World class Vancouver recording studio plagued by 6 months of unexplained radio interference

Vancouver’s Armoury Studios has been hosting international musicians for more than two decades. World-famous acts like Kiss, Avril Lavigne and Busta Rhymes have recorded out of the Kitsilano studio.

But for the past six months, unexplained radio interference has been threatening to ruin the studio’s reputation.

When staff try to record, high-pitched interference can be heard through the wired microphones, making it difficult for music engineers to capture the desired sounds.

“We’ve already lost money. We’re already paying a lot for tech. It’s wasted time in sessions and we’ve even lost sessions,” said chief engineer and manager Paul Silveira.

In the audio recording industry, a noisy studio can be the kiss of death, according to technician Corey Dixon.

“You have people who are very very talented, very exacting, very demanding. If they hear a noise in here, they’re going to walk,” said Dixon. 

“We can’t have that land mine here, waiting for a session to blow up.”

LISTEN | Hear samples of the interference heard at Armoury Studios:

What’s causing the interference?

The team set out on what would ultimately prove to be a wild goose chase to determine the cause. 

Dixon says he sent a recording of the interference to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), the regulatory body for the radio frequency spectrum in Canada.

ISED came to investigate and, according to Dixon, the ISED member wondered whether the interference might be coming from cellphone towers on top of a nearby building.

The towers belong to Rogers which denies its equipment is at fault.

“ISED asked Rogers to do a shutdown of their towers. I was there and, when they did, it was completely quiet [the interference was gone],” said Dixon.

Once the towers were turned back on, he says, the interference returned, but the mystery of how it was happening remained.

High-pitched interference can be heard through the wired microphones when staff try to record. In the words of a studio technician, ‘in the audio recording industry, a noisy studio can be the kiss of death.’ (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Ultimately, neither ISED or Rogers was able to determine the exact cause of the interference.

CBC News has seen correspondence from both Rogers and ISED that confirm the telecom is operating within its licensed band and power levels.

In an email, the Rogers investigator raised several possibilities, including someone in the neighbourhood using an illegal cell signal booster but nothing has been conclusive.

“It is up to the Studio to fix the problem,” wrote an ISED member in a separate email to Armoury Studios.

Rogers investigating

Rogers has denied responsibility for the interference but has hired a technician to investigate it.

“We have been in contact with Armoury Studios and are looking into this issue,” said Paul Nixey, a regional spokesperson for Rogers Communications, in a statement. 

“Until we investigate, it is unclear what the cause of the issue is or if it is related to Rogers in any way.”

“We thank Armoury Studios for bringing this to our attention and will continue to be in contact with them as we learn more. We understand their frustration and are bringing in additional technical experts on Monday to help get to the bottom of this. We are here to help.”

Silveira says the past six months have been challenging and frustrating.

“We have a world brand that we rely on. That’s quality. And it’s put a lot of stress on me,” he said.

But given the news that Rogers has hired a technician, the team at Armoury is hopeful it will finally have some answers, and maybe even a little radio silence. 

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