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Virtual Mixing
The Studio


Recording studios are controlled acoustic environments.  Recording studios include a CONTROL ROOM (acoustically isolated room with a console, recording equipment, tape machines and speakers) and a STUDIO (acoustically isolated rooms where musicians will perform). 

Isolating and controlling sound is important in any studio.  In a typical recording session the band performs in the studio while the engineer makes changes to the sound in the control room.  If the engineer hears the band through the walls, then he would be unable to make proper decisions as to how to change the sound. 

Sometimes studio rooms are isolated by building “rooms within rooms” alternating layers of wood, sheetrock and even rubber.  Some control rooms are built with walls that are suspended rather than touching other walls (and picking up the sound vibrations they may carry).  In addition, studios and control rooms are designed with walls that will diffuse sound rather than created bouncing sound reflections.

Microphones can be plugged into a wall in the studio and they will be accessible within the control room.  There is usually a large window (or sometimes video cameras) between control rooms and studios.  All studios have a communication system between the control room and the studio. 

Sounds in studios go through complicated paths from start to finish.  Even if a microphone is going to be plugged directly into a tape machine it is rarely as simple as MICROPHONE >> TAPE MACHINE.  The path that sound travels is called an AUDIO SIGNAL PATH or SIGNAL FLOW.

Let’s say that a microphone in a studio is being plugged directly into a tape machine in a control room.  The signal flow would be MICROPHONE >> MIC CABLE >> PLUG IN THE STUDIO WALL >> CABLE THROUGH THE WALL TO THE CONTROL ROOM >> PLUG IN THE CONTROL ROOM WALL >> MIC CABLE >> TAPE MACHINE.

The box of plugs that microphones are connected to is called a MIC PANEL.  Since many cables are often intended to go to the same place sometimes they are bundled together into an AUDIO SNAKE with the necessary connections at each end.  Some audio snakes have connectors on one end and a Mic Panel on the other end.  Within a control room the cables use different connectors than the microphones in the studio.  Control rooms contain a large panel that have rows and rows of plug points, each one matching a place where sound can be accessed.  This panel is called a PATCHBAY

A typical microphone to speaker signal flow would actually look like this:


A MIXING STUDIO is the same as a Recording Studio, but is used primarily for mixing.  Mixing studios often save space by not building large recording areas that will not be needed.  Most mixing studios contain at least a small recording area for vocals or small overdubs.

Studio monitors include speakers that play into the studio itself and headphones.  Often headphone mixes are supplied to the musician but some studios allow musicians to blend tracks into custom headphone mixes.