Sponsored by Zaor Studio Furniture

Zaor Studio Furniture: a growing studio furniture powerhouse begins direct sales to the United State and Canada at the new Zaor.us online shop.

Designed by music professionals for music and audio professionals, Zaor Studio Furniture’s studio desks, monitor stands, and equipment racks place an equal emphasis on ergonomics, acoustics, and style. Now with direct-from-the-manufacturer sales to the United States and Canada of its entire product line at Zaor.us, North American music-makers receive their orders from the Romanian company in about the same time as Europeans.

A Good Problem to Have

Like many product manufacturers in the pro audio and music production sphere, Zaor Studio Furniture was surprised at the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on its business. Klaus Gehlhaar, Zaor co-founder and CEO, says the company was preparing to send employees on an extended holiday in anticipation of a very slow year. But then the unexpected happened. Demand soared. Rather than furlough its staff, Zaor hired more than 20 people and ramped up production. It experienced the best sales in its decade of business.

The new Miza Studio Yesk 2 from Zaor Studio Furniture

As Zaor and many audio and music gear makers discovered, widespread lockdowns sparked a fierce new wave of studio building, both from musicians and producers who wanted a main or secondary facility to use while stuck at home, as well as from a deluge of content creators like podcasters and video game and DJ live streamers. However, this boon to business came with the caveat of rampant shipping delays. People got used to these delays to some extent, but with the constraints of Zaor’s distribution, exorbitant delays started to test some of its customers’ patience.

That problem is now solved since in early 2022 Zaor opened the Zaor.us online shop to sell directly to people in the United States in Canada from its central warehouse in Romania. As a result of direct sales and airline freight, customers receive their new studio furniture in an average of 5-6 business days.

You Can Go Your Own Way

The Zaor Pro Studio Stand Croce 42 in White
Before beginning direct sales to the US and Canada, Focal had distributed Zaor furniture to those countries for about six years. Gehlhaar explains that Zaor would send its products in a cargo container to Focal, who would move those products to its warehouse in Montreal, Quebec, and then Focal reps would approach dealers to carry the products in their physical or online shops. Not all Zaor buyers would experience lengthy delays, but if for example the color variant of a studio desk they ordered was in a container on the way to Focal, it could take a couple of months to arrive. Or worse, the ordered product might be delayed in Romania while waiting for a cargo container to fill up, because it would waste too much money to send Focal a container that was not full.

The pandemic compounded the problem, because shipping took longer as cargo containers were extensively held up in ports and customs. For example, Zaor produces the Raven Core Station for Slate Digital Media, for which it sends shipping containers to Long Beach, California. The time for those containers to clear the port during the COVID era went from approximately six weeks to four months. Unlucky customers who ordered something not on hand at the Focal warehouse might have to wait six or even eight months for their items.

The Slate Raven Core Station

The cost of using shipping containers also skyrocketed, so when the Focal distribution agreement came to an end, Zaor did not even try to find another distributor. It was time to take matters into their own hands. Because the United States is the largest single market for musicians, producers, DJs, etc., it would not do to be known as the really beautiful and well-made studio furniture that takes forever to get. That’s especially true because of the way people tend to shop for studio furniture.

“In my experience,” Gehlhaar says, “people think about buying a beautiful compressor; they think of the mic; they think of the loud speakers and headphones. Then when they have everything, they think, ‘oh yeah, I need to put it somewhere. I need to get a desk. And I need it next week!” Now at Zaor.us, they can have that, with the shipping costs included in the price of most items. Zaor moved from shipping products in cargo containers to North America to now air shipping individual orders to customers. While the cost of air shipping is much higher to Zaor, because distributors and dealers are out of the equation, it’s worth it to the company to deliver to customers quickly.

The Zaor Studio Furniture Maestro 24+12 rack unit desk in use at Obsidian Mastering in The Netherlands

Born for the Digital Studio

Gehlhaar’s experience with gear heads’ buying habits doesn’t just come from more than a decade as Zaor’s CEO and intuition. He was a carpenter at a young age, so he’s no stranger to working with wood, but he’s spent his life in the music industry. From first playing in bands, Gehlhaar got into live sound mixing, and then building and operating recording studios as a producer, engineer, and editor in Luxembourg, where he was born. By the late 1990s, when companies like Alesis and Behringer were making recording gear more affordable and processes started going “in the box” through more powerful computers, Gehlhaar foresaw that paying the rent on his large recording studio would become difficult. People started to use the studio just to mix but not to record, so he looked for a way out by going to work for gear manufacturers, including TC Electronic, SSL, and others over the years.

While at TC Electronic, Gehlhaar served as the product specialist for the landmark System 6000, an incredibly sophisticated hardware multi-processor that George Massenburg helped develop. Gehlhaar traveled around the world demonstrating the System 6000 in studios from China to India, from Argentina to Mexico, and all over Europe and the United States. At all the varied studios he witnessed so many different ways of recording and approaching problems within studios. He noticed details like how people would integrate their speakers and monitors into a studio, as well as the overall aesthetics and lighting of a welcoming studio.

The Zaor Studio Furniture Miza 49 FLEX in Cherry Black

However, it wasn’t until 2010 when Gehlhaar was working at SSL that he met Michele Zullo, co-founder and CTO of Zaor Studio Furniture, at Frankfurt Musikmesse, and they began to hatch a plan for making furniture for the changed studio environment.

“I could see that digital won the battle, and consoles were slowly moving out,” Gehlhaar says. “People needed something to fill that space, and we tried to take that market. We looked at what was available at that time. There were very, very cheap pieces of furniture, mostly from China, and there was very, very expensive furniture from the United States. There was nothing in between, and we set out to really fill that gap, creating a whole Miza line, which is solid, well built, nicely designed, but not super expensive—affordable, but a good quality.”

The new height-adjustable Zaor Vision KS keyboard and controller trolley on wheels

Zaor’s other main product lines include the Vision Studio desks and racks that are more minimal and compact, and the Pro Studio desks, stands, and racks that emphasize a timeless elegance in their aesthetic but also stress the ergonomics of keeping everything in reach.

The Zaor Pro Studio RackSpace 4

Production & Facilities

Since its founding, Zaor has grown steadily, building out four production spaces one after the other and now has a total of about 5,000 square meters of factory space, as well as outdoor space for working with solid wood. Zaor’s furniture production starts from the bottom up. It doesn’t outsource any readymade wooden panels, but rather makes everything in-house, controlling every aspect down to the direction of the wood grain.

Unlike most of what goes into a music studio, Zaor’s core products don’t have electronic components, which have caused another bottleneck in the supply chain during the pandemic, causing many supply delays for both small audio companies, as well as large manufacturers. Zaor doesn’t really experience any supply problems, because Romania’s healthy forests make it the biggest wood producer in Europe, and Zaor can source its solid wood, chip wood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and plywood locally. Because of that and its ramping up of production, basically every Zaor.us product is in stock at any given time.

And yet Zaor’s considerable production facilities are still high-tech affairs. Zaor was born out of the triumph of digital audio in the studio, and it embraces digital manufacturing as well. The designers use Solidworks and Autodesk AutoCAD software to design furniture and parts, and those digital files inform the CNC (computer numerical control) machines that work in three shifts to produce the necessary pieces. Zaor even makes its own boxes so that the unassembled furniture can be shipped flat in exactly the right sized box with as much reinforcement needed to safely travel halfway around the world in some cases.

The Zaor team stayed busy during the uptick in demand in 2020

A new 5-axis CNC machine is on the way, which is capable of cutting more three-dimensional designs. This digital manufacturing approach makes Zaor more nimble for configuring the timely production of bespoke studio furniture that it also offers.

A Custom Star Ship for a Unique Star

While Zaor specializes in the needs of audio and music studios, the company has also caught the eye, and the orders, of music schools and retailers, video editors, IT companies, hair stylists, restaurants, clothing boutiques, and other diverse customers. Many of those orders are for bespoke furniture that Zaor designs custom for their specific needs.

When someone requests a bespoke solution, the people at Zaor work with them to determine their needs and workflow, aesthetic preferences, space available, and budget. There may be a jumping off point in the Zaor catalog that can be specifically modified for the customer. For example, the popular Onda Angled desk with a middle work surface and two racks on each side is easy to modify to make it wider for a big Avid system or make it smaller for a compact room, add more rack units, and so on.

The Zaor Pro Studio Onda Angled desk

Zaor’s recent bespoke jobs have included making a desk for mix engineer James Reynolds—who mixes, among others, the Korean sensation BTS—with a motorized mount for a 40-inch display that lowers to hide the display when he just wants to listen.

On another job, Zaor made a giant sit/stand desk with eight motors based on the huge, semicircular Slate Raven Z3 station with space for three embedded display screens. “When somebody comes to us with a crazy idea like that, we never say no,” Gehlhaar says. “We say, ‘okay, let's see how we can do this.’”

Other custom jobs are much more simple, but still meaningful. For example, Billie Eilish’s brother/producer, as well as solo artist, Grammy and Oscar winner Finneas O’Connell wanted a basic Zaor Alto desk but with a custom-made multi-color lighting system with remote control.

Finneas O’Connell with his Zaor Alto desk

Yet some bespoke jobs are so big they get Gehlhaar’s personal attendance. And who’s bigger or more ubiquitous than the Doggfather himself, Death Row label boss and Martha Stewart’s best mate Snoop Dogg? When Zaor built the furniture for the A room and B room of Snoop Dogg’s studio, the A room had an enormous Neve console to integrate. The enormous custom desk to match it had a circumference of about 11 meters, Gehlhaar estimates. They call it “The Mothership,” while Studio B is “The Battleship.” The job was so big and important that Gehlhaar flew to Los Angeles to build out the desks from dozens of boxes of pieces. It took about 10 people to hoist the 350 kg Neve board into place, completing the three-dimensional puzzle.

“Sometimes our production manager asks, ‘why do you do that? It's such a lot of work just for one customer,’” Gehlhaar says. “Well, for every customer like that, we learn something new. We learn a new need or a different way of working. Sometimes these special projects become new products because we see that a lot of people could like it. Rather than saying, ‘no, we do a product like this, and now you have to buy it.’ We try to listen and learn. It's a constant inspiration.”

For further information on Zaor Studio Furniture, please visit: https://zaorstudiofurniture.com/