Producer Tony Succar’s Tips for Building a Studio from Scratch

Hi, my name is Tony Succar, I’m a producer/arranger, composer and artist based out of Miami. I just recently released my third album, in which the first single was nominated for a Latin Grammy last year. My prior album reached #1 on the Tropical Billboard Charts and #1 on the Amazon and iTunes charts, as well. It was distributed by Universal Music and a PBS special on the project, which I helped produce, aired on more than 350 stations in the United States. 

I just recently opened up my studio, Unity One Studio in Miami. I used to rent out so many studios for hours on end. So, I finally decided to invest and build my own from the ground up. I built it personally with my dad in our home, so you could say it’s basically a glorified home studio. I say ‘glorified’ because the rooms sound truly amazing. Usually, building studios in residential homes can be complicated because of the need to get proper acoustic treatment in (what can be) less-than-ideal spaces. Luckily, we succeeded on that front. We spent about a year designing and building the studio and could not be happier with it. 

My current setup consists of a Mac Pro (trash can model) running Avid Pro Tools | HDX + HD I/O 16×16 Analog. In terms of mic preamps, I have a dual channel BAE 1073, (4) API 512c’s and the Earthworks 1024 zero distortion pre-amps. I also have a Universal Audio LA-2A compressor. For my microphones, I have a wide selection of types and brands, Neumann U87s, AKG 414s, an Earthworks Dk7 kit, plus an array of Lewitt, Sennheiser, and Shure mics, as well. I’m all wired up by Wirewold cables. My studio desk, stands, and racks are all On-Stage. In terms of my studio monitors, I use the Sceptre S6 from PreSonus, and I also use their FaderPort and monitor control system. All acoustic panels and diffusers in my live room are the Pro Series panels from Auralex, but my control room panels are from GIK Acoustics.

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As for my power control, which is extremely important, I have the Furman P-2400 IT 20 Amp Power Conditioner and a PL PRO-C Power Conditioner to provide surge and voltage protection while keeping everything quiet. 

HERE ARE SOME LESSONS LEARNED FROM BUILDING A HOME STUDIO

  • ROOMS MUST sound good. This is the MOST important thing, for me at least, as I record so many live instruments. You can use the best mic’s  the best boards, the best interfaces and the best plug-ins, but if the source quality isn’t up to par, your end product will always be lacking in quality. There’s no way to make up on that. ACOUSTICS MUST COME FIRST! Make sure your isolation is right on between rooms, and that the reflections are all taken care of properly before you hit record. 
  • POWER! Make sure you have good power distribution and the right products to protect all of your gear. This is why I always go ALL IN with Furman products, and not only that, I call company representatives up to make sure I have what I need. I give them the full list of gear, along with my power situation in the rooms, and they recommend the perfect products to give me peace of mind and keep the rooms quiet from all types of ground issues, interference and power noise issues. In my Unity One Studio, Furman products have provided surge and voltage protection while creating a quiet noise floor to build my music upon. I could hear the difference as soon as I started using the gear. The sound quality is a lot cleaner and more consistent than other power conditioners, and all my gear that’s plugged into them runs flawlessly 100 percent of the time. With dozens of recording partners visiting my studios on a daily basis, Furman has no doubt served as the best, most reliably performing equipment, while presenting a professional aesthetic in my studio appearance. 
  • MAKE the right choice for what you’ll be doing. When I was building my studio, I wanted to have my control room be the bigger room (which was my garage), and the live room be the smaller room. Ideally, it would’ve been great to have both rooms be on the larger side, but it just wasn’t possible to do that in my house. My thought was to have a bigger control room for when I have artists over. We could hang in the control room to do listening or writing sessions. But it ended up being my dad who gave me the best advice. He said it’s more important to have a bigger live room because I record a lot of live instruments, drum sets, sessions with four to five horn players at once, string quartets, etc.… I was thinking of just having a booth to record one instrument at a time, and then barely squeeze in a drum set. But he was right, I did it the way he recommended and it has been the biggest blessing ever. Not only can I record anything I want in there, but the room also sounds fantastic. In many cases, you need the proper space in order for the instruments to sound the way they should.
  • Expect DELAYS. If you’re planning for 8 to 12 weeks to be finished with the studio, think again. Construction jobs always take longer than usual, especially studios. Since we did this on our own, we were learning on the fly. As a result, we had massive project delays. There is SO much detail that goes into a studio, from the initial acoustic isolation phase, to the last decor phase, everything has details and you must be patient. Don’t rush through anything because it’s better to do it right the first time.
  • Most expensive does not always mean best sounding. We tend to think that whatever is most pricy is best and this is not always true. Everything depends on what you’re doing, but my rule of thumb is and will always be MUSIC FIRST. I learned that from my dear friend Bruce Swedien, a legendary engineer. Your eyes might lie to you in the studio, but your ears never will. If it sounds good and it moves your heart and soul, it’s the right fit; don’t change it.

There’s a lot that goes into building your own studio, but what’s most important is that you do your research to build what works for you. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Succar is a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer/arranger whose talents stem from a passion for music gifted to him early on in life. Born in Lima, Peru and raised in Miami Florida, Succar earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Jazz Performance from Florida International University in 2008 and his master’s degree in 2010. Most recently, Tony was nominated for the prestigious Latin Grammy Awards 2018 for Best Tropical Song with “Me Enamoto Mas De Ti.” FOR MORE, visit tonysuccar.com.

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