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Merritt Music - The Studio

I've had many composers here ask me my setup, so I figured I should save some typing and make a blog post about it!

So here it is!

I use a custom built (by me) PC running Vista 64 bit and Sonar 8 64 bit.

The PC is thus:

Processor:
Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor...

Motherboard:
ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

CPU Cooler:
COOLER MASTER V8 RR-UV8-XBU1-GP 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler - Retail

Power Supply:
Antec TruePower Quattro TPQ-1000 1000W Continuous Power ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply -
Retail


PC Case:
Antec Twelve Hundred Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail

In this new system I installed my raid array. That's eight 10k RPM raptor drives in a raid 5 array, for one terabyte.  On it are most of my samples, any usually my project folder.   I have one 256 GB SSD drive that is also crammed full of samples, and sometimes used for my project folder.


My previous music computer became the file / loops / sound server, with a four 500GB drive raid 5 array, networked through a 1GB switch. 

The computers are in their own little room with ventilation, with wires run into the studio for usb, firewire, vga and HDMI. I have four video monitors - three in a line just above the keyboard and a 46 inch HD TV set above them as the fourth computer monitor.

For speakers I have the Mackie HR 824's and I love them! They are on stands and isolated with foam. I use speakerphone or the actual speakers in the LCD's and TV for back up mix checking.

I use the Mackie Big knob for master volume and headphones, with a couple sets of wireless headphones attached. Although doing it over I would prob get the central station with remote.

Everything is on UPS (uninterrupted power supplies.) The PC's in the room AND all of the monitors and gear in the studio. Therefor no power glitches or outings affect me.

For room correction I have 2 of the MondoTraps, one in each corner. They completely got rid of all standing waves and reinforced frequencies. Expensive, but awesome.

I have two custom built corner walls with doors, covered in fabric. Mostly to allow me to hide more instruments and equipment behind them, but the also cut down some of the HF reflections.

My controller keyboard is a simple and cheap M-Audio Keysatation 88. I have an 88 key weighted controller, but changed to this for the synth weighted keys, a little faster response.

My mix controller is a Mackie Control Universal, attached MIDI to a MOTU MTP.

My Audio hardware:
MOTU 896 connect to the motherboard's built in firewire port on the main PC, MOTU 828mkii on the secondary PC. I run most 'real' audio through my Avalon 727, or focusrite Octapre. My main mic is a Neumann TLM 103, my secondary is an AT 4050, and I have a few other mics that are used occasionally.

My software:
I'm running Sonar X2, with many soft samplers. The main ones are Kontakt
5 (with multiple libraries), Play 64 bit, Superior Drummer, ezdrummer, BFD, DFH, and Kore
2, Amplitube, Guitar Rig. I have the 64 bit version when I can. My audio buffers generally stay around 64, allowing me many plugins and such. I haven't had to tweak the settings in many of the players, with a fast computer and drive system, the defaults can actually work.

Instruments:
I have plenty of guitars, acoustics and electrics, violins, cello, real timpani, a concert bass drum, bassoon, hurdy gurdy, concertina, assorted flutes, saxes, trumpet, tbone, uke, and lots of other cool stuff. I have a baby grand on the floor above the studio with wires run for miking it up, and an upright piano from the late 1800's in the studio.

I'll add more to this as I get the time...

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Comment by Clifford Lowe on September 15, 2010 at 8:43am
Wow, Chris! Sounds like a setup one could only dream about! Doubt if I'll ever be able to afford anything remotely close! Guess I'll just have to struggle along with one sick PC and one dying PC. Well, actually, I was given a new laptop recently, but I'm so used to XP, I'm still struggling to master Win 7. Good luck!
Comment by Doug Lauber on September 7, 2010 at 2:17am
It looks like fate is going to send me a new ISA 430 channel strip! (my visa card helped) As it turned out, there is a LONG shipping delay on the ISA 428 mII that I ordered, so I'm canceling the order, in favor of ordering the 430. I'm happy with having just two single channel units. My second channel, as I mentioned, is a Universal Audio 710 Twin-finity, which sounds great, very quiet noise floor and lots of gain, and the option of transistor or tube or a blend of both. I think it will complement the ISA 430. I like the 710 sound over the UA 2-610 that I had last year. My main instruments are elec guitar, elec bass, and synth. My home studio is just my own little 'project'. Chris, I'm definitely looking forward to working with you again with remote sessions.
Comment by Chris Alpiar on September 7, 2010 at 12:11am
Yea I have heard great things about the Octapre. Its the only real option in that price range. THere are a couple others but they color the sound so much. The ISA is a totally different league tho Doug, and the price changes accordingly. You have to also consider what you are trying to accomplish with your pre(s). For you wanting to track guitar and vocals I think you made a GREAT choice. For someone who needs to track say, a complete drumset and bass and guitar at the same time, and maybe other stuff as well, well you need a larger number of pres and some selection. Most of the serious engineers at the complex I work out of have 20-50 pre's and just patch in what they need when they need it. And a wide variety: focusrite, neve, manley, avalon, UA, Empirical Labs, etc, etc. And they each come with slightly different sounds, some better for certain tasks, some great for many. But I think for me, my ISA is perfect for that UBER single channel and I plan to buy some octapres later this year for the analog ins I have from the main recording room at my facility. Currently I am stuck with borrowing pres or using my analogue mackie 24 by 8 bus. So octapres are high on my list to handle all those inputs without taking out a massive loan
Comment by Chris Alpiar on September 7, 2010 at 12:04am
more than anything tho, your studio just has a great creative and productive vibe. I really enjoyed stopping in on our way to Atlanta in March, and I really hope we both get to make some time to hang out there a bit and make some freakayyyy music :D
Comment by Chris Merritt on September 5, 2010 at 12:41pm
Doug - I like the cleanness and lack of coloration from my Octapre - that's why I got it. I use the Avalon for color and the octapre for multipurpose micing.

I REALLY suggest you upgrade to Sonar 8. It comes with lots of great and actually usable plug ins! Plus - they always improve stability in the upgrades.
Comment by Chris Merritt on September 5, 2010 at 12:38pm
Hi Ray! I'll probably go to window 7 or whatever is the latest whenever I build my next system. I have so many VI's and VST's that it would take WAY to long to upgrade this one. And I have don't have any problems with Vista 64. No crashes or lock ups, and tons of speed!
Comment by Doug Lauber on September 5, 2010 at 12:29pm
Hi Chris.
Interesting setup. How do you like the sound of those Octopres? ( I just ordered the ISA 428 mII)
I'm currently testing my new UA 710 twin-finity. I've recorded some keyboard/synth with its DI. So far it sounds fantastic! Very little coloration. Very quiet and detailed. Lots of gain.
Sonar 6 is a very friendly user interface for recording. I'll upgrade one of these years...
...What do you think Blue Baby Bottle or EV RE 20? Anyone?
Comment by Chris Merritt on September 2, 2010 at 2:40pm
Typical - any computer is outdated as soon as you buy it or create it!

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