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Ergonomics of studio desks

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Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby Urumiko » Wed Feb 01, 2017 11:49 am

Hi all,

I'm planning a new studio build at the moment and would like to discuss the ergonomics of studio desks. Perticularly purpose build ones you can buy from the likes of quik lok, RTE, Mizo etc.

My gear consists of a full size tower PC, 2 monitors, about 8u of rack gear, an 88 key m-audio keystation pro controller, and a novation mininova.

I have an RTE producer station in storage which is a little worse for wear, and I was either going to use it as the base to create a custom project, or get rid and get a new desk all together.

This photo isnt my setup but illustrates the RTE desk and my keyboard etc well.

My experience of trying to use the RTE desk was that monitors(VDU) stood on the back shelf, though they look cool are way too high to be ergonomicaly confortable for long periods of use. The keyboard shelf is also too narrow to be able to use a mouse properly, and stops you raising a chair to the height where use of the VDU and midi controller feels natural.
I use the desk for all my day to day computing such as photoshop and gaming so it's important i can get comfortable without the music gear being in the way.

I was interested to see how other people have dealt with similar setups.

I initially looked at solutions like the Zaor Miza series, which seems ideal, but when you look at the leg clearance of the keyboard drawer. I dont think I'd be able to get my legs under it and i'm only 5'10".

The simple solution would be to stand my keyboard off to the side on a stand, but i was just trying to stay compact. One other option could be to get rid of my current controller in favour of something slimmer, like the keystation 88, this might allow me to fabricate a lower profile shelf, or stand the keyboard a the back of the desk and still have ample room at the front for a keyboard and mouse.

Anyone got any ideas / input?
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Re: Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby James Perrett » Wed Feb 01, 2017 1:52 pm

For quite a while I had a spring loaded monitor/keyboard arm which ended up just being used to carry a keyboard. I could move it out of the way when I didn't need it and pull it closer when I needed to type.

Nowadays keyboards are smaller and lighter so it just sits on the mixing desk. I also use a trackball instead of a mouse.
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Re: Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby blinddrew » Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:14 pm

I guess the challenge here is that you're using the set up as both a music production centre and a regular computer workstation, the desk has been designed for the former so is compromised for the latter. A normal desk would be compromised the other way. A completely customised desk might be possible, but expensive, so it might be a case of working out which job you need it for most and then putting up with it for the other one.
Depending on which route you choose you could always pick up a cheap monitor, keyboard and mouse and stick a second workstation (running off the same pc) to one side - that's going to be as bulky as putting your main controller off to one side but would at least allow you to sort out the ergonomics for that position.
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Re: Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby Music Wolf » Wed Feb 01, 2017 4:39 pm

I don't have a desk as such. I have a kitchen worktop that runs the width of the back wall but I used to have my rack gear sitting on top of the worktop and my PC monitors above the racks. Racks were 4u high, so similar to the photo shown. I also found the screens to be too high for comfort.

I recently got rid of the rack / shelf and I now sit the a 61 note keyboard on the work top with two PC monitors behind it. They're just the right height so that I can see them above the keyboard but the downside is that they are just a little bit too far back to be ideal.

My audio monitors are either side of the keyboard (monitor = a computer screen or a speaker, keyboard = QWERTY or piano. We need a better language!). Rack gear got decanted into a couple of shallow cases which sit on another desk off to the side.

A photo would be easier - but the whole room is stripped down for a couple of days whilst I decorate.
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Re: Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Feb 01, 2017 4:55 pm

Just a small point in the general scheme of things, but I too had a dual-tier desk many years ago, similar to yours in having enough space for a couple of rack units high of hardware gear. When I moved to my present studio I abandoned the top tier, instead cutting a large hole in my desk to mount the rack gear horizontally alongside my PC keyboard and 2-octave music editing keyboard.

Meanwhile my larger music keyboards are placed to either side on stands at right angles to the front 'mixing' desk.

The result?

Stereo imaging was FAR better, since that back shelf filled with with hardware was close enough to the monitor speakers to compromise them - I now have a much better sound overall, albeit with less desk space :beamup:

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Re: Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby Dude16 » Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:11 pm

I just talked to the ZAOR CEO (Klaus Gehlhaar) at NAMM last week. I tried his keyboard drawer desks and found that the keyboard drawer is too low for my height by several inches. I'm 6'4", so I think someone 5'10" might be ok. In any event, he told me that he would customize the height based on my requirements for a nominal ($150?) premium.

He is a great guy, and is willing and eager to work with individual customers to meet their idiosyncratic needs. I suggest contacting him @
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Re: Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby Jadoube » Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:43 pm

I have the bigger brother of this... it is 2 19" racks wide in the front ... _Small.htm

You can raise/lower the large desk area. I have 2 27" LCDs on the top; bunch of rack stuff in the rack (8U all together) and my Mackie Controller and laptop are on top on the desk. I keep a little Arturia keyboard in the keyboard tray. My monitors are on separate stands that are along each side. I really like this desk for my home studio. My main 61 key keyboard is behind me... so I turn 180 degrees to use it if the little Arturia doesn't suffice.
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Re: Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby Urumiko » Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:58 am

Dude16 wrote:He is a great guy, and is willing and eager to work with individual customers to meet their idiosyncratic needs. I suggest contacting him @

That sounds encouraging.

Well yesterday I measured the height of the top of my leg with my leg at 90 degrees, I think it came to 70 cm and the bottom of the Zaor was about 61.

The ideal desktop height would be about 85cm

That doesn't really leave enough space to fit my controller in to.
The only real solution seems to be to either have a drawer that slides right to the very back of the desk when not in use, or a thinner keyboard.

This is a very Novel Idea, all it is lacking is a hard cover for the keys when not in use.

You went to NAMM? Fancy employing me as a coffee boy or stamp licker so i can go next year =D lol.
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Re: Ergonomics of studio desks

Postby PeterD9988 » Wed May 06, 2020 11:14 am

Looking at all of the commercial studio desks the majority have slideout 88 Keyboard trays with PC Keyboard/ mouse located on a desktop above. They are also mostly quite expensive for what they are.
I am going to think laterally on this:
1st: purchase an ordinary desk on castors. About 800mm high, 750mm deep, 1600mm wide.
2nd: My Roland RD700NX is a beast and will sit on its native stand, so always stable.
3rd: The desk is high enough to sit over the Roland. The desk be rolled back to expose the Roland KB when needed. This gives me the flexibility of playing in or keying in but also having access to both forms of midi input when required.
4th: My 2 monitors - IMAC and Thunderbolt screens are to be mounted on extendible brackets on the wall in front, so they dont actually need to sit on the desk.

Cant immediately see any problems here - in fact if I spring for a height adjustable desk I could even work standing up sometimes if preferred.

Will post some pics when I'm done.
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