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how should i upgrade my home studio? Single-Channel Preamps
Old 27th December 2010
  #1
Gear Nut
 
jimthepisces's Avatar
 

how should i upgrade my home studio?

Hey all,

So over a few years, I've been slowly upgrading my home studio and I've been making better and better sounding stuff. In your own opinions, what would be the next logical step to upgrading my sound.

My current setup is as follows:
Mics -
  • AKG C3000 x2
  • AT4033
  • Shure SM57
  • Beta 52
Pre's -
  • M-audio Octane
  • Firewire 1814 pres
Outboard -
  • ART PRO VLA II
Other that this stuff, I run Pro Tools 8, have a midi keyboard and have a nice assortment of plugins (some waves n McDsp stuff). I use basic monster cables and have M-Audio Studiophile monitors. I turned a semi-large closet into an iso-booth by using some cheap foam and covering the walls and ceiling.

So...where am I lacking? Should I get better monitors? Invest in some good mics? Get some more rack gear?...So much gear, so little time...
Old 27th December 2010
  #2
Gear Nut
 
jimthepisces's Avatar
 

oh, and i do a variety of music...i guess mostly rock stuff.

I'm in a studio apartment, so drum sampling all the way!
Old 27th December 2010
  #3
Lives for gear
 

I think you should invest in the search function. This only gets asked 35 times a day and has a stock set of answers.

You will be told:
1) That unless you put acoustic treatment in, you will always have poo mixes.
2) That you need an SM7B
3) That you need reaper
4) That you need KRK monitors. (???)

You probably don't but everyone will say so.


Acoustic treatment will help though, you should try and properly do your booth too. Contrary to popular belief, foam does not fix a room from bad to good.
Old 27th December 2010
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbigd View Post
I think you should invest in the search function. This only gets asked 35 times a day and has a stock set of answers.

You will be told:
1) That unless you put acoustic treatment in, you will always have poo mixes.
2) That you need an SM7B
3) That you need reaper
4) That you need KRK monitors. (???)

You probably don't but everyone will say so.


Acoustic treatment will help though, you should try and properly do your booth too. Contrary to popular belief, foam does not fix a room from bad to good.
Nice heh I agree 100%

I will add that if you are looking to improve your end result I think it is necessary to post a clip of your current results. Point B is relative to point A.

Better gear does not necessarily equal better results.
Old 27th December 2010
  #5
Gear Nut
 
jimthepisces's Avatar
 

therealbigd - how does it feel to be a sassy little man??

Anyways, I can post some clips but does anyone know of a quick and easy way to post some mp3 clips on gearslutz? or do i have to use some hosting site like mediafire?
Old 27th December 2010
  #6
Lives for gear
Open up an account on "soundcloud"...but there's actually an attachment option in the reply window...haha...JUST noticed it half way through my sentence...i mean i have an sm7b and what not blah blah blah, i think your next logical step though is to get say 1 preamp thats a little higher quality than the rest.

I use a profire 2626 (which has octane pres) and a focusrite octopre mkii dynamic, but on top of that i've also got a UA 710 which i use for vocals, or something i want to stand out just that little bit more. Overdubbing and what not etc etc...

Another one to look at is the UA 610, and the Focusrite ISA One, also the Grace m101...
Old 27th December 2010
  #7
Gear Addict
 
gumby1220's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimthepisces View Post
Hey all,

So over a few years, I've been slowly upgrading my home studio and I've been making better and better sounding stuff. In your own opinions, what would be the next logical step to upgrading my sound.

My current setup is as follows:
Mics -
  • AKG C3000 x2
  • AT4033
  • Shure SM57
  • Beta 52
Pre's -
  • M-audio Octane
  • Firewire 1814 pres
Outboard -
  • ART PRO VLA II
Other that this stuff, I run Pro Tools 8, have a midi keyboard and have a nice assortment of plugins (some waves n McDsp stuff). I use basic monster cables and have M-Audio Studiophile monitors. I turned a semi-large closet into an iso-booth by using some cheap foam and covering the walls and ceiling.

So...where am I lacking? Should I get better monitors? Invest in some good mics? Get some more rack gear?...So much gear, so little time...
i would suggest just to take a moment and think on what would benefit your setup up/needs more at the moment. that's how i always go about buying new gear. for example i just ordered a second vla II over a new mic or mic pre. because well i'm content with the mics i currently have and don't really have a use for more mic pre's at the moment. but everytime i go to do mix i always wish i have atleast 2 more channels of outboard compression available. so that's what i purchased another vla deuce.
Old 27th December 2010
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimthepisces View Post
therealbigd - how does it feel to be a sassy little man??

I'm often on the receiving end of this type of comment.

If you spend even an hour reading through any "Recommend me some gear" type threads you'll quickly see that regardless of style, application, or any seemingly unique scenario the most popular mic that will be recommended is the SM7, the most popular pre is the GAP73, etc... therealbigd is actually right, and his commentary is actually designed to help you. You may simply not realize how valuable his response was but it is not malicious or snarky; it is pretty much a fact that you can seriously benefit from while looking for answers around here.

Try it before deciding just how "sassy" he is. You'll probably also find the answer to most questions you may have, or learn something that you didn't realize you didn't know at the same time.


Good luck.
Old 27th December 2010
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Also, I don't believe I've ever met him (or her) so I cannot say for sure, but if he (or she) is indeed vertically challenged I'm sure you'll understand how insensitive it is to point it out on this forum. heh
Old 27th December 2010
  #10
What's the budget?

I'm in a similar situation to the OP but I have given up making "Bang for Buck, small improvements/upgrades" to the gear as from what I have seen so far they don"t make a whole lot of difference and pretty soon you are ready for another one.
Instead I'm holding out until I'm ready to buy a UA 6176 and Neuman U87 without getting any of the low level, mid low level, mid level, upper mid level, higher mid level gear upgrades on the way.
I think in the end just waiting and buying a few really good pieces will be way cheaper than buying and re buying and rebuying to eventually get to the same few pieces in the end.
Also, for me, this a huge motivator to work hard on material, performance, technique and so forth with what I already have. So that when I do get those few nice pieces I wont end up with a great capture from a bad position of badly played, poorly prepared crap that is badly compressed through a great compressor (due to poor understanding of what I want to get), and finally brought up to line level through a great pre

Of course YMMV
Old 27th December 2010
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

What's your budget?

Put some GIK acoustic bass traps in your booth and mixing room ($70 each) or, if you're handy, make your own.
Old 27th December 2010
  #12
Lives for gear
 

you can listen to your room yourself and tell if you have bad acoustics. I don;t even need to hear your recordings and I can tell you your next logical step.

If your wanting pro recordings your going to need pro converters. I have never heard the art pres but you can maybe get by with those and still get good recordings but that would be what I upgraded after the converters.
Old 27th December 2010
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beefy View Post
you can listen to your room yourself and tell if you have bad acoustics. I don;t even need to hear your recordings and I can tell you your next logical step.

If your wanting pro recordings your going to need pro converters. I have never heard the art pres but you can maybe get by with those and still get good recordings but that would be what I upgraded after the converters.
Sorry but that is pretty much all wrong in my opinion.

1) Low end issues in your mix environment are hard to ascertain without taking measurements. The ear is not reliable, unless you yourself have an ear that has been trained well enough to hear the issues, but then how does YOUR ear help anyone else here on the forum?

2) Making assumptions about what the OP needs to improve his bottom line without hearing his current results is asinine. For all you know his mic technique is all wrong, or he is plagued with phase issues. No gear will help that now will it? How do you know that this isn't the case? How will a converter assist in this case?

3) Converters are a hotly debated topic. The claim you make without any backing seems like a lot of hot air. One thing that is at least widely believed if not considered a fact is that unless you have a good sounding tracking environment, a good sounding mix environment, a good handle on the proper use of compression and EQ, a good handle on listening for phase issues while tracking, a good handle on mic placement, etc. an upgrade of the OP's converters can be considered a waste of money by many. Even if the OP is a total pro and can track and mix brilliantly in his sleep I would wager that a new pro level LDC would have a greater impact on bottom-line sound quality than new conversion of any kind.

Sorry if this is harsh but I believe that such a brazen post deserves a brazen response.
Old 27th December 2010
  #14
I started out with a set up like yours. The 1814 and octane are decent for unimportant tracks etc.. drum/stratch band tracking. The best bang for buck is to have one or two money channels!!! ie 1 or 2 good mics and and preamps. Dont be afraid to buy used!! (just buy "like new") IF your record mostly with overdubs your money channels can be used on almost everything. Just run the preamps into the trs line input of the octane because the 1814's line inputs are unbalanced.

Great pro Quality condensers Vocal/instrument mic's for the money

Akg c414, akg c214
Beyerdynamic mc740, mc834, mc840 (sleeper mics!! I love my mc740!)
Nuemann tlm103
mojave ma200
Miktek c7
etc....

Great pro quality preamp's for the price

Black lion audio auteur
Daking mic pre one
fmr rnp preamp
great river
blue robbie (good on vox)
True system solo
etc... The list goes on and on
Old 27th December 2010
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beefy View Post
If your wanting pro recordings your going to need pro converters. I have never heard the art pres but you can maybe get by with those and still get good recordings but that would be what I upgraded after the converters.
Converters? Don't make me laugh.

Yes if we were talking Prism or Radar you might get a flatter line but if you can't hear that in an accurate room there's no point!

The converters are the least audible component of the signal chain, and whilst they are an important element of the pro studio, are not really needed until the other elements are all in. A good converter converting signal from an untreated room through an OK mic through a good pre will only highlight the imperfections more accurately.
Old 27th December 2010
  #16
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Unclenny's Avatar
I love these threads.

Truth is, though, that some suggestions can be made without hearing a sample of your sound (Soundclick is another good hosting option, btw).

For instance, if your vocals and perhaps an acoustic guitar sound are important to you you might want to consider investing in your front end as Chrisc_o suggested at the end of his post......a good 'money channel' is always a good place to start.

I'm not one to discount room treatment, but you need to capture your sound with as much fidelity as possible.
Old 28th December 2010
  #17
Lives for gear
 
code green's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisc_o View Post
Sorry but that is pretty much all wrong in my opinion.

1) Low end issues in your mix environment are hard to ascertain without taking measurements. The ear is not reliable, unless you yourself have an ear that has been trained well enough to hear the issues, but then how does YOUR ear help anyone else here on the forum?

2) Making assumptions about what the OP needs to improve his bottom line without hearing his current results is asinine. For all you know his mic technique is all wrong, or he is plagued with phase issues. No gear will help that now will it? How do you know that this isn't the case? How will a converter assist in this case?

3) Converters are a hotly debated topic. The claim you make without any backing seems like a lot of hot air. One thing that is at least widely believed if not considered a fact is that unless you have a good sounding tracking environment, a good sounding mix environment, a good handle on the proper use of compression and EQ, a good handle on listening for phase issues while tracking, a good handle on mic placement, etc. an upgrade of the OP's converters can be considered a waste of money by many. Even if the OP is a total pro and can track and mix brilliantly in his sleep I would wager that a new pro level LDC would have a greater impact on bottom-line sound quality than new conversion of any kind.

Sorry if this is harsh but I believe that such a brazen post deserves a brazen response.
+1 on all counts.
Old 28th December 2010
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
cporro's Avatar
 

look out. here comes the same type of vague seemingly unhelpful reply i used to get. :D

most of the improvements i've made over the last few years were fundamental ones. placing mics better, knowing where the room sounds best, getting better at eqing, better mic selection. all this comes from experience and getting better at listening.

i'd say spend more time listening and the studio upgrade issues will resolve themselves. you'll start to hear how bad the room is or that a mic is in the wrong place. i'm a big fan of ear training and using ref mixes.

as far as gear goes...my rule of thumb is the closer to the sound source the more important it is. so for vocals consider the performance, mic placement, room sound, then premap then converter....then plugins etc. the further down the chain the less influence.

i know it sucks to hear stuff like this. i certainly did not listen to the same advice for a some time. but it's also kinda cool because you realize the engineer is the critical piece of gear.
Old 28th December 2010
  #19
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by cporro View Post
the engineer is the critical piece of gear.
Old 29th December 2010
  #20
Here for the gear
 

Do some research on mics and mic pres. If you've ever found yourself stuck along the way during an application due to a gear limitation then that's where you need to upgrade. Pinpointing your needs can be the difference between frugal spending and smart investment.

Oh...and you should get a lava lamp thumbsup
Old 30th December 2010
  #21
Gear Nut
 
jimthepisces's Avatar
 

lol lava lamps are truly critical....

so thanks for all the replies! I definitely like the idea of having a couple of "money channels" and also, rather than buying tons of medium-end gear, just saving up for a couple good mics. I've done shootouts with all of the mics at the studio I assist at, and the U87 was just amazing...not like that's news to anyone here. I'm also quite partial to 414's because they're good for so many applications and have a variety of patterns. And I don't know what the hype is about the SM7b because, yeah its good, but I think its worshiped a bit much. It seems like more of a specialty mic more than a "must have."

Anyway, without further ado, here's a track I've recently recorded for a guitar/french horn Folk duo that I know.



So, I used only the gear written at the top. I added some (Hofner) bass for them, harmonies and drums to fill it out. If you're going to comment, please try to keep it related to the thread and not "I don't like the song."
Old 30th December 2010
  #22
Gear Maniac
 
emmymusic1's Avatar
 

get someone to help you out with treating your room. than get a few lunchbox modules. vintage king give you a free 6 slot lunchbox if you grab 4 new modules. best bang for your buck IMHO. than if you have a little cash look into a mic upgrade. but i would make sure your room is as good as your can get it before spending money on stuff that will only capture the flaws of bad acoustics
Old 30th December 2010
  #23
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johndykstra's Avatar
 

Well I for one don't care what you buy. That's a great song. Very interesting.

Find a music retailer in which you can demo before you buy. You seem to have a pretty good grasp on things. Don't let internet yahoos make decisions on how to spend your money. Or better yet, start a list of gear that producers you respect swear by, and comb ebay.

Room treatment is always a good idea.
Old 30th December 2010
  #24
Gear Nut
 
jimthepisces's Avatar
 

yeah, I tried foaming a closet to try and deaden the room so I could use it for vocals etc, but it still sounds a bit "closet-y"...The studio I'm with now just built a new location and it was interesting to see them treat the control rooms. You can actually hear the silence when you walk in and shut the door. It seems like creating a lot of irregular angles is more important than buying special foam or w/e.

I tracked the drums in a bedroom and the vocals in the foamed closet. It seems like good acoustics really only come in to play when you're using room mics, which i didn't on these drums - i only close miked.

Also, is having an excellent mixing room really necessary or more of an optimal scenario. I personally have enough patience to check my mixes on different systems like alarm clocks, car speakers etc and I can hear discrepancies then (always bass it seems) and fix it later, then check again. Having a stellar mixing environment seems like more of a necessity for pro studios that have deadlines and need to get their product out asap without checking it in a car.

...and I checked out the Black Lion Audio Autuer...looks nice.
Old 30th December 2010
  #25
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cool song man. me likey. don't have a decent set of speakers to hear it on right now. wah.

i think the thing with mics like the sm57 and sm7, the reason why some people don't like them, they are really context mics. they aren't great performers soloed but in the mix they just automatically put certain things in the right spot. like snare or guitar cabs. i have about 12 mics and i love the sm57 the most. crazy talk. i also got the re-20 and sm7 based on recs from very experienced engineers. no regrets and i figure my appreciation for them will grow as my skills do.

i have shyed away from condenser mics over the last few years. the ones i have always seem too harsh. maybe that's because they are all cheap <500. or maybe dynamics just smooth out the accurate nature of digital recordings. i dunno.
Old 30th December 2010
  #26
Gear Nut
 

Tribedescribe, how do you like that C414 anyway? I was considering it in my latest mic search. The reviews were consistenly strong, despite it looking the way it does. I'm sorry, but aesthetically, it's not so hot. I know some of the bitter mcbittersalots will tell me looks have nothing to do with anything, but I guess I'm superficial, so I bought me a Bottle Rocket, which is beautiful!

My four reccomendations would be:
  1. upgrade the vox mic. I absolutely love the Bottle Rocket because it allows for upgrading down the road without losing your original investment, and it gives you a great deal of versatility. The mic is around $800 depending on where you get it, and each capsule is $500. Each one has different responses, which can be applied to just about any studio recording application
  2. gold-plated cabling, Mogami, whatever - your mic is only as good as the wires it is connected to, no matter how much you spend.
  3. Strong open-backed mixing headphones and a decent amp that can boost the bass response. Mixing only gets you so far when you are listening to your songs on crappy cans.
  4. An electronic, midi triggering drum kit (and couple it with EZ or Superior Drummer or something like it). This is sooooo much better than creating drums on the keyboard or altering samples from some program. The $600 I spent on my Yamaha DTXplorer is some of the best money I've invested in the studio, as it has really opened up my ability to create, and it doesn't take up too much space in my little apartment. I'm not a good drummer, but one of the wonderful things about MIDI is that you can layer each part. It's certainly not the best kit out there, but it's very upgradable (2 and 3 way triggering pads), and as long as it's not meant for live shows, but rather, MIDI triggering only, I think you'd be happy
It's all about budget though, isn't it? $1000 will do a lot. $200 won't.
Old 1st January 2011
  #27
Gear Nut
 
jimthepisces's Avatar
 

cporro - the EV RE20 is awesome! I did a vocal mic shootout with all the mics in the studio I work at and listened to the clips then ranked them without knowing which one was which...besides the U87 (which was the clear winner) I was shocked to find that the RE20 was a close 2nd and sounds great with my voice! and this was out of like 15 mics. Anyways, I think the sm57 is dead useful, I just haven't seen many engineers grabbing the sm7...any suggestions for applications?

orangepegs - its funny you mention the dtxplorer because i just got that set a few weeks ago! folds up nicely in my closet and with addictive drums, sounds fantastic. Super easy to configure as well. I haven't used it on any tracks yet tho...

I would like to demo the bottle rocket...or hear a shootout...bottle rocket vs. U87 anyone??

As far as headphones go, I have a couple pairs of Sennheiser HD280's and I love em. Between them and my studiophile monitors I think I get an accurate picture of what I'm listening to, especially since I've had em for years and I'm used to em.

Alright this is getting a little long-winded. I think I'm probably going to save up a bit and grab the black lion auteur, a couple gold XLR's and either a matched pair of 414's or a U87...
Old 1st January 2011
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
cporro's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimthepisces View Post
cporro - the EV RE20 is awesome! I did a vocal mic shootout with all the mics in the studio I work at and listened to the clips then ranked them without knowing which one was which...besides the U87 (which was the clear winner) I was shocked to find that the RE20 was a close 2nd and sounds great with my voice! and this was out of like 15 mics. Anyways, I think the sm57 is dead useful, I just haven't seen many engineers grabbing the sm7...any suggestions for applications?
the re-20 was a rec from someone who knows mics pretty well. you can check out Discussions - rec.audio.pro | Google Groups

i think it was scott dorsey's rec. he's prob done lots of stuff but i used to read his stuff in recording magazine. think that was the mag.

my takes on the sm7 is it's a flatter version of the sm57. so i'm thinking about guitar cab, also it delivers a much more punctual kick drum then my akg 112 d. still i like thumpy kick so the akg stays.

i'm getting a yamaha dtx 550k this week i hope. will trigger bfd 2.

so what was it about the u87 that made it the clear winner?

when it comes to vocals it seems like so many mics can work if they are a good match. i've heard of big big time pop people using things like the sm58. i actually like the 57 for my voice.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #29
Gear Nut
 
jimthepisces's Avatar
 

Well its kind of hard to explain how the U87 sounded better. Basically, when I was doing the blind test, I was switching around and kept recognizing it as the most warm, full, detailed and pleasing - and it turned out to be the 87. The clear winner, at least for my vocal cords.
Old 4th January 2011
  #30
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cporro View Post
when it comes to vocals it seems like so many mics can work if they are a good match. i've heard of big big time pop people using things like the sm58. i actually like the 57 for my voice.
I'm personally surprised at the high level of support the SM58 gets in this forum. I think it's way overhyped, and really only good for live shows because of its durability. And I don't think it even belongs in the same room as a U87. one is found on any pay to play stage in the US, and the other is found in the top recording studios in the world. And I'd even recommend the Audix OM2 any day of the week over that SM58. I just don't think it provides a very good, clear signal, and there tends to be a lot of noise from it. It's one of the best in its class, but I think for recording, it's just the wrong class altogether. In fact, I don't recommend dynamics at all for recording vocals. I think you get a lot more accuracy, layers, clarity, and versatility (because of the clarity) with your condensers, particularly the large-diaphragm condensers. If you haven't played around with a good one, I recommend it. It changed everything I know about recording vocals when I received it in the mail... particularly that you don't have to record something knowing that there is going to be an EQ'ing event later. I find that the dynamics, particularly those at the <$100 price point, kind of mush everything together, and by doing so, it takes away from all of the different layers we may have to offer.

In regards to the DTXplorer, have fun! I love that thing. the velocity sensors may need tweaking depending on how hard you hit, but they do very well overall, and I'm very eager to add the multi-triggering pads later on, which is a great selling point for that machine. Ultimately, I recommend tracking using it for MIDI, not the sounds on it. May sound good when you are playing it, but if you put it next to something like EZdrummer, you'll see right away how limited it is... I especially notice it with the high-hat. There are two sounds with the DTXplorer's kit, open and shut. With EZ drummer, you get a whole spectrum of sounds depending on how much you press the pedal. I have had serious problems getting the mapping to work properly on Sonar, which is a drag, but it just adds another step, nothing I can't live with for now.

Last edited by orangepegs; 4th January 2011 at 11:38 PM.. Reason: because i said so
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