I got back from the 2014 CES Show last Friday evening. I had to stop by the studio and unload a bunch of equipment before going home to pack for my trip to Colorado. I bumped into one of my tenants, a musician/songwriter that occupies one of the smaller rooms at the front of the building. He’s got a bunch of really great outboard gear (which he is slowly selling off because the equivalent software plugins are so good), large monitor, DAW, instruments and piano keyboard in a 300 square foot space. There’s not a lot of room for anyone besides him in there.
I noticed that he had rearranged the “front” of the room 90 degrees to make room for more people but the sound had changed…for the worse. He was planning on “auto tuning” the new setup with a program that adjusts the outputs of his Pro Tools rig. The same concept is used by Bob Hodas (my go to guy for tuning) when he comes to my room studio and tweaks things.
Neil, the songwriter, purchased ARC (Advanced Room Correction) 2 from IK Multimedia. According to the website, “ARC uses Audyssey MultEQ® XT32 patented technology to improve your monitoring system so what you hear is not affected by distortions caused by room acoustics. Near field monitor systems used in studio applications are designed to deliver sound without distortion or coloration. However when they are placed in a room, surrounding walls, ceiling, furniture, and other objects reflect and absorb sounds, creating complex distortions specific to that room. This ultimately causes them to lose the accuracy they have been designed for, and you end up hearing more of the sound of the room, than the music actually being produced.”
I wasn’t aware of the “plugin” strategy used on Pro Tools but it got me thinking. How important is it to tune the production room vs. tuning the room where you experience the playback? This question has become more critical as the number of “home” studios have proliferated. All you need is a laptop (or even a tablet), a few pieces of hardware and a set of speakers or even headphones and you’re a studio.
When I first started engineering, you had to get a budget from a record company and head to a professional studio to make their record. Things changed with the introduction of inexpensive analog multitracks. Musicians and wanna be engineers recorded demos in their homes or converted garages. But they still had to go to a real studio to record the masters.
And we haven’t even talked about mastering yet.
To be continued…