My Recording Studio – Walkthrough Part 2 (2015)

Hello and welcome to part 2 of this short studio walkthrough series. In this installment, we’re covering studio hardware and sound treatment. No need for a long intro. Let’s jump right in!

Sound Treatment

This is one area that I haven’t spent a lot of time or money on, admittedly. My room is fairly small but didn’t sound awful, so my immediate goal was to kill a lot of the flutter/reflection echo, and I need all acoustic treatment to be removable since I live in a townhome apartment.

Auralex StudioFoam
I purchased 4 2’x4′ sheets of 2″ Auralex studio foam which are placed as strategically as possible, considering door and window positions. I have not yet invested in bass traps. I’ll get around to it. …eventually. …maybe.
CAD VS1 Vocal Shield
The most important sound treatment purchase I’ve made for microphone recording is my CAD VS1 Vocal Shield. This is a great alternative to a proper vocal booth when space doesn’t permit. It surrounds the microphone roughly 50% horizontally to cut room reflections. The interior is made of sound-absorbing foam and it’s exterior is vented to allow excess sound to pass through. I highly recommend this shield, but wait until you catch it on sale. I think I paid $60 on Musician’s Friend.

Signal Processing

Line 6 HD Pro
Next up, let’s get into audio processing. When I record electric guitar (or bass), everything goes through my Line 6 HD Pro. This is the rackmount version of the HD500X multi-effects processor pedalboard (which I also own and love), but it’s constantly in the way on the floor and it kills my back when I’m working on guitar tones and effects. Ha! Rackmount is SO much easier.

The HD Pro gives me the flexibility to record in more ways than I’ll ever need. I can record a raw guitar signal for later processing (or reamping), process the sound through the HD Pro and record directly using its USB interface sources, or run a line-out to my external interface (which is what I do since you can’t use more than one set of ASIO drivers on a computer at once). Hell, it even has its own mic input, so I could essentially use this for everything. But doing that would seriously limit my recording options outside of guitar, so I usually opt to run a couple lines from the HD Pro to my other interface so I only have one sound source to worry about.

The HD Pro even has a couple bass amps built in that I really like, so it’s hard to justify the complexity of mic’ing up a bunch of amps and spending hours dialing in tones everytime I want to record.

And this brings me to a little side-note. Amp simulation technology has become jaw-droppingly accurate to the original amp tones. Line 6, Kemper, and Axe FX all have some seriously ground-breaking stuff going on. It’s 2015, guys. If you’re still mic’ing your amps in a tiny home studio, I think it’s only fair that you ask yourself this — Do you actually hear a POSITIVE difference, or are you just too stubborn (or uninformed) to give modern recording options a chance? End rant.

Recording

Now that we have our sounds processed, let’s follow the cables to the next component in the line — the audio interface. If you check out my Audio Production 101 article, you’ll see that the audio interface is the unit that processes audio signals sound and sends them to your computer for playback and recording

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
I just upgraded from the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 to the Scarlett 18i20. Both have the same amazing mic preamps, but the 18i20 is massively different in layout and options. First, it’s rackmount (which again, is SO much easier to deal with), it has a disgusting amount of input and output options, and best of all, it’s expandable!

The only drawback I’ve found is that it’s a USB 2.0 device. I only say this is a drawback because it has a firewire sibling — the Saffire Pro 40. That said, firewire is finicky on Windows machines, so I opted for the USB Scarlett. This unit has been tested and proven to run at full input/output capacity with absolutely no issues and it’s been flawless for me.

I don’t run any hardware compressors, eq’s, or other signal processors because at this stage I simply don’t need them. I’m extremely happy with my software plugins.

Furman M-8X2
I keep all of my rack gear safe with a Furman M-8X2 power conditioner. If you’re not familiar, a power conditioner simply protects and cleans the power/electricity source so you get no external noises coming into your audio signals from the power outlets. Have you ever heard the noise that is introduced into your audio when someone turns on a vacuum or high-powered device? This doesn’t happen in all situations but it is possible. These units are really inexpensive, so buying one of these things is a no-brainer in my personal opinion…especially when you’re working with thousands of dollars in equipment.

After the interface comes the computer. In my case, my primary recording tower is pretty basic. Intel i5, 12GB RAM, and 1.5TB storage. I run dual 22″ monitors for maximum desktop real estate (I’m A.D.D. …do you expect me to only use one program at a time?).

Monitoring

Yahama MG10/2
I’m pumping audio output from the 18i20 to my Yamaha MG10/2 mixer (using TRS cables), which just gives me a little more freedom to assign my outputs to multiple monitoring sources and control their levels.

Speaking of monitoring, let’s take a look at my listening devices.

Fostex PM.04n and Auralex Mopad
My studio monitors are just ok. My Fostex PM0.4ns sit on top of Auralex MoPad isolators, and they give me a crisp flat mix. The problem is that the speakers just aren’t big enough to give me the range I need (especially low frequencies), so I’ve opted to mix in my Altec Lansing computer audio system to fill the gap until I pick up something bigger (I’ve got my eyes on the M-Audio BX8s). Thanks to the sub in my computer audio system, the mixture of the two sources gives me a surprisingly rounded sound, so I’m not in a huge hurry to upgrade.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Finally, I use Sennheiser HD 280 Pro studio headphones. They sound amazing when I want them to and can get flat when I need them to be flat. What more can you really ask for?

I think that covers hardware and sound treatment. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and keep an eye out next week for part 3 where I’ll be discussing my software and also how I bring all of these components together.

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