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Music Studio

Well calling it a "Studio" is an exaggeration, since this room also doubles as my office (where I also sit when developing software, fly in a flight-simulator or occasionally play a game, or what else I do with my computer). A few years back I decided to add some Acoustic Treatment to my studio (broadband absorbers and bass-traps). In stead of buying pre-made broadband absorbers and bass-traps, I did my own DIY (Do It Yourself) project where I simply made these from 2 by 2 wooden-frames (planed to 45 mm), containing rockwoll and covered with a dark-blue/black fabric (if you have not done any acoustic treatment to your studio i can highly recommend you do it - even just a couple of broadband absorbers can have a big impact, when "put in the right place"). These days I use a mix of both hardware- and software synthesizers.

Computer and Hydrasynth Deluxe

I started out using a windows computer and for a few years I switched to an iMac which I used mostly only for music-production, so I could keep my PC for other purpose. But for the last +10 years I have only used a PC. For many years I was using two 24" screens, but now I only have a single 43" 4K screen connected to the PC (its great both for music production, graphics, flight-sim or whatever I use my computer for). When it comes to a computer used for Music Production, there is no such thing as a too powerful computer. The cheapest way to maximize the potential of your computer is to maximize the amount of memory in it, especially if you are into using big sample libraries, but memory can also be used to pre-load audio tracks from disk to put less strain in your disk. If you are into using many virtual instruments/effects the more CPU-cores and the higher clock-rate the better. Personally I would go for a system with 8 or more cores, and not less than 16 GB of memory (preferably 32/64 GB or more if you are using huge orchestral sound-libraries) . If possible I would use (SSD) 2 harddrives (one for the operating system, and another for your music-projects/files), and then a SATA disk (more capacity) holding backups and/or sample libraries you don't use often (if you can afford it - naturally a 3rd SSD would perform better). Make sure you back up everything (both your projects and the libraries you might purchase). I have an account with an online backup-provider, so any changes are automatically backed up nightly.

For a number of years I used my Novation Summit as my master keyboard and it was placed bewteen my computer keyboard and my 43" screen. But finally 2023 I went for the ASM Hydrasynth Deluxe, and since its the only keyboard I have with polytouch and a ribbon controller I decided this should be my new primary master keyboard (also it have 1 octave more than the Summit). I got the Summit to improve my sound design skills and I love it has dedicated knobs for (almost) everything. However had Novation only been fitted it with endless knobs with a a ring of led souranding these it would have been perfect. The dedicated knobs are great when you know what you want to dial-in, but they sucks when you want to "disassemble" a patch made by others, to see how it is build (I do realize it would have been much more expensive to produce with endless knobs/LED ring). In this aspect I simply loves the layout of the Hydrasynth. Its both easy to "disassemble" the factory patches and dial in your own patches, without too much menu-diving..

Novation Summit, Yamaha MODX7+ (digital hardware synthesizer)

Back in 2003 I started out using a Yamaha MOTIF6 (synthesizer) as my "master keyboard", but around 2013 I sold all my hardware and went full software, so for a number of years I used various MIDI-keyboards in stead. Fast forward 2021 I started to get some hardware again. I had my eyes on both the ASM Hyndrasynth and the Novation Summit. In the end I went for the Novation Summit for its almost analog sounding oscillators, and I love all of its dedicated knobs (in most cases there is no need to go menu-diving). But as written above I did go for the Hydraysynth Deluxe a few years after getting my Summit, and I am now using the Hydraysynth as my master keyboard. These days the summit is not seeing as much action as it used to do, but its' still in my studio/office, but now "behind me" in stead of "in front of me" (see photo below).

As written about I used to own a Yamaha MOTIF (the original), but I parted with it 2016. Between my software synthesizers, the Hydrasynth and the Summit I am fully covered in regard to "synthesizer sounds", but when it comes to "normal instruments" I didn't have anything except a few sample libraries. So to fill this void I decided on the much younger sibling of my original MOTIF, the MODX7+.

I bought the MODX7+ at the time the Montage M was released, and while I would have prefered to get the Montage M (because of its AN-X engine, more controls, after-touch, higher polyphony, more memory and so on), the MODX+ is not a bad keyboard in any way. It have great sounds, a lot of polyphony, and there are still many posibillities regarding its AWM2 and FM-X engines. In the end I was not prepared to pay the higher price for the Montage M, so the MODX+ was what I went for.

Behringer ARP2600, Neutron (analog hardware synthesizer)

I've always wanted to have an ARP 2600 (produced in the 70's), but never thought I would ever own one, as they had gone out of production in the early 80's, and a fully functioning 2nd hand would cost "an arm and a leg", if you could find any willing to sell one. So for years I had to scratch my ARP 2600 itch, using the Arturia software version of the ARP 2600 (part of Arturia's V-Collection).

However this changed when Behringer announced that they were going to produce a new version of the ARP 2600, and I instantly knew I had to get one. I am sure the purist will tell you that the Behringer is not "a real ARP 2600", but it is the closest I will ever get to own one, so for me it's perfect. The ARP 2600 is a semi-modular analog synth with 3 oscillators. Being semi-modular means the modules within the synth are pre-wired. So you can start playing and tweak knobs at once, without inserting any patch cables. However this internal/default wiring can- and will be disabled as soon as you start inserting patch cables. So you are free to change the routing as you see fit. It comes without keyboard and sequencer, but on the back it both have a normal (DIN5) MIDI-port and MIDI via USB. I bought a KORG SQ-1 sequencer that I can either connect via MIDI or CV. The way Behringer "shaped" their ARP 2600 it can both be used as a desktop synth, or be rack-mounted. Personally mine is rack-mounted sitting in an angled K&M42020 rack, with a Behringer Neutron mounted just above it (for each patch between them).

I though about "expanding my ARP 2600" by buying some of Behringer's System 100 modules and add them in the rack just above the ARP 2600. But in stead I went for the Behringer Neutron. The Neutron (like the ARP) is a semi-modular synthesizer with a large patch-section in the right side. The Neutron features two oscillators, noise-generator, multi-mode filter, 2 ADSR envelopes and a single LFO (well the 2 oscillators goes full range, so these can double as LFO's also) and a few effects. The patch-section is very feature rich both with S&H, summing and attenuation and many other features.

While the Neutron have a very "fat" analog sound on its own, my primary reason to get it, was to use it to further modulate my ARP 2600, by patching between the Neutron and the ARP ("poor mans solution" to not have any euro-rack modules). But in some cases the Neutron will be used by itself. I bought the rack-ears for the neutron so both the Neutron and the ARP are mounted in the same angled rack with the Neutron sitting just above the ARP, for easy patching between them. Like the ARP 2600 it both have a traditional (DIN5) MIDI-port and accepts MIDI via USB.

KORG SQ-1 (sequencer) / Behringer CRAVE (synthesizer)

Both the ARP 2600 and the Neutron comes without any sequencer or arpeggiator, Beside CV-note/gate they both accept MIDI via a DIN5 or USB, but even if you plan to play it over MIDI it can be convenient to have a sequencer feeding it CV-data (note and gate) while setting up the patch, in stead of bending backwards reaching for a MIDI keyboard. Likewise there will be situations where you want to play these directly from a sequencer, in stead of having to setup your sequence in your DAW (in my case Ableton Live). So I went shopping for a sequencer. First I decided on the KORG SQ-1 (right). The KORG SQ-1 is an old-school analog CV-sequencer, and while it offers the ability to quantize the note CV-signals it's great for dialing in sounds by ear, but less attractive when you want to dial in specific notes (I don't have perfect pitch by any chance). But it's still a very nice sequencer with either 8 steps for 2 different outputs (A and B), or the two rows can be combined for sequences with 16 steps for a single device. As it generates CV-output (it can actually also output to MIDI) it can naturally  be used to generate CV-signals for other purpose than note/gate signals.

As written above, dialing in specific notes with the KORG SQ-1 is less easy when you don't have perfect pitch. So I went looking for another way to sequence. The choice was the Behringer CRAVE (left). The CRAVE is a full-blown semi-modular analog synthesizer on its own (very similar to a Moog Mother-32, but about one 4th of its price), and it have a feature rich patch-section in the top (with 18 input- and 15 output- patch-points). So even though it appear simple (1 oscillator, noise-generator,  low/high-pass filter, a single ADSD/AD envelope and a single LFO) it can do some weird things thanks to its patch-section. At the bottom of the device you find all the controls that lets you interact with its Arpeggiator and Sequencer (32 steps/64 memory slots) and "keyboard-buttons" for a single octave (up/down buttons lets you switch octave). The portability of the CRAVE also makes it perfect to take out on its own. It would have been nice if it could have been battery-powered and had a build in speaker. So beside the CRAVE you also need to bring its power-plug and a pair of headphones. But armed with an extension cord and headphones, you can be sitting in in the sofa while setting up sequences and dialing in patches before you bring it back into your studio and connect it with other equipment.

Ableton Push 2 (MIDI-Controller)

I was a devoted (Propellerhead) Reason user for years, but many times I though about getting myself a license for Ableton Live. But it wasn't until Ableton released their Push 2 controller, where it was love at first sight, and I a week after I saw it for the first time I had bought a bundle consisting of Ableton Live Suite and Push 2. So I was in for a steep learning curve, both getting up to speed with Ableton Live and on top of everything else, also learn how to use the new Push 2 controller.

I like the session-view of Ableton live where I can quickly layout my ideas, before I start to put it all together into "a song". The Push 2 is great for "controlling" live and I like its integration. I am by no means "a keyboard player" so when it comes to notes and chords i will as often "program them" directly into Live, as I will try to input them via a synth/MIDI-keyboard as I will use the Push 2 controller. However when it comes to drums I by far prefer the pads of the Push 2 controller over any synth/MIDI-keyboard. The Push 2 controller is sitting to the left of me, the mouse to the right, and the PC keyboard between them.

Yamaha HS80M, Arturia Audiofuse

For many years I was simply using a set of consumer speakers, with 2 small (2 unit) satelites and a passive subwoofer. This setup was not half bad, but as with all consumer speakers they would color the sound, so for a long time I had a pair of nearfield monitors on my wishlist. But every time I had a little money to spend on music equipment other things than monitors appeared more interresting to me - so little I knew :-)

It wasn't until after I had dome some acoustic treatment to my studio (installing broadband absorbers and bass-traps) I decided it was finally time to get a pair of good monitors. I had several alternatives in my sight (e.g. Genelec or KRK) but finally I went with Yamaha. I was both looking at the HS50M and the HS80M. To me the HS50M are too weak in the bass range by themself, so if I had gone for them I would also need the HS10W active subwoofer. But in the end I desided to go with the HS80M, as I think they sound great on their own (without the subwoofer). I am very happy with my choise and glad I finally moved on from my consumer speakers. The HS80M sound absolutely great, and they have a very flat response curve (don't color the sound). The Yamaha HS80M is an Active (Powered) monitor, meaning it has a build-in 120W amplifier. Actually it is bi-amplified meaning there are two separate amplifiers. There is a 75W amplifier driving the big 8 inch come, and a 45W amplifier driving the 1" dome. On the back of the HS80M you find a lot of controls to let you better set them up to fit in your room if it is not treated (but for the best result you should acoustic treat your room).

From about 2006 to 2023 I used a RME Fireface 800, connected to a Behringer ADA8000 (for additional 8 audio in/out connectors). However when I got my latest PC the GPU occupied "to much space" on the motherboard, so I was not able to add a PCIe Firewire card to the PC. I really loved my RME Fireface and its driver/software, and I though long and hard about getting a new RME Fireface with USB in stead, but in the end I was (so far) too cheap to pay the price. So in stead the choice ended up being the Arturia AudioFuse. While it is not too bad (and I know it have since had a couple of "bigger siblings"), I still miss my RME Fireface. Anyway the AudioFuse is connected to my Behringer ADA8000 for additional input/output connector. The 3/4 input on the AudioFuse is still awailable for use, so once Behringer gets to finally release their VCS3 all of my available inputs will be in use.

Shure SM 7B (Microphone) / Cloudlifter CL-1 (active gain)

When I decided to go shopping for a microphone, the choice ended up being the Shure SM7B, which many sees as a pure "broadcaster" microphone (its used in many radio-studios around the world). However the SM7B works equally as well recording artists singing (e.g. most of Michael Jacksons voice was recorded for the Thriller album on a Shure SM7 - the predecessor to the SM7A/B). Consider its heritage in the broadcasting industry this microphone is perfect for voice over, and mounted on a RØDE PSA-1 table-stand/arm you can easily place it in front of your mouth. The foam windhood doubles as a pop-filter and the microphone has a build-in shock-mount. According to Shure it can handle over 180 dB SPL (human pain threshold is around 140 dB SPL), so it will work equally well recording a heavy metal "singer" screaming into the microphone, or recording the sound of a Boeing 747-400 spooling up its engine to max - I don't care much for heavy metal - so I would actually prefer the sound of the 747 :-)

Most dynamic microphones are more quite compare to condenser microphones, and the SM7B is notorious quite (it needs 60 dB of pre-amp). My RME fireface is cable of delivering 10-60 dB of gain, but then you need to ride the gain by fully turning up the gain-knop. You should never ride the gain like this, as it will cause distortion and bring noise into your recordings. So between my SM7B and my audio-interface I have placed a Cloudlifter CL-1. The SM7B being a dynamic mic it don't need phantom-power, however the Cloudlifter does. The Cloudlifter uses this power to add a fixed (very clean) 25 dB amplification to the signal from the SM7B, and it will then send this amplified signal to the audio-interface, meaning you can dial in a much lover gain in your audio-interface (and thereby avoid the problems associated with riding the gain). All you have to do is to insert the Cloudlifter into the signal chain between the SM7B and your audio-interface, and enable phantom-power in your audio interface (the Cloudlifter will use this phantom-power, but will not pass it on to the microphone).


Shure SRH 840 (Headphones)

Normally I use my Yamaha HS-80M monitors, however when you want to listen to your own voice, along with music and or effect, while you record with a microphone, you need a pair of good head-phones (or in-ear monitors). These headphones needs to be closed so sound will not spill out from the head-phones and make their way into your microphone recordings. Over the years I have had a few different sets, but my latest choice is a set of Shure SRH 840 which I like. They don't color the sound too much, and they are relative comfortable to wear for some time.


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