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  • Writer's pictureFrank Leonard Walker

02 Wait... What Am I Building?

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

As I covered in my first blog post, my definition of a dream home studio has altered throughout the years. So I think it's a good idea to lay out what type of studio I'm aiming for, how I want it to function, and fit my workflow.

Size doesn't matter?

Well... we still need to talk about it. How much space you have to work with is going to influence how you approach your design. I was fortunate to purchase a house a couple of years ago, as we were looking around, I always had in my head that it needs to have a space which I can convert into a 'studio'. A basement was high up on my list, as one; it wouldn't 'take-up' another room in the house, and two; having no windows would take one aspect out of the sound-proofing equation.

A studio with no windows is often a talking point amongst studio design, as windows prove to be a bane in room acoustics and sound-proofing, however, lacking natural light in an environment can be discomforting for some, especially for an extended length of time. Fortunately, having worked in studios without natural light before, it turns out I can live my life like a deep-sea fish. Just strap a dangling light to my forehead and I'll be happy for hours. Your mileage may vary however, so it is important to take your preference into consideration.

I was lucky enough to find a victorian terrace with such a basement in a reasonable condition. The width of the house is just over 4 meters, which means I'd always be limited by that factor, no matter where I ended up building the studio. This is a fact I need to consider when thinking about my usage.

What do I do?

Recording? Yes. But how much? Ok, it's not my primary focus, and with the size limitations I'm not going to be able to record full bands anyway, I can use proper facilities for that sort of work. So what kind of recording? Well, small bits... vocals, guitar, synths etc. Ok great, 1 or 2 mic combinations, (that means I can also plan for the equipment I'll need, no 24 channel consoles).

1 room or 2? Do I want a typical 'control room' and adjoining 'vocal booth/tracking room' or an all in one room? There are several factors that may influence your decision in this department, for me, I decided on the one large room for all my needs based on these factors:

  1. Acoustics; typically, larger rooms have better acoustics, and seeing as my space was already reasonably small, dividing it into two smaller, acoustically inferior spaces didn't make sense.

  2. Comfort; along the same lines as above, two rooms in the same space would feel a lot more closed in and... smaller, surprisingly, than one larger open space would.

  3. Recording Flow; I also make and record my own music, so I didn't want to be trotting back and forth between my control room and live room, and having to set-up remote control of Pro Tools.

Mixing and Mastering? Yes, and predominantly my main focus. OK, but how do you like to mix? ITB? Hybrid? Hands-on? Controllers? Consoles? I've been fortunate enough to be able to try my hand at all of the above, but having begun my mixing career ITB I've always reverted back to using the computer, recallability and flexibility are always at the forefront for me. However, I do love having some hands-on manipulation of analogue boxes and often throw some onto the mix bus, (I now use a great program called 'SessionRecall' to store my analogue settings) so a hybrid design is more applicable to me. This gives me something to think about in regards to the audio wiring of the studio.

What about a DAW controller? I thought about this for a long time, and it used to be on my wish list. But having moved from studio to studio in the past, a greater reliance on using the software itself has been fundamental. I don't want to get too used to a controller in one space, and then have it not be there in the next space I use. And seeing as I would still be using other studios from time to time, I'd prefer to hone my skills in the speed of moving around Pro Tools with just a keyboard and mouse. However, I've always wanted to just reach out and grab a fader or plug-in dial on screen, which had me looking at the Slate Raven touch screens, although a few things put me off... the size of the screen is 27", I prefer a smaller sized screen, and also the bezels were huge. I found some other touch screen monitors and went for the Dell P2418HT which comes in under 24", virtually no bezel, and viewing angles are highly and easily adjustable. There are two apps needed for full functionality, one for the multi-touch of MacOS, UPDD by Touch-Base LTD and one for Pro Tools multi-touch, D-Touch by Devil Technologies. Although, I have been getting on fine with one point touch in pro tools at the moment.

How Much Soundproofing?

Now we've established what I will be using the room for, we can focus on how much soundproofing I want to be able to work comfortably without being disturbed or being the disturber (Ooh wah ah ah ah). So I'm not recording anything too loud, vocals, low watt guitar amp, but importantly... no drums! I typically have my listening level set to 75dB (Although the frequency response is perceived to be at it's flattest at 85dB, we need to accommodate for the smaller room size) and I won't be working at unreasonable hours. I don't need to completely block all sound from going in or out, so I would only be looking to reduce the noise by 30-40dB rather than spending a lot more money and taking up a lot more space for just another 10dB of reduction that isn't really needed for my situation.

Any other functions?

Before finalising, it's useful to think of anything else we might use the space for. I may have people over to record or listen to mixes, so the studio needs to accommodate guests with adequate seating. This may seem like a small point, but you don't want to design a studio and realise there is no space left for seating! As this is also a room in my home, I'd like to be able to use it for relaxing as well. The inclusion of a large TV will help turn the studio into a makeshift cinema for those lazy nights.

So to recap, I want my studio to be:

  1. A large single room, with space for all equipment and seating

  2. Mainly for mixing

  3. Occasional light recording duties

  4. Hybrid set-up

  5. Focus on internal acoustics, medium amount of soundproofing

  6. A cinema room in the downtime

Now as we head to the designing stage, I can focus on getting the most out of the existing space for size, focus the acoustic design primarily for the sweet spot while still decent enough to record in other parts of the room, and planning suitable audio wiring for this set-up.

Next step... learn AutoCad!

Frank Leonard Walker

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