The growth of the project studio has been one of the major changes in the recording industry over the last 15 or so years. However, many of the individuals working in such studios are primarily musicians, rather than recording engineers or studio design specialists, and this can mean that a number of studio setup problems go unnoticed and detract from the quality of the recorded output. Philip Newell's book attempts to identify some of the key issues that need to be addressed if a project studio is to produce truly professional results. The author's CV suggests he is very well placed to do this, and includes recording credits with artists such as Mike Oldfield, and design work in studios such as the Manor and the Townhouse.
The author pulls no punches when it comes to describing what is required to maintain audio standards. Over the course of 17 chapters, he provides a combination of technical discussions and anecdotal stories based upon his own experience, all of which are designed to carefully define what a 'professional' facility should be. For example, Chapter 2 discusses recording equipment and presents a very frank view of what is professional, and what is merely domestic. Equipment reliability and company technical support failings are two issues that come particularly under the spotlight here. Other chapters cover such topics as equipment interfacing, mains supply, recording levels and metering, dealing with small control rooms, mastering, the 'illusion' of stereo, and mixing for surround sound.
An issue that is emphasised throughout the book is that budget studio equipment is often both more difficult to use and less tolerant of being pushed to it's limits than truly professional equipment. He therefore argues that it requires much more of the engineer if a professional result is to be obtained from such low‑cost gear.
This book is extremely well written and, while not always a light read, presents even the most technical material in a clear and accessible fashion. As such, it will undoubtedly open some people's eyes to problems in their own studios that they might rather wish they could ignore. While financial constraints mean that many SOS readers have to take a pragmatic attitude to the quality that can be achieved in their own studio facilities, being aware of the kinds of compromise that are having to be made is essential if their effects are to be kept to a minimum. This book will help you do that, as long as you are prepared to read it and weep! John Walden
Project Studios: A More Professional Approach, ISBN number 0‑240‑51573‑0, is published by Focal Press and is available in all good bookshops.