Welcome to The R1N Recording Studio Build Diary: Part 2 – HVAC and Concrete.
Once framing was complete (which was covered in detail in our last post), we moved on to the design and implementation our Heating Ventilation and Air Condition System (HVAC). Designing the best possible HVAC system is a major challenge, one faced by every recording studio. Often a point of difficulty for nascent studios, HVACs can easily become sources of frustration and irritation, since any recording studio worth its salt must go to great lengths to ensure the HVAC does not intrude on the recording process. We knew that if we half-assed this aspect of the build, we’d be left with a noisy building and far from perfect recording conditions.
This process can get quite expensive. Studios must be able to guarantee that no unintended sound will reach the spaces in which recording may occur. To meet that goal, recording studios tend to make use of one of two designs: custom high-end systems, or ductless mini-split systems. In many cases, the latter option is more than sufficient to reduce unwanted noise. Ductless mini splits expel the loudest aspects of the system outside, which leaves you with a virtually silent interior. Such systems are very simple in design, consisting of an outdoor compressor unit and an indoor air handler, with no ductwork in between. Instead, the connective tissue between these two units is simple refrigerant tubing.
Unfortunately, the benefits of a ductless mini split system can come at quite a cost when applied within a recording environment. These systems work best in smaller zones, where air can diffuse across rooms unimpeded. But as we mentioned in our last post, the best recording studios totally isolate each room, designing them so that no common framing material is shared between spaces. This soundproofing technique, although essential, makes HVAC design more difficult, since you not only have multiple rooms, but you have rooms completely separate from one another on a structural level. Under these conditions, natural air flow from one room to another becomes something of an impossibility, and the only alternative is to give each room its own system (a highly costly alternative to be sure).
So, we could easily have found ourselves forced to spend an exorbitant amount of money outfitting each recording space with its own personal mini split. But lucky for us, we were faced with a more fortuitous set of circumstances. The warehouse location in which we are building out the studio was already set up with a really fantastic base-layout for HVAC, one that allowed us to employ a more traditional approach to HVAC. The warehouse is divided down the middle by a masonry wall, with the air handler from the existing HVAC system on one side, and all of our studio renovations on the other.
Because of the existing physical barrier between the air handler and the studio space, the sound of the AC kicking on and off from the studio side of the warehouse was near-silent, even before renovations. This setup allowed us to design an HVAC system that is very similar to what you’d find in any commercial environment.
With the air handler situation under control, our focus shifted to the ductwork itself. We needed to take measures to ensure that the sound of air traveling within the ducts themselves (and dispersing through the register in each room), would be undetectable. To this end, we worked with insulated ducts, and designed the layout of the ductwork in such a way as to minimize branching. Whenever possible, we wanted the air to flow directly from the central air handler to the rooms’ air registers (the little grills that emit all the air).
While work was underway on the revamped HVAC system, we were simultaneously hard at work excavating concrete from within our control room, to prepare the space for tidy cable management. It’s essential that the control room not be overburdened with crisscrossing and entangled wires, and we determined that the best way to manage this would be to dedicate the closet in the right-rear corner of the room to function as a sort of “machine room.” This space would house our computer tower, the digital-to-analog converters, tape machine hookups, and more.
To accommodate the many cables that would have to run between the machine room and the recording console at the front of the control room, we jackhammered (yes, they let us have one), the slab above this space in order to create a pathway for the wires to travel.
We then established a trio of 2” conduits to house the cables, which we’ll look at in greater detail in our next post, which will cover the electrical aspects of our studio build.
Be sure to come back for Part 3 or just have it delivered to your inbox.
Additional Contributions by: Tyler Sullivan.
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For those of you interested in what the completed studio will look like, check this out. And f you are curious about the recording equipment we’ll be stocking this place with, have a look at our gear list.
If the R1N Studio has you excited enough to want to record (at a HUGE early adopters discount, mind you), give us a shout and we’ll get you booked.
Finally, beyond recording kick ass records, R1N is devoted to helping new bands and artists gain an advantage over their more experienced competition. If you want to learn more about what R1N is all about, I have written a manifesto that sums that up nicely.