Guest blogger Guy Burton asks us to worry less about the technical details or equipment specifications, and focus on finding gear that fits your workflow, your space, and your personality.

Choose form over function for the home studio

Creating your space

Most of us creating music at home have less space available than we’d like. Maybe we have a shared workspace, whether with a home office, bedroom or open plan living space. Few have dedicated spaces for both recording and mixing. We have to work with what we have without worrying about achieving perfection. Rooms designed specifically for recording and mixing typically have different acoustic properties – the latter, a controlled environment for listening, would make live recording sessions sound quite ‘dead’. A good listening room needs to be fairly large to avoid low frequency resonance issues, and a fair amount of that space needs be taken by acoustic treatment. Would losing so much room be worthwhile for your home studio? I’d argue making your room look and feel great, filled with the equipment you want in practical positions, is worth more than treating that 54Hz mode.

Filling your space

With this in mind, I try not to get bogged down in the technical specifications of recording gear but look for pieces that I simply want to use. Some people are inspired by particular brands or designs, others by specific forms such as racks of gear. Take monitor speakers as an example – in an untreated room there is little point worrying about every bump and nuance in reported frequency response, nor the specifics of ‘room correction’ functionality. For my current space I chose a pair of Genelec 8010a nearfields with 7040A subwoofer – positioning these tiny speakers is far more practical in my small room than something with a large driver. EQ features can be handy but they shouldn’t be seen as more than a band-aid since there are many significant acoustic problems they cannot resolve.

Choose form over function for the home studio

Audio Interfaces

Most, if not all, of the audio interfaces being produced now have good preamps and A/D converters. I propose that the important factor when choosing an interface shouldn’t be the signal to noise ratio, or the noise floor, or even the amount of on-board DSP, but ‘boring’ aspects like the shape and size of it, where the sockets are, the location of the power switch, and ease of use of the mixing software. I use a Zoom L-12 digital mixer as an interface not for it’s multi-track recorder functionality and FX, but to avoid the need for mixer software entirely.


Guitars are almost a case study in form-over-function design. Manufacturers have been producing different designs for decades with minimal functional changes. More recently synthesisers and electronic instruments have joined this trend. Through the 90’s synthesiser design was driven by technological development – integrated circuits reducing the size and cost of analogue designs, the development of FM synthesis, and the drastic reduction in cost of memory for digital sampling. At the time I doubt I would have chosen a DX7 for the colour scheme alone. However in today’s age, where nearly all types of synthesis can be recreated with plugins, the functionality is almost a moot point. The form of the instrument is the important factor. The form of your studio furniture is also very important – being able to use instruments alongside a computer requires careful compromise which can make or break your workflow.

Choose form over function for the home studio


Roland pioneered a new instrument form with the MC-303 groovebox. This was designed to put form first – ease of tweaking and jamming taking over from the powerful but hard to use rack modules of the time. It’s successor, the MC-505 was itself repackaged into multiple similar products with different forms. Nowadays there are many grooveboxes available in different shapes and sizes, and they all sound great. A brilliant time for us as musicians – we can find the instrument that works best for us without worrying about the synthesis technology. Is this the centrepiece of your studio, something to travel with, or something to use live? I sold my Akai MPC2500 due to it’s enormous bulk and replaced it with the more limited but smaller MPC500. As a result it got far more use.


In this post I have only stated one side of the argument. We need to balance our desires between function and form, as well, of course, as cost. The two design goals do not exist independently from one another. My point is simply that there are many factors in making choices, and each is as valid as another if it leads you to create music.

Have you bought gear choosing form over function? Have you been left cold by a very functional piece due to its form? Let me know in the comments!

See also

» Grooveboxes
» Studio Monitors
» Studio Furniture
» Studio Controllers
» Mixers
» All Studio & Recording products

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Guest Blogger Guy Burton

Guy Burton is an amateur singer-songwriter with a keen interest in music technology and production. Guy is a software developer by trade, though his forays into audio and midi tools rarely graduate beyond experiments.

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