Studio Tour – 2020
I like to keep a tidy studio space, it helps with the creativity by providing an inviting area to work. By the end of 2019, the back of my studio desk looked akin to the spaghetti junction. I was also getting a slight hum on the speakers whenever the fluorescent light was switched on in the living room or the kitchen. It was time to re-plan the wiring, fix the hum, take the opportunity to move a few racks and reintroduce some of my old gear.
The problem I wanted to solve first was the very faint background hum that I could hear from time to time on my Neumann monitors. It was not there all the time, just when a fluorescent light was switched on or the blender in the kitchen. After much research I settled on a Furmann M-10x E power conditioner. This comes in a 19-inch rack and has 10 outlets, which are conveniently at the rear of the unit. This allows for some very tidy wiring options, especially if the desk you are putting it in has a cable tidy shelf.
The Furmann includes a circuit breaker and over-voltage protection. The reset button for the circuit breaker is on the rear, so it is a bit of a pita if you ever need to reset it. Thankfully I can access the rear panel easily due to the design of the desk that I am using.
Zaoring to Success
This brings us nicely to the main piece of my studio the Zaor Mira 88 desk. This arrives on your doorstep in a big crate in a flat pack. Let me tell you, it is one heavy item to put together and although you can do the main build on your own, you will need a second pair of hands for the very last part.
The desk has a nice retractable shelf, which is big enough for most 88 note keyboards. There is also space to fit up to two 4u high racks into the desk, which can either be just one rack or several as you will see later in this tour. There is also a handy central drawer for storing USB pens, cables etc. This helps keep the tidy feeling of the workspace.
I also purchased some Zaor Aperta stands that were made in collaboration with isoAcoustics. These decouple your speakers from the desk and minimise any vibrations that may occur through the desk and colour your monitoring environment.
Rack ’em up
We now come to the rack space in the desk and what I filled them with. On the right-hand side I inserted the Mannikin Schrittmacher Sequencer with a 1u blanking plate above it to hide the wiring. I will probably fill this at some point with another rack from my small collection further down the line.
On the right, from top to bottom, we have a Korg TR-Rack followed by a Roland M-VS1 and finally an RME Audio Fireface UFX II. The Korg TR-Rack provides some traditional sounds along with some truly inspirational synthesizer patches. The M-VS1 is a trip down Roland memory lane and is the hardware version of the SR-JV80-04 Vintage Synth expansion board. The Fireface UFX II speaks for itself and is the beating heart of the audio side in the studio.
We then move on to the rack structure that I keep to the side of my main desk. Working from the bottom up we have the ART Pro Audio P48 patch bay. It may be helpful if I explain that the 8 outputs on the rear of the Fireface are connected directly to the patch bay by way of an audio loom to keep the wiring tidy. I then use short audio leads to patch the audio outputs from the hardware synths/racks into the inputs of the Fireface.
Up from the patch bay, we have one of my favourite pieces of kit, the Korg Radias. This is a very versatile digital synth and uses the same technology found in the Korg Oasys flagship synthesizer. I won’t go into a full description of this synth, but if you want to find out more head on over to http://www.vintagesynth.com/korg/radias.php.
On top of the angled rack unit, I have put a 6u rack space and attached a cable cradle to the bottom. This allows me to keep all the wiring off the floor for these rack units and tame those Gremlins that seem to come out at night to tangle up your wiring. Inside the 6u rack, we have a Dave Smith Prophet 12 module.
I have to confess, although my newest member in the studio I have not really explored the Prophet 12 and still in search of a good librarian utility that I can use to control it without using the front panel. If anyone has come across such a utility I would be grateful if you could leave a link in the comments below.
Finally, we come to the top of the rack where you will find an Access Virus TI Snow next to a Waldorf Blofeld. I think the Virus needs no introduction as it has appeared on countless electronic music tracks. The Waldorf Blofeld is a beautiful wavetable synthesizer that is capable of some very atmospheric sounds. It also provides some nice analogue modelling and analogue emulation.
The little black box tucked at the back is a UAD-2 Satellite USB, which as the name suggests, hosts my UAD plugins. It does get temperamental sometimes by dropping its connection now and again. All I need to do is switch it off for a few seconds and back on, it then maintains the connection for the rest of the session.
That’s the little tour of the studio almost over and we have two items left to mention. The first is my weighted keyboard, a Studiologic SL88 Grand. This has a very tactile feel and is the closest controller I have found to a piano keyboard. Well, it’s similar enough to feel like my acoustic upright that I have in the front room.
Monitoring the Output
The final items are my actual monitoring equipment. First up are the Neumann Kh 120A monitors, which have a beautiful neutral sound. Coupled with Sonarworks Reference 4 they make up for the limited acoustic treatment that I can put up in the work area I have. For checking the mix on headphones I use both open-backed and closed backed. I will explain the difference between these two varieties in a future blog post. All I will say for now is the open-backed are AKG 712-pro and the closed backed are Neumann.
That’s a brief tour of my studio and the equipment that I use to create my sonic landscapes. If you have any questions about my setup or would like to know more about the equipment I use, leave a comment below.