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Need advice starting a home studio w/ Mac from scratch

RSRD

Member
Messages
4,973
Okay Im techincally 'challenged' so I really need help starting up a home studio to record a full 3 piece prog rock band. I know ZERO about recording except that you need mics to do it :huh I have 2 main computers (the latest Imac and powerbook) no recording software (unless you include garage band)

Im looking to put up to 5K into this unless thats unrealistic to record a full band. Then i'll have to go bare bones at first and get more over time. Should i start with software, then mics, then ???

FWIW, we've actually recorded 3 albums at a high end studio (won best rock album of the year in Washington DC with our 3rd) but the touring days are over and I just want to record songs/practices upon occasion. So i do know HOW to be recorded but I dont really know much else. so please be slow and easy with me. As good musicians as we are... we are really clueless on this part but would like to learn.

Ask me all the questions you want and i'll answer as best I can. I really appreciate the help!!

Thomas
 

MusicMan7

Member
Messages
314
I think there are a lot of different directions that you can go, and its important to know which direction you want to go.
1. Are you looking to record a full band at once, or are you going to record single parts at one time?
2. Are you looking to use amp modelers for guitar/bass or are you planning to mic amps?
3. Are you planning to mic an entire drum kit or just use an electronic drum set?
I think some of that stuff is helpful to know because it lets you know which direction you're trying to go. I hope that helps.
 

RSRD

Member
Messages
4,973
1- I prefer individual parts recording if possible
2-mic amps
3-full drums

Thanks for the questions. I should have included that 8)

Thomas
 
Messages
132
Individual parts all at once (meaning recording everyone in your 3-piece playing together) or will you have someone do some scratch tracks according to a click track first then start layering?

The idea is to figure out how many channel strips you need at once as you wanna record live drums. Recording live drums will push up the budget a few fold as you will need something like 10-16 channels or more of preamps and convertors. Without recording live drums, you can buy maybe 2 channels of pristine preamps/convertors + a really nice mic for vocals that will not be out of place in a top studio.

But once you need to include say 16 channels of preamps/convertors, then $5k isn't going to get you very far if you're looking at a high end things.
 

SideBMusic

Member
Messages
1,520
GarageBand may be a good place to start with your recording software. Some audio interfaces come with recording software too (usually a limited version of their high end software with more features). Once you have a better idea of what you want to achieve, you can consider a higher end application.

There are many audio interfaces available. The more expensive ones have better converters for the sound, but that doesn't mean the less expensive ones sound terrible. Get one with the number of inputs and outputs you need... and I highly recommend getting a FireWire connection over USB.

There are some decent mics that are not expensive either. Do your research and find the one that will fit your needs. You are not going to get the best sound possible, but again, you may want to find something in your budget range for now and save up for the better equipment once you have more experience and know what you want.
 

RSRD

Member
Messages
4,973
So if Im planning on recording 12-16 tracks....I'll have to spend over 5K. The question then becomes should I start a studio with as many channels as possible with low end parts to be replaced at later dates. Or just suck it up and get less channels with mid-high end gear.

So if Im starting a shopping/pricing list what do i need on this list? Mics, audio interface, pre amps and converters ( im clueless...are these what you channel the instrument-the interface with?) is that it?
 

Cyclophenia

Member
Messages
121
Seriously, check out this guide:

http://www.tweakheadz.com/guide.htm


it has the answers you need.

The studio central forum fields questions like those you are asking on a daily basis, and have come up with this monster guide to help out. My advice is to think about your signal chain, how many channels you need, if you want to mix in the computer or out of it. 5K is not much in the grand scheme of studio equipment, but getting thinking about that will help prioritize purchases, and get you in the ball park.
 
Messages
132
You don't gave to spend more than $5k if you don't want to. It really depends on where you draw the line on quality.

This scenario assumes you're not going down the direction of getting a Protools setup.

To get 16 channels of preamps and convertors at $5k, you're looking at low to mid end products. You can no doubt make decent recordings with these products. But you aren't going to be competitive with the big boys. Maybe if you're really really really talented as an audio engineer, you might fool a few people into thinking otherwise.

Basically everything you record has a signal chain: source > mic > preamp > whatever you wanna add to shape your sound like compressor/EQ...etc > analogue to digital convertors > computer audio interface > iMac/powerbook running recording software > computer audio interface > digital to analogue convertor > monitor speakers/headphones

Everything is pretty straight forward until you reach the computer audio interface. The main function of this component is to translate electrical signals into something your computer can understand and record, and also to translate 1's and 0's into something your speakers can play back.

For your iMac/Powerbook, you can only be looking at firewire interfaces, which all have the computer interface and AD-DA convertors built into one box.

There are a few options:

1) You can buy an all-in-one type product like an Apogee ensemble or RME Fireface or MOTU 828. The have preamps/AD-DA convertors/interface built into one device. But non I know have 12-16 channels of preamps built-in. Most have up to 4 built-in preamps and 8 sets of AD-DA convertors. If you go prosumer, a Presonus Digimax 96k has 8 built-in preamps and 8 sets of AD-DA convertors. So you will need to link 2 boxes together and get additional preamps to make 12-16. Or if you get something like the Presonus Digimax 96k, you just need to get 2 of these and you will get 16 preamps and 16 sets of convertors.

2) Or you can buy something as mentioned above in point 1 and add convertors to it to turn it from an 8 channel AD-DA to a 16 channel AD-DA via ADAT link or whatever interface is included in your audio interface. You will still need to buy enough preamps to make 12-16 channels.

3) If you want even better AD convertors, you can buy just convertors (like Apogee Rosetta 800 or Mytek 8x192) and add them to your audio interface as mentioned in point 1 via ADAT link or whatever interface is included in your audio interface, and bypass the stock convertors. This is what I do. This option will be most costly as you're buying a set of convertors but bypassing them, and just using the computer interface part of the product.

There are even more possibilities, but this is the basic idea.

So first, you gotta figure out what software you're going to use to record the band. It's possible to use GarageBand, but it won't get you very far down the road. Maybe look into more professional level software like Logic Audio, Ableton, Cubase...etc.

Then find out how many mics and what type of mics you will need for everyone in the band to be able to record at the same time.

Correspondingly, that number is the number of sets of preamps and convertors you will need to have in the least.

Then figure out if you need or want any peripherals like compressors and equalizers. You can add these within your software but it won't sound anything like their good hardware counterparts.

You can then decide what can be bought with $5k, and then find out that $5k really ain't gonna cut it :)
 

RSRD

Member
Messages
4,973
Thanks for the info guys. Its a lot to soak in. But hopefully i'll get there.
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,316
If they're just for you guys to listen to, I'd suggest it.

If you have any other aspirations, it's probbaly better to just go into a studio an track drums.
 

wsaraceni

Member
Messages
7,870
do you need to do it all at once?

for 5k you could do 6 tracks at a time pretty easily. that could cover drums. if you went with a cheaper DI for bass, you can add that as a 7th without issue.

all prices approx used values

digi 003rack (4 preamps and 4 line in) $900
6 space api500 series rack ( i like the brent averill one personally) $600
2 500 series preamps ($500-600 each used)
cabling (figure $400)
dynaudio bm5a or adam a7 speakers ($900 used ??? a guess)
that leaves about $800 for microphones.

whats nice is that this leaves you with 4 open slots in the 500 series rack, where you can add more preamps for that same $500 - 600 in the future).
 

LSchefman

Member
Messages
13,432
>>To get 16 channels of preamps and convertors at $5k, you're looking at low to mid end products. You can no doubt make decent recordings with these products. But you aren't going to be competitive with the big boys. Maybe if you're really really really talented as an audio engineer, you might fool a few people into thinking otherwise.<<

What makes me smile about this is that one of my friends made a record with a Mackie mixer that sold more than 10 million copies.

Too bad he wasn't competitive with the big boys, huh?

Oh wait, I forgot, on TGP it's about the gear, not the music. Dumb me!
 

gixxerrock

Member
Messages
3,892
I am not a pro, and my work won't compete with the pros, but it seems to me the best thing is to get going as cheap but smart as possible. There is so much to learn that is not gear related, that the gear will only start holding you back once you have mastered all the other things. Then you will be infinitely better informed to upgrade to quality things piecemeal based on bang for buck. My humble suggestion is spend $2k initially, then budget a bunch more over the years:

- Logic Express (Upgrade to pro later)
- powered monitors
- some 8 channel firewire based interface (Presonus FireStudio, Motu ....)
- couple SM57s, ok condensor for vocals/acoustic guitar, drum overheads. Take existing band mics and start experimenting and recording. Then buy a nice mic, and preamps and observe the sonic improvements.

This is all only IMO. Good luck, and have fun.

Shawn.
 

alschnier

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
362
hey big country,
you're doing the right thing. ask a lot of questions. do a lot of research. it won't take long. $5k is a great budget to get up & running.

if you're just getting started, I'd recommend pro tools. it has it's downside, & some folks prefer other DAWs (I personally like digital performer better), but there's no denying that pro tools has managed to become the clear leader in this field. most of the programs are similar enough that you're best off learning that language & their interface.

you could def. save some $ by buying a pr. of used 002 racks (or cheaper still, buy 1 & then use the lightpipe to a motu 828 or some less expensive i/o) - this will all make sense in a few days.

when it comes to your gear, like guitar stuff, buying used is generally a better value if you know what you're getting & you pay a fair price.

I second the notion of buying some api pres if your budget allows it. these are pres you will never have to think about. they are always great on everything. you will always be able to resell them for what you paid for them too.

you can also get some pretty good mileage out of moderately priced used mics like sennheiser 421s & 409s. shure sm7. akg 414 & 451.

get a sweetwater catalogue & keep it on the nightstand (or in the bathroom).

def. start using garageband. it's pretty rudimentary, but a lot of fun & gets you familiar w making music on your computer.
 

wsaraceni

Member
Messages
7,870
>>To get 16 channels of preamps and convertors at $5k, you're looking at low to mid end products. You can no doubt make decent recordings with these products. But you aren't going to be competitive with the big boys. Maybe if you're really really really talented as an audio engineer, you might fool a few people into thinking otherwise.<<

What makes me smile about this is that one of my friends made a record with a Mackie mixer that sold more than 10 million copies.

Too bad he wasn't competitive with the big boys, huh?

Oh wait, I forgot, on TGP it's about the gear, not the music. Dumb me!
i bet it sounded a lot better than most of us can make with more expensive setups. can't buy talent
 
Messages
132
What makes me smile about this is that one of my friends made a record with a Mackie mixer that sold more than 10 million copies.

Too bad he wasn't competitive with the big boys, huh?

Oh wait, I forgot, on TGP it's about the gear, not the music. Dumb me!
Well, you don't have to tell me that. I have produced and recorded for major artistes in Asia with Mackie mixers and ADAT machines, Rockman distortions, Peavey Rage amps... that have sold a few fold of 10 million, and that's just in China alone. I know the value of musical content, skills and talent.

All I'm saying that ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, an acoustic guitar will sound better say through a KM84 > Neve 1073 > TubeTech CL1B than through a Samson C02 > Samson C-Valve > Alesis 3630.

If there is no line drawn anywhere with the quality of equipment, and basing everything on talent, then there's no need to spend any money. Just use the built-in mic and GarageBand on the iMac, make a recording with it, and sell 10 million copies. Afterall, it should sound better than say, Parker's earliest recordings, which of course you know still sell even today.
 
Last edited:

rhp52

Member
Messages
1,885
Nobody has mentioned the learning curve here.....the OP said he knows nothing.

Make sure you allow plenty of time to know and understand how to use any of the aforementioned products.... take your time... and get instruction if needed. This may seem obvious to some but is overlooked by many. My .02

Good Luck!
 

sears

Member
Messages
1,871
Treat your room. A few bass traps will go a long way towards easier tracking and mixing. For DIY, search for 703 insulation on messageboard.tapeop.com or gearslutz. Or go to GIK or realtraps.

Speaking of mixing, you could punt and send it to someone else to mix. Then you could even cut guitars and bass with a POD, plus a direct signal that the mixer could use to reamp in his room with his amps. But having seen and heard your band I bet you want more control than that.
 

retro

Member
Messages
1,687
So if Im planning on recording 12-16 tracks....I'll have to spend over 5K.
Depends on what you choose.

So if Im starting a shopping/pricing list what do i need on this list? Mics, audio interface, pre amps and converters ( im clueless...are these what you channel the instrument-the interface with?) is that it?
For tracking sessions it's good to know how many tracks you will need at one time.

I'm assuming with no mention of vocals, and a 3 piece band you may be fine with 8 mic pre's at a time? And the 12-16 tracks are a total track count for the recorded project?

It's not too difficult to find an audio interface with 8 mic/instrument pre's. Which of course include converter's and other I/O. And there are several ways to do that also.


One could be a Mixer with a FW or USB2 connection. Another could be an audio interface. And with Mac's, another could be 2 interface's hooked up as an aggregate device. Or an interface with auxiliary outboard pre's.


Once you find something that looks right, you will want to ask around and check for issues on compatibility with your Mac and OS.


And since it can certainly depend on how you may want your system to grow. The I/O configuration on what you choose may be an important consideration for you.


Then it's a matter of choosing mic's and a software DAW.

Luckily these days there are many options for learning each DAW. So it would not be too difficult to be up and running. And lot's of forum resource's on gear also.

This is a long standing Mac audio forum. If you haven't been, it may of interest to you also.

http://www.macosxaudio.com/forums/
 




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