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So what makes a studio high end? DAW Software
Old 26th January 2003
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
nemisis633's Avatar
 

So what makes a studio high end?

I pose another question for you deitys of the gearslutz.

What makes a studio high end? Is it ton's of great outboard? Is a console a must? What peices in particular?

I'll give you background on the basis for my question.

I'm in a position where over the course of the next several years I hope to reach the "high end" point. I still live with my mother so rent is no object, and I'm presently turning $1000-$2000/month of income from my studio that I want to continually re-invest. I played the investing game during the .com boom with money from advertising and ended up with a very substantial ammount of money that allowed for the initial investment I've already spent. ( I say this to detur the "rich kid" attitude I often get.)

So with that said, I have this steady flow of income, and I'm wondering what steps I should take toward reaching the high end level. I'm eventually wanting to have desirable enough of a studio that people will want to come and track albums, instead of simply demo work like im doing now. I'm seeking the info now so I can know whether or not to continue just buying one peice of outboard at a time, or will I need to save and buy some sort of huge console to be viable. In 3-4 years I'm looking to build some sort of amazing building. I'm in a great position right now as I can accumulate quality gear without being in debt.

Sorry for the story just wanted to let you know my intentions for asking.

Right Now I've got a ProTools HD a control 24, and some really cool outboard I just purchased.. (Great River, Distressors, Millenia EQ) and a pretty good collection of mic's.



Thanks for the answers in advance,

Jon
Old 26th January 2003
  #2
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

a high end studio is a place where lots of care was made in the ROOM, the STAFF, the GEAR. a high end studio brings in over $2k a DAY per room. i would start by working your income to be $2k a WEEK.

first thing you should do is go buy chris stones book Audio Recording for Profit: The Sound of Money

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...glance&s=books

if you can get through the book and still feel like a high end studio is your bag, then you will be moving in a good direction towards it.
Old 26th January 2003
  #3
Gear Addict
 

I figure the answer has two essential parts: results and creature comforts.

A high end studio should put out high end product, in terms of fidelity, tonality, and musicality. Capable recording gear, great sounding rooms, and musical tools that facilitate creativity are part of the equation, besides capable, creative staff to help bring the results around.

Creature comforts would largely be a facility that gives everyone on the project what they need to be in the place they need to be for the task at hand. Comfortable surroundings, varied distractions (and management of distractions by the producer), sustenance in non-detrimental forms (a sliding scale for different people, I suppose), and whatever is needed to encourage the ultimate result. We don't always need to be talking about a resort studio; I think on one of the last two Soundgarden albums they brought Kim Thayil's ratty couch and other accoutrements to make him feel more at home in the studio when he was doing his overdubs.

The $2k a day sort of places tend to have what a large body of people would consider high end facilities. Some of the more homey, quirky places folks around here run might be more high-end in terms of the results they can pull out of a particular band. Mixerman's decoration strategies seem to be largely about taking the clinical, intimidating feel out of studios which might be intimidating and distracting to many musicians, so you might consider that sort of high end vibe doesn't help get results for everyone.

Me, I've plain and simple got a ****-hole.

Bear
Old 26th January 2003
  #4
Lives for gear
 
doug_hti's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by alphajerk
a high end studio is a place where lots of care was made in the ROOM, the STAFF, the GEAR. a high end studio brings in over $2k a DAY per room. i would start by working your income to be $2k a WEEK.
I agree.
I also think that NOTHING can replace EXPERIENCE. I think that someone, whether it be the owner or one someone in the staff , needs to have experience from the past from other successful commercial studios, to know what works and what doesn't.
A great sounding (possibly unique) room, like Bill Schnee's studio in LA as well as many others, is an area that project studios don't seem to understand the importance of.
If I were starting out, I would first commit to a great mix room or a great tracking room. I think it's financially easier to start out getting a good reputation for a good tracking room, and you don't have to have a million dollar console with loads of outboard gear, instead you can just have a DAW with LOADS of outboard gear (still very expensive).
Old 27th January 2003
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
nemisis633's Avatar
 

Well assuming that everything as far as experience lines up properly as well as reputation, what do you all think? Is outboard the best investment of my money for now and the future? It seems pretty safe to me as long as I stick to high end stuff....

cheers,
Jon
Old 27th January 2003
  #6
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Totally. High end is about having the rooms and staff. The gear is second but a very very close second. It's gotta be good and it's gotta work. That means being able to crank up the gain on something (console, mic pres etc) and NOT hearing a radio station coming in or having to smack the LA-2a with the side of your hand to make it stop cutting out.

I have plans in my head for my ulitmate studio. I've gathered them from every studio I've ever been too. You figure out what you like and what you don't like about different studios.
Old 27th January 2003
  #7
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

I second AJ's suggestion to pick up a copy of Chris Stone's book.

A successful high end studio is above all a client-oriented, reputation-based, finance-anchored, capitalist business. To start one requires sufficient financing and capital to make it through the first year of establishing the new high-end reputation and client base. Do the numbers and time estimates, then -- seriously -- double them.

At a high-end "sound hotel", client-service attitude is key....when clients are there (which should be all the time), it's not just your place, it's their place. Especially producers and engineers...they have to feel good and adopt the studio as "their" studio where they want to work. Your personnel, all the way down to the interns, has to have competence coupled with a calm "no-problem" helpful attitude.

Quote:
Originally posted by nemisis633
Is outboard the best investment of my money for now and the future?
Lots of high-end outboard and mics can be very cool, and you need to have a good selection of them in-house, but since special needs in mics or outboard can be rented in very easily (at least in the major music cities), and since many free-lancers bring their own fave goodies in with them anyway, I think of this stuff as deal clinchers or icing on the cake.

More important would be the rooms (acoustics, comfort), console, monitors/translatability, multitracks, service/maintenance rep and overall reputation amongst engineers -- who frequently are the deciders or the proposers to the deciders.

Not doing music for picture (i.e. doing music only) shuts the doors on a major and complementary revenue stream.

For a high-end room, not having a console would be like a sports car without an engine.

One definition of high-end: Anytime a high-end studio has a slow week coming up, a phone call or two is enough to fill that week (at the expense of the other studio the client ditched to work in the high-end room...)

Another definition: A high-end studio provides the perception that there are no possible excuses or obstacles to achieving the best possible performance or mix. This can be a vital thing, for different reasons, to the artists, engineer, producer, and record company.

Good luck!
Old 27th January 2003
  #8
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
Once you build your killer rooms; install the consoles and machines of your dreams; mount awesome monitoring systems and buy lots of goodies, like high-end mics and signal processing, etc., you still got to have the perfect team and a great maintenance record to boot.

But after all that, the real deal is.....




"High End" is ultimately a state of mind.
Old 27th January 2003
  #9
s2n
Gear Nut
 

A high-end room can cater to the whims of high-end clients.
Old 27th January 2003
  #10
Gear Nut
 
verbular's Avatar
 

Hi, to me, a "high end" studio has to start with the people and the enviroment more than anything else. I've used/worked at quite a few high end rooms in England, USA and Japan, and they all share those points. I'm more into production than engineering, but have been in studios long enough to tell.

One is stuck in a studio to make music, sometimes for 16 or more hours each day. So, the people element becomes most important. I and many other people I know often write down info of good assistant engineers and remember them. Sometimes, we offer them work and eventually they become good engineers in their own right. Studio managers are very important too, so are maintenance.

As for gear, one expects everything to work without stress, or, things that are a bit dodgy to be explained clearly before the session begins.

Once all this is cleared, then I tend to think about which studio is suitable for the project at hand, be it the console, outboard or room sound.

Oh, a really clean and silent toilet helps! That's about the only place I get to hide in privacy most of the time.
Old 27th January 2003
  #11
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

Yes, the toilets! So true...

About a month ago, a producer/engineer recommended our place to an artist whose album he is producing. When the artist came to visit, the first thing he wanted to see was the toilets!

He said something along the lines of: "I've seen a lot of studios, and the state of the bathrooms is a good indicator of the rest of the place".

Old 27th January 2003
  #12
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Excellent maintenance and a pool table.
Old 27th January 2003
  #13
Gear Nut
 
verbular's Avatar
 

I'm crap at the pool table, but table tennis is ok........
Just remembered that selection of food is helpful if you plan to have clients work in the studio on long sessions (over two weeks, basically). You get bored of eating the same very quickly.
Old 27th January 2003
  #14
Lives for gear
 

I really shouldnt be typing anything being that I dont have the expierence everyone else here does, but to me its not about the outboard gear much at all.

I can think of high end rooms that dont have half the outboard some people I know do. I know a guy that has a really nice pro tools room with a pro control, awesome pres (neve, api, millenia, cranesong) awesome compressors (1176's, a bunch of distressors, 2 cranesong trakkers, 2 dbx160's, and an alan smart) and some good EQ's. He has a really nice project studio. The equipment is nice, but theres no huge SSL, theres no gigantic tracking room that you could fit an orchestra in, theres no lounge with lots of entertaining things to do, and noone up front you can call to run out and buy you stuff late at night, noone that can be called to fix band members instruments. To me thats what a high end room has. The rest of the gear can be rented.

That being said I dont ever want a high end room. Give me a nice comfortable space with good equipment any day.
Old 27th January 2003
  #15
Moderator emeritus
 

Someone pointed out the other day that copious amounts of outboard gear may actually be a detriment for a high end room.

Since many of the top level engineers make as much money from renting their own gear to the project (sometimes overtly, sometimes through an intermediary) as they do with their engineering fees, a room that already has all of the same stuff that they do would be less attractive than one with a great console, a great acoustic space, and less outboard gear.

And a great staff, of course.
Old 28th January 2003
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
nemisis633's Avatar
 

So would you say, that if I had an amazing acoustic space, (wonderfull acoustics included) that I still would be going the wrong direction by attempting to go solid outboard direct into Pro Tools? I was thinking lots of great pre's, compressors etc, in place of a desk, and then buying a large version of whatever digi's pro control replacement eventually will be.

jon
Old 28th January 2003
  #17
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

i saw a pretty cool studio in tampa with a KILLER room that had NO DESK... just running PT with a bunch of outboard.
Old 28th January 2003
  #18
Gear Addict
 
CrazyBeast's Avatar
 

Lot's of good responses here. Mine (in answer to your original question) would simply be: a studio that puts out high end product. Plain and simple.

How you get there is different for everybody. For example, one of the things I love about Tape Op magazine is the studio/engineer interviews. A lot of times the studios that I've imagined to be big, pimped out places (based on work that they've put out) turn out to be pretty normal sized and equipped places that just so happen to put out stellar product.
Old 28th January 2003
  #19
Lives for gear
 
malice's Avatar
 

we will going to see more and more of that kind of facility :

killer room, no desk, nice mike collection.
I saw studio with no desk, no outboard gear, no mics etc ...
only killer rooms, patch bay, monitoring system ...

How many good studio I saw going down cause the could not pay the big 350,000 $ desk they felt right to buy last year, and that every client decided not to use because they prefer mixing within pro tools, and record thru their outboard gear (that are sometimes not as good as the desk pres, of course)

might save some good middle price studios to do that ...

malice
Old 28th January 2003
  #20
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by nemisis633
So would you say, that if I had an amazing acoustic space, (wonderfull acoustics included) that I still would be going the wrong direction by attempting to go solid outboard direct into Pro Tools?
jon
Not necessarily. Ultimately, you've got two options; you can build the room of your dreams and be your own client, or you can build a room that you want to rent out - the 'Sound Hotel" concept that Slipperman has mentioned.

If you are the client, then you can do whatever the hell you want to do to make yourself happy and comfortable working in the room. You can have what you consider a high end room with no staff, amenities or pool tables, and you can be very happy there.

If, on the other hand, you want to build a room for hire, then you've got to go with what will bring the clients in; this, I assume, varies with locale, the budget of your prospective clients, and the industry as a whole.

I think Michael Wagner's room counts as a high end private facility - that is, I think that he's happy working there, turns out good product, and doesn't really give a **** if any other engineers or producers ever want to book the room without hiring him as well.

A good example of the Sound Hotel concept might be Nashville's Tracking Room:

http://www.emeraldentertainment.com/studios/stuj.htm

Of course, you might also keep in mind that it has taken two diferent owners into bankrupcy...
Old 28th January 2003
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
nemisis633's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Martin


If, on the other hand, you want to build a room for hire, then you've got to go with what will bring the clients in; this, I assume, varies with locale, the budget of your prospective clients, and the industry as a whole.
This poses another question. If a room offers a very desirable tracking space, and equipment. What location would offer an advantage as far as artist preference? Do most prefer to drive to somewhere in the middle of no where and be somewhat isolated from the rest of the world during tracking.. (IE Dark Horse) or do they prefer to stay near a major city? I've milled this question over several times. I live about 2 hours from nashville presently and constructing a beautiful facility would be not nearly so costly here as opposed to in Nash.. Does the "Retreat" concept really work? Or would most prefer just to stay near the heart of everything. Nashville is already such a saturated market anyway.....

Thanks again, these responses are amazing. I imagine many are benefiting from this..

Jon
Old 28th January 2003
  #22
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

these are high end studios [ www.worldstudio.com ]... be sure to check out capri for the ultimate "resort" studio.

you have to decide whether you want to run a studio that will bring in outside engineers/producers like those at world studio OR are your talents going to as great as someone like dave friddman and do something like tarbox studios. those two ways drastically differ in what and how you buy gear.
Old 28th January 2003
  #23
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by nemisis633
This poses another question. If a room offers a very desirable tracking space, and equipment. What location would offer an advantage as far as artist preference? Do most prefer to drive to somewhere in the middle of no where and be somewhat isolated from the rest of the world during tracking.. (IE Dark Horse) or do they prefer to stay near a major city?
Well, Dark Horse Recording is, according to their web page, "just twenty minutes from Nashville's Music Row and just five miles from Franklin's town square", so it doesn't really count as isolated. After all, they can go into Franklin for lunch...

Quote:
I've milled this question over several times. I live about 2 hours from nashville presently and constructing a beautiful facility would be not nearly so costly here as opposed to in Nash.. Does the "Retreat" concept really work? Or would most prefer just to stay near the heart of everything. Nashville is already such a saturated market anyway.....
Well, I've had guys complain that my room, 20 minutes northwest of Music Row, is a long way to go for a session...

Part of the question is figuring out your target market - if you're plannig on using session players, 2 hours IS a long way to go; if you're planning on attracting producers to bring in bands and work with them over a period of weeks, then perhaps not. But how much of that is going on these days? More important, can you convince these producers want to come to your place? And there are other questions, of course - how is airline access? What provisions for lodging can you make? Can you create something that comes close to

http://www.longviewstudios.com/

And if you can, how can you attract the clientele to keep it open?
Old 28th January 2003
  #24
Gear Addict
 
CrazyBeast's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Martin
Can you create something that comes close to
http://www.longviewstudios.com/
Holy ****! The studio looks nice too...
Old 28th January 2003
  #25
Jon--don't worry about being 'high end' or being stuck in any category. Differentiate yourself from the other studios around you by your own unique talents and resources. Pro Tools can yield great results with the right guy driving the project (you and your engineer), so you are already at a great advantage. PT is also a key thing that many people are looking for when shopping for studios. You would be suprised at how big a hurdle that is for many.

I also think building any business too fast is a recipe for disaster. Grow slow just like you are doing currently. Get to know your room (or future room) & gear, stabilize your money management(keep the overhead down!!), and concentrate first and foremost on a kick ass product because no matter how many pool tables, chefs and hot assistant engineer girls you have on staff, it won't mean anything if somebody puts your CD into their car stereo and says the quality is horrible or even average (not that your quality is currently average, but you get my point). Write down a list of things you would like to change about your studio starting with the things that bother you the most. Do you need more realestate? Do you wish you had a rackfull of outboard gear and a mic locker that is the envy of studios 2x's your rate? Are you too busy with day to day engineering that you cannot find time to eat lunch and need a gopher? What's the most practical, and what is the best balance between what the client needs, and what you need for your own sanity and satisfaction? I think the people who are most successful in life set a definitive long term goal and shape their businesses for themselves. If you are proud of it will show and everyone else will be happy with it too.
Old 28th January 2003
  #26
Lives for gear
 
doug_hti's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Martin
Well, Dark Horse Recording is, according to their web page, "just twenty minutes from Nashville's Music Row and just five miles from Franklin's town square", so it doesn't really count as isolated. After all, they can go into Franklin for lunch...



Well, I've had guys complain that my room, 20 minutes northwest of Music Row, is a long way to go for a session...

Part of the question is figuring out your target market - if you're plannig on using session players, 2 hours IS a long way to go; if you're planning on attracting producers to bring in bands and work with them over a period of weeks, then perhaps not. But how much of that is going on these days? More important, can you convince these producers want to come to your place? And there are other questions, of course - how is airline access? What provisions for lodging can you make? Can you create something that comes close to

http://www.longviewstudios.com/

And if you can, how can you attract the clientele to keep it open?
Yes, Dark Horse is within 20-30 drive to music row and is even closer to Brentwood where a lot of music offices and people's homes are as well as a lot of hotels...
so Dark Horse doesn't compare with a place 2 hours out, it's just a nice drive out.
If you want a wide variety of clients then I don't think that a place in the middle of nowhere is the answer. Places in the middle of nowhere are more oriented to someone who really loves your room and is willing to lock it out for a week or more. It's also oriented to people that want to stay away from home...some do some don't. I think it's more of a gamble and will not ride the economy as well....but of course, there ARE ALWAYS EXCEPTIONS...
Old 28th January 2003
  #27
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by nemisis633
This poses another question. If a room offers a very desirable tracking space, and equipment. What location would offer an advantage as far as artist preference? Do most prefer to drive to somewhere in the middle of no where and be somewhat isolated from the rest of the world during tracking.. (IE Dark Horse) or do they prefer to stay near a major city? I've milled this question over several times. I live about 2 hours from nashville presently and constructing a beautiful facility would be not nearly so costly here as opposed to in Nash.. Does the "Retreat" concept really work?
That really depends. The out of the way places tend to get larger projects with longer bookings. But, you need an apartment or something so people can stay on site. For as many people who like getting out of town for a project there are just as many who like to be in the middle of it all.
Old 28th January 2003
  #28
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Martin
Someone pointed out the other day that copious amounts of outboard gear may actually be a detriment for a high end room.

Since many of the top level engineers make as much money from renting their own gear to the project (sometimes overtly, sometimes through an intermediary) as they do with their engineering fees, a room that already has all of the same stuff that they do would be less attractive than one with a great console, a great acoustic space, and less outboard gear.
Yes and no. A studio should have at least some of the standard stuff. I can't think of too many studios in NYC that don't have at least a dozen compresors in the rack and a few EQ's and preamps before you hit the rental list. Usually an 1176 or two, some dbx 160's, maybe some Summit stuff and the occasional Distressor. After that it's a rental.

OTOH, when your farther from the big studios having lots of outboard without a rental charge is a way to clinch a deal. If someone has to travel a ways they'll usually like the fact that they don't have to pack a lot of outboard. Usually people bring mics here, it's a rare engineer who brings lots of outboard.
Old 28th January 2003
  #29
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by malice
I saw studio with no desk, no outboard gear, no mics etc ...
only killer rooms, patch bay, monitoring system ...

How many good studio I saw going down cause the could not pay the big 350,000 $ desk they felt right to buy last year, and that every client decided not to use because they prefer mixing within pro tools, and record thru their outboard gear (that are sometimes not as good as the desk pres, of course)
Dear Malice,

Which studios are you referring to in your sentences above?

Thanks,

Jon
Old 28th January 2003
  #30
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by nemisis633
So would you say, that if I had an amazing acoustic space, (wonderfull acoustics included) that I still would be going the wrong direction by attempting to go solid outboard direct into Pro Tools? I was thinking lots of great pre's, compressors etc, in place of a desk, and then buying a large version of whatever digi's pro control replacement eventually will be.

jon
Ask your current and potential clients in your region.

For example, Oxfords and Axiom MTs are doing the business here in Paris but perhaps not as much in the US.

My experience...in the last year, I had one 'blind' request from an engineer whose artist client was looking for a mix room with just ProTools and probably a hundred 'blind' requests from folks looking for an SSL.
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