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Posted August 6, 2010 by Stephan Earl in Home Studio Setup
 
 

My Home Recording Studio 2.0

My Home Recording Studio 2.0 - Home Music Production


Back in May 2010, I wrote my first article in HomeMusicProduction.com titled My Home Recording Studio 1.0.  Since then I’ve moved to a new home, upgraded my OS to Windows 7, retired my networked laptop and made a few other changes.  So I decided to write a follow-up article and list some of the key componants and changes of my home recording studio setup.

This article is more detailed than that first one, and follows the format of another article I wrote in July titled Build Your Home Studio for Under $2,000.  The goal here is to provide some ideas for you if you’re looking to update your current home recording studio, or are building your music recording setup from scratch.  Alright then let’s begin.

COMPUTER

My primary computer  is a Gateway FX7026 with a 2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and 8GB of RAM.  The system came with 4GB of RAM and upgrading it to 8GB was the single most important upgrade I made to it.  The second key upgrade was moving from Vista 64 bit to Windows 7 64 bit (more on that here) which significantly increased system stability and speed.

Due to the lack of PC power in previous setups, I used a separate laptop as a virtual instrument server using FX Teleport by FX Max.  This is useful if you have an older or less powerful PC and an additional laptop lying around that’s not being utilized.  Although this worked for me in the past, after upgrading to Windows 7, I had issues with FX Teleport and truthfully it wasn’t as necessary anymore with the upgrades to the primary system.

RAM is king with computer music production so the more you have, the happier your virtual instruments and massive sample sets will be.

HARD DRIVES and BACKUP

My virtual instruments, sample libraries and DAW projects are stored on separate hardHome Music Production Workstation drives.  Since the cost of hard drives have come down over the years, I prefer to spread the workload as to not bog down any one drive.  Since many sample libraries also feature direct disk streaming, you don’t want to have multiple libraries reading from the same disk drive simultaneously.  This will certainly cause crackling and poor performance.  Lastly, by spreading your sample libraries and instruments to multiple disks you have less to reload from your backup drive if one of your hard drive fails.

The entire home recording studio is plugged into an APC XS 1300 battery backup or UPS (Uninterrupted Power Source).  You can read more about this in my article Safeguarding Your Home Recording Studio. Utilizing a UPS protects your computer and hard disks against power outages and spikes.

AUDIO INTERFACEHome Music Production Workstation

My audio interface is the ProjectMix I/O by M-Audio.  This is a fantastic interface and surface controller that integrates perfectly with most popular DAWs such as Pro Tools, Ableton Live and Cubase.  My previous favorite interfaces include M-Audio’s FireWire Solo, and 410 models.  I also owned Presonus’ Firebox and Yamaha’s GO44 interfaces both which later got traded on eBay.  The Yamaha and Presonus drivers didn’t do so well with my system, so I stuck with M-Audio.  I upgraded to different M-Audio interface models as I needed more inputs to record.  The Project Mix I/O provides eight dedicated inputs which is great for my current needs.


MONITOR SPEAKERS

For home recording studio monitor speakers I’m using the Bx5a Studiofile speakers by M-Audio.  I’ve had these speakers for a while and just love them.  They’re compact and offer flat response with a great sonic range.  When choosing these speakers I spent some time in the music store listening to all the studio monitor speakers they had in the showroom, and ultimately decided on the sound of the BX5a’s.  I recently added the M-Audio AV40 speakers as well.  These are smaller and less expensive with a very nice and full sound for the size.  These are mostly used as an alternate listening reference wile mixing.

KEYBOARD WORKSTATION /CONTROLLER

One of the big kit changes I’ve made recently was moving away from the Yamaha MotifHome Music Production Workstation XS8 to the Korg M50 Music Workstation.  The Motif XS8 is a very popular and powerful 88 key hammer action weighted keyboard workstation.  It’s well suited for live performance or for use with a DAW in your home recording studio.  However, I made the switch because the Yamaha Motif was a bit cumbersome to program using the onboard buttons and display for my taste.  The transport buttons and faders don’t integrate well with computer DAW systems using its “remote” functionality, and the internal source sounds aren’t the most inspiring.

By contrast I find the source samples in the Korg M50 very inspiring and much cleaner and fuller than the Motif sounds (personal choice of course).  The touch screen display on the Korg M50 makes programming very easy and very inviting to tweak sounds just the way you like them.  The weighted keys on the 88 key model are comparable to the Motif XS8 and feel fantastic.  It also cost about $2,000 less than the Motif XS8, and in my opinion, is a better sounding instrument with comparable features that is easier to use.  Since I’m primarily recording virtual instruments anyway, the lesser cost with a fantastic weighted action keyboard makes this a great fit for me.

I also use the M-Audio Axiom 49 Keyboard Controller which I take with me sometimes while travelling.  Its semi-weighted keys have a nice feel and the built-in drum pads are very sensitive.  This is a great keyboard controller if you’re not a “pianist” per se, but want a great controller for MIDI, your DAW and virtual instruments.

DAW

My primary DAW is Cubase 5 by Steinberg.  I also have Pro-Tools 8 M-Powered and Ableton Live.  I got Pro Tools free with the M-Audio Project Mix and don’t use this much as I prefer the flow of Cubase.   I’ve tried a few DAWS and ultimately landed at Cubase because I beleive it to be somewhat more intuitive to musicians (at least it is for me).  Ableton Live is what I’m using for live performances and as a quick groove and composing scratchpad.  Ableton Live is nice for getting quick musical ideas composed easily without worrying about song structure.  It allows you to then layout your ideas into a completed peice, or you can rewire Ableton Live to your DAW of choice for more detailed linear mixing.

THREE DISPLAYS

Home Music Production Workstation

I want to spend some time on this since you may be looking to add multiple displays to your setup and are not sure how to go about this.  My system utilizes a combination of internal and external graphics cards in order to acheive three viewable monitors.  My internal graphics card is an NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS which came with my Gateway and has two digital DVI display outputs.

For the third monitor on top the Project Mix I/O, I decided to go with the PRO USB toStarTech Pro USB to DVI Adapter DVI Graphics Adapter by StarTech.  Please don’t confuse this product with a simple DVI cable converter.  This is an actual graphics card… just an external one using a USB 2.0 connection.  This little guy installs in five minutes and works perfectly with Windows 7.  You may have to go with an external graphics card like this if your computer motherboard only has one PCI Express graphic card slot like mine does.

Home Music Production Workstation 2.0

If your computer only has one PCI Express slot and you want an internal graphics card solution for more than two displays, you’ll have to go with a p

roduct like the Radean HD 5770 by ATI.  Although I’m providing a link to ATI for your reference, I had difficulty with this product and ended up returning it and getting the USB adapter by Startech.  Although the Radeon HD 5770 advertises three or more displays, you need a special (and still rare) Displayport adapter in order to use this.   For some reason, I was never able to load the ATI driver onto my system without crashing it.  The ATI customer support was impossible to contact by phone, and after three days of having an online help desk ticket someone finally wrote back to me telling me to read the instructions.  I kindly wrote back and told them what to do with their graphics card.

Having three screens is more of a nice to have than a need, but gives you some great screen real estate to work your projects.  I use the left display for Cubase’s main edit window.  I use the right display for Voxengo SPAN spectrum analyzer, and as my virtual instrument window in general.  The far right display over the Project Mix I/O is specifically my mixer window.  Cubase is great in that it allows you to save window setups and instantly call up any configuration you save.  For example I have a window configuration that adds a music notation window onto the center right display along with the spectrum analyzer and plugins.

Well that’s the primary setup.  In the interest of space, I haven’t mentioned any plugins or virtual instruments because these will be covered in later posts.  You can check out some of instruments I’m using my kit list page.  Leave a comment if you have any questions on this setup or any of the items mentioned.

 

UPDATED: Below are some of my other home recording studio setups over the years.

Current Home Studio

Check out  My Home Recording Studio Tour to see my current home recording studio setup.

Current Home Recording Studio - Home Music Production

Home Studio 3.0

Here’s an image of my Mac-based home recording studio version 3.0

Home Recording Studio ver 3.0 - Home Music Production

Home Studio 1.0

Check out My Home Recording Studio ver 1.0 to read more about this three monitor, networked  PC-based setup.

Home Recording Studio ver 1.0 - Home Music Production

1991 Home Studio

Here’s an image of my home recording studio in 1991.  I’ll have a post on this gear soon, but it was a PC DOS focused setup running “Sequencer Plus” by Voyetra. The controllers are Roland’s S-10 sampler and D-10 keyboard.  Recording went to a Tascam 688 8-track then down to DAT tape.

Home Recording Studio 1991 - Home Music Production


Stephan Earl

 
Composing, recording and producing music in the home studio environment for over 25 years, musician and author Stephan Earl now enjoys sharing his home studio setup experience with other home studio recording musicians via HomeMusicProduction.com.