You have your studio set, you have top dollar pole and/or aerial apparatus, the floors are immaculate and the mirrors sparkle. You’re ready to open the doors, right?
A lot of potential and current studio owners forget about one of the most necessary sides of any business: The Tech. If you don’t have a good internet connection, WiFi, and a good audio setup, it’ll be just “good enough”.
“Why do I need internet? I’m just trying to teach Pole?”
From the back office side of things, you should have an internet connection in order to process credit cards, get schedule updates from either your own website or MindBody Online, or you just want to have the latest innovative pole move from Heidi Coker or Marlo Fisken to show your students. While you have a smartphone, it may not be able to get a good signal or run out of battery life because that’s what phones like to do when you REALLY need them. In that case, an emergency laptop or tablet will come in very handy and it can use the WiFi signal to get the job done!
From the front of house perspective, you have a whole bunch of students who are waiting for their next class and want to do a little warm-up or chill out with some Pandora or watch a Kwiki from UPA.TV. If you buy a WiFi router with a Guest Network, you can reserve some bandwidth for yourself and be able to offer internet connectivity to your students.
In the PC World Article, it states that when asked if Wi-Fi brings more people into businesses and improves customer loyalty, Paula Rosenblum, a managing partner with Retail Systems Research (RSR), says: “Absolutely. Yes. Definitely.” Her belief is that “anything that brings customers back to a store” is critical, “whether it’s the music, the newspapers or the Wi-Fi-if it’s a part of the experience, you’ll go there,” she says. “Wi-Fi is really a customer-centric practice for businesses.”
Now that we’ve covered the Bits and Bytes, lets cover the audio system. Depending on the grand vision of the studio, you have 2 options: Home Theater System or Professional DJ.
If you are in a small space, you can get away with a Home Theater System that has at least 1000 Watts and a basic DJ Mixer with RCA outputs and a couple nice speakers. Since there is not going to be a lot of students in this space and it is smaller, you don’t need to turn up the volume all the way and blast the music for people to hear. You can invest in a basic DJ startup system that comes with a Mixer and 2 Speakers, but it may be overkill for your space due to the size of the speakers and the necessity for power to be run directly to the speaker.
The best way to determine if what kind of system you have is going to be enough, follow this equation: You want at least 1 Watt of power for every square foot of space you have (1000 sq. ft space = 1000 watts). If you can budget out for 2 watts per square foot, then that’s awesome because the equipment can sound good without putting a lot of load onto the system which will allow it to last a little bit longer! This formula will allow for not only the amount of students in your space, but also for the amount of people in your space when you have a show without degrading from overall sound quality!
Larger venues should actually invest in a professional sound setup. You won’t need subwoofers and separate tweeters, but you will need the following:
- Speakers: Minimum of 2 passive speakers that have the capability to handle a minimum of 1500 Watts
- DJ Mixer: Minimum of a 4 channel mixer for all your audio inputs (1 input for permanent music player, 1 for an auxiliary teacher’s input and 2 for wireless/wired microphone setups). While the mixers usually have a single XLR microphone input for the DJ, it is very limited in it’s shaping capabilities and has a very limited gain capability which can cause a good system to sound like a transistor radio. Try to avoid any mixer that has Bluetooth tech built into it. If it’s not set up correctly, it can cut out at the wrong time and the lag is pretty intense with a lot of bodies and phones in the room competing for the same amount of bandwidth.
- Amplifier: It has to have the capability to handle a minimum of 1500 Watts. Since this is going to be the heart and soul of the system, you need to make sure that this is your best piece.
- XLR cables: They don’t have to be expensive, but you do want them as close to the exact length from the speakers to your Amp. You should have 2 Shorties (less than 10′) and 2 Medium (between 10′ and 20′) cables. Anything longer and you’re wasting power to that particular speaker. If you’re off by a foot or two, move your speaker, do NOT add cable length.
For the speakers, try and budget out for JBL’s or the Peaveys. They will give you the best value for your dollar as well as the best sound for your buck. They don’t make the Peaveys for the Home Theater System setups, but if you look around, you can find some Home Theater speakers that won’t break the bank but are almost as good as the Peaveys.
For the DJ Mixers, take a look at the software packages that DJ’s use now (Numark, Serrato, Etc.) and since a lot of mixers can interact with the software packages, talk to a DJ and see what they recommend. Some decent models that I have used and are pretty reliable and simple are the Behringer, Numark, American Audio, and AKAI.
Amps: The thing that makes any audiophile drool. For the Home Theater setup, I have installed and used a Onkyo, Pioneer, Polk Audio or Denon in similar setups and had them work well. For the larger systems that need a workhorse and a powerhouse, you have Crown, Cerwin Vega, Peavey and QSC (Oh the LOVELY music I made with those toys).
You can invest in a graphic equalizer if you want, but most mixing decks have them built in and so do some software packages. It would be overkill for most studios.
So how much is all this going to cost you? I’ve seen basic Home Theater systems go for $1000 with all the speakers and wiring that would be good enough to fit a normal space and the high end professional systems for the larger venues starting at $3000.
I hope this helps point you in the right direction when considering your studio layout. In my next article I will talk more about how to shape your sound and set focal points so that you get optimal results from your audio investment.
Nick Cappello is a Computer Consultant with a background in Audio Engineering.