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Upgrade AD/DA suggestions for Mbox 7.4 LE project studio Digital Converters
Old 7th January 2010
  #1
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Upgrade AD/DA suggestions for Mbox 7.4 LE project studio

I've researched the site and found what I believe my best options for AD/DA upgrades for my project studio. I'm posting in Low End because I'm looking at less than $1G here.

So far its Apogee Mini-Me or RME ADI-2 (I realize the latter is just AD).

I'm working on PT 7.4, WinXP with original Mbox. My outboard is limited to various bass preamps and RNP/RNC combo. I'm "bypassing" as much of the mbox pre's as I'm able.

All mixing is done in the box with URS plugs and Ozone as my primary tools. My mixes seem flat and muddy in general. By the time I bounce down a WAV and listen from a reference stereo I'm just not liking what I'm hearing...certainly not close to what I was hearing through my studio reference monitors. Understandably Rockit 5 monitors that I have are cheap, but I've used them for years and feel like I have a good sense of what they overemphasize (and under).

Regardless, I'm thinking is primarily a DA issue more than anything contributing to the big difference in sound once I've bounced down. I do know the mbox converters have been given notoriously bad reviews.

Do I spend on DA/AD, or upgrade monitors first? And is the RME ADI-2 a good choice, or focus on better AD with Apogee Mini on used market and simply deal with the DA mixing for now.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
Old 8th January 2010
  #2
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bump
Old 9th January 2010
  #3
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aof21's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jacko137 View Post

Regardless, I'm thinking is primarily a DA issue more than anything contributing to the big difference in sound once I've bounced down. I do know the mbox converters have been given notoriously bad reviews.
no that doesn't make any sense. If I'm understanding you correctly, you're mixing in the box and bouncing to disk in pro tools right? there's no reason why your bounced (or exported) stereo file should sound any different than what you heard playing out of pro tools in multitrack form.

Maybe I misunderstood something, or there is a typo there?


Quote:
Do I spend on DA/AD, or upgrade monitors first? And is the RME ADI-2 a good choice, or focus on better AD with Apogee Mini on used market and simply deal with the DA mixing for now.
I would say focus on your input chain. yea rockit 5's aren't great, but I've been comparing them side to side with a lot of other things recently and they really ain't bad. like you said, if you understand them and if they don't bother you right now, then keep working with them.

I'd say spend money on the input side of things and on room treatment. better D/A isn't going to make your mixes sound better. I mean, sure it makes a difference, but I think better A/D conversion and room treatment will help with having the less muddy sounding mixes.
Old 9th January 2010
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aof21 View Post
no that doesn't make any sense. If I'm understanding you correctly, you're mixing in the box and bouncing to disk in pro tools right? there's no reason why your bounced (or exported) stereo file should sound any different than what you heard playing out of pro tools in multitrack form.

Maybe I misunderstood something, or there is a typo there?




I would say focus on your input chain. yea rockit 5's aren't great, but I've been comparing them side to side with a lot of other things recently and they really ain't bad. like you said, if you understand them and if they don't bother you right now, then keep working with them.

I'd say spend money on the input side of things and on room treatment. better D/A isn't going to make your mixes sound better. I mean, sure it makes a difference, but I think better A/D conversion and room treatment will help with having the less muddy sounding mixes.
Indeed--mixing in Protools LE and bouncing to disk as Wav from ProTools. When I listen back in iTunes or from a reference like car stereo certainly not the same experience. Understandably I expect some difference, but lows that poke way out and a snare that sat nicely in the mix now is buried kind of thing. Again, I've learned to compensate a bit, but really would love a better mixing experience.

So, in your mind better to spend on superior A/D (say, Apogee Mini me) than try to solve both AD and DA with perhaps less quality AD converter in RME ADI-2?

Note too that Vocals and bass guitar are only real A/D chains--guitar tones from Podxtpro, keys/inst from Reason, drums BFD...

Thanks again for your help!
Old 10th January 2010
  #5
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aof21's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jacko137 View Post
Indeed--mixing in Protools LE and bouncing to disk as Wav from ProTools. When I listen back in iTunes or from a reference like car stereo certainly not the same experience. Understandably I expect some difference, but lows that poke way out and a snare that sat nicely in the mix now is buried kind of thing. Again, I've learned to compensate a bit, but really would love a better mixing experience.

So, in your mind better to spend on superior A/D (say, Apogee Mini me) than try to solve both AD and DA with perhaps less quality AD converter in RME ADI-2?

Note too that Vocals and bass guitar are only real A/D chains--guitar tones from Podxtpro, keys/inst from Reason, drums BFD...

Thanks again for your help!
When you listen on iTunes, are you on the same computer and going out through the same Pro Tools interface and through the same monitors?

I ask because, if it sounds different through iTunes than your mix in ProTools, that would have to be because there is an eq setting (or "sound enhancer" is on -- turn that s** off!). There's really no way you should notice any major difference between what you are hearing out of Pro Tools and what the bounced file would sound like out of iTunes, if your iTunes is going through the same DA and through the same monitors.

I mean, you will hear the mastering guys talk about a world of difference with better d to a conversion, but a world of difference to them is quite possibly imperceptible to us.

I'm working in a very well treated, acoustically designed / engineered room with $5k genelec monitors. I'm still a novice, but I'll tell you, I don't hear a world of difference between something playing out of the Pro Tools converters and something coming out of the headphone jack on the front of the G5. Sure I CAN hear a difference, no doubt, but it's no way near the difference I would hear if I switch between different sets of monitors. I tested KRK Rockit 5s, Event Project Studio 6s, NS10s and JBL LSR2325s side by side the other day and switching between those... yes, night and day. Or there was a thread on here that had an example of something going through 002 converters vs Black lion mod converters. That was night and day difference.

Yes, d to a converstion makes a difference and it helps, but at your stage in the game, with the gear you have, focus on room treatment and better monitoring. Until you sort both of those out I'd be surprised if you notice a huge difference changing your d2a and I definitely don't think it's going to make that much of a difference in helping you have your mixes translate better.
Old 12th January 2010
  #6
Gear interested
 

Thanks for the input Alden.

I'm actually working from a PC DAW and bouncing down and transferring to my iMac via thumb drive to listen/burn from my iMac. I have "sound enhancer" and "eq" off in iTunes.

Regardless...good advice. I do feel monitoring, though not ideal, is decent enough for my ears and read many posts where people working on Mboxes have an "ah-ha" moment when using ADI-2 or Apogee mini. It can't say it doesn't still have my interest, but not sure it's worth dropping $800.

Thanks again for the input!
Old 12th January 2010
  #7
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Unclenny's Avatar
I use RME ADI-2 with my MBox 1.

Once I had a couple of decent pre's in place the addition of better converters felt right. I still remember my 'aha' moment.

Agree about the room thing, though.

BTW.....ADI-2 goes both ways.
Old 12th January 2010
  #8
Gear interested
 

by 'both ways' you mean AD and DA yes? That is exactly why i'm looking at this ADI-2 over the Apogee mini. I've read that the AD conversion is significantly better in the aoogee though, which is my pickle. Do I benefit more from better AD or from decent upgrade both ways (over Mbox1).

I do understand better mics, pres, treated room and upgraded monitors all make sense. But as is I feel like I'm working with decent tools . RNP And RNC Are no joke, Studio PROJECTS c1 sounds nice to my ears.. .it just 'feels' like it's that damn mbox keeping me from better mixes. Hell, the URS plugs I'm using are really nice to my ears too and plenty here at GS seem to say so.

Of course, there is the possibility that I just suck at this whole thing and should just stick to playing .

I'd be happy to hang myself by posting a few mixes if anyone is willing to listen. I
Old 12th January 2010
  #9
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jacko137 View Post
Of course, there is the possibility that I just suck at this whole thing and should just stick to playing .
Don't even go there. Do you enjoy it? Bet you do.

There's a lot of debate around these parts about the efficacy of a converter upgrade at our level but if you are going to track multiple instruments and be serious about winning in this game of inches then you will eventually make the move.

Post something.
Old 12th January 2010
  #10
Gear interested
 

some christmas tunes I did last month with the wife and some friends @ Lansing Family Christmas 2009.
all but the 3rd tune were done in my project room. Actually, that tune (Drummer Boy) was done in a proper studio by a producer I respect he hell out of. I used it as a reference for my mixes as great stereo image particulaly with vox.
Tried as I could, but just feels like my mixes have a thick blanket over the top.
Old 12th January 2010
  #11
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Lemonsqueezer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jacko137 View Post
I've researched the site and found what I believe my best options for AD/DA upgrades for my project studio. I'm posting in Low End because I'm looking at less than $1G here.

So far its Apogee Mini-Me or RME ADI-2 (I realize the latter is just AD).

I'm working on PT 7.4, WinXP with original Mbox. My outboard is limited to various bass preamps and RNP/RNC combo. I'm "bypassing" as much of the mbox pre's as I'm able.

All mixing is done in the box with URS plugs and Ozone as my primary tools. My mixes seem flat and muddy in general. By the time I bounce down a WAV and listen from a reference stereo I'm just not liking what I'm hearing...certainly not close to what I was hearing through my studio reference monitors. Understandably Rockit 5 monitors that I have are cheap, but I've used them for years and feel like I have a good sense of what they overemphasize (and under).

Regardless, I'm thinking is primarily a DA issue more than anything contributing to the big difference in sound once I've bounced down. I do know the mbox converters have been given notoriously bad reviews.

Do I spend on DA/AD, or upgrade monitors first? And is the RME ADI-2 a good choice, or focus on better AD with Apogee Mini on used market and simply deal with the DA mixing for now.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
....add some room treatment.
Old 12th January 2010
  #12
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skiltrip's Avatar
Some may argue the Apogee is "better" than the ADI-2, while others might argue that they are merely "different". I have the ADI-2, and I love it. It's a great little unit for a great price. It's a big jump from the converters on the MBox and the older M-Audio 410 and 1814 (what I have).

I also have mediocre monitoring.. Alesis Monitor One passives with an RA150 amp. But everyone I spoke with gave the same sort of advice as you got above. If you understand them, if they don't bother you, they really aren't bad speakers, so just use what you have.

Room treatment is ALWAYS a good thing whether or not you upgrade your converters. Though people will tell you Treatment first, Converters later, I find that upgrading your converters first can actually motivate you to get going with the room treatment. It did for me. I heard a nice difference with the ADI-2, and I immediately wanted to hear even more improvement, and I knew the answer was room treatment, so I got going on doing that.
Old 12th January 2010
  #13
Gear interested
 

I'll start with the room, but I suppose there are a hundred links about which foam is better tan next just as we're discussing merits of one AD to another. Anyone care to share a shortcut? I hope I don't have to drop a bunch of $ into foam. It's not as fun as gear
Old 13th January 2010
  #14
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Unclenny's Avatar
Those holiday tunes sound pretty good to me.

I didn't hear any glaring room issues....nor did I hear that haze. What I did hear was you and yours having some serious fun making your own music.

Thing is....I didn't hear the haze in my own stuff until it was gone.

A lot of this stuff is about confidence. For me it was about preamps and converters. Once I got that together I was able to start making music with confidence. That was three years ago and I'm still doing that with no new gear.........except a major mic upgrade, but that is another thread, right?

I never did any serious room upgrades, for various reasons, but I have always made the best of my spaces by listening to the room and doing what was needed to make it right before hitting that red button.

Make some moves now, commit to them, and start making more of your music with confidence.

Best of luck.
Old 13th January 2010
  #15
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jitterybit's Avatar
If you are thinking monitors for -$1K I'de recommend a really good pair of phones.
We got some Ultrasone Proline 750s that we love. 650s are equally good.
Use the leftover scratch and a little savings and get a used Rosetta 200 or something. Both issues solved for about $1150..?

Oh, and foam is a waste of your precious scratch.
On the cheap with instructions, look here:
http://www.bobgolds.com/
Old 13th January 2010
  #16
Gear interested
 

Thanks for the kind words UnClenny. It's entirely possible that I've conditioned myself to 'hear' problems that don't exist. Who knows...

I do think I'm going to spring for the RME ADI-2 and perhaps some room treatment in the next few months.

Spaz--I have a hard time mixing just phones alone. I'll use my Sennheiser HD 280's to dial certain pieces in, but overall I have a hard time mixing from phones.

Okay...I'll report back on my ADI findings once I've headed that route.

Thanks dudes...
Old 13th January 2010
  #17
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aof21's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jacko137 View Post
I'll start with the room, but I suppose there are a hundred links about which foam is better tan next just as we're discussing merits of one AD to another. Anyone care to share a shortcut? I hope I don't have to drop a bunch of $ into foam. It's not as fun as gear
No, you really won't find much debate about "which foam is better" because the consensus on Gearslutz is "forget foam... 703 all the way" You don't have to spend money on anything you don't want to!

And on the debate about whether to spend money on AD, DA, Monitors or Room Treatment, well if you are doing what's fun, then spend money on whatever you want to spend money on. At the end of the day all of those things matter, you need all of them, and you don't need any of them. Sorry, not to get all "Zen" here or whatever, but my prediction is whatever item you buy, you'll be convinced for a short period of time that it WAS the missing link and now you can hear better and your mixes sound better. Then after a few months you'll go listen to an older mix you did before you got X piece of gear and you'll come up with a theory of why maybe not hearing everything clearly actually forced you to mix better. And it might be partially right, and so then you'll realize that while simultaneously making things "easier" for yourself, you've actually made it harder, because now you are hearing new things you weren't before. Then, after a while you will get totally used to the new piece of gear / room treatment whatever and you'll wonder how you ever got by without it. But unfortunately, you'll still think your mixes are lacking something, and this time it will be a different piece of gear that is the missing link. And so the cycle continues.... and that's the wonderful world of audio!

So take everyone's advice with a grain of salt and buy whatever you feel the strongest about or what will ease your mind the most at the moment. At it seems at the moment, you are really wanting to discover how much of a difference AD/ DA will make and you know there is only one way to find out for sure! Invest in good gear other people recommend and I don't think you'll have any regrets. And if a lot of other people like it, at least you know you can always re-sell it if it turns out it's not for you!
Old 13th January 2010
  #18
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by spazticstar View Post
If you are thinking monitors for -$1K I'de recommend a really good pair of phones.
We got some Ultrasone Proline 750s that we love. 650s are equally good.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jacko137 View Post
I have a hard time mixing just phones alone. I'll use my Sennheiser HD 280's to dial certain pieces in, but overall I have a hard time mixing from phones.
Just a final word on this subject............FWIW

I knew years ago that my room would never be able to show me what was happening in my mixes no matter how much $$$ I spent on it. On top of that I find myself mixing at times when others would be impacted. So I mix with cans. I check on my monitors in mono when I get the chance.

Did it with Senn 280's for a few years before switching to Proline 650.

I have taken my room out of the equation.

Let us know how your journey progresses.
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