As a little boy of 8 years old, somewhere in the year 1970, Wilfried Van Baelen started to play trumpet in a local harmony together with his dad René Van Baelen.
At the age of 12 he fell in love with electronic organs and synthesizers which he was so passionate about he started giving concerts at only 15 years old. Meanwhile Wilfried’s 3 year younger brother Guy started to play trumpet as well. A few years later they even used to play many wedding concerts together!
– After Wilfried bought him a soldering machine for his 12th birthday, Guy built Wilfried’s first synthesizer. Clever boys, win win for both of them!
– Three years later Guy started to build ‘Galaxis’, the world’s biggest electronic organ which required more than 1.000 soldering hours. You can already guess where the name of our studios comes from.
– Later on Guy also built the biggest digital organ ‘Atlantis’, on which Wilfried played many concerts in Europe. In total he performed over 800 concerts.
When Wilfried Van Baelen was only 17 years old, in 1979, he was asked by the director of a local record label to create a LP and that was when he realized he wanted and needed a recording studio.
Many questions about how and where the studio needed to be, had to be answered. But the easiest and most logical answer was: ‘The Old Chicken Coop’ in the back garden of his parents. Until then they had about 2000 chickens every 2 months inside of the chicken coop, but the idea of a music studio sounded way more exciting!
The Chicken Coop Studio got a better name when it was finished: “Studio Galaxy”
The construction of Studio Galaxy started in 1980 and was in operation in 1981.
– To get a good isolation, the studio walls of the chicken coop were filled up with 9 tons of rubber!
– During the summer holidays in 1980 the brothers started each Saturday morning at 6AM to make concrete blocks (weight of 30 kilos each) with a drill table designed and created by their dad René.
It started with an OTARI 8 track recorder and RSD console which was one year later replaced by a SOUNDCRAFT 2400 console (32 in / 24 out).
In December 1982, Studio Galaxy was officially founded as a company.
Wilfried’s first LP, which he performed, arranged, recorded and mixed himself, was released. All sounds originated from the Galaxis Organ were played live since there was no midi and only the rhythm section was programmable. It became an international success in the shops of Wersi.
A year later he got 5 first prizes at the Royal Conservatorium Antwerp, including classical organ.
Together with their friend Joris Van den Hauwe, they invested in a 24 track 2 inch recorder to create musical projects.
Having not enough tracks for the Galaxy Project (The musical project of Wilfried and Joris) 24 tracks were added by installing two AKAI ADAM DR1200 digital 12 track recorders to get 48 tracks in total.
The Tannoy speakers were exchanged by the 3-wayJBL 4450 which became a very popular monitoring system in top recording studios.
The next big step was the AMEK ANGELA (see pic) with 51 channels inline console with fader automation. Many nr.1 hits were produced or mixed by Wilfried.
The new Genelec 1024A speakers became the new choice for more control over the recordings and mixings see pic)
Step by step Studio Galaxy became one of Belgium’s most popular studios by the end of the 80″s. More and more nr.1 hits were engineered and produced by Wilfried.
Following the upcoming digital trend in music production, Studio Galaxy installed as first in Belgium and Netherlands the Sony 3348 Digital Recorder (see pic) allowing for 1 hour recording of 48 digital tracks on one tape. Studio Galaxy was the first in Europe with 96 track digital recording using 2x Sony 3348 Digital Recorders which were running sync with the accuracy of 1 sample in 48kHz/24 bit.
But Wilfried Van Baelen wasn’t finished yet. Even though the studio had great success, the idea of making a completely new interactive studio complex grew and grew and grew bigger inside his mind. His growing idea in a nutshell;
The only way to achieve all of the above mentioned goals was by making separate bunkers for each room and put them on large metal springs! Eric Desart (technical director op Gerber) together with Prof. Gerrit Vermeir (University Leuven) designed this very complex system. Right now Galaxy Studios has 15 bunkers on springs! Insane.
The new complex was an ‘expansion’ of the existing studio. Whilst the new studio complex was under construction, the original Studio Galaxy was still in full swing, recording and mixing hits.
Once the complex was opened in 1995, everyone wanted to work in the new rooms and the original studio needed an ‘upgrade’: it was replaced by 3 bunkers on springs and its control room became the first ever studio for 5.1 surround for the music industry. To achieve this milestone, a large format console was custom made by SSL and later replaced by the API Vision.
The biggest challenge was to isolate the lowest audible frequencies as low as 20 Hertz. Since isolation only starts from the corresponding resonance frequency, it was necessary to find a way to start the isolation from less than 3Hz.
Therefore, they decided to put concrete bunkers on specially designed metal springs, to bring the resonance frequency for each room to less than 3Hz. Those special springs were designed by Eric Desart.
In 1994 measurements were taken by prof. Vermeir and Desart and resulted in a world record: 100,7 dB isolation between each room with visual connection and a gap between the walls not more than 60 cm. Since then this world record has not been broken.
To reach the 100,7 db isolation between each room with visual connection the glass panels and doors were a big deal to think about.
Calculations and research showed that the windows needed to be 11cm thick glass panels with a weight up to 1080kg each… Such panels had never been produced in Europe before.
The only way to position such heavy glass panels in their designated position in their special produced concrete frames was by using a lifting machine. The only problem was that lifting machines up till then could only lift glass panels up to about 800Kg.
Specialised companies were consultant to [place the glass panels but couldn’t come up with a solution. Therefor, Guy Van Baelen had to invent a new machine to be able to lift the glass panels and put them precisely in their frames. By using pneumatic suction technology, his machine could lift glasses up to a weight of 1500Kg.
The isolation is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. So besides the glass panels and the airco system, the doors were a big challenge. Especially because they also had to be efficient and easy to handle for young and old.
Each door would have to insulate 55dB, so at least 3 doors are needed between the recording rooms and control rooms to equal the isolation of > 100 dB.
Finally an inaudible air-conditioning system was required. Eric Desart developed the quietest air-conditioning system ever installed with a remarkable result of NR5 for the low frequencies.
The Galaxy Hall (330 m2 with a height of 8 meters) is renowned for its outstanding acoustical qualities, being as well the quietest recording space of that size on the planet: only 14 dB background noise
The system has been designed to exchange the volume of the room 3 times per hour. In the Galaxy Hall the system is calculated to keep perfect control over the temperature and humidity up to 50 people and 35 degree Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) outside.
Soon extended with a second 3348 to run in total 96 channels of digital recording.
The synchronisation system of those 2 recorders was extremely precise, running sample sync in 48kHz.
Galaxy Studios ordered in 1992 the first ever Neve Capricorn allowing 96 track recording and mixing in the digital domain. The “Total Reset” function allowed for a recall in just a few seconds of the full setup of the console including the automation of all buttons.
At that time we had the Neve VRP 72 and Neve Capricorn Consoles
After working 185.000 man hours to complete the first phase, Galaxy Studios was opened in March 1995.
The Original Chickencoop Studio was still up and running inside the new complex and even got a window to the Galaxy Hall!
The Chicken Coop was finally taken out and replaced by the same bunker system on springs: A control room and 2 recording rooms.
The first ever 5.1 surround studio for music production with a custom built SSL 9080J was installed.
Galaxy Studios expanded their services to sound for film with installing a Dolby Certified dubbing stage. That same room (Hybrid MPR) became later the world’s first ever dubbing (mixing) stage for Immersive Audio (see further) for movie industry in which the first ever movie Immersive Audio was mixed for George Lucas and released in the AURO-3D format.
After 318.000 man hours of work in the building, the Galaxy Studio complex finished phase 1 in 1999.
Mastering Room for Stereo and 5.1 Surround with the SPL MMC 1, a groundbreaking “Music Mastering Console” (concept designed by Ronald Prent) that became a top reference for multi-awarded mastering engineers.
Born of the AURO-3D format concepted by our CEO Wilfried Van Baelen
Expansion with an IMAGE POST department with the first 4K Digital Intermediate workflow in Europe and a team of 15 specialists.
Launch of the AURO-3D format at the AES Spatial Conference in Tokyo
First ever AMS-Neve 88D installed at Galaxy Studios in the first ever Recording and Mixing studio in Immersive Audio with a large format audio console that has 3D routing and 3D panning (concept designed by Wilfried Van Baelen)
Wilfried’s proposal convinced AMS Neve CEO Mark Crabtree that Immersive Audio would be the future. After 3 years of development, AMS-Neve installed their first ever 88D console in Galaxy Studios in April 2010.
Before this, such a console didn’t exist. There was no panning in 3D, no routing, everything was limited to 7.1 output channels.
Wilfried Van Baelen has produced more than 20 platinum albums on this console.
First ever Film console with 3D audio AMS-Neve DFC-3D installed at Galaxy Studios. The first ever movie released in 3D Immersive Sound was mixed at Galaxy Studios on this console in November 2011 for George Lucas using the AURO-3D format. He released the movie Red Tails in January 2012 which became a milestone in the history of film and sound.
Building PHASE 2 (black building), doubling the original space of Galaxy Studios including the AuroTorium, Pre-dub stage, Mastering room, audio suites, foley studio, business lounges, offices, leisure rooms, hotel rooms etc..