Building a Dedicated Music Project Studio Control Room and Isolation Booth, Part One

Update (3/29/17): The second part of this article is online here, with many additional photos.

While directing Citizen Kane, Orson Welles famously said that a movie studio is “the greatest electric train set a boy ever had.” A music studio -- even a home-based music studio -- is a pretty nifty train set as well. We’ll explain all the stuff on the walls of these photos in copious detail in part two of this article, and how I built my project studio, but first some background on why I built it.

Back in the early 2000s, I wrote a review of PC-based recording software, which I dubbed “Abbey Road in a Box.” In retrospect, that obviously hyperbolic phrase was slightly disingenuous. It’s true that the various flavors of Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW) software are now so powerful that their ability to edit, process and manipulate sounds dwarfs what the Beatles and George Martin were capable of when they were recording Sgt. Pepper. However, that album still sounds timeless because of the Beatles’ and Martin’s sheer talent, the material they were writing and performing, and not least because the rooms in which they were recorded inside EMI’s Abbey Road Studios sound so good. A DAW, a PC, the right audio interface and appropriate ancillary gear can take you far, but they really need a good-sounding room to get the most out of them.

What makes a studio room sound good? That depends on what you want to record within it. So let me begin by explaining what I wanted mine for -- and of equal importance, what I didn’t want to do in it.