40k Studio

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Jesse_Zen, Feb 23, 2009.

  1. Jesse_Zen

    Jesse_Zen Member

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    I've got about $40k (partial life savings) and am finally going to put it to work on a lifetime dream of building a studio. I have access to a 900 sq/ft
    warehouse where the studio will be housed. I have been working on a basic DAW for the past 5 years.

    Here's my question to you-

    If you had $40k to buy gear what would you do? This assumes 2 things:
    A) You have no gear to start with
    B) You have a space that is built out (ie. you don't have to worry about soundproofing, etc... just the gear)

    So... what would you do?
     
  2. asiammyself

    asiammyself Member

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    To tell you the truth I would go learn from someone/anyone who records. Learn how to work there gear and in the process your learning what you like and don't like without wasting your money. A person that knows what their doing is worth way more then any piece of gear.
     
  3. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    I'd spend 20-25k on PTHD2 or 3 and a decent used console. 5-7.5k on monitors. The Barefoot MM27 come to mind. Grab a few premier LDC mics and round out the mic locker with the usual dynamics and condensers. Oh, and one or two pieces of outboard pre/eq/comp. The gear choices depend on the clients & vibe you're shooting for.
     
  4. enocaster

    enocaster Member

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    Definitely buy used when you can, and try to stick with "classics" - they don't really depreciate. People will always want Neve/API pre's, 1176's and Distressors. Go for quality over quantity - it's a waste to buy a bunch of mid-grade stuff that you'll want to upgrade later. That being said, there is tons of great mid-priced gear like Audio Technica LDC's and the FMR stuff. Get great D/A convertors, but don't dump too much $$ into the digital end - Neve preamps will always be valuable, but people who spent 5-figures on, say, a Pro Tools 888 system are now looking at pennies on the dollar for resale. IF they used it to generate enough income in a commercial situation it was a worthwhile investment. so you need to be realistic about how the studio is going to used - are you trying to make money, or is this more of a personal/friends 'n family type of deal? If it is commercial, I'd look write up a business plan and make sure the numbers make sense. Don't forget unexciting things like cables really add up.

    Also, if you havent already, subscribe to Tape Op magazine (it's free) and read the two Tape Op books - they're great!
     
  5. devinb

    devinb Member

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    What are your plans for the completed studio?

    If you're hoping to earn back your investment, you may need different things than if you're hoping to build a studio for primarily personal enjoyment.

    The reality of studio work will (almost certainly) require you to buy a lot of plug-in's...which can be viewed as good or bad...plug-in's aren't cheap, but they are far less expensive than the real thing...of course, buying plug-in's is a little like buying a computer, in the sense that you know it's going to be upgraded soon, and unsupported before too long...

    $40,000 sounds like a lot, but you could go through it incredibly quickly...to make your budget more realistic, I'd start making a list of all the things that are non-negotable (basic things like cables, and mics that you have to have like 57's and such, patch bay, bass traps) and price them out, and then see what's left.
     
  6. cram

    cram Member

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    johnlsayers.com

    read, read, research before you start.

    there is great info and networking to do for construction and sound treatment.

    I assume you're going to hire the work out, so knowing more detail will help you get a better quote and not get taken for a ride with your prescious funds. this is a level and type of construction that needs attention to detail. "Close" is not good enough.

    I've put a lot of time and focus in this and I am entirely happy with my studio, which is constructed in our basement. If I had your funds to deducate to this, I'd have built a separate building with multiple rooms and better ceiling space.

    best of luck with your efforts.
     
  7. mgrier1

    mgrier1 Silver Supporting Member

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    Good comments in here... The folks at Gearslutz.com will help you ration out your money and will have soem ideas for you if you put a post up over there...

    I will say that $40K can go mighty fast, so you must have a target plan: Are you just tracking, just mixing, just mastering, all three?

    I am on a similar trajectory and have at least $50K into a studio now and it requires a lot of careful planning to get the capabilites you want. I am primarily just focused on tracking, so I spend quite a bit on Mics, Pres, and low-latency AD/DA converters. Your needs may differ.

    Have fun and buy used!!!

    Best,

    Mike
     
  8. Jesse_Zen

    Jesse_Zen Member

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    Thanks to everyone for the great responses!

    I have been seriously considering the Pro Tools HD setup w/ the C24 console... but I hear so many different opinions on Pro Tools. One nice part is that the PT HD package includes tons of plug-ins.

    I guess my main focus is on tracking / mixing and not so much mastering at this point. This setup will be for friends/family, but it would also be sweet to turn it into a commercial venture.

    Can anyone recommend a console/converter setup as an alternative to the Pro Tools HD system? I'm looking for at least 24 simulataneous channels.
     
  9. rockstarzusa

    rockstarzusa Member

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    Pro Tools is without a doubt the industry standard, but I can think of a way to garner equal results for less money. The system itself is valuable, but the hardware excluding the core is average, at best. (Straight from someone who has used it before)

    To be honest I don't think your budget would stretch far enough to allow for a Core plus another card in the ProTools format. There is just so much other gear needed. My studio runs $42,000 in gear (just re-insured 2 days ago) and there really isn't a lot to show for it in terms of the noticeable pieces (monitor, computer, hardware, software) And from working in retail for over 10 years, I know how to source a bargain, and what gear is stellar and what gear is overhyped. (read into that what you will) Another thing is PT are SLOWWWWW to bring updates in terms of software compatibility to market-This extreme frustration caused me to dump pro tools. (I waited 6 months for updates to run on my mac) One other thing, when a company has dedicated team to work through the issues you encounter, that should tell you, you need to be REALLY computer savvy with Tools.

    If you have saved a partial life savings as you mentioned, I would take a slow sober course on the road to discovery. asiammyself really said it best in his above post.

    My thought to get most bang for buck would be two Audiofire 12's (192kHz/24bit) The nice thing with those is you get 24 firewire inputs with no colored mic pre's (because there are no mic pre's on board to mess with) you add the pre's yourself, and can really shape things up as you please. I await the howls of disapproval from corksniffers everywhere.

    For mic pre's I would look at FMR, rnp/rnc combo, a Vintech 273 (dual ch) or a 1072 (dual ch) Great River, Grace, Sebatron all make excellent dollar for value ratio with various ranges from near colorless (Grace) to beyond with the others mentioned.

    A mac pro would be my suggestion from working on both systems PC for 15 years, and Mac for 4 years.

    Two 23" monitors, or a single 30" would be best. The Dell 3007wfp is my choice, and pips the Apple 30" at the post, from many detailed computer geek reviews, and savings a decent chunk of change at the same time.

    Depending on how in depth you go, and with how many pre's and outboard gear, I would budget $500-$1000 on variuous 'cabling'

    A Neumann U47 or U87 is the standard mic, but again I would suggest 3 or 4 excellent alternatives to 1 mic. Sure others would disagree, but again, you have a limited budget, and not a $1,000,000 studio. Royer, Earthworks, AKG, Sennhesier etc all make great gear. It's the law of diminishing returns. You spend an extra $1,000 and you get a better result with a 3% improvement. I would rather go with 3% less, and get another cuple of mics personally.

    A good DAW desk like the Mackie Control Pro with two sidecar extender pro's would get you the 24 channels you asked above, and be a great surface to work with for around $2200.

    Mackie HR824 II monitors are nice, A liwer end Genelec or even an Adam system for monitors seems a good choice. I personally use KRK V88's and an S12. When KRK made them in the USA, Their chinese 'offerings' are well... moving along as they say...

    These are all some ideas and take them accordingly, but again echoing what asiammyself said, get around a studio and hear the results. Take a good weekend out to sweetwater, and listen and listen some more.

    I would avoid the folks that are pushing you into the ferrari of the respective area, on a complete studio build it's just flat out nonsense to spend 25% of your total budget on a PT system for example. Having said that, if your dream has always been to use pro tools, then you do that.

    I think one of the best things I ever did was to work in a store that sold all this gear and the magic wears off after a while, and you just see it as a tool, and that tool costs this amount of $$ It's all about weighing up the best bang for buck when working with a budget.

    If your personality requires that you need particular brands of gear, then please disregard the offending parts above.

    All the best
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2009
  10. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    Invest in instruments, too. I'd have two or three different drum kits - an elaborate "modern" kit with double kick and lots of toms, and a nice simple jazz/rock kit with old Ludwig/Gretsch/Rogers/etc drums. And a Les Paul, Strat, and Tele, an 18 watt Marshall, Deluxe Reverb, tweed and Vox-style boutique amps, and a couple of spare cabs with different speakers. And a Martin dreadnaught, a small-bodied acoustic, 12 string, and nylon string. The idea is to have a lot of good instruments in the studio.

    A friend of mine has a semi-pro project studio, and I think the best selling point he has for low-budget projects is the Marshall, Boogie, and Savage amps and the DW drum kit. Those in a well-treated room, and he can get KILLER guitar and drum sounds, and not be dependent on whatever crap the band he's recording brings along.

    And consider seriously whether you want to do this for money, even break-even money. That introduces you to all the bad crap of running a small business, spending your precious time on bands that suck, etc. OTOH, the money you make can be used to buy more/better gear.

    Back to instruments... I'd buy the Native Instruments Kore2 + Komplete, rather than trying to keep a real piano/organ/synths around. Unless you're very serious about the feel of a real piano, odds are the NI samples and emulators will sound better than what you can afford and mic yourself.
     
  11. rockstarzusa

    rockstarzusa Member

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    One other anecdote, a friend of mine in Australia does the sound design and soundtracks to Warner Bros Movie World. I'll never forget when he showed me the latest project he worked on. The audio sounded huge and harmonically rich. When questioned he laughed and showed me what he used. an M-Audio fast track interface with a Voicemaster platinum by Focusrite..... almost pathetic, but the results didn't lie, and he was employed fulltime by them.

    This proved to me that basic gear in the right hands will get pro results. Budget for that setup... under $500
     
  12. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    For I/O, you may want to consider an Alesis HD24-XR, lightpiped into your computer via a MOTU 2408.

    Can be had for way less than $2K, used and will give you 24ch of I/O that rival just about anything out there.

    Then, I'd probably just get a cheaper console like a Mackie or something, just to monitor with, and do all your real mixing ITB.
     
  13. 2leod

    2leod Re-Member Gold Supporting Member

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    I think the question would be why building your own studio is a lifetime dream, and why you would spend (not invest) your savings. Starting a studio in this current climate is a not a good business plan - you will not get a ROI especially with the numbers you are fielding. If you are cool with that here's a few more questions to ask -

    Do you already have clients, and will their business support your dream?

    What do you offer that someone else with the same amount in a studio doesn't have?

    How much of your budget is for the room acoustics and esentials such as cableing and connectors?

    How many hours/week of business will keep you running, and how many will allow you to keep spending on the business?

    Have you worked in a studio before, and have a feel for how much to charge to be a viable business?

    These questions are all about the business aspect, if you are not treating this as a profit center than spend your money to bring a smile to your face (like, say, a boat does for others). If you are looking at this as a business then you should ask around at recording forums (like Gearsluts) to get a more focused response...
     
  14. rockstarzusa

    rockstarzusa Member

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    I agree with everything you are stating-thats wisdom. The OP did state that it's just for freinds and family, and 'if it could be commercial down the road, that would be sweet'
     
  15. 2leod

    2leod Re-Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Ah, I see that now.

    Well, maybe something else to consider - try not to be stuck on having 24 channels. Look at doing drum tracks, tracking the instruments individually and focus on having fewer higher quality pre's and converters. If something is good enough to lay some drums down, go and do that at an established facility.

    Have fun!
     
  16. Judson

    Judson Senior Member

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    I dont know, I agree with some and not with others.

    Kludge, I would totally go for real synths/piano vs 3 drum kits. Get one decent one and rent out nice ones if a project needs it. Amps and guitars are nice but I hate when they are the focus of a studio.

    Rockstarzusa had some great points and I agree with the mackie control pro and neumanns.


    Personally I would do it totally different. First I would buy the nicest Mac I could get my hands on, period. Then run Logic with just an ensemble. Ive got a MacBook Pro and the apogee and don't feel the need to upgrade at all. Then I would get the Control Pro and however many sidecars I thought I needed (im actually saving up for one right now). Then I would get some nice channel strips, APR, Neve, whatever fit the budget but I would go for the BEST I could. No upgrades possible would be what I would go for. Then I would invest in a few analogue effects and a small modular system instead of plug-ins, but that is just personal taste. For Mics, I dont know, I record rap, I dont think we would have the same needs here. Monitors would get a good size of the budget and I would try and get 5.1. I think I have already gone way over budget but I would have to add a nice set of decks, but like I said I sample and produce hiphop so my needs are different than most.


    Good Luck and dont spend it in one place! and keep us updated on what you decide.
     
  17. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    I see where you're coming from... I suppose the point is to figure out the purpose of the studio. My world is basically rock, so multiple drum kits and classic amps make total sense, but turntables would be a waste of space - I'd bring in a session player if I needed one. But for you recording hip-hop, multiple drum kits are a waste of money and space and turntables are essential.

    Keyboards are an up-in-the-air thing... I honestly don't think most studios can outperform the great piano samples in NI's Acoustik Piano, and virtual synths work great as well. But a studio doing old-school rock or R&B might be wise to invest in a real piano and Hammond - for the player more than the sound. No way would I keep classic analog synths around unless I played them seriously!

    As for plug-ins, I'd invest in at least one good suite of 'em, just because you can use lots of them in parallel and you can't do that with hardware compressors and eq. Professional quality mics, mic preamps, and other outboard gear hold their value and can be picked up used. Computers, on the other hand, rot away like vegetables and imho it's absolutely foolish to pour thousands of dollars into something that'll be a doorstop in a few years. Monitors are an exception, because they can last a while and are a key user interface. I use a 24" at home and I'm seriously considering adding a second monitor.

    I'd pick up at least one good hardware compressor, though - probably a Distressor. Sometimes I get to play with a Cranesong/Distressor combo, and it's SO nice to just be able to twist knobs and nail down a raw sound!

    And mics... hard to have too many.
     
  18. paulrocker

    paulrocker Member

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    I would find a digital system that you were happy w/ and wouldn't break the bank and put the rest into great analog gear. That protools system will be a big paperweight in 3-4 years but the analog gear will last a lifetime.
     
  19. Judson

    Judson Senior Member

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    Well I am just saying from my experience. It is huge when a studio has a nice grand. I really dont think there is any substitute. Ive got all the NI plug-ins and programs and while it is better than say Logic's steinway or other sampler pianos there is no comparison to being able to get natural room reverb and the true dynamics of the player. I have worked on a lot of classic rock albums, actually most of the work I have done in high end studios was for older guys playing classic rock, and almost every one had heavy piano on it. I dont think any of those recordings would have the same feel/sound if it was a virtual instrument. It is also the same reason why I am not for plugging a guitar strait into the board and treating it with plug-ins.

    Now I am not saying that the original poster should buy a piano, its not a necessity, I am just saying big expensive guitar amps can sap space and your budget faster than something that will aid in the production side. If you are a classic rock musician building a studio I would buy smaller 5 watt amps that don't cost as much as the classics but can sometimes have a better sound and save a lot of space. And if you play live you already probably have a nice big tube amp or 8 to start with.

    My studio has a vintage Ludwig, custom shop and vintage strats/teles/basses, a few mesa amps, some vintage marshalls, including a stack. I also have a 100 year old upright piano that sounds different than any virtual/sampler instrument could ever sound. Ive got a multitude of different percussion, mallet, and indigenous instruments as well as an upright bass and a hammer dulcimer. But I have acquired all that separate of my studio setup. I also have a nice collection of vintage and homemade synths that I consider kind of part of my studio. But I do have a home built modular that is a HUGE part of my studio and serves as an analogue multi effects unit more than a sound source.

    With macs, yea its going to be out dated soon. But you can hang onto it for 6-7 years if you keep updating it and expanding it. You can always make your computer faster and add memory, a new processor, new OS. The computer IS the center of most modern studios so I think it is good to get off on the right foot. While when a set of soft anything will be obsolete much sooner.

    The reason I was disagreeing with you was because he has the money to invest in a studio, and to me a studio is where music is produced. Tools like weird/odd instruments and nice guitars and drums are secondary if you cant do what you want to do with them on tape. Everyone knows someone with a huge modern rock kit they can borrow or rent but not everyone has a Neve 8068 or something like that. And with the low latency and precision of modern DAWs you can treat every track through that compressor individually. You wont run every track through a vintage Vox that can cost twice as much and is much bigger.

    But on the same hand having those big expensive amps can bring in clients and there are many cheaper processors that still do the job as well as the greats, sometimes even better. It is all about what your needs are and what you want to achieve with your creative space. I know that a vintage kit, nice guitars and big amps has gotten me clients but I have worked in studios with 7 5 watt amps that get much better tones than I do because they used the space and money to get a nice iso box and better outboard gear.
     
  20. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I've been in the business for 20 years. The first thing to decide is what you are going to record. Amateurs buy a bunch of stuff to show off to their friends. Pros buy what they need.

    In the case of major studios making big-time records, they need a lot of stuff to attract clients. In the case of a nice project studio, far less is needed. So the first thing to decide is whether you're into having racks of impressive gear, or into spending basically that which you need to spend to do projects you're likely to work on, at a given quality level.

    To give you an idea of what's possible, I was called in to produce the music/sound design for a recent Platinum country artist's tour video at the media studio I do work for. This video was created at our shop, and it needed audio. This video is the one that's shown on a giant screen with the monitors turned up before the show starts. The first thing was to demo what we were going to do.

    The sound designer I worked with used Cubase on a laptop and a MOTU Traveler to create the basic tracks. We hired a guitarist who used his own gear and sent us audio files of his (fantastic playing by the way) live tracks. They had a U89 and an SSL preamp to input any other analog audio. That's it. So VIs were used for drums and most SFX. The client loved the demo.

    The tracks were transferred to our studio's Fairlight Dream system for mixing, but only because that way we could work in any of the studio's rooms without having to reshuffle the deck (clients have first call on the rooms, so sometimes folks have to move around a lot), and work with the larger monitors.

    Obviously, the tracks weren't going to sound any better simply because they were transferred for the mix! Only plug-ins were used for processing except for a Lex 960 that was used as an insert. It could have just as easily been done in Cubase, and would have sounded much the same; obviously you can't transfer higher quality audio than what you recorded.

    Mix was in the box, because that's how the Fairlight works.

    All this gear talk is cool, and nice, and even interesting. But if you know what you're doing, you don't need a ton of stuff. Don't be fooled into thinking you need to spend a fortune to get excellent results. Buy what you need for a given project, and don't buy what you don't need until you actually do have a use for it.

    You CAN have too many mics. Yes. If you don't need that many, and most of them live in a drawer or a cabinet and rarely if ever see the light of day except when you open the cabinet to stare at your wonderful mic collection. I have a mic I haven't used in 5 years! What's that worth to me? Not much!

    If you're recording Steve Porcaro, man you need some good drum mics. But if Joe Shmoe is playing drums, you're wasting your money if you think you're going to make him sound like Porcaro because you're using 414s as overheads instead of something less expensive!

    By the way, as a piano player, I can tell you that as good as Akoustic Piano can sound (I use it often), it doesn't really sound like a well recorded piano in a room. Nor does it have the nuance of a real piano played by a real player. So if you're making serious records, try and use a real piano.

    You don't have to buy a piano, however. You can record piano somewhere else and take the files back to your place to mix. Because a really good piano - one that's worth recording - will use up a very nice chunk of your 40 grand. And if you're smart, you will develop relationships with larger studios for those occasions where you need their equipment or rooms. You can transfer digital audio files between ANY modern DAW and any other modern DAW. Not everything has to be done at your place.

    Finally, do you know any singers that you need to spend five or ten grand on a mic for? For god's sake, Bono records his vocals with an SM58 Beta. What does that run, $139? Michael Jackson records with an SM7. Not everyone needs, or even sounds good, with a U47. Wonderful mics can be had for around a grand. Excellent mic preamps can be had for well under a grand. I guess you get my point. Hang on to as much of that 40 grand as you can; in the studio business, you'll need it later on.

    There's an old adage, and it's true: if you want to end up with a million bucks in the studio business, start with 2 million!
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2009

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