A lot of updates have been happening to my music studio setup. Hardware’s been rearranged and devices have changed. One of the things I haven’t covered yet here is how I built my studio desk. So in this article, I’ll be talking about how I set the desk up, installed or removed music studio hardware and keep everything working together.
New audio interface, the FCA1616
I wrote before about replacing my M-Audio Oxygen49 with a Roland A-49. The original audio interface, the Tascam US-322, that used to sit to the right side of the keyboard.
But because the Roland A-49 is thinner yet longer, the Tascam US-322 had nowhere to go.
So I decided to finally make the upgrade I had been planning for a long time; switching to a rack-mounted Behringer FCA1616. I plan on talking about the FCA1616 in detail later as this article is about how physical setups have changed.
The FCA1616 really is at home in the rack. Installing it was one of the reasons I extended rack rails further down the rack furniture.
Relocating the Neocomp for the X-Touch Extender
When I got the X-Touch Extender, there was a huge, glaring issue; I had no where to put it, as you can see in the photo below.
So what was I gonna’ do? Ax the Push? No way. Relocate the Push? No, it looks and feels so seamless next to the X-Touch (and the heft of it makes it impractical to relocate).
Relocate / remove the second “rack” monitor? Yeah, even bigger no on that front (and the monitor floats over the desk, meaning removing it wouldn’t add surface space for the X-Touch).
The only other option is relocating the Neocomp (the custom name I’ve used for my desktop(s) for years). I’ve been so reluctant to do this as I want it up, eye level, to show off the awesome, customized case I use for it (the inside is custom painted, etc).
But I can’t take up any more room to the right as it’s part of our living room and right now, the studio space is in perfect harmony with everything else in the living room. Relocating the Neocomp down isn’t an option because the inside of the case can’t be easily seen.
But in the end, that’s exactly what happened. I had to relocate the Neocomp to the best alternative location; directly below its former spot, right next to the studio rack. This would free up just enough space for the X-Touch, X-Touch Extender and Ableton Push.
Now the question is; what’s gonna’ support the Neocomp? I totally didn’t want it sittin’ on the floor. Not only do carpets block airflow, but I wasn’t gonna’ have the Neocomp be further humiliated by being demoted from its rightful place on the stainless steel desk to the floor like some common computer. …No.
I decided I wanted the Neocomp to be positioned directly beneath the desk, as close to the keyboard drawer as possible.
So after a long time researching, I ended up finding a solution that not only solved problems but actually improved the visual layout. I purchased this ionized-black stainless steel shelf. Most people were using these for just mundane purposes, such as putting house plants on them. I configured it so that it can wheel the Neocomp in and out of the desk (important for when pulling the rack out). Here’s an image of it pulled out.
I also positioned it so that the Neocomp sits directly under the keyboard drawer yet the ionized-black brushed aluminum top of the Neocomp isn’t at risk of getting scratched. I also made lemonade outta’ lemons by making the bars in front of the stand (intended for the top shelf) to function as pull handles when maneuvering the Neocomp in and out of position.
Best of all, because of the way the stand is black and of a “metal grate” style, the Neocomp appears to float in mid air when in position.
What this ends up doing is making… to my complete surprise… the Neocomp look as good now as it did before. The Neocomp was visible, before, throughout the entire living room (and you could see inside the case when standing at the studio). But it also blocked the visual flow of things (something I hadn’t realized until I made the change). Having the Ableton Push at the end where the Neocomp was, the Push’s slim profile (slimmer than the X-Touch’s) makes it look like the X-Touch’s are these slim devices. And it makes it look like the entire desk is dedicated to one massive control surface.
The Neocomp’s position under the desk, again to my surprise, also highlights the square / rectangles of the Behringer MS20 speakers, the rack, the desk, monitors and control surfaces. Instead of looking like something that is definitely a desktop, it now appears like this mysterious onyx relic from an ancient advanced civilization powering the studio.
Yeah, I like this position better. And now that I’ve relocated the Neocomp…
Adding more depth to the studio desk
Before, I had modified the shelf’s legs to allow the shelf to extend over the desk, to the left, to make room for the Neocomp as you can see from this older photo.
But now with the Neocomp relocated to beneath the desk, I could restore the shelf as it has no reason not to match the length of the desk again. But since I was going through the very laborious process of taking the Neocomp, monitors, mixers, Ableton Push, wires and related clamps apart, I decided to modify the shelf so that I get more surface space.
Before, the X-Touch could only go back as far as the position of the RCA Dimensia (the back of the X-Touch would rest against part of the Dimensia). This wasn’t a problem for the keyboard, but it was a problem for the mouse (important for gaming).
So I decided, since I was repositioning the stainless steel shelf legs, to reposition them so that the shelf would be suspended halfway off the rear of the table. This would allow the Dimensia to be placed further back which would allow the X-Touch’s and Push to be placed further back (creating more surface space on the table).
The shelf legs are now positioned at equal ends, like before, but now are positioned close together.
Clamps are used to secure the shelfs to the desk surface.
This is important because it’s the shelves that support the monitors. Speaking of which…
The monitor supports haven’t really been shown before, so this is a good opportunity.
The monitors are positioned on top of the shelves rather than to the desk because the “poles” won’t allow them to be positioned correctly on the desk itself.
Notice how, even for things like the HDMI cables, I still label each wire.
Re-securing the rack furniture
I wrote about how I had secured the rack furniture, which entailed securing each part of the two tables together to each other. That, in addition to the rack handles that help apply equal pressure when pulling or pushing the rack solved the issue of the two halves coming apart.
But in securing these areas, it shifted stress to the bottom rear legs.
There’s a lotta’ heavy weight that’s being pushed against the two rear legs. (Adding wheels to the legs would make the rack too tall.)
So, just like I secured the two-halve sections, I secured the bottom legs.
Making space for a modular synth
I’m building a modular synth setup for the rack. The synth is going to take up “3U” rack space so I had to shuffle some things up. The Teac PB-64, which is an RCA-cable patch bay (one of the rare few in existence) is taking up more space than I need now.
I originally was splitting wires behind the rack…
But now, since I found an Ocean Matrix OMX-7020, I’ve been using a Reason Spider-Audio Merger / Splitter type setup to split the audio up (powered, so no levels are lost).
And I did have the patch bay setup so I could change input signals, but I don’t really have the same need as I have the 8 in, 8 out with the Behringer FCA1616 (technically it has more inputs and is expandable to even more). Doesn’t mean I don’t need a patch bay, I still do… just that I can downgrade to a “1U” (smallest) size.
The problem is that it’s been hard finding patch bays that support RCA, so I reluctantly switched to a 1/4″ patch bay.
I got a Hosa PHB-184. Not happy about having to use 1/4″ patch cables. I much more prefer RCA or 3.5mm (headphone jack) connectors. Trying to get colored patch cables for 1/4″ is also an absolute rip off. I got this patch bay used and very cheap. I think Hosa, a company that sells cables, intended to make a patch bay at or below cost with the knowledge that people will buy very expensive patch (color-coded) cables for it.
Screw that. I’m circumventing this BS. I’m going to use the same inexpensive 3.5mm mono color-coded cables that I’m gonna’ use for the modular synth (color coding them to match the patch cable colors of Reason). I then ordered some dirt cheap 3.5mm to 1/4″ mono adapters from eBay.
So I was able to save some space by migrating from the Teac PB-64 to the Hosa PHB-184. This means all rack hardware (including a new-used Alesis rack drawer) all fits into the rack.
The next stage
The studio’s setup for the next phase in its gradual evolution; integrating a modular synthesizer into Reason.
Later. – MJ