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Ideal recording setup for electro-mechanical keys to Apogee Sym AI/Logic
Old 21st February 2020
  #1
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Ideal recording setup for electro-mechanical keys to Apogee Sym AI/Logic

I would like to record a Rhodes electric piano (73 stage), other electric-mechanical keyboards (Wurlitzer 200A, Clavinet D6, Yamaha CP-80), and an assortment of analog synths and I’m curious on the best way to do this without mic-ing an amplifier. I have an Apogee Symphony audio interface which only has DB25 inputs, so at the very least, I need to convert the quarter-inch outputs from these keyboards to a DB25 input. I also use a lot of stomp box pedal effects for the electric-mechanical keyboards. What would you recommend along these lines, especially if recording as high quality as possible is the priority (versus having ability to gig with the equipment)?

An audio engineer friend of mine suggested I invest in a 500 series system – he said the chassis + a preamp would be all I need to start out and would accomplish my routing issue. I’ve also read many others on Gearsluts and other forums say that at least for the Rhodes, they use a tube DI direct to their audio interface (e.g., REDDI). I tend to think the 500 series system would produce the best quality recordings, but am concerned that the low impedence/output of the Rhodes (and the Clavinet doesn’t have a strong output itself either) may not get me the best sound going direct into a 500 series/pre-amp module --- my understanding is this is the value of a tube DI. Additionally, I use several stomp box pedals, the majority of which require some additional amplification to properly function.

I am not very technically savvy, as you can tell from my post, so apologies if I have mischaracterized anything. I searched for this and for recording guitars more generally (since Rhodes + pedals is not all that dissimilar to recording guitar + pedals) and couldn’t find anything really on point with assessing the value of recording with a 500 series. My audio engineer friend recommended using a patchbay for the pedals --- not sure if that’s critical to the chain for recording and getting the best audio reproduction as possible---based on my limited understanding of patchbays, this seems more of an efficiency accessory.
Old 22nd February 2020
  #2
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gravyface's Avatar
These are all line level sources, and some will be unbalanced, but that shouldn't be an issue if the length of the cable isn't excessive.

On the cheap, you can buy a TRS to DB25 8-channel snake for like 40 bucks and try it out, see if you need anything else.

Alternatively, you may want to invest in a mixer at some point if you're planning on mixing "hands-on" or doing performance-based tracking.
Old 23rd February 2020
  #3
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Thank you gravyface, much appreciated information. I think this is what my friend was getting at with his recommendation of the 500 series: I would accomplish the routing I need, get some warm 'coloring' of the sound with a preamp and other improvements with a compressor, plus the elimination of excess multi-channels I wouldn't need in a full mixer (I record single tracks at a time into Logic DAW).

I guess my questions are: (1) is the signal of the Rhodes and Clavinet to low-output to go directly into a mixer/500 series preamp? E.g., you wouldn't plug an electric guitar direct into a mixer, and a Rhodes/Clavinet is not all that different; (2) if you agree with #1 , would a tube DI box accomplish the low output issue, along with giving the Rhodes more of its signature 'tube' warm sound?
Old 23rd February 2020
  #4
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gravyface's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ihavezippers View Post
Thank you gravyface, much appreciated information. I think this is what my friend was getting at with his recommendation of the 500 series: I would accomplish the routing I need, get some warm 'coloring' of the sound with a preamp and other improvements with a compressor, plus the elimination of excess multi-channels I wouldn't need in a full mixer (I record single tracks at a time into Logic DAW).

I guess my questions are: (1) is the signal of the Rhodes and Clavinet to low-output to go directly into a mixer/500 series preamp? E.g., you wouldn't plug an electric guitar direct into a mixer, and a Rhodes/Clavinet is not all that different; (2) if you agree with #1 , would a tube DI box accomplish the low output issue, along with giving the Rhodes more of its signature 'tube' warm sound?
I think you're overthinking the "low output".

You use a microphone preamp to bring a microphone up to the appropriate level, but you're already at line level, so you'd be padding the input likely or using unity (zero) gain, which really doesn't do anything.

Yeah, you can get mic preamps that have input and output knobs so you can attenuate the output signal and hit the input harder, but I don't really see the point with line level sources like synths and electric keyboards.

So to reiterate, grab a DB25-to-TRS snake for 40 bucks. Hook it up. Record some stuff. Do you like it? Yeah? Cool, move on and make some music.

Don't get caught up in the wheel of malarkey that is Gearslutz, where too many of us sink way too many hours into this forum instead of actually doing things.
Old 23rd February 2020
  #5
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swafford's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ihavezippers View Post
What would you recommend along these lines, especially if recording as high quality as possible is the priority (versus having ability to gig with the equipment)?
The best thing I have found to record these sort of things direct is a Grace Alix. It has an internal effects loop and can also output to an amp if you needed as wells is some great EQ. You can also use it live!
Old 23rd February 2020
  #6
Stereo mic pre with built in DI, and then an XLR (or balanced jack - but probably XLR) output to db25 to get into your symphony.

it *might* sound ok just going jack - db25, but the connector shape isn't really the issue.

Especially if you're running guitar pedals on the way in, you really need a hi-Z input like a DI box provides.

500 series - I wouldn't bother if you only need a stereo mic pre. 500 series would be great if you wanted to dive into processing or multi input stuff, but for a stereo mic pre, it's overkill.

500 series is literally just a box shape - you get great 500 series modules and poor ones. The point is it's designed as a mix and match format, and you just don't need that to accomplish what you want to do.

The list of options for you is as long as you want it to be. You don't need a tube DI or anything unless you want one; it possibly wouldn't hurt to get a solid DI box like a Radial if you wanted, but you shouldn't *need* to. A solid stereo preamp with built in DI would be absolutely fine. Personally I'd go for something transformer based, but you can go "clean" (eg Grace), "punchy" (eg API), "warm" (eg Neve), or whatever you want. You've got "cheap" options like Golden Age or Warm, but they'll probably be perfectly good (I use a pair of Golden Age preamps as keys DI all the time).
Old 23rd February 2020
  #7
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gravyface's Avatar
Missed the guitar pedal part on the Rhodes.

Get a mixer that has a few Hi-Z inputs.
Old 24th February 2020
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
Missed the guitar pedal part on the Rhodes.

Get a mixer that has a few Hi-Z inputs.
If you’re only recording one at a time, why would you need a mixer? Just a stereo preamp is the way to go - with hi z inputs. And then add another if you want to leave stuff plugged in after a while.
Old 24th February 2020
  #9
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gravyface's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
If you’re only recording one at a time, why would you need a mixer? Just a stereo preamp is the way to go - with hi z inputs. And then add another if you want to leave stuff plugged in after a while.
So he can mix?
Old 24th February 2020
  #10
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 

Not too familiar with the other boards, but certainly for a Rhodes there are many threads on here about how to record Rhodes - try a search and you will get lots of existing info from folks here.

I agree with the general principal that a preamp with a built-in Hi-Z input is what you're after.

I've used a Warm Audio TB-12 with my Rhodes which works exceptionally well and provides you with a boatload of tonal-shaping options as well.

I also have a very nice DAV Electronics BG9 which gives you one channel of microphone preamp and one of active DI - it's a great-sounding, very simple to operate, stand-alone unit that you don't even need a rack mount for.

All the above applies just to working with the vanilla 'harp out' on the Rhodes, i.e. what amounts to passive electric guitar-type pick-ups.

If you have an active signal coming out of the built-in Rhodes preamp (I've had mine modified to do this because I have only a Suitcase 88 top without its bottom amp section) then a good passive DI from the likes of Radial should do the job.

Last edited by James Lehmann; 25th February 2020 at 09:34 AM..
Old 25th February 2020
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
So he can mix?
I don’t see anything in the OP about wanting to mix on a desk!

I’m not a fan of desk mixing anyway - but off hand I can’t think of a desk with “a few HI Z inputs” I’d want to mix through - maybe short of an api or something with the appropriate modules!

The OP is wasting money buying a desk for what he says he wants to do.
Old 25th February 2020
  #12
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gravyface's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
I don’t see anything in the OP about wanting to mix on a desk!

I’m not a fan of desk mixing anyway - but off hand I can’t think of a desk with “a few HI Z inputs” I’d want to mix through - maybe short of an api or something with the appropriate modules!

The OP is wasting money buying a desk for what he says he wants to do.
He's probably going to waste money anyways: it's the Gearslutz way
Old 25th February 2020
  #13
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andychamp's Avatar
You‘ve got two distinct problems to solve: signal preparation and connectivity.
Your sources range from instrument level to line level. So the 1st link in the chain should be a D.I. that can accomodate all these signals.
This can be a dedicated DI, followed by a mic preamp, or a preamp with a built-in DI.
Whatever connector is on the output of the preamp, there‘s a „XYZ“-to DB25 connector for it.
Depending on how many instruments you need to record, and how much patching you‘re willing to put up with, a single or stereo preamp (and DI) might be enough. Or you might try something like an API3124 or two, or the Avedis KeyPre, for a more permanent setup.
Old 27th February 2020
  #14
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Thanks everyone, very helpful information. For the passive out that my 73 Stage Rhodes has (as well as the Clavinet's passive signal), would the Radial mic preamp with DI work for me (James Lehman's post seems to suggest its better suited for active signal outs). Surveying other posts on recording the Rhodes, this seems to be a popular choice, just want to make sure it would work for me.

And AndyChamp, I like the idea of multiple fixed inputs so I don't have to constantly mess around with that---would be nice to have the wiring fixed. But I'm not sold on those particular preamps. Would a patchbay be a solution for this issue? This is where I think having the 500 series setup (with a chassis that has multiple inputs) would be convenient---the Radial mic preamp with DI comes in a 500 series version.
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