It would be easy to wax lyrical about incredible vibe machines that populate the world’s favourite studios. Yet, the pieces that grease the wheel, keep a recording studio functional, and unlock better audio workflow are sometimes inexpensive and nondescript.
It’s high time that some light was shed on some of these quiet achievers, without whose presence, day-to-day studio operations would be much more difficult.
We take a look at three pieces of inexpensive and nondescript gear that are useful in a modern studio for unlocking a clean and efficient audio workflow.
Most audio interfaces come with enough I/O to control monitors and audio inputs in one unit. While this kind of setup can be sufficient for solo artists working in home-based project studios, recording more players simultaneously in professional environment will most likely require additional signal path routing.
Enter the humble monitor controller. Sure, not the sexiest piece of gear, yet increasing in stature in the increasingly prevalent world of DAW based studios, sans expensive and high maintenance large format consoles. Models like the Presonus Monitor Station provide flexible routing for monitoring purposes in the control room and the live space.
For a sensibly priced unit, it offers the listening options you would expect in a professional setup – up to three independent stereo outputs at the push of a button, two independent stereo inputs for setting up a cue mix, four headphone outs with independent volume control and a handy auxiliary input for seamless referencing.
Control surfaces scratch that vital itch for tactile DAW control. Working a session entirely in the box can be frustrating at times, particularly those accustomed to performing on a mixing console. Control surfaces are designed to allow the user to work within the DAW environment intuitively, with seamless interaction between physical movements and digital commands, with essentially the same format as a traditional mixing console.
Control surfaces can come in many sizes, but one of their uppermost virtues is the ability to squeeze the maximum amount of options into a miniature footprint. Few control surfaces can rival the Presonus Faderport’s commitment to minimising real estate, for it only has one fader.
On first glance, you could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that having only one fader at your disposal could be a little limiting. That depends on how you use it. No, you obviously won’t be able to perform simultaneous fades of multiple channels or stems in opposite directions. It is though, a crucial step in terms of performing automation writes with real feel and musicality. Throw in mix/edit window switching buttons and the standard controls you would expect (mute, solo, pan) and it’s a seriously handy and portable unit.
We’ve given you the rundown on reampers before, but it can stand repeating because it fits so perfectly into this category. The principle on which they work is simple, yet what they can achieve is very powerful indeed. Their sole purpose is to convert balanced line level signal into unbalanced guitar level signal. This makes it possible to multiply your sonic choices to suit your experimental bent (like re-recording a vocal take through a guitar amp, for example). It also grants you the option to re-purpose a chain of stompboxes for “outboard” effects.
You can satisfy your inner electronics nerd and build your own reamper like the DIYRE L2A (ridiculously cheap by the way), though an increasing array of manufacturers are releasing their own models, with some even incorporating reamp channels into their audio interfaces.
This is just a tiny list in a potential multitude of studio lifesavers that keep their presence low key. They are, however, designed to be incredibly efficient, transparent and useful in everyday studio practice. Making shrewd investments in the right pieces for the studio can have untold workflow benefits.