Home Studio Newbie

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Brad Scott, Jan 16, 2005.


  1. Brad Scott

    Brad Scott Supporting Member

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    I'd like to begin to do basic home recording and would like advice. First off, I should decide on whether to go the computer or portastudio route. I like the feel of real knobs/buttons so I'm leaning more towards the portastudio, unless most folks strongly recommend recording directly into a computer. I have a PC, so would Cubase or Cakewalk be the main choice if I went the computer route? If I went with a portastudio, which ones are the best for around $700?

    I was also going to get an MXL 990 for acoustic work and a Shure SM-57 to mic the cabs - they both seem very reasonably priced. If I wanted to use a drum machine, are there some portastudios that have that capability built in?

    Lastly, I'd like to record some synth; what's the best entry-level keyboard out there?

    I only have about $1000 for the whole setup, so I'm looking for solid but budget-minded gear. Could someone list what I would probably need with basic costs not exceeding $1000?

    Thanks
     
  2. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>Could someone list what I would probably need with basic costs not exceeding $1000?<<

    Computer route: Not possible with any quality.
     
  3. tedm

    tedm Gold Supporting Member

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    those mics are great for their price. if you do go the pc route, many sound cards come with some entry level sw to give you a feel for how they work. Check out sound card offerings from EMU, M-Audio, Edirol and others.

    You might need to spring for a small mixer like a Mackie, Behringer, etc. with built in mic-pres.

    Probably will want a compressor/limiter as well, check out the FMR RNC unit.

    The portastudio way is not too bad either, lots of folks still enjoy them. Check out the tapeop.com and homerecording.com forums as well as here for a variety of budget based solutions.

     
  4. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    Well, what you're talking about is still not high quality.

    1. You can't find an "outstanding" audio interface for $125-250. You can find a cheap one. And chances are, you can't record a fully miked drum kit, a bass player, and a guitar player at the same time with it unless you add a mixer.

    2. 24 bits does not assure high quality audio. The analog circuitry is important, and the quality of the converters is important, and mere number of bits is meaningless in terms of audio quality unless the rest of the circuit is comparable.

    3. The software costs money, the 57 is a good choice in mics, but the MXL is not.

    4. He wanted to include a keyboard for the $1000.

    5. Most people don't have an extra monitor lounging around.

    I suppose that "high quality" is a relative term, but since I've been recording with a DAW since 1991, and have produced and composed for my livelihood, I can say with some experience that "$1000 budget" and "high quality" are mutually exclusive concepts.

    Forgotten in this $1000 equation are:

    Cables
    Headphones
    Monitors
    One compressor at least, even if just for vocals!
    Mic stands
    If recording live band, headphone distribution amp
    Pop filter
    Beer ;)
     
  5. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    Bruce Richardson's Pro Rec review of the Marshall MXL mic concept is right on the money, IMHO:

    >>Hmmmm. Cold-soldered electronics in a machined-brass case flooding the market from every angle. Sold by a company whose primary line of business is security and spy cameras. What does that tell you about the intention and purpose of this product? What theories might it inspire as to its origin, given the bizarre juxtaposition of quantity, pricing and hand assembly?

    Somebody say it's not so.

    You will notice that as of late, the Marshall Electronics website now boasts quite the large collection of mic esoterica, each and every one reminiscent of a classic design, yet selling for a price that would belie such design.

    I haven't heard the other mics yet. My mind remains open. Show me a quality microphone from Marshall Electronics, and I will sing its praises from the highest rooftops. I want someone to prove me wrong, desperately. I want to believe that these mics are not being foisted into the market full of empty promise, while taking money out of the hands of the very microphone manufacturers that we should thank our creator for each and every morning.

    And that's what makes me angry. A dollar spent on an MXL2001P is a dollar that isn't spent on a Neumann, an AKG, or even a Sennheiser, Rode, Audio-Technica, or Shure<<
     
  6. Brad Scott

    Brad Scott Supporting Member

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    Les,

    I value your input here, but you are quite obviously on another level when it comes to recording. I simply asked for recommendations in putting together a very basic home studio for around $1000 to record ideas and personal demos, and your first response was to say that it can't be done — with any quality, that is. I know you must use some pretty high-end stuff on a day-to-day basis, but I'm just looking for a starting point to get my feet wet. If I really enjoy the home recording process, I can always begin to upgrade my equipment over time, but the quality gear you're suggesting (Neumann, AKG, Sennheiser, etc.) just isn't feasible for me at this point. Not everyone can afford a Neumann or Sennheiser so the MXL 990, while completely inferior to you, may be one of the few viable choices I have. I'm also considering a Studio Projects B1, but that's probably an inferior product as well. :rolleyes:

    For the record, I will not be recording a fully miked drum kit, a bass player, and a guitar player at the same time. I also have headphones and monitors. I was essentially just asking for advice concerning a computer-based system vs. a digital workstation, and recommendations on decent entry-level microphones. The keyboard will likely be an old used one for now.

    I appreciate the other responses offering meaningful suggestions and advice.
     
  7. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I'm with Brad here. It's true; he didn't say anything about it sounding good. He asked for cheap.

    I say, go for it! And good luck finding that free keyboard.
     
  8. Brad Scott

    Brad Scott Supporting Member

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    Yeah, that's right . . . I'm looking for total crap here. Jeez, I had no idea $1000 bought you such junk. Guess I'll keep saving . . .

    Maybe I should just stick to playing and leave the recording to the experts. :(
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    What can I say? You asked for advice based on a specific shopping list and budget. You were given advice – succinctly but not unkindly – by a pro who really knows his sh*t. You didn't like it because it wasn't encouraging enough, so you turned up your nose and inferred it wasn't "meaningful."

    All I can say is go for it and best of luck. If it sounds good, great! I really have nothing else to offer.
     
  10. clarkram

    clarkram Member

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    considering that the initial response from Les was "not possible..." I think the meaningless label was appropriate.

    It appears that gear snobbery is alive and well in this section of the forum. BTW, I know how much fun semantics can be, but Brad asked for "budget" recommendations, not "cheap"...there is a difference.

    Clark
     
  11. Brad Scott

    Brad Scott Supporting Member

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    I was not given advice, I was told that it couldn't be done or would not be of quality. I was offered no alternative solutions or best bang-for-the-buck recommendations.

    Yes, I know that my budget is small - does that mean I should just forget about the whole thing because whatever I get for that price will just sound like sh*t anyway?
     
  12. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    The Marshall V67G is really happening, I regularly use it over a Rode Classic, TLM-103 and Soundelux U195 and a Gefell UM70, all of which are pretty decent mics. At $79, it's also less than 10% of the price. It's very good on female singers who may be strident on some of the brighter mics out there. It's pretty neutral, I haven't really heard it sound BAD on anything.

    I've used 6 different ones and they're very consistent. Probably the only one of the Chinese mics which gets consistently good marks from people whose opinions I respect.

    Is it a U-47? No, but with a V67 and the right voice, you can cut a vocal that would be way more than acceptable for any type of project. It's my first recommendation for anyone who needs a lot of bang for the buck.

    The whole Chinese thing is disturbing, but it's happening across the board - look at the trade deficit. It's market-driven though, and the American public has spoken - it wants cheap, OK quality over prohibitively expensive, top quality. Neumann, AKG, etc. aren't going to go away anytime soon, IMHO. But to use the Fender/Gibson analogy, when was the last time any of them produced a "classic" mic? And why can't they still do it? There are LOTS of folks who would pay anything for a "new production" U-47, 251 or C-12, but they are either incapable, or don't care about, producing such a mic.

    Just rambling now...

    Loudboy
     
  13. alderash

    alderash Guest

    How is it on acoustic guitar?
     
  14. straticus

    straticus Member

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    I don't see the problem here. Sound quality is relative and anything you do on a DAW should be light years ahead of the old (or new) cassette four track portastudios. If you go the PC route (which is what I would do because you already have a PC = saving money) you should be able to get a pretty decent sounding set up going for $1000.00 no problem.

    There's the Mackie Spike or the Lexicon. I've heard some negative feedback on the Lex but the Mackie seems like a good unit, only two tracks at a time though unless you sub mix on another mixer. And I've heard good things about the SW that comes with the Mackie. Also, I think the Mackie has a front end compressor and EQ. So for around $400.00 or less you have your interface, front end compressor and EQ, tracking and editing software and some basic FX plug-ins. You should easily be able to get an SM57, a vocal mic (the AT2020 looks interesting) and some monitors with the money left over. I'd look at the used market for this stuff in order to make your money stretch as far as possible. I'm not up to date on the keyboard thing but just look around.

    So, it can be done, no problem. Will it sound like it was tracked at Electric Ladyland Studio?? .......... nope. Will it serve it's purposes and do what you need it to?? .... I say yes, easily. You'll probably be amazed at how good it sounds.

    There are other units besides the Mackie and the Lex but these are just two that came to mind.


    BC :)
     
  15. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    In that price range, the Oktava MC-012 is your price/performance winner. It's a small diaphragm condenser, but works well on a variety of sources.

    Loudboy
     
  16. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    I have to side with Les regarding the MXL mics. I bought a pair of sc mxl's for $40. They work fine but the quality is very poor. I absolutely do not trust them to last. I'd rather pay a little more for one mic once than to risk the cheap stuff failing in the middle of a session, especially since you'll only be buying 1 or 2 mics anyway. Buy a Rode. They support their products. I know you want inexpensive, but do you really want disposable?
     
  17. Brad Scott

    Brad Scott Supporting Member

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    I'm not married to MXL, it was just an affordable option. Of course I don't want a disposable mic, but at the same time I do have a budget to contend with and I think there may be decent budget-minded options out there (AT2020, SP B1).

    What will probably happen is that I'll get whatever gear I can afford and give it a go. I'll either decide it's not my bag and pack it in, or I'll stick with it and slowly upgrade each piece of gear as I can afford to. Since I'm just starting out, I can't blow the load on one or two items and not have enough for anything else. I'd rather get adequate gear and start messing around now than continue to save and wait.
     
  18. straticus

    straticus Member

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    I like the 012's. I have a few and use them as drum over heads mostly. I don't know if I'd want it to be my only condenser.

    I think there might be a few large diaphragm condenser mics in the low cost range that might be a better all around choice and would work better on vocals.
     
  19. Kiwi

    Kiwi Silver Supporting Member

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    Brad, I'm sort of in the same boat. Head on over to the Home Recording Forum and ask around there. Great place for newbies.

    http://homerecording.com/bbs/index.php

    While I deeply respect the experts here who do recording for a living, and I'm gald they're here, I have to say that some of the responses to folks like Brad - or me - who are trying to do "decent sound on a budget" have been rather discouraging in this thread.

    You're not wrong, guys. Great equipment in the right hands sounds great.

    But there are a bunch of us out here who aren't trying to sound great. We're trying to sound decent, and to get a handle on what we sound like.

    We're not running a recording studio or doing it for money. We're doing it for love and curiosity and we don't have the budget for the great stuff.

    My own experience is: Using lower-end equipment very carefully, I've gotten very positive responses from civilians about the quality of my recordings.

    It's possible to do "decent" on a budget. Now help the man.

    Kiwi

    Me? Standalone Korg D1600 recorder. Two Okatava mics (219 and 319) plus two SM57s; Behringer compressors; ART tube pre-amps; a pair of Alesis Monitor Ones and a 100w home stereo to run them. All lower-end stuff.

    Oh, and I don't mic cabs. I use POD v1.2 and have done since 1999. Enormously easy to use vs. miking, no volume issues for home recording, and you get instant results that vary from "yuck" to "hot diggity."
     

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