A Look Inside Studio 2

I get a lot of requests about what’s behind the scenes here at the Conversations Network. Although most of the post-production audio work is done by the volunteer members of Team ITC who have their own setups, Studio 2 (my 2nd bedroom) has a bit more gear than most for four reasons: (1) I do a lot of the transfers of source recordings from the various formats in which we receive them; (2) I record many of our phone interviews; (3) Our live streams originate from his studio; and (4) I’m addicted to buying used audio gear on eBay.

The equipment racks:

Left rack, top to bottom:

  • Tektronix SC502 Oscilloscope
  • Tektronix SG502 Signal Generator
  • Tektronix DM502A Digital MultiMeter
  • Patch Panel
  • M-Audio MobilePre USB (interface to MacMini)
  • Telos ONE Digital Hybrid for POTS/Analog Phone Lines
  • Marantz PMD660 Digital (CF) Recorder
  • Panasonic SV-3700 DAT Recorder
  • Aphex 622 Expander/Gate
  • Aphex 204 Aural Exciter
  • Aphex 320A Compellor (Compressor/Leveler)
  • Aphex 320 Compellor (older model)
  • Aphex 722 Multi-Band Limiter

Right rack, top to bottom:

  • Telephone w/strobe instead of ringer
  • Sony SLV-900HF VHS Recorder
  • Patch Panel
  • Telos TWO ISDN Digital Hybrid
  • Telos XStream ISDN Remote Studio Link
  • dbx 1066 Compressor/Limiter/Gate
  • Rane ME30 Parametric Equalizer
  • Mackie Onyx 1220 Mixer
  • Sony MDR-7506 Headphones
  • ElectroVoice RE-20 Microphone (shown below)

As far as computers go, Doug uses the following:

  • Windows XP w/17" Monitor
    • SoundForge 7.0 for 1- and 2-track work
    • n-Track Studio for multi-track work
  • Windows 2000
    • Windows Media Encoder for live streams
  • Apple MacMini
    • Music and audio component server
  • Apple PowerBook w/23" Monitor
    • for personal use

Since I produced the first IT Conversations show in June 2003, I’ve continuously upgraded my equipment and processes. If you listen to the shows in chronological order, you’ll have no trouble hearing the differences.

The audio sources include the studio microphone, an Electro-Voice RE20 processed through the Mackine Onyx 1220‘s preamp, a dbx 1066 noise gate and compressor, and a Rane ME-30 parametric equalizer, and music playback from an Apple MacMini that I use as an audio file server (not shown) via a USB-connected M-Audio MobilePre. For highest quality telephone-interview audio, and because I’m four miles from the telephone company’s central office, on 9/16/03 I upgraded the studio telephone lines to ISDN, and since 3/2/04 those lines have been connected directly to a Telos-TWO digital hybrid. The output of the mixer passes through an Aphex Compellor 320A leveler and an Aphex 720 Dominator multi-band limiter.

As of January 2004, I’ve been recording multiple tracks digitally on a Windows PC at 24 bits and 44.1kHz through an Echo MiaMIDI interface. I also make backup originals to a Marantz to audio CD using a Marantz CDR300. For longer shows such as live events I record backups to a Sony SLV-900HF HiFi audio VHS recorder. Live streams from the studio are fed via a USB interface to the Windows Media Encoder running on another dedicated 2.0GHz Pentium 4 Windows 2000.

I use Sony SoundForge 7.0 for most editing, normalization and EQ. Staying in the 24-bit/44.1kHz format, I mixdown with Flavio Antonioli’s n-Track Studio. Finally, I take the 24-bit/44.1kHz files back to SoundForge where I use Wave Hammer and other tools to master for 16-bit, and convert to MP3 format using the Fraunhofer IIS encoder. Of course, after listening to IT Conversations squeezed into 16-bit 64kbps/44.1kHz MP3s (to keep filesizes small), you probably wonder if it’s worth all this trouble. Well, it really does help, but it’s too bad you can’t hear the beautiful originals!

I also use ISDN phone lines for broadcast-quality stereo links to other studios and radio stations via a Zephyr Xstream, which supports G.722, MPEG2 AAC and AAC-LD. I broadcast from remote locations back to the studio using a Zephyr Xport (not shown) over ISDN (AAC-LD codec) or POTS lines (aacPlus). My head-worn microphones for remotes are Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx. For remote interviews (i.e., when I’m not streaming live) I sometimes record on a Sony MZ-N10 MiniDisc recorder fed by Audio-Technica AT803B omnidirectional lavalier microphones or an Electro-Voice 635a.

The web site runs on a Linux server with Apache and mySQL. Server-side scripting is done in PHP, and I use the Smarty template package with home-brew caching and content-management software. MP3 are hosted on a content-delivery network from Limelight Networks, who also provide the Windows Media streams for live events.

2 thoughts on “A Look Inside Studio 2

  1. How did you hook up your dbx 1066 to the mackie board? I have the same set-up and I can’t figure it out. I hooked the mic into the top of the mackie and can’t figure out where to put the 1/4″ plugs in the dbx and to the mackie.


  2. The dbx 1066 is connected to mixer channels 1 and 2 using insert cables. The 1/4″ insert jacks are on the rear of the Mackie mixer.


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