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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Short and Long Term Goals

Short and Long term goals.

As I’m planning the construction of my new studio I have to think about my short term and long term goals so I can decide just how I’m going to build my studio. Part of the planning is to make sure I have enough space and electrical for the gear I want to have (i.e. future purchases and believe me, the list is long). However, that’s only a small part of my plan. I must stop and give serious consideration to room acoustics. Angle of my walls, deflection and absorption are all a strong part of my signal chain which brings me to a well known disease called GAS or “Gear Acquisition Syndrome”.

Many of you visualize a recording studio as a control room full of really cool recording gear with a big control surface and another room full of really cool mics, and you’d be right to a  large extent. Some of you also visualize that if only you had all that gear you would be able to create really awesome recordings and people will beat down your door to either record at your studio or want to buy your CD’s in droves. Some of you have already been driving down that road but I want you to park the car and think about something.

RESIST GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). This is not where the guy or gal who dies with the most toys wins situation. The MOST important element in your signal chain is the room(s) you record and mix in. A room not only effects what goes into a mic but how a musician hears themselves and how the recording is listened to after it exits your speaker. It’s a strong part of the signal chain of recording and mixing music you have to deal with, which makes it triply important. Here is the signal chain as I see it for a vocalist:

Musician – room acoustics – microphone – mic cable – pre-amp – processors (if used) – control surface - recording devise (if computer than it will go through a AD-DA converter) – hard drive – plug-ins – AD-DA converter - amplifier – speakers – room acoustics – engineers ear. (see signal path photo below)

Three (3) times the room will influences the signal.
·       First how the musician hears themselves (especially if they are using headphones which means the signal has already looped through the system once)
·       Second what goes into the microphone,
·       Third it effects how the engineer applies EQ, effects and mixes the tracks.

I’m not saying gear is not important, but I don’t care if you have a $2000 mic and a $5000 mic pre, if the room has standing waves and chunks of your frequency are either enhanced or cut, you will not be able to record and mix the tracks properly.

Bottom Line: Every part of your signal path changes, colors and degrades the signal in some way and it all starts with your rooms’ acoustics. Which means… don’t try to fix your mix with the next cool piece of gear to hit the market.

(Trick: If you have one, use your mono button to help discover if a track is out of phase and your getting some frequencies to cancel out or increase. This needs to be fixed in recording if possible.)

Signal Path