From scratch…part 2

With the bass trapping in place, we run the test tones again and we’re pleasantly surprised to find that everything seems pretty even. As such, we’ll be able to use the bigger panels to address reflections coming off the side walls at the mirror points of the monitors. I’m always suspicious about bass frequencies, so I mention that in the near future, it would be good to get some thinner panels for the side wall mirror points and put these bigger panels on the back wall as planned. I’d much rather be in the position to put more bass into the room using the switches on the back of the monitors than to operate on the bare minimum of bass trapping and have issue arrive when working on bass heavy music in the future.
Stop-motion speaker placement
With everything else where it needs to be, we get to work getting the speakers into the best position. Moving the speakers an inch or so at a time in different directions, whilst keeping them positioned symmetrically can be quite frustrating – you’ve got to keep reminding yourself that this is the most important aspect of your studio. If your monitors aren’t in the right position and the acoustics are off, you won’t produce anything of value.
After a lot of shuffling around, we get the main speakers into the best position. We end up having to take the second set of monitors off the desk in order to move the main set closer together, as their previous placements put the listening position too far away from the desk.
The second set of monitors therefore needed to be put somewhere else.

The grot-boxes
Most studios run two sets of monitors – one set of high quality speakers for making critical mix decisions, and another set of lower quality monitors. You can either use a lower-quality set of monitors for this or a type of speaker known as a ‘grot-box’ such as the classic Yamaha NS-10s and the increasingly popular Avantone Mixcubes. There are two reasons for using these speakers. The first reason is to provide a consumer hi-fi reference for the engineer so that he/she can make sure that the mix translates to typical consumer-style speakers. The second is to make the engineer push the mix more. Basically, if it sounds good through these speakers – it’ll sound good through any system!

On inspection, the second set of monitors are M-Audio BX5a Deluxe. Although these speakers fall into the budget/entry level category, they are too good to be ‘grot-boxes’. However, after  listening comparatively to both sets of monitors, and considering the quality of home stereo systems nowadays, they do offer a pretty good reference. The speakers were originally placed vertically (as all monitors should be unless they are designed to be placed horizontally) on top of the main speakers with Wave Panels monitor pads to decouple the 2 sets of speakers. However, after aiming the tweeter at ear height in the listening position, it was evident that they would have to be angled severely, so we turn them upside down (which is common practice in this situation). Now, with the additional cuts of foam that come with the monitor pads, the monitors are angled downwards slightly more with the tweeters aiming in the right direction. No issues present themselves, so we are happy with the position of the monitors – especially as both sets won’t ever be on at the same time.

Finishing touches
We finish up by placing the extra panels we made one the side walls at the mirror points of the monitors. It’s good that these are fairly large panels as having the second set of monitors on top of the main monitors increases the area we will have to cover with treatment. As usual, the owner sits in the listening position whilst I run a small mirror along the wall at head height (of the person sitting in the listening position, not 6′ in the air!). As soon as the monitors appear in the mirror, that’s where we need to start treatment. Similarly, as soon as the monitor disappears, we can stop treatment. We map out an area with a fairly narrow width, but fairly lengthy on the vertical axis, which is to be expected as the monitors are stacked up.

As I said earlier, I would still like to have these panels on the back wall to add a little more bass trapping, so these may be replaced with some thinner foam panels in the near future.

The rack
There’s not a lot of gear in this rack at the moment, so it’ll be pretty simple to set up. So, here we go. Obviously everything needs to be plugged in to the Furman power conditioner, which in turn gets plugged in to the wall socket. The Digi003 Rack is plugged into the computer via firewire and is the master device. The main speakers plug into the 003R monitor outputs and the second set of speakers get plugged into the ‘alternate control room’ outputs. You can switch between these outputs via a button on the front panel. The Mackie Onyx 800R preamp is plugged into the 003R with a Toslink/ADAT cable and then a clock source is sent out of the 003R via a 75OHM coax word clock cable and into the word clock input of the Mackie preamp. The Avid Eleven Rack is plugged in to a pair of line inputs in the Digi003 with analog XLR to jack cables, as is the Focusrite ISA One. And that’s it! Usually this paragraph would be gargantuan and adorned with diagrams, but with plugins and virtual instruments now widely used in place of racks of expensive equipment, the whole thing is a breeze.

So there we have it – a home studio from scratch!

*Not pictured (but in use) are a heavy-duty mic stand holding an sE2200a along with an sE Reflexion filter and an sE pop shield.

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