Here I am again with a brief blog entry to let you know that I'm still alive!

I've been very busy with other household jobs and, of course that other distraction, work. I still have many small jobs to do in the studio. Amongst other things, room treatments and other minor things - I still have a few slabs of mineral wool ready to make the wall panels.

However, it has been great to be able to use the studio over the last few weeks be it only for very small amount. I will have a longish break over Christmas so it will be perhaps a good opportunity to do some serious recording and perhaps reflect on things.

Although this was primarily a studio build project, it has also been a part of the overall house improvement process including the extension, re-landscaping the garden as well as other smaller improvements towards a common goal. It has meant that the studio is now housed in its own space and does not encroach on our living space.

Since moving the equipment into the studio I had to make a decision with regards my old Roland electric piano which has been laying dormant in the workshop gathering dust for the past few years. Although it is now quite out-of-date compared with the latest pianos, it does have some value and it always had quite a nice sound. Firstly, the question was: does it still actually work? I wiped the worst of the dust away and lifted it onto the workbench, plugged it in and surprisingly it worked perfectly. I then spent a few hours cleaning thoroughly - including the stand and I have to say it came really well. There are only a few minor scratches picked over the years when I used it for gigging. It now has pride of place at the end of the dining room and gets used fairly regularly.

Back to the studio. I have one issue to resolve with the external door. When I attached the door itself I didn't quite get it vertically centrally within the frame and the lower edge was a bit near the door frame than I had intended. Over time there's been a slight drop which has resulted in the door rubbing very slightly on the frame. To resolve this I'll be taking some material off of the lower door frame edge. Another thing I need to do is attach a drip ledge at the bottom of the door to stop any rain from collecting under the door.

Not a great deal happened in the last few weeks except for some tidying of the outer door frame.  The frame itself had been well and truly secured into position but there were a multitude of gaps and holes between it and the brickwork. The plan was to fill any small gaps with filler and mortar for larger areas mostly at the lower edges of the wooden lintel either side of the frame. I also had about a 3mm gap between the top edge of the door frame and the lintel which needed to be blocked in. For this I found some angle iron in the garage which was just about the perfect fit. I had to use two lengths for the full width of the frame. I added a bit of filler to be sure there were no leaky points. These were hammered into place and finished the job quite nicely.

For the final finish framing around the door I picked up some 1 x 4" planks which were cut and nailed into position on the two sides and the top only. These required some routing to allow for the inaccuracies of the brickwork. Once in position these were painted.

The door originally had a large piece screwed into the lintel as a bit of a rain splash guard. I still had this and it was actually still very sound so I refitted this into place. Once it was given a couple of coats it looked pretty good.

Photo to follow...

I thought I ought to post this update as I have been away for a short while. Everything's coming along well it's just that I've had a couple of weeks off work and have not had the chance to update the blog so this is an update on what's happened during the last 2-3 weeks.

I have had a bit of time away so it's not been entirely spent studio building. For the most part I've been getting the studio up and running setting up and deciding the layout. It was my intention to build a desk but I might well re-think this plan as I came up with a great configuration using my existing x-frame keyboard stand where the upper keyboard stand has been placed in the lower position with a piece of covered chipboard placed on it creating a flat desk area for the displays to stand. This also provides enough space for my audio interface to sit dead centre.

The only other item I had to deal with was the position for my Samson amplifier. After a bit of thought I came up with the idea of positioning it under the keyboard on a piece of wood resting on the top of the keyboard stand x-frame. I used an off-cut length of window sill left from the house extension, cutting some angled notches which allow it to rest on the frame parallel to the floor. This works really well and conceals it nicely out of the way centrally allowing minimal cable connection lengths.  The piece of wood just needs a coat of black paint to finish it off.

I had decided to get everything set up and working now as most jobs now require a working studio. There are still other finishing off jobs to do but these are not hampered with the equipment in place.

Before going on I need to update on the Alesis Monitor Ones - as it turns out the monitors are, in fact, both working perfectly and it seems the problem lies with the Focusrite Saffire DSP pro audio interface. After a lot of messing around with cables I found out that it is channel 1 on the audio card which is at fault. I moved my main outputs from 1&2 to 3&4 and everything is working perfectly. I need now take this up with Focusrite - more soon.

I had temporarily mounted the monitors on my original speaker stands resting on top of some bricks to bring to the correct height, however, this was not the permanent solution. I set about making some MDF pedestals to bolt the speaker stands onto. I made a basic box attached to two larger pieces of MDF which was glued together and the sides glued and dowelled together. I drilled four holes in the top for screws and cut a larger hole to enable me to fill it with sand. I finally painted them black. All-in-all this works pretty well and I just need to get some sharp sand to fill the void.

 

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Before the weekend I had received the two new 1920 x 1080 displays so I spent a couple of evenings getting them set up with the DAW. Yes, I had also got the audio machine connected into the system after having swapped the graphics cards from my test machine. I still haven't tested the DAW connected to the older Samsung 1920 x 1200 display but I wanted to see how things worked out with two lower resolution displays - all-in-all the clarity is extremely good considering how cheap these displays are I might well stick with them.

I did have to upgrade the shelf inside the airlock as the 6 mm plywood was not up to the job of supporting a computer box - I had some 20 mm ply which is much stronger. Another slight issue cropped up: I actually mounted the shelf a fair bit higher than I had actually planned and found that my long USB cables that run under the floor were too short!!!! I had plenty of slack in the room but hadn't left enough inside.

OK, this was a good test as I had always planned that I could gain access to the under floor cabling in the future. It only involves lifting three rows of laminate and rolling back the underlay to gain access and it probably only took me 20 minutes to do entire job and happy to be able to do it without any headaches. 

Sunday:
Having progressed to a certain stage I wanted to get some speakers set up to get a feel for the sound in the room as well as the kind of isolation I can expect. Bear in mind I haven't fully sealed up the outer door frame completely. I had my old Alesis Monitor Ones packed away so I got these out along with mu Samson Servo 170 amp and set them up on some temporary speaker stands. I then connected this up to the DAW outputs.

With a bit of messing with cables and connectors I had sound in the studio for the first time. After playing for a few seconds I could hear a problem that could not be down to the room. After messing with the pan controls it was clear that there was an issue from one of the channels as the left speaker was severely lacking in high frequency. To cut a long story short, it turns out that one of the tweeters is faulty on the left Monitor :-(  They hadn't been used for a few years but I don't know if the problem existed before then. I still need to swap the tweeters over to confirm the problem lay with the tweeter and not the crossover.

In the mean I wanted to get something positive out of this so I ran some material up through the system at reasonably high volume to check the isolation. Well...I have to say that I am suitably impressed with the results :-)  this is truly amazing and I think far better than I had imagined.  With the inner door closed I could hear clearly what was being played but with the outer (not quite fully sealed) door closed the drop was amazing and I could barely hear anything without putting my ear right up against the door. The outer door makes the world of difference!

OK, back to the monitor. It turns out that Alesis no longer keep spares for the M1 so I have made an enquiry with a well known speaker maker in the UK (Wilmslow Audio) to see if they have an equivalent to replace the original. No reply as of yet but I want to at least try and get these working in the mean time before buying the new active monitors (possibly the Adam A7X).

 

I had bought a few downlight fittings from ebay so I thought I might as well put a couple of these up.  I had left an opening in the ceiling cloud which currently accommodates a temporary bulkhead light. The idea is to fill this with a small piece of plasterboard with a couple of openings for two downlights. I have a few off-cuts of plasterboard so I cut one to size and made two holes ready for the downlights. I had to add three additional timber supports into the void to support the edges of the plasterboard, at the sides and in the centre. I then wired the existing supply cable into a junction box screwed into the ceiling and wired the two supplies to the lights here. All pretty straight forward and once the panel was screwed into position with the light inserted I turned the power back on and all worked well.

I have also the option of adding up to three additional downlights at the back of the room but having turned these two 35w halogens on I'm not sure I'm goint to need them - these appear to provide ample light and in fact I might well replace the basic light switch with a dimmer.

I have to decide on how to finish off the plasterboard and conceal the screws but for now it at least looks a lot better than my ad-hoc bulkhead.

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