The Incredible Shrinking Studio

Just thought I’d post an update to my earlier post on how small of a recording studio I can make. Now it’s sort of becoming a hobby, (or obsession) with how small I can make my rig, while still being fully functional.

It makes quite a bit of sense, since I’ll be spending much of my time in an apartment of about 20 square meters (that’s about 215 square feet, yes you read that correctly my fellow Americans) once I move to Tokyo.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of how large it was prior to my move back to the states, but we’ll make do with your imagination when I say it was BIG. At least as big as this post (sorry).

My apologies in advance for any music gear techno-babble I use, but I figure some musicians may be reading this and actually be interested. It’s still an entertaining read for anyone else. Or perhaps interesting. Maybe even both. πŸ™‚

We’ll start with how it was about 2 months ago, on top of my old Baldwin Piano.

I decided those big Event TR monitors (speakers) are just too damn big and heavy to lug around. So I shopped around tried the semi-pro M-Audio monitor junk, which were a bit smaller and a bit less light, and sounded like complete crap (and distorted at like 10% volume). Then I found some other portable recording pros suggesting… iPod docks? Sure enough, I tested out a few and some had bad pricing and okay sound (Bose) and others had okay pricing but bad sound (JBL). Then I ended up with a brand I’ve never used before (especially in pro audio). Altec Lansing, more specifically, the im600. And they sound great across the spectrum. You’ll see it on the left side of this pic.

So now it’s all fitting on top of a dresser (or bureau, do they still call them that?)

What else changed there? Oh, I replaced the giant, slow Western Digital drive for another G-tech drive at twice the capacity (and way more speed). Those drives are the two silver things underneath the Altec Lansing and on top of my MOTU Ultralite interface (hands down, the best portable audio interface). That also cleaned up a mess of cords since now everything is running from bus power. I’ll get rid of that Apple wireless keyboard too (which makes no sense with only one (visual) monitor).

Replaced the Kensington Expert trackball with the sexy Slimblade which some hate and I don’t. And what happened to my musical keyboard? It got a lot smaller! And changed color. That’s the new Korg nanoKey and it rocks. Yes, I swapped out the classic M-Audio Oxygen 8 for a Korg nanoKey. Same amount of octaves, still has touch sensitive keys, access to pitch-bend/modwheel and cc programming, and a crapload smaller. I’ve been using it for over a month now and I love it, despite any negative reviews you may see, it kicks ass for me.

You may be wondering what the small wooden box behind the cluster of cables and headphones (*cough* audio technica Pro-700s *cough*) is. It’s a B.L.U.E. Bluebird mic and it’s sweet. It replaced my RØDE NTK Valve mic, which was also awesome, but required carrying around a giant/heavy tube amp with it.

This is a decent working space, I measured it at, oh I forget… around 36 inches. And I wondered… could I find a portable desk with that much space, so I will never need a desk ever again?

The answer is Yes… and No. πŸ™‚

There it all is. Fitting on top what is essentially two parts to a portable desk. No, not the type you stick on your lap (unless you have a giant lap). The bottom part is a Table Tote, which is super cool. The top part is three things linked together from LapWorks… let’s break it down a bit.

The thing on the bottom is the Table Tote. Which has aluminum, telescoping legs which fit into the plastic casing and about the size of a laptop when stowed away. You remove the bottom cover and slide it on top, insert the legs and boom! Instant laptop desk. But I needed some more room for all my gear (and maybe a frosty beverage). Hence the LapWorks. The stuff on top is the Lapworks Futura Gamer’s Desk, which is a bit smaller than the Table Tote at it’s maximum length. But if you attach a Futura Max Mouse Pad (at about 12 inches wide) on each side, you’ve got more than enough room for everything (including a frosty beverage).

Let’s take a closer look at that desk space.

As you can see, everything fits and is relatively stable (it just needs a frosty beverage!). Notice the telescoping legs at the bottom too.

And from another angle:

And another: Β Β 

And one more for the full frontal:

I know what you’re thinking, “What about the section on the right? It has no support! There are no legs! It looks a little droopy!?” Yeah, you’re right. I always throw caution to the wind. Especially when it’s carrying thousands of dollars of delicate equipment.

But just to test it out, I thought I’d put some more weight on it πŸ™‚

So it can take a bit of weight, and it’s pretty sturdy!

Wait! What is that weird thing?

It’s a Traveler Pro Guitar, and it’s awesome. It has an electirc bridge pickup and an acoustic piezo pickup, and you can get it to sound like anything if you plug it into Guitar Rig 3 (and you know what you’re doing).

I just sold 4 of my other guitars on Ebay, it’s that good.

And for those who just did the mental geometry: You are correct, it is that small. And surprisingly, it has a full size fret-board.

So… just how portable is all this? I could carry this on a plane in a laptop bag (which fits under the seat) and a personal item (guitar) in the overhead locker.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the result:

Okay, so the MOTU Ultralite didn’t fit in the bag (nit-picker!), but I can carry that.

And oh, uh… the shoe is really just for reference. I wear a US size 9. πŸ™‚

I definitely have to give some credit to Gina Fant-Saez for some of her ideas and inspiration (although, I’m sure I’ve trumped her with this πŸ˜‰ ). And thanks to Kresh for setting off a few sparks in my head about how to make some things smaller.

That’s all for now. Expect bigger news soon πŸ™‚

Interview with Legendary Leisure Suit Larry Designer, Al Lowe