Your opinions would be appreciate-building a new studio

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by RevolutionMan, Nov 23, 2004.


  1. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    Hi All, I'm hoping some of you experienced recording folks can point me in the right direction. I'm building a small commercial recording studio, and well to put it bluntly I just don't know what I'm doing, but will figure it out as I go.

    We're about to start contruction on the building layout, I have a warehouse and about half of it will be used for the studio. I've got a tascam 16 track 1" recorder, tascam 16 track board, mackie mixer, a few mics, and a few pieces of outdated outboard gear.

    My goal will be to record high quality drum, bass, guitar, and vocal tracks, then transfer from tape to digital, and mix and master in a digital format, though I'm not married to the idea of putting stuff on tape first, it's just that I know that medium somewhat and I like the way it sounds. I know jack about digital, but am determined to be a quick study. It would be great to have the ability to use either or both mediums to record.

    Budget is $15-$20,000

    I guess the question is, if you had the budget, given your experience and expertise, what would buy? Please let me know and I'll research the items you suggest, I'll need it all, computer, software, monitors, outboard gear, etc.

    One of the problems that I'm having is that there's just so much, where do you begin? I want to get the best for that budget, and not be constantly upgrading afterward. The goals for the recording will be working with full bands, and singer songwriters. I'd like to have the ability to record full bands live and then edit. The studio will have a control room, main room with partitions, and a fairly large iso booth.

    Any help is appreciated. This is kind of a lifelong goal that I've had, just now making it happen, one way or the other. I just wish I wasn't so out of date with today's technology. The last recording I did was on a 24 track 2" tape machine.
     
  2. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    I worked for years on a Tascam MS-16 (I figure that's what you're using?). I wish I still had it, because I liked tracking on it, especially drums and guitars. If I was recording outside artists and bands, I would think the analog machine will be a customer draw, since there is a mystique about tracking analog that a lot of people are into.

    You should have an autolocator.

    You need a good TTS patchbay, and if it's a commercial studio, you need to have the patchbay professionally wired.

    You'll need some good microphones, and there are plenty in every price range these days.

    You'll need stuff like cables and mic stands and booms.

    That's the important stuff. As for digital, it will be important to be able to transfer tracks to something like Pro Tools, so that your customers have the option of booking your place for tracking live, and still be able to take the work to their project studios, or have the option of tracking certain things, like vocals, digitally.

    Therefore, you might need to lock up your workstation to SMTPE time code coming off your analog deck. So you'll need a device that will stripe SMPTE and be able to read and lock to it, such as a MOTU MTP AV and/or Aardvark Time Sync (there are other brands as well).

    But most importantly, you will need to find an engineer who can work the gear, and train you! Because the biggest draw is a good engineer, and the biggest drawback is a poor one. Also, find a good studio tech who can be on call if you have a problem.

    You didn't say what kind of outboard gear you need, but don't worry about some of it being old. Vintage is in.
     
  3. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    I'll add to Les's excellent suggestions:

    Double the amount of storage space you've planned.

    A bathroom, small kitchen area w/microwave and coffee maker.

    An area where the people can get out of your hair.

    In your budget, I'd forget about tape - a studio like you've planned might be able to get around $35-40/hr. at best and the type of bands you'll attract won't want to pay $100+ for a roll of tape. We have 2" 24-track and I've used it 3X in 5 years.

    For mics - a kick drum mic, two complementary LDCs, a pair of the best SDCs you can afford and a half-dozen SM-57s would handle about anything you'd need. Get a good DI for Bass/Kbds.

    I'd get a decent used console, mainly for monitoring and enough decent pres to track a full band.

    Maybe 2 Sytek MP-4 pres, an RNP and a Great River MP-1NV? That'll eat up $3K right there.

    A RNC compressor and a Distressor, if you can afford it.

    A computer interface that will give you 16 inputs of recording at once.

    A good headphone system and rugged, loud cans for tracking. A few VERY good pairs of cans for tracking vocals and mix-checking.

    I'd also get a consultant to help you - he'll undoubtedly have a few suggestions that will more than make up for his fee.

    Start trying to find an engineer now. Like Les said, your place will live or die by the first few projects that come out of it. If you play your cards right, you can make literally HUNDREDS of dollars in the studio business. <vbg>

    A story, which may be helpful:

    A few years ago, a local guy decided he wanted to start a studio. Built out an existing room, cashed in his 401ks and bought a state of the art PT system. Visited the best local bands and pitched an offer to record them for free. Sponsored a local homegrown radio show. Small problem - he didn't know WHAT he was doing, and the bands he brought in wouldn't go back, even for free. Word spread quickly and to add insult to injury, he was running ads in the local music rag dissing all the other studios -actually making jokes about them...

    He lasted about a year.

    Good Luck, and if there's anything I may be able to help you with, please feel free to PM me.

    Loudboy
     
  4. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    Gentlemen, Thank you for the input, very much. This is stuff I need to hear. A lot of the things you listed are stuff that I'm not familiar with, so I'll be digging around on the net.

    Yes the machine is a tascam MS-16, and I've got the autolocator.
    The board is a tascam M-520. I do not have a patchbay, so that will be needed. I'll need a pro tools setup, which is completely foreign to me, and I've heard there's a somewhat steep learning curve on it.

    I've got an engineer, he's done a lot of good recordings, he's busy but very into the project, so he'll be a fixture around here in the beginning, kind of a mentor I guess, that's ok with him since he'll be using the studio free, and he's pretty mellow, we get along well.

    Space-wise, I'm guessing the whole place will be 600 square feet or so. And we're ok with a waiting area, bathroom, etc, and we're building the control room larger than needed for unseen additions.

    I planned on getting a few good compressors, but I have no idea what a distresser is, so will be checking on that.

    The computer part is very confusing to me, I want to make sure I get enough spec on everything that I can not outgrow it quickly. And the way that analog transfers to digital is unknown to me at this point.

    Any suggestions for good quality headphones? Also how about close and far monitors?

    I don't plan on bringing a project in here (especially a paying project) until I at least half know what I'm doing myself, so there will be a lot of trial and error I guess. But I've got good ears, have done a fair amount of analog recording, I'm hoping within a year to be decent behind the board.

    I appreciate your pointers, feel like I'm flying blind, it's just one of those things that I've decided is going to happen, so I'm sure there will be plenty of stumbling points along the way.
     
  5. flashbax

    flashbax Guest

    Ok, I am not the most adept at studios, having constructed one out of frustration with cover bands, recording my own music, even if for ***** and grins. Monitors: Yamaha NS10-M - check ebay that is where I found them. If you can get a good mix on these then you know it is going to sound good elsewhere. A good amp to power them as well. I am using a crown macro reference. Try to go with speakers that are uncolored. Make sure that your room is well damped. For a computer I am using a PC with large drives. If I could do it again right now I would go with a Mac G5 or a G4. Protools is a place to start. I am using a digi001 to feed my MS16 into. In order to get the 16 tracks I am using a Frontier Tango 24 bit break box that is fed into the digi001 via fiberoptic, which gives me the other 8 channels. If you go with a protools digi002 rack bundle you will get some nice plug-ins that are very usable. Mics, as said go with sm 57's. Try to score a pair of Sennheiser MD421s. I scored a Neumann tlm103 from ebay for 400.00 a couple of years ago. Don't but these new as you can get them from ebay for a lot less than what they cost out the door. AKG makes a good kick mike, but I have an EVre20 that I use for the bass drum with good results. If you are just starting this don't plunk down mega bucks for heavy cost itmes unless you check around. I scored a spirit Studio 24 channel for 1500. off from ebay. a nice board. I have seen a couple of better TAscam boards on there that went for quick bucks. Get good cables. Get snakes from ebay. Research the Detroit Recording institute on the net to get some cool ideas on what you need to know for free.
     
  6. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    flashbax, That's some great info, thank you. I've got my work cut out for me! I agree about checking out ebay for stuff, I'll definately try to go with used stuff as much as possible. So far it's been quite a quick education on this stuff.
     
  7. headstack

    headstack Member

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    Lots of good info here!!
    A quick question...
    Have you considered the construction of the facility?
    I have pretty decent experience in the design and construction of studios and control rooms and isloation and dealing with standing waves as well as other acoustic anomalies are vital!!
     
  8. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    Yes I've put considerable time and effort into the planning. The end result is that the layout a big triangle, with a large rectangular control room. There will be large moveable baffles to create iso areas. I've been reading whatever I can about studio layouts, so I wanted to avoid square shapes for the recording area, but I'm also confined to the layout of the building, I'm diggin the plan now. As this will eventually become a commercial facility at some point, the way it's arranged in the plan, I can also lock the studio gear in the control room, move in a P.A. and rent the space for rehearsals sometimes, the main room is pretty big. It's turning out to be a very fun project, haven't been this excited on a project for awhile.

    I'm hoping to have basic construction done by end of january. Dressing the walls for acoustics is something that I'm trying to read up on, but I want to wait and see how the room sounds when the basic construction is done first. I've got an electrician on board now, so the electric access will be really nice and professional, no ugly power chords, etc.

    Though I haven't priced out everything material-wise, I'm hoping to keep the basic construction materials under $2000
    I know the glass will be pricey.
     
  9. cocheese

    cocheese Supporting Member

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    You might also check at the Tape Op website as well. If you don't already have a subscription (free) you should get one. GREAT mag with lots of ideas from engineers, producers, and musicians. I think the website is www.tapeop.com
     
  10. headstack

    headstack Member

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    2,000 for materials???
    Woah!!
    Add another zero to start and move up from there!!
    Square? Rectangular? Both parallel surfaces in those shapes... Bad!
    Look towards symetrical shapes with no parallel surfaces and better long than wide for control rooms. Floors need to be floated and really really heavy. Like as in layers of sheet rock, plywood floor surface and filled with sand.... For starters:(
    It gets pretty involved, but worth it. If you want to do commercial stuff there that is not loud blasting bands tracking all live, you'll need to go a bit high end on the construction.
    Sorry to be the killjoy, so I'll apologize now.
     
  11. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    cocheese, thanks for the tip on the tape op website, I'll check it out and get a subscription

    headstack, $2,000 is gonna have to do it, this is a shoestring project for sure, but I've got the labor lined up for free, for materials I'm basically counting wood, sheetrock, insulation, and glass. Granted it won't end up being the record plant, I'm just a guitarist who knows that it's gotta be possible to get some great tracks out of a minimal setup. I don't expect to get high paying clients, there's plenty of studios that will offer much more, but where there's a will there's a way, and I'm sure we'll find some way to get this thing sounding good, it might not be pretty, but hopefully will be functional enough. I wish there was a bigger budget, but it is what it is I guess.

    Hopefully what we'll end up with is a place that is better than most home setups, and big enough to track a whole band live.
     
  12. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    Also, I'm looking at getting a mac and possibly nuendo for the digital stuff, so that's gonna eat a lot of the budget right there, throw in some nice mics, and some other gear and I'm probably about topped out with what we'll be able to get for the place. Then it's all about turning something outta nothin (or very little) I guess.
     
  13. headstack

    headstack Member

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    Gotcha on the budget!!
    You might consider building the space in the right shapes and as you make some money you can install the floated floors and build the double walls from the backside... Try to get the double wall between the studio and control room built right away and you'll be ahead of the game. Make sure the angle you set the glass at does not reflect the sound towards the engineer (I tilt the glass back so the reflections go up and are eaten by the ceiling baffles) and make sure you use different thicknesses of glass or one will resonate the other. Also use some hard neoprene to de-coupole the walls from the surrounding surfaces.
    Are the floors concrete?? That will help you out greatly. If you want to call me sometime I can give you a few ideas that might help you save some troubles. PM me with phone#
    P.S. I have built $150,000 rooms for about $100,00. Still way off your budget, but there are ways to save, like your free labor factor!!
    Good luck and can we all come and jam?:)
     
  14. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    Yes the floors are concrete, there's not much sound coming through them now. Also the outside walls are double-brick, it's a very old well built building.

    Neoprene huh? That's a great idea, I was wondering what I could put in between to act as a shock absorber, also thanks for the ideas on the glass, tilting it makes a lot of sense.

    Well coming here to jam would be a far travel for you, I'm in Los Angeles.

    I was thinking about what you stated as far as building the rooms in the correct shapes, but I'm space limited, after going through everything many times with the plan, the large triangle shape is pretty much what I'm stuck with. However having the moveable baffles will enable me to change the shape of the room for different situations.
     
  15. Joe

    Joe Senior Member

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    Go get a job in a recording studio for a year, learn the trade and see if you actually like it.

    So many people get downsized out corporate America and go into their dream business to find out later they hate it, it is not profitable, and that the dream is a nightmare.
     
  16. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>So many people get downsized out corporate America and go into their dream business to find out later they hate it, it is not profitable, and that the dream is a nightmare<<

    As opposed to going into their fallback business, hating it, and finding out it's a nightmare.

    ;)

    Life sucks. Might as well try stuff.
     
  17. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    I already own a profitable business, so I work for myself now. I'm not looking for this to be a big money maker, that's not the goal, but if a paying project comes along of course I'd take it. I just want to have a nice recording spot for myself and the musicians I'm networked with here in LA, it'll end up being a serious hobby/money pit probably.
     
  18. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    Wow, Great info, thank you. I especially am interested in how to fabricate the sound diffusers, absorbers myself so I'll be reading that book for sure. Thanks very much.
     
  19. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    We are beginning construction with the main room being for the most part a big triangle, we thought about it from every aspect, and the end result was that it was basically the best use for the limited space we have. So there will need to be plenty done with it to sound optimal.

    I'll definately be reading the book, stuff like that is exactly why I posted this originally. Thanks very much, this forum is great, many helpful musicians.
     
  20. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    Well things are moving along, I bought a few items for the analog side of things, a Sony MCI JH 24 track 2" tape recorder, and a Sony MCI J 600 series console. Each of these weighs about 500 lbs, and we're on the 2nd floor, it was quite a project to get them up here without an elevator but we did it. I figure it's best to get these in here and do the constuction around them, the console is about the size of a pool table.

    I'm still doing a lot of researching on studio construction, sound treatment, and the gear we'll need for the digital side of the studio, there's just so much stuff out there now, I know almost everyone is using a pro tools rig, but I like what I'm reading about Nuendo so far.
     

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