Music software company Output has announced its first piece of hardware: a studio desk for musicians called Platform. Scott Wilson finds out about the LA team’s sleek new product and how it wants to give artists an alternative to IKEA hacks and expensive bespoke furniture.
A good desk is often the last thing you think about when building a studio. Any spare cash is usually ploughed into synths, studio monitors and other essential gear, leaving the workspace itself neglected. IKEA’s affordability means it’s often the go-to place when you need a desk, even if it means employing some cunning hacks to get things set up the way you want them.
But it’s not just the price that holds back producers from seriously considering a proper studio desk. A lot of the bespoke desks for music studios are ugly or way too big, looking like late-90s computer workstations or large console-inspired surfaces that aren’t suitable unless you’ve got a lot of space – not generally practical if you live in the city or rent a separate studio.
The solution to this hardware problem could come from a company that’s making waves in the music software world. LA-based Output – best known for innovative instruments and effects plug-ins used by Diplo and Kanye West – has just unveiled Platform, a $549 studio desk that’s made for musicians, but also designed to blend in with contemporary living arrangements.
“It always seems like the studio desk is an afterthought”JC Sutherland, Output
Platform is an intriguing first piece of hardware from Output, but there’s clearly a gap in the market for a bespoke studio desk at a competitive price with handy space-saving features. It has a bridge at the rear for placing studio monitors, a cable management system at the back and an optional tray for storing a MIDI keyboard or synth when it’s not in use.
“It always seems like the studio desk is an afterthought,” Output’s VP of hardware JC Sutherland tells FACT. “You either have to compromise with a hack on some IKEA desk or spend a great deal of money to get something good. This is ludicrous considering your desk has one of the greatest impacts on not only your creative flow, but the perception of professionalism if you’re working with clients.”
The eureka moment for Output came after it published a post on its blog about studio desks and found that many producers were dissatisfied with the IKEA hacks and ready-made options on the market. “The common problem we heard was that there wasn’t anything out there that looked great, had all the features a musician would want, and didn’t cost thousands of dollars for a custom build,” Sutherland says.
“When we built prototypes, we had everyone test drive them”JC Sutherland, Output
“We looked at high-end modern Scandinavian designs and tried to marry that aesthetic to the ergonomic requirements of a studio. No detail was arbitrary with Platform. There are a lot of desks that are ergonomically sound, but for the most part those available under $1,000 tend to sacrifice style or are made from cheap materials.”
Platform also has 9U of rack space. The included rack ears can be used to mount gear such as audio interfaces and effects units, equipment that’s typically difficult to find a place for in small home studios. Sutherland also says that the desk has been designed with ergonomics in mind, with the studio monitor bridge at the optimum position for listening, and a desktop height that ensures arms are kept at a “comfortable” 90-degree angle.
The result is a desk that Output says works whether you’re just using a a simple setup with a laptop and MIDI controller, or a more complex one with lots of gear. Sutherland explains that this is down to extensive testing and the eclectic mix of musicians that work at Output. “When we built prototypes, we had everyone test drive them,” he says.
“It’s part of the company ethos for us to be green in all that we do”JC Sutherland, Output
Output is hoping that as well as attracting buyers to Platform with its competitive price and modern design, the product’s green credentials will convince people to part with their money. The desk is made out of wood from renewable sources, and the company is donating some of the proceeds from Platform to to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s moreTrees foundation.
“It’s part of the company ethos for us to be green in all that we do,” Sutherland says. “We chose to make Platform with 100% real wood instead of MDF as it just looks better. And practically speaking, one of the best things you can do for the environment is to make something that lasts instead of something that someone will want to throw away or replace later.”
While Platform is available to customers in the US and Canada now, the rest of the world will have to wait, which the company explains is down to getting the shipping costs right (anyone interested can sign up to a waiting list). “We’ve done a lot of digging to make the experience of getting our desk as seamless and fairly priced as possible, Sutherland explains. “The ultimate goal is to to expand when we can provide a similar quality of service elsewhere.”
Output’s desk could become as familiar a sight in home studios as the Ableton Push
Output’s commitment to making Platform as cost effective as possible is admirable, but for a lot of artists, $549 is still quite a lot of money. Once you’ve added $100 for the dark brown color option and $150 for the keyboard tray and $50 for shipping the cost is $799.
However, Platform is arguably the most attractive studio desk on the market right now and the basic price isn’t much more than a new mid-range analog synth. If the build quality matches up to the design, Output’s desk could become as familiar a sight in home studios as the Ableton Push or NI Maschine.