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What's the next step?
Old 10th May 2019
  #1
What's the next step?

So I've been thinking about my home project studio and what might be a good next piece to improve the sound quality. Here's what I have:

Interface/Converter:
RME Fireface 800

Preamps/DI:
BAE 1028 preamp x2
BAE 312A
Phoenix Audio DRS-2
Great River ME-1NV
Presonus ADL 600
A-Designs Reddi

Compressor:
BAE 10DC

Monitoring:
Event Opal
Central Station (not using converter, just analog section)

Mics:
Audio Technica - 4060, 4040 2x, 4033
AKG - 414 B-ULS
Shure - SM58, SM7
Audix - D6, i5
Electro-Voice N/D868
Sennheiser - 421 2x, 441

Software:
Cubase 7
Waves (all)
Soundtoys (all)
Altiverb

If you were to buy one piece to improve the quality what would it be? Something in the sub $1000 dollar range, something in the $2k range, and something in the $4k range. I record 99% of the time with 1-2 channels. 99% of the time it's recording my own projects and the music is indie rock and synth based stuff with vocals. I like radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, Cage the Elephant, Drab Majesty and Max Richter.

Thanks for any and all input.
Old 11th May 2019
  #2
Anyone?
Old 11th May 2019
  #3
Since you record 1-2 channels at a time I would think about a higher end ADA converter for tracking and monitoring. Crane Song Quantum HEDD or the Mytek Brooklyn ADA (two separate units) are both stellar. I’m not familiar with the Events, but the KH310 or Focal Twin6 Be are both nice speakers.
Old 11th May 2019
  #4
Thanks for the input Nathan

I actually looked into the focals and decided on the Opals, back in the day. I guess Event discontinued them.

Converters are something I’ve been looking at, especially the HEDD quantum and Dangerous AD+. But how much of a difference are we talking here, compared to the fireface 800? That’s some serious money for the conversion. If I got an AD only and not a DA, would I be able to hear a difference, using my FF800 DA?
Old 11th May 2019
  #5
The DAC is always more important IME. Especially when you already have something solid like the RME. But yes it will be a nice step up and is going to give you a clearer picture of reality in both the actual recording process and the mixing process. Mastering guys use the ones I mentioned for a reason (among others).
Old 11th May 2019
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

Wow you call that a "home studio"

Dude I have Nt1 and Steinberg UR12
Old 11th May 2019
  #7
Lives for gear
Now you need to add the instruments....

Guitars? Drums? Synths?..... Vocalists?

And the people to play them?
Old 11th May 2019
  #8
Thanks Nathan, so even though I mix 100% itb a dac would be more important than an adc? It seems like that’s only what I hear and wouldn’t actually affect the actual source recordings. I have zero experience with any converters outside of the 800, so this is all new to me.

Alan, it’s a slippery slope, being a gearslut trust me it was way easier to record, when I had less gear.

Noisewagon, I’ve got plenty of those. But yes, that’s a whole other forum to ask haha.
Old 11th May 2019
  #9
I'd probably forgo the conversion for either a high end microphone (87ai) or another flavor of compression. I'd also recommend a patch bay or some way to track in parallel with compression on the way in. That said, you do have these bases pretty well covered, so the conversion suggestion might be a good way to go after all. That said, I'm plenty content with the conversion my UFX+ gives me.
Old 11th May 2019
  #10
Yeah, a good mic might be something to try. I’ve always liked the SM7 on my voice 80% of the time with the other using the 4060. But might be good to have another sound with a condenser for vocals, though. A patch bay is something I’ve thought about for routing gear a bit better, as well. I do have sort of a make shift XLR front panel pass through, but it’s not really a true patch bay.

I still wonder if a top end AD / DA converter would improve the sound of everything, really revealing the true nature of the source. For reference, I feel like preamps make a difference, but maybe like 5-10% (more maybe with a dynamic). Compared to say a mic change 30-40% or even greater, the mic placement 50% or more. But I heard someone say that even with a great preamp you’re still running it through the line amp of the converter. So everything gets colored by that. It made me wonder if I’d hear a bigger difference with a purer or more true analog line amp, and clock, ie better converters. Like everything is bottlenecked by the converter first. Does that make any sense? or is this going to be like a sub 5% difference that on a good day with perfect conditions I might hear? I’m not looking for minute differences.
Old 11th May 2019
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sword in Hand View Post
Yeah, a good mic might be something to try. I’ve always liked the SM7 on my voice 80% of the time with the other using the 4060. But might be good to have another sound with a condenser for vocals, though. A patch bay is something I’ve thought about for routing gear a bit better, as well. I do have sort of a make shift XLR front panel pass through, but it’s not really a true patch bay.

I still wonder if a top end AD / DA converter would improve the sound of everything, really revealing the true nature of the source. For reference, I feel like preamps make a difference, but maybe like 5-10% (more maybe with a dynamic). Compared to say a mic change 30-40% or even greater, the mic placement 50% or more. But I heard someone say that even with a great preamp you’re still running it through the line amp of the converter. So everything gets colored by that. It made me wonder if I’d hear a bigger difference with a purer or more true analog line amp, and clock, ie better converters. Like everything is bottlenecked by the converter first. Does that make any sense? or is this going to be like a sub 5% difference that on a good day with perfect conditions I might hear? I’m not looking for minute differences.
you said nothing about your acoustic treatment...

All that gear is worthless if you play in an ordinary room.. so... You can always try to reach a flatter freq. response
Old 11th May 2019
  #12
I have bass trapping and reflections covered. Forgot to mention. Also, all cabling is Mogami or Canare.
Old 11th May 2019
  #13
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sword in Hand View Post
I have bass trapping and reflections covered. Forgot to mention. Also, all cabling is Mogami or Canare.
Dude... you're ready to hit the record button.

I have nothing to add. Your studio is my dream studio. I am so happy for you

Maybe just keep saving up to buy one of those Neumanns because clients are often dumb and only want that to see it as a "proof" that you're a pro. lol

They are like .... serious suspecious face* "so umm.. what is your microphone?"
Old 12th May 2019
  #14
It’s funny, several years ago I would have killed for a setup like the one I have. But now that I have it, I create less and chase gear more. Then I hear someone with less gear do something amazing and I realize it was never the gear, it’s the song, the passion and intention. Occasionally gear has helped me do something I couldn’t before or inspired me to make something, but it’s vanity eventually. I think you’re right Alan, I need to start having fun recording now.
Old 12th May 2019
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sword in Hand View Post
It’s funny, several years ago I would have killed for a setup like the one I have. But now that I have it, I create less and chase gear more. Then I hear someone with less gear do something amazing and I realize it was never the gear, it’s the song, the passion and intention. Occasionally gear has helped me do something I couldn’t before or inspired me to make something, but it’s vanity eventually. I think you’re right Alan, I need to start having fun recording now.
I definitely know the feeling...

I used to make stuff every day..

Then I got into treating my room, getting a decent mic and audio interface... got some panels and a flat line on freq. response test.

Then I just sit there and watch my studio and think waow, looks nice now I could do more, I could do this, I could do that. Not realizing it has been 3 months since I recorded anything haha.

I think it is somehow a mechanism how brain is either too lazy to make new stuff or too afraid to step up and hit that record button. Instead it finds comfort in gear worship. That is how I felt and just yesterday I decided to snap out of it and let myself go and record stuff... haha
Old 12th May 2019
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanWalk View Post
Dude... you're ready to hit the record button.

I have nothing to add. Your studio is my dream studio. I am so happy for you

Maybe just keep saving up to buy one of those Neumanns because clients are often dumb and only want that to see it as a "proof" that you're a pro. lol

They are like .... serious suspecious face* "so umm.. what is your microphone?"

All joking aside, I often read up here how folks tout a Neumann as an option for impressing clients. I don't take clients, but my 87 gets more use around here than pretty much all of my other microphones combined these days.

Granted it's a Klaus mod, but I still feel excited every time I sing through it. It really was a revelation on my voice.
Old 13th May 2019
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sword in Hand View Post
It’s funny, several years ago I would have killed for a setup like the one I have. But now that I have it, I create less and chase gear more. Then I hear someone with less gear do something amazing and I realize it was never the gear, it’s the song, the passion and intention. Occasionally gear has helped me do something I couldn’t before or inspired me to make something, but it’s vanity eventually. I think you’re right Alan, I need to start having fun recording now.
Ha! Well this is your answer.

Old 13th May 2019
  #18
Gear Nut
 

You have a very nice setup. Buy an internet control app that lets you block off searching gearslutz, Sweetwater...whatever sites are feeding your GAS and preventing you from making music.

The one thing it seems you know you’re not setup for is drums or full band tracking. You said 99% of the time you’re not doing full band or drums. If that’s really true, your money will be best spent buying things that will help you make music that aren’t gear: vacation time from work, nice artwork, some good liquor/herb/whatever your preferred poison.

However, if 99% really means like 80% and you do want to track drums and/or full band, snag a good 8 channel preamp (ATI 8Mx2, Audient ASP, ISA 828, JML TMP8...), a headphone amp, and a few pairs of cans. That would really open up your flexibility.
Old 13th May 2019
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanWalk View Post
I definitely know the feeling...

I used to make stuff every day..

Then I got into treating my room, getting a decent mic and audio interface... got some panels and a flat line on freq. response test.

Then I just sit there and watch my studio and think waow, looks nice now I could do more, I could do this, I could do that. Not realizing it has been 3 months since I recorded anything haha.

I think it is somehow a mechanism how brain is either too lazy to make new stuff or too afraid to step up and hit that record button. Instead it finds comfort in gear worship. That is how I felt and just yesterday I decided to snap out of it and let myself go and record stuff... haha
Totally relate and agree with this. I needed this to wake me up. Thank you!

Quote:
All joking aside, I often read up here how folks tout a Neumann as an option for impressing clients. I don't take clients, but my 87 gets more use around here than pretty much all of my other microphones combined these days.

Granted it's a Klaus mod, but I still feel excited every time I sing through it. It really was a revelation on my voice.
Now you're making me want one, haha. I do think mics are ridiculously subjective and voice / style / song specific. But glad that your mic has really improved your tone and added excitement to your recording process.

Quote:
You have a very nice setup. Buy an internet control app that lets you block off searching gearslutz, Sweetwater...whatever sites are feeding your GAS and preventing you from making music.

The one thing it seems you know you’re not setup for is drums or full band tracking. You said 99% of the time you’re not doing full band or drums. If that’s really true, your money will be best spent buying things that will help you make music that aren’t gear: vacation time from work, nice artwork, some good liquor/herb/whatever your preferred poison.

However, if 99% really means like 80% and you do want to track drums and/or full band, snag a good 8 channel preamp (ATI 8Mx2, Audient ASP, ISA 828, JML TMP8...), a headphone amp, and a few pairs of cans. That would really open up your flexibility.
I've thought about an internet control app, seriously! Now it's being echoed, this sounds like a good idea. As for more pres and phones, that would make sense if I recorded other people / bands. But if I record live drums, I do it by myself. So 10 channels is plenty for my needs. I only record my own music and scores, but if that changes down the road, I will consider. Thanks.
Old 13th May 2019
  #20
I did think of one thing. A patchbay. At this point, I have an XLR passthrough panel and it allows me to plug in to any of my preamps. But my routing options are extremely limited. For instance, if I want to route my API through the line level input of the 1028 for eq. Or route my Great River through the 10DC comp, I would have to get to the back of my rack, which isn't really practical. But then I started looking at patch bays and WOW! those are expensive!! Plus all the cabling!!! $$$

How many channels would I need? I was counting and it seems like 8 preamps, plus 8 AD, plus 8 DA, plus comp in / out / any future outboard. So at least 32 (16 in/16 out) since they come in multiples of 8?

Any one have a cheaper idea or affordable patchbay that works well? I was looking at the blue Switchcraft ones, a Redco (which was half the price) but both of these are way too many channels for my needs.
Old 13th May 2019
  #21
Maybe this one...

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/det...anced-patchbay

I know you can spend thousands on patchbays but this one seems well-liked.
Old 13th May 2019
  #22
Lives for gear
 
bowzin's Avatar
My suggestion would be more high-end mics, like another tube mic, or ribbon mic like an AEA R44, R88, Coles 4038, etc.

Also, I like that Samson S-Patch as well for a home studio situation. It's cheap, uses TRS vs. more exotic TT or something, and it is stupid easy to change normaling with the front-panel switch (most high-end ones you have to open them up to make changes). Also I personally cannot hear it coloring anything.

Only thing though, is that most all your outboard gear is preamps. I haven't really mastered using preamps with a (cheap/home-studio-oriented) patchbay. You generally don't want to run phantom power through your patchbay (maybe that's different on high-end patchbays, I don't know). That means not connecting the inputs of your preamps to your patchbay, which kind of sucks.

Here's an example to get started, I'm just going to act like you have 8 preamps, and the RME has 8 AD ins and 8 DA outs (I know it has more, but to keep this example simple):

-You said you have an XLR pass-through panel thing for your preamps. So plug your preamp inputs into your XLR panel. This way phantom power won't go through the patchbay, but you can still plug/unplug everything from the front of your rack.

-On the patchbay, stick with "outs over ins". So plug your 8 preamp outputs into the top row of your patchbay channels 1-8.

-Then plug the RME's AD inputs 1-8 to the bottom row 1-8 of the patchbay.

Now set each patchbay channels 1-8 to "normaled" and this will automatically internally connect the top row to the bottom row (without a patch cable). So your 8 preamp outputs are now hitting your 8 RME inputs, and no patch cables are being used. If you do want to re-route stuff, simply connect a patch cable, and it will "break" the internal connection, and you can route however you want. "Semi-normaled" is the same thing, except when you connect a patch cable, it WON'T break the internal connection (meaning it keeps both the internal connection, and the connection to your patch cable, splitting the signal into two signals, opening a bunch of other possibilities). And the third option on the Samson I think they call "Thru" and that means there is no internal connection at all, so any routing connections must have a patch cable doing the connecting, nothing internal.

Next step would be plugging the RME's DA channels 1-8 to the top row of patchbay channels 9-16. On the bottom row of channels 9-16, attached the inputs of your non-preamp outboard gear, like your compressor. This way, when set to normaled, your RME's DA is hitting the top row of 9-16, and connecting internally to the bottom row inputs of your outboard units like compressors, eq's, etc. Again it saves you from having to use a patch cable for every single connection.
Old 14th May 2019
  #23
Hello people thanks for the money saving patchbay suggestion!

Bowzin wow! Thanks for vouching for the Samson too and sharing the setup info. The normaled mode will save a lot of money on patch cables. I was thinking you could only patch more like the thru mode. So, glad to learn that. But I would like a way to route from a pre to the comp and have that go back into the ad. I guess it’s just using another set of outs.

As far as mics, when I get a bit more saved, I will look into some higher end tube options and a ribbon too.

This is why I love gs, so many helpful people who know way more than I do.
Old 14th May 2019
  #24
Lives for gear
Sorry, I farted a little. Like farting in church.
Old 14th May 2019
  #25
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Noisewagon View Post
Sorry, I farted a little. Like farting in church.
what?
Old 14th May 2019
  #26
Lives for gear
You have all the goods, make me a song!
Old 14th May 2019
  #27
I fully support that Samson S-Patch Pro recommendation. I found patchbays a difficult thing to wrap my head around until I finally got one, at which point I wondered why I'd waited so long. It has had a huge effect on my workflow. When I consider the cost of the thing it seems like a joke for how much value I get out of it. The main benefit is that it gives me easy access to all of my gear. The cabling ends up being pretty costly, enough so to almost justify making your own ..almost

It never really occurred to me how easy half-normaling makes parallel processing and tracking until I got it all set up.

I go into a little more detail in this thread:
I don’t need no stinkin’ patchbay

This one in particular maybe:
I don’t need no stinkin’ patchbay
Old 14th May 2019
  #28
Yeah, the patch seems decent and helpful. But, oh my, the cabling is going to be like 300-500 dollars :face palm:

I'm using mostly Mogami and a bit of Canare and probably some junk here and there. What cabling are you guys using with your S-Patch / patch bays? I know there are cheaper alternatives (like redco), anybody attest to differences or what really matters (connectors vs cable, brand, etc.)? So tempted to get the generic stuff on amazon that would be like 1/10th the cost haha. But I know this is what everything is going through and it needs last (at least the patch cables) and sound great.

I've soldered just a tiny bit, it seems easy enough to solder cables. But are there tools that would start to add up for that, like special wire strippers and other odds and ends, that I would need? Also, is it easy or is it a pain to actually do it? I also have some extra mogami cabling (bought at a garage sale) that could be resoldered for TRS I think (it's part of a snake and some other random cables), maybe this would be worth using, thoughts?

Thanks again everybody!
Old 15th May 2019
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sword in Hand View Post
Yeah, the patch seems decent and helpful. But, oh my, the cabling is going to be like 300-500 dollars :face palm:

I'm using mostly Mogami and a bit of Canare and probably some junk here and there. What cabling are you guys using with your S-Patch / patch bays? I know there are cheaper alternatives (like redco), anybody attest to differences or what really matters (connectors vs cable, brand, etc.)? So tempted to get the generic stuff on amazon that would be like 1/10th the cost haha. But I know this is what everything is going through and it needs last (at least the patch cables) and sound great.

I've soldered just a tiny bit, it seems easy enough to solder cables. But are there tools that would start to add up for that, like special wire strippers and other odds and ends, that I would need? Also, is it easy or is it a pain to actually do it? I also have some extra mogami cabling (bought at a garage sale) that could be resoldered for TRS I think (it's part of a snake and some other random cables), maybe this would be worth using, thoughts?

Thanks again everybody!
I've hand built most of my cabling now. Advantages: You get exactly the length and connectors you need, and you pay about half the cost. Disadvantages, building cables sucks. It's time intensive and kind of a pain and still not terribly cheap, but it does start to make sense why they cost so much.. That said, I'm glad to have done it. I must have built 50+ cables. TRS are more difficult than xlr, but both take time and a decent set of tools. The start up cost is somewhat significant, but if you cable up all of your i/o through your patchbay you will probably still pay less for tools and cabling than you would buying the cables retail.

I'm told redco IS mogami by a trusted resource, though I can't verify that personally. The truth is that even the mogami wire itself is not terribly expensive by the foot, but the connectors get pricey.

The work itself gets easier with the right tools and planning forsure. It's best to break the process down into stages. First, ALWAYS build cable in batches. Figure out exactly what cables you need. Cut the wire to length, then measure and mark the ends for stripping the outer jacket. Next twist the shielding. Then mark then strip the inner wire jackets. (Neutrik publishes the exact measurements for their connectors, as I'm sure, do the others. file:///Users/michael.markus/Downloads/xlr-xx-series.pdf).

Use a good quality klein tools wire stripper of the appropriate sizes. One tool will cover all of your needs. Your wrists will thank you. Next tin the stripped ends of the wire. After that you tin the contact points on your connectors. Make sure to assemble the connector boot onto the cable before you solder the connector or you will have a bad time.

After that comes soldering the wire to the connectors, testing the cables and finally putting together the cable assembly. It's a many stage process, but if you batch each stage it goes more quickly and you'll get more done and do better work.

You'd probably want a decent soldering iron with a medium angled tip, a vice or helping hand to line up multiple cables or connectors for soldering, a decent pair of tweezers, maybe a magnifier if you are old like me and a multimeter for testing that the finished cables all pass signal. For reference, I find mogami MUCH easier to work with than Canare. Gotham GAC3 (mic level) and GAC4 (line level) are very good too. I use neutrik connectors because why not, after all I've spent on the studio.. Switchcraft TRS seem fine as well.

These are the parts I use and prices I last paid:

XLR Female: Neutrik NC3FXX-B $3.78
XLR Male: Neutrik NC3MXX-B $3.41
TRS: Neutrik NP3X-B $5.48
Wire: Mogami W2549 $0.80/ft

Redco, Markertek, Zack Electronics, etc.. are usually pretty competitively priced. Just figure out what you need and then put together a cart to see your total price with shipping.

It's honestly no fun, but now that I have all of my cabling needs met, with every piece of outboard wired through my patchbay, normalled or half-normalled into my interface (and vice versa), and every cable is exactly the correct length, I'm very happy I did it.

Anyways, hope that helps.
Old 15th May 2019
  #30
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by themiracle View Post
I've hand built most of my cabling now. Advantages: You get exactly the length and connectors you need, and you pay about half the cost. Disadvantages, building cables sucks. It's time intensive and kind of a pain and still not terribly cheap, but it does start to make sense why they cost so much.. That said, I'm glad to have done it. I must have built 50+ cables. TRS are more difficult than xlr, but both take time and a decent set of tools. The start up cost is somewhat significant, but if you cable up all of your i/o through your patchbay you will probably still pay less for tools and cabling than you would buying the cables retail.

I'm told redco IS mogami by a trusted resource, though I can't verify that personally. The truth is that even the mogami wire itself is not terribly expensive by the foot, but the connectors get pricey.

The work itself gets easier with the right tools and planning forsure. It's best to break the process down into stages. First, ALWAYS build cable in batches. Figure out exactly what cables you need. Cut the wire to length, then measure and mark the ends for stripping the outer jacket. Next twist the shielding. Then mark then strip the inner wire jackets. (Neutrik publishes the exact measurements for their connectors, as I'm sure, do the others. file:///Users/michael.markus/Downloads/xlr-xx-series.pdf).

Use a good quality klein tools wire stripper of the appropriate sizes. One tool will cover all of your needs. Your wrists will thank you. Next tin the stripped ends of the wire. After that you tin the contact points on your connectors. Make sure to assemble the connector boot onto the cable before you solder the connector or you will have a bad time.

After that comes soldering the wire to the connectors, testing the cables and finally putting together the cable assembly. It's a many stage process, but if you batch each stage it goes more quickly and you'll get more done and do better work.

You'd probably want a decent soldering iron with a medium angled tip, a vice or helping hand to line up multiple cables or connectors for soldering, a decent pair of tweezers, maybe a magnifier if you are old like me and a multimeter for testing that the finished cables all pass signal. For reference, I find mogami MUCH easier to work with than Canare. Gotham GAC3 (mic level) and GAC4 (line level) are very good too. I use neutrik connectors because why not, after all I've spent on the studio.. Switchcraft TRS seem fine as well.

These are the parts I use and prices I last paid:

XLR Female: Neutrik NC3FXX-B $3.78
XLR Male: Neutrik NC3MXX-B $3.41
TRS: Neutrik NP3X-B $5.48
Wire: Mogami W2549 $0.80/ft

Redco, Markertek, Zack Electronics, etc.. are usually pretty competitively priced. Just figure out what you need and then put together a cart to see your total price with shipping.

It's honestly no fun, but now that I have all of my cabling needs met, with every piece of outboard wired through my patchbay, normalled or half-normalled into my interface (and vice versa), and every cable is exactly the correct length, I'm very happy I did it.

Anyways, hope that helps.

Does cable length influence the noise levels?
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