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What part of the signal chain should I focus on?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by cocheese, Jun 19, 2005.

  1. cocheese

    cocheese Supporting Member

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    I am still trying to decide what to do about a small home studio I want to put together. I'd like to keep it all +/- $5k if possible. I could use my Dell PC as the host computer as well. (Though I would prefer a new Mac)

    My question is: Where am I going to see the best bang for the buck return on sound quality? I think it will be mic, preamp, converter, software in that order, but am I off base here?

    I'm thinking of building a Hamptone tube preamp from the kit to save some $$$ on that part of the chain. As far as converters, you can spend an awful lot of money, but where am I going to get a good price point? I was thinking of the Lynx 2-C but I'm not sure this is the best option.

    Any thoughts?

    (BTW, I'm mainly going to be recording electric and acoustic guitars, not full orchestras of any of that. A couple of good channels is what I'm trying to focus on.)

    Thanks for any and all help! :)
     
  2. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    Mics, monitors, acoustic treatment, preamp, converters, IMHO.

    Loudboy
     
  3. guitarmook

    guitarmook Member

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    my opinion...

    preamps and converters, and audio treatments and monitoring.

    good preamps can make a 57 sound good, and bad preamps can make a u47 sound bad... same w/ converters.

    then you need to know you're hearing accurately, so that you've got the best possible information available to make mixing decisions...

    then mics... 'cause by now, you'll really be able to hear the subtleties.
     
  4. jkr

    jkr Supporting Member

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    My 2 cents....

    Mic preamp, mic, monitor, converters, room treatment.

    Different mics sound very different, different preamps sound fairly different, with monitors (well your ear needs to familiar with it, so cheap or expensive is less important than how well you know it translates, but there's great monitors for $500-$700 new and used), different converters sound somewhat different (some guys swear by there converters but I've recorded stuff on pro tools converters, apogee converters, and porta studio converters and the differences are not worlds apart. It's more subltle than a different mic or different preamp.) I think having monitors my ears like makes recording much more fun!

    Luckily, for just recording guitar you can get a great sound with a cheap 57, 609, of 421 and pick up another reasonably priced (Marshall mics, Project C1, Audio technica, or Rodes) large diaphram for around $150 to $300 for room ambience and your home.
     
  5. GAT

    GAT Gold Supporting Member

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    Good mics and good mic preamps will get you the most bang for your bucks. It all starts at the beginning. I use a Royer 121 and an SM57 through Universal Audio mic pre's and that gets a great result. Converters, monitors and acoustics are important as well, but if I had to choose and direct my funds, the first two items count the most.
     
  6. cocheese

    cocheese Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the input guys. I'm thinking of going with the AEA R-84 instead of the Royer 121. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? They are both supposed to be great mics. The AEA is a little cheaper and is supposedly a little warmer than the Royer. My brother just got back from the TapeOp conference where he said Ross Hogarth was getting some flat out amazing guitar tones with a 57 and Royer 121.

    I'm thinking about the mic pre now. I've heard really great things about the Great River MP-2NV, but is there another more guitar oriented pre?

    I'm going to focus on the mic and pre to begin with.

    I'm going to be building this one piece at a time, but my ideas for a setup so far:

    PC running Win XP, AMD Athalon 3800+, 2 Ghz RAM, 2x160 SATA drives
    Lynx L-22 card (posibbly upgrading to Lavry Blue A/D D/A
    Samplitude 8
    Event ASP8 or ADAM NF-10 monitors
    Great River MP-2NV or ?????
    Emperical Labs Distressor, Urie/UA 1176, or ?????
    Royer R-121 or AEA R-84 ribbon mic
    Assortment of othe mics (57, AKG BLS, AT 4050, Neumann U84)
     
  7. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    I run the Lynx card, you don't need to upgrade it. It sounds fantastic as both a A/D and D/A. I sold my Benchmark D/A-1 and don't miss it.

    I have used the Great River pre, a Phoenix Audio pre and a A-Designs tube pre. All bought for working with guitar (electric and acoustic tones). What did I keep when I needed to whittle down the gear pile? A FMR RNP preamp. Clean, with excellent detail and little color, but lots of "musical traction". It doesn't get lost.

    You've got some incredible gear planned out; I'd just go with what you need (really if you are recording electric guitars, just start with a 57) and make music.

    But there you are. :D

    Samp is a badass program, I dug it but found that I liked Steinberg's Cubase SX just as much.

    The Adams are just stellar, but the Events are okay too. I went from KRK to Dynaudio and now am just running Mackie 624's now. I don't feel lacking in any way.

    You can survive *very* well without the compressors you name too - I run the FMR RNC and I'll still hold it up as an incredible peice. It just works and sounds great.

    As for the ribbon mic, well, you can easily survive without it. That is a lot of $$$ to drop for something you *really* don't need IMHO. But follow your heart. Keep in mind you can rent things like the Royer as needed. Then you don't need to pay nearly $1K for something you'll really not need that much, but there you are. I have a Soudelux U195 that does a tremendous job on acoustics and female vocals (not mine, I don't sing!) and past that I have one of the first kits that Royer put out with Mojave Audio for a tube mic. Total out lay on that was I think $400 or so at the time.

    Just my opinion.
     
  8. cocheese

    cocheese Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the advice Scott.

    Nice to hear from someone whoe has been down this very path before. I am going to start small and build until I feel it's good enough. The first things will be the monitors, program, card, and preamp. I'm even thinking of one of the Hamptone DIY tube preamps. For $700 it is apparently a VERY nice preamp...not to take anything away from the RNP/"Really Nice Preamp". My brother has a few of those with some RNC's too and loves them.

    I'll be sure and keep you all posted as things move along. I'll be ordering some stuff this week! (Ok, now I've set a deadline for myself. ;) )
     
  9. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

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    If you're thinking of compressors AND mic pres, you might consider the Langevin dual vocal channel-good basic compression, EQ and kick-ass mic pres in a box that'll give you two channels for $1500 used.
     
  10. fr8_trane

    fr8_trane Member

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    FWIW I have been doing the PC recording thing for years now, interned at a pro studio, and currently do IT. Here's how I would prioritize:

    First I suggest building a dedicated audio PC or having someone do it for you. This will be way more reliable in the long run than a Dell from both a hardware and software standpoint. Having the best mics, pres and converters don't mean squat if you're constantly crashing.

    Next I would look into a good sounding audio interface with PROVEN reliable drivers and excellent tech support. The lynx cards are very good. So is RME, MOTU, and Presonus. The lynx and RME converters are probably the best bang for the buck and honestly if this is a home studio your A/D D/A is not going to be the weakest link in your chain. Acoustics are.

    Samplitude is by all accounts an excellent professional program but Sonar 4 is IMO the best bang for the buck. It really is fantastic.

    Acoustic treatment: A 57 through a mediocre pre in a good sounding room will in most cases sound better than an expensive mic thru an expensive pre in a room rife with acoustic problems. Close miking can minimize acoustic problems but it DOESN'T eliminate them. These inherent anomolies build up with every track recorded and put an unwanted sonic stamp on your mixes. Bad acoustics also hurt your ability to accurately monitor and mix what you have recorded. Small square rooms almost universally have MAJOR acoustical issues especially in the low frequency range. I would advise looking into some Real Traps or other room treatments to help even out your room tone.

    Monitors are next. Who cares if you recorded your guitar with a royer thru a neve preamp if you can't hear the subtleties of the tone. How can you get an accurate mix without accurate monitors. Don't be cheap here. Get the best monitors you can afford.

    Mic pre's: There are a couple excellent values in the mic pre world: The FMR RNP ($500 stereo), Groove Tubes The Brick ($500 single channel tube pre), Sytek MP4 ($1000 4 ch.) The mackie onyx 4 ch. mixer ($500), The presonus Eureka (2 ch. pre/interface with transformer balanced inputs). Any of these will give you excellent results for not alot of dough.

    Mics: I learned to DETEST the SM57 on guitar (yes there are quite a few of us) ever since I heard a ribbon mike on a cab. However its cheap, multifunctional and gets the job done. As for cheap ribbons I would look into any of the Beyer ribbon mics (I have an M-500) and especially the m-160 (~$500). These sound phenomenal on guitar and many other instruments. The AEA and Royer mics are fantastic but expensive. Ribbons can also sound amazing on acoustic guitar but you will need a lo noise, hi gain pre for that (60db +). A Large condenser can work well for Vocals, acoustic guitar and electric guitar and can become the workhorse of your studio. It looks impressive too:D
     
  11. cocheese

    cocheese Supporting Member

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    Thanks guys. Here's an update. I've decided to get a dedicated PC from Sonica Labs. Guy of there was extremely helpful in getting a good system together for me. The software is Samplitude 8 Pro. The monitors are Event Precision 6's. The Adams look great, but I just can't spend that much on monitors right now. The pre will be a Great River MP-2NV and the card is the Lynx 2-C. I'm going to get used to the way the system works and tinker around with it in the house for a few months. This winter I am going to build a studio in the 3rd bay of my detached garage. I'm going to do my best to use good materials and pay close attention to the acoustics. This will be a project in and of itself...but a fun one at that! :)

    I'm excited to be able to record anything at this point. :D
     

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