Studio-in-a-Box Home Recording Software Systems - dummies

Studio-in-a-Box Home Recording Software Systems

By Jeff Strong

Integrated mixers/recorders/effects processors, studio-in-a-boxes, were once quite common (computer-based systems have over-taken them in the last few years). Cassette porta-studios, first introduced in 1970s, enabled the home recordist to compose music at home without spending a fortune on equipment.

But it wasn’t until the Roland VS-880 came out in 1997 that great-quality recordings could be made at home using a single piece of equipment. Okay, you still needed an instrument and microphone to plug into it, but everything else fit into this one little box, which is now referred to as a studio-in-a-box system.

One of the biggest advantages of using a studio-in-a-box (SIAB) system is that you don’t need to be computer literate — just turn it on and start to record. SIAB systems are also portable — you can take them almost anywhere to record, so you’re not limited to your studio room. (You can get a view of an SIAB system in the following illustration.)

Think about this for a second: If you want a big drum sound and all you have is a small converted bedroom for a studio, you can load up your SIAB system, a few microphones, and your drummer’s drum set (don’t forget the drummer) and go to an empty warehouse, gymnasium, or church, for example. (Of course, you can do this with a laptop computer system, too, but it’ll cost you more.)

In fact, with many of these recorders you don’t even need to have electricity to do this. Most of these recorders draw very little power and can operate on batteries.

A studio-in-a-box system contains everything you need to make great recordings.
A studio-in-a-box system contains everything you need to make great recordings.

Early versions of SIAB systems were somewhat limited in what they offered and weren’t very user-friendly when it came to adding more effects (although they’re easy to synch). The new generation of SIAB systems is being designed to accept third-party effects; for example, the Roland VS machines (such as the VS-2000CD) accept third-party plug-ins.

Other options, such as an expansion board, let you use a computer monitor and mouse. They can also import and export audio files in formats that you can open on other manufacturers’ recorders, freeing you to transfer files between different systems.