I was able to get a little rearranging done to make room for some new modules that are on order from STG SoundLabs. A Mankato filter and an Integer Divider will me moving west from Illinois shortly. The gaping hole in the 5th rack frame will be down to four spaces in no time. I think my OCD can survive it. Barely.
One interesting thing about having a hardware problem is the way things move around, come and go, and change over time. There is always a desire for that perfect setup that will allow the creative juice to flow without the impediment of "where the hell did I put that f#@&ing adaptor" or "I KNOW there was an extra set of RCA to 1/4 cables in this m@t%@^f#@%ing drawer!" Out of such frustration many have yielded to the siren song of the Laptop and a pair of headphones studio. Not me. Oh no, not me.
And I am not going to open that debate about which is better. That is a silly debate. There is no right answer. Great music has been made all in the box, hardware only and some combination of both. A lot of dismal, horrible music has been made in exactly the same way. I have finally finished the next album and it is a mixture of hardware and software. Mostly sounds produced with the former and processed with the latter. But not always.
So at the start of the new year I thought I might sit down and write a bit about where my studio is at right now and where I am trying to go with it in the future.
Here is a link to a video walk around of the studio that I posted on FaceBook...
The EMW-200 mini synth has been racked up and mounted with the modular Atomic Synthesis System. Since the EMW-200 is a very dense collection of sub-modules it adds a ton of functionality to the system. The Pro 2 has CV in and out, so it will serve as the master controller for the modular as well as some of the other gear, via MIDI. The old Akai ME 30P is going to get a new battery and go back in to service routing midi around the setup, connecting keys, modular and computers. I have an old netbook that will be running Fractal Sequencer and another Mac laptop that will be running Five12's remarkable Numerology sequencer. And as long as I am throwing the word sequencer around, it should be pointed out that the Pro 2 has really deep sequencer that can address internal sounds as well as the CV outputs. In spite of all of this sequencing power there will NOT be any sort of "dance-y" stuff coming out this room. I can promise you that.
The two smaller racks, above the cabinets, house the shrinking remains of the live rig that went to KnobCon in 2014. That gear, along with the King Korg and MEK, are all being assimilated by the main Command Center systems. The small Behringer mixer will become a sub mixer for the gear on the counter top, and it will be sent directly to the AW1600 recorder. The large mixer on the main rack will handle all of the racked sound sources, the main output directed at another stereo pair on the AW1600. The other two pairs of inputs on the recorder will be fed from a patch bay so I can route things directly or through the Lexicon effects units and/or ART compressor.
Just at the lower left of this photo you can see the temporary table with my mixing setup. This is where my main laptop sits, with monitor speakers and a MOTU interface. The aux outputs of the MOTU are sent to the Behringer submixer for the times when I want to record a software instrument to a track. The two main ones that I use are Kontakt with all of the Hollow Sun things and Isotope Iris 2.
So what have I learned from all of this effort and expense?
1- Modular Synthesis. This is my favorite thing these days. Once I feared getting in to a modular system because I knew it could become a bottomless black hole, sucking all of the light and money out of my life. Once I started down this path however, a curious thing happened. I found that I began to compare each new potential gear purchase with how many modules you could add from Synthesizers DotCom. The latest, shiny VA thing with blinky lights or teeny analog mini synth? Nope! With 700 bucks I could ad a slew, envelope, panner and a spring reverb and still have money for some patch cables. A boutique "west coast" suitcase synth for 4,000 bucks? Not me! What I already have blows that away and I could nearly fill the entire Command Center with Texas modular goodness for the same money. As Matrix pointed out to me during a discussion on this very topic, I can't take my system out on the patio with a cup of coffee. But that's okay with me. My patio is 27F degrees right now anyway. I still need that spring reverb though...
2- I only need one poly synth. Period. The King Korg is a great sounding VA synth. It sounds warm, fat, meaty, tasty and beefy. All of the standard food related adjectives usually reserved for analog poly synths apply. It can do some very nice PPG impressions as well. Any lust that might have happened over some vintage thing has evaporated. I don't usually play a lot of chords anyway and I hate working on old keyboards. If you have old synths, they are just like old cars. Always needing a repair. So either you have to like working on them or be made poor by them. If you are looking for a poly synth, do yourself a favor. just get a King Korg or go the extra money and get a P6 or P08 or P12. Modern, in tune (or not if you swing that way), and reliable.
3- I only need one mono synth. But I have three with the modular, and the two Dave Smith boards. But even that gets fuzzy when you consider that you can play four note chords on the Pro 2 and that the current modular setup could easily be configured as at least 4 mono synths.
4- I don't need more crap! I have slowly been selling off all of gear that seemed like a good idea at the time and turning it in to... what else? Synth modules. With all of this hardware and software I already have more options that I can ever really master. But that is what I plan to do. One of these days they will throw me out of my job and I will have this purpose built selection of equipment. Some guys garden, some want to travel or even build furniture. I will be in the Command Center, finally finding out what it sounds like if I plug that thing in to this thing over there.
I can even see the end of the modular system on the horizon. The Atomic Synthesis System (or A.S.S.) is nearly complete.
Seriously. It really is.