one of the few Dolby Atmos certified studios in the country, complete with a GLM monitoring setup from fellow Finnish institution Genelec.

Here, Wilberg fills us in on his background with Sonic Pump, where the studio sector in Finland is headed, and much more…

How did you come to be involved in Sonic Pump Studios?

I have a production room here and I’ve rented it for three years, and I’ve also been a studio assistant for Nino the owner of the studio. He has worked with many legendary Finnish metal bands. He’s quite famous as a recording and mix engineer here in the Finnish scene and internationally, as many of those bands have had international careers as well.

Is it mostly rock acts that come through here?

There are a lot of rock and metal bands that continue to work here, but this studio is not restricted to that genre. We have such great facilities and the ability to record bigger bands means we get a lot of different acts, from jazz bands to folk music.

Does that make it a good place for people from different genres and styles to network and come together?

Yes, it does to a point. This place is unique in that there are a lot of people who work on different genres. There are some other studios round here who focus on one particular genre, but we have film composers, hard rock acts, EDM people, it’s a real mixed bag. So, there is not so much competition amongst people here. And sometimes that means there are opportunities.

Is there a dominant music scene in Helsinki?

The Helsinki scene is very varied and there are lots of subsets of people making different types of music. It’s a very vibrant and varied scene.

Tell us about the main mix room that we’re currently sitting in.

We’re in the main control room, which is called C1 and has a Genelec Dolby Atmos certified setup. It’s 7.4.2. and it’s all calibrated by the GLM system. The Dolby guys came here and took a look at the GLM calibration, so it’s been doubly checked and it sounds really nice. We mostly work in the box here; there are some select pieces of hardware and outboard, but most of the mixing is done using Pro Tools and plugins and maybe some hardware inserts.

How did you come by the GLM system? What can you tell us about the performance of the system?

Genelec has been really great at setting up the monitoring so we don’t have to do anything. And if there are any problems, they just send someone here to take a look. It’s a really hassle-free solution for a big studio that has so much use. We don’t want to spend any down time tinkering with the monitoring, so it’s great. The system sounds so clear and it makes making decisions really easy.

Tell us about Atmos setup and how in demand Atmos services are?

The Atmos setup is here to futureproof the studio. In Finland there hasn’t been huge demand for Atmos in the music scene, it’s mostly been a film thing. But I think the demand is going to rise over time. And it’s a real selling point, as in Finland there are only four Dolby certified recording studios and two Dolby certified mastering studios.

How different is the process of mixing immersive projects compared to stereo?

When comparing the two, it’s just a case of adding a few extra steps. You have to in essence create a different mix for Atmos but it’s better to start with the stereo mix if you have it already and then rearrange it to fit the Atmos setup. It has its own workflow and there are certain quirks you need to learn and then after that it should be quite easy to take your stereo mixing skills to Atmos.

Is there a vibrant studio industry bubbling up in Helsinki?

Finland is following the global trend in terms of this technological advancement. And we have oeksound and Genelec who both serve a global market, so I don’t feel that Finland is anything special in this case, it’s just a part of the global technological advancements.

You can listen to this interview in full below.