I will try… to fix you

The sync panel from the ADA8000 - my nemesis, until today.

The sync panel from the ADA8000 - my nemesis, until today.

The ADA8000 problem has been solved! Josh came round and took a look at the studio (and also, I might add, gave me an excellent idiot’s guide to tuning drums). We pondered the reasons that the ADA8000 was chucking out digital crackles and pops on input channels 9-16, and narrowed it down to three possible causes.

  1. Faulty ADA8000
  2. Dodgy optical cable
  3. Something we haven’t thought of yet

The ADA8000 was acting as a digital slave to the Digi002 using the ADAT protocol for digital sync, so the Digi002 was to provide audio input channels 1-8 and the ADA8000 channels 9-16, giving me the option of 16 simultaneous inputs (albeit with only 12 of them through the M1F, it being a 12-channel analogue desk).

After various attempts to fix the clicks & pops problem, including rebooting everything with the ADA8000 acting as master, we decided, as a last resort, to try swapping the optical cables. The Digi002 was firing the sync information down its Optical Out, and the ADA8000 was firing audio signals back into the 002’s Optical In. And swapping the cables over completely cured the problem. It turns out that the clicks and pops were not syncing errors – they were corruptions in the audio data coming back into the 002. So it was option 2 all along. Soon I’ll get another (high-spec) optical cable, because although the master>slave info is being carried accurately by the weaker cable, it’s not desirable to have it in there permanently. This is not an uncommon problem, according to Josh – optical cables are not as reliable as some people assume they are, even though they carry digital information.

Headphone amp, ADA8000 and Joe Meek MC2 – gaffer taped for the moment.

Headphone amp, ADA8000 and Joe Meek MC2 – gaffer taped for the moment.

So even if you’re not a studio geek (I was actually quite excited writing the two techy paragraphs above), the result of Josh’s intervention is simple – I can now have 16 live mics in the studio during a take instead of 8. To test the studio I’ve tentatively agreed to record one of my grads’ bands in September. They get a free demo, and I get to try out all the inputs properly before I need to use them on a time-sensitive project.

Next… drums!

In the white room…

The final look of the control room - oak-coloured laminate floor, 'ginger' carpet tiles and the light green hessian.

The final look of the control room - oak-coloured laminate floor, 'ginger' carpet tiles and the light green hessian.

We’re done! The building part of the project is complete. The final phase, in two weeks’ time, will be the building of furniture followed by the equipment installation. More on this in a few days’ time, as I start to set up my current studio kit in there.

Jeff finished the last of the carpet tiling today, and there’s now nothing more to do to the building apart from tweak the aircon heatsink, and ‘box in’ one of the fans. Since the last post we’ve been working on the final bits of cosmetics, selecting colours (‘ginger’ carpet tiles and ‘antique light oak’ laminate flooring). Jeff and I took a run out to B&Q where he haggled with the staff (which you can do, apparently, if there is minor damage to the stock).

The control room floor is a combination of wood-effect laminate and carpet tiles. The laminate is actually preferable to wood, because I’ll need to be able to scoot around on a wheeled office chair (between analogue desk, Digi002, Mac and music keyboard) and a real wood floor wouldn’t be as durable as the high-quality laminate that Jeff uses. We’re only using laminate as far as the left-hand edge of the music keyboard (facing the live room window); the rest will be carpet tiles to avoid any reflections coming off the floor. The live room floor is all laminate – and I’m still asking around for rug ideas for the drum kit. What kind of rugs do drummers like anyway? Most drummers I’ve worked with seem to use a thin and moth-eaten Persian rug that smells a bit damp – but that may be an economic choice rather than a musical one.

We’re treating the lobby as a utility area so its look is, er, utilitarian. We’ve painted it all white, and left the hard surfaces of plasterboard panels, OSB ceiling and MDF door panels. It will be a great room for one particular guitar sound that I love – the loud-amp-in-a-small-room effect – although I don’t yet know how much ‘room’ I’ll be able to create in a space that size. Reamping was never really an option with my previous setup because of the need to avoid noise pollution for the family – looking forward to fiddling about with mic placements etc.

Lobby area fan unit for the control room.

Control room fan unit.

The air fans are now fitted and working, so the cooled air in the lobby can be pushed through the ducts at the front of the control and live rooms – there’s a variable speed fan for each room. Jeff has advised me to locate the control for the live room fan outside the room in the lobby (“we don’t want drummers fiddling with it”). Personally I’d rather like to have a speed control for some of the drummers I’ve met ;-).

It's like, how much more white...

It's like, how much more white...

...could this be? And the answer is...

...could this be? And the answer is...

...none. None more white.

...none. None more white.


The music keyboard area - the laminate goes as far as the left hand piano part. Mustn't play too many low notes.

The music keyboard area - the laminate goes as far as the left hand piano part. Mustn't play too many low notes.

And our final B&Q purchase was a pair of black handles. These are purely to help with the ‘garage door’ illusion and neither of them are fixed to a real door.

The finishing touch is the black handle. It's purely cosmetic (it's actually just screwed into a plywood wall) to achieve that 'garage door look'.

The finishing touch is the black handle. It's purely cosmetic (it's actually just screwed into a plywood wall) to achieve that 'garage door look'.

The final look of the exterior - guttering has been added, and the door lock is now fitted.

The final look of the exterior - guttering has been added, and the door lock is now fitted.

And here, for comparison, are the original garage doors.

And here, for comparison, are the original garage doors.

Jeff and Artis are off to start a large-scale acoustics job at Coventry University, so we all had a few beers last night to celebrate the end of the build phase of the project. During the evening Jeff impressed us with his uncanny ability to identify specific models of Ducati engine by the sound only.

And Artis, of course, introduced us to yet more Latvian music. We got into a long discussion about how Skyforger have gone mainstream since they started introducing electric instruments, and started investigating which traditional instruments they played. This got us into talking about the Kokle – a Latvian zither/dulcimer/harp. Here’s composer Laima Jansone performing variations on some traditional folk tunes on the kokle.

But you want more eighties hits perfomed by Latvians, don’t you? Happy to oblige. This time Artis has introduced us to an a capella band called Cosmos – sort of Flying Pickets with proper beatboxing. Check out this amazing version of Billie Jean.

Next time I’ll be blogging about kit and tech spec – Jeff calls this stuff ‘small wires’ and won’t countenance any discussion of it on-site. Don’t worry – Howard will be here in a week or so, and normal geek service will be resumed…