I’ve been in a slow process of setting up a home project studio for many years, complicated by several house moves, and job changes, during this time. After completing my DMZ//38 album “No Man’s Land” in 2006, I decided that going forward, it would be better to build and own my own studio to develop material instead of relying solely on jams, band rehearsals, and pricey recording studio time. It’s only recently that I’m finally feeling really comfortable that it’s a completely functional studio, providing an effective environment to write, develop and enjoy music.

While observing my engineer during recording of the album, I noticed that aside from his advanced familiarity with Pro Tools, lots of pro mics on hand, and a reasonably sized, acoustically treated recording space, there didn’t seem to be much “magic” to recording or engineering. To be honest, I still feel most of the “magic” in music happens during inspiration, songwriting, performing or producing.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I struggled with Pro Tools 8 for years, eventually figuring out how to get basic tracks recorded, and also use VST’s and a MIDI controller. However, I was annoyed at things like the slow application launch time, how complicated the screen looked, and just the overall distraction away from my main focus, which is actually writing songs.

In 2011, I decided to build my own dedicated audio recording PC with premium components. I’d previously built several computers from parts, so it was fun researching the various selections and finally integrating. An important consideration was setting up a virtually silent fan and power supply. Detailed workstation components are listed at my IT blog , today the parts are still the same except for an added SATA drive for recording project files.

View of studio desk

View of studio desk

Workstation

Workstation

The computer is located on the lower right. The desk is a Studio RTA Creation Station, purchased from Guitar Center. It’s sturdy and has worked out quite well, though I’ve pretty much ran out of free desk space. I have dual 20” flat panel displays on a mount, along with KRK Rokit 5 monitors with Auralex acoustic foam, really helps to dampen bass rumble.

Yamaha mixer, ART pre-amp

\ Yamaha mixer, ART pre-amp

I also have added several standalone audio components mainly for listening/learning pleasure, including an Audio-Technica USB turntable, Sony DVD/CD player and TEAC tape deck. These are all routed through a Yamaha MG82CX mixer with 8 channels, a workhorse though the headphone output is slightly weak. I like the built-in effects especially reverb. The mixer output goes to KRK Rokit 5’s and Beyerdynamic DT 770 headphones. There’s also input from USB digital audio interface, a Scarlett Focusrite 2i2 with 44.1 khz sampling, 24-bit support, and a needed upgrade from an old M-Audio Mobile Pre USB which is now my laptop audio interface. I route my primary vocal recording condenser mic (MXL 990) through a sweet little ART Tube Preamp which really smooths out edges. Shown on the right is an M-Audio Oxygen 8 MIDI controller used to trigger VST’s and virtual drums.

MXL 990 Mic, with pop filter and shockmount

MXL 990 Mic, with pop filter and shockmount

For DAW, I’m currently getting into Reaper as I’ve grown weary of Pro Tools. I actually pay more attention to getting my tracks input and properly recorded, using Audacity, before exporting into Reaper. I get excited when I see that red Record arm button flashing, and want to capture a strong performance before playing around in an editor. As for drums, have started using EZ Drummer 2 by Toontrak, which feels to me like a drum machine on steroids.

Speaking of performing, here’s a photo of my axes-

Guitars

From left to right, my trusty old Takamine EG-240 dreadnought, Fender Standard Stratocaster, and Seagull Entourage acoustic. The Seagull is my newest guitar and easy to play with great tone, but I still feel most comfortable with my Takamine which has very light action.

marshall amp

The Fender goes into a Marshall AVT 20 which is surprisingly loud. I also use Boss Super Chorus and Distortion pedals.

These are the newest additions to my studio, a Fender Rumble Bass Amp, and Fender Modern Player Jaguar Bass. They sound really great together! My cat Eggy looks very interested…

fender-jaguar-bass

And finally, here’s one my favorite items in my favorite room, only befitting that it’s a Fender barstool, since I live in Fullerton, original home of Leo Fender and Fender Guitars –

fender stool


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