wow, this is tough because it really comes down to understanding what you are trying to do, your budget, and the location of your new studio. it really is a pain to hear “it all depends” but it does… it’s nice to dream about but in order to make it happen you need to get organized. there are a lot of Internet and book based resources for compiling a set of guidelines for your studio design, but in the end, there are a few key questions to answer to shape your design.
assuming you found the right location, then here’s a few guidelines to consider:
– isolation does make a difference — most people assume they can get by on little or no isolation, and in rare cases that is true, for most of us, getting a good level of isolation is going to keep things more organized in terms of odd sounds entering our recordings, or having disruptions because of neighbors concerned about noise levels. either one is distracting and can throw off those most excellent moments…
– good acoustics is essential — you need it, you want it, yes, really. always start with broadband bass treatments. this way, if somehow those treatments result in enough low, mid, and high frequency control, you’re done. nothing worse than starting with high frequency absorption and finding mud, then trying to correct for the mud, only to find you’ve taken every bit of life out the room. if the low frequency trapping is too much for the mids and highs – add some panels, slats, etc to get some of that life back – your recordings will love you for it.
– visibility is important — people like to communicate with one another directly – not through video and talk backs – try to get as much glass as you can into your walls so people can see it other. if you can make that glass open, then they can talk to each other and hear each others instruments, and generally bring life into your sessions that are just not nearly as fun as face-to-face productions.
– good vibes — no one likes to play in a dungeon (well, not many :-)) so good aesthetics do play a role. if you are running a commercial facility its important to consider flexibility in the aesthetics so they can be adjusted to accommodate the mood of the client and the session in general.
– ease of use — make it easy to get set up, rehearse, record, mix, party (if allowed ;-)) so consider layout carefully, try to design it so people can move large or heavy equipment in and out without risking damage to other equipment or people (do you really want someone carrying that B-3 in its road case over your new SSL console?) if you know you’re going to have long sessions – plan on a lounge with bathroom, kitchen, and some recreation. make sure that lounge is isolated from the recording space to avoid things like loud shrieks from the winners at the pool table from disrupting the 12th vocal take…
so that’s my short list – isolation, acoustics, visibility, aesthetics, and ease of use. there more technical details like electric, security, and so on but from a guideline view these are the main ones to think a lot about.