Studio Victor, historic St-Henri recording studio, closes its doors

Built by RCA Victor at its old plant in St-Henri, Studio Victor was state-of-the-art at the time with its molded, polycylindrical wood panels researched and designed by RCA sound engineers.

Built in 1942, historic studio's future now uncertain

Studio Victor owner Gaétan Pilon says there's just no money in recording any more. (Radio-Canada)

Today marks the end of a musical era in Montreal as Studio Victor shuts its doors for good.

Built in 1942 by RCA Victor at its old plant in St-Henri, Studio Victor was state-of-the-art at the time with its molded, polycylindrical wood diffusers researched and designed by RCA Laboratories to mimic the properties of an acoustic instrument.

The Montreal studio gained an international reputation over the years, attracting stars like legendary Beatles' producer George Martin, Alan Parsons, Bette Midler and Sinead O'Connor.

Purchased in 1985 by Gaétan Pilon, the studio experienced a renaissance in the 1990s and 2000s, serving as the birthing ground for records by Quebecois artists including Roch Voisine, Daniel Lavoie, Les B.B., Daniel Bélanger, Les Cowboys Fringant and Jean Leloup's latest, Paradis City.

Studio Victor is one of only a handful still in existence in the world featuring RCA's polycylindrical wood panel design. (Radio-Canada)

Producers including Carl Bastien, Louis Legault and Simon L'Espérance worked their magic at the studio's mixing board over the years.

Troubled waters

The demise of Studio Victor is due in part to troubles throughout the recording industry. Shrinking budgets for recording albums make operating a studio difficult.

Budgets that once peaked at $100,000 in the 1980s and 1990s have now been reduced to $20,000 — and even that kind of investment is rare, Pilon says.

"I'm selling because it's hard to turn a profit. It's been two years since I made any money," he said.

Future unclear

What will happen to the historic studio now is a question with no clear answer.

The owners of the RCA building have said they want to preserve it. 

The building's Emile Berliner Musée des Ondes, which celebrates all things audio, has made little secret of the fact it wants to make the studio part of the museum. 

Tim Hewlings, who sits on the museum's board, said that's long been the dream since it opened at the RCA Building in 1992, but the museum doesn't have the kind of funds needed to aquire it. 

"It's a lovely room that deserves to be preserved," he said. 

The former RCA factory on Lacasse Street in St-Henri.


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