My wife and I purchased the AIX world headquarters building 9 years ago. The facility that housed AIX Media Group used to be in West Hollywood and occupied a small studio and iso booth on the 5th floor of an office building. The studio was built to demo NED’s (New England Digital) SynKlavier, which was a very expensive keyboard driven sampler and synthesizer. Just the yearly software upgrades cost eight grand! When I arrived on the scene with my little Sonic Solutions based mastering business and Mac II computer (with a whopping 4 megs of RAM!), they had just declared bankruptcy. Their loss was the start of AIX Media Group. Actually, it was know as the Pacific Coast Sound Works at the time but expansion into content development was not far away.
Finding a new location on the west side of the Los Angeles basin was a challenge. Any studio space that we found was old school and smelled like smoke. At the last possible opportunity, a realtor showed us a 5000 square foot building with a very high bow truss ceiling. There wasn’t any studio inside but the open space was begging for one to be built. This was to become the main studio for AIX Media Group. And it’s a large room. The main studio…the control room…is 30 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 12-14 feet high. The iso booth is about 15 feet square and has been used as a personal studio space for the past 5 years because I don’t use it.
The raw space was more than ample for my needs. However, I needed the services of an expert in studio design to assist me in laying out the right configuration and making sure that the final result would sound amazing. I hired one of the partners from Studio Bau:ton, a very well-know architectural firm specializing in studio spaces. Peter Grueneisen had established his own firm, Non Zero Architecture a few years before and was willing to develop the plans for my space…he did me a great favor in keeping the costs manageable.
Figure 1 – The floor plan for AIX Studios. Notice the non-parallel walls.
The essential things to remember in putting together a new room are to keep the volume of the space as large as possible and to avoid the extremes of having a room that is “too live” or “too dead”. You may have seen pictures of various studios and assumed that all of the fabric covered sound panels and soft surfaces “deaden” the space. They do, but with a specific purpose. They are strategically placed to break up standing waves or room resonances, which are particularly troublesome at home. Depending on the size of the space a sound generated at one of room will reflect off of the other surfaces. If the reflection returns to another surfaces that is parallel to the first one, a specific range of frequencies can build up. The causes the sound in a room to be “colored” and unlike the sound intended by the artist. The final playback in the mastering room is the correct sound and you can bet that the mastering house has a great playback setup.
So the first rule in setting up a great sounding room is to make sure there are no parallel walls. This is not a challenge in a new room but houses are full of parallel walls.
We look at solutions tomorrow.