This online bonus material supplements "Starting Over" in the July 2007 issue of EM.
Placing all your computer gear in a rack, as far as possible from the listening position, is one way to deal with unwanted fan noise.
Out of the Closet
Computer-fan noise is always a source of irritation. When planning your layout, try to find a location for noisy items that is as far away from the listening position as is practical. Placing computers in closets may seem like a tempting approach, but unless the closet has a lot of ventilation, this is unwise: the resulting heat buildup will not be good for your gear.
If you own your home, a quick and dirty solution can be achieved by placing your computer gear in an adjoining bedroom and cutting a 2-inch hole in the wall between rooms to run the cabling through. Manufacturers also make quiet-boxes that cut down fan noise dramatically, although the good ones are expensive and surprisingly large.
My previous studio had a separate computer closet that vented to the outside. In my current situation, I simply placed all my computer peripherals in a separate rack located as far from the listening position as possible. While the fan noise is audible, in practice it doesn''t bother me at all. Sometimes the simplest solutions are best.
All my rack gear is encased in EWI Tourcases, which greatly enhance the studio''s portability.
Your studio''s goals should also drive the choices that you make in studio furniture. This is an area where you have many options. There are solutions to fit any budget—including no budget—and you can create a look that reflects your personality. Your equipment layout and room dimensions will determine the type of furniture you need. There are really four approaches you can take: purpose-built studio furniture; touring cases; homebuilt furniture; and repurposed, non-audio-oriented furniture for studio use.
Companies such as Argosy and Omnirax offer a variety of studio-furniture solutions, including designs that specifically fit some of the most popular mixing consoles and workstations. These pieces look professional and can help you pack a lot of gear into a small space. They are mostly made from particleboard, and assemble quickly and easily in your studio. Particleboard does, however, tend to be quite heavy, and you have to be particularly careful when moving any furniture made from this substance. Placing undue stress on the furniture can sometimes cause the metal connecting bolts to rip out from the particleboard, and gluing it back together delivers mixed results. Be sure to remove all the equipment before moving the furniture.
When soldering cables into a patch bay, be sure to use heat-shrink tubing to minimize unintentional connections that could cause short circuits.
If your budget is modest, or if you are interested in a more personalized look, thrift stores can be a gold mine for finding retro chic treasures that you can modify to fit your studio needs. My personal favorite is scouring online classifieds, such as craigslist, where I''ve found loads of beautiful art deco pieces for $50 to $75. Old turntable cabinets are a perfect fit for audio gear, and they fill your studio with vibe.
If you have custom space requirements or far-out design ideas and are handy with a hammer, the DIY route is always an option. You can build equipment racks and stands out of plywood and 1 x 2s that may not land you a spot in Better Homes and Gardens but will certainly be functional. I''ve had a couple of studios in one-car garages where space was at a premium. With some simple designs, a few trips to the lumberyard, and a couple of weekends of quality time with my table saw, I was able to make every square inch count.
Room absorbers on stands can double as gobos during the tracking process.
My previous studio was focused on permanence, and purpose-built studio furniture was the right choice at that time. In my new studio, the most important design consideration is portability. As a result, everything is placed inside of EWI Tourcase racks and drawers (www.audiopile.net). They are well made and very durable, with heavy-duty casters for easy moving. If you like to take your gear out for location recording, or are planning on moving your studio from time to time, rolling racks are a great solution. My mixing console and computer keyboard sit on a $50 heavy-duty plastic folding table, which gets the job done.