The Many Faces of a Shipping Container – “Recording Studio in a Box”

13 Mar

Greetings Campers!

When last we met, I told you all about “living in a box, underground.”

This time, I’m gonna tell you the story of a life “recording underground” (well, nearly… It IS Australia, after all… It’s “under ground…” from here!), in a box we call an ISBU, to MAKE a living!!

(I know, I know… stop groaning!) 🙂

As my family slowly builds our new home out of Shipping Containers and other recycled materials, some guys are making a living, by turning the same boxes into businesses.

Pay attention folks! Thanks to the President, there’s about eleventy-gazillion dollars in Stimulus money out there floating around waiting for people to grab it.  And, this falls into about three categories I can think of off the top of my head; New (small) business, “Green” application, recycling materials… and I bet there’s more!  I wanna be one of those guys!

“Ronin like money. Money goooood!”

You should wanna be one of those guys, too!

So, in the spirit of “Stimulus,” or at least “stimulation,”  I’m gonna introduce you to one of those guys, right now!

Built and operated by an Aussie named Mark “Sparky” Paltridge, the “Spark1 Studios” is more than just a place to record music. Sparky has a history, folks… he has over 15 years performing and recording in the industry, and it seems that Sparky has an unparalleled passion for song arrangement, music production and attention to detail.


This incredible facility was constructed by converting two ex shipping containers to a state-of-the-art, cutting edge modern recording studio. Spark1 Studios is designed for ideal acoustics, comfort and portability.

Now, I’m not sure that they actually pick the studio up and move it, but…


Now, when I first learned about Sparky, I had to do a double-take, because the guy who turned me on to him misspelled his name, and I thought he was one of the founding members of “The Partridge Family.” But, after checking with Shirley Jones, I finally figured out who he really was!

(Good thing, too. I’m not sure that being a member of David Cassidy’s clan would have been too good a reference! Especially musically! )😉

Sparky says that: “Recording music on the Sunshine Coast grants you an International standard in recording in an idyllic environment”

At least, that’s what his marketing says! And I tend to believe it!

Based in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Queensland, Australia since 2004, Spark1 Studios has already become the coast’s premier recording studio for discerning musicians. If you take a hard look at his company, you’ll see that he’s been involved in several albums to date, with more on the way. Not bad for a guy hunkered down in “a little insignificant box that isn’t worth looking at twice.”

At least, that’s how the natives refer to “shipping containers.” How many guys have to demonstrate their value, before these idiots just shut the hell up? Hmmm? I mean, really…


From huge, ‘in your face’ modern radio production, to capturing the ‘stripped back’, intimate acoustic performance, those “tiny little boxes” allow Spark1 Studios to cover most recording needs. Okay, so you’re not gonna record the Philharmonic there, but… you CAN record warm and lush sounds in a comfortable, creative and inspirational space at what looks like an extremely affordable price.


With three separate recording rooms to choose from, one can track drums either with a tight, well controlled sound, or go for huge drums sounds in Studio C, utilizing mics placed in the stairwell and adjacent bathroom, as well as all the close mics around the kit.

This is no “slipshod operation, either!  Spark1 Studios has invested in the finest gear of the analog and digital realms, featuring the foremost mics, preamps, compressors, EQs & AD/DA converters available. This includes recording equipment such as Neumann, Senheisser, AKG, , DBX, Purple Audio, JLM AUDIO and RME, as well as utilizing ‘classic’ older valve gear and equipment. In other words, they have all the right stuff…


Want proof?

SPARK1 Studios – Recording Studios, AUS
Studio Equipment

Mackie Control Universal PRO control surface and extender
JLM Audio VOC 2 compressor (LA-2A style)
Purple Audio MC-77 compressor (1176 compressor)
Chameleon Labs stereo compressor (modded by JLM)
DBX 160 X compressors (x2)
DBX 902 De essers (x2)
JLM Audio 99V 500 series mic pres (x2)
JLM Audio TG 500 series mic pre (x1)
JLM Audio TMP 8 mic pres (x8)
Quad Eight dual mic pre
Harrison 3232 dual mic pre
2 x JLM Audio PEQ 500 series (Pultec style EQ with extra freqs)
Broadcast Audio passive summing mixer (16:2)
Lexicon PCM 80 Digital Reverb
Lexicon PCM 41 Digital Delay
Roland 201 Space Echo
Alesis Microverb II
Mackie HR824 Monitors
Auratone Monitors
Fender Blues Junior valve guitar amp
RME converters ADI-8 x 3 (24 I/O)

Neumann CMV-563 with M7 capsule valve vocal mic
Neumann KM 184 stereo pair
Sennheiser 421’s x 2 (tom mics)
Audix D6 kick mic
AKG C414 mic
SM PRO MC 04 ribbon mic x 2
Shure 57’s x 2
Electrovoice RE20 dynamic mic
1 x Royer 121 ribbon mic
Fat Bottom Ends

So what have we learned? Hmmm?

ISBU’s are versatile, and worthy of most uses if you just use your gray matter, and think things through. Be it a cabin in the woods, a business by the roadside, or a hotel in the ‘burbs, these boxes can go great distances, both at sea, and on your bottom line.

Kudos Sparky!!! Today, you’re my hero… But don’t let it go to your head…

Yesterday, it was my kid… He made a poop, finally! Let me tell you, he was one cranky little monster for a while… 🙂

Next time, we’ll get back to the matter at hand…

Homebuilding with Containers:101… um… 201… um… uh-oh… I forgot where we left off! 🙂

Stay tuned!The Renaissance Ronin

I’ve been talking to Sparks lately, and here’s a bit of information that you’ll find way more palatable than “Vegemite!” (You know Aussies have to be either REALLY tough, or completely crazy, to eat that horrible stuff. Blah!)  Sparks tells me that; “I’m actually thinking of selling the first studio, (The control room/vocal booth one), and buying another high cube and redoing the same control room with sliding doors this time. I’m hoping to get around $35,000 AUS for it.” That’s “BOX ONLY,” plus “A/C, perhaps.”

(And that’s $23,059.90 USD for us Yanks!)

If you’re interested, you can contact him at:

2 Responses to “The Many Faces of a Shipping Container – “Recording Studio in a Box””

  1. renaissanceronin April 22, 2009 at 3:46 am #

    It appears that we’re becoming famous overseas, too!

    Makes sense, because Shipping Containers are just sitting around everywhere!


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