5 Tips to Make Your Studio Pro Quality

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Perhaps more than in any other creative field, the line between professional and prosumer is the blurriest in pro audio. Just within the last 15 years, the quality of gear that has become financially obtainable by hobbyists and enthusiasts has increased exponentially, from interfaces to monitors and software. With that line so blurry, one can be left wondering how to up their game? In what ways can you take your home or project studio to new dimensions? Let's be realistic—you may never have that SSL desk in your basement, but we are well past the days where you need a console to make your studio pro level. Here are some tips, both practical and gear-related, to help get your studio to the next level.


Argosy Dual 15 Desk for SSL Nucleus Workstation

Invest in Treatment

One of the biggest differences between pro studios and the average home setup is how the rooms sound, the importance of which cannot be overstated if you're recording or mixing. Unless you're lucky enough that your living arrangements are coincidentally acoustically ideal, you're going to want to look into some kind of acoustic treatment. Out of the gate, I'd like to make a distinction between treatment and sound proofing. Sound-proofing, though important in its own right, will only effectively make your studio seem quiet to the outside world. Treatment, however, will help correct poor acoustics, such as standing waves and bass buildup, to help your room sound as neutral as possible. It comes in various forms, but the more major types include bass traps, which occupy your corners, diffusers, which help tame mids to highs, and cloud panels for mids and highs from tall ceilings. If hanging treatment is not appealing or otherwise not an option for you, IK Multimedia's ARC System 2 provides a software–based solution that uses the included calibration mic to take a reading of your room, and then employs a plug-in to compensate for the room's sonic inadequacies. While it does not fix your room, it allows you to compensate for it digitally.


IK Multimedia ARC System 2 Room Correction System

Improve your Monitoring

This tip is based upon getting the first one done, since I'd never recommend trying to improve upon monitoring before fixing an acoustically poor room. Also, don't think this tip is tantamount to me suggesting you run out and buy new monitors... necessarily. There are plenty of excellent and affordable monitoring options available, and frankly, there's a good chance you have a pair that you would have to invest a significant amount of money to improve upon. So how else can you improve your monitoring before you actually look to upgrade your speakers?

First is in the layout of your room, and in some ways, this can be more of a challenge than finding the cash to drop on new gear. Ideally, your desk should face the shorter walls of the rectangle that is the typical room, which will help create fewer reflections. After that, you want to make sure your desk is not directly against the wall, with most professional studios placing their “sweet spot” about 30% into the room. Keep in mind you can always move your desk back against the wall when you aren't working, if your room serves other purposes.

You should also make sure your monitors are decoupled, meaning that they aren't directly upon whatever surface you have them placed. There's a wide variety of application-specific isolation pads to help you accomplish this, helping to eliminate sympathetic vibrations from being passed onto your desk.


Auray IP-M Isolation Pad for Studio Monitor

Sweat the Small Stuff

A great recording experience can come down to details that seem small at first, but ultimately make all the difference to workflow. These things are rarely directly audio related.

Always make sure you have back–up hard drives ready to go; it's enough of a headache when a drive crashes, but having to run out and pick up a replacement (or order it online) delays production even longer, and unnecessarily. If you are working consistently, whether recording yourself or others, you will eventually need the digital storage, so hard drives are always a wise investment.  


Promise Technology 12TB Pegasus2 R6 Thunderbolt 2 RAID Storage Array

If you're looking to improve your workflow, don't overlook some of the more utilitarian aspects of your setup. Considering you spend almost all of your time sitting when creating, mixing, or editing, the importance of a comfortable chair simply cannot be overstated. Your back will thank you.


Arozzi Torretta XL Gaming Chair

If you're recording an artist, a comfortable space will help you get the best performances down on tape, and artists appreciate when you help create a vibe. Since your home studio is likely in space that is being repurposed, make sure you have touches of comfort like area rugs, candles, and some comfortable seating available for in between takes or other band members. Everyone will appreciate having teas and coffee on hand, as well as a coffee maker. Putting together a binder full of menus from local culinary takeout establishments will help expedite acquiring meals and taking breaks.

Upgrade Your Gear—Wisely

Listen, I completely understand what it's like to suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Gear is exciting! It helps inspire us, and though it's never a replacement for skill or talent, it's FUN. With an ever-expanding selection of mic pres, EQs, compressors, plug-ins, keyboards, microphones, and so much more, it's easy to be left lusting after gear, that while great, might not actually be useful for your particular workflow. 

Upgrading your gear is fun, but do some research, and upgrade wisely. If you're an EDM producer who mostly hires out vocalists to lay down your top line off site, your $2,000 budget isn't wisely spent on a high-end vocal mic. Evaluate your needs; that new stereo compressor might be an amazing centerpiece, but if you don't do any mixing, it might not be the best place to invest your funds.

Learn the Gear You Have and Practice, Practice, Practice

Ultimately, can you fill your room with the best gear possible, floor-to-ceiling outboard gear, the most high-end monitoring money can afford, and it still won't mean much if you don't know how to get quality recordings, tracks, or mixes without it. The best tip I can give is to practice on the gear you currently have and try every day to get a little better at your craft; listen to tracks made by artists you truly admire, read up on techniques, try them for yourselves, and always experiment. The best gear isn't going to make you a better recording engineer or producer, but once you develop your craft, it will help you achieve the quality you're after quickly and efficiently.

2 Comments

I would like to record my family singing in our living room at home and outdoors.  I do not want to purchase a whole recording studio but just two to four mics and a way to mix the sound of both instruments (box drum, piano keyboard, accoustic guitar, 7 ukelele) and 6-10 voices.  Can you help me find the right equipment?

Hi Cindy  -

Assuming you will be recording to a computer, consider this mixer:

The ProFX8v2 8-channel mixing console from Mackie features a built-in effects engine, and is ideal for a plethora of live sound reinforcement applications ranging from live bands and DJs to lecturers and presenters. With 4 XLR mic inputs with low-noise Vita microphone preamps, per channel 3-band EQ, 1 aux send, and an FX out for feeding external processors, the ProFX8v2 offers professional features to suit a wide variety of configurations.



In addition to the mic inputs, the ProFX8v2 includes 8 line inputs for connecting keyboards, samplers, and other gear. There is also an RCA tape input and output for connecting portable music players similar devices. In addition, the mixer has rugged 60mm faders for all input channels, return and main/monitor masters.



The ProFX8v2's effects engine offers 16 different effects, including reverbs, delays, and choruses. It also features a 7-band graphic EQ that can be used for tuning mains or monitors, and a built-in USB interface that can be used to record the show or provide music playback via Mac or Windows computer.

Pick-up a few of these microphone sets as well:

The C-2 Matched Studio Condenser Microphones from Behringer are designed for capturing vocals and instruments. The microphones are matched in frequency and sensitivity for accurate stereo recordings. Each microphone features a wide frequency response and a low-cut filter for eliminating low-frequency noise. The -10 dB pad switch provides additional headroom, minimizing noise when capturing peaking levels. The C-2 package includes two custom microphone stand adapters, two windscreens, a stereo bar, and a carrying case.

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