It's probably the last thing you're thinking about when laying down a take or mixing a track, but the environment you choose to record in can have a huge impact on your workflow in the studio. While mixers, keyboards and compressors are undeniably more exciting than stands, chairs and desks, it's often these items that prove to be the unsung heroes of any set-up, particularly if you've found yourself transitioning to a home studio environment or even working longer hours to meet those never-ending client deadlines.
For when an Ikea desk or second hand study chair just won't make the cut, Koala Audio have got you covered. Launched in 2018 by pro-audio veteran Filip Saelen, the company have carved out quite a niche in the Australian market, offering a wide range of studio desks, stands, chairs and beyond to suit music makers and creatives of all calibres.
To find out more, we got in touch with Filip to find out about the importance of studio furniture in a home environment, as well as hearing about some of the brands carried by Koala Audio and what to expect next from the growing company.
Tell us a bit about Koala Audio - what was the motivation behind launching the business? Can you tell us a bit about your background in music?
Filip: I saw that there was not much studio furniture around here in Australia that people could just buy, ready to go. There's a lot of offerings overseas, but it typically takes months to get over here, and importing as a consumer from overseas comes with all kinds of problems, so I just thought it would make sense to have a better offering available here in Australia.
For my own background, I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years as a sound engineer and music producer, as well as working on film and television production. I’ve worked with TC Electronic in Europe and the US and then later with SSL, where I was doing everything from customer support and product management. I ended up in Australia after backpacking around the world, and I’ve been importing studio furniture for over two years now, using some of my industry connections from over the years.
It's easy to underestimate the importance of like gear like studio desks, chairs and racks in the studio. How do the items stocked by Koala Audio help to enhance the working environment of the average creative professional?
It's really just to put everything in its right place, which really helps with establishing your own workflow. Everything is set up ergonomically, so you can spend hours in the studio without getting back problems or other ailments. These days, not everybody has a lot of outboard gear, so I think when people choose a desk, they really need to evaluate how they wish to work, what tools they need to use and how often they need to use them, and then base their setup around that. Obviously, a setup could look drastically different if you’re primarily mixing in the box, or maybe with a control surface, compared to if you’re using an analogue mixer with lots of outboard gear.
We’ve got a range of desks that cater for all kinds of different setups - some are more focuses on composers who need to fit an 88 key controller into the centre of your setup, whereas some are aimed towards those who are mixing and require outboard racks on the left and right with space for a control surface or console in the centre.
Can you tell us a bit about the difference between the Wavebone and Zaor desks that you stock? Are they meant to cater for different kinds of creatives, or is there something else that discerns the two brands?
The Zaor range is definitely wider. It’s got the classic range, the Misa range, the Vela range - it’s a very big catalogue of furniture that starts from budget to premium and even custom shop stuff.
Wavebone are a much newer company ran by a group of musicians out of Taiwan, and their main target is the home studio user. They've created a desk that is priced competitively, but also gives everything that a typical home studio user needs. It’s compact. You can use it with outboard gear or without, and it’s got removable wooden trays in the back that can fit up to nine rack units, which you can also use for extra storage space if you don’t have any rack gear.
Wavebone also do an ergonomic range of studio chairs specifically designed for musicians to go alongside their desks, which are really great and priced perfectly for the home studio user. You can fold away the armrests when you’re playing guitar, and it’s even got little pockets on the back to put picks or cables in. We’ve got a lot more from Wavebone on the way too!
You’ve also got a variety of studio monitor stands in stock. For those of us who mightn’t be aware, can you describe why monitor stands are so important when recording in a home studio environment?
Studio monitor stands are not something you should skimp on in terms of your investment, because, if they're not the right stands, they can cause all kinds of issues - whether it’s them toppling off their stands and falling onto the ground, or even having resonant frequencies coming through the base of the stands and messing with your mix.
Another thing many users overlook is that your monitors should be placed at the right height within the room and positioned to your ears to make sure you have the right kind of listening experience, which is especially important if you’re mixing or critically listening back to something. Most people typically say that 36 inches or 42 inches is the standard height to place monitors, but that depends on whether they’re horizontally or vertically placed, as well as what kind of room you’re in, or whether they’re backed up against a wall or even the distance that you’re sitting away from them, so there’s a variety of factors that come into play.
Some of the more premium offerings from Zaor feature speaker isolation built in from Iso Acoustics, which is a brand that really specialises in isolating the speaker from the surface they’re standing on. Within the Zaor range, you’ve got speaker stands that start from around $350 a pair, and they can go all the way up to $3,000 for a set of stands, so there’s a wide range you can choose from. Some feature fixed heights and others are adjustable, and they can cater for various sizes of monitors.
I think monitor placement is a really important consideration for home studio users, regardless of whether you’re just going to stick them on your desk or whether you decide invest in speaker stands. There’s a lot of cheaper speaker stands out there that are based out of metal, and that’s where you can get these resonant frequencies, because there's sound traveling inside hollow base of the stands, which leads some people to just go and fill them up with sand, which isn’t a very well-thought out solution. Of course, there’s also the aesthetic consideration: I think furniture can definitely help create a vibe in any given studio space, particularly if you’re just working in the box and don’t have much in the way of outboard gear.
You're not wrong there. Do you have any other really special items in stock that you'd like to talk about?
We’ve recently started carrying a brand called Noatronic, which is a real nice solution from a young chap in Denmark we found at NAMM that ended up winning a number of awards at this year’s event. Essentially it aims to retrofit a MIDI control device into a Fender Stratocaster using the original pots of the guitar: you replace one of the potentiometers and the output jack, and then you can basically transmit control data over a jack cable, which lets you switch guitar channels on your amp or preamp via MIDI remotely.
The main reason he designed it was for when you’re playing onstage and rocking out, because the last thing you want to be doing is tap-dancing over switches or running back to your pedalboard to change a patch. The Noatronic allows you to be in full control of your setup, and with very subtle movements, enhance your performance remotely.
Sounds amazing! Can you tell us a bit about your shipping process? I'm assuming all the desks will be shipped out to buyers in flat packs - is assembly easy?
Assembly for all our products is pretty easy. The Wavebone desks, for example, come with all the tools that you need to put it together, while the Zaor desks usually require nothing more than a screwdriver or Allen key - it’s nothing more complex than putting together an Ikea shelf, or something like that.
Obviously, all of these products are furniture, and they’re made out of sturdy woods, so shipping that stuff around Australia isn’t always straightforward. Our products travel all the way over from Europe, and come all here in very secure packaging, which is always a relief. We also ship Australia wide as well.
Are there any physical locations where potential buyers could inspect stock before they decide to buy?
Sounds Easy in Sydney is one of our resellers, and they’ve got a few desks for demonstration in their showroom. We’re hoping for some more to come in other states later down the track. We’ve also got extensive photo galleries libraries of the desks in their natural environments on our website: as we like to say, a picture says a thousand words, and as you can imagine, our desks always look better when they’ve got gear in them when you see gear in it.
Zaor have previously done custom installs for everyone from Snoop Dogg to Billie Eilish and Steve Aoki, and they’ve got huge library of photos from their previous installs that you can check out. They’ve just started to do a studio of the month competition where you can win a trip to Vegas if your studio gets voted by other users as the nicest setup, so they’re building a nice library of photos from that, which is always good for prospective buyers.
Does Koala Audio offer a returns policy for any products?
I would say with when purchasing a studio desk, you really need to do your homework: it’s not like buying a shirt, where you can buy it, realise you don’t like it and send it back. Logistically, it’s something we like to try and avoid. These desks are heavy, and a return would require you to put it together and take it apart all over again. Of course, if there’s a a manufacturing issue we’ll sort it out, but we don’t offer any kind of policy if you’ve changed your mind at the last minute, especially if it’s a custom order. That’s just not practical for anybody involved.
If you’re seriously looking for a desk, our website has a lot of information about all the specs and dimensions, as well as how many rack units it can fit and all of that jazz. If you’re still unsure whether it’s going to be the right fit for your application, feel free to phone us or email us, and we can walk you through all the options we have.
For sure. How can we get in touch with you to chat gear? Is there any way that we can stay up to date with news and updates from Koala Audio?
You can contact us through the Koala Audio website, or directly through Facebook Messenger or our inbuilt chat bot on the website. We also like to repost new installs from around the world, so feel free to follow us on social media as well!
Head to Koala Audio to discover their wide range of home studio solutions today.