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Building a Recording Studio for a School
Old 16th September 2012
  #1
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Building a Recording Studio for a School

I'm volunteering at a performing arts middle/high school right now and I've been asked to rebuild their recording studio.

I obviously know what I'm doing but would like some other opinions and thoughts that I might not be thinking about.

Firstly, the studio was already built by some company that is no longer in the picture. And of course, they spent a lot of money on not many un-wise choices.

They didn't make it computer based. It had an Allen and Heath live board combined with an Alesis ADAT HD24 Hard Disk recorder. They also have a bunch of Lexicon processors (low end) and some DBX compressors.

There's a chance we may get a big budget at some point but for now I'm looking at 1k to finish this studio.

Because the school has a Music Tech Lab, they have a bunch of iMac 27" computers with Logic, Reason and Pro Tools installed. So we can bring that in. We also have a spare M-Audio Project Mix I/O to use as an interface but the thing is pretty unstable and as a monitor controller, it's really awful. The control room volume has no start or stop so you never know where you are. Students will definitely blow speakers with this thing as the center of the monitoring.

My goal is to make this somewhat impressive looking, computer based and simply functional because I can't be there 24/7.

For now (the studio is in pieces) I brought the Allen and Heath to the Theatre dept and they gave me a smaller soundcraft console. It looks like this:

Soundcraft LX7ii 24-Channel Mixer | GuitarCenter

The console serves two functions. It looks a bit more impressive than just a computer screen and it has a real analog monitoring system that could easily be muted when moving mics around etc.

While the Project I/O is nice to have, it's probably redundant as I can use the analog board for putting up the tracks and teaching EQ and mixing etc.

So I was thinking about grabbing a Profire 2626 to use as an audio interface. Maybe even tie the ADAT into it for more inputs and outputs?

The board also has 24 mic inputs (I know they suck) that we can route to the interface because they do record big sectional bands and orchestras.

Sorry for the long post but if anyone has any great ideas as to what I should and shouldn't use, please suggest away. We can also sell stuff to buy other stuff.

Thanks
Old 16th September 2012
  #2
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lpkyer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Why not use the soundcraft pres (they can't be THAT bad..) and find two Echo Audiofire 12 ? This would give you 24 channels of decent conversion.

By the way, it's very nice of you to do that !
Old 16th September 2012
  #3
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
So do you want to use the Soundcraft's mic inputs and send them to protools? Get a used M Audio Profire 2626, then get two used digimax d8's. If you can get by with 16 inputs, get a focusrite pro 40 and a presonus digimax d8 and just use the pres on those and forget the board. The focusrite inteface has a mute option for monitors if that is what you need. Also, the iMac has a big enough screen to teach students. If you really want to use the board, you can still use it with the focusrite option, but you only get sixteen inputs. For orchestral stuff with the focusrite, you can use the board to mix down some similar stuff then send it to the focusite. My 2 cents
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #4
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by lpkyer ➑️
Why not use the soundcraft pres (they can't be THAT bad..) and find two Echo Audiofire 12 ? This would give you 24 channels of decent conversion.
I'm leaning towards using the preamps (and channels) on the board because I think it will be the easiest to show signal flow with.

The Echofire units are a bit pricey. In thinking about this (as I typed it up) I'm thinking I should just use the Alesis Adat 24HD just for the convertors in stand by pass thru mode using just a Profire 2626 ($399). That will give me 8 analog I/Os and 16 digital for a total of 24 ins and outs. Assuming I could get the mac to record that many at a time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lpkyer ➑️
By the way, it's very nice of you to do that !
It's actually good to be around young people who want to learn our craft. Thanks
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #5
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjji ➑️
So do you want to use the Soundcraft's mic inputs and send them to protools? Get a used M Audio Profire 2626, then get two used digimax d8's. If you can get by with 16 inputs, get a focusrite pro 40 and a presonus digimax d8 and just use the pres on those and forget the board. The focusrite inteface has a mute option for monitors if that is what you need. Also, the iMac has a big enough screen to teach students. If you really want to use the board, you can still use it with the focusrite option, but you only get sixteen inputs. For orchestral stuff with the focusrite, you can use the board to mix down some similar stuff then send it to the focusite. My 2 cents
It's not a bad idea to have 24 separate mic preamps this way the board could just be used for playback. I don't think it's a recording console (I need to look it over more) so it probably doesn't have 24 channels plus 24 multitrack returns.

I may have to split it up using some channels for recording and other for playback.
Old 16th September 2012
  #6
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
That sounds like a good idea, and cost effective too! I wish my high school had a recording studio.
Old 16th September 2012
  #7
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
In what alternate universe can you go to high school and have Kenny Gioia teach you how to record. Wow. Lucky kids.

Now I wouldn't worry about the pre's or the converters, hopefully what they take away from the class is workflow. How to mic instruments, gain staging, processing and so on.

Sorry I don't have better gear answers.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #8
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjji ➑️
That sounds like a good idea, and cost effective too! I wish my high school had a recording studio.
Me too. I wish we had a performing arts option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tcase ➑️
In what alternate universe can you go to high school and have Kenny Gioia teach you how to record. Wow. Lucky kids.
Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjji ➑️
Now I wouldn't worry about the pre's or the converters, hopefully what they take away from the class is workflow. How to mic instruments, gain staging, processing and so on.
That's my thinking as well. They have a bunch of decent mics and I just want them to be able to record multiple things. We're not going to be able to use Neve preamps and Aurora convertors here.

Although I wish we could at least get something like this:



But many of them already know Logic, Live and Reason. Not really Pro Tools.
Old 16th September 2012
  #9
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
You don't have a performing arts program but you have a recording studio? Wow. I am going to HBHS and we have the Acadamy for the Performing Arts. It is the best in California (seriously).
Old 16th September 2012
  #10
Gear Guru
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I would keep the analog board. I think learning in the analog world teaches things like signal flow and gain structure much better than starting in computers. I think starting with physical, analog gear provides a solid foundation that will help them in the virtual world they'll be living in.
How many people post here who don't really understand what a bus is? Or an aux input. I think that's a function of never having seen a real console.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #11
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjji ➑️
You don't have a performing arts program but you have a recording studio? Wow. I am going to HBHS and we have the Acadamy for the Performing Arts. It is the best in California (seriously).
No. I was talking about what I had growing up.

This school has an amazing performing arts program.

They've just added Music Tech to the program and now we're introducing recording. Hoping to grow it into a full fledged recording and post program.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #12
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by PRobb ➑️
I would keep the analog board. I think learning in the analog world teaches things like signal flow and gain structure much better than starting in computers. I think starting with physical, analog gear provides a solid foundation that will help them in the virtual world they'll be living in.
How many people post here who don't really understand what a bus is? Or an aux input. I think that's a function of never having seen a real console.
Agreed. But I do want to record into the computer as they've already learned how to use that a bit.
Old 16th September 2012
  #13
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny Gioia ➑️
I'm leaning towards using the preamps (and channels) on the board because I think it will be the easiest to show signal flow with ... I'm thinking I should just use the Alesis Adat 24HD just for the convertors in stand by pass thru mode
[EDITED] This is a good approach IMO. I've observed that people learn signal flow better on analog setups.

I'd keep all the existing gear, including the HD24 for it's converters. IMacs would be fine as a platform for which ProTools, Reason, Live, and Logic could all be used. The Profire is a great idea as an ADAT IO, and additional I/O and conversion.

This way Recording and mixing can be taught ITB, or OTB, and the Alesis can be used as a standalone recorder for those who want to experiment with that workflow. This is significant in that most workfkow styles are being catered for. An 8 channel control surface would be an important addition.

It's a great thing that you're doing and I hope it all works out well.

Cheers.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #14
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic ➑️
Kenny, If it was me, I'd keep all the existing gear, including the HD24. A well spec'd last generation desktop computer with an RME HDSP9652, an educational version of ProTools 9/10 and you actually have every base covered for close to $1k.
What does the RME do for me that the Profire 2626 won't?

I'd prefer not to have to get another computer being that we have about 50 iMac 27" here.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic ➑️
Which model is the Allen & Heath and how many channels? Whether an LX-7 represents a meaningful step up in quality from the existing A&H desk might be arbitrary, unless it's condition is deteriorated or its significantly older.
I'll check on both those models (it might not be an LX-7) but I didn't like the Allen and Heath because it had so many bells and whistles that we wouldn't need.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic ➑️
It's a great thing that you're doing and I hope it all works out well.

Cheers.
Thanks for the support.
Old 16th September 2012
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Yeah, actually I glossed over a few important details in your OP. Feeling a bit bleary after a very long gig yesterday. Id edited my post by the time you posted your reply.
Old 16th September 2012
  #16
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
It's kinda been said already, but definitely look into the spec of the board. You might be able to just add a FW>Lightpipe interface (M-audio & PreSonus do them) and that's all you need. HD24 provides the converters, which are decent enough. And whatever the board is, the A&H pres usually sound pretty acceptable. The only issue there β€” which might be a reason to go for a more modern all-in-one interface is that I don't know what the latency is like in a setup like this - eg if you're doing stuff with live performance of soft synths etc it may be an issue so check that out.

If you'd rather go new, I'd prob pick an all-in-one analogue mixer + interface hybrid β€” something like the Mackie Onyx 1640i would be a neat solution if you can afford it. You get the whole analogue thing, but with 16-way I/O connection to the DAW so you can use it in either way. That kind of flexibility is handy for a college as different students might prefer to work in different ways and you're not forcing them to make a different choice.

The mixer side of things is kinda handy with students, for several different reasons, too:

teaching them about signal flow, gain structure etc; difference between analogue and digital distortion when you overload a channel; making cue mixes; monitor control; having inputs available for their iPods and the like, or any other sources; And, importantly, having a hardware knob/mute button/fader to use as a kill switch when they (inevitably) **** things up in the DAW and risk blowing your speakers! If you go down this road, keep at least one of the outboard reverbs if you do this: however good or crappy they are, they'll be useful for cue mix comfort reverbs.

Then sell whatever you don't need so (a) you can raise more cash for them; and (b) skint newbs can pick up unwanted gear! Always seems a shame to have gear sitting there unused.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #17
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mixedup ➑️
Then sell whatever you don't need so (a) you can raise more cash for them; and (b) skint newbs can pick up unwanted gear! Always seems a shame to have gear sitting there unused.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I do think that a school can't sell its property. My 7th grade teacher was giving away a bunch of old iMacs because he wasn't allowed to sell them.
Old 16th September 2012
  #18
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1 Review written
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Also I found a better solution to the M Audio interface. You can get a FireStudio Lightpipe which has 4 ADAT inputs and route the Alesis to that. They are discontinued now, but you can find them on ebay.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #19
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recordinghopkins's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjji ➑️
Also I found a better solution to the M Audio interface. You can get a FireStudio Lightpipe which has 4 ADAT inputs and route the Alesis to that. They are discontinued now, but you can find them on ebay.
That's what I use with my HD24xr for i/o to a large soundcraft sapphyre.
It's worked rock solid for me for several years now. Take advantage of all of those HD24 and mixer channels! When studio tracking, they can run it in split mode for a 22x2, 12x12, 8x16 or any config they wish. (recall that the HD24 works in either analog or digital input modes, selectable in pairs of two channels)

Coincidentally, I also have a profire 2626, which is connected to the last 8 i/o channels of the Firestudio Lightpipe. I use it for an extra 8 channels of DA, it's 8 analog inputs are connected to my console's 8 busses for bus recording or printing stems, and I use it's optical B input and internal routing to connect a rosetta AD to the console's mixbus. (optical B input 1/2>optical A output 1/2). This allows 6 busses and the stereo 2mix to be captured while mixing 32 DAW returns! Surround mixing via busses! Old school!

To sum up my long winded post, I also recommend the firestudio lightpipe for use with the HD24. Future budget increases might allow you to take advantage of those last 8 channels with 8 more channels of conversion. Maybe a barry ADA8000 connected to a headphone amp for cue mixes?


Sounds like a fun project.
Old 16th September 2012
  #20
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subspace's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I've been teaching audio at a high school since 2005. With those pieces on hand, I would lean towards adding a cheap TRS patch bay and a ProFire Lightbridge. Use the Soundcraft at the front of the room with 24 mic inputs hard wired and the 24 direct outs feeding the bay. Put the HD24 next to the board with it's 24 analog inputs fed from the bay. Have the kids patch channels 1 - 24 to inputs 1 - 24, then cross patch a vocal channel for overdubs. Connect the HD24's 3 optical outs to the Lightbridge, and the LB's analog stereo output back to a stereo return on the Soundcraft. Demonstrate the latency difference by flipping between the live input channels and the stereo return from the iMac.
Record live to the HD24 and then transfer it to PTs in a 24 track record pass, record live to PT's using the HD24 as just converters, record to both at once. Show them how to drag the equal length WAVs to zero on the iMacs from the live record pass. Leave the student stations as just an iMac and headphones. Use the MIDI input on the Lightbridge with a keyboard from the music dept. Project your PT's screen at the front of the class and plug a head set mic into the board so you can talk through the monitors over the volume of the music without taking your hands off the session. A document camera above the Soundcraft will be helpful as a second projector input. That's all for now, hope some of it is of use to you.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #21
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjji ➑️
Correct me if I am wrong, but I do think that a school can't sell its property. My 7th grade teacher was giving away a bunch of old iMacs because he wasn't allowed to sell them.
Dunno about across the pond, but there's no problem selling stuff on in the UK, as long as you've accounted for it properly. How the **** are you supposed to run any business, profit-making or otherwise, if you can't manage the stuff on your balance sheet?!

I know some things, particularly IT, can be depreciated over time (3-5 years) on a public sector accounting system to the point that they have no value on a balance sheet - but it doesn't mean they're actually worthless, or that they'll fetch nil on eBay. Might need permission from the governors (or US equiv), but as long as they plough the proceeds back into education what's the problem? If they can't then that's a very sorry state of affairs. Perhaps it's that they have to end the year with net nil, and at some points of the year that might mean taking things off the balance sheet without generating income.

And yeah, the FW>32 lightpipe channels thing was what I was talking about. There's one by M-Audio and a similar one by Presonus.
Old 16th September 2012
  #22
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subspace's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
He can't sell off gear and can only buy new from vendors that take a purchase order if it's anything like my district. I've had bids go out for a JBL Vertec line array only to have an EV XLD array installed instead as an "acceptable" substitute according to the district finance department. On the other hand, I had a DM2000VCM spec'd as a 1st choice console and an 02R96 as a lower cost alternative, only to have both desks delivered because "the funding was available." Most of these purchases must be made in a window of opportunity using a pre-selected list of vendors, relying on what lines they have access to. He who hesitates loses his funding...
Old 16th September 2012
  #23
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🎧 10 years
Most state operated educational systems around here dispose of unused equipment via auction. Surplus is tagged for storage, and they'll either hold an auction in person a couple times a year, or do the online bidding thing.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Guru
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny Gioia ➑️
Agreed. But I do want to record into the computer as they've already learned how to use that a bit.


at the school where I teach (community college) student comprehension of labs and assignments increased by an order of magnitude when they became software-based

its not simply a generational thing, it is easier to give unambiguous instructions for software than it is for hardware. Very important for an instructor who isn't there every day.


for your next round of money, I highly recommend a really big flat screen TV you can project the software on so everybody can follow along even the kids in the back row.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Guru
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by recordinghopkins ➑️
Most state operated educational systems around here dispose of unused equipment via auction. Surplus is tagged for storage, and they'll either hold an auction in person a couple times a year, or do the online bidding thing.
it's tricky because otherwise people in cahoots could declare some perfectly nice piece of gear "obsolete" and "sell" it to each other at whatever price

at most schools, it is also no good to try and purchase used gear. It has to be new and from an approved vendor. Again the fear is cronyism.

I never had subspace's experience of having the finance department change my order, though. Turn me down, sure, but decide what is 'equivalent'... that would imply they had any idea what a line array was.

we can accept donations of free gear. Once someone wanted to donate a 72 channel console with (non-working) fader automation and a Sony DASH recorder. We had to turn it down because we didn't have the space, and of course we couldn't accept it and sell it because....
Old 16th September 2012
  #26
Sim
Lives for gear
How about 12 channels in and 12 channels out on the board. I can't imagine you'll be recording 24 tracks of audio simultaneously, maybe 12 but not 24.
Old 16th September 2012
  #27
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recordinghopkins's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
^ Live recording was mentioned... and I routinely use as many as 12 or 13 mics on a drum kit. Add in a bass player, scratch guitars, and a keyboard and you have potentially 16 or more channels. Surely the curriculum won't be strictly related to overdubs... but if it's setup for 24 in or out with the HD24, any combination of a split console setup can be used.

Also, my reference to "the online bidding thing" was for selling, not buying.
Old 17th September 2012 | Show parent
  #28
Sim
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by recordinghopkins ➑️
^ Live recording was mentioned... and I routinely use as many as 12 or 13 mics on a drum kit. Add in a bass player, scratch guitars, and a keyboard and you have potentially 16 or more channels. Surely the curriculum won't be strictly related to overdubs... but if it's setup for 24 in or out with the HD24, any combination of a split console setup can be used.

Also, my reference to "the online bidding thing" was for selling, not buying.
It depends a what level your teaching. Here in the uk you wouldn't be using 24 channels at "school" level you just have to keep it as simple as possible for the kids to not get confused. At "college" level though you probably would use 24. But as you say something flexible is the way forward.
Old 17th September 2012 | Show parent
  #29
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjji ➑️
Also I found a better solution to the M Audio interface. You can get a FireStudio Lightpipe which has 4 ADAT inputs and route the Alesis to that. They are discontinued now, but you can find them on ebay.
My only concern about that is buying something that isn't supported with all of the newer operating systems.

I'll look into the system requirements and such. This would be preferred as using all 24 channels of the ADAT would be simpler than using 16 and 8 of the Fireface.

Thanks
Old 17th September 2012 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Guru
 
Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic ➑️
Yeah, actually I glossed over a few important details in your OP. Feeling a bit bleary after a very long gig yesterday. Id edited my post by the time you posted your reply.
I see. Thanks.
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