Inner Portal Studio Upgrades 2014 – Part 1

StudioBack

Well, 2014 has barely started and I’ve already been pretty busy with some important changes for my studio.  The biggest is ordering some custom Tyler Acoustic D2x monitors to replace my Event Opals.  I love the Opals, but for a long time I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a larger, full-range speaker more ideally suited for mastering.

Tyler D2 03(A D2x unfinished cabinet next to the larger D1x)

Unfortunately, these are build to order, so there’s a 3-4 week wait for them to be fabricated and tested.  Hopefully I will have them in the studio in the next week or two though, and I can’t wait!   More details in a future blog post once they arrive.  🙂

In the meantime, I decided that adding more bass-trapping would probably be a good idea, especially since I’m upgrading to a much larger monitor.  As you can see in the top picture, I had already installed some GIK Super Bass Traps in an old closet area at the back of the studio.  The shape of the closet walls worked well with the traps in the corners like that, it reduced a lot of the bass build ups in my room just as it was.

Still, in smaller studios like mine, you can almost never have too much bass-trapping to tame the low end.   After shopping around online, I found a store called Buyinsulationproducts.com that had some really good prices on the bulk insulation types used for most acoustic treatment.   Using the noise-reduction data I found in the link below, I was able to compare various types of insulation and how they absorb sound at different frequencies:

http://www.bobgolds.com/AbsorptionCoefficients.htm

I initially was going to purchase cheaper Roxul (Rockwool) material for the bass traps, as it’s ever-so-slightly better at absorbing the low end compared to the more common Owens Corning 703 insulation typically used.  But the downside of Roxul is that it’s less rigid than 703, so you pretty much need to make frames for it to work best.  There’s a chance I’m moving to a larger studio in a few months, so I didn’t want to make a bunch of frames that might be the wrong size for the new room.  In the end, I decided 703 was the best way to future proof this investment, so I ordered 8 cases of this:

Owens Corning 703 Panels

If you order from the site above, and are ordering more than just a couple cases, be sure to call them about discounted shipping rates.  It’s MUCH cheaper than the calculator on their site says.  So then, time to build!

IMG_2676(5 of the 8 boxes of 703 in total that I ordered)

The basic plan was to pull the shelving units out of the old closet area, and build a (roughly) 20″ thick wall of solid 703 aross the whole back wall, then put the shelving units and GIK traps in front of it.  Overkill….. yes!  🙂   Because these panels would not really be seen, I didn’t need to use fancy fabric to cover them.  I ended up using weed-blocking cloth from a home improvement store, which cost me only $10 for a roll and was more than enough for the job.

The first step was to stack the panels making one thick panel that I could wrap with a few layers of the cloth, before being placed in the studio.  Pro Tip: If you need to cut the insulation, an electric carving knife makes the job really easy!  Same with any foam (like Auralex) for your studio, the electric knife cuts it like butter.

IMG_2678(The ends of the bundles were covered first, then I wrapped the
middle with multiple layers of cloth to hold it all together.
T-pins were used to fasten the fabric to the insulation)

IMG_2674(Almost empty closet)

IMG_2680(New panels in place, with one more layer of cloth to cover them
and prevent any insulation fibres from becoming airborn)

BassTrapWall

(The final result, doesn’t look much different than it did at first – as planned!)

All together it took me only a few hours to get all the insulation bundled, wrapped in fabric, and placed in the studio.  A few people have asked me if there was any smell from the insulation, since I was using such thin fabric to cover them.  There was a slight smell for a couple hours, but by later that night it had dissipated and hasn’t returned.

I’ll be honest, I was a little curious how much of a difference this would make since I was trying to do this fairly cheap.  And because I wasn’t able to make these proper panels, since my shoulder surgery means no carpentry right now. Plus not knowing if I was even staying in my current room for more than a couple months.

Happily, there was a HUGE difference in sound once I was able to give things a listen!  A much bigger difference than I even hoped for in fact, the low end is incredibly tight in the studio now.  Notes across the low end are even and clearly heard, and the sweet spot for my monitoring increased dramatically too.  All in all the difference was immediate, and obvious to the ear.  All that mass stopped a ton of reflections from being directed back into the studio, my whole back wall is like an audio black hole now.  🙂  I might need to get a diffuser for back there now in fact!

Of course, it wasn’t until AFTER I installed all that bass-trapping that I thought about measuring the low end in the studio using the reference mic and software that came with my Opals for just this purpose.  So unfortunately I only have the “after” results, I don’t have any readings from before the treatment, sorry.

Opals Flat - Post Bass Trapping(Not too bad at all!)

Overall I’m plenty happy with the way this part of the studio upgrade turned out, it really made a much bigger difference than I expected.  And best of all, it really didn’t take that long to do either.

The next step for me is to space my current GIK 242 panels a little bit off the wall, likely just an inch or two to improve how well they work at absorbing the lower-mids.  And then of course, I have some new monitors coming in a couple weeks too.  I don’t think I need to say how I excited about that I am.  Well, except for the part where I have to carry 155 pound (each) speakers up two flights of stairs.

Check back for more pictures and a run down of the speaker install in Part 2!

The Upgrade Game

Upgrade

The upgrade game, how many times have we all played this?  Something new and shiny comes out, and we start feeling that urge that what we were happily using yesterday is no longer good enough.  No where does this seem to happen more than with Apple iOS devices, something I know all too well given how much music work I do on my iPad and iPhone.

More than a few people have asked me either why I tend to upgrade my devices every year, or more common, how I can afford it?  The truth is, upgrading every year to the latest and greatest iPad is the cheapest and easiest way to do it!  Let me explain the system I use, and how it’s something I think all iOS musicians should embrace.

For starters, if you’re one of those people constantly wondering if Apple is going to release a new iPad each week, then this likely doesn’t apply to you.  The rest of you who follow this stuff know that for the last few years iPads have come out on a fairly regular yearly schedule.  The first step then in getting on the upgrade train is to get a new iPad right when they are first released.

At no other time will your iPad have the longest useable life or be worth more, so it pays to get in early. I know some people will caution that new devices mean possibly more buggy daily use, but the opposite has been true in my experience.  Both Apple and developers seem to favor the newer and faster devices when designing their software.  Ever notice how right after a new iPad is released, new app updates start appearing that make your older iPad suddenly feel slower?  We’re still in the early days of tablet computing, so every little increase in CPU power is desired for most musicians.

The first step is obviously the easiest then, buy your iPad.  The first one will never be cheap, but I encourage you to avoid going the refurb or used route if you can, because it makes a huge difference for the next step.

You see, if you sell your current iPad while it’s still the current generation, you get more money for it.  In fact, current iPads have the best resale value, so the trick is to time your sale right.   Usually I will post my current iPad for sale on eBay the same day the new ones are announced.  In fact, if like me you know an Apple press conference is coming, and that it’s likely for new iPads, you can even get a jump and do it a day early if you want.  Otherwise waiting until you see the new one announced and know it will work for you (why wouldn’t it?) is fine too.

So then, new iPads announced, time to get yours on eBay FAST.  The longer you wait to sell your’s from thsi point forward, the more money you’re going to lose.  Make sure you select global shipping, especially with eBay’s new consolidated shipping service meaning you only need to send it to the east coast US and eBay deals with the international portion.  International buyers will always pay more than US buyers, it’s not even close.  Make sure you skip the buy it now option, and start with a really low auction price to get people interested too.

On average I’ve been able to sell my 16GB iPads for around $400, which I can then use to put towards the cost of the newest iPad.  Since new 16GB iPads tend to cost about $500, this means it really only costs me around $100 to get the newest iPad.  Different storage sizes will cost more obviously, but they sell for more too so the same principle applies.

Long story short, by buying new and selling ASAP when new iPads are announced, you can stay on the latest and greatest hardware for around $100 year.

Sure you could keep that $100 a year instead and hang on to your iPad for a few years.  But consider that keeping your iPad for 3 years means that when you go to sell you’ll only likely get around $100 for it.  That means every three years you need to pay $400 to upgrade to a new iPad, where as it only cost me $300 in that same time.  And I was able to use the latest iPad each year so it’s likely I’ll have less CPU issues (software seems to get more CPU hungry each year as I said).

I’ve come to look at my iPads almost like a leasing arrangement.  As a musician, I’m always wishing for faster CPUs (lets not talk about iPad RAM at this point!) so this is well worth it for me.  This used to work the same for iPhones, though lately the carriers have gotten more strict about enforcing the 2 year upgrade path, so the savings aren’t quite as big.  Still the best way to deal with upgrades on the iPhone too though.

It might not be for everyone, but I’ve found that this is the cheapest way to upgrade my iPad over time.  And of course, it also means I can make sure I’m always using the latest hardware too.  Not a bad deal!

Lines In Space – New Downtempo Track

Lines-Of-Space300

Lines Of Space <- Right Click to Download

Well, luckily I managed to keep myself busy during the first couple of weeks of my recovery from the shoulder surgery.  Surprised myself a bit, but I actually managed to get a track written over the last few days, and one I really like no less!

To write this one I used the iPad again, along with the following apps: Auria, Audiobus, iElectribe, Electrify NXT, Nave, Alchemy, and iSEM.  The guitar parts were recorded with a Taylor 814ce recorded dry into a Lynx Hilo DAC, then effected with Fabfilter’s Timeless2 and Pro-C in Auria.  Fabfilter Pro-L in Auria handled all of the “mastering” in this song.

As you can see, I’m still on an iPad music making kick.  🙂

Well, hope you enjoy the new track.  Hopefully if things go well, I can get another track written before my new monitors arrive in 3 weeks.  But that’s a story for another post!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

A Quiet Time

2013 was an interesting year for me, quite a few things happening that I just wasn’t expecting at all.  I went through a very long and frustrating period of writers block for most of the year, but ended it being very productive.  I ditched my Elektrons and bought a really nice acoustic guitar, but I still love playing with music apps on the iPad too.  I raised my mastering rates and actually started turning clients away for the first time.  I ditched a ton of social media baggage and cut back on the amount of time I spent on forums this year.

Fun stuff.

The biggest  change in 2013 was having shoulder surgery the day after xmas though.  Due to an old snowboard injury, I disocate my left arm every 3-4 years.  It just happens randomly most of the time, and typically starts to heal in a few days.  This past October I however, it happened again while mountain biking on Vancouver’s North Shore, and it didn’t heal.

Best option was to go in there and rebuild everything, which means 6-7 months of rehab and recovery.  No bike riding, no snowboarding, no athletic activities beyond walking.  Ungh, not something I was looking forward to, but things couldn’t stay as they were either.

Luckily the surgery went fine, and now it’s been almost a week and I’m on the mend.  Sore and not able to do much more than type very slowly, I have a feeling the next few months are going to be a long process of getting my strength and flexibility back.  Physical Therapy here I come.  🙂

I can just barely play the upper positions on my guitar still as luck would have it, so at least I have that to focus on and work with.  Using a computer and any sort of normal music keyboard is painful though, so I have a feeling new blog posts might taper off for a bit while I focus on getting back in shape.

Here’s to hoping that things improve quicker than expected though, because I have a lot of new ideas I want to write about this year.

Peace and beats,
Tarekith