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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

I started out using a Windows computer, then for a few years i was using a Mac (as in the photo). The Mac I used more or less only for music-production. But I had to have a Windows computer, so when it was time to update the music-computer I went back to full Windows mode (only a single computer in stead of two). 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 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 my sample libraries (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.

Yamaha HS80M (Active Monitors)

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). You can simply connect the monitors directly with your audio-interface, but then you have to control the volume on the computer or reach behind the monitors(where there is a volume control). In stead I bought a Nano Patch+ which is connected between the audio-interface and the monitors. The Nano Patch+ has a big knob for controlling the voume and a mute button which is handy if the phone suddenly rings.

Novation Summit (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). I still have the ASM Hydraysynth on my wishlist, but time will tell if it will be bought at some time. So for now the Novation Summit serves both as a synthesizer and my master keyboard for controlling my soft-synths (I'm not a keyboard player per say, so when not programming notes or chords in the DAW I either use the keyboard of the Summit or the PUSH2.

Behringer ARP 2600 (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 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 wireing 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. The way Behringer "shaped" their ARP 2600 it can both be used as a desktop synth, or be rack-mouned. At the time of writing this my ARP 2600 is still in back-order, but I hope to get it soon :-)

Behringer Neutron (hardware synthesizer)

At the same time I ordered the Behringer ARP 2600, I also ordered a Behringer Neutron. The Neutron (like the ARP) is a semi-modular synthesizer with a large patch-section in the right side. It does however "only" feature two oscillators, and it have 2 envelopes and a single LFO (well the 2 oscillators goes full range, so these can double as LFO's also). The patch-section is very feature rich both with 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 the ARP, by patching between the Neutron and the ARP (I dont have any Euro-rack equipment, so this "what I got in stead"). But in some cases the Neutron will be used by itself. I also bought the rack-ears for the neutron so both the Neutron and the ARP will be mounted in a rack with the Neutron sitting just below the ARP for easy patching between them.

The default red-overlay on the Neutron is missing some descriptions for the new features added in firmware 2.0, and I am not a fan of the "background" they have used in the patch-section (as I think it makes the labels less readable). So I ordered a new/3rd party overlay (from Heina Kroon). This (very colorful) overlay contains description (labels) for some of the features added in firmware 2.0, and the corresponding input/output patch-points in the patch section are colored in the same way, so simply looking at the colors (without reading the labels) you can quickly identify the patch-points to use. A lot of different overlays are available from Heina Kroon, but as I said I chose this one, as it allows me to quickly identify the various "modules" of the synth and the patch-points to use (I prefer practical over pretty).


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.

RME Fireface 800 (Audio Interface)

I started out with an audio interface with a single stereo input/output, and a mixer. However as I got more hardware I ended up outgrowing that mixer (needed more inputs). In stead of a larger mixer (with more inputs) I decided to retire my mixer and old audio interface, and in stead I went for a RME FireFace 800 which has 10 analog inputs/outputs and (4 of the inputs also accept XLR-connector and are able to feed phantom-power to microphones). Beside the analog connectors you can connect additional equipment via 2 ADAT interfaces. It connects to the PC both using FireWire-400 and FireWire-800 but since I planed to add 2 ADAT interfaces (totaling in 26 Input/Output) I decided to connect it to the PC using a Lacie FW800 module (more bandwidth than FW400). In the past I had connected 2 Behringer ADA8000 devices, so I had enough inputs for (at the time) all of my hardware synths and groove-machines.I ended up selling one of those ADA8000's, so these days only a single ADA8000 is connected.

Bad connectorsWhen I got a new/bigger desk in my office/studio I decided to discontinue my old 19 inch hardware rack. Taking the RME out of my rack I noticed many of the connectors were very corroded. After googling the problem it turns out that RME apparently had a bad batch of phone/jack connectors (leaking some orange liquid, causing the corrosion). Many of the affected customers got their device repaired/replace for free by RME (even if it was a couple of years over the warranty), however when I noticed this problem, my FF800 was 10 years old, so I never tried to contact the reseller nor RME. In stead I found out where I could purchase replacement phone/jack connectors, and then I had a colleague of mine (working in the Electrics-department where I work) replace the connectors, and now my RME is once again in pristine condition :-)

MOTU MIDI Express (MIDI Interface)

I started out using the single MIDI port on my then PCI-based audio-interface, then I moved on to a (4 channel) Midisport 4x4. When I outgrew this MIDI-interface, I wanted to purchase its "big brother" (the Midisport 8x8) but at the time M-Audio had stopped producing it. I therefore went for the MOTU Midi Express XT. It provides 8 MIDI In/Out (128 channels) and it can be programmed to double as a MIDI Patchbay as well. I sold my Midisport 4x4,  so today my only MIDI-interface is my MOTU (well my RME Fireface 800 audio-interface have a single MIDI-port as well). However I don't currently use my MOTU, as my current synths now comes with an USB-based MIDI-interface.

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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