If you are anything like me, your music workstation furniture will be a cobbled together affair using a combination of Ikea units and strategically stacked hardback books. Ikea have an incredible array of modular systems that can pretty much fit every workstation requirement but, when it comes to a music workstation space you’ll almost certainly end up wanting for more.
The hybrid Ikea setup has served me well to date but as a man in his 40’s who’s on the inevitable track towards perpetual back pain, it felt like a good time to make a considered evaluation of what I needed from a workstation desk. I was in need of something comfortable and designed specifically to fit with my workflow.
Other than a considerable collection of musical instruments I don’t really have much outboard hardware elements such as rack equipment. In fact my setup is limited to my trusty Yamaha monitors, the lovely Focusrite Clarett audio interface and the incredible Native Instruments Kontrol S61 MKII controller keyboard. I guess this suggests I’m a ‘In The Box’ composer. This meant I could exclude all those mega desk solutions that provide acres of racking space.
When you consider the kit you’ve got and how you go about making music you can really start to narrow down your choice of furniture. For me it was key to have three physical working levels. These are:
Level 1: Controller keyboard
Level 2: Desktop surface for trackpad, audio interface and other future needs
Level 3: Monitor speakers at ear height
With the Frankenstein Ikea setup, I was working off 2 levels where the controller keyboard was placed on the desktop surface. This meant you were always leaning over the keyboard to the audio interface and I had added a riser frame for my MacBook Pro to allow the correct working position of the monitor screen. It’s worked fine, but it’s not very comfortable.
With my needs narrowed down I thought I would reach out to a number of specialist music workstation furniture manufacturers to understand what was on offer and how they considered their designs for for musicians. I felt it was important to contact manufacturers across the price/quality spectrum and interestingly, only one company responded. This was Zaor.
Zaor are a European company and you’ll find their furniture listed with retailers such as Thomann and Gear4Music. The response to my questions came from Gilles, Zaor’s COO. Having had a look at their product catalogue I felt that Zaor’s extensive Miza range of furniture met my requirements for quality, practicality and price range. Gilles explained:
“The idea behind the Miza line is indeed to offer affordable quality solutions, from very small Miza Jr up to the all in one workstation Miza X2. The story behind the Miza M is actually quite simple, we had the Miza Z and Miza Jr, and due to our customers feedback we saw the need for a desk that lies in between these two desks in point of view of size.
The Miza Z is already quite big and the Jr much smaller, also with another keyboard drawer system. The beginning of the modular line with its plane desks was done with the Z. We saw that the market changed towards a ‘In The Box’ workflow so we decided to offer a plane desk with a stable keyboard drawer system (double-guided rail system).
Additionally if someone still has hardware and need some RU, we have the Gripracks in our portfolio. With these racks you can transform any kind of plane desk into a complete workstation”. The Miza M seemed to provide the perfect setup for me including the all important lower drawer for the controller keyboard. The only thing missing from the Miza M workstation was the 3rd level for the monitor speakers. The ever considerate Zaor had anticipated this and manufactured some Miza D-Stand desktop speaker stands (£129 in the UK) which match the aesthetic of the desk.
The desk and all accessories come in 3 different finishes, I decided to go for the Wenge Grey colour scheme. Gilles at Zaor continued to be extremely helpful as we swapped a few emails back and forth and kindly offered to assist with my order for the desk.
Payment made, fast forward to a large and reassuringly heavy delivery in two parts. They weigh a ton! Packaged solidly, it includes built in thick cotton handles to make moving the package around as easy as possible.
The Miza M requires self assembly which is great for me. It would never had got up to my studio via two flights of narrow stairs had it arrived fully assembled. The build instructions were clear, almost Ikea like. The desk was constructed in around 40 minutes with some assistance from another body to complete the assembly.
First impressions are great. The build quality is excellent, it feels strong, stable and looks lovely! If you have a elephant to hand, I’m convinced the keyboard drawer could take it’s weight which again provides you with a sense of Zaor’s attention to the design. Whilst I use a 61 key Native Instruments Kontrol S61 MKII, the keyboard drawer on the Miza M should easily accommodate most 88 key controllers out there.
As someone who has a unhealthy dislike of exposed equipment cables, the Miza M satisfied my need for an uncluttered solution by incorporating some clever hidden cable management and this is evident as I add my music equipment and wire things up.
Zaor’s considered design is demonstrated when you slide your seat into position and pull out the keyboard drawer. Somehow, they’ve completely understood the height levels in play meaning you’re able to play the keyboard in comfort whilst maintaining full access to the main desktop area without reaching too far.
The optional Miza D-Stand desktop monitor speaker stands finish off the setup and provide the necessary isolation required, there is no resonance in the desk when music is played at volume. The stands also look bloody fantastic which certainly satisfies my desire for things to look good. More on the Miza D-Stands in a future article.
Between the left and right extremes of the desktop occupied by the Yamaha monitor speakers, there is ample space in the central area for the largest of monitor screens/iMac. In this case, I tend to work almost exclusively on my Apple MacBook Pro 15” 2016 (touch bar) so I still require a riser to bring the screen to the correct eye level. Soon, I’ll be in the market for a 27” iMac Pro and the Miza M will accommodate this with loads of space to spare suggesting again that this desk can evolve with your changing needs.
The finish on the Miza M is fantastic, it has rock-like stability and is really comfortable to work at during long sessions where I am noticeably less fatigued. In the UK this desk comes in at around £489 and having used the desk for a little while now, the price appears great value considering how specialist it is in terms of music workflow and build quality. If the communications I’ve had with Gilles is anything to go by, I suspect Zaor’s ongoing support (should I need it) will also be first class.
For the thousands of composers out there working at their cobbled together workstation desks, do think seriously about the furniture made by Zaor and others. Your comfort in workflow is profound and shouldn’t be underestimated. I’m convinced I’ll still be working at this desk in 15 years time.