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Identifying the weak point in your setup Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 9th July 2013
  #1
Here for the gear
Identifying the weak point in your setup

Hi all,

First time poster here. Intermediate producer, with 4 EPs to my name on some labels you might have heard of or maybe not.

I'm in the progress of piecing together my first album and have recently expanded from a totally virtual setup to a virtual/hardware one. It's been really fun going over some of the VST parts I had laid down a few months ago with analogue gear and hearing the difference. Maybe just recording from a line out creates a different sound. Tweaking filters etc hands-on certainly brings something new to the process. I'm also keen on bringing more lo fi sounds into my productions and taking in some of the grit/static that's just not possible to naturally accumulate when working with virtual audio channels. I'm not rushing things yet with the business side of the album, but have spoken to a few labels and should have a small advance which could be used to improve my gear selection.

Just wondered where I might be going wrong in the chain and what people might see as the weaker points in my studio?

Monitoring:

- 2 x Adam A5x - have to stay compact/nearfield as I only have space in my bedroom to work with.
- Sennheiser HD25 (when I replace the ones stolen at a DJ gig in Russia ) - best DJ and studio monitoring headphones I've ever used.

Interface:

- M-Audio NRV10 firewire mixer/interface - bought 2nd hand and has never given me any problems. I run stereo outs for monitoring w/ mute bus for headphones. 8 ins for synths etc.

Hardware synths:

- DSI Mopho for mono bass/leads/FX
- Roland JP8000 for poly strings/pads/FX


Wish list: the following would be nice to have, too

Vermona DRM-1 MkIII - seems like a classic in the making. Already using samples from this machine in every song on the album so far. A rare example of a modern-ish drum machine attempting to do something other than emulate 808/909.

Novation Drumstation - 808/909 emulation still would be nice, especially on the offchance that I could pick one up for 150 bucks or so.

Moogerfooger low pass filter - the JP8000's filter is a little digital sounding.



Anyway, what do folks think is the weak link here? Monitors? Lack of a dedicated channel strip for recording the synths? I had my eye on the Golden Age pres that might further improve my results. Anyway, really looking forward to some feedback/thoughts on what I've got going on so far.

Cheers
Old 9th July 2013
  #2
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Ernest Buckley's Avatar
Welcome to GS Lockah!

I would definitely look into a decent mic and pre. The SM57 is a great all around mic that you`ll always turn to. I`m also a huge fan of the AT4050, just a very flexible, great sounding mic. Of course, you`ll get dozens of mic pre ideas but that first pre should be something neutral... something that works well on various instruments, I would lean towards an Avalon, Pacifica, Grace...
Old 9th July 2013
  #3
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ernest Buckley View Post
Welcome to GS Lockah!

I would definitely look into a decent mic and pre. The SM57 is a great all around mic that you`ll always turn to. I`m also a huge fan of the AT4050, just a very flexible, great sounding mic. Of course, you`ll get dozens of mic pre ideas but that first pre should be something neutral... something that works well on various instruments, I would lean towards an Avalon, Pacifica, Grace...
Thanks for the welcome

I think I was too vague with my first post though - I meant that I'm a producer of my own electronic music as opposed to a producer/engineer in the broad sense. I do actually have a mic - Studio Electronics B1 (cheap & cheerful condenser) for emergencies, but I can count the times I've used it on one hand with fingers to spare!

Are there any pres/channel strips that you think might make a noticeable difference to the line-in synth recordings I make? More to the point, would it be the first improvement you'd advise to my setup over say, better monitor speakers?

Cheers
Old 9th July 2013
  #4
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Ernest Buckley's Avatar
Hi Lockah,
Same advice... I would keep the pre/channel strip neutral. I'm a big fan of the Avalon
737 for thickening up synth patches. It also makes for a great bass DI, acoustic gtrs, and vocals.
Peace,
E
Old 9th July 2013
  #5
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You might try guitar pedals, like these from Chandler Ltd being used on synths.

Chandler Limited- Guitar pedals with keyboards - YouTube

Also, Overstayer stuff, Chandler pres, tape sims like SoundSkulptor STS or Portico True Tape.
Old 9th July 2013
  #6
Dot
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Dot's Avatar
Hi lockah, I checked out some of your music. Dig it.

Before you go looking into any more gear, I'd highly suggest you take a serious look - and listen - at the room you're working in. The layout, the acoustics, the workflow, etc.. Make sure you have a great listening environment first.

Do you have any pics of your workspace?

How do you feel working in your room on music for long hours? Do you get any ear fatigue? Can you easily make out the reverb tails and delays while you're tweaking tracks? How do you think what you do in your room translates to other systems?

Until you get your room in really good shape, acoustically, you're not going to be able to optimally hear - or work on - any new gear changes you may introduce. Plus, you'll be making a killer listening environment for yourself, for not only your music, but other music you enjoy.

Cheers...
Old 9th July 2013
  #7
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ernest Buckley View Post
Hi Lockah,
Same advice... I would keep the pre/channel strip neutral. I'm a big fan of the Avalon
737 for thickening up synth patches. It also makes for a great bass DI, acoustic gtrs, and vocals.
Peace,
E
This might be a good idea in principle but my entire setup so far must cost around the same as the 737! Would the same advice apply to a budget pre like one of the Golden Age models?
Old 10th July 2013
  #8
You setup seems fine if you're not recording any live vocals or instruments. I guess my suggestion (if you're mixing (and maybe mastering?) tracks yourself) would be to invest in some room treatment. It doesn't seem like a terribly good return on your money, but you really do have to worry about it at some point.

Honestly, as far as hardware synths go, I think the only reason to have them around (okay, excluding those $5000+ analog beasts) would be to have hands-on control and get inspired by them. That's why I don't really understand why you'd want a Moogerfooger. Considering your synth collection is small, I don't think you'd be THAT much use out of it. And I can't see much inspiration coming from turning a few knobs to kill the high harmonics. That's just me. I'd consider something like the Bifilter or WOW filter (which has an envelope built-in).

If you're looking for inspiration, maybe consider a Virus. If you're looking for something analog-y, maybe a Korg Polysix or Monopoly? Otherwise, get back to crankin out tunes!

Cheers!
Old 10th July 2013
  #9
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yummerz View Post
You might try guitar pedals, like these from Chandler Ltd being used on synths.

Chandler Limited- Guitar pedals with keyboards - YouTube

Also, Overstayer stuff, Chandler pres, tape sims like SoundSkulptor STS or Portico True Tape.
These look really interesting, thanks!
Old 10th July 2013
  #10
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dot View Post
Hi lockah, I checked out some of your music. Dig it.

Before you go looking into any more gear, I'd highly suggest you take a serious look - and listen - at the room you're working in. The layout, the acoustics, the workflow, etc.. Make sure you have a great listening environment first.

Do you have any pics of your workspace?

How do you feel working in your room on music for long hours? Do you get any ear fatigue? Can you easily make out the reverb tails and delays while you're tweaking tracks? How do you think what you do in your room translates to other systems?

Until you get your room in really good shape, acoustically, you're not going to be able to optimally hear - or work on - any new gear changes you may introduce. Plus, you'll be making a killer listening environment for yourself, for not only your music, but other music you enjoy.

Cheers...
Hey, this seems like great advice. I would love to treat the environment but I'm REALLY not blessed with a good workspace to operate in. Just a wall in my bedroom

Lemme take a couple of photos tonight and see if you guys have any bright ideas to correct the shape/space I'm listening in!
Old 10th July 2013
  #11
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by distro View Post
You setup seems fine if you're not recording any live vocals or instruments. I guess my suggestion (if you're mixing (and maybe mastering?) tracks yourself) would be to invest in some room treatment. It doesn't seem like a terribly good return on your money, but you really do have to worry about it at some point.

Honestly, as far as hardware synths go, I think the only reason to have them around (okay, excluding those $5000+ analog beasts) would be to have hands-on control and get inspired by them. That's why I don't really understand why you'd want a Moogerfooger. Considering your synth collection is small, I don't think you'd be THAT much use out of it. And I can't see much inspiration coming from turning a few knobs to kill the high harmonics. That's just me. I'd consider something like the Bifilter or WOW filter (which has an envelope built-in).

If you're looking for inspiration, maybe consider a Virus. If you're looking for something analog-y, maybe a Korg Polysix or Monopoly? Otherwise, get back to crankin out tunes!

Cheers!
Room treatment seems like the next step then.

My mistake, I actually thought the Moogerfooger had an envelope!

However, I didn't say I was on the lookout for a new synth right now in particular. The wishlist I initially posted refers to 2 drum machines, one analogue and one simulated, but both are synthesisers of drum sounds and this is important to me. Right now the Mopho is good for gnarly bass/leads and the JP8000 is nice for hands on digital poly sounds.

It was more monitoring & signal chain stuff I thought seemed a bit poor in my setup.
Old 11th July 2013
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by lockah View Post
Room treatment seems like the next step then.

My mistake, I actually thought the Moogerfooger had an envelope!

However, I didn't say I was on the lookout for a new synth right now in particular. The wishlist I initially posted refers to 2 drum machines, one analogue and one simulated, but both are synthesisers of drum sounds and this is important to me. Right now the Mopho is good for gnarly bass/leads and the JP8000 is nice for hands on digital poly sounds.

It was more monitoring & signal chain stuff I thought seemed a bit poor in my setup.
Yeah, I mean even the best monitors are going to sound like rubbish in a bad sounding room.

I would admit that your monitors don't give out that much low end... but I'm not sure that's what you'd even want in an untreated room. Those low frequency peaks and troughs are going to confuse you more than anything. Nothing wrong with checking low end on a good set of headphones to be honest.

If you're keen on upgrading monitors, you might consider a pair of A7X's. Although I'm not sure you'd get than much more low end out of them, if that's what you're chasing after. People say A8X's are actually a step backward in the series.

Otherwise you could consider something more high end. Maybe a pair of Focals (not the CMS series though). Event Opals? Older KRK Expose if you want to save some money.

As far as drum machines, I would say try one out and see if you like it. Surely there is some inspiration to be had from owning one. Not sure how useful they would be for actual track production. Fun to jam out though and get inspired. Seems like nowadays it doesn't make much sense to sequence within drum machines... much more intricate patterns can be made with a computer sequencer. Once again, I would consider drum machines just a source of inspiration, and some nice sounds to sample.

Lastly, I'm not sure you want to invest in signal processing hardware. Since your synth collection is pretty small, I don't see much use for it. Unless ofcourse you see yourself running softsynths and ITB elements out through a DA into them. Then maybe. From what I've seen, and this is a generalization, but a lot of electronic artists keep soft synths in midi form for ease of tweakability later. Running signals out to your signal processing gear would make you have to bounce to audio. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm just not sure that it's worth it, considering the plugin's available.

I will say that it is sometimes very good to bounce a melody line or whatever to audio. Gives you a sense of completeness and helps you fight natural ADD with constantly making adjustments.

My vote goes to room treatment. Maybe a different audio interface if you're not happy with it, but you made it sound like you are.
Sorry this is pretty vague.

Hope that helps!
Old 11th July 2013
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Glenn Kuras's Avatar
Quote:
Room treatment seems like the next step then.
Correct and the most over looked item of a room that can have the largest impact. Here are a few videos and articles to understand the effect of room treatment.
Educational Videos - Acoustic Panels | Bass Traps | Diffusors | GIK Acoustics
Articles - Acoustic Panels | Bass Traps | Diffusors | GIK Acoustics
Acoustically Treated vs Non-treated Room - GIK Acoustics
Old 11th July 2013
  #14
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Ernest Buckley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by lockah View Post
This might be a good idea in principle but my entire setup so far must cost around the same as the 737! Would the same advice apply to a budget pre like one of the Golden Age models?
I`m not familiar with that gear. Whichever way you go for your first pre, I would lean towards something neutral.
Old 11th July 2013
  #15
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The room... then the Vermona I love my DRM, and working with it made me realise how BAD my room sounded. Trying to set the decay time and tuning on drums was impossible because of the reflection time and bass build up at specific frequencies.

Tim
Old 12th July 2013
  #16
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thanks for all the feedback guys! i'm gonna look into the room treatment over the weekend, i'll post once i've had a look
Old 30th July 2013
  #17
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Glenn Kuras's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by lockah View Post
thanks for all the feedback guys! i'm gonna look into the room treatment over the weekend, i'll post once i've had a look
You may want to post over in the acoustic area of GS. A bunch of guys over there can help you out.
BTW check out the great video my buddy Warren from Zenpro Audio did on treating his live room. Before and after treatment with recording a bunch of different things.

Old 30th July 2013
  #18
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Ernest Buckley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Kuras View Post
You may want to post over in the acoustic area of GS. A bunch of guys over there can help you out.
BTW check out the great video my buddy Warren from Zenpro Audio did on treating his live room. Before and after treatment with recording a bunch of different things.

Nice, thanks for sharing that. Am I the only one who prefers the sound of those drums in the untreated room? I would have left that room alone and used moving blankets for vocal & guitar recordings. Just me...
Old 30th July 2013
  #19
Gear Guru
 
Glenn Kuras's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ernest Buckley View Post
Nice, thanks for sharing that. Am I the only one who prefers the sound of those drums in the untreated room? I would have left that room alone and used moving blankets for vocal & guitar recordings. Just me...

His room is pretty large so I can see that, but also he wanted a more controlled sound to be able to add or subtract reverb. What you might want on one song might not be what you want for another. You can't really see it in the video but we split the room into the live side (diffusion) and absorbed side. If he placed the drums on the live side it would have been much different. You can hear that on the piano take.
BTW there is no way blankets would have worked for vocals without the treatment. When I say that room was ALIVE before treatment that would be a understatement.

Here is the link if anyone can not see it.
http://gikacoustics.com/zenpro-audio...oom-treatment/
Old 30th July 2013
  #20
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Gotcha. It definitely looks like a nice room!
Old 30th July 2013
  #21
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warhead's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ernest Buckley View Post
Nice, thanks for sharing that. Am I the only one who prefers the sound of those drums in the untreated room? I would have left that room alone and used moving blankets for vocal & guitar recordings. Just me...
We have one decent size live room for tracking piano, drums, voice, guitars, really anything. I needed a natural sounding space for all sources that enter the room. I can manipulate reverb later like anybody else.

When making this video we weren't making a record, this wasn't a production for a song. It is a comparison of treated vs untreated space. We had the opportunity to deliver this info, so we did.

I like that drum sound too, it would probably work on a decent percentage of songs in context. Capturing it more dry / naturally and being able to add reverb later is more sensible unless you are only capturing one thing (like your own drums for your own band's recordings).

Overall it really isn't a "dry" room though.

War
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