Show Off Your Studio: The best studios of May 2019

This month, we take a peek at Sound Solution Recording near Chicago, visit a cosy Iceland studio and a freshly designed recording space in Northumberland.

matt warren studio sound solution recording

Sound Solution Recording

Interviewee Matt Warren
Contact |

Matt Warren’s Illinois studio is his “perfect” production environment

Key kit:

  • Digidesign/Focusrite Control|24 desk
  • dbx 386 tube-mic preamp
  • Avid Pro Tools
  • Farfisa organ

Let’s talk about your studio, Matt!

My studio, Sound Solution Recording, is located on the outskirts of Chicago, in Plainfield, Illinois. It’s part of my home and I opened it back in 2016. I designed most of the studio myself, while my wife helped with the interior decorations. I’m really happy with how the studio turned out, and out of all the studios I’ve worked in since my career began 35 years ago, this has been my favourite. It’s also the perfect environment for me to make music. The artists that have recorded with me have all commented on how comfortable they feel in my studio.

Give us an overview of the gear.

Digidesign/Focusrite Control|24 desk, Mac Pro 12 Core, dual Apple Cinema monitors, QSC K-12, Yamaha HS8, HSW-8 and JBL Control 24 monitors, Pro Tools HD 8, Digidesign 192, Digidesign SYNC and MIDI, Shure and Blue mics, Ampeg bass rig, Fender bass and a Farfisa organ. Outboard rack: dbx 386 tube-mic preamp, TC Electronics C300, Alesis MIDIVerb 4 , Novation DrumStation II, E-mu Vintage Keys, Orbit v2, Xtreme Lead, Proteus 2000 and Roland JV-880. Plug-ins: Waves Platinum SSL G series, API 550, 560, Focusrite Red Series LA-2A, Pultec EQ, Butch Vig Vocals, JJP Vocals, JJP Guitars, JJP Bass, Manny Marroquin Vocals, Manny Marroquin Delay, Manny Marroquin Reverb, Lexicon reverb series, Drawmer DS201 gate, Novation Bass Station and more.

Which DAW do you use and why?

I’ve been a Pro Tools user for many years. It’s an industry standard, and right now, I’m using Pro Tools HD 8 because I find it user-friendly and intuitive. 

What’s your favourite piece of gear?

That depends on what project I’m working on and what my role is: either a recording engineer, mixer or producer. It could be a Shure 57 mic, which I’ll use when I’m on top of recording, or the dbx 386 tube-mic preamp that’s usually part of my go-to setup when I’m producing. On solo projects, I still have a soft spot for my Farfisa organ that you can find in my live room, as well as my collection of vintage synths.

The Digidesign/Focusrite Control|24 desk is probably my favourite piece of gear. It may not be the most modern desk and it doesn’t have as many channels as some that are available now, but it’s the perfect partner for Pro Tools. When it first came out, it was a game-changer with a tonne of useful features, including the motorised faders, 16 Class A mic preamps, line inputs and dedicated EQ and dynamics switches on every channel.

Any dream piece of gear?

I love vintage synths sounds and drum machines. And if money was no object, I’d love to buy a Chamberlin Rhythmate, the first drum machine ever produced and only around 10 were made by Harry Chamberlin in his garage in Upland, California in 1949. If not, I’d settle for Wurlitzer Side Man tube drum machines, which were produced between 1959 and 1965.

What’s your top production advice?

Keep listening to tracks and producers who create sounds you love. Then, figure out what makes the record great. This is so important. Listening is part of any producer’s musical education. There are no shortcuts and it’s a case of putting in the hours.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out building a studio?

Don’t go out and buy lots of different pieces of expensive equipment at once. Instead, work on a less-is-more approach. This allows a new producer to learn how the equipment works and what it can actually do. Sometimes, it’s not the equipment, but how you use it and how well you know it.

Read the full interview here.

Show Off Your Studio, Bassi Ólafsson

Bassi Ólafsson

Interviewee Bassi Ólafsson
Contact | Instagram

Check out Bassi’s custom-designed high-spec studio in Iceland…

Key kit:

  • Vintage Trident console
  • Adam S3X-H monitors
  • Pro Tools HD
  • Neve Master Buss processor

Tell us about the studio…

Studios have always been a big part of my life. My father had one of the first multi-channel analogue studios in Iceland in the early 80s. When he and I decided to move closer to Reykjavík four years ago, we built a house in Hveragerði with two apartments and a home studio right in the middle of the apartments. It’s clearly the heart of our house. In his apartment, we put up a little ‘B studio’ so we can both work full-time on separate projects.

What gear do you have?

iMac i7, 4.2GHz/64GB/4TB SSD, Adam S3X-H, Adam Sub10 MkII, Yamaha HS 7, Antelope Audio Orion 32+ interface, PreSonus Quantum interface, Grace Design m905 monitor controller, UAD Satellite Octo, UAD Satellite Quad, vintage Trident 80B console, 4x Chandler Limited TG2, API 3124+, Universal Audio 4-710d, A-Designs Hammer 2 stereo EQ, Neve Master Buss processor, Retro Doublewide compressor, Drawmer 1968 compressor, Universal Audio 1176 compressor, 2x SPL Transient Designer, Tascam 16-channel tape machine, 4x Yamaha SPX90, various outboard reverbs and delays; Manley Reference Gold, Coles 4038 matched pair, Neumann U 87, AKG 414 B-ULS, Shure SM7B, Cascade X-155 and more.

Which DAW do you use and why?

I’ve been using Pro Tools HD since I started recording 15 years ago. When digital DAWs arrived in the 90s, my father sold the console and tape machine and bought an early version of Pro Tools. I learned how to use it and it’s definitely become my safe zone.

What is your favourite piece of gear?

One of my favourites is my set of Adam S3X-H speakers. If your work doesn’t translate well through these speakers, it really doesn’t matter how expensive your other gear is.
The monitors are just a pleasure to work on! Especially when combined with the Grace m905 monitor controller. Another of my favourites is the Neve Master Buss processor.

How often are you in your studio?

Having an office just next door has its benefits, but I try to find a balance between the studio and home, since it only takes me five seconds to get work!

How do you use your studio?

It’s a full-blown studio with a control room and a live room, so I track a lot of bands and artists here. Guests love the studio because of its cosy vibe, and it’s just 30 minutes outside Reykjavík. I’m also a session drummer, so I do a lot of drum recordings.

What’s next on your shopping list?

I have two compressors arriving in the next few weeks – the SSL bus compressor for drum-buss duties and a clone of the Fairchild 670 for character and tube colour for the master-buss duties (and for bass and vocal tracking) chained with the Neve Master Buss. I find plug-ins are getting real close to the hardware stuff, but the compression is always a little short on headroom and depth.

What’s your dream piece of gear?

I’ve been eyeing the Knif Soma EQ for some time… It’s just a beautiful musical EQ, extra smooth with a quality sound to it. Someday Mr. Knif… someday!

What is your top production advice?

Always keep an open mind, even when a client makes a crazy request: don’t say “no” or “it’s impossible”. Take that weird request, give it a chance and try to put your spin on it so both of you can walk away proud with the end product. It’s also important that you make the recording experience a memorable one for the client.

Any advice for someone starting out building a studio?

Take the amount of money you started out with for room treatment… and double it! It will save you a headache later on. I know you can buy an extra microphone, but that mic will never sound right in a poorly treated room. And your speakers will lie to you with unwanted flutter or build-up. If your track was a house, your foundation would be built on an uneven surface, making it a nightmare to finish. So treat your room.

Read the full interview here.

brent march studio

Brent March

Interviewee Brent March
Contact |

Brent March uses his well-designed studio for a variety of purposes…

Key kit:

  • UA Apollo Twin
  • Logic Pro X
  • Avid Pro Tools
  • Custom-built Mac

Tell us about the studio, Brent…

My studio, located in Northumberland, UK, is designed in a way that allows me to create better content. This includes demos or product reviews, composing and mixing music for TV, film and advertising, as well as an acoustically treated recording space.

What gear do you have?

Custom-built Mac (I7-770K, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD), JBL LSR305 studio monitors, UAD Apollo Twin audio interface, Kontakt 5 and lots of sample libraries, UAD, Soundtoys, Plugin Alliance and Slate Digital plug-ins, Stoneham and ZT amplifiers, Ableton Push 2, Fender American Standard Strat, G&L and Gibson guitars, Aston mics, Strymon pedals, EHX pedals. Nektar Impact GX61 MIDI controller, Pro Tools/Logic Pro X, Sonarworks Reference 4 Systemwide, Sennheiser e906 dynamic mic and Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones.

Which DAW do you use and why?

I use Logic Pro X for composing and sequencing, and Pro Tools for mixing and mastering. I learned Pro Tools in uni and I’ve become quicker with the workflow.

What is your favourite piece of gear?

The UA Apollo Twin. I’ve owned it for around six months now. It’s incredibly versatile, has immense DSP and can help take some stress off your CPU when mixing or tracking. For me, the Unison-enabled recording is a game-changer. Being able to record through a preamp, which takes on the characteristics of multiple classic preamps and amplifiers,
is the most sonically diverse way to work.

How often are you in your studio?

Every waking minute, seven days a week!

How do you use your studio?

Composing, producing and mixing are the first priority. I also do a lot of private tuition and I’m currently working on demos and reviews for a range of products and tutorials.

What’s next on your shopping list?

Either the PreSonus FaderPort or Softube Console 1. I was almost convinced to invest in some outboard gear just recently, but a good friend of mine persuaded me otherwise. Unless the outboard is sonically superior to the UAD plug-ins, it’ll not improve the sound in the slightest. However, the Console 1 and FaderPort allow you to finally get hands-on with plug-ins, as well as focusing on mixing with your ears and not your eyes.

What is your dream piece of gear?

Either a Chandler Curve Bender or Manley Massive Passive. For me, these two are the best when it comes to EQs. The UAD emulations are incredible value, but one day I’d love to own, or at least, try the real thing!

Your top piece of production advice?

Perseverance. For a long time, it felt like my tracks weren’t up to standard; I still feel like that from time to time. You need to remain patient and not expect to be a world-class producer or composer within months or years. It’s a lifetime’s worth of learning and it never stops. I’ve recently started a journal to keep track of my daily goals and achievements. It helps to write things down on paper, as it allows me to acknowledge where I stand on projects and goals.

What advice would you give someone starting out building a studio?

Don’t overlook the importance of good acoustic treatment. The best studio monitors don’t exist in theory – they’re speakers you know well, in a well-treated space. Reflections in all home studios can also cause all sorts of inherent problems, such as early reflections, standing waves, room modes. Make sure to invest time and research into good acoustic treatment. It can be done relatively cheaply, too.

Read the full interview here.

Do you use a studio that we all need to see? Send a photo or get in touch via the MusicTech Facebook page and your gear could be featured next.

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