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History & Design Of Ascot Sound Studios

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

**Before I say anything else, I want to say this: Tittenhurst Park where Ascot Sound Studios was located is a private residence. Don't attempt to go there. Most of the house including the studio and much of the grounds were gutted and remodeled in 1988 anyway.**



Ascot Sound Studios was the home studio of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their estate, Tittenhurst Park, near Ascot, Berkshire. Though it was essentially only in use for only four months, it produced one of the most important albums of the 20th century, John Lennon's Imagine, a few singles including "Power To The People", and parts of Yoko Ono's album Fly.

Throughout the '60s, The Beatles frequently found EMI (Abbey Road) Studios' fastidious, conservative nature to be at odds with the boundaries they were trying to push. EMI was slow to integrate new technology and even had rules as to how certain instruments could be recorded (which by the late '60s were regularly being broken by the engineers working on Beatles sessions). Those frustrations coupled with John's desire not to make the hour-long drive to London led him to commission a professional studio in his home.

In the summer of 1969, The Beatles interim manager/confidante Neil Aspinall approached studio designer Eddie Veale about designing a home studio for John and Yoko. Veale was known in the Beatles circles having already done some speaker design and installation at The Beatles' Apple Studios at 3 Savile Row. Regarding John's proposed new studio, Veale says “There was no real brief. He just said, ‘Build me a studio as good as Apple’.” (source)

Veale met with Lennon at Tittenhurst that summer to select a location in the house for the studio. "After some discussion, John decided the annex would be the best place for the studio because it was close to the kitchen for all the usual teas and snacks and stuff and sufficiently away from the house that it didn't impact on the domestic scene" -Eddie Veale, John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky.

Ascot Sound Studios location. Photo: screenshot from Imagine

Though the plans for the studio were drawn up by September 1969, construction didn't begin until August of 1970. John was anxious to use the studio and set a goal of Christmas 1970 for its completion. "Although John was anxious to have the studio done in three to four months, there was a lot of building work involved, and a the single-storey roof section had some serious damp rot. We built in sound isolation - to keep sound in - with an isolated sub-ceiling under the roof we had to refurbish. There wasn't much need to keep external sound out, apart from the lawnmower and occasional aircraft flying overhead." -Eddie Veale, Imagine John Yoko.

Ascot Sound Studio Floor Plan. Image via Veale Associates

Its hard to tell for sure, but it seems that completing the wiring of the studio went well into the Imagine sessions in the spring of 1971. "I don't think a day went by without him [John] visiting and saying 'Well how's it going? Can I get In yet?' Eventually, we came to an arrangement where we engineers could work in the mornings and John could have it for the rest of the day. This quickly developed into long days for me, because John wanted me around for the session in case anything went wrong, which it often did." -Eddie Veale, Imagine John Yoko.

Despite the studio not being completely finished, recording sessions at Ascot Sound Studios began as early as February 1971. Songs that would see commercial releases from these sessions include "It's So Hard" from Imagine which was tracked 11 February, and the single "Power To The People" which was recorded on 15 February. The bulk of Imagine was recorded 24-28 May at Ascot before some final overdubs at the Record Plant in New York City on 4-5 July. Its a difficult to find specific recording dates for Yoko's Fly, but based on the personnel it seems that the sessions that took place at Ascot were probably in February.

Though it would turn out that when John and Yoko left England on 31 August of 1971 it was for good, that was not originally their plan. Yoko says that their intention was to live and work at Tittenhurst for years to come. With that in mind, as soon as the Imagine sessions were over John had Veale get to work expanding Ascot Sound Studios from an 8-track to a 16-track facility according to this PNS Europe article. As we now know, John and Yoko would never return to England let alone Tittenhurst. The entire estate including the completely intact Ascot Sound Studios, was eventually sold to Ringo Starr on 18 September 1973. According to Ringo's studio manager Mike O'Donnell "Pretty much all the gear was left behind including John’s desk, screens, mics the lot..." O'Donnell tells me that Ringo left the studio essentially as John had left it, though he rarely used it.



Ascot Sound Studio Blueprints. Image via Veale Associates

Its hard to read the small print on the published blue prints, but I believe these specifications are accurate: The control room was roughly 11' 5.5" wide x 17' 5" long x 8' 6" high, and the live room was roughly 16' 8.5" wide x 18' 11.5" long x 8' 6" high. The walls in both the control and live rooms had 4" of fiberglass acoustic treatment covered by white fabric. Three of the live room walls had 2" pieces of wood running vertically every 12", likely for some diffusion. The floors in both the control room and live room were carpeted.

This image shows the wall construction and control room window pretty well. The wall opposite the control room window was the one with no wood slats.

Wall construction & window. Photo: screenshot from Imagine

Along the bottom of the walls in the live room were separate channels for audio tie-lines to the control room as well as electrical outlets.

Audio tie lines & electrical outletsl at bottom of wall. Photo via Imagine John Yoko

The ceiling was Dampa 10, a perforated aluminum ceiling panel system which concealed more fiberglass treatment in the cavity above. The aluminum probably diffused some high-frequencies while allowing low-frequencies to pass through the perforations and to be absorbed by the fiberglass.

Dampa 10 ceiling. Photo: Kieron Murphy

The studio didn't have any proper isolation booths, but the toilet and dark room which were just outside the live room were occasionally used for isolation. The studio had four 8' x 4' gobos with windows, and two smaller 4' x 4' gobos all of which were utilized during the Imagine sessions.


Imagine John Yoko - This book compiled by Yoko Ono was indispensable in researching this post. Much of the gear list, quotes, and photos are from the book. Its really detailed and beautifully laid out, I highly recommend it. It can be purchased here.

Imagine/Gimme Some Truth - These documentaries show amazing footage from the Imagine sessions. Purchase here.

John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky - The highest quality footage from Ascot and the Imagine sessions that I've seen to date. Some the same as Imagine/Gimme Some Truth and some new! Purchase here.

Imagine - The Ultimate Collection - Disc four, "Imagine – The Evolution Documentary" is particularly revealing with lots of studio banter, discussion, and rehearsals. Purchase here. - the official website for all things Imagine. - The website of Veale Associates, the designer of Ascot Sound Studios. Many photos and the architectural drawings are from their website here.

"Imagine there’s a studio: Eddie Veale recalls his time with John Lennon" by Dave Robinson. This PSN Europe article has some great info. PSNE is unfortunately defunct, but the article can be found with the Wayback Machine here.

Recording The Beatles - by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew - This book is the bible when it comes to, well, recording The Beatles! It is a constant reference for me. Unfortunately it has been out of print for many years now.

Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium - by Chip Madinger and Mark Easter. An encyclopedia of dates and information regarding solo Beatles recording sessions through the year 2000. Very detailed. The book can be purchased as an E-Book here. - The official website of Klaus Voormann.

"'Imagine' This: How John Lennon and George Harrison Teamed Up to Record a Classic Album in 1971" - A 2019 Guitar World article with some interviews and information on guitars. The article can be found here.


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