Q It Up: The Home Studio - Part 2

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Here are the rest of the responses to last month's Q It Up question.

Q It Up: Do you have a studio at home? What is it equipped with? (If you have a computer-based workstation, what audio software are you using? Also tell us about your computer—CPU type/speed, hard disk size, RAM, and sound card. Include any other information you feel is pertinent.) What plans do you have for new gear in the near future? Feel free to add any other comments you might have.

Jim Cutler <jccrtv[at]jccrtv.com> Jim Cutler Creative Radio/TV, Inc., Long Island, New York: Orban Audicy workstation networked to Enco DADpro and 400Mhz P2 with 128Meg running Sound Forge 4.5 as backup to the Audicy. Several Zephyr’s with digital I/O and APT 3D2. Yamaha boards, digital patchbays, stand alone HHB and Marantz CD-Rs, Fostex timecode DAT, Tascam DAT, 5’x7' Whisperroom for isolation when the noise of new-house construction begins across the street this summer, Yamaha keyboard, Roland drum machine, Eventide Harmonizer, Kurzweil sampler, Polyphaser broadcast standard lighting and power filtering protection, 100amp quiet Kohler regulated generator for the gazillion times the island takes power hits, and a lava lamp.

Jay Rose <jay[at]dplay.com>, Jay Rose’s Digital Playroom: I sometimes think the studio has swallowed my home. It’s got an Orban AudicyVX (that’s the audio-for-video version) workstation, two Eventide DSP4000s, Eventide Orville beta, a Finalizer+, Zephyr, two timecode and two wild DAT recorders, Tascam DA98, a CD recorder, Kurzweil and Roland keyboards, tons of effects and music CDs, plus a bunch of analog gear I haven’t turned on in years, and video playback. Since the Audicy is a dedicated DAW, I’ve also got a Mac 8100 in the studio for sequencing and playing AIFFs, and a G3 at my desk for everything else.

For what it’s worth, I started with a Revox A77, Teac 3340, and a Sony 6-slider PA mixer. There’s a picture of it all at www.dplay.com/playroom/stud71 .html.

In the plans? 5.1!

Comment: this is a wonderful time to be in this business. Digital—and particularly the explosion of music-industry equipment–has made it possible to do things at home that would have required a large downtown studio fifteen years ago. That’s why my wife persuaded me to quit the large downtown studio twelve years ago!

Jack Shaw <jshaw[at]execpc.com> A.J.S. Productions: Well, an easy question. I have a home studio with a 405Mhz Pentium II, 128 MB RAM (soon to double), 21" monitor, 13.6 Gig hard drive, Gina sound card, Plexwriter 4/12 CD burner, Plextor 12/20 CD player, Sony DC7 DAT player/recorder, Teac A-3440 4-track tape deck, Aiwa cassette record/play deck, a stereo VCR, Tascam M-106 mixer (which I hope to upgrade to a Mackie 1406 soon), and Cool Edit Pro 1.2 editing. I will be adding a Soundblaster AWE32 card in a couple of days to allow for simultaneous play/record. I have taken advantage of a couple of the offers in RAP for production music and SFX. All of this allows me to do more than I did when I worked for radio stations back in the sixties and seventies with analog equipment. Now I could use more work to pay for all this.

<HOTAUDIO[at]aol.com>: Every time someone asks me what I’m using in my studio, it makes me want to go out and buy new equipment. However, I’ve been quite happy with what I’ve been using since I set up my home studio in August of 1993. Fortunately for me, I was able to pay back the investment in about 10 months. (I had projected 24 months.) Originally set up my studio due to getting canned from WZPL in summer of 1993. Too many clients had been established, and now I had no studio. So...it was time to jump in with both feet and build my own “net.”

Computer has been upgraded (last year) from its original 66mhz to: Pentium 166, 32 MB EDO RAM, 420 MB C drive for programs, Dual 1.2 GIG SCSI D drive for sound files, Diamond Stealth Pro w/ 2 MB VRAM, NEC 5FGe Multisync 17" Monitor.

Operating Digidesign Session 8 v2.5 (last version), MPU-401 MIDI, 882 Studio I/O audio interface, Ensoniq AudioPCI sound card, Mackie 1600 Mixer, Hafler Pro2400, Aphex Expressor 651, Aphex Aural Exciter Type C2 104, DBX Compressor 166, Yamaha SPX900 Effects Processor, Lexicon ALEX Effects Processor, Alesis M-EQ 230, Symetrix Phone Interface, ProCo patch bay. Tascam DA-30 DAT, Tascam 122 MKII cassette, Tascam CD 401 CD player, Otari MX-50 Reel, AKG 414B mic, CAD - Equitech E-100 utility mic, JBL 4208 monitors, AKG K240 head-phones.

Upgrading to ProTools 4 at radio station imaging studio this summer. May upgrade my studio at home also after evaluating all that ProTools has to offer in their various systems.

Don Elliot Creative Services <voiceovers[at]earthlink.net>: The rig here is a SAWPRO on a PC at 333 with 100 speed bus running on a  clean win 95 install (no garbage). 128 Meg of RAM with 2 hard drives, an 8> and a 10 gig. Event GINA soundcard w/4 in, 10 out to a Mackie 16VLZ console. Running with a Viewsonic flat screen. HP CD burner. Iomega BUZ Multimedia Producer for analog video grab. Digital video: Firewire video i/o into Adobe Premiere on the PC for video presentations and web video. A second OLD Mac SI takes care of MIDI duties and logging sfx libraries. Video monitors: 2 JVCs for AB roll, third-source Panasonic VHS-Monitor com-bination specially modified for enhanced still-frame use. 1-Toshiba line monitor.

The outboards: UREI LA-3A limiter, two LT Sound compressor/limiters (Lacey Thompson—that’s right folks, the Vocal Eliminator guy)—uses a Valley People module in it. Analog UREI dip filter set, Heath scope, MCI/Sony and Tascam r-r, Tascam cassette, Diamond Rio MP-3, UREI graphics, Panasonic REV-7 reverb, Schoeps, Sony, AKG-414, Sennheiser 416, Roland sampler with color video monitor for wav editing, Hafler amplifiers, JBL 4411 monitors, Auratone roadcubes for mixdown, Symetrix phone patch, Symetrix single-ended noise reduction, Dorrough Loudness Monitor, Panasonic DAT, Panasonic Technics CD player SLP520, Sony MDS JE510 Digital i/o, Technics SP15 turntable.

Remote kit: “Big Screen” Sony F-190 laptop with Firewire, SAWPRO, Adobe Premiere. Sony 900 3-chip Digital Camera with Firewire out. Special mike adapters to get around Sony’s unfriendly connections. Midiman mixer built into a Halliburton/Zero case housing two custom Radio Shack speakers in the lid, and two Minidiscs: Sharp and Sony. The Sony has a built in speaker and mike and makes for great editing between the two units. Using two Sennheiser MD-421s, sometimes hand-helds, sometimes fishpole. Also in the kit are a NADY wireless to feed the video cameras. Two Radio Shack lapel mikes for general interview stuff. And sometimes I just go up in the hills with it and record BIRDS! Future? Looking for the best way to build a parabolic mike reflector for distance recording on my shotgun, and seeking a 12-volt Sennheiser 416 for remote stuff. Of ALL that junk, my SAW and Sennheiser 416 are ALL I need! (OH YEAH, AND HEADPHONES!)

Dave Fox <foxx[at]z100.com> Creative Services Director, Z100 Radio, New York: Three years ago, I was getting enough freelance work to warrant setting up a small workstation at home. In three years that single setup has grown to two, is threatening a third, and we’ve taken on three full-time and two part-time employees. I was lucky, in that the house I have was previously owned by a dentist who had his practice in the basement. So now, I have a reception area, waiting room, bathroom, storage closet, an engineering shop (formerly the X-ray darkroom), a really spacious voice booth (formerly his office), and two full-blown studios (formerly the actual rooms where he drilled). And all of this with a seperate side entrance!

Both studios are practically identical, fully decked out with Pro Tools®|24 MIXPlus (Macintosh only...please!) with each CPU jammed with 256MB RAM, operating at 300Mhz or more, 18Gb of external hard-drive space, and 22-inch computer monitors. The sound is wired up with some old Crown DC-300 amps driving DynAudio BM-15s. We burn just about everything on Yamaha 4x CD-R recorders, but can take care of more “traditional-minded” clients with an Otari 5050, Panasonic SV-3700 DAT machines, and Tascam cassette recorders. We’re fully equipped for digital transfer with DGS, DCI, and a Telos Zephyr. I also use Mezzo archiving software with Exabyte 8505 8mm tape drives, plus a 1Gb Jaz drive for those “quickie” transfers, although now that they’re networked with Ethernet (100BaseT), the uses for the Jaz drive have diminished greatly. (We can network faster than we can copy now since we only have to send it once, rather than copying it and then dumping it into the other system.) The booth is set up with dual Shure SM-7s and a Studer D-19 mic pre. And finally, each studio has a small Mackie console, basically for I/O management, which are about to be replaced with a much more sophisticated routing device to handle it all.

In addition to the studio work-stations, we also have two other Macs that handle labeling and Q-sheets, plus the accounting aspects of what we do. We also design and implement web sites on the side and use the same computers to handle all that work. (Check out www.usmedicorp.net/ on the web and you’ll notice a little fox-head at the bottom of each page. That’s my logo.) We’ve actually put up five different sites so far, and the number continues to grow (including my URL, which is www.foxx run.com; it’s under major re-construction right now and will hopefully be fully updated before this goes to print).

Right now, we’re struggling to get everything done on time in the two studios and are seriously considering either finding commercial space elsewhere or building an extension onto the house for a third studio. But, the coolest part about our studios is the cost. We can do just about anything one of the “big houses” can do in one of their $500-thousand studios (and usually better), but we’re only spending about $35k for each room. We were not only in the black within the first year, but expanded to the two rooms in the second year.

A word of advice to those who want to do the same: keep your present gig for at least a year after you install a home studio for two reasons: 1) The income is steady, and 2) that’s where most of your clients will come from initially. Once your home studio income starts to rival your radio income, you can start considering being your own boss full-time.

Craig Buffington <cbuffington[at]wqik.com>, Production/Image Dir-ector, Clear Channel West/Jacksonville, FL: Great question! I am in the beginning phase of building a home studio. I bought a computer with a PCI 128 sound card, 350 Pentium II processor, 64 [at]100 mhz RAM, and a HP re-writer CD burner. Right now, I am looking at buying Cool Edit Pro and installing it at my computer at the station as well. Then if the station will install a HP re-writer, I can easily transfer from home to work. After I get an editor, I plan on looking at microphones, boards and processing.

Chris Speda <speda[at]stuttgart.netsurf.de>, Radio Imaging, Germany: To produce radio stuff, it’s not necessary to have big 19-inch racks of equipment and a costly acoustic environment. The heart of my studio is a Mac G3 with ProTools III TDM and a Mac 7100 with an Audiomedia card. I don’t use TDM for mixing. I use my Yamaha 02R. I can save all the settings and can even control 16 ProTools tracks with the Yamaha faders. I do not use ProTools to do it all. It’s faster mixing with faders than drawing curves. You really hear the difference. Only for really tricky things I use the level curves and TDM. My master recorder is not the Panasonic SV 3700 DAT; it’s the Mac 7100 with the Audiomedia card. I’m recording in another computer. It’s really easy to use. Both, the G3 and the 7100 are connected via ethernet for backups with a 4 gig tape drive or a Yamaha CD burner. My “mastering tool” is the TC Finalizer. I only compress the bottom a little, but this is important. I found out, that too much compression, like the Waves L1 “flat line,” doesn’t make the spot louder. My studio monitors are Genelec 1031 A, NS 10 and a Panasonic ghetto-blaster with an AUX IN (!). For monitor selection, I made a switchboard, because the Yamaha 02R doesn’t allow to select additional studio monitors.

In my racks I have quite normal stuff like a CD player, turntable, cassette recorder, and MiniDisc. Most of that is consumer stuff. My MIDI equipment is a Roland JX 305, a Quasar Expander, and an Alesis Nano Bass. Everything’s connected via Opcode’s studio 4 to use the logic audio. For ISDN transmission, I use the Dialog 4 “Musictaxi.” 95% of voice recordings are coming over this. In Germany, we’re starting to deliver more voice online. I have about 20 talents to choose from. I think this is the future, and this stuff is enough to do a professional job. The big music studios don’t like people like me, because they have more stuff to pay for, so they must charge more money. Times are changing, even in Germany. But not all SSL owners who produce a 30 second radio spot in a $1 million studio want to know this.

Ben Blankenship <bigben[at]bscn. com>, Big Ben Productions: I use Pro Tools with the Audio Media 3 card, running on a Mac G-3. It has 233 Megahertz with 64 megs of RAM, but I’ll upgrade that very soon. I also use a Glyph 4 gig external hard drive but will soon upgrade that as well. I recently added a CD burner to the workstation and send a good portion of my work out on CD now. For the CD burning software, I use Jam from Adaptec; so far so good. My main board is a Tascam M-50. I have Alesis One monitors, EV RE-27 mic, and a simple pre-amp for the mic because I do most of the processing on Waves Native Power Pac software. I still use a Tascam 32 reel; it’s a great standard piece. My plans for additional equipment include a Telos Zephyr, Neuman mic, and I will probably do away with the main board eventually and opt for a better input/output system for the Pro Tools like the 882 I/O.

Angie Dickinson Wilson <avocado productions[at]csi.com> Avocado Productions, Oswego, Illinois: Avocado Productions is an audio production and recording studio run from my home. I’ve used a digital audio workstation for a number of years now. SAW has been the multi-track software used from the beginning. I also use DC-ART for restoration and noise reduction. Recently a MOTU 2408 replaced a Digital Audio Labs Digital Only Card and DAT machine as the AD/DA interface. The computer has been an AMD K6-233 system with 224 MB RAM. But the plan is to replace that with a K6-lll 450 by the end of June. All computer upgrades are done in-house, so the system changes on a regular basis. Right now there are a total of 12 gigs of hard drive space using a combination of both IDE and SCSI drives. We tend to use a number of smaller hard drives rather than one or two larger ones. It helps keep projects organized. All back-ups and archives are burned to CD-R. The only tape-based recorders are cassette and DAT for delivery (though we rarely use the DAT anymore), and a Tascam DA-88 is used for remote recordings. Most of the outboard gear has been replaced by software plug-ins. The two mics used most often for voice work are an RE-20 (used by myself), and a 414, though we might use one of a variety of mics available depending on the voice.