In the January, 2012 issue of Pro Sound News, four noted engineers share news about the latest audio tools they’ve acquired for their personal recording setups, and pinpoint their favorites from both last year and throughout their careers. Here, the engineers also offer advice for anyone thinking of setting up a personal studio environment.
Ian Nieman of Nieman Music in Toronto recommends focusing on the basics. Set up the highest quality signal chain you can and capture audio to the best of your ability, he says. “Record the best signal you can into your DAW. I can’t stress enough the difference a good converter, mic pre or direct box can make on an overall final product.”
KamranV, who moves between the studio and the stage with his recording projects, has a very specific recommendation for a piece of software: “Ableton. Especially for someone who’s not as talented a musician as I should be, this is the simplest way to get a lot for very little. It’s my favorite tool for demoing ideas, but the beauty is that it plugs right into a ‘pro’ session without any problems,” he comments.
But setting up a personal production environment is not just about the audio equipment. Ryan Hewitt maintains his own tracking and mixing facility, Lock Stock Studios, and boasts an impressive list of equipment collected over the years. But, he stresses, “I think the most important thing is to just have a room that sounds good. At the same time, I advise people not to obsess about making the room sound perfect, because it’s never going to happen in a home studio environment.
“Unless you spend a lot of money, you’re never going to have a perfect sound. I think it’s better to have a mental EQ curve for your room and know that, well, there’s a little bass buildup so I’ve got to make sure I have enough bottom end. Or vice versa; there’s no bottom end in my room, so I have to make sure that I’m not pushing it too hard in the speakers.”
It’s very important to be comfortable, adds Hewitt. “You’re going to be spending a lot of time there, as I do in my home studio. It’s just got to be a nice vibe that you’re comfortable in and which is conducive to creativity; that’s very important.”
Indeed, it’s easy to forget, in all this talk of gear and rooms, that these things are all a means to an end, and intended to give your creativity free rein. “I think that it’s really important to make sure that all of the tools that you have are tools that work for you, rather than getting bogged down by them. The ultimate goal is to be creating music,” says film composer Ryan Shore.
“I would advise someone to acquire the types of gear or the amount of gear that is comfortable for them to maintain,” he continues. “If that means one Mac and a controller, and everything is in one box, go for it! If they’re comfortable with gear and can beef-up from there, awesome; there’s so much capability out there. But my advice would be to make sure that it doesn’t get in the way of the music and is only helping.”
Too much software can almost be a hindrance, and certainly a time-waster, if the user is not familiar with it. Take sample libraries, for example: “People get to a point where they acquire so much,” says Shore. “If you’re auditioning sounds looking for an oboe, and you literally have 100 oboes, eventually you need to choose one and keep going.”
Burl Audio: burlaudio.com
Direct Sound: extremeheadphones.com
Native Instruments: native-instruments.com
Shadow Hills Industries: shadowhillsindustries.com
Signal Transport: sigt.com
Sterling Modular: sterlingmodular.com
Universal Audio: uaudio.com
Ryan Hewitt: ryanhewitt.com
Nieman Music: niemanmusic.com
Ryan Shore: ryanshore.com