Joined: Nov 2010
Location: Atlanta, LA
ITS ALIVE!!!!!!! My New Mobile Setup
For the longest, I'd been discouraged in figuring out the setup I could possibly build that would work best for me.
Buying and selling, based on what I'd used in different facilites and also what I'd read on forums. Gear this and gear that can often times become overwhelming, and easily remove you from the the actual creative process. Its addictive, but counterproductive.
Like many of my colleagues/peers, the industry has required us to wear more and more of the many hats in the creative process. Production, Writing, Arranging, Mixing, and in some cases even mastering.
I wanted a setup that is TOTALLY clean, and uncolored, allowing for endless possibilites, consolidated into one rack mount flight case that I can travel with.
Great news! I've finally built it. And for lack of embellishing, the quality of sound I achieve is absolutely amazing. Far beyond what I've been using myself and in the studios I've had the pleasure of working in. So! I wanted to share it, in hopes that this could give some insight for the interested, and also for those who struggle with the same issue.
Firstly, I started out, and still retain the role of, Songwriter and Vocal Producer. From there I branched into Production and eventually into mixing.
In my genre of music (Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, Dance), the large majority of the creating process happens ITB. So I wanted to build a mobile & concise, yet, powerful setup that would allow me to be completely self sufficient, producing sonic quality that might rival, and in many cases outperform my counterparts.
Disclaimer: This is not an "inexpensive" setup, however, at the level of sonic integrity, I've managed to keep the cost down tremendously.
COMPUTER: Purchased used from a local on Craigslist. Macbook Pro i7. I spared NO space when loading this computer with vst(i)(s). Also installing three DAWs of my personal choice, Logic Pro, Protools 9, and Presonus Studio One v2 (Studio One being my absolute favorite, and go-to DAW).
INTERFACE: Black Lion Audio Signature Series Mod Digi 002. A very nice sounding unit. Surely not the best out, but it does perform well. Its also a perk because its firewire connection works well with the laptop. I can switch between the interface and the built in audio of the laptop while in middle of the session, which REALLY comes in handy, for those of us who are familiar with the laptop speakers. Makes for great mixing medium. As convenient as the Digi is, though, i DON'T use its inputs to record with, nor its main outputs to monitor with. (Further explanation under 'CONVERSION')
CHANNEL STRIP: I've tried COUNTLESS channel strips and Pre-amp/mic combos and so on, but quite honestly, there are only two channel strips that give me the absolute cleanest sound without limiting my possibilities. The common "AVALON VT-737 SP" upgraded with Siemens Tubes, and my preference, the "MILLENNIA STT-1 ORIGIN" upgraded with Telefunken Tubes. I felt it was extremely important not to compromise here. There are SOOOO many other great options of channel strips and pre-amp/compressor choices out there, but for the sake of trying to have a solid consolidated platform to record through, these two channel strips are the best for me.
MICROPHONE: Advanced Audio Microphones CM-87. I absolutely LOVE this mic. Well above even the Neumann U87. Anyone I put behind this mic sounds either really good or just flat out amazing. Full, and big, but man is this thing clean. With the right reverb, and a little eq/compression MAN, this thing really makes the sound source (mainly in my case, vocals) sound like GLASS!. I mostly enjoy this mic because I never fail with it. I have other mics (some from AA Microphones that I seem to prefer), that are great, and probably preferred for specific applications, however, my go-to mic for the past year, has been the CM-87. And the great part about it, is that this mic is very inexpensive. I believe I purchased it underneath $400. Amazing, absolutely amazing.
SUMMING: Why summing? Well, I've had such good results with it. I'm pretty positive that I can still make great sounding music without it, however, it's one of those things where once you've tasted it, you can't live without it. Mixing is so much easier, and faster when doing summing OTB. My summing mixer of choice? Dangerous Music D-Box. I LOVE this box. The summing section is like OMG. I kind of just chuckled thinking about it lol. Dangerous Music has done a great service in making this available. I must say this though. The D/A section, STAY FAR FAR AWAY FROM IT. Stick strictly to the analog section. PLEASE! The analog section is clean and honest. It really helps provide that soundstage separation. And the makeup stage gain is consistent. The trick to summing is not to slap your mix through the box, but to actually mix through the unit, from start to finish. From panning to eq to effects. Don't wait to complete these things ITB and expect magic when running stemmed busses through the box. You might as well stay ITB.
CONVERSION: What do you mean by conversion, isn't that what you have your interface for? Yes, and NO. The interface is really great unit on its own, but I knew, that in order for me to be at the level of the big boys, I had to know that what I was hearing, and printing was accurate. NO COMPROMISE. Because of this, I returned back to Black Lion Audio. They offer these absolutely INCREDIBLE converters. MY goodness, the best sounding converters I've ever heard. Its almost pitiful how terrible some of our most prized monitoring/conversion systems are by comparison. Absolutely puts the AVID i/o and Apogee converters to complete shame. No hype, No BS. I purchased Black Lion Audio's ADC and DAC 2 channel converter units. They're both half rack 1U units, that I connect via SPDIF and Optical both Input & Output to the Digi. So the layout goes as so. I record my vocals into one channel of the Black Lion Audio White Sparrow ADC, which is connected S/PDIF through the digi. The output (monitors/headphones) comes out of the Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC. By doing so, I bypass the Digi's Input and Main Output converters, allowing me to take full advantage of these badass converters. And I tell you, what a world of a difference. The converters are in fact pricey, but not as costly as the could/would be elsewhere. These things are mastering grade. Kudos to BLA. Not to mention they have amazing customer support. They researched and walked me through months of step by step planning and execution in making this setup work.
MONITORING: The great thing about this setup is that whatever facility I may be in, I can just plugin to their monitoring system, and play. I personally own a pair of Genelec 8050a and a pair of Adams S3X-H. I also own a pair of DIY Auratones that I built from one of these forums. I forget exactly where, but I'm sure you can locate it. The gentlemen who made the schematic available, i think, works at Barefoot. All great speakers for what they do, however, 7 times out of 10, I don't travel with them. I'm mostly using headphones and the monitors at whichever facility/room im at.
POWER/CABLING: I connect everything to a cheap Furman power conditioner. I've also built as small 1U 1/2 Rack patch section, in which I got a spool of Mogami Cabling, and kind of just built it specific to my setup. I usually only have to patch for two channels of input from the summing and/or the single channel for the vocals so its very rare that I have to go fishing around to plug and unplug wires in the back. Its a perk, its not necessary though. DIY projects have grown on me since I started doing this 3 years ago, so I wasn't against doing custom work.
Then I threw all of these into a 6U Rack Mount Flight Case...
AND THATS IT!!!
If I had to calculate how much that was spent... hmm..
Well, why don't we go ahead do that now..
Interface MOD ...............$1400
Summing Mixer .............$1500
Flight Case ....................$70
I've spent surely tens of thousands of dollars on so much other equipment over the years. They are either unused, or just long gone. If I'd have known better, I surely wouldn't have wasted my time or money. 11k isn't very easy to come by, but at the level it puts me, theres not very much higher I can go (except maybe an insurance policy, gps tracking, and some extra external harddrives), and I wouldn't change it for the world.
Alien i7 & Macbook Pro i5. Sig Mod Digi 002 & White Sparrow MK2 ADC. Dangerous Music D-Box & 2Bus LT. SCA Pres. Custom mod DIY "47 Gold" Tube, MJE-K47, AA CM-47 Fet. SEAS passive dual cone monitors & Adam S3X-H's, Genelec 8050A. Custom MioS Adeena Monitors. Millennia STT-1 Origin Channel Strip, Vt-737SP. Fantom. VST'd All the way out..
NEXT UP.. More mics more converters.. more more more!!! AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! I'd rather go custom before I go consumer.. unless they're REALLY that good