Mixing In A Jail Cell

3/9/2017 3:02:00 PM
By Russ Long
Russ Long
If someone had told me that I would agree to spending the next six months of my studio life working out of an 8' x 20' Mobile Mini steel trailer with barred windows designed to be a construction site office, I would have said they were crazy. How wrong I would have been.

After the careful weighing of all of my options, I decided that the advantage of being on location and being able to keep a close eye on my studio construction process while working out of my driveway greatly outweighs the sonic disadvantages of the workspace. Besides, the last thing I want to do is have to find a new location to completely set up, only to pack up and move again in a few months.

I quickly discovered that a space designed to manage a construction site sounds more like Carlsbad Caverns than a control room. The wretched combination of parallel walls, vinyl tile flooring, a low ceiling and painted sheet-rock walls results in a sonically terrible room (and that’s being kind). Yet I’m happy to report, with a little bit of planning and a couple of sonic tricks, I have ended up with a remarkably usable (though far from ideal) workspace.

Here’s what I did:

First, I placed my HoverMat—Auralex’s 6’ x 4’ miracle drum rug—on the floor covering my mixing location. I’ve traditionally used the HoverMat as a drum rug; it works wonders decoupling the drum kit from the floor, resulting in a tighter, punchier drum sound. I must admit, though, that it works equally well reducing the ambience and controlling the low frequencies in my mix position. And thankfully, the mat in no way hinders the movement of my Stealth chair. I am positioning my Focal SM9 monitors on the same ProPAD-equipped Sound Anchor monitor stands that I successfully used for years at The Carport.

Since the trailer is so narrow, it was critical that direct reflections off the wall were eliminated as much as possible. I used a mirror on each sidewall to find the exact position of the direct reflections in regards to my mix position. I then hung a 2’ x 4’ Auralex ProPanel in that position on each side. I placed a third ProPanel on the wall behind the speakers to further reduce reflections. The back half of the trailer was still creating an excessive amount of ambience, and since I had quite a bit of gear that needed to be stored, I packed the back third of the trailer, floor to ceiling (leaving a path to the ultra-loud HVAC unit which I’ve sworn to use only when absolutely necessary). I placed a pair of DeskMAX panels in front of the stored gear to reduce direct reflections off the boxes and plastic bins; the excessive ambience has been almost completely eliminated.

The result is a space that undoubtedly leaves much to be desired, but I’m happy to say it is quite usable. I’m very pleased to be able to work without feeling like I’m compromising and still remain a stone’s throw away from my future studio. Just don’t tell my wife…she’s already asked me why we are building a studio if the Mobile Mini is working so well.

Russ Long is a Senior Contributor to Pro Sound News and a longstanding contributor of studio product reviews to Pro Audio Review

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