Studio Story Book

Experts

One of the worst nightmares for studio owners is having outside engineers and producers booking their studio.  Suddenly everything is wrong.  Things that have not missed a beat for years suddenly stop working.  That 0.5dB variation on track 24 somehow manages to prevent the entire session from proceeding (and you could not possibly expect them to actually pay for that, could you?).

Worse still are those engineers that think they actually know something about studio equipment.  They carry around tape measures to adjust the microphone placement.  They have their own tools so that they can turn up the back tension on a machine whilst nobody is watching.  They insist on adjusting the azimuth to suit their tape which was recorded on some decrepit Soundcraft prototype with 45 degree heads in the back of a flood-prone garage, but somehow manage to turn the wrong screw, so by the time they have finished the heads on the precious studio machine look like Ron Casey's teeth!

And of cause, they all have an expert opinion on the monitoring.  It is true that most Australian studios have dreadful main monitoring.  The first time I set foot into one of the top Sydney studios I was amazed at the appalling sound.  Nothing below 50Hz, nothing above 14KHz, a barking mid range with no stereo imaging.  The priority was high power rather than high quality, so they could pin the musicians to the back wall during playbacks to stop them breathing down the engineer's neck!  The engineers would rely on near field monitoring and general know-how to pull together a mix.

There was one studio that actually sounded reasonably good but few outside engineers seemed to notice the difference.  A lot of work had gone into this studio over the years, thanks to the efforts of several dedicated people.  It had excellent amplifiers driven by an electronic crossover that was actually properly time aligned for the speakers.  Over the years, rather than rebuilding the control room from scratch, people had simply added new walls inside the others and it had a massive bass trap built into the back of the room.  The lack of standing waves could also have been attributed to the hundreds of holes knocked into the outer brick wall over the years whilst trying to track down rotting dead rats trapped somewhere inside the walls!

The studio manager had received several complaints about the monitoring in the room from two respected outside engineers.  One day, they both just happened to be in the studio at the same time and the studio manager took advantage of the situation to discuss the monitoring problem.  They both seemed to physically expand with self-importance as they agreed that there was definitely a problem at 2.6KHz.  As the conversation continued, one of them suddenly stopped.  "Hang on, you are saying that there is a peak at 2.6KHz.  I am saying there is a dip at 2.6KHz."  Perhaps they cancelled each other out...