You've decided to start a recording studio. Now comes the planning for how to build your studio from the ground up. There are so many options, so let me help you consider a few that are crucial to the success of your new studio. I've been in the business for over 20 years now and I've seen what works and how well everything works. There are many different types of audio production studios, but for this segment, I'm going to focus on the beginner's project studio. Though you may have already started to build your studio, I'll be offering advice on things to consider for the success of all levels of studio production.
Before you spend too much time planning or spend any money on gear, take time to hash out your budget. You'll need to make some tough decisions about what is necessary now and what can be purchased down the road as the studio grows. Start a spreadsheet of your available finances and keep track of what you're spending. The last thing you want to do is buy a bunch of gear and then not have the funds to connect the pieces. There are things that many new studio engineers overlook and this is one main reason I'm writing this article.
First, you have to decide if you're going to be a PC or a MAC based computer system. You could get a new MAC and load Windows with the Parallels program. That's all up to you. There are advantages to both OS systems, so this decision has to fit with your configuration and your budget. PC systems are typically more affordable, but do carry the risk of more frequent crashing and data loss. MAC systems are more expensive and not as flexible as a PC based system. I'm not going to get too in-depth here, but if you'd like to post a comment, I'll do my best to respond.
For now, we'll assume that you've made your computer decision and you're ready to move on to the core of your system, the DAW. The DAW ( Digital Audio Workstation) is the heart of all digital recording studios. This is the interface that will provide recording and mixing capabilities for your studio. Most DAWs come with a hardware interface which does the A/D & D/A conversion for your audio. This is by far one of the most important choices to make when building your studio. The quality of audio conversion will ultimately impact the detail of the audio that comes out of your studio. The higher quality converters will give you a more accurate monitoring sound and yield a more dynamic range to your mixes. The beauty of most DAWs today, they will work with almost any interface you choose. This makes the options more bountiful and presents the opportunity for 3rd party companies to get into the market. Ultimately, this allows engineers the ability to mix and match software and hardware to customize a studio setup that is just right for their needs. Customize is such a great word and it is such a liberating concept!
I've personally worked with many different DAWs in my career and they all do a fine job of recording and mixing. There are some that only work on PC and some that only work on MAC, but most are cross-platform, so do pay attention to what is compatible with your system. The most widely used DAW is AVID's Pro Tools. Virtually every professional studio I've been in over the years is running Pro Tools as their primary DAW. It's not cheap software, but it is very user friendly with a mild learning curve. There are tons of books and videos out there to get you started working in Pro Tools and I'd recommend this as your primary DAW. The new line of AVID HD I/O interfaces have excellent converters and the audio quality is pristine. However, Pro Tools HD systems are not cheap. The entry level system is the Omni HD + Pro Tools HD Native and that starts at $4,999.00. Now there are some upgrade options, but just to get into Pro Tools HD, you may be spending a big chunk of your budget. If you can afford a quality interface, it will pay dividends down the road. Just be sure you are buying fear that you can grow into and not grow out of quickly. One pit fall I regularly encounter is folks who buy bargain gear with the intention of selling it when they need to upgrade. My warning is that you may not be able to sell the gear for a decent price, so don't rely on this strategy to recoup your capital funds.
Hope this was some useful insight for you to consider. Keep in mind there are many options out there and I highly recommend that you at least consider multiple DAWs and Hardware interfaces before you commit to purchasing. You should also look into financing your purchases and Sweetwater (.com) has some nice 0% interest for 24 months financing options. If you want to talk with my sales engineer, Joseph Secu x1232, he'll give you some good advice on what would work best for your setup. He's helped many of my clients purchase the right gear for their home studios and he's been helping me for over 14 years. I only have great things to say about Sweetwater and Mr. Secu.
Please leave any comments and I'll respond as soon as possible. Thanks for reading part 1 of this blog article. The next section I'll be discussing vocal microphones and preamps.