So the first thing I did before anything else was research acoustic treatment and acoustic treament companies that would give me some free consultation without any pressure. I was recommended over to GIKAcoustics(.com or if you’re like me and hail from blighty .co.uk). I drew up a diagram of the new space and expressed the budget and my concerns. Bryan Pape from GIK emailed me back within the day with a full diagram explaining the exact acoustic panels I would need, where they should be placed, and more importantly, why. I was more than impressed with the speed and support Bryan offered which was the deciding factor for me to order it all from GIK. Bryan stated that a room of that size would need some serious bass control due to the surfaces being so close to each other, I couldn’t agree more as I have worked in small studio spaces before, when I had just started my life in audio and I found that the mixes I made in these small spaces did not translate well at all to other systems and the resulting sound was a horrible muddy mess.
There is a lot of science behind acoustics which can be extremely hard to get behind when you’re first looking into it all. There are two explanations that are easy to understand
- Low frequencies build up in corners of the room, so acoustic panels need to be placed there.
- For reflections, sound travels in waves in its purest form. What also travels in waves that we deal with every day? Light! What objects do we have at home that reflect light? Mirrors! The easiest way to find out where to place acoustic absorption is to have a friend, or yourself, sit in your listening position. Now either yourself or a friend goes around the walls holding a mirror. Everytime you see your monitors, that is where a panel needs to be placed as that is where the sound is getting reflected! Couldn’t be more easy.
Once the panels were ordered from GIK it was then time to move onto looking at getting some new monitors, I again reached out to various audio communities asking for preferences and favourites. Although, like most audio geeks, we have to test out our kit to make sure it’s right for us before buying. Audio is a subjective matter, what might sound good to me could sound horrible to someone else, and this is the reason you must trust your own opinion over anyone elses. I popped into London to a few Pro Audio shops and had a listen to a number of monitors, I took with me a copy of the Uncharted 3 Soundtrack and played Museum Bust which had become a quick favourite of mine since the games release. It is mixed fantastically with clear breathing space for each instrument and a huge range of dynamics which allowed me to carefully critique each monitor. I decided to listen to only 10, since I didn’t want to fatigue my ears and end up with something I’m going to hate down the line. After listening I took some time away to really mull it over and I ended up picking a pair of Adam A7X’s, I found that the detail in the high end was stunning but it also had fantastic response in the low end, so much so I don’t believe I’m going to need a sub with them.
Last but not least was a new audio interface. I wanted something that was going to be able to handle audio at 192khz/24bit in a breeze as well as having a nice preamp with a couple inputs for when I’m designing and quickly need to do some voice work for the sounds I’m creating. I heard Avid had recently released a new line of Mbox’s and after working on numerous previous iterations on the hardware before I was quite happy to take the jump after reading a number of reviews on the new Pro version. It can retail anywhere upto £900 but I was able to grab a hardware only unit for just over £400 new which I was quite impressed with!
I’m not interested in the bundled ProTools, I have used the software before and whilst it is widely accepted as a standard, it is just lacking so many features other (cheaper) DAWs feature. Avid are losing the battle with this it seems, with stocks falling, job losses and updates coming out much more regularly to try and regain their place in the market. But with cheaper, more powerful and quicker to use solutions like Nuendo, I have had little reason to return to ProTools (I think the only reason is the fact that it’s still the standard, (so sending over sessions is much easier knowing other audio guys will be able to open them). Off topic but my two cents on the whole DAW war!
So once all the kit had arrived it was time to install it all! I started off installing the panels, the kit was boxed extremely well and arrived in perfect condition. When I opened it and took out the panels I was amazed at the craftsmanship. GIK obviously love their craft and it really shows through the design of their products. The wooden stands I had ordered for the corners were a breeze to install. They were again hand crafted and looked fantastic.
The hardest ones to install were the ceiling mounted panels. Although GIK had provided the easiest way to set up this, I still found it quite fiddly. But some ceiling hooks and some S hooks combined did the trick. Once this was complete and the panels were up it was time to install the hardware. I hooked up the Mbox Pro 3 and found that I was getting no sound whatsoever from it. Everything was looking right in the software and the hardwares lights were blinking away.. but still nothing. I read online that a lot of users are having trouble with the Mbox Pro 3 (wish I’d come across these articles before I’d purchased it!). Apparently a lot of users had to take the equipment apart and rejig some of the circuits. Wuh-oh not good. I took apart the steel case and saw that it was bound together with an even tougher steel case, there were two small sides that weren’t covered by this steel case so I had a look and nothing seemed out of place. I put the case back together and it started working! I have no idea what was wrong or why. But I’m glad it’s resolved.. for now!
So now I’m sitting in the new space and I’m very happy with it. So I guess I really should throw up some pictures of it! Although the pictures do not do it justice, it is a lot spacier than it appears and a lot brighter. The last thing on my checklist is to run some measurement software and rejig the speaker/listening placement to the best I can get from this room. I highly doubt it’s perfect, but no where is ever going to be!