Fewer and fewer large professional recording studios are being built and many more are being set up in spaces not designed for the purpose. Professional recording studios are designed with several considerations, of course acoustics are high up the list, after all they have to sound great. However some unseen essentials are there too and often overlooked in smaller ad-hoc or home studio set-ups, but these things are essential if you want to make trouble free recordings.
Here are 5 you may be ignoring that you should consider getting sorted out.
Studio Essential 1 - Power Conditioner And Backup
The mains in many domestic properties or office units is simply not designed to account for the needs of audio recording. You may be reading this and know that there are pops, clicks and buzzes that occur on your system. These noises can be generated from a multitude of sources such as heating and cooling systems, domestic appliances and simply light switches. It’s worth considering investing in a mains power conditioner that can help to filter out the pops and buzzes and in some cases they also offer a circuit breaker which can trip if the power has an issue. The investment in one of these has the potential to save a killer take that gets ruined by the fridge coming on or indeed your entire rig if the power suddenly decides to throw a wobbly.
Secondly, depending on where you live in the world you may have a power supply that is inconsistent, if this is the case then a mains back-up device, often referred to as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is essential. In the event of a power failure these device are designed to switch to temporary power so that your essential services do not fall over. They are not intended to run for hours but are enough to give you the time to save and back-up your work until you can get back to work. Depending on your needs a UPS can be a relatively inexpensive investment for a small studio, so consider one to ensure that if the lights go out on you studio they don’t go out on your creative efforts.
Studio Essential 2 - Back-up Strategy
You may have heard our recent discussion on the Pro Tools Expert podcast, file back-ups are essential, let us say that again FILE BACK-UPS ARE ESSENTIAL. Most people find this out the hard way. If you are making a living from using your studio and you don’t back-up your work then you are being negligent with your client’s assets, so make sure you invest in a back-up strategy.
So what is a back-up strategy? A back-up strategy must answer several questions about the data you have in your studio.
- What you will back-up?
- Where you will back-up?
- How you will back-up?
- When you will back-up?
These essential questions need to be answered if you are going to have a solid back-up plan.
Hard drives have never been cheaper, so there’s never been a better time to make sure your data is backed up on high quality drives using a rock solid back-up application on a regular basis.
Ignore this and you will regret it.
Studio Essential 3 - A Cabling Strategy
In the modern recording studio there’s a lot of cabling and cabling of different types. Audio, video, data and power are all co-existing in the same ecosystem, if you get your cabling wrong then you may be having issues with noise generated by cabling.
A cabling strategy considers three things.
- The quality of the cables
- The length of the cables
- The route of the cables
Unless you pay attention to buying quality cables, ensure that you don’t have unnecessary lengths and also ensure they don’t all run together in a heap of spaghetti then you’ll be lucky not to have all sorts of noises on your system.
So buy the best cables you can, even better learn how to solder, buy a drum of high quality cable and some decent connectors and custom make your own cable runs. This ensures you have cables that are exactly the right length and that you don’t pay over the odds for a brand name.
Data is different as many cables are custom made and often moulded, such as USB and Firewire, again you’ll find that you can buy high quality USB cables rather than trusting the ones that comes in the box with your gear.
Studio Essential 4 - Sound Proofing
There’s a lot of talk about acoustic treatment, but not as much about sound proofing. Sound proofing has two purposes, firstly it stops sound getting out and secondly it stops sound getting in.
If you work in a home studio or a studio in an office unit, then you need to consider both noise going out and coming noise in. You can’t ask the house to be quiet each time you have to do a vocal take so you need a plan for how you keep that sound out. Conversely try sitting outside of a session you are not working on and listen to the same loop playing over again and again as the engineer ‘perfects’ it - it’s infuriating. That is perhaps why your partner hates all your songs when you play them to the them - they have already spent 3 days listening to you perfecting the track. If you have any doubt of this then ask them if this is true and then watch them smile.
Sound proofing is possible on a budget and some pretty good results can be achieved with some off-the-shelf products from builder’s merchants to insulate your walls. Double and triple glazing will also help to keep sound in and out
Studio Essential 5 - A Good Chair
Many of us spend hours each day sat in the same chair and many of those chairs are not fit for purpose. Posture is an essential thing to consider to protect you from both short term and long term back pain. There is an excellent article on posture written by Mike here that discusses the issues of posture and how to choose the right chair for your studio.
In the article Mike talks about posture, RSI and alternative input devices to reduce strain on your body.
The longer you ignore the issue of posture the higher the likelihood is that you will have back pain in later life, so please don’t ignore it. If you know of great chairs designed for long term sitting then let us know and we can share them with the community.
We spend so much on equipment to build the perfect studio, but sometimes we miss some of the essentials which are as important in creating a great studio, albeit less sexy.
We are sure there are other things we have missed, if so let us know in the comments.