Surrounded by Drums

5.1 Surround Experience

Not only for fans of the world-class drummers Simon Phillips, Kenny Aronoff, Dennis Chambers, and Mel Gaynor, but for everybody who is interested in 5.1 surround recording and mixing, SPL‘s „Surrounded by Drums" DVD is a special delicacy.

The DVD offers the unique hearing experience to listen to the drum legends from their perspective. 

The DVD-Video is ideally suited to get an impression of the latest technologies and implementations of up-to-date multi channel productions. SPL deliberately had chosen to record drums, because the belong to the most difficult recordings in modern music while at the time offering one of the most spectacular hearing sensation in surround.

The DVD-Video offers both Dolby Digital and DTS audio formats as well as stereo downmixes.

The idea for "Surrounded by Drums"

Chris Pfannschmidt, enjoying a very good reputation as producer of various CD-ROM titles such as „Real Mega Drums“ and „Real Mega Rhythm“ and programmer for Clavias DDrum 4 & 5, Steinbergs LM 4 and bands like Simple Minds had a clear vision of tomorrow‘s recording technique for drums. It is obvious to him that a drum kit needs to be recorded in 5.1 whereas e-drum kits should deliver 5.1 samples.
The producer has the option between two perspectives of the drums in the mix. The more traditional view of a listener standing in front of the kit (with the hi-hat coming from the right) is perspective number one whereas the more spectacular position would be the drummer‘s seat with the drum kit folding around the listener (the hi-hat will than appear on the left).
„Old habits die hard“, they say. Thus it might take a while until we hear productions with the drums wrapping around.

We have been excited to go that route with Chris. Recording drums surely is one of the most difficult tasks of sound recording. But we knew that there is a team behind Chris that has enough knowledge to succeed and to show the potential of surround sound for music. For the Atmos 5.1 system this was a perfect opportunity to produce spectacular and all new hearing impressions.


The hearing perspective

We decided to opt for the drummer‘s perspective for the solos on the DVD and for surround-drum-loops & grooves ROM production for two reasons. First, it is possible to create the traditional „in-front-of-the-kit“ perspective by panning the rear speakers to the front and flipping the L/R channels to R/L. The other way around is not possible. You cannot create a wrapping surround sound when the drum kit is recorded in the „in-front-of-the-kit“ perspective. Second, the drummers haven‘t heard themselves from their own perspective in the studio yet. We were very anxious about hearing their comments, because they are the only ones to tell whether we truely catched the surrounding sound of the drum kit or not.


The role of video

The production and release of a DVD for demonstration purposes and as a teaser for the upcoming sample ROMs was not decided upon right from the start. While recording we just walked around and filmed with the DV camcorder. Then we thought that we are making a little piece of history, because it was the first time ever that such brilliant drummers are recording a surround sample session. We thought we just document it with the means at hand. So we put the camera on a stand, pressed „Rec“ and left the hall, so that Simon, Mel, Kenny and Dennis could fully concentrate on their solos. Walking cameramen would have been too disturbing.
The full focus for everyone in this project was the audio part.
So, if you are looking for a DVD with drum worshops and clinics you should not buy this DVD. If you are seriously interested in the capabilities of surround sound and you are looking for a reference in 5.1 drum recordings, „surrounded by drums“ is the must have DVD.


The musicians

With Simon Phillips, Kenny Aronoff, Dennis Chambers and Mel Gaynor, Chris Pfannschmidt managed to engage four world-class drummers. After month of endless email traffic and telephone conversations a slot for the sessions between November 2000 and February 2001 was found.

Simon Phillips
Simon Phillips has not yet played on any sampling project. The mentioning of 5.1 triggered his interest, as he his familar with the technical aspects through his work as engineer and producer.
Simon's drum tech Iain „Robbo“ Robertsen brought the kit from England in the truck. We I met him at the studio on the day of the built-up we started to talk about the upcoming days and speculated what the session may bring. Iain said: „If Simon positively comments his sound, it would be the first time years.“ I had to swallow hard. What Simon said after the session can be heard on the DVD.
Click here for all about Simon Phillips:

Kenny Aronoff
Kenny Aronoff is certainly one of the most recorded drummers of the past decade. His straight style is ideal for sampling. Probably his sounds will be the mostly used samples because they are applicable for such a wide range of music.
The session was him was minted stiffness from laughter. He is such a funny character and a precision instrument with groove. Maybe quite normal for somebody who claims to be from Mars.
Kenny‘s experiences can be found on the DVD. Visit Kenny‘s website at:

Dennis Chambers
Dennis was the ‚opening act‘ of the recording sessions and according to Murphy‘s law we had a bad start. The guy from the limo service couldn‘t spot him on the airport for hours. The driver didn‘t know anything about a drum kit and luggage and so forth. Not really in the best temper, Dennis finally arrived at the studio.
But all anger was forgotten after we heard the first test recordings. Dennis was a newcomer to sampling as well. He didn‘t know how hard sampling sessions actually are and that you have to concentrate for hours and hours. After the session he said: „I have a whole new respect for the guys doing sampling.“
To me Dennis is one of the most talented drummers. He is extremely fast, but everything looks so easy. Who if not Simon could judge upon Dennis. When I met Simon 9 month later at Galaxy, I presented the master copy DVD to him. He immediately wanted to see Dennis play his solos. His comment: „Bastard“.
Dennis‘ website:

Mel Gaynor
Mel and Chris are friends for many years. Being famous as the drummer of Simple Minds, he had a major influence on the rock/pop drum sound of the 80ies and 90ies. Mel Gaynor is also a fantastic studio drummer, producer and a talented vocalist.


The Studio

Doing a session with four elite musicians we had to find a studio that matches their standard. Pretty soon we decided to record and mix at Galaxy Studios, Mol, Belgium. The phenomenal acoustics in the studio, especially in the great Galaxy Hall, represented the best possible conditions. The Galaxy Hall is 330 qm with a height of 8m offering a flutter-free reverberation between 1,6 and 2,6 seconds.
Everything about the incredible Galaxy studio complex including virtual tours can be found under


The Recording Equipment

All sessions were recorded with AMS Neve Capricorn console with CXS Surround Panel on ProTools 24 and Akai DR 16 Pro. Monitors were Genelec 1035B for the front and Genelec 1038A for the surround speakers.

Pre Amps and Channel Strips:
2x SPL GoldMike
5x SPL Channel One
1x Focusrite Red

1x Tube Tech compressor
1x Summit Audio compressor
1x Empirical Labs Disstresser
1x SPL Kultube compressor
3x TC electronic M6000
1x SPL Tube Vitalizer
2x SPL Stereo Vitalizer MK2-T
3x SPL Qure Parametric Equalizer
3x SPL Transient Designer


The Recording Crew

Chris, Iain, Simon and Uli; in front Bram
Produced by Chris Pfannschmidt
Recorded and mixed by Uli Baronowski
Assitant: Bram Poelmans


The Microphone Set-Ups

Simon Phillips
Bassdrums (24"): Shure Beta 52 (inside), Neumann U87 (outside)
Bassdrum (18"): Shure Beta 52 (inside), Neumann TLM 170 (outside)
Snaredrum 1 (Gladiator): Shure SM57 (top), AKG C414 (bottom)
Snaredrum 2 (Pageant): Shure SM 98
Piccolo-Snaredrum: Shure SM 98
Toms: 6x Shure SM98
Gong-Tom: Neumann U87
Octabans: 4x Shure SM57
Hi-Hats: Shure SM81,B&K 4011
Overheads: 2x Neumann U 67, SPL Atmos 5.1

Kenny Aronoff
Bassdrum: Sennheiser MD 421, Shure 91A PZM, Neumann TLM 170
Snaredrums: Shure SM 57 (Top), AKG 414 (Bottom)
Tom 1: Neumann KM84
Tom 2: Neumann KM84
Tom 3: Neumann KM84
Tom 4: Neumann KM84
Hi-Hat 1: B&K 4011
Hi-Hat 2: B&K 4011
Ride-Cymbal: Neumann KM 184
Overheads: 2x Neumann U 67, SPL Atmos 5.1
Room: Front: 2x Neumann U87, Back: 2x Neumann U87

Mel Gaynor
Bassdrum: AKG D 12, Shure 91A PZM, Neumann TLM 170
Snaredrum 1: Shure SM 57 (Top), AKG 414 (Bottom)
Snaredrum 2: Shure SM 57 (Top)
Tom 1: Neumann KM 84
Tom 2: Neumann KM 84
Tom 3: Neumann U 87
Floor-Tom 1: Neumann U 87
Floor-Tom 2: Neumann U 87
Hi-Hat: B&K 4011
Ride Cymbal: B&K 4011
Overheads: 2x Neumann U 67, SPL Atmos 5.1
Room: Front:2x AKG 414, Back:2 x Neumann U 87

Dennis Chambers
Bassdrum: Sennheiser MD 421, Neumann TLM 170, Shure PZM 91A
Snaredrum: AKG 414 (top), AKG 414 (bottom)
Toms: 3x Neumann KM 84
Floor-Tom 1: Neumann KM 84
Floor-Tom 2 und 3: 2x Neumann U 87
Hi-Hat: B&K 4011
Ride-Cymbal: Neumann KM 184
Overheads: 2x Neumann U 67, SPL Atmos 5.1
Room: Front:2x AKG 414, Back:2x Neumann U 87