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Control room combined w/ tracking room...good idea?
Old 3rd March 2006
  #1
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Control room combined w/ tracking room...good idea?

I'm working on bringing the final stages of my project/home studio together and had a recent epiphany brought about by another thread and some pics of pretty nice studios that have their recording gear and what would be a control room (ors shoud I say 'area') in the same room that they track in. Essentially, a 'one room studio'. I'm now thinking that I might do this. My set up is located in the ground/basement level of my house. The tracking room is an addition on the back of the house that is on basement level but is a nice big open room with natural light. It's around 20' x 25' with large peaked ceilings and works quite nicely for tracking, though I'm still working on the acoustics. Adjectant to this is what was previously the laundry area and it is cramped...real cramped. It's about 6' x 8' not square, with some indented areas...still real small and with ceilings just over 6'. Pretty much sucks as any kind of real control room area...a joke really. It's nice to get the recording gear out of the way and I can do some rudimentary monitoring in conjunction with my Sennheiser HD600 headphones, but it's FAR from ideal. I was planning on moving my gear further back into the actual 'basement' part of the lower level with a snake running from an XLR panel in the big room, but this is still far from ideal. It is a bigger area but still with 6'1" ceilings...not to mention the furnace (which could be turned off). Overall, rather half-assed. The idea of just moving in with the musicians suddenly seems very appealing and the way to go. There are certainly some folks that like it and the point has been made that the interaction with the musicians is a priceless commodity. My setup is quirky, but pretty simple...pres & compressors into A/D into DAW/digital mixer. No big console. Fairly compact and it wouldn't take up a lot of space, although I have been thinking of getting into an analog console. I have very nice Earthworks monitors and it's been a shame keeping them chained up in that small room which they are simply too big for (was almost thinking of selling them off because of this). They'd have room to breath and I could now actually mix in the same room where I was previously hauling my DAW upstairs to my audio rig with ATC speakers for serious mixing. My notion is to use the laundry room where I have the recording gear now as an amp isolation area and rig a small pair of decent monitors up in that area as well so I could have a place to step aside to and offer a bit of out-of-room monitoring in certain cases.

I'd love getting some input from folks offering yea or nays on this as well as some words from folks using this same kind of setup. Here's some pics of my big room, though it is missing some parts of the room. There's no pic of the cramped control room, but you can probably get the idea on what that's like...





Old 3rd March 2006
  #2
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Sounds like you are on the right track with what's going to work for you. As you said not the most ideal way to go but not unheard of. Daniel Lanois has been known to do it the way you propose on purpose and he certainly doesn't have to. I don't know how many sessions I've been in, on, or around where pretty much the whole band is set up in the control room and the speakers are just mic'd up out in the live room and booths. Sounds like you will be good there. Turn that little room into a booth for seperate items you want to isolate. The only thing that might be a pain in the ass is getting drum sounds while you're in the same room. Go forth and conquer.
Old 3rd March 2006
  #3
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WOW! really nice job. just follow your ears, you have a beautiful room. I would really try and get some distance between the live room and the console room. it will be tough getting perfection with somethings but you can find a formula with what you have. i dont want to begin telling you how i started. but let me say, its a MUCH better start than i had. good luck... it looks great.
Old 3rd March 2006
  #4
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Lanois also has a PA going and all sorts of effects going back into the room through it and a whole trip that goes with it.

in general, if you like to capture the band as is, it can work well.
but if you are a shape it as you go or make the sound through the monitors guy, then obviously it won't work well for you.

you have to know yourself.
Old 29th March 2006
  #5
AjD
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Reviving this thread...

Centurymantra, I had a similar epiphany when I moved into my new space a year ago.

Actually, my studio space is surprisingly similar to yours (also in Michigan, believe it or not) - a very comfortable and spacious 22'x23' walk-out basement room with plenty of natural light - plus an adjoining 6x8' "little room". I very briefly struggled with the little 6x8' space as an abbreviated control room. Then, inspiration struck, and I've been a full-fledged 'one room studio' ever since. See pic below. (The 6x8' space, not pictured, is now an iso/amp room.)

I'll never go back. The process of producing bands/musicians - and myself - in the actual space where the music is happening was, to put it mildly, a revelation. Everything is so much more organic now. When a band does their takes, the communication between myself and the players is immediate and direct. It's almost as if we're "doing the take together" - rather than the more sterile control room/wall of glass dynamic, where the engineer/producer is acting as the awkward, uninvolved default 'audience-of-one'.

Musicians love it, and so do I. In fact, I was quite surprised at how much a difference this change made in things like: performance quality, ease of nerves, general comfortability, and just improved productivity overall.

There are, of course, logistical challenges, such as monitoring mic placement and building confidence in just getting 'sounds', but with practice I've found these issues quite manageable... and the benefits greatly outweigh the lack of monitoring isolation.

One piece of advice that's worked for me: Get a set of isolation headphones - I've invested in a pair of Remote Audio 7506s, which offer enough isolation that you can solo individual mics while a full band is playing in-room. Great for moving mics into exact position during rehearsal takes... I've found this approach is actually much faster than the old 'control room' way of doing things.

Best,
Adam
drawingroom

P.S. Where in Michigan are you? I'm out in the country just north of Ann Arbor (Dexter, to be specific).
Attached Thumbnails
Control room combined w/ tracking room...good idea?-studio-image-wide.jpg  
Old 29th March 2006
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AjD
Reviving this thread...

Centurymantra, I had a similar epiphany when I moved into my new space a year ago.

Actually, my studio space is surprisingly similar to yours (also in Michigan, believe it or not) - a very comfortable and spacious 22'x23' walk-out basement room with plenty of natural light - plus an adjoining 6x8' "little room". I very briefly struggled with the little 6x8' space as an abbreviated control room. Then, inspiration struck, and I've been a full-fledged 'one room studio' ever since. See pic below. (The 6x8' space, not pictured, is now an iso/amp room.)

I'll never go back. The process of producing bands/musicians - and myself - in the actual space where the music is happening was, to put it mildly, a revelation. Everything is so much more organic now. When a band does their takes, the communication between myself and the players is immediate and direct. It's almost as if we're "doing the take together" - rather than the more sterile control room/wall of glass dynamic, where the engineer/producer is acting as the awkward, uninvolved default 'audience-of-one'.

Musicians love it, and so do I. In fact, I was quite surprised at how much a difference this change made in things like: performance quality, ease of nerves, general comfortability, and just improved productivity overall.

There are, of course, logistical challenges, such as monitoring mic placement and building confidence in just getting 'sounds', but with practice I've found these issues quite manageable... and the benefits greatly outweigh the lack of monitoring isolation.

One piece of advice that's worked for me: Get a set of isolation headphones - I've invested in a pair of Remote Audio 7506s, which offer enough isolation that you can solo individual mics while a full band is playing in-room. Great for moving mics into exact position during rehearsal takes... I've found this approach is actually much faster than the old 'control room' way of doing things.

Best,
Adam
drawingroom

P.S. Where in Michigan are you? I'm out in the country just north of Ann Arbor (Dexter, to be specific).
Hey Adam...

Thanks for sharing that studio story...definitely comforting to see that it's working for others. My intuition has told me that this should be the best move in my situation as well. I also have a set of those Remote Audio headpones and they are most excellent. Certainly one of my best gear purchases and fairly critical to making the one-room-studio a smooth running affair.

That's pretty wild that your layout really is nearly identical to mine...and you're in Michigan. I'm located not far from you, in East Lansing.

Nice room BTW!

I've not done a lot of recording since the Big Switchover, but the issue of monitoring is a tricky one. I've got some projects coming up in the next couple months so we'll see how it fares. How has the process of doing drums in this setup worked best for you? Did you consider the idea of having a satellite pair of monitors in the iso room for doing double checks?
Old 29th March 2006
  #7
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I do a bunch of my tracking in the control room, primarily because it feels friendlier and more more conducive to good communication when everyone is close. With vocals and keys and stuff plugged direct, it works fine.

With anything loud I tend to have problems in avoiding reflections and resonances from the sides of the console and gear and other stuff in the space.

I'm doing a traditional Hawaiian project with a lot of percussion tracking, and the drummers sit on the floor to play most of it. I don't have much treatment on the bottom 2 feet of my walls or racks, and I get slapbacks and ringing unless I'm careful and use gobos.

My drum room windows are about 3 feet up off the ground, perfect for making eye contact between a drummer on a kit and the console and a vocalist in the vocal room. If I put the percussionist on the floor in there I won't see him at all.
Old 30th March 2006
  #8
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Hey guys, for these 1 room setups, how do you manage noise from the machines?

Right now, I am trying to figure the best way of tracking without hearing my dual G5. (Right now, I've got it outside of the room, so I simply close the door, and it's sufficiently lowered. I had it in the closet, but the lack of air flow seemed to invite the big fans more often.)

And, now my Furman power regulator is getting 125 volts input, and is buzzing. So I disconnected that, will put it in the closet, and will run extension cords from the gear rack to it. It's convoluted, but worth moving it away. Hope it's not a fire hazard.)

The noisy G5 is my main drag. I was considering investing in the Gefen monitor-usb-firewire extensions,
or perhaps, I should consider one of those enclosures. A properly ventilated & sonically isolated machine room would be nice.

Anyway, I was wondering how you guys deal with this noise from the machine issue?

Thanks
Old 30th March 2006
  #9
AjD
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Shepherd mix,

I have a 'machine room' (it's also my furnace room / gear repair workshop) next to the main studio area. Doubles nicely as an extra amp iso space, in a pinch.

All my PCs are located in the machine room (three of them, believe it or not - one is a server for session backups, the other are studio machines), stored nicely on a ventilated wire server rack.

It's easy to do this, and fairly cheap... just get a long monitor cord (VGA can go pretty far without degradation), and mouse/PC extension cables - and put your computer somewhere else. You could even run wires thru the floor or ceiling (assuming you don't go too far), and put the computer on another floor of the building.

(If you need to go long distances, there are also PC cable 'repeaters' you can buy - but they're pricey.)

Adam
drawingroom
Old 30th March 2006
  #10
AjD
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Centurymantra,

That's funny that you already have the Remote Audios! You're definitely on the right track, I'd say.

About adding a 2nd set of monitors in your "little room"... I guess by now it won't surprise you that I thought about doing exactly the same thing when I first made the one-room switch. It seemed like a good back-up plan - a way to "check sounds" live without wearing phones. I never did it though.

Here's why: Once I started working / understanding the new one room paradigm, I realized it made no sense. The beauty of a one room set-up, at least for guys like you and me (who have one largish, well treated room), is that monitor playback will always be much, much more accurate and reliable in your one big room. Once you experience this (and get to really know your new, larger, better playback environment), you'll never trust doing any sort of live critical listening on the monitors in that little, boxy, reflection-filled side room. Chalk this up to another epiphany, I guess...

And if your experience mirrors mine (and so far, it has...), you'll also fairly quickly "learn" to use those Remote Audio phones to get surprisingly decent sounds on the fly. This gets to your drum sound question...

Here's my general process: When a drummer first sets-up, I'll hook up a long extension cord to my Remote Audios and record the drummer while he/she just warms up. I'll start by just roaming around the room, with the phones on, and sometimes off, just listening. Then, I'll put the phones back on and solo each of the various mics, moving mics into various spots and choosing exact positions while he/she plays. (If I had to run back into the control room to "check" each of my changes, it would take much longer.)

Lastly, I'll play back the recording. Usually, the track is dead-on. Occasionally, a few tweaks are needed (a different mic choice, perhaps) - but believe me, they are minor.

In my experience, this way of working actually saves time and gets better overall results. The drummer doesn't even have to get up off their stool. Perhaps more importantly, he/she feels intimately involved in the process. It's a psychological thing: I wasn't off in some other room doing "my thing" - rather, we got the drum sound "together." A seemingly small difference, but a big change in paradigm - the vibe of the session is much improved by this change.

Hope this helps; if you're ever in the A2 area, stop by and I'll show you the place (couple more pics below - drum set/decoupled riser, and my "little" room - now used for amps/iso).

Best,
Adam
drawingroom
Attached Thumbnails
Control room combined w/ tracking room...good idea?-drumriser.jpg   Control room combined w/ tracking room...good idea?-isobooth.jpg  
Old 30th March 2006
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AjD
Centurymantra,

That's funny that you already have the Remote Audios! You're definitely on the right track, I'd say. I had basically scrapped the '2nd monitor' idea anyway, and that simply helps reaffirm that decision.

About adding a 2nd set of monitors in your "little room"... I guess by now it won't surprise you that I thought about doing exactly the same thing when I first made the one-room switch. It seemed like a good back-up plan - a way to "check sounds" live without wearing phones. I never did it though.

Here's why: Once I started working / understanding the new one room paradigm, I realized it made no sense. The beauty of a one room set-up, at least for guys like you and me (who have one largish, well treated room), is that monitor playback will always be much, much more accurate and reliable in your one big room. Once you experience this (and get to really know your new, larger, better playback environment), you'll never trust doing any sort of live critical listening on the monitors in that little, boxy, reflection-filled side room. Chalk this up to another epiphany, I guess...

And if your experience mirrors mine (and so far, it has...), you'll also fairly quickly "learn" to use those Remote Audio phones to get surprisingly decent sounds on the fly. This gets to your drum sound question...

Here's my general process: When a drummer first sets-up, I'll hook up a long extension cord to my Remote Audios and record the drummer while he/she just warms up. I'll start by just roaming around the room, with the phones on, and sometimes off, just listening. Then, I'll put the phones back on and solo each of the various mics, moving mics into various spots and choosing exact positions while he/she plays. (If I had to run back into the control room to "check" each of my changes, it would take much longer.)

Lastly, I'll play back the recording. Usually, the track is dead-on. Occasionally, a few tweaks are needed (a different mic choice, perhaps) - but believe me, they are minor.

In my experience, this way of working actually saves time and gets better overall results. The drummer doesn't even have to get up off their stool. Perhaps more importantly, he/she feels intimately involved in the process. It's a psychological thing: I wasn't off in some other room doing "my thing" - rather, we got the drum sound "together." A seemingly small difference, but a big change in paradigm - the vibe of the session is much improved by this change.

Hope this helps; if you're ever in the A2 area, stop by and I'll show you the place (couple more pics below - drum set/decoupled riser, and my "little" room - now used for amps/iso).

Best,
Adam
drawingroom
Hey Adam...

Those are pretty interesting observations and you make some good points about keeping the vibe of a session going.

Thanks for the pics BTW. I'm working on turning the 'small room' into a dampened area at the moment with mineral wool baffles, etc. Unfortunately, the 6'2" ceiling makes it tough to use for vocals, and the 'vibe' in the room ain't the hottest, what with the main drain running into the floor in one corner and the array of plumbing snaking through the ceiling, but this stuff will hopefully be covered by the treatments and it will definitely be making for a good amp isolation area. I think it would be pretty cool to take a look at your setup in person some time. I do make it to Ann Arbor here and there (was there this weekend actually). Perhaps I'll get in touch with you next time I'm heading that way...

How did that drum riser work out for you? I've been considering this, especially with the carpeted floors, but have wondered how notable the difference would be as I am on a basement level with a concrete foundation floor and it seems that decoupling would not be quite as crucial in this situation. It sounds like you are on a basement level as well though. I did place some birch paneling under the drums, mainly for the reflective quailites, and this was a nice improvement. Just been a bit 'on the fence' about going the next step and constructing an actual riser.
Old 30th March 2006
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Talbot

HEY - is that an Arp Axxe????
Late response, but yeah that is an Arp Axxe. Unfortunately it is not mine, as it was simply kicking around the studio for a few days after a friend had been over doing some synth overdubs. It's a cool little piece...patched up through a tape delay with some moog keys alongside it...
Old 2nd April 2006
  #13
AjD
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Cm, you are right, my studio does indeed rest atop a concrete foundation floor. In fact, when I first moved into the house, the room had wall-to-wall carpeting - not dissimilar to yours (imagine that thumbsup).

Thus, I was also concerned about the lack of floor reflections. My solution was more drastic - I tore out the carpet, underlayment, etc. all the way down to the foundation, built a new subfloor, and put a nicely reflective cherry laminate floor on top.

We used a product called DriCore for the subfloor (pic below) - this is an extremely cool modular tile underfloor made of humidity-resistant wafer hardboard (perfect for basement levels). Even better, DriCore has these little neoprene "feet" underneath, so the entire DriCore subfloor sort of "floats" over an 1/8" airgap atop your concrete foundation. The DriCore also doesn't touch any of the walls - there's a 1/4" gap running along the entire subfloor perimeter.

DriCore is not a true "studio floating floor" (not enough decoupling going on for that), but it definitely helps. Once the laminate is installed on top, the floor sounds and "behaves" similar to an upper-level hardwood floor. There is a satisfying click and thunk when you walk on it. That "basement" sound is gone. Mids reflect properly, with a pleasing "hollow" quality in the room. The room feels acoustically like it's on the main level of the house now.

So why the riser then? It's a poor man's "real studio" floating floor. Since I'm doing mostly old-style one room recording, the biggest challenge was isolating the drum sounds from the mics on other instruments in the room. The troublemaker is, of course, low-end (kick, floor, etc.) The drum riser decouples the whole kit acoustically from the rest of the room - most of the kit's energy no longer transfers into the floor, subfloor, and foundation (and thus, other microphones aren't as prone to pick up low end rumble from the kit).

There's a history of my long quest to design/build the drum riser over on John Sayer's acoustic design forum, complete with pics, here. (Essentially, the riser is made of several layers of Owens Corning 705 rigid fiberglass and high density MDF - I also built a few smaller versions of this riser to use with amps and bass cabs.)

Keep in mind that, even with your carpet covered concrete floor, drum freqs (and other low-end stuff) will still easily transfer into your house's structure through the floor (and thus, your other mics). Obviously, the best solution would be an entirely floated proper studio floor. But, for my purposes, these smaller risers were the next best thing.

Hope this helps!

Adam
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Control room combined w/ tracking room...good idea?-dricore.gif 
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