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Interface OR Preamps?
Old 13th August 2019
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
konkon's Avatar
Interface OR Preamps?

Hi all. I have a question. If I have a choice either to buy an interface and use the preamps on that OR buy some preamps to use through a Behringer mixer for doing some recording, but can't afford to do both, which do you think would be the best option?

For example:

An interface such as the Clarett 8prex or Apollo x8p and use the preamps built in...

OR

Just use the Behringer XR18 to record and invest in preamps to run into it.

I guess what the question boils down to is whether the interface is more important or the preamps. I suppose this could be an endless debate, but I am interested to hear what everyone thinks, since I would not know what to do in this situation.

Any opinions welcome, thank you.
Old 13th August 2019
  #2
Here for the gear
As always, it depends....the quality of your mics, what you're recording, how many channels you need (e.g., is it worth investing in a couple premium channels or a bunch of decent channels)...

That being said! I'd go for a solid, reliable interface with pres that you trust and that overall sound good/consistent/transparent. Always look for your bottleneck. If this is your first interface purchase, the bottleneck probably isn't your pres, so focus on utility for your pre/IO needs, and then direct your more liberal purchasing towards mics or something that'll have a greater impact overall. The interface you mention is a great place to start and one that'll suit your needs for years while you build up your mic collection and more.

Great question!
Old 13th August 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
 
DCtoDaylight's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tariq View Post
As always, it depends....the quality of your mics, what you're recording, how many channels you need (e.g., is it worth investing in a couple premium channels or a bunch of decent channels)...

That being said! I'd go for a solid, reliable interface with pres that you trust and that overall sound good/consistent/transparent. Always look for your bottleneck. If this is your first interface purchase, the bottleneck probably isn't your pres, so focus on utility for your pre/IO needs, and then direct your more liberal purchasing towards mics or something that'll have a greater impact overall. The interface you mention is a great place to start and one that'll suit your needs for years while you build up your mic collection and more.

Great question!
This is excellent advice! The preamps (and converters) in today's quality interfaces are generally quite good; certainly to the point where, as Tariq says, they would not be the primary barrier/bottleneck to getting a good recording for some time to come. Getting set up with a system that's convenient and easy to work with is also an incentive to spend more time recording and less time fussing with equipment, and that's by far the best thing you can do to improve your skills and the quality of what you're producing.
Old 13th August 2019
  #4
Gear Guru
 

Think about what your interface is, it's basically ins and outs. It has preamps and it has conversion. It may have "features" like two headphone jacks instead of one. (the Apollo has the ability to run plugins and track through them with minimal latency) The differences in "features" you should decide based on your workflow. I would not expect to hear major differences in the onboard preamps from one brand to the next.

While there obviously some differences, I would say the included preamps on any given interface are roughly equivalent to the preamps in another. I would also feel roughly the same about conversion.

Quote:
invest in preamps to run into it.
If you want to upgrade your sonic bottom line, however, you should be prepared to spend some money. Just because you can purchase a preamp that comes in its own box, doesn't mean it is appreciably better than your stock pres. A decent outboard preamp will cost as much as your interface. A good one, closer to twice as much. So when you think about a manufacturer including 8 preamps along with a whole interface, you start to get an idea of how they probably stack up. True, high-end audio is an area of diminishing returns, but Front End stuff is especially so. Don't throw small amounts of money at a bunch of cheap things that are going to end up being mainly a "sidegrade". Save up and get one really good item.

I have a friend who just opened his studio. His first client was relatively clueless, but had just enough audio learnin' to be dangerous. The guy insisted on tracking through an "outboard" preamp. My friend had an Apollo. (Which IMO, the preamps are fine.) But my friend did have a $100 starved-plate "toob" outboard preamp and the customer was "well OK then!" IMO, he might have been better off staying in the Apollo.

Quote:
which do you think would be the best option?
IMO the most important thing is the microphones. Which you have not mentioned. Do you already have really excellent mics? Most modern interface preamps are perfectly serviceable if you don't need to push them and aren't looking for color. Most modern conversion is nearly invisible except if you really really "lean in".

I recommend to people starting out that they follow a "golden channel" philosophy. Especially if you are doing a lot of overdubbing. One great mic, one great preamp.

The allocation of your budget, depends on your philosophy. My philosophy is that the order of importance to your sound is:
1. instruments
2. room
3. microphones
4. preamps
5. conversion

I place microphones above preamps and conversion and my guess is that I am not alone in this ordering of priorities. There are some people here on GS who will tell you to get a high-end preamp and use it with your SM57. I am not one of them.
Old 13th August 2019
  #5
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by DCtoDaylight View Post
Getting set up with a system that's convenient and easy to work with is also an incentive to spend more time recording and less time fussing with equipment, and that's by far the best thing you can do to improve your skills and the quality of what you're producing.
Couldn't agree more DC! In recent years, many of my purchases have been centered around the question of what will make the process easier and more accessible for me. As I have a completely unrelated day job, I need to minimize the time and effort it takes to use what daylight (or moonlight) remains in the studio. Great way to invest in your studio career.
Old 14th August 2019
  #6
If those were the only two choices, I'd go with the Apollo route and gain a brilliant plugin infrastructure as well as the interface. Then you've got access to the Unison pres/tracking through quality hardware emulations if you want. You can build up an "analogue workflow" and still invest in outboard pres further down the line.

But I've never used the Behringer, it might be fine. I don't know how many channels of outboard pres you'd need, or what your budget would be for those, or if a single great input chain would work for you!
Old 14th August 2019
  #7
Gear Nut
I agree with other people saying preamps are fairly low on the list of priorities. I am happy with the built in preamps on my XR18 and will sometimes add some color using the Kush Omega series plugins. Being able to use it for live gigs and creating great monitor mixes in the studio is a huge plus for me.
Old 14th August 2019
  #8
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
Interface preamps are generally not impressive.

Outboard preamps with a good enough pedigree, that suit your ears and the way you hear things, could be considered a permanent, long term tool. You will upgrade your interface in a few years and keep your nice preamps. In this sense, a pair of really good preamps is a smart thing to invest in early in the game.

Cheap interfaces will bottleneck everything you do, from inputs, to monitor outputs, to headphone amps. I would consider a cheapish interface to be a place holder purchase while you learn the craft and skill of recording, until eventually you step up to something in the mid range, where the quality really starts to open up.

Having gone down the Apollo rabbit hole for a few years, I wouldn't really recommend it. You end up spending a ton of money that could have been used on other gear. In my mind there are many viable alternatives to the Apollo system.
Old 14th August 2019
  #9
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
If you want to upgrade your sonic bottom line, however, you should be prepared to spend some money. Just because you can purchase a preamp that comes in its own box, doesn't mean it is appreciably better than your stock pres. A decent outboard preamp will cost as much as your interface. A good one, closer to twice as much.Most modern conversion is nearly invisible except if you really really "lean in".
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
Outboard preamps with a good enough pedigree, that suit your ears and the way you hear things, could be considered a permanent, long term tool. You will upgrade your interface in a few years and keep your nice preamps.
The above observations mirror my own experience over the last dozen years or so. Back then I spent $1K+ for a good preamp while I was still going in through an MBox. Since then I have upgraded my interface twice while staying with that original preamp (I only need one good channel for my stuff).

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Most modern conversion is nearly invisible except if you really really "lean in".
Just a side comment on that statement........I just upgraded to Audient id24. With that conversion upgrade for the first time I am able to dig in a little harder with my preamp gain.
Old 15th August 2019
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
Interface preamps are generally not impressive.
I think at the lower end that's fair.

Once you start getting into the Apollo/Apogee area, you're starting to get quality "clean" pres. Maybe not massively colourful stuff, but if you can't do it with that etc etc.

Quote:
Having gone down the Apollo rabbit hole for a few years, I wouldn't really recommend it. You end up spending a ton of money that could have been used on other gear. In my mind there are many viable alternatives to the Apollo system.
HDX. I don't know that there's anything else that works as good on the native side. Suggestions?
Old 15th August 2019
  #11
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
I think at the lower end that's fair.

Once you start getting into the Apollo/Apogee area, you're starting to get quality "clean" pres. Maybe not massively colourful stuff, but if you can't do it with that etc etc.
That's a good point, Psycho Monkey, I generally operate in the mid price range. When you are buying a $2000+ interface, those preamps better be pretty good.

However I have found that Tascam is an exception to this rule. I love a lot of the Tascam preamps, in the middle price range. I am about to buy a Series 8P Dyna. Just been waiting for them to start shipping. UH7000 is the benchmark for me, same pres. HDIA they call them.

A lot of the lower priced interface pres are mediocre and don't really stand apart from one another. Apollo preamps are pretty good like you said.

Quote:
HDX. I don't know that there's anything else that works as good on the native side. Suggestions?
I am personally on a Presonus Quantum rig. I do use a UAD Satellite since I own a bunch of UAD plugins that I still use.

Latency is so low that all of my native stuff "effectively" operates in pseudo-real-time, if I need that. Which I do, fairly often. And I don't have to pay the UAD premium. Or worry about SHARC limitations.

Some would suggest RME for similar performance. Those are quite a bit more expensive though.
Old 15th August 2019
  #12
Gear Head
Wow, those are really different interfaces in quality and price. I know because I have both. The preamps in Claretts are not worthwhile, the Unisons with a Neve 1073 plugin in the Apollo x8p are pretty good. The Clarett is $1000; the Apollo is $3000. The Apollo is in my opinion, a professional tool. The Clarett is kind of an intermediate step though it serves quite well now as an ADAT slave for an extra 8 channels to the Apollo.

I also have a 500 rack with some Neve Designs and an API and some modded DBXs. Sometimes I use the external hardware, sometimes I use the Apollo Unisons, sometimes even the Clarett channels for things like hihat mics. All the stuff people are saying about mics and room and instruments are true but 1. You're not asking about that and 2. You may not be at the point where you can judge these things well. My idea of a good Mic or room sound has changed drastically over the last ten years.
Old 15th August 2019
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
I am personally on a Presonus Quantum rig. I do use a UAD Satellite since I own a bunch of UAD plugins that I still use.

Latency is so low that all of my native stuff "effectively" operates in pseudo-real-time, if I need that. Which I do, fairly often. And I don't have to pay the UAD premium. Or worry about SHARC limitations.

Some would suggest RME for similar performance. Those are quite a bit more expensive though.
hmmm...I've just never had "through" latency that's as good as "near zero". there's always a lag - it sometimes isn't noticeable on its own, until you compare to true near zero latency, and then you realise what didn't feel right.

Never used the Presonus stuff, so maybe it's got really low latency - but you're still going to be risking that everytime you add a plug for monitoring, so you have to be aware of it!
Old 15th August 2019
  #14
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
hmmm...I've just never had "through" latency that's as good as "near zero". there's always a lag - it sometimes isn't noticeable on its own, until you compare to true near zero latency, and then you realise what didn't feel right.

Never used the Presonus stuff, so maybe it's got really low latency - but you're still going to be risking that everytime you add a plug for monitoring, so you have to be aware of it!
I use a hardware direct path for vocal monitoring if needed, that's my workaround. With a split from the vocal pre going to the Quantum and also to a Midas DM16 mixer.

For guitar, bass, keys, etc it makes no difference to me to have a tiny few ms of latency.

For vocals it's a big deal though.

Quantum has no direct monitoring. One huge advantage of RME over the Quantum is that RME uses their Total Mix direct monitoring software which would solve the issue I'm having with vocals.
Old 16th August 2019
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
I use a hardware direct path for vocal monitoring if needed, that's my workaround. With a split from the vocal pre going to the Quantum and also to a Midas DM16 mixer.

For guitar, bass, keys, etc it makes no difference to me to have a tiny few ms of latency.

For vocals it's a big deal though.

Quantum has no direct monitoring. One huge advantage of RME over the Quantum is that RME uses their Total Mix direct monitoring software which would solve the issue I'm having with vocals.
That’s definitely my experience, especially with vocals. And with guitars I feel it’s ok, till I try direct and then I realise that’s better (and then I play better). Plus of course, you don’t have to worry so much about playback falling over and so on.

I don’t know how recent the quantum is, but it seems weird that there’s no direct monitoring option in this day and age!
Old 16th August 2019
  #16
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Moonwhistle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
Interface preamps are generally not impressive.

Outboard preamps with a good enough pedigree, that suit your ears and the way you hear things, could be considered a permanent, long term tool. You will upgrade your interface in a few years and keep your nice preamps. In this sense, a pair of really good preamps is a smart thing to invest in early in the game.

Cheap interfaces will bottleneck everything you do, from inputs, to monitor outputs, to headphone amps. I would consider a cheapish interface to be a place holder purchase while you learn the craft and skill of recording, until eventually you step up to something in the mid range, where the quality really starts to open up.

Having gone down the Apollo rabbit hole for a few years, I wouldn't really recommend it. You end up spending a ton of money that could have been used on other gear. In my mind there are many viable alternatives to the Apollo system.
Interface preamps are quite good now and you probably couldn't pick them out against high end clean stuff. Even on the cheap Steinberg interfaces, those D-Pre ones are clean as.
Old 16th August 2019
  #17
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonwhistle View Post
Interface preamps are quite good now and you probably couldn't pick them out against high end clean stuff. Even on the cheap Steinberg interfaces, those D-Pre ones are clean as.
D-Pre is a pretty good one

A lot of people like the Audient ones too.

Tascam HDIA is my favorite.

They all sound very different.

Focusrite and Presonus XMAX stuff is kind of "meh"

Apollo preamps work well enough, and are adaptable with Unison.

High end clean stuff is a very broad category but from what I have heard you are absolutely going to hear a difference.

I stand by my original statement. I have done the shootouts as well to inform my opinion.
Old 16th August 2019
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
D-Pre is a pretty good one

A lot of people like the Audient ones too.

Tascam HDIA is my favorite.

They all sound very different.

Focusrite and Presonus XMAX stuff is kind of "meh"

Apollo preamps work well enough, and are adaptable with Unison.

High end clean stuff is a very broad category but from what I have heard you are absolutely going to hear a difference.

I stand by my original statement. I have done the shootouts as well to inform my opinion.
Yeah, I'd agree with that. Forgot about the Tascam ones on the UH7000, they're great.

I was surprised at how well the D-Pre compared to an AEA TRP.
Old 16th August 2019
  #19
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TurboJets's Avatar
Going with the Apollo x8p is a no-brianer.

What are you waiting for?
Old 16th August 2019
  #20
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
I guess what the question boils down to is whether the interface is more important or the preamps.
They are both important, as is everything in a signal chain; but with a limited budget, a compromise might be an interface with good preamps. I would recommend Audient ID22/44 in that category without a doubt. But depending on your live track count needs, they might not be an option. Otherwise, in general, definitely look to step up from gear like behringer for recording.
Old 19th August 2019
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
konkon's Avatar
Hi guys. Thanks a lot for the replies. Amazing! And so many good tips. Sorry, I should clarify my situation. I didn't really give you guys enough info to go on, though you came up with great tips regardless...

Story time: So maybe this can help you guys understand my situation, why I asked such a weird question and why maybe it will influence your answers a bit.

I am not a gear collector, producer, etc. I am a musician in Hong Kong and thus it's basically impossible to survive here, let alone spend money on gear, hence why not a single musician in the pro scene here has a single professional recording of themselves to show for decades of being a "pro musician", as ludicrous as that may sound, hell some don't even have a simple photo, let alone a record or video. It's laughable when I have to approach sponsors or opportunities overseas and can't even show basic things.

Musicians can't even survive, let alone afford studio time (though there are a bunch of studios), nor studio gear. There are people who own studio gear but they are wealthy by other means and are not musicians. They are hobbyists that come from rich families, or do well in other fields of work. So things are kinda backwards here. However the catch 22 is, I cannot break out of this situation and get opportunities that will help me and my band to survive (sponsorship, opportunities in other places such as Tokyo, etc.), without proper recordings. The fact is I actually have no budget, but on the other hand, I will keep sinking unless I can show something, so no matter what, I have to find a way to record. So I am asking from the perspective of someone who can't afford to record, but needs to find a way. And it has to be good enough to show professionally, but at the same time I can't justify double the cost for 5 or 10 percent improvement. Hence why I lean towards a Focusrite Clarett over an Apollo x8p. It's 4x the price here (the Clarett is quite cheap) and I cannot see a logical reason why the Apollo is 4x better. They seem very close to me. Then again I am a musician, not a producer or recording engineer, so somewhat ignorant.

Anyway it is pretty much impossible to get anything done here. There's no funding. Musicians can't earn enough to ever set aside any for things like recording or gear. People's priority is just grabbing the next gig to survive in and endless cycle. Of course I cannot do that. That is not a career and I must break out of it. Even to video a show, I had to save up for a year at a time to make each one happen, then if one musician messed it up, it was for nothing and had to do it all over again and wait another year. The situation here is absurd and the fact it is impossible to schedule people to even be in the same place as the same time because they're too busy running around grabbing the next horrible gig to survive and too scared to just say no to things or to sacrifice things for a long term goal.

So this is the scenario. Sorry it is long and depressing...

On the good side...

I didn't mention mics because I don't need to worry about that. I have two friends, one of which does sound for my band and they have a ton of mics to choose from that I can use any time for no cost, as well as all the incidentals such as cables, stands and whatever else. So my only worry is the "brains", the hardware parts. They also both have the same Behringer mixer I mentioned which is why I asked about it. So this can be used for zero cost. However I don't know if it will produce a professional enough result.

We did use one to record this live performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXzJ5DOhqvM

I guess it is okayish for a live gig video, however I don't know if it would be good enough for studio recordings and if I believe what people deep into gear say, it is nowhere near adequate. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle (ie: it can do an okay just but there would be some noticeable improvement with a proper gear setup).

I originally thought of getting the Focusrite interface with a UA 4-710d and then basically use the 4 good channels for more important stuff. However, cost wise, this is just not gonna happen. At most I can buy an interface OR maybe try to get something to improve the preamp situation going through the Behringer.

Room wise, we are just gonna have to use what we have. Property is insane here. I have a tiny room and will treat it as best I can, but I am sure it will never been good enough from what I have read about acoustics and room treatment, due to the room size. However, this is just simply NOT going to be something I can choose, change or control, so I figured focus on what I can control. This is the only room that is going to be available and possible to record in.

WHAT I am trying to record:

I need to record guitar, drums, bass, vocals, congas, some percussion. So the main issue is the drums and that's the reason I am at least trying to do 8 channels. I suspect this will already be a stretch since the kit is big too. Two kick drums as well. And the drummer does a lot of double stroke roll, so it will be better to have two separate kick drums so it doesn't become a blur, instead of a double pedal on one. Not to mention he does a lot of multi-limb independence with other pedals too. You can kinda see from the video. Although there will be less of this in shorter, studio versions of songs and some of it maybe able to be overdubbed. And let's face it, 8 channels will already be crazy expensive, so more than that is sort of out of the question. I am confident I can make it work with 8. I have seen people mic with less than 8 to good effect.

Other than that I think I covered everything.
Old 19th August 2019
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by konkon View Post
.... So my only worry is the "brains", the hardware parts. They also both have the same Behringer mixer I mentioned which is why I asked about it. So this can be used for zero cost. However I don't know if it will produce a professional enough result.

...
Check the appends by @ foldback in the GS fora about his successful experiences using X32 (XR18 brains/guts) in a studio environment.
Old 19th August 2019
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
konkon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaGary View Post
Check the appends by @ foldback in the GS fora about his successful experiences using X32 (XR18 brains/guts) in a studio environment.
Sorry I can't seem to find this? I had a look but not able to locate. I'm new to this forum so maybe I just don't know what I am doing.
Old 19th August 2019
  #24
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
Sorry to hear about your tough situation.

If you can afford a Clarett, go for it! That's one of my favorite interfaces. I think the conversion sounds better than the silver apollos. I haven't tried the black and grey Apollos.

Preamps are "OK" but at the end of the day I don't think that's a big concern for you in your situation, they will make good music if you put good music into them.

If you want a really inexpensive 8 channel preamp that I love on drums, check out the Yamaha MLA8. I currently own 2 of these. They sound a little better than most interface preamps. The price seems to hover around $200-250. They are a true secret weapon preamp to me. Not terribly hard to find one usually, either.

Tascam is also about to release the Series 8p Dyna which, if you can afford the $599 new price, I think it's going to be a real force to be reckoned with. This would pair with something like a Clarett via ADAT optical cabling.
Old 19th August 2019
  #25
Here for the gear
 

Yes, sorry to hear about your situation. It's true that you don't necessarily need the greatest preamps in the world for all tasks, like drums. Monkeyxx's suggestions might be the way to go.

For interfaces, just so you are aware of your options, MOTU (8A, 828es) also deserve a mention as interfaces that focus on I/O track count and not preamps (if you end up getting outboard preamps). But if you're truly limited in terms of budget, the Clarett as an all in one solution might be the way to go. Just keep in mind I heard from my Sweetwater rep last week that Focusrite is about to introduce a new version of the Clarett's very shortly. If that is the case, you should be able to pick up the existing Clarett even cheaper soon or get their latest generation converters at the current price. Which supports what I would say in general to you, take your time, keep learning, and make the best decision you can. Good luck!
Old 19th August 2019
  #26
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Crazy4Jazz's Avatar
 

A friend of mine does perfectly usable commercial “background” music with an iPad and Garage Band and his trumpet. The caveat is that he is an excellent musician.
Old 19th August 2019
  #27
Here for the gear
I recently picked up an Apollo interface and the experience is excellent.

I think for what you are going for the 8p is perfect - it has Unison preamps which will let you slowly change the sound of your preamp as you can afford different unison plugins
Old 19th August 2019
  #28
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by konkon View Post
Sorry I can't seem to find this? I had a look but not able to locate. I'm new to this forum so maybe I just don't know what I am doing.
Here's one...

[ Best digital mixer for recording and live use under $3000 ]
Old 20th August 2019
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by konkon View Post
Hi guys. Thanks a lot for the replies. Amazing! And so many good tips. Sorry, I should clarify my situation. I didn't really give you guys enough info to go on, though you came up with great tips regardless...

Story time: So maybe this can help you guys understand my situation, why I asked such a weird question and why maybe it will influence your answers a bit.

I am not a gear collector, producer, etc. I am a musician in Hong Kong and thus it's basically impossible to survive here, let alone spend money on gear, hence why not a single musician in the pro scene here has a single professional recording of themselves to show for decades of being a "pro musician", as ludicrous as that may sound, hell some don't even have a simple photo, let alone a record or video. It's laughable when I have to approach sponsors or opportunities overseas and can't even show basic things.

Musicians can't even survive, let alone afford studio time (though there are a bunch of studios), nor studio gear. There are people who own studio gear but they are wealthy by other means and are not musicians. They are hobbyists that come from rich families, or do well in other fields of work. So things are kinda backwards here. However the catch 22 is, I cannot break out of this situation and get opportunities that will help me and my band to survive (sponsorship, opportunities in other places such as Tokyo, etc.), without proper recordings. The fact is I actually have no budget, but on the other hand, I will keep sinking unless I can show something, so no matter what, I have to find a way to record. So I am asking from the perspective of someone who can't afford to record, but needs to find a way. And it has to be good enough to show professionally, but at the same time I can't justify double the cost for 5 or 10 percent improvement. Hence why I lean towards a Focusrite Clarett over an Apollo x8p. It's 4x the price here (the Clarett is quite cheap) and I cannot see a logical reason why the Apollo is 4x better. They seem very close to me. Then again I am a musician, not a producer or recording engineer, so somewhat ignorant.

Anyway it is pretty much impossible to get anything done here. There's no funding. Musicians can't earn enough to ever set aside any for things like recording or gear. People's priority is just grabbing the next gig to survive in and endless cycle. Of course I cannot do that. That is not a career and I must break out of it. Even to video a show, I had to save up for a year at a time to make each one happen, then if one musician messed it up, it was for nothing and had to do it all over again and wait another year. The situation here is absurd and the fact it is impossible to schedule people to even be in the same place as the same time because they're too busy running around grabbing the next horrible gig to survive and too scared to just say no to things or to sacrifice things for a long term goal.

So this is the scenario. Sorry it is long and depressing...

On the good side...

I didn't mention mics because I don't need to worry about that. I have two friends, one of which does sound for my band and they have a ton of mics to choose from that I can use any time for no cost, as well as all the incidentals such as cables, stands and whatever else. So my only worry is the "brains", the hardware parts. They also both have the same Behringer mixer I mentioned which is why I asked about it. So this can be used for zero cost. However I don't know if it will produce a professional enough result.

We did use one to record this live performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXzJ5DOhqvM

I guess it is okayish for a live gig video, however I don't know if it would be good enough for studio recordings and if I believe what people deep into gear say, it is nowhere near adequate. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle (ie: it can do an okay just but there would be some noticeable improvement with a proper gear setup).

I originally thought of getting the Focusrite interface with a UA 4-710d and then basically use the 4 good channels for more important stuff. However, cost wise, this is just not gonna happen. At most I can buy an interface OR maybe try to get something to improve the preamp situation going through the Behringer.

Room wise, we are just gonna have to use what we have. Property is insane here. I have a tiny room and will treat it as best I can, but I am sure it will never been good enough from what I have read about acoustics and room treatment, due to the room size. However, this is just simply NOT going to be something I can choose, change or control, so I figured focus on what I can control. This is the only room that is going to be available and possible to record in.

WHAT I am trying to record:

I need to record guitar, drums, bass, vocals, congas, some percussion. So the main issue is the drums and that's the reason I am at least trying to do 8 channels. I suspect this will already be a stretch since the kit is big too. Two kick drums as well. And the drummer does a lot of double stroke roll, so it will be better to have two separate kick drums so it doesn't become a blur, instead of a double pedal on one. Not to mention he does a lot of multi-limb independence with other pedals too. You can kinda see from the video. Although there will be less of this in shorter, studio versions of songs and some of it maybe able to be overdubbed. And let's face it, 8 channels will already be crazy expensive, so more than that is sort of out of the question. I am confident I can make it work with 8. I have seen people mic with less than 8 to good effect.

Other than that I think I covered everything.
In that situation, literally don’t stress the interface. Anything new and that works (reliability/computer software wise) will be fine.

Re drums - a great drum sound is hard. A great drum sound in a crap room with ok gear is really hard, even for a pro. In your situation for the best result I’d strongly suggest a hybrid kit - electronic pads triggering great samples (eg superior drummer/slate ssd5 depending on style) for the shells, and “real” cymbals (at least hat and ride), which are often the giveaway. Maybe real snare IF you’re doing a lot of detailed work. Fake toms and kick will be fine, and you can augment a real snare with room samples if you can get a good close sound.

Otherwise you’re always going to be trying to make something good out of something weak, and it’s an uphill battle.
Old 20th August 2019
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
konkon's Avatar
Thanks for the replies everyone. I have tried to address each point. I apologize for not giving enough detail in the beginning, I just didn't want to sound like a complaining bitch, but I guess I needed to tell the story to give a clear picture of the situation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
Sorry to hear about your tough situation.

If you can afford a Clarett, go for it! That's one of my favorite interfaces. I think the conversion sounds better than the silver apollos. I haven't tried the black and grey Apollos.

Preamps are "OK" but at the end of the day I don't think that's a big concern for you in your situation, they will make good music if you put good music into them.

If you want a really inexpensive 8 channel preamp that I love on drums, check out the Yamaha MLA8. I currently own 2 of these. They sound a little better than most interface preamps. The price seems to hover around $200-250. They are a true secret weapon preamp to me. Not terribly hard to find one usually, either.

Tascam is also about to release the Series 8p Dyna which, if you can afford the $599 new price, I think it's going to be a real force to be reckoned with. This would pair with something like a Clarett via ADAT optical cabling.
Hey. Thank you. I am sure I will survive. I have so far. Hahah.

Well, technically I can't afford anything really, but the Clarett is the closest possible thing to being affordable, since it's way cheaper than any other option I have, aside from the Behringer xr18 which would be free. So I will make it happen if I have to, one way or another. Unless the Behringer is a viable possibility. That would be the easiest, fastest (not having to wait until I can find a way to afford something) and as I said, is free to use.

The Yamaha MLA8 looks interesting. So would you suggest that would be an improvement over the Clarett's own preamps? Or would that be a good idea to use with the Behringer?


Quote:
Originally Posted by LongPlate View Post
Yes, sorry to hear about your situation. It's true that you don't necessarily need the greatest preamps in the world for all tasks, like drums. Monkeyxx's suggestions might be the way to go.

For interfaces, just so you are aware of your options, MOTU (8A, 828es) also deserve a mention as interfaces that focus on I/O track count and not preamps (if you end up getting outboard preamps). But if you're truly limited in terms of budget, the Clarett as an all in one solution might be the way to go. Just keep in mind I heard from my Sweetwater rep last week that Focusrite is about to introduce a new version of the Clarett's very shortly. If that is the case, you should be able to pick up the existing Clarett even cheaper soon or get their latest generation converters at the current price. Which supports what I would say in general to you, take your time, keep learning, and make the best decision you can. Good luck!
Hey, thanks too! The MOTU seem similar in price range to the Focusrite. However, am I right in thinking that these do not have built in preamps? In which case I would absolutely have to get 8 channels of external preamps? Sorry I am kinda new to this world. Excuse me if I am clueless on this.

About the Focusrite stuff, that is very interesting. Any clue when this "update" is supposed to happen?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazy4Jazz View Post
A friend of mine does perfectly usable commercial “background” music with an iPad and Garage Band and his trumpet. The caveat is that he is an excellent musician.
I think it would be pretty easy and not costly at all if not for the fact that I have to record drums I guess...?


Quote:
Originally Posted by mungu View Post
I recently picked up an Apollo interface and the experience is excellent.

I think for what you are going for the 8p is perfect - it has Unison preamps which will let you slowly change the sound of your preamp as you can afford different unison plugins
Yeah, it looks good, it's just that it's around 4x the price of the Clarett so it would take me forever to find a way to afford it. I just can't figure out how much difference it would really make to have it over the Clarett...


Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaGary View Post
Thanks very much. So am I right in thinking that the xr18 is basically the same stuff without the controls? And with less channels? But same preamp and conversion, etc.?


Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
In that situation, literally don’t stress the interface. Anything new and that works (reliability/computer software wise) will be fine.

Re drums - a great drum sound is hard. A great drum sound in a crap room with ok gear is really hard, even for a pro. In your situation for the best result I’d strongly suggest a hybrid kit - electronic pads triggering great samples (eg superior drummer/slate ssd5 depending on style) for the shells, and “real” cymbals (at least hat and ride), which are often the giveaway. Maybe real snare IF you’re doing a lot of detailed work. Fake toms and kick will be fine, and you can augment a real snare with room samples if you can get a good close sound.

Otherwise you’re always going to be trying to make something good out of something weak, and it’s an uphill battle.
Thank you. Yes, considering the amount I am gonna record I need it to be as easy as possible. I have an really old Scarlett 2i2 (I guess the first ones that ever came out) that just doesn't work well at all for anything.

I kinda understand the situation with drums. I know it's not going to be easy or perfect. On the other hand, if I can just do the best I can under the circumstances it's better than nothing and constantly losing opportunities due to having no recordings and nothing tangible to show other than a few live video clips.

I understand that the room matters a lot in this case but I am also a bit concerned about using "fake" stuff on the drums, because the kind of music is supposed to sound organic. We did have a drum module for some of the pedals in the live video, but that was due to practicality, having no choice and not being able to setup so many real pedals. I cannot say that I love it, but it's better than not playing at all I guess and I do understand how impractical it is to take 6 or 8 extra separate pedals with different items attached to them, then somehow mic and record them too. And that's not including the kicks even.


FOR EVERYONE:

By the way, what about the idea of trying to get one really good preamp channel sorted out (whether I use the Clarett or the Behringer) and at least I can use that for all the non-drums parts (guitar, bass, vocals), then at least I can make the most out of those? And then at least maybe for the drums I can use that on the snare or something. Then of course there will be a compromise on the rest of the drum kit, but I suppose that is unavoidable.

My idea is that at least all of the other parts will be as good as they can and the cost will be small compared to getting 8 channels of preamps. At least I figured that would make a big difference compared to ALL of the channels for all instruments just going through the Clarett or Behringer preamps?

On the other hand, for all I know, I could do all these combinations and notice little difference, being an ignorant. Or I maybe OCD and notice every small detail. I have to admit, I can have pretty OCD tendencies when it comes to music. I can't really know until I try, but I can't afford to try every option and compare. Whatever I do is going to be what I have to stick with for a LONG time, unless my life situation somehow changes in a big, positive way.

What I could do is try recording everything through just the Behringer as is, since there is no cost involved and seeing if it's okay, THEN if it's really not adequate, try to buy some stuff. I've nothing to lose financially that way, because it costs nothing to try. The only thing I could lose is time. The downside to that is scheduling multiple people to turn up to the same place at the same time in the HK scene is insanely hard, which is the only reason I am not sure about going through the whole slow process of trying the Behringer "free" method, finding out it's not good enough, then getting gear, then doing it all again...
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