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Let's strip it down!!
Old 21st July 2005
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
Bones's Avatar
 

Let's strip it down!!

OK ... this is going to be real difficult to put down without rambling a bit, but I will do my best.

I have been looking at buying a "complete" inventory of equipment, but have spent a few weeks re-thinking everything.

Now there are THOUSANDS of threads on this forum alone that can (and do) keep peole like me busy for absolutely hours on end ... learning, leeching, absorbing etc and it is really difficult to come to a single end result/decision .... for obvious reasons.

Many of you out there will be fortunate enough to work (or have worked) in first class facilities, complete with luxurious acoustic treatments, SSL-J consoles blah blah blah ..... and of those, some will have stepped right up to the plate with little or no "frustrating" experience working with ****e, noisy, inferior equipment, set up in a square, cement walled, untreated garage etc ..... whilst some may have "been there" in the trenches and gained some serious A/B judgements by starting on a Portastudio and ending up behind an SSL.

Using the old analogy that an audio signal is only as good as it's weakest link, but IGNORING the suggestion that a "pro" could get better results with a Portastudio than a "monkey" with a Neve ..... how far can we strip what we all probably classify as a world class facility without losing anything significantly?

I mean, is it at all possible for some of you seasoned pro's out there to "remember" at which upgrade point you noticed the most significant leap forward in quality??

There are many of us with (probably) rather modest setups, desperately working towards the "real thing" (this is Gear Slutz don't forget!!) and although I do know from first hand experience that many improvements are subtle or of the "nuance" type, I am SURE that there must be a certain few choice decisions or purchases (room treatment included here BTW) that REALLY takes you to the next level REGARDLESS of your abilities (probably ruined my question with this last statement, but what the heck) ...... over to you.

Cheers
Old 21st July 2005
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Albert's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bones
Using the old analogy that an audio signal is only as good as it's weakest link, but IGNORING the suggestion that a "pro" could get better results with a Portastudio than a "monkey" with a Neve ..... how far can we strip what we all probably classify as a world class facility without losing anything significantly?
I think there is a different way of looking at that. The big facilities have so much gear because they need to address the varied needs of many different clients, and they also need to be able to handle a large number of channels when mixing.

An approach that I think is very successful for the small project or home studio is twofold:

First, determine what your needs are, what style of music you are doing, how many people you will be recording at once, etc. Then design your space around those *specific* needs. Since you'll be your own biggest customer, you can choose the gear based on your needs only, and won't have to have everything including the kitchen sink.

Second, reduce the number of world class channels in your studio to two. So unlike the big studio that needs to address large bands, maybe orchestra dates, etc. Your small studio only needs to address a few musicians/singers at a time and then stereo processing/mixing. So having a couple world class channels will go a long way on a budget.

So the concept is to build two world class channels that are *not* stripped down. So you are cutting quantity not quality. Of course, none of this addresses all the good stuff like a properly designed and built room, proper acoustic treatment, etc. And this is certainly just one approach of many.
Old 21st July 2005
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Jorg's Avatar
Hi,
I dont know what kind of setup u have but in generel (i know this is gearslutz and I maybe shouldn't say that) it is not so much about the gear but about how u use it.

I bet that a world class engineer like Massenburg could produce a mix with your setup that would blow your mind away.

My personal best improvement happened when I studied sound engineering.
U don't have to study but do some research and read some books.
Understanding what a piece of gear does, helps so much in using it better.
Old 21st July 2005
  #4
Lives for gear
 
DirkB's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bones
OK ... this is going to be real difficult to put down without rambling a bit, but I will do my best.

I have been looking at buying a "complete" inventory of equipment, but have spent a few weeks re-thinking everything.

Now there are THOUSANDS of threads on this forum alone that can (and do) keep peole like me busy for absolutely hours on end ... learning, leeching, absorbing etc and it is really difficult to come to a single end result/decision .... for obvious reasons.

Many of you out there will be fortunate enough to work (or have worked) in first class facilities, complete with luxurious acoustic treatments, SSL-J consoles blah blah blah ..... and of those, some will have stepped right up to the plate with little or no "frustrating" experience working with ****e, noisy, inferior equipment, set up in a square, cement walled, untreated garage etc ..... whilst some may have "been there" in the trenches and gained some serious A/B judgements by starting on a Portastudio and ending up behind an SSL.

Using the old analogy that an audio signal is only as good as it's weakest link, but IGNORING the suggestion that a "pro" could get better results with a Portastudio than a "monkey" with a Neve ..... how far can we strip what we all probably classify as a world class facility without losing anything significantly?

I mean, is it at all possible for some of you seasoned pro's out there to "remember" at which upgrade point you noticed the most significant leap forward in quality??

There are many of us with (probably) rather modest setups, desperately working towards the "real thing" (this is Gear Slutz don't forget!!) and although I do know from first hand experience that many improvements are subtle or of the "nuance" type, I am SURE that there must be a certain few choice decisions or purchases (room treatment included here BTW) that REALLY takes you to the next level REGARDLESS of your abilities (probably ruined my question with this last statement, but what the heck) ...... over to you.

Cheers

To me this sounds very similar to the question "how to get from a demo to sounding like a record".

I think it's a journey that will never stop. I have been in this seriously only for about 5 years or so and although I have a few records under the belt, I bet when I'm at number 100, I still feel the last one is the best one I ever did heh .

Even with all the great gear available and someone showing you what to do and how to listen what it does, the brain needs to experience the complete lattitude of options itself to fully digest what can be done. On your 10th mix (or even on your 100th mix), you're not going to reach great depth, you're not going to have slamming lowend without having too much of it, you won't have a strong center channel, you won't have great phase coherency on the 10th drum tracking session, etc. etc.

It's a lifelong journey where you learn from your mistakes and, given some ability for it, you are going to learn to appreciate and recognise the gear that helps you achieve what you hear is missing in your work.

At the moment, I'm struggling myself to get the center channel as strong as I want to. Last week I bought a Buzz mono eq (which rocks!!!) mainly to add some tops and bottom during tracking since I hate to add it with the digital eq's I have. But the first thing I noticed when routing the bass from a mix trough it, was that it helped tightening up the bass (making it more "centered") plus it adds some additional depth. Exactly what I want but wasn't looking for .
But if I hadn't upgraded my HR824's to S3a's I would have never noticed...

Good luck,
Dirk

P.S. I do agree with one of the posters: build 2 channels of top quality. With two solid preamps (API, BAE, Chandler, Neve, whatever) a Distressor (or two) a Tubetech CL1B and one or two nice Eq's going into a 2 channel Lavry or Apogee, you have a great front end which gives you the possibility to get the best of sounds...
Old 21st July 2005
  #5
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
I think it really is 'getting behind the glass" that has done the most for me. Working on thousands of songs by different artists with different goals and budgets.

The day I started as an employee I thought everything in the room sounded great. As I did the job I started to feel certain things had shortcomings. Sometimes I realized it was my shortcomings. I had a couple people teach me some great things. I read and continue to read a lot, especially here and on other forums. I do the job and see what was successful and what failed. I try to know why each did or didn't work. I think on my feet and try to solve problems. I reach in my collected 'bag of tricks' most of which I discovered on my own. Some were taught directly to me and others were learned from reading. Sometimes I read something and I don't use the idea for years, but then there I am at a session and the idea pops into my head as a possible solution for our current dilemma, and I try. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it helps point us in the right direction, so it was helpful, but not like I thought it would be.

These are all physical things and have all been helpful. All of those decisions were based on experience.

Having a 'dedicated' space was a nice step up from my folk’s entire second floor. That same move took me from 4 to 16-tracks. Then the boss bought a third ADAT (remember those ) wow eight more. A TAC Magnum replaced the Mackie, wow huge change. Mics and outboard were added often. First the boss bought some ART tube gear, then some nicer FX. I added a Great River MP2H. Then I decided to buy a 2" 24-track, big, big difference there. We added Mackie monitors to replace the Alesis at some point. The U87 was a big deal.

Then I bought out the boss and movers ruined the TAC console so I bought a Neotek. It sounds even better and has automation. That has changed things a lot. My new space sounds better and has AC. It keeps the clients and me in a better mood. There's also a first floor load in instead of a straight shot staircase. The control room at the new joint is a bit short (14 feet in the live room 9feet in the CR no angles...what were they thinking?!?). So I've learned about bass trapping and I have 8 Mini-Traps and I think I'd like 2-4 more. I put a cloud and a really cool diffuser in the live room. I bought some rigid fiberglass for the vocal booth and I need to cut it to shape and cover it in fabric. For the moment packing blankets make it nice and tight.
Old 21st July 2005
  #6
Gear Nut
 

I like Albert's suggestion about quality as opposed to quantity, this has been my approach as well. Buy as few pieces of gear as i can get away with, at as high a quality as i can afford.

Since you asked for a most significant step however, i've gotta say monitoring. If you can't hear it, you can't fix it. Treatment, loudspeakers, and slutty d/a would be the first thing to worry about i think. Check out http://forum.studiotips.com for good info on diy accoustic treatment.

"it is not so much about the gear but about how u use it" gets said so often. i might be jumping to conclusions, but, i don't think anyone posting these kind of questions expects the gear to mix a record for them. especially since this dude said he didn't want to hear this kind of thing. if better gear wasn't better, no one would buy it. and if Massenburg thought that a modest setup was all he needed to get a world class mix, he wouldn't be designing some of the finest and highest priced gear around. give people some credit... don't assume that everyone starting a studio has no idea how to mix.
Old 22nd July 2005
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
Bones's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnalogUniverse
i don't think anyone posting these kind of questions expects the gear to mix a record for them.


Well said .... I have a REALLY weak "habit" of rambling and not being able to put my thoughts/opinions into a concise format, so my question may have been a bit out of tune!

I guess I kind of expected the "good mic, good pre, good A/D, good monitors, good room" approach (probably where Drumsound is coming from) ..... and to be quite honest, I don't really know EXACTLY what I am hoping to hear (go figure!!).

I think I am at a point where I am trying to figure out where the dividing and decisive lines are between G-Slutinezz, G-Essentials, the "very subtle" (let's be honest here) improvements made in some cases ..... and then of course, the final frontier ..... will the punters get to appreciate the pain that went into all of this??

Where does the REAL final product move away from the "operating theatre" and get back into "THE GAME" .... that being music, which stimulates most by simply getting a foot to tap, or humming a catchy melody??

I am (probably like many out there) absolutely torn between so many fields in this game (songwriting, rock band, been signed with decent budget for albums, band breaks up, deal goes sour I know, I know ... start doing live sound, want my own studio, still shooting for the Grammy ... lol, recorded many projects with "what I got at the time" ........ then the wheel spins even faster and it comes down to the two pulling/driving forces which seem to be sitting stubbornly on two opposite poles.
The one says ... Hey, it's about the song and the music, and some GREAT songs seem to have been recorded without the "million $ sheen", whilst others have the "fairy dust" that simply cannot come from a $20 mic and a 4 track.
The other pole argues that you KNOW that a 480L simply sounds BETTER than a Quadraverb etc .... and of course, the inner voice sitting in this camp also goes by the name of Gear-Hore!!

I suppose all engineer, or should I say GearSlut, types will be shooting for as high a mark as is possible with regards the environment that they would want to work in .... ie. the best tools give the best choices or options (as mentioned by Albert) .... but there is still this little voice inside (the one constantly trying to cheat the Gear-Hore out of his pocket money!!) that sometimes battles to "defend the fort" when fellow musicians / artists argue that a Soundblaster Live into Cubase on a Pentium 3 is gonna be fine, because no-one except the studio geeks are going to notice.

Of course we can flame people that would DARE say this, but let's face it, it is pretty common to have artists go to a pro facility and end up worse off than they were with their home demo .... perhaps a disinterested engineer?? ... perhaps a shocking bunch of wannabee rock stars ... maybe ... but I guess that is where I am trying to go here .... when does gear become a luxury that is "nice" to have (ok, that is a crap way to put it, I know) .... and when is it like ... wooooa ... toss the Soundblaster!!

ps. I don't have a Soundblaster BTW.

Oh for FU*CKS sake, I am really going nowhere here ... getting even myself dizzy going in so many circles.

Anyway ... just a confusing thought or two.

Cheers and have a great weekend.
Old 22nd July 2005
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Albert's got some really good advice, by concentrating on two really good channels. That's exactly what I'm doing. I started out wanting 8-16 channels, but I found the need for at least one or two high quality channels for acoustic and vocal recordings...midi stuff sounds great direct in.....but acoustic recordings take extra effort. Good mics, pre-amp, sound card, monitors, headphones, and decent computer, software program, good sounding instruments, and you can do wonders....then learn how to work it all....to get the most out of it....

Recording bands or multiple musicians at the same time is a different animal. You will need extra channels and a place to put them at that point. What kind of drum set and how many mics do you want on it ?? Isolation rooms, sound treatment, monitoring network...it can get complicated and very expensive really fast. So alot depends on what you want to do, and what kind of budget you have to work with.

Do lots of homework and research on every piece of gear BEFORE buying it....know what you want, and what the options are. Download manuals, ask around, listen to pieces first to see if that's what you really need.
Old 22nd July 2005
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
Bones's Avatar
 

I think I must point out, or clarify something here if I may.

I have almost 20 years in audio (studio, live sound, pro band) .... but in saying that, I am NOT blowing horns or anything.

Also ... no offence to those that are offering advice based on the assumption that my "modest setup" is newbie or begginer .... thanks for the posts anyway.

My somewhat muddled train of thought for the original posting was based on the hope that before spending ANY money at all .... some here may be able to "admit" where certain items are REALLY night and day vs "engineers ears will only hear the difference" etc.

Cheers
Old 22nd July 2005
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Night and day difference ??

Strip away anything that has any kind of tape, analog or digital, and go for computer based recording. The tape stuff is outdated and expensive.

Of course everybody is going to flame me for this, as lot's of people have sizable investments in tape based gear, myself included, but the truth is, digital recording has come a long way in the last few years. You can sink a lot of money into outdated vintage gear, you can worship it, but advancements have been made, and old stuff wears out, just like automobiles. So you have to determine, do you want to drive an old junker, or something newer..????? Some things are classics, but some aren't.
Old 22nd July 2005
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Albert's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bones
I am SURE that there must be a certain few choice decisions or purchases (room treatment included here BTW) that REALLY takes you to the next level REGARDLESS of your abilities
Okay, here's a really simple non-rambling answer to that specific question:

Any time you spend over $1,000 per channel.

You can fill in the blanks from there.
Old 22nd July 2005
  #12
Lives for gear
 
DirkB's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Albert
Okay, here's a really simple non-rambling answer to that specific question:

Any time you spend over $1,000 per channel.

You can fill in the blanks from there.
Agreed.

For any mic, preamp, compressor, eq or converter per channel you should be able to find something stellar in the 1000-2000 range. Mic pre's and converters might be a bit cheaper, mics a bit pricier.

Greetings,
Dirk
Old 22nd July 2005
  #13
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Albert
Any time you spend over $1,000 per channel.

agreed, and truthfully i'd push that number closer to $1250 before i'd call it a guarantee of "the quality". something very real seems to happen at that price point. there are indeed a couple of things closer to $1000 that rock, but $1250 seems to be where the party hits its stride and all your options open up.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 22nd July 2005
  #14
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

oh, and to answer the original post: i'm not sure *any* piece of gear offers a night and day difference that's obvious to anyone but engineers... maybe a 1073 vs. mackie pre. maybe. but the trick is that all those subtle differences that only we can hear do, in fact, add up to a cumulative effect that is very noticeable to all but the tinnest of the tin ears.

personally, most of the recordings that truly inspire me as productions took, as far as i can tell, absolutely no shortcuts of significance. this is not practical for most of us in the domain of lesser mortals, but i aspire to it nonetheless and don't imagine the day will ever come when i cease the pursuit of that next inch. what does seem to happen as i get a little older, and a lot wiser, is that i'm no longer anxious and needing to make the next purchase RIGHT NOW; i recognize that where i'm at is a damn fine place, good enough to create small miracles, and that only time and patience will yield the improvements i seek.

in the meantime, i enjoy every part of the process as fully as possible, including the challenges of working within my limitations. like opening up a digitally grainy drumloop with a cambridge eq. it can be done, but it will be a whole lot easier, and more pleasing, when i have a pair of dakings for the task.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 25th July 2005
  #15
Gear Maniac
 
Bones's Avatar
 

Gotcha ... thanks for all input and comments.

Probably all obvious, but sometimes one needs to get a light slap across the side of the head to re-focus.

Cheers
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