How a Rack Can Dramatically Improve Your Studio

Recording Studio RacksIn a growing studio, it’s a problem when mess accumulates.  All this great gear, but nowhere to put it.

Want to know the secret to keeping things neat and organized?

Recording studio racks – a mountain of hardware, all consolidated into one box.  It’s quite elegant.

And if that wasn’t enough, here are 4 more things you’ll like about them:

4 Reasons Racks are Awesome

1. Accessibility - All of your gear can be lined up right there in front of you in an order that makes sense for your workflow.  The gear you use most can be placed right within arms reach.

2. Portability – If you ever want to move your gear to another location in the studio,  it is all housed conveniently in one box rather than scattered randomly about the room.

3. Security – Not only does a rack keep your gear organized, it protects them from damage as well.  This is especially true if you purchase a rack that was designed to be portable for use on the road.

4. A Place for Cables to Hide – Nothing can make your studio look worse than a random mess of cables everywhere.  With a rack, all the cables are housed in the back of the unit where no one can see it.

This includes power cables as well.  By adding a power conditioner to your rack, a single cable running out the back of your rack can take the place of 8 or more individual ones.

So now you know why you need a rack.  Time to explore some options.

You basically have 3 types to choose from:

3 Rack Designs to Choose From

These are the 3 you’ll have to choose from:

1. Portable Racks

Portable Rackmount

These racks are built tough.  They’re designed to keep your gear safe during the constant moving and packing of life on the road.

But they also work great in the studio.  Right now, SKB and Gator are the two best portable rack manufacturers.

Check them out.

2. Premium Studio Racks

IsoBox RackmountWhile premium racks can be rather expensive, they also offer much more than a simple box to house your hardware.

They also include such features as temperature control, elastic shock suspension, desktop computer trays, and sound isolation.

A typical premium rack will cost in the neighborhood of a few thousand dollars.  They’re great if you can afford them, but also entirely unnecessary if you can’t.

If you are interested in checking them out, the Isobox by Sound Construction is the best premium rack money can buy.

3. Basic Studio Racks

Studio Rackmount

They’re not as durable as the portable racks.  And they’re not as beautiful and feature-rich as the premium racks.

But they’re much cheaper than either one.  For that reason, if you don’t need anything too fancy,  this is the type of rack I suggest you get.

Of the top brands, Mid-Atlantic and Raxxess are the two to check out.

Selecting the Right Size

After you’ve chosen design, the next step is choosing size.  Here’s how you do it:

Count up the number of spaces needed to store all your hardware.  Then add about 6 to that number.  That’s how big your rack needs to be.

You might not think you’ll be more gear anytime soon, but you will.

What to Do with the Extra Spaces

Rack PanelHate seeing blank spaces in your rack?  Me too.  But you can fix that in two easy steps:

  1. Leave single open spaces between units that get hot.  This allows them to stay cool by providing added ventilation.
  2. Buy some blank rack panels to cover them up.  They’re cheap, and they look great.

So now that you’ve finally got a rack for your studio, you’re almost done, but not quite.

There’s still one thing left to do…

Time to put some stuff in it

Everyone’s rack setup will be unique.  That’s true.  But that doesn’t mean they won’t still be very similar.

There are certain pieces of gear that form the cornerstones of almost every rack.

In particular, these 5:

1. Power Supply

It’s the one must-have unit in your rack: a power supply.

Why is it essential?  Because you need it to supply power to all the other gear.

That way instead of having five or ten power cables coming out the back of your rack, you will have just one.

2. Microphone Preamp

A good multi-channel mic preamp should definitely be included amongst the essential pieces of gear in your rack.

Keep this one close. You use it a lot.

Here’s a tip: Connect it to a cable snake with a junction box so all your connects will be out front where you need them.

If your preamp has a digital converter, you can connect it with a single ADAT cable.

3. Headphone Amp

If you are using a cheaper headphone amp, keep it in close reach, because you will have to constantly adjust the headphone volumes for each performer when you are recording.

If you are using a higher end headphone amp, feel free to tuck it away somewhere at the bottom, because you won’t ever have to touch it.

4. Monitor Management

If your monitor management system is not on your desktop, the other option is mounting it in your rack.

If you choose one that mounts in a rack, make sure you mount somewhere within easy reach, because you will be using it often.

5. Audio Interface

Higher end audio interfaces such as those designed to work with Pro Tools HD will be rackmountable.

Every other piece of gear in your rack should be connected to the audio interface in some way.  Think of it as the hub of your rack.

That’s It!

There you go…a bare essentials rack.  Assemble your rack with these 5 basic units and you’ll have a compact studio set up that is highly functional.