I’m presently noodling with some new riffs which may see the light of day – eventually! In the mean time, as promised, more posts regarding gear and studio design. As I contemplated where to start, I realized that my previous “gear posts” mostly focused on new stuff which, in many cases, was acquired to replace less than desirable stuff. So this time, I’m going to highlight instead what has stood the test of time inside my studio!
Like many of you, my sanctuary has been a work in progress… In fact, I prefer to call it a “journey” rather than a project because if held to even the most liberal boundaries of project management, mine would be an abject failure in terms of being “on time and on budget”. For nearly 3 (expensive) years, I churned through loads of gear, only to settle on premium professional products to replace more crap than I care to describe. Thankfully, my studio has been relatively “stable” now for the past few years; not bad considering the pace of today’s product lifecycles!
So what’s stood the test of time? Well, oddly enough the most senior item in my studio (besides me) isn’t even an instrument! It’s my studio mix desk – the Argosy Dual 15K – or as Argosy likes to call it, the “Rocket Ship”…
Home studios usually have limited space and a purpose built mix desk not only maximizes your space and ergonomics, it provides the framing for your work environment. Yes, there are many less costly alternatives, including DIY; but looking back on it, I’m convinced this thing has paid for itself many times over. For one, we naturally “fill” the space we have at our disposal right? How many empty spaces do you ever see in a woman’s designer shoe closet? Rack spaces are the male equivalent, I’m afraid… The Argosy desk has forced me into a “less is more” mode while still allowing me to fit a reasonable amount of gear into a relatively small space. Oh yeah, and compared to cheaper alternatives, it looks uber cool. To this day, I am still inspired to man the rocket ship!
I’ve also added a few customizations along the way. To begin with, I’ve always preferred to use an outboard mixer as the interface into my DAW. This, too, has proven to be a valuable long-term decision, and I’ll expand on that in a future post. The Argosy Dual15 provides an abundant surface directly behind the keyboard/master controller, and Argosy sells an adjustable control surface shelf (the MPX) that fits into this space. But, it’s designed for smaller light-weight control surfaces – which the Yamaha O2r96 is not! So instead, I had them precision cut the MPX shelf so that the Yamaha O2r96 could be receded – just like you see in other custom consoles. The mixer is heavy enough that it’s not going to move around, but I support it with a pair of Auralex loudspeaker isolation risers – these provide a stable cushion for the O2r96 and just enough “lift” to allow the the mixer to peep through the MPX shelf, as you can see in the photos. Next, I secured the MPX shelf from the rear of the desk to provide added stability and balance to support an additional extension I attached to the front for my keyboard and mouse. I wish I could say this was an engineered design – in reality I experimented with different approaches before settling on what you see below – but it works like a charm and it’s very stable. The other benefit is that I now find myself relatively comfortable combing the aisles of Home Depot.
The next challenge was positioning my LCD monitors. Until recently, anything north of a 20” monitor was fairly heavy. I began with another Argosy accessory, their “Fly Bridge”, a plank which sits across the left and right rack risers (as shown on the Argosy site). The Fly Bridge is fine for lighter, smaller monitors but was unable to support the weight of larger screens – but even worse, the viewing distance was causing excessive eye strain so you can bet I wanted those 30” LCDs once they became affordable. But how to solve the problem of supporting REALLY large monitors while getting them close enough to comfortably view at high resolution? One more consideration: I live in California and the earth moves from time to time out here…
Thankfully, Ergotron came to the rescue with a semi-custom solution that enables me to float my dual monitors right above my mixer! Go to virtually any hospital and you’ll likely see Ergotron hardware providing industrial-grade mounting solutions (for computers and the like…). Ergotron provided me with a massive steel “Command Post” that I surface mounted onto my floor. The Command Post was essential because wall mounting simply would not have brought the monitors to an ideal viewing distance; beyond that, I have acoustic treatment directly behind my desk – not suitable for mounting LCDs. An Ergotron dual monitor arm (HD 45) was mounted onto the Command Post thereby allowing me to precisely adjust the height and distance of my dual 30” HP LP3065 monitors. If you’re going down this road, I strongly recommend visiting their website and reviewing compatible “VESA” compatible monitors. Perhaps to no surprise, this solution ended up costing as much as the monitors themselves, but what’s the point of investing in high-resolution monitors if you can’t position them, and hence view them, optimally?
Last, but not least the gluteus control surface, aka chair. Because of the reach and overall elevation (when you consider the height of the mixer, monitors, etc) and that, as a piano player, you want to sit proportionately correct to the keyboard, the recently introduced Aeron work stool… basically a “taller” version of the iconic Aeron was introduced just in time! Without the Aeron, all of the above would have literally remained “out of reach” so this was the last piece of the puzzle…
My Solution in a Nutshell:
Argosy Console Dual 15K
– a fantastic mix desk specifically designed to support an 88-key controller/keyboard at its center… Another great supplier is Custom Consoles
– particularly for larger-scale environments – I’ll talk more about them shortly because I use their IsoBox technology to house my computers and an assortment of other (non-instrument) rack gear.
Customized solution to frame/recede my Yamaha O2r96 based on the Argosy MPX mix shelf
Customized extension added to the secured Argosy MPX to support keyboard and mouse above my keyboard/master controller
Customized Ergotron solution
to “float” dual 30” LCD monitors for optimal viewing distance and height from my mix position