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Articles March-April 2021

Step Inside the All New Mondosonic Studio

The all new Mondosonic Studio, located in Ottapalam, Kerela, is a custom Music Production Facility and Studio. With Recording Equipment, Workflows..... read more

Bishwadeep Conceptualizes Sound Design in the Box

Having spent most of his career in Song and Music Recording, Bishwadeep Dipak Chatterjee was constantly toying with the idea of getting involved in designing sound for films..... read more

Celto Acoustique

Established in 2011, CELTO Acoustique is a premium manufacturer of professional audio products for the events and install industry. Founder, owner and CEO - Arthur Felix first displayed his entrepreneurial skills at the age of 14 when he built..... read more

Acoustically OdBle

With Vijay Benegal and Mujeeb Dadarkar

Vijay Benegal and Mujeeb Dadarkar have between them more than 4 decades of extensive experience in the audio industry in India. They have done it all, from recording and mixing for ad films, to doing live sound for renowned artistes..... read more

All About Music, the Marantz Story

In conversation with Joel Sietsem and Alankara Santhana

Marantz has established a strong foundation in the industry with their High fidelity audio systems since the 1970s. Marantz designs products that have intricate detail..... read more

Acoustic and Audio System Design for Small Rooms - PART 6

By - Rahul Sarma, CEO, Menura Acoustic Labs in collaboration with Sound Wizard

We started this series with the definition of a small room, and went on to discuss wave interactions. We continued onto sound isolation, absorption and diffusion in parts 2 and 3. Parts 4 and 5 covered system design goals and finally how to optimize a system..... read more

Studio Showcase

If you had a sign above every Studio door saying ‘This studio is a Musical Instrument’ it would make such a different approach to recording.” - Brian Eno..... read more


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Interview - Acoustics

Acoustically OdBle

With Vijay Benegal and Mujeeb Dadarkar





Vijay Benegal and Mujeeb Dadarkar have between them more than 4 decades of extensive experience in the audio industry in India. They have done it all, from recording and mixing for ad films, to doing live sound for renowned artistes, from recording and mixing music in the studios to designing studios, performance spaces and more and teaching in various audio institutes across Mumbai.

Having founded OdBle in late 2004, the duo began their journey into acoustic consultancy adding prestigious projects into their profile. In this interview with PT, Vijay and Mujeeb describe their journey in this industry and share their perspective and experiences in the acoustics domain.


Tell us something about your background. How did you find your calling in audio engineering? Any main early influences?

Vijay: I would probably say my early influence was my dad who was very much into music, so music was always an integral part of my life. When I got to college, I met Shantanu Hudlikar who was in the same batch as me and we hung around together a lot and spent a lot of time listening to albums. That was the point in time when my whole attitude towards music changed. After college I worked for 3 ½ years in computer software development, completed my MBA in Manila, Philippines, after which I jumped three jobs in one year. I was very unhappy with what I was doing. My brother’s band Rock Machine was recording their second album around the same time in a studio called Music Room, where Shantanu was the chief recording engineer. I would spend all my free time in the studio, observing and getting an idea of what transpires in the studio. One night when I was complaining to Shantanu about my job, he told me they needed another engineer and to consider it as an option. That’s when a loud bell rang in my head and I realized that this was my calling. So, I would say Shantanu was an early influence and Ehsaan Noorani too as I worked a lot with him in the early days.

Mujeeb: Formal education is in electronic engineering. I was always an avid music listener, but I never thought I’d end up making a career out of it. When I came back from the US, I was working for a consulting engineering firm in Bangalore and Rajesh Jhaveri along with his cousin was building a studio in Mumbai. A friend asked if I could help set it up and that’s how I came back to Bombay and helped set up the studio and got involved in this field. This was in 1984 and I roped in another friend, Rajiv Kenkre to help me set up the studio. Rajesh then asked us if we could also run the studio for him and that’s how my journey in this industry started. I worked in a studio called Rave after that and after Rave folded in about 1989, I went completely the freelance way, as a result of which I used to go to Music Room as well and that’s where I met Vijay.

In those days studio sound engineering was a lot about trial and error, but in those days, the business wasn’t as big or as politically complicated as it is now. It was fairly common for random people to show up at the studio and hang around, so people had an easy access to knowledge and trading information.

How did OdBle come into being?

Mujeeb: I had already done some projects as a consultant and I was having a hard time dealing with so many irons in the fire at the same time. At some point, I spoke to Vijay and I said I have a new, upcoming project and I don’t think I can manage it by myself. That’s when I thought of formalizing this and getting into business together. 

Vijay: We could fill in for each other so one of us would always be available to the client.

But did you start OdBle because you were bored with what you were doing and you thought we should do something else?

Mujeeb: Not really. My work continued. Also, by that time, I had almost recused myself from the mainstream advertising business. I haven’t done recordings for commercials from more than 10 years. I found myself losing interest in coming in at 8:00 in the morning and doing a remix because the client doesn’t like it or because someone decided to try another voice.

Vijay: Many  aspects of the advertising world were changing and not in a nice way, at least not for us. It was more of a pain or an imposition and we were losing interest as well as the creativity. We were just getting mechanical at the job. Mujeeb backed out of it much before I did and eventually I did too. For a long while, I only had one client in the advertising world. I did whatever work came from the film business as it was more interesting.

Mujeeb: Advertising expanded hugely and it became a business of volume rather than that of quality, which explains why you can’t remember a single jingle from recent times, but you can from the 80s. Eventually, everything just became mechanical and boredom set in. Around the year 2000, I said to myself, I will only do the work that I’m interested in so I started going on tour for live performances, whereas Vijay sort of focused more on feature film music. Of course all this was independent of OdBle. 

Is it easier to start a venture with friends or is it more challenging?

Vijay: More often than not money is always an issue when you start a business together and, this is one of the things I stated to Mujeeb very early on in our partnership, because I knew that this could destroy the relationship. I have always believed and it’s something I learnt during my MBA, that friendship and business don’t go together. If you are getting into a partnership with your friend, both have to be very clear. So at the very beginning I told Mujeeb, I don’t ever want to get into an argument about money. I trust you and you have to trust me and everything should be split down the middle, whether it is expenses or profits.

But we don’t shy away from arguments where work is concerned. We’ve had enough arguments, shouting matches, where technical and creative decisions about the project come in but that’s part of the process, and we will eventually come up with the design that we are both happy with. 

Tell us a little more about OdBle. What are the services OdBle offers? 

Vijay: We offer acoustical consulting services which apply to any space that might require to be treated acoustically. We have also had some unusual projects come to us like treating somebody’s kitchen. 

Treating a kitchen? 

Mujeeb: Yes. We got called by a client who had an unusual problem. In his home he had moved his kitchen to where the bedroom was earlier for Vastu reasons. The banging of kitchen cupboards and pots & pans  was a constant source of irritation and disturbance to the neighbour who had his bedroom on the other side of the wall. The client had moved his kitchen intentionally, which is a noisy environment, to where the bedroom was without thinking that the neighbor had his bedroom on the other side. Now he wanted us to treat the room and make it soundproof. So we also get such types of strange projects. 

Vijay: We have also done some interesting live venues. Our services are not limited only to designing the internal acoustics but also analyzing the qualitative aspects of audio inside the space. We also get involved in the specking and integration of systems that may be required. 

Do you find it difficult to manage unusual expectations?

Mujeeb: No. The difficulty is usually that you have the brightest ideas in the world, but not bottomless pockets. Everything is possible provided you have the ability to throw enough money. So, in our business, you don’t just have to find a solution but you have to find a cost-effective solution and that is where the difficulty lies. Sometimes we surrender and sometimes you have to say this problem can be solved but it costs an inordinate amount of money. Also, we have to be honest and consider if the client can justify that expense. I can’t imagine getting a client to spend a large amount of money just to solve a problem that has no commercial benefit or ROI for the client in the long term. Whatever we do should be in the client’s interest, even if he doesn’t realize it at the time. We do not want to be the cause of the client spending large amounts of money to achieve something that he thinks is right but is actually not beneficial for him. He should then be told the truth and after that if he still wishes to go ahead then we are fine with it.

Vijay: On occasion, we’ve been called in to solve a problem that somebody else has done with an attitude that this is the way the client wanted it. On many occasions right advice has not been given to the client and we have had to say that you need to tear this down and build it again.

Mujeeb: And this is painful to anybody. Now, the guy before us chose to do this, and you agreed with him because you didn’t know better, or you thought he was advising you correctly but now it turns out to be a problem. In fact, I think we at OdBle were responsible for turning down more jobs than we should instead of getting involved in a situation where we have to say that you wanted it. In all the classes I take, I make it a point to tell my students there’s a concept called gold plating. Gold plating is when the client can afford to have his water taps gold plated, and so he insists on it, but the water coming out of the taps will still be the same that the water department is supplying. I find it very hard personally to be able to justify that we did it because the client wanted the taps gold plated. 

Vijay: There was a studio we did wherein for the outside of the door which was facing a public area the interior designer wanted full teak but we said that’s way too expensive and let’s do teak veneer instead. 

Mujeeb: All the nine doors in the premises had the teak veneer and were hand polished and looked fabulous.

Vijay: After this was done the interior designer comes to us and says “I think we should paint it blue.”

Mujeeb: And we’re thinking to ourselves, if you were going to paint it blue, we could have left the plywood, what’s the point of the fancy teak which cost the client six lakhs. The client however was ok with painting the doors blue because he felt the designer had the liberty to change her mind. But if we would have told the client to buy another preamp which costs three lakhs, he would have asked us if that would get him more money. 

You both started as sound engineers, was acoustic consultancy a natural progression? Was there any formal training or was it all learning on the job?

Mujeeb: No, it isn’t like that. It was a peripheral idea that always existed in an informal sort of way as it’s an allied line of business. 

Vijay: I would say it probably just happened organically because as a studio engineer you also start understanding the intricacies of the studio acoustics. 

Mujeeb: Neither of us have any kind of formal education on how to make a studio. We know it because we have lived in these environments for a long time and have dealt with so many variables that we have learnt to figure it out. For instance, having seen or even helped build soundproof doors in past we are well placed to give ‘sound’ advice but that’s not possible while you are sitting and mixing someone else’s project.

So can we say it is easier for sound engineers to become acoustic consultants? 

Mujeeb: I wouldn’t say that. Being a consultant requires domain knowledge in areas that are different from sound engineering. If you’re going to build a studio, you need to have the ability to deal with civil engineers, carpenters, with structural consultants and all other consultants or a vendor which is not part of your domain knowledge as an engineer. 

Vijay: Also the science behind acoustics, the physics and the theory behind it is very complicated and requires a lot of self-study. 

Mujeeb: You have to get back to the texts, study them and try and figure out what applies to your current problem, and your backlog of experiences puts up a flag in your head that says, “Yeah, I’ve seen this problem before and this is what we did to tackle it, then.” 

It’s not an education in the formal sense. It’s the sum total of who you are and the experiences you have collected along the way. Sometimes those experiences also mislead you. For instance, you many have a bias towards certain products because of your past experience with them but you may not have the same experience in today’s digital scenario. You have to step back at this point and like Vijay said, go back to the books. Also, things change down the years, because technology evolves and sometimes an improvement the manufacturer did not claim turns out to be useful. 

It’s the same thing with acoustics. Acoustics is called an imperfect science because we know all the facts and theories, but you can’t control all the parameters. So, you have to do your best to build a space that is going to sound neutral, and if you’re lucky, it’s going to sound good and if you’re terribly unlucky, or alternatively, you’ve done pretty much everything wrong, it’s going to sound bad. Now, to fix a bad job is serious because that is always going to involve a great deal of grief, time, effort and money. Usually the architect or the interior designer is at fault because they don’t have a clue about sound and acoustics. All I’m saying is why doesn’t it occur to clients to get advice on this first, before actually spending money. 

Vijay: On the other hand, if in the beginning itself the clients decide to get a consultant on board, the architect will say, he can do it just as well because he has done one semester on architectural acoustics. It’s a different story that they screw it up and the client then has to spend more because then we will have no other option but to tell them to tear it down. 

With OdBle which was your first project?

Vijay: Bandwagon Studios. We began the designing work in 2004 December and the studio was launched in 2005. 

What are some major challenging projects you have completed under OdBle?

Vijay: I think one of our most interesting and challenging projects has been a project by the G5A Foundation called Black Box and I’m glad that we took it up. It is a unique, multifunctional space, which has just completed 5 years. It is literally a “black box” used for screenings, conversations, performances, presentations, workshops, etc. It was designed with audio systems which fire in two different directions. The clients wanted one sound system set up in three different ways, so that was a new challenge to work with. 

Mujeeb:  Plus, they wanted variable acoustics wherein the place would sound naturally reverberant as well as dead. Cinema requires acoustically dead spaces but if you’re doing a live play without amplification, you want the place to be as live as possible. They wanted the system to be able to operate in two different orientations, as well as for surround cinema, as well as for unamplified performance. There was a long list of challenges on this project. When they came up with the specs, we initially felt this is crazy as it was incredibly complicated, but we wanted to be flexible as well. 

We would have these marathon meetings (which included a lot of arguments) with the ladies running the place, starting at 10 in the morning and sometimes ending at 10 at night. They were unaware of the technical requirements for doing the acoustics of the place and we spent a long time trying to make them understand the theory. 

They had a pretty good idea of what they wanted, but of course had no clue as to how it could be achieved. Eventually, they learnt to frame their requirements better and we learnt to understand their ideas better and we were able to deliver as per their brief, only just not in the way they were thinking. 

Vijay: But eventually, I think they were really happy because it has been better received than they ever expected. 

So as acoustic consultants, what kind of projects do you prefer? Clubs, studios, auditoriums?  

Vijay: No preferences. Studios, auditoria, classroom, boardroom - we are open to everything. It would be nice to do another interesting challenging project like the G5A one. 

So how is designing a club or auditorium or even a broadcast studio different from designing a music recording or post production studio? 

Mujeeb: Basics are the same, the ultimate end purpose of the space is different and we make allowances for that. The science behind isolation or internal acoustics or equipment is all the same. Ultimately, that’s driven by the client and what the client expects to do with the space. 

Vijay: The first question one has to ask is what the intended use is. So even with G5A we had extensive meetings discussing what they were actually going to do with the space. So effectively, that understanding of the intended use is fundamental and the foundation of what happens with this space eventually. 

What is the biggest acoustic ‘mistake’ that you come across in studios?

Mujeeb: You will not find major mistakes in professional spaces in my opinion, because obviously people taking the calls are more sensible than that. Amateurs, who have just decided they want to make a studio or build a restaurant which is going to have noisy, loud music, mistake internal acoustics for isolation. It is not clear to them that isolation is completely different from internal acoustics and from this stems the idea that we can just put foam somewhere and everything will be fine. They don’t understand that this does not prevent the sound from traveling through, it just changes the way it sounds within the room. So, this is actually the biggest “non-industry” mistake.

When it comes to monitoring, what’s the most common monitoring mistake people make either in terms of position or process?

Mujeeb: Getting monitors bigger than the space can support is the biggest mistake. People will set up monitors that are too big for the space and then wonder why it all sounds bad. The reason they do, is to impress clients with big monitors. There are so many studios that have large consoles, which are hardly ever used. They’re only there because the client will not pay you 4000 rupees an hour if you show them a tiny little console. 

Ideally, the room should be designed around the monitors. If the client has already decided on a certain pair of monitors, then he or she should allow us to design the room around the monitors, not the other way around. If it’s the other way around, then you’re going to have to take a call based on the modalities of the room and which speaker is going to work best in that environment.

With technology becoming global, do you think the whole attitude now is who needs acoustics? With all signals being recorded in digital memory, does the studio require any acoustic treatment? This whole transition to digital has resulted into the decrease in big studios and emergence of small home studios that are all just digital! Do you think digital has killed the studio industry in a manner so to say?

Vijay: You have to play it back, do you not? You have to listen to it, right? So we use loudspeakers to listen to it, which means, it is generating sound. So what actually is acoustics? It’s about treating qualitatively the aspect of the sound. It doesn’t matter whether things are digital or analog. Eventually, it will be analog, because the sound will come out the speaker to our ears. Acoustic treatment will always be necessary.

Mujeeb: Acoustical problems can only be solved acoustically. You’re in a closed environment, and that environment is going to contribute, which means acoustics are still important. More people are in fact becoming conscious that acoustics is important. Now whether they’re willing to spend money doing it or not is a separate question. Many may easily buy a fancy sound system for 20 lakhs but resist the idea of spending 10 lakhs for acoustical treatment. 

So, now that a lot of small home studios are coming up, do you think the concept is changing?

Mujeeb: With home studios, many times the owner hasn’t been a part of the professional circle long enough and they will not mind spending money on fancy equipment, but they will resist spending money on acoustical treatment. It’s not until they regret it that they understand the importance.

Vijay: A lot of music is being produced in the bedroom. When you are playing an instrument, shouldn’t it sound the way you want it to sound? If your bedroom is not acoustically treated it will react in a particular way and that’s what you’re going to be hearing. Is it correct? Is it accurate? Does it sound the way you wanted to? Maybe it does, but when you take it to the studio it will sound terrible and then you will wonder why it is sounding like that when it was sounding fantastic at home. This is because your bedroom does not have the neutral acoustical character of the studio. So, acoustical treatment it is essential. You don’t have to make your bedroom into a studio. But you should be able to apply some amount of treatment to get as neutral a character as possible. Acoustical treatment of your environment, in principle is essential for any kind of audio production, whether it’s in a studio, or whether it’s in your bedroom.

Mujeeb: Also, you don’t want to bother your neighbors. 

Do you think digital is actually killing big studios? 

Vijay: To some extent there is an effect on larger studios. Worldwide and not just here, a lot of the big studios have actually closed down or found alternate uses for the spaces that they have. 

Thanks to technology, you can program a string orchestra  on your keyboard. It doesn’t sound exactly like a real string section but it’s possible to do it and if you’re really good at the job you can probably make it sound almost as natural as a real orchestra. So now studios, with large halls which can accommodate 60 to 100 musicians at a time, are not required as much. So yes, digital production and digital technologies have had quite a severe impact on business for sure, but I don’t think it’s completely killed off the big studios. There are still productions that do require the use of large spaces. Large film projects will want a large live orchestra for the background score recorded and you can only do that in a large studio or a large space. 

So do you see a comeback of the big studios?

Vijay: Not the way that it used to be. In the earlier days, why was the big studio required, because the technology of that time required the space. You didn’t have bedroom composers recording in a studio. 

Mujeeb: I have a different take on this. Most objections that you hear about the whole digital wave is that, the old way of working is gone and we miss the days of acoustic recording of everything. Technology has empowered more people, and cost vis-à-vis time and effort has come down. There was a minimum level of infrastructure that was needed before you could do a recording earlier, but now that has come down to a point where you can successfully set up a recording studio at home and with a little bit of acoustical treatment and with reasonably priced equipment reach the same quality standards that a professional studio 20 years back might have achieved, which was simply not affordable for the home musicians at that time. The problem is that technology has empowered people to make music at home. One person composes, somebody else does the strings in his home studio, somebody else does the drum session in his own studio and somebody else does the bass parts in his own studio while somebody else records the vocals and some other guy mixes it and yet another person approves it. We are no longer interacting and because you don’t interact, all projects end up sounding more or less the same. Earlier, 20 musicians, engineers, producer, composer, everybody in the same room at the same time, meant things evolved and moved something from good to fantastic. That doesn’t happen anymore, because there’s no interaction. To me that is a bigger problem than the technology. My regret is not that we are no longer recording songs, but we have reduced human interaction which does not help creativity. Creativity comes from bouncing ideas off other people. Now if that stops, then what you hear these days is going to be the result. 

But then Abbey Road or Nashville, have been there for decades, what do you think could be the reason? 

Vijay: You are not wrong. Abbey Road as a studio is a brand. But that’s not the only studio that has become a brand. There are many studios in the US which have been known over the years and they’re still functioning. There have been revivals of some studios but obviously as a brand, they’re not the same. There are people who are deciding that they want to revive the studio, redesign it, and maybe move into a new location but with the same name. That is happening. 

So as sound engineers do you prefer the old style, big rooms accommodating the entire band. 

Mujeeb: Even with new digital technology, nothing is stopping you from working together. The point is we have changed the way we function because of which there’s a huge increase in mediocrity and it is not a natural byproduct of the technological process. It is because the price point of that technological process has come down to a point where you can afford to do these things at home. What you don’t realize is in the same way that the technology has empowered you it has also handicapped you because you become an island. You’re sitting by yourself in your home studio, no matter how nice it may be, but you’re not interacting with anybody else involved in the project. That to me is a bigger defect in the process.  You haven’t interacted with anybody or thrown ideas back and forth or fought over the correctness of things. Everybody interprets music differently or else every orchestra playing the same piece would sound the same. If you take away human interaction and just following the rules, it may all be correct, but it doesn’t add any value to the project. It’s one thing to be technically correct and one thing to have some emotion. Ultimately, enjoying music is the transference of an emotion and if you haven’t conveyed that, what have you done? What is happening now is we’re reducing things to the lowest common denominator and losing the meaning of the human character. If Vijay is saying big studios are not going to go away, I would actually be a little more optimistic and say more big studios are going to come back. Eventually people will realize that the fault is not in the technology but in the way we are engaging with it. 

You’ll have done home studios as well? Where budgets are concerned what is the kind of budgets people are allocating for home studios? And do you think that justifies the work that you do?  

Mujeeb: Till today we have not got any client, whether it’s a big studio or a home studio, who said money is not an object, spend as much as you want. The point is, what do you expect to achieve and what is the reasonable amount of money to spend on it. This depends on the person. There are people who we call fancy, who are agreeable to spend a lot of money. But there are also times when you have somebody who is really talented but can’t really afford to do the best that they should have. 

Vijay: We also function in two modes, one as consultants and the other is turnkey execution. Generally speaking, the turnkey solution might, in an overall sense, turn out to be more expensive. If the client has his own set of contractors, most likely they will be cheaper than the ones we use, because we are using highly skilled labour who have their price point. In this situation, we’ll give the clients all the details and drawings etc. and they can get it done themselves. So we need to adjust and consider if it is really worth putting in so much effort, plus a lot of it has to do with relationships as well. 

Mujeeb: We have found over time that typical office and home contractors are just not able to get the job done, because they don’t understand why something was written down in a certain way. Sometimes you have to predict and tell the client that we know that your guy is cheaper but he’s going to make you do the same thing three times over and the cost of lost labor and lost material is going to be much more. 

What do you think will be the big challenges in future (if any) when designing studios?

Vijay: We have to always stay current with technology and materials.  Also certain aspects of the science of acoustics change; there are always some new theories being proposed as to how to apply it. 

Is OdBle working on any studio projects at the moment?

Mujeeb: We have a potential out of country project coming up. The client wants it turnkey, but that is impossible given the current scenario, so we may just give them the drawings and the details and they can get it done from their contractors there. There is also one other commercial studio where work is ongoing at the moment. 

Can two sound engineers provide the same kind of output?

Vijay: Being a sound engineer is not restricted to the technical aspects. We have creative inputs as well. w

Mujeeb: I can’t mix like Vijay and he can’t mix like me because we’re different people. Our experiences in life have been different, our attitudes are different and our character is different. In some cases, my attitude might bring value to the job or it might be a handicap, in which case either I don’t want to be hired for that job, or the producer has the sense enough not to hire me for it. 

Any tips/message you want to share with aspiring sound engineers and acoustic consultants?

Mujeeb: Patience. This is a business of people, not equipment and trust me, people require a lot more patience than machinery. The machinery will always do the same thing, well or badly, but people are different on a daily basis. And always remember there is no timeline for learning, you can learn something new every day, regardless of how much you already know. In fact, the more you know, the more there is to learn, because there are that many newer questions. And of course, if you want an easy job join a bank.

Vijay: Get a deep understanding of the fundamentals. Unless you have the basics solidly set in your head you cannot do anything. 

Finally, Vijay, as IRAA Director for 2021, are there new process or new initiatives have you planned or thinking of introducing? 

Vijay: Well, there is about expanding our independent music categories because we want to be able to attract more from the independent music field. It’s a large block of work that deserves more attention and we need to get more of them on board. We need to think of new ways to reach out to them and that’s one of those pushes, for sure that I want to do.

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