With all due respect and credit to Hemingway for my paraphrased title, there’s not much I find more important about the space in which I spend all day, every day (also known as my studio, “The Office”), than having an organized and ergonomic layout of equipment. Foregoing the subject of room acoustics, which could take up an entire book on its own, I think having a smart layout of the gear one needs to do their job, including the furniture in which it is located, is paramount to not letting the gear get in the way of doing the job. Having everything to hand, feeling you are always at a comfortable position on a good chair, and taking away the mystery/confusion of wanting to have a certain piece of gear plugged in for an inspired moment helps remove the barriers to creation.
This is all fresh and current for me because just a few weeks ago, I upgraded my studio from a pair of Output Sidecars as well as one of their Platform desks, to an Argosy Design V90 desk. I bought the Output gear shortly after it was released, and while it was built well and would possibly serve a composer or someone whose work is based around a piano-style keyboard just perfectly, most of my hired work is as a mix engineer and I use a pair of Avid S1 control surfaces to interface with Pro Tools Ultimate; I found that there wasn’t really a comfortable way to have those controllers placed on the main surface of the Platform while also having my computer keyboard, trackball, and volume controller available in the correct positions simultaneously. I also felt that much of my studio space (a single room in a building behind my house) was being occupied by the furniture needed to house my preamps and compressors, rather than leaving more space for performers or other musical gear (definitely more the latter than the former during the Age of Covid™…).
As a producer and engineer, much of my initial work with bands and artists starts out at large, commercial studios where I’m used to having a sizable analog console with a patchbay on one end of the whole console frame, and then outboard processing either to the side of the console, or in a separate “producer’s desk” behind my place-of-normal-activity at the console. I was hoping to bring a bit more of that kind of workflow into my studio, with most of the gear I need 90% of the time directly in front of me. The Argosy comes with two 10U racks angled into the main surface to either side of the center section, as well as 3U per side behind the main racks (handy for things like power strips). This meant being able to move all of my outboard equipment from two standalone pieces of furniture that flanked my main workspace into the same monolithic structure that also contained the control surfaces, my display, computer keyboard and trackball.
After the days of building the console and rewiring everything in my studio, sitting down at the new desk for the first time was the “moment of truth” – would all of the effort (and expense…) have been worth it? Luckily, I’m happy to report that the answer is a resounding, “YES!” I’ve worked in dozens of studios over the years and had a number of my own setups that have ranged from the at-the-time-ubiquitous IKEA Jerker, to a custom welded, hyper-minimalist desk for nothing more than my computer keyboard, display and monitor controller. All have felt like stop-gap measures until I figured out what I next had in mind and started the process all over again – not the most efficient of methods! I’ve now been working on the Argosy system for a few weeks and it has been brilliant; I’m still feeling comfortable at the end of a 12 hour day (neck/shoulder pain ain’t fun!), every piece of gear is in a logical, organized position, and the whole desk is large enough that I have to get my butt out of my seat to patch things via the patchbay or adjust gear in the uppermost rack spaces. It’s easy to forget that having to do this and change position once in a while (or more) is a really good thing for one’s body (walking the dog/feeding the squirrels is also good…)!
So, what’s the conclusion here? People’s home studios/writing areas have always felt like a constant work-in-progress; gear comes and goes, things get put away, or brought out from being away and left where they lie, only to be forgotten again for months. I think it’s worth taking stock from time to time of the whole system – ergonomics, equipment and furniture – to figure out if everything is being used and set up to its maximum potential; given my recent experience and the success of the final outcome, I highly recommend trying it for yourself.