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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Beware Of Smoking In The Studio

Smoking image
Reader Tom McArdell recently asked about the effect of cigarette smoke on the gear in the studio, a good topic that hasn't been addressed yet in on this blog.

First let me say that I can't remember the last time that smoking was allowed in a major commercial studio. In fact, I can't remember seeing a cigarette inside a recording facility since the early 1980's, at least in Los Angeles. Granted, fewer people smoke on the West Coast to begin with, but it happened everywhere almost at once for two reasons.

First of all, smoking smells up the place, and many high-paying clients would complain about the oder. We all know how difficult it is to get the smell of smoke out of something, and a studio is so closed that it was even more difficult to air out. As a result, a universal rule came into effect - if you must smoke, then go outside.

The second reason is that smoke can have a detrimental effect on some audio gear, most notably condenser microphones. Condenser diaphragms already take a beating just from the moisture that a vocalist develops during the process of singing (which is a reason why pop filters are so popular), and it gets even worse when cigarette smoke attaches to a diaphragm. Pretty soon the super thin piece of metal that make up the diaphragm is bogged down with heavy smoke particles and it can't move as fast anymore, so the transient response decreases and the resonant point changes.

Then there's the fact that mics can stink from smoker's breath, which can still be bad even without smoking in the studio, but at least it's kept to a minimum when smoking isn't allowed. Console faders can also get scratchy as a result of smoke particles, and any piece of gear with a fan will have to be cleaned or the filter changed more often. Of course it's bad for the health of the smoker and the other innocent people trapped in the control room with him as well.

If it's your studio and you're a smoker, it's your right to smoke, but be aware that there are good reasons to take it outside.

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