High-End Music Studio
Bleeps and bloops.
process of recording sound pre-dates the modern computer by almost a century. And for most, if not all that time, recording sound and music involved the use of analog technology. Beginning with wax cylinders that were used to record audio translated into electrical currents via an old timey microphone, through to those complicated and huge mixing desks you see in movies. You know the ones, from that one scene set in a music studio. Dials and knobs and volume sliders everywhere.
Meanwhile, as computers shrunk in size from something that could fit inside a large room, to a small room, to eventually a desk - processing power, storage, and even display capabilities were nowhere near at a level that could replicate the growing amounts of gear that made up a traditional music studio.
But, in the last decade a seismic shift has occurred in the realm of recording and creating music. And for that matter, the concept of a music studio. Affordable and exponentially more powerful PC hardware had finally reached a point where just about any bit of analog gear, be it a mixing desk or a complex synthesiser could now be replicated via the combination of PC hardware and software. Equipment that would cost a few thousand dollars just to rent for an afternoon, now housed within a desktop PC.
THE BIRTH OF DIGITAL MUSIC
One of the first companies to create a pure digital mixing board was Japanese company Yamaha. Although it was still a large, bulky, and dedicated piece of hardware, the DMP7 marked the rise of the digital recording age. The year was 1987. Two years earlier, percussion company Roland released the DDR-30 Digital Drums, a rack mounted rectangular box of technology that stored high-quality sampled drum sounds that could be triggered and manipulated via a separate synthesiser or MIDI interface. It revolutionised pop music.
In 1983 Yamaha release the DX7, a digital synthesiser that manipulated frequencies (called FM) to produce digital versions of various piano and other more purely digital sounds. A groundbreaking and iconic synthesiser that was released at a time when desktop computers had no chance of competing at that level without expensive and proprietary sound chips and imaginary non-existent transfer speeds and storage. In 1988 another Japanese company by the name of Korg released the M1. A complete digital workstation and synthesiser. Although expensive and aimed at musicians, one could create and arrange an entire track using the M1.
THE RISE OF THE MODERN HIGH-END PC
In realm of the personal computer, high-quality sound reproduction has always remained a costly endeavour. Which is why computing throughout the 1980s and 1990s was usually accompanied by very limited sound hardware and inferior speakers. Manipulating sound, in a live fashion, whilst retaining quality was limited to the devices from companies like Yamaha, Roland, Korg, and others. Digital hardware so different to the stuff found inside PCs that early music production-grade sound cards required the use of firewire. A technology most of us barely remember.
When we think about a modern high-end PC, especially one built for gaming, you could boil down all hardware consideration into one component – the graphics card. Sure, other aspects are important, but the GPU is one area that drives the setup. In terms of a Music Studio, the opposite is true. It’s a combination of everything else. Where the mere concept of a bottleneck results in complete failure.
Even though notable advances in multi-core CPUs, faster and more expansive memory (RAM), and storage solutions that could easily handle many gigabytes of files played an important role in this evolution, there’s one aspect that often gets overlooked. And that is, USB. Not only used to manage the transfer and streaming of highquality lossless audio, but also to create an environment that results in tactile hands-on control over what’s happening on screen.
USB helps to foster the plug-and-play approach we associate with the modern PCs, where any high-end rig can transform into a full music and broadcast studio in a matter of seconds. With the right gear of course.
Early computerised music studios were rather... busy. No, we’re not sure what the banana phones are for either
The Yamaha DX7 and Korg M1
The Yamaha DMP7 (released in 1987) was one of the first digital mixing boards