Review: The Studio Builder's Handbook, by Bobby Owsinski and Dennis Moody

(ShackMan | Posted 2011-05-16)

Review: The Studio Builder's Handbook, by Bobby Owsinski and Dennis Moody

As a critic, I have three jobs (commandments, if you will) in each product I discuss, either for thorough review, special preview, or simply for technical discussion of some feature. I am firstly here to remain an objective viewpoint. Does it work? Does it not work? Is it a good idea? What could feasibly be improved? How does it compare to others on the market, particularly in that price range? Secondly, it is my duty to put myself in the shoes of the consumer for whom the product is intended. Is it in my price range? How does it benefit me? Why is it being offered? What “gap” does it fill, if any? Does it benefit more than just those for whom it is being marketed? Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I must concern myself only with the unit's purpose. Does it succeed in everything it promises, or does it not? A few days ago, I posted a review of Bobby Owsinski and Dennis Moody's “The Studio Builder's Handbook,” and I am sorry to say that in my review, I did not succeed in staying true to those three commandments. What I did do, is let the editor in me overrun the reviewer, and that led to a very poor representation of the hard work that everyone put in on this book. For that, and before I move on to correct myself, I offer my apologies to Mr. Owsinski, Mr. Moody, and any at Alfred Publishing who may have felt wronged by the review.

While I was so overly concerned with grammar, organization, and matters of style (and drove those points home much further than they should have been), I failed to give credence, primarily, to the idea of function. Does the book serve its purpose in educating me about how to go about building a better-isolated, well-designed, successful studio on various budget levels, from the planning process through to the end result? The answer there is yes.

Now, are there still organizational, stylistic, and small-scale editing problems? Yes. Minor errors were overlooked, but they are rarely on a scale that would make the book hard to understand. My main complaint, which I failed equally to explain in the previous post, was that information felt scattered throughout the book, and chapters did not always adhere to their own topic throughout or discuss their topics fully before moving on. Paragraphs seemed to hint at ideas and very obviously leave out information that would be described later on in the book, but I was left with a question as to why they hadn't discussed it before-hand. Chapters were organized more according to how things should be taken into consideration from beginning to end, and this led to some material overlap. All in all, it was not a bad idea, and after hearing Mr. Owsinski's thoughts on it, I think his basis for it is sound. It just didn't come out quite as well as I would have liked in practice, but I still appreciate the experimentation. The most this hinders is going back through the book to find certain information.

On the other hand, the way it is written conveys an ease with which to go about all this. It is very matter-of-fact and conversational in tone, which I greatly appreciated, as will those who may have been apprehensive when it comes to starting their own studios. It was a great way to ease the reader into it, and allow them to feel confident that the result they will get is equivalent to everything they put into the planning and building process. I never felt overwhelmed by information while reading, even with all of the various aspects of planning and construction to be considered, although I do wish they would have included some of the mathematical equations involved. They often allude to the math, but always steer clear of it like it would be mentally harmful. I understand that many people who get into these careers aren't coming in with three years of calculus or acoustics, sure, but a “for those interested” section, just past the index, would have been a great resource. By the same token, should they still consider not including math, a “For further research” section for those who would like to add that aspect would be great. However, as Bobby Owsinski has pointed out to me personally, you don't have to look far to find such resources, which makes this book an unusually easy-to-use work.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was the interviews at the end. Each interview added a real-life touch to all of the prior content in the book and discussed live situations that I hadn't taken into consideration previously. Coming from session workers, other engineers and producers, the interviews section alone is on par with the kind of quality you'd get in a magazine. There are also stories peppered throughout the main book, including one where a particular engineer kept blowing a fuse and had to run power from his neighbor's house to finish a session! Following was, of course, a discussion on proper power and outlet planning, as well as a little mention on why it helps to keep your studio isolated and stay on good terms with your neighbors. You never know...

But that's the general tone of the book that I got: “We went through all of this, and we don't want you to have to learn the hard way like we did.” It feels like the kind of book a father would write for his son...if the father worked in the recording industry and the son wanted to do the same. It is a wealth of information from two absolute masters (some would say “monsters”) in their field, and, returning to the idea of function, this book will not steer you wrong in building or improving your home or commercial studio. Granted, it is at times a little rough and feels a little poorly edited (The movie on the DVD with Dennis Moody wasn't well-rehearsed or produced, and it isn't too hard to notice). But for those who want to get into the recording industry with a commercial studio, re-do a basement into a music warehouse, or just acoustically pad your bedroom down for some homemade demos, this is a great book choice for you. At $40 for the book and DVD set (where many DVD only guides can go for that at a minimum), it's a pretty good deal too.

“The Studio-Builder's Handbook” and accompanying DVD are available in stores across the USA and online from” for $39.99.

James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured in and around Pittsburgh, at West Virginia University, and Valley Forge Christian College. He does not get extra money for using italics.

Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at

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