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Feature: The demo makes the sale

Feature: The demo makes the sale
Belle Puengrusme with her brothers and team in one of three studios equipped with an SSL AWS 948 δelta console

Feature: The demo makes the sale

Richard Lawn braves the Bangkok traffic to meet family-run Vintage Studio, which combines commercial recording facilities with equipment distribution and training

When Solid State Logic (SSL) appointed Vintage Studio as its new retail products distributor in Thailand, some eyebrows were raised. Until that announcement in 2016, Vintage Studio’s presence in the pro audio industry was firmly in the consumer camp. However, SSL VP Asia Pacific, Anthony Gofton, recognised a potential master seller when he saw one. Could the Puengrusme family take SSL Studio Products to a new level?

It’s two decades since the Puengrusmes’ passion for studio recording was lit, and it appears that the flames have been fuelled over time. ‘I was simply looking to create a better sound,’ explains eldest brother and doctor Teerawat (Bill) innocently. ‘Despite the fact that I was working full time as a doctor at the hospital, I was becoming increasingly fascinated by music recording. Outside work, I was spending all my free time in the studio.’

An SSL Nucleus2 console
An SSL Nucleus2 console

Music is in the family’s blood, however. Before studying medicine at Chulalongkorn University, Bill had graduated with a Grade 8 in music from Trinity College London, while sister Belle is a classical pianist in addition to having achieved a PhD in management. ‘When Bill started experimenting with audio, our brother Birth and myself were bitten by the recording studio bug,’ she explains.

Coinciding with Bill’s passion for audio recording, the Puengrusme parents were building a new family home in Bangkok’s Bang Na district, and agreed to accommodate a music studio within the architect’s blueprints. ‘They were aware of the audio equipment that I was amassing and wanted to know if there was anything that they needed to add into the plans of the new home,’ he says. Little did they realise that the venture would quickly expand beyond a typical project studio setup, requiring the architect to gradually increase the allocated space in one wing of the house.

‘Looking back on this time, it was rather visionary,’ says Belle. ‘It coincided with a time when many Bangkok studios were closing down. While we were aware that it might not be a wise economic venture, our passions took over.’

Fortunately, the Puengrusme siblings’ decision to follow their hearts also proved to be a good business move. Today, Vintage Studios has three recording spaces and a solid place in the Thai recording industry thanks to an educational programme that includes delivering recording workshops in collaboration with Thai educational institutes.

As Vintage Studio’s inventory of SSL consoles and retail products grew, its clients began to purchase equipment from the studio, which ultimately led to SSL making the situation official, recognising its ability to promote brand awareness and strengthen customer relationships. ‘We have a main classroom here at the studio and three further breakout rooms with different products and setups,’ Bill explains. ‘We welcome a wide range of clientele and can offer them a host of various SSL products to create their recordings, including the AWS 948 delta, Matrix 2 Sigma and Nucleus 2. It’s a working showroom and we also offer training at our Centre of Excellence. It’s vital that we continue to make investments and encourage artists to interact.’

The live room's drum kit is miked up for a session
The live room's drum kit is miked up for a session

‘SSL has been pro-active in product and sales training with us,’ continues Belle. ‘As a result, we have got to know and understand our customers a lot better and realise that the relationship doesn’t end with the sale. We don’t want our customers to merely look around the studio or showroom – it’s important that they experience it. As our customers come from varying backgrounds with different setups, it’s vital that we understand their unique requirements.’

The days when recording studios prospered with bands booking lengthy sessions to record an album have become a distant memory as cost-effective studio equipment has proliferated. This has inevitably led to the closure of studios around the world, with commercial facilities often needing to think outside the box in order to survive. Although it might be an unusual setup, the SSL appointment sits well with Vintage Studio’s feasibility as a commercial facility, the two sides of the business bringing complementary aspects to each other.

‘If you’re promoting expensive equipment, it’s important to demonstrate it in an appropriate environment, so that the audience can appreciate the value of what you are promoting,’ says Bill. ‘At Vintage Studio, we’re not just a recording facility, we’re also a showroom for our partner’s products.’

When Vintage Studio isn’t demonstrating or educating, the team is kept busy creating informative and educational videos, uploading social media posts for its growing online community. 

On the recording side of Vintage’s business, several full-time engineers have been assisting at the studio for over 10 years, including chief sound engineers Nin and Bay who work long hours to get the sound the client is after. With hourly rates starting at THB500 (US$16) per hour, the studio is affordable for up-and-coming artists. 

‘We’re all trained in analogue recording and can offer expertise to anyone coming here to record,’ says Bill. ‘It’s important to know what it is like to be a customer, so we place ourselves in their shoes. Thai people often say they want the Western sound. They want their productions to be clear and big, they want their recordings to match up to the instruments and voices in the live room and they demand the studio tools that will give them creative options. SSL SuperAnalogue technology is not just limited to the biggest studios and it can give them all that, fitting into most rooms and budgets. We’re always aiming to improve, remain open-minded and continue to provide knowledge. There’s an old proverb that says when you learn, you teach – and when you teach, you learn.’

In addition to SSL, Vintage Studio has also been appointed as the Thai distributor for Bock Audio, Soundelux, Furman, PMC and UK monitor manufacturer Unity Audio. ‘We can now deliver source to speaker solutions for our customers,’ says Belle. ‘We enjoy great relationships based on help, support and expertise. We use the products before introducing them to the market, and we won’t push a product unless we’re 100% confident. Our integrity must be maintained, and there can be no compromise. Word-of-mouth marketing remains the most effective method; when friends talk among themselves following a good workshop or studio session and that then spreads a desire.’

When Pro AVL Asia visited, Vintage Studio had just conducted a microphone workshop, and the enthusiasm for such events was palpable. ‘Matching the needs of the audience to the budget is key; with the Bock 47 cardioid condenser mic, for example, I like to compare its features with other microphones in its class and personalise the experience for the customers,’ says Belle. ‘When you host a workshop, you have an opportunity to see if a product matches clients’ needs. We don’t promote products if we don’t feel they are totally correct for their setup.’

Medical careers may have been put on the back burner, but the flame that was ignited two decades ago for the Puengrusme siblings burns brighter and brighter.

For more on Vintage Studio, watch Richard Lawn's interview with Belle here:

Vintage Studio Bangkok Click to play video

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