Control Room-less studios.

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Control Room-less studios.

Post by Rodgre » Thu Sep 23, 2004 6:33 pm

What are your thoughts on open space recording studios which don't have an isolated control room?

I've never worked in such a situation and have always relied on having an isolated control room, especially for tracking with a live band (so I can hear what I'm getting without hearing the drums blasting away twenty feet from me).

What are the benefits to having an open studio space? What are the drawbacks?

I worry about mixing in such a space, with so much ambience (I'm talking about a large, open barn space, with a very high ceiling - like 40 feet or more at the peak) but I've never done it, so I can't say.... maybe putting sound absorbing gobos around the mix position can deaden the ambience. I don't know.

I'm talking about tracking and mixing (and even mastering if I had to) in this kind of space.

What are your thoughts? Should I be afraid?


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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by Shawn Simmons » Thu Sep 23, 2004 7:01 pm

You should talk to my buddys at Chroma Sound. Jason hangs out here on the board, every now and then. They seem to love having no control room.

I've never worked that way, myself, but it seems like success without a control room would really depend on the type of music you were recording. I would think it would be really difficult to make it work with a loud rock band. But I bet a more acoustic/jazz/folk thing would really shine in this scenario.


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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by AnalogElectric » Thu Sep 23, 2004 8:41 pm

I used to record that way (no choice) and I hated it (personal opinion).

It was when I was first starting out and didn't have the luxury of having an isolated control room as I do now but to bring that to my current set-up the floor below the control room isn't isolated that much but doesn't bleed at all...except if I use the room below the control room for a bass amp or something like that then all that sound comes straight through.

Initial first tracking seemed to go well but cumbersome due to laying something down then during playback, what when to tape, and adjusting from there. Seemed more of a pain when I couldn't isolate myself from the performance area. Even other things I've done as mobile unit recordings where we're all in the same room or church the whole session turned out chaotic (to me). It's not the way I like to work in. Now mixing and such I'm actually going back to my space to mix or a different studio all-together.

I like to be comfortable in an environment and for me a large uncontrolled space makes me cringe (my opinion).

I know some that do it and like it but they don't do hardcore/punk/metal (or just plain LOUD) like most of my clients are.

Every time I've recorded in the same room the lows seemed great until I played it back. The ambience seemed great until I played it back. I'm just not used to it or most of the time I don't have all the mics to compensate (especially on a mobile recording). There's only so much I can bring or work with (from my experiences) where I'm working with an unfamiliar console and/or a tape machine I don't like. So I guess my view is a bit askew and a mite different than what you're asking but considering you're used to an isolated control room you'd probably go mad...depending on the circumstances.

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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by Rodgre » Thu Sep 23, 2004 8:45 pm

Thanks so far.

I usually do loud pop/rock indie bands, definitely not jazz or super-duper dynamic stuff.

I'll check out Chroma Sound. Thanks.


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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by thecongostudio » Thu Sep 23, 2004 8:49 pm

My setup is one room. The only drawback is getting tones down, but I spend extra time on recording sounds and listening back and then adjusting mics. It's not an inconvenience, it's just what I can afford now.

There is so much cool stuff you can do with room ambience and messing around with playback of drum auxs while playing drums back to create this insane phasey drum sound that I've used a couple times. My place is an old carriage house that was remodeled, but I have huge 20 feet ceilings so the reverb of the whole room is really boomy.

As for acoustic stuff, its the same thing as a hard rock band. I still take the time and care to get tones down the way it should sound.

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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by cgarges » Thu Sep 23, 2004 9:24 pm

Unless it's a live gig, I've gotta have the wall. Even then, a wall is preferable.

Aside form the physical seperation, I can't imagine trying to make any sort of accurate sonic judgements in a situation like that.

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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by Ronan » Thu Sep 23, 2004 9:50 pm

Your barn set up sounds great!! Really. My favorite studios have really big control rooms so I can work this way most of the time. Real World has a huge control room for just this purpose.

My studio has two rooms, but I set it up with a big control room because I like working with as many people in the same space as possible. Uusally the drums get done in the next room (not always) and the piano to, but every thing else usually gets done in the control room. I will put guitar cabs in the next room, but it its a combo I can just keep it in the control room.

I really like the vibe of everyone hanging out together. I think it really helps the creative process lots of times. I have made enough records that I can usuall get sounds pretty close before I hear anything, then I record a small bit and see if I need to tweak anything. I would take comfy fun vibe over subtle improvents in audio quality any day of the week.

The idea of having gobos to tighten up parts of the space for tracking and mixing is a really good one. Send your stuff out for mastering.

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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by Professor » Thu Sep 23, 2004 9:51 pm

The business I ran before moving here was a location recording business, so I would almost always be in the same room as all of the musicians.
It's difficult to know what kinds of sound you're getting, especially if you are into swapping preamps and tracking with compression, eq, etc. Since most of the music I recorded that way was not as effects-laden (and I didn't own much at the time anyway) I was alright getting a general idea that the sound was not grossly out of whack, and that it wasn't hitting too hard for the recorders. So as for monitoring during tracking it is difficult and I'd imagine you'll find yourself doing alot more 'fixing in the mix'. Though I suppose that might vary somewhat.
The biggest drawback for me would be not having isolation between instruments. If the drums, bass, guitar and scratch vox are all going in the same room it is going to be very hard to keep those isolated enough to run an overdub. At the school studio I've occasionally placed an instrument into the control room as an additional isolation room just so I could track the band playing live but be able to overdub, edit or otherwise tweak later. Here again, if you tend to record one instrument at a time, this might not be an issue.

The last thing that would probably get to me would be the long sessions when it is nice to turn the volume down and not hear the band arguing or noodling between takes. Or for that matter, will the band members make too much noise when only one of them is recording? Sure, you can stay absolutely quiet for 5 minutes, but can the drunken drummer do it?

But then, I wouldn't let any of that deter me from getting a large open space like a barn to house a recording studio. Get the space and then start assembling isolation rooms and other partitions. Maybe start with a manufactured vocal booth, and then work towards building a larger iso booth for drums, amps, whatever you like, and then work towards separating yourself from the instruments by sealing off the hay loft. In the end you might end up with a very cool space that still has lots of the large, open room feel, but can separate enough to suit any kind of session.


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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by Dan Phelps » Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:12 pm

Coming from more of a Musician/Producer kind of perspective, I like the vibe of an open room, or a really large control room. It takes away some of the doctor's office/science lab vibe that I experience in some studios. It's a warm feeling to have everyone sharing the same space.

Of course, it's less than ideal when it comes to tracking, especially loud music. I think it just takes a little more effort at the begining of a session to make sure the sounds are there and that I'm not being fooled by what's going on, it might be a strong motivator if the drums sound great in the room but not quite so much on to try harder!

Also...I believe that with some strategic baffeling most any space can be made usable for mixing.

My 2 cents.


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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by bigtoe » Fri Sep 24, 2004 4:35 am

"Aside form the physical seperation, I can't imagine trying to make any sort of accurate sonic judgements in a situation like that."

i'm mostly no control room in big spaces people find and want to record in... It's very difficult. I save a lot of judgement calls until later. eq is almost non existant in tracking.

Also i find myself relying very much on a "use what has worked before" type mentality...where you rely on past experience rather than what is in front of you. A little funky but when you can't hear is not the time to be messing around...or if you mess around - have a net. cuz without - when you get back to your a controlled environment and listen - ooooooooooo that hurts.

i totally agree on the vibe thing though.


edit- ps Ronan - have you worked at real world? lordy!

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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by inverseroom » Fri Sep 24, 2004 4:40 am

I've done it in a house--the whole band and the console in the living room. It worked fine, but I'd have to say that it worked fine mostly by accident. We did stick to techniques we knew well and were confident with--reliable mic'ing, bass DI, drums mostly from overheads. But when we were tracking there was really no telling what it was going to sound like until the song was done. We did spend a good six hours trying things out, taping them, running them back, adjusting.

None of this was for money though; it was my own band. I would hate to have to please a client in these circumstances...

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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by bigtoe » Fri Sep 24, 2004 4:47 am

'I would hate to have to please a client in these circumstances...'

it's good fun and really easy...until you get home and listen to it! hahaha...

ok enough yella for the week...peace,


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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by stui » Fri Sep 24, 2004 5:56 am

I have a mobile recording rig and almost always end up tracking live gigs in the room (usually next to the FOH desk). I get by with a custom made set of isolation headphones that get my signal over the top of the PA without blasting my ears. I also use them when finding the spot for loud amps when recording at home. Maybe you don't dig the idea of using headphones for tracking but it could be a good option to maintain the vibe and be able to hear whats going down???

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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by parlormusic » Fri Sep 24, 2004 6:00 am

I've been tracking without a control room for about four years now. I don't like it. I can't crank up the monitors to hear what the mics are picking up without feedback. Unless you isolate your gear that makes noise, that is another problem. The other disadvantage is that you can't acoustically optimize a room for the best mixing AND recording environment. It's a give and take situation. I've been getting by with using headphones while picking a mic placement.

I have a large home in which I have a couple of rooms dedicated for my recording business. There is also an adjacent apartment that's being rented until November. Once the tenant has moved out, I will open up the hidden doorway that originally joined my studio with the apartment's living room. I have a french door to replace the original so that I can see into the studio from the apartment side which will be my new control room. I can then treat the rooms for the best sound without compromise.

I've wanted this for so long. I have some experience tracking in some nice control rooms and I find it soooooooooo much easier to get good sounds right from the start.
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Re: Control Room-less studios.

Post by rydberg » Fri Sep 24, 2004 8:01 am

I've said it before here, so might as well say it again. No control room is great. I've done it for a few years and have made great sounding records. The vibe is a lot better - there's no "us vs. them" mentality a wall can create. It's easier to discuss ideas without a freaking talkback mic blasting in someone's ears. You wanna move a mic? Well, walk over and move it. You don't have to walk thru 2 doors and a soundlock to get shit done. Worried about tones? Wear isolation headphones and pay attention. Worried about bleed? Move amps farther away from drum mics and use some baffles. Or run long lines into the bathroom/storage closet/hallway/stairwell. It ain't rocket science, folks. You just have to adapt a few methods and go from there. Sure it might take an extra hour or two to get stuff right, but the payoff can be huge. And remember, lots of people have made much better records with less than half the shit you can get your hands on today. So your choice nowadays is either to keep complaining or get to work.

As always, my $.02.



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