I think, well passed the comfort of having to sit for hours on end, the need for a good recording desk stems from using junk. Like Wal-Mart/Target desks, or used desks that looked like it would work, only to find out they were the most uncomfortable things ever constructed.
In the 90s, when I was grinding, learning the ropes on engineering and production, my best friend at the time hand built a recording desk. He took a $10 regular desk… one of those 1990 fake wood desks made out of particle board and covered with glue-on wood covering. Kind of like this, but minus any hint of computers and just the cabinet (and oak… always oak back then):
SIDE NOTE: I just spent a good 20 minutes trying to find a picture of that common 1990’s desk. It was in EVERY home that I’ve ever visited back then. I think my Dad still has my old one in his office now. I can’t find one damn picture of it. Now I’m obsessed.
Anyway, he took one of those and screwed on a piece of plywood on the top. Then he cut dowel rods and made risers to add a deep-set second level (where you would put your outboard gear for aux/send chains) and it was ugly. But it was dope! It worked. This was pre-computer DAW anything. I think Propellerhead just released ReBirth. I remember MixMan software was out, too.
All that, just to have something to set our Tascam 424mkII on… yes, a 4-track portable cassette recorder. That was our pride and joy, center piece. All other gear was just incidental. We couldn’t believe we had the power to record our music on separate tracks, bounce and then record more.
We became ninjas at figuring out how to not let the sound degenerate with each pass of the magnetic tape on the play-head. We could do 16 tracks on a 4-track and get minimal hiss. We knew that the dolby button could help, but too much and you’d end up with a weird, thick sounding recording that sounded like you were listening to your neighbor’s music through a wall.
We figured out that we could record a track, flip the tape over and bounce that track backwards to another track and add reverb. What this does is, when you play the cassette tape on the proper side, you would get reverse reverb. And since it was on a second track, we could control when you would hear it… amazing times of learning.
Anyway, back then everything was out of necessity. We didn’t have a DAW with near unlimited tracks. We didn’t have VSTs of Moogs and plugins of every guitar amp ever made. There was no such things as USB mics or consumer grade condensors. If you programmed a synth, you couldn’t just save the settings. If someone ran up and twisted all the knobs and unplugged banana plugs, you were shit out of luck. So you learned to make hand drawings and notes of settings, especially per song.
I could go on.
What I’m trying to say is that, after 20 years, I finally feel that I need a proper recording desk. It was NEVER a necessity. Earth has gravity and things sit on shit. As long as they don’t overheat, I can sit rack gear down on a table and use it. I’ve used all manner of surface to hold the tools needed to create and produce music. A desk seemed like a flourish rather than a tool.
And here come the “BUT”. BUT, now I’m getting older and comfort is fast becoming a daily goal.
I need a new recording desk.