October 1, 2005

Master Control Center 101

by Chris Randall

Since I'm about to start accepting commercial clients in my (thus far private) studio, it is time to address the issue of my desk/console/whatever. The current Rube Goldberg assemblage of Metro Shelving and Quick-Lok stands just ain't gonna cut it any more. First, it doesn't look professional, and second, it's just asserific.

So, I'm going to build myself a desk/console/whatever that better suits my working methods and compliment of gear. Spending a couple minutes in 3D Studio Max to (copping a phrase from our friends in the movie industry) previsualize the final product was very illuminating. The first thing I noted is that I need at least four, and preferably six, rack spaces directly in front of me. These will hold the stuff that I have to twiddle most often (my Neumann EQs, Central Station, mic pres, et al.)

The next thing, being primarily a keyboard player, is a keyboard controller. Now, this took some thinking. I wanted to have some options in the way things are layed out here. I could move the controller to live with all my synth stuff (which is immediately to my left, as I am left-handed) so it would be wise to make this area deep enough to hold a dedicated fader extravaganza for working with Nuendo. In browsing all of these various devices, it looks like the best bang-for-the-buck, without all the stupid bells and whistles, is the Tascam US-2400. Now, I've never laid eyes on one of these in real life, so I can't speak to the build quality or anything, but it looks well enough, and the reviews I've read seem to be uniformly "this is fine." I'm very much a control-keys and mouse mixer, so I don't really know if this would aid my workflow enough to justify the expense.

Anyways, that's down the road a bit. I made enough room on the desk portion to hold one of these, should I go on a wild spending spree and decide to purchase something like this. The nice bonus here is that the Tascam unit is one of the larger devices of this family, and if it will fit, most all of them will. (Except the Mackie one, which is deeper by a couple inches, and I already know I don't like that one, having spent some quality time with it.)

Some further thought on the matter, and it occurred to me that the base of the unit could hold my pair of PCs, and if I spent some time with that sound-mat shit that the Hi-NOS Tunerz use, there would be a little iso booth in the bottom to kill the sound of the computers.

I should point out that I stridently refuse to buy anything that I can build myself, and that goes quadruple for shit that is made out of MDF. I WILL NOT purchase anything made out of MDF ever again. I've learned my lesson. "Hey, that desk is cheap, and it looks nice! I'll take one!" and then 6 months later it's all bent to shit because you put your speakers on it, and it couldn't take the weight. Then you move one time, and the corners all get rounded off. Thanks, but no thanks. Cabinet-grade birch plywood will be our medium of choice here.

I'm open to thoughts on this matter. I won't be doing anything ridiculous like that bent birchwood thing we had in Gear pr0n couple weeks back. My cabinetry skills lend themselves to austerity, so keep that in mind.



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Oct.01.2005 @ 12:58 PM
Don't forget about leg room. I would change that blocked off lower front face into the "leg lounger", complete with cushoined ottomons and robot ankle massagers ;-)

check it out (roughly) at:

link [www.rugerseeds.co...]">link [www.rugerseeds.co...]


ps- you could tuck computers / power amps / hard drives / swamp coolers / midgets / etc. under there as well....


Oct.01.2005 @ 1:51 PM
Buy machined oak flooring, and use that to make your worktops. Looks awesome, and easy to fit. We just did that in our kitchen, and it looks a hell of a lot better than my MDF desk upstairs...

Plus - here's a new control/interface option, might be sucky, don't really know: Guess you're going to want a few more channels:
link [module-records.blo...]">link [module-records.ot.co...]


Oct.01.2005 @ 2:04 PM
Chris Randall
I have a serious personal/professional ax to grind with Digidesign, which is why you never see any mention of M-Audio or Digi products on my site, unless it is a negative comment.

That said, convertors I have in spades. MOTU 896 is my weapon of choice there. I need a simple control surface that can drive several different brands of DAW, basically.

Viz. the bottom of the unit, it will have cabinet doors to get access to the computers. Thus, the ankle massager is out of the question, unfortunately.



Oct.01.2005 @ 2:07 PM
After being a mouse-and-keyboard mixer for years, I just bought a Tascam FW1082, and I love it. I too wasn't sure if it would be worth the price in workflow improvements, but now I'm kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

Oct.01.2005 @ 10:27 PM
Now, I don't know if these DAWs accept MIDI CC data in this way, but if so you could theoretically build your own digital console using Doepfer's Pocket Control. The advantages are that you can customize how many knobs, faders, buttons, etc, group them however you like, program them to control anything you like, it would be infinitely expandable, it would be more durable than anything plastic, and would be cheaper. Add a Griffin Powermate (the big silver USB knob, which I own and love and is worth it for the $30 it costs) as a jog knob and you'd be all set. The downside is that it would be much, much more work, especially if you make it look really professional. But you seem to be a pretty DIY guy, considering you're building your own desk too, so if you've got the time, go for it.

Oct.01.2005 @ 10:31 PM
Chris Randall
Now, that's an interesting idea, right there. However, a couple points come to mind.

1) No motorized faders. I do a lot of automation and my normal workflow involves working on several different projects at a time, so the faders are never going to reflect the faders in Nuendo. This won't work for me.

2) It would end up being significantly more expensive to do it this way. 100mm faders aren't cheap.



Oct.02.2005 @ 4:31 PM
Wade Alin
i've only used one of those new fangled control surfaces a few times - this is what i used. it was great, and looks good. and it's kind of smg blue.

link [www.radikalteches.co...]">link [www.radikalteches.co...]


Oct.03.2005 @ 12:29 PM
The US-2400 works great with Nuendo. One of my friends has done 50+ mixes with that combination.

Another way to go with the design would be a rack on one or both sides of the desk, under the work surface. You could fill it up with all of those DIY projects you obviously have your eye on.


Oct.03.2005 @ 12:31 PM
Chris Randall
That's not a half-bad idea, except I'm rather clumsy, and I don't want to put my foot through a 40-year-old Neumann EQ on accident.



Oct.03.2005 @ 12:34 PM
D' MacKinnon
I've been wanting to get one of those Tascam US-2400's forever, it's my number one priority in future studio purchases (up there with more mics). It's just a matter of having the dough to get one.

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