This blog documents my studio build started back in 2009. I'm keeping this live for reference as it may help others who are thinking of taking on such a project.
It's been a while since posting here and in truth there's not been a whole lot happening. I have had a bit of studio downtime relating to DAW issues, mostly due to the fact I'd had some Windows 7 problems. I had actually run Windows update on the the DAW to bring it up to date with the view to updating the system to Windows 10 which was due to be released on the 29th July.
I had the W7 fully updated and had started to encounter playback issues with Cubase, something that I had never had in the past perhaps due to the fact that I had never installed Windows updates from a certain point when everything was very stable. I made the decision to apply the Windows 10 update on the system with the hope that it would improve stability. Perhaps a risky strategy, bearing in mind that Steinberg had not announced official compatibility with 10 as yet. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it didn't go well and I spent a lot of time troubleshooting including doing a clean install of Windows 10 without great success, to finally question whether the issues might be down to my graphics card, a fairly old 256MB nVidia card. I picked up a middle of the road 2GB nVidia card installed it in the system and hey presto the DAW comes back to life and much closer to the stability prior to the Windows 7 updates. I can only assume that an nVidia driver update had actually caused the problem - anyway, all was good now.
Prior to these events I had been considering building a new DAW to bring the hardware up to speed, so I decided to revisit the idea. I had looked at all the options of the latest spec Intel i7 CPU and suitable hardware and the costs were spiralling. My other option was to put together a machine from an older i7 generation motherboard I had available, an Intel DX58OG LGA1366 board. It is a pretty high spec board and could support up to 24GB of RAM and has plenty of expansion potential. Another plus point is that it has USB 3.0 ports and one legacy ISA slot which would perhaps allow me to keep the UAD1 card that I'm still using - believe it or not.
I wanted to maximise the power of this system to ensure it had decent lifespan and could deal with everything that I would be throwing at it, admittedly not a lot. I was able to get hold of an Intel Xeon W3690 3.47GHz 6-core CPU from ebay, the maximum that this board would support. The complete build is as follows:
- Windows 10 Pro 64bit
- Intel Desktop Board DX58OG
- Intel Xeon W3690 SLBW2 3.46Ghz Six-Core LGA1366
- 24GB Total - Kingston 8GB DDR3 1333MHz Memory Module Non-ECC
- Corsair CX 600W Fully Wired 80+
- 1 X Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5inch SSD for OS
- 1 X Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5inch SSD for LIBRARY
- 1 X SEAGATE 1TB HDD for PROJECTS
- nVidia GEFORCE GT 730 2GB DDR3
- 1 X UAD-1 DSP Card
- 2 X Acer 24" LCD Monitor
- Focusrite Saffire PRO 24 DSP Audio/MIDI interface
- Midiman Midisport 2x2 MIDI interface
- Cubase Pro 8.0.30 64bit DAW
- WaveLab 8.5.30 64bit Audio Mastering/Editing
- Halion 5.1.10 64bit Sampler and Sound Creation
- Harrison MixBus 3 DAW
During this process at some point Steinberg had announced compatibility with W10 after having identified an issue with W10 that Microsoft had to fix. In addition, I had bought Harrison MixBus 3 DAW which has been an interesting and rewarding exercise. MixBus has been working pretty well throughout the problems and although not anywhere near the features of Cubase adopts a stripped back approach to recording/mixing closer to a hardware based mixer environment.
The above newly built DAW is working extremely well so far which hasn't cost a fortune to put together and should see me for the next few years, all being well.
At the end of the summer Universal Audio announced that they were going to release a USB 3.0 version of their Apollo Twin Duo interface. As I mention earlier, I am still running a UAD1 card and 32bit plugs via VST bridge, which is still the case with the new DAW. The UAD2 Apollo USB is certainly of interest to me and could present a great option for me to finally move to the UAD2 platform and to the 64bit plugs which are only available for UAD2. The Apollo USB is still not available and it appears that UA have had a technical issue which has delayed its release, but I'll be keeping a look out in the next few weeks.
I did make smallish purchase recently and that was the Focusrite Octo Pre/II ADAT input channel expander which has taken up a spot in the desk rack space. This connects perfectly with the Focusrite Saffire Pro DSP interface and provides 8 addition inputs via ADAT. This had been on the wish list and will also interface with the Apollo USB should I purchase this in the near future.
That turned out to be a longer post than expected and I may add to it as I think of anything else. I really ought to add some new studio photos too as things have changed somewhat since the last ones were taken - we'll see. Bye for now!
Wow, when was my last studio build post!
When reading back on that entry I noticed that I mentioned the need to upgrade my monitors before I could be completely happy with the set up. Although I'm sure that there are many other comparable monitors now available since I demoed Adam Audio A7Xs a while back I decided to stick to my guns. Also, despite the fact that Adam have been in a somewhat precarious financial position of late, I feel confident that they will ride their troubles out. And given that they are still clearly held in high regard by a lot of people along with the fact that I found them available at a hard to resist price I ordered them. I don't actually have them yet but I should take delivery in the day or two, so I'll have an opportunity to test out before my Easter holiday.
In terms of studio build I guess that I can say that I'm in the post build stage where I'm making full use of the studio as well as making tweaks to the set up and generally refining the layout of the (very humble) space. This includes downscaling the e-drums to take up less space and to be accessible from my normal mix position on a single stand rather than on the rack. The area behind me where the drum rack was located has become a more permanent recording area for vocals/guitar etc.
Having a small recording space really makes you appreciate the ITB (In The Box) features of current DAWs - I can't imagine having these many resources available 10 or 15 years back. The hardware equivalents would fill my studio two fold I suspect. I'm pretty well entirely computer based now and the only external hardware, apart from guitars & keyboard, are Focusrite audio interface, Focusrite Trakmaster channel, headphone amp and my Servo monitor amplifier. The later here will of course be retired from the studio once the A7Xs (active) monitors are in place. This will mean I'll have a 2U space available in my rack space - though I'm not sure I have anything worthwhile to put there.
This is just a short post to both add a couple of photos relevant to earlier posts and an update.
All is well and I now feel like I have a working studio despite the fact that there are still a few outstanding finishing touches and further things to sort out. I guess there will be ongoing tweaks and refinements to this space.
Firstly, here are a couple of shots showing the room treatments so far. You can see the two 120 x 60 x 10 cm and two 60 x 60 x 10 cm panels on the side walls and you might just be able to see the 120 x 60 x 10 cm panel behind the displays. This panel isn't fixed in position at the moment and is just resting on the dado trunking. I'll need to move the workstation stand to do this so that's for another day.
In addition, I thought I would mention here that I have just acquired a new microphone which has been on my shopping list for some time. It's the Neumann TLM 102 and if you look closely you can see it in the second image above.
Another thing worth mentioning and, again, something you can see from the images above. I've added a couple of guitar brackets to the side walls. I was also able to make use of the hanging rails enabling me to attach the brackets without drilling any further holes in the wall. These brackets came with a wooden block for the bracket to attach to but I wanted them to be as low profile as possible so they were put aside and the brackets were attached directly to the rails.
That's just about it for now but I thought I would mention some things I still need to look at. Primarily, the room acoustics which I haven't got round to measuring yet. Although I've been happy with the Alesis Monitor Ones I feel they may be a weak link now and it looks as though the next item on my shopping list new monitors could be round the corner (possibly the Adam A7X). Having just bought the microphone this won't happen for a while, and I'll most likely do some work treating the space with the existing set up before then.
I did say that this would be a short post and it's always the way that once you start writing you think of many other things along the way. That is it for now - until the next update...
Having been spending a fair bit of time recording when I've had the chance I finally got around to making the acoustic treatment panels to attach to the walls. I had read many other ideas on the net of ways to construct them but I wanted to take it back to basics. Most people tend to make a frame for the mineral wool to sit inside before it is covered in fabric. My thinking was that the 120 x 60 x 10cm panels are pretty rigid anyway so what about simply wrapping them in the fabric. This is fine but the problem comes when you want to keep the fabric in place. I came up with the idea of simply placing some very thin timber inside the centre where I need to make a joint at the seam and the same at two ends where the ends need to be closed off. I have a pile of 4-5mm thick cladding material that seemed to fit the bill quite well so went about cutting the lengths to suit. When it came to wrapping the slabs it was important to cut them fairly accurately to ensure that the ends and corners were tidy. With a fair bit of patients and thought they actually turned out rather well. Next problem was to deal with the attaching to the walls.
I wanted a fairly simple solution with minimal amount of wall drilling and I finally decided on attaching a batten to each side wall much like a picture rail and the slabs could then simply be hooked in place. The added advantage here is that it allows for a degree of adjustment ion position. Doing this also means that the screws can be positioned exactly where the vertical wall studs are so no unsightly big holes and wall plugs are required and if I decide to change things later I can remove them easily with only very small holes requiring filling.
I bought a number of steel angle brackets and plates which attached to the slabs to create the hook. You'll see this better from the photos to be added later...
Another year passes...
Not too much to write here. I had a decent break over the Christmas period and probably the major achievement was to record a short version of Rockin' around the Christmas Tree in the studio. I enlisted the help of my daughter to sing lead vocal on this track and it seems to be becoming a bit of a Christmas tradition for our family. Just in case you're interested:
In terms of studio building I did get a minor job done. Well, when I say minor, I took the best part of a day actually as it involved lifting the carpet and floorboards in my daughter's bedroom. Having previously run CAT6 cabling around the house I hadn't actually got the studio completely hooked up. However, I had cables coiled up under the floor in the bedroom ready to complete the run to the network switch located in the loft. This was reasonably straight forward and involved lifting up a couple of floorboards and drilling a hole in a floor joist to route the cables into the airing cupboard in that room. Then a large hole was drilled through the ceiling into the loft. These were then punched down into the patch bay. All that is left to do is join the ends of the cables above the kitchen loft downstairs - I have ordered some in-line punch down couplers for this so should be complete at the weekend. Hopefully there are no breaks in cables or badly punched down wires.
I had so far used some mains (homeplug) devices to gain a LAN/WAN connection in the studio but they are not proving to be very reliable through 2 consumer units.