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Choosing the right gear

Postby SkamUK » Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:34 am

Hello everyone.

I have a query regarding my ideal perfect studio setup. I attended a Sound Engineering course at a college called IMW in Islington and they housed a SSL SL4000G+. I LOVED the versatility of this desk, it literally had every single feature i could possible desire along with the best sound i've ever heard. This has motivated me to attempt to create a setup using the features I require only but with the same flexibility, quality and ease of use.

I have a very low budget but am willing to save up some money for the best possible quality without unnecessary extras costing more money than its worth to me.

I make beats strictly software and sample based. I don't play any instruments myself and have only ever recorded any at college, where I engineered a 10 mic drum set for the first time. I have friends who rap and sing and I doubt I will be recording anything more than them. At least not all at once.

The ideal setup for me would be this:

RECORDING
Condenser Mic > XLR Cable > Preamp > Compression > EQ > Digital Cable (SPDIF, etc.) > Pro Tools Interface > Firewire Cable > Pro Tools

FEATURES
Talkback Mic, Multiple speaker monitoring, 2+ Headphone Outputs, Midi DAW control, all ins and outs balanced... and all this preferably in one or two units.

The aim is a central workstation. Very much like the Mindprint Trio but with an SSL quality preamp and dynamics. With no loss of quality or inheritance of earth hums or interference.

I may be asking for too much but I thought i'd try my luck here and see if anyone has a similar setup or knowledge of how to go about it.

Things I've been looking at with similar setups but just not cutting it:

SSL Alpha Channel
Mindprint Trio
PreSonus Monitor Station
SSL Matrix
Mackie Onyx 820i

My current setup:

Custom built Asus tower, AMD Phenom II X4 940 3.00Ghz processors, 4GB RAM, full HD graphics, 500GB 7200 Hard drive 20" monitor.
M-Audio Firewire Solo audio interface.
Yamaha HS80M monitors X2.
Behringer BCF2000 Midi controller.
Rode NT1A microphone.
Behringer B2 Pro microphone.
Alesis Monitor Two 3-way monitors - powered by old Pioneer hi fi amp.
M-Audio Keystation 49 midi keyboard.
All Neutrik connections and premium cables.

Any ideas/help would be much appreciated!!!!

Please message me with any questions you have and I will try to answer them to the best of my knowledge.

Thanks, Danny.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby The Elf » Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:39 am

I also use an SSL front end. I chose a pair of SSL Superanalogue Channel strips for their quality and flexibility - these are essentially SSL 4000G channels in a rack box. These connect to my audio interface digitally (digital I/O was an option for the Superanalogue Channel Strip), so the audio interface's own A/D isn't used - an important aspect of keeping the sound quality as high as possible.

I would not routinely use any compression/EQ while tracking, but I like to come out/back to the channel strips later, as necessary.

The Alpha Channel would be a good alternative to a Superanalogue Channel and is something I've sniffed at a few times to provide me with more SSL-ish channels.

For monitor/headphone outputs (and to enable me to use external effects, including my SSL Channels) I chose an audio interface with a healthy amount of I/O - an RME Fireface 800. The main headphone output is for my monitoring. I use separate outputs for control room headphones, studio headphones, main monitors, alternative monitors, etc - each to their own amp. The main monitors are connected via a monitor controller (Furman), which gives me level control, switchable speaker options and a further headphone output. For talkback I simply use one of the Fireface's mic input and a PA mic with latch/momentary switch.

Cubase's Control Room is a massive advantage for monitor/foldback control. Ffor me that's where the story ends. With Pro Tools I set up a similar routing system, but I handle the routing in RME's TotalMix. It's not as slick as Control Room, but it works

HTH!
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby SkamUK » Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:06 pm

Thanks for your reply!

I can't find anywhere that sells that superanalogue channel. The alpha channel only had some form of limiter and I would rather have more control with compression. SSL have released the new range of superanalogue and the nearest thing is the x-rack which is capable of too much. I just want the one mono channel.

Ive been looking at some other forums on choosing the right pre-amp for rap vocals. The Mindprint Envoice MKII looks perfect but is it going to produce the right sound I'm looking for? I definitely want a preamp with built in compressor and eq, with a gate and or valve being a bonus, with a digital output.

Below is a draft song of my mate rapping. It has been recorded on my behringer b2 pro through my firewire solo processed after using waves ssl channel rtas plugins, although I plan to use the NT1A unless anyone thinks otherwise? It doesnt sound bad but i want a more powerful and rich sounding vocal. The instrumental is also an mp3 taken from youtube so it doesnt help with judgement. I can upload clean and processed vocals if it helps.

GK - The Cube [Draft] by SkamUK

I think i'll stick with the Presonus Monitor Station, I was considering the central station due to it being passive but it's twice the price and i've heard people have problems with the remote. My room is untreated, do you think i will be able to hear the difference? I spent a lot of money on these HS80M's i dont want to compromise any quality.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby Richie Royale » Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:44 pm

I would take the time and money to treat your room.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby The Elf » Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:48 pm

The Superanalogue Channel is secondhand only, I'm afraid, hence my suggesting the Alpha as a good alternative.

You seem to be fighting a lot of battles all at once here. I'd advise stepping back and sorting out a list of priorities, then work through them without rushing things.

Some items will have a bigger impact on your recordings than others - some items need the support of other purchases to make the best of them. There's little point in springing for an SSL front end, then feeding it with a Behringer mic for vocals. Good monitoring and room treatment will likely have a much bigger early impact than a boutique mic pre.

First up I'd look to replace that Behringer mic as soon as possible TBH. Then roll up your sleeves and look at room treatment. A decent vocal mic and a sympathetic room will likely have a significant positive impact at this stage - the mic pre can wait. That's quite a woolly-sounding mix above, and that could be relective of your room.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby SkamUK » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:09 pm

Problem I have is that im using my bedroom at the moment, I placed the mic in the corner of the room with duvets hung around it. Im moving my bedroom/studio into a larger room soon, and the mrs wants it all decorated nice and isnt happy with the idea of having foam on the walls (annoying). I might be able to push to build a very small booth in the corner but am i better off in a bigger space or small space acoustically treated. Im talking enough room to fit mic and artist only!

The only reason i'm looking at pre's is because i want to have compresson and eq on my vocals before they enter pro tools, and figured it would make sense to buy a unit with a pre at a similar cost. Surely any dedicated pre is going to sound better that the one built into my Firewire solo.

Also are mic reflection filters worth looking at?

The behringer won't sell for anything i doubt so i'll just keep it in the cupboard. But do you think the NT1A is suitable for this type of recording?
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby EnlightenedHand » Tue Jan 17, 2012 7:04 pm

...I have a query regarding my ideal perfect studio setup. I attended a Sound Engineering course at a college called IMW in Islington and they housed a SSL SL4000G+. I LOVED the versatility of this desk, it literally had every single feature i could possible desire along with the best sound i've ever heard. This has motivated me to attempt to create a setup using the features I require only but with the same flexibility, quality and ease of use.

I have a very low budget but am willing to save up some money for the best possible quality without unnecessary extras costing more money than its worth to me.

I make beats strictly software and sample based. I don't play any instruments myself and have only ever recorded any at college, where I engineered a 10 mic drum set for the first time. I have friends who rap and sing and I doubt I will be recording anything more than them. At least not all at once.

The ideal setup for me would be this:

RECORDING
Condenser Mic > XLR Cable > Preamp > Compression > EQ > Digital Cable (SPDIF, etc.) > Pro Tools Interface > Firewire Cable > Pro Tools

FEATURES
Talkback Mic, Multiple speaker monitoring, 2+ Headphone Outputs, Midi DAW control, all ins and outs balanced... and all this preferably in one or two units.

The aim is a central workstation. Very much like the Mindprint Trio but with an SSL quality preamp and dynamics. With no loss of quality or inheritance of earth hums or interference.

I may be asking for too much but I thought i'd try my luck here and see if anyone has a similar setup or knowledge of how to go about it...


You have in general shown interest in a production rig that has:
-presumably low simultaneous input channel count
-cue mix ability
-control surface ability
-monitoring control ability
-basic signal processing ability
-interfacing with Pro Tools
-all the necessary peripherals

...and you want everything to sound good.

That can definitely be assembled for a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars and plenty of people can name drop which brands you could buy. But none of that will make your work sound good. You could go out and buy an SSL Duality and put it in your house and it still wouldn't necessarily solve anything. Because the quality of your work comes from how you use the stuff. You have to know enough about why things sound like they sound before you can envision a truly "ideal" rig.

You already have things to work with. If I was in your position I'd start with thinking about one piece to upgrade at a time. Start with the stuff that is closest to the source.

I'd think more about:
-room acoustics
-microphones
-a simple, high quality channel input

You might be surprised how much you can get out of something like a nice channel strip with a nice mic. I'm not completely sold on the idea of SSL as the main channel input (nothing wrong with SSL, just not as much sonic "extra" as I like for a main channel input).

You might consider the CAD e100s as a mic. I find it versatile, quiet and very classy sounding. A good channel input unit you might consider would be the Universal Audio 6176 channel strip. It's great for many things, especially vocals, has a simple, powerful EQ and a really nice compressor that is very similar to an 1176LN. It has "vibe" which is often something that is hard to get form SSL on the preamp, channel strip side of things. As always, to each their own way.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby The Elf » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:03 am

SkamUK wrote:The only reason i'm looking at pre's is because i want to have compresson and eq on my vocals before they enter pro tools

Why? There's absolutely no need.

I might be able to push to build a very small booth in the corner but am i better off in a bigger space or small space acoustically treated. Im talking enough room to fit mic and artist only!

It's a tall order to construct something that small that won't make your vocals sound like they are being recorded in a cupboard. I really wouldn't go down this route.

Also are mic reflection filters worth looking at?

Certainly, but a couple of well-placed duvets can be just as effective.

The behringer won't sell for anything i doubt so i'll just keep it in the cupboard. But do you think the NT1A is suitable for this type of recording?

I believe the Rode would probably be better suited than the Behringer, but let your ears tell you - don't just take the word of a forum post!

Wise words from Liz above! Aspiring to an SSL if all well and good, but I'm unconvinced it's your top priority at this stage, given your mic collection and recording environment. Slow down, think it through and spend your money wisely.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby SkamUK » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:44 pm

I've taken everything youve said on board and it makes a lot more sense to start with the fundamentals first...

So, after some hard thinking and some persuasion with the mrs, i am able to look at acoustically treating the bedroom! So I'm over the moon at the moment!!!

I've been reading sos smart guide magazine on monitors and headphones in the acoustic treatment section. I understand placement using mirror points, bass traps etc. Im going to cover around 20% of the walls as I have a very large window, 2 doors and a double bed in the room. Also the room is not a boxed shape as i have 2 alcoves and a cylinder cupboard so its got a lot of angles.

Design of bedroom layout without treatment:
Image

It seems correct after reading here and on various forums and websites to construct some 600x1200 panels from wood rockwool and foam. I might be asking the wrong people here but is there a specific type of foam to use as i have seen flat sheets of furniture foam cut to size that are 1" thick for very cheap! Ive looked on auralex and other commercial acoustic foam sites and it all seems ridiculously over priced. If not are there any other alternatives to foam. I can't have old duvets or things like that as it has to look good in order for it to be possible. Were going to be spending a lot of money re-decorating and re-furnishing the bedroom we don't want it ruined.

A good example of what i want to build:
Image
Image

I also want to get some chrome pipe and some long screws to pull them away from the wall a little to make more use of the panels. Also have some dim lights behind them to keep the mrs happy and set a comfortable mood in the studio.

Ok, so, forget SSL. I was just using that as an example. It was just the only channel strip i knew much about really. Ive seen channel strips for £300-400 that have digital output, preamp, comp, gate, limiter and tube. I was just wondering if anyone here has had an encounter of a good mic/channel strip combination for rap vocals, obviously rap is a lot faster regarding attack release ect, and im looking for a sense of warmth and oldschool, similar to reel to reel tape recording but this is another device that i dont think i should be buying until i have a good mic and channel strip. Im trying to kill a few birds with one stone.

I thought the nt1a sounded reasonable but i want a signiture sounding recording that stands out. The nt1a doesnt seem to do that at the moment but with a good channel strip it may? and i don't mean good as in expensive.

I don't plan to buy all of these things any time soon, at least not all at once. I just want to paint a picture of what I'm going to need in the near future.

Thanks for your reply's everyone it's been very helpful and much appreciated!
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby SkamUK » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:34 pm

You might consider the CAD e100s as a mic. I find it versatile, quiet and very classy sounding. A good channel input unit you might consider would be the Universal Audio 6176 channel strip. It's great for many things, especially vocals, has a simple, powerful EQ and a really nice compressor that is very similar to an 1176LN. It has "vibe" which is often something that is hard to get form SSL on the preamp, channel strip side of things. As always, to each their own way.

Thanks I will defo have a look into these. Reading about the mic now, looks good so far but would like to test it somewhere.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:42 am

SkamUK wrote:I was just wondering if anyone here has had an encounter of a good mic/channel strip combination for rap vocals, obviously rap is a lot faster regarding attack release ect,

This is largely irrelevant if you track cleanly, then process in the box afterwards. There's absolutely no need to compress as you record. Once you have a clean, unprocessed recording, with ample headroom, into your DAW you have a world of plug-in compressors with which to tweak your vocals to perfection without risking having mucked it up with inappropriate settings at the tracking stage.

The SSL Alpha is a good pre and worthy of your attention once you have a good mic under your belt. I'm also a huge fan of the Focusrite Liquid Channel, which covers many bases and can also be accessed as an external plug-in, after tracking, via its digital I/O. Not cheap, but when you consider its capabilities this remains one of my best buys.

I'm generalising here, but many rappers seem to prefer dynamic mic's, with the humble SM57 putting in many appearances in my experience, though I often use an MD421 to good effect. The SM7 and RE20 also crop up quite often too. Any of these mic's will represent a good investment as they can be used in all styles and over a wide range of sources to good effect.

That said, if you're looking for a more impressive/larger than life tone then a decent LDC is still the order of the day - and there's much more to recording vocals than just rap, after all. At this point you can pay anything you like and it's pretty much down to 'you get what you pay for'. At the budget end I like the MXL V67G, which, although it suffers from a massive amount of proximity effect, is still a great sounding mic on many vocalists, if you can get hold of one. After that it's all about what takes your fancy and how much you want to pay - and auditioning a few mic's becomes more important the more you pay.

Good luck with it!
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:02 am

SkamUK wrote:
Thanks I will defo have a look into these. Reading about the mic now, looks good so far but would like to test it somewhere.

If that's in reference to the CAD then I think the's only two places holding these currently (well Google didn't prove me wrong) in the UK and that's us in the north and the distro itself (based in a shop) in the south so if you can get to either I'm sure a demo would be viable. They are nice through with a sweet frequency response curve that strangly resembles a mic worth 4 or 5 times the asking price, althrough they've never really got a footing in the UK... in fact the only reason we know about them is down to one of Hughs old articles:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1997_ar ... uitek.html

It's just occured to me we've got audio recording demos on our mic comparison page at the moment if you want to hear a quick demo : http://www.scan.co.uk/shops/proaudio/microphone_comparison

It'll take a few seconds to load as the thing itself is sizable. I'd compare it against the U87 personally...
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby Richie Royale » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:13 am

I use a Focusrite Penta to record vocals and I have been recording mainly Hip-Hop for about 8 years using it. It is quite adequate and I record without compression; as stated above several times, you don't need to compress on the way in. I were to be in the market for a new mic pre I would be considering the Audient Mico.

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/may09/a ... ntmico.htm

I use a Joe Meek JM47 as it was cheap and better than the C1000 I was using when I bought it. I've no idea how it stands up to other mics really, but it does the job and I've never had any complaints from the people I work with. It is a bit sibilant on some of my guys, but correct positioning can help combat that.

With regard to bass traps, I made some recently using RW3 Rockwool and wood frames, using Zukan's tips to help me

http://www.samplecraze.com/tutorial.php/28/diy-acoustics-%E2%80%93-the-home-studio-part-1/ although the dimensions are different as RW3 is 1200 x 600, but the build was basically the same.

I wouldn't worry about foam for the moment. I also filled the corners behind my monitors with Studiotips Superchunks style filing, but bagged up a foot or so of RW3 at a time as I am not in a permanent situation and I wanted to be able to move them out easily when I finally buy a house.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby The Red Bladder » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:36 am

Were I to be in your shoes right now, I would get an Allen & Heath GSR24 with Firewire card and use Reaper (or whatever your poison is!) as DAW. The mic-pres on that GSR24 are better than on that old SSL desk! That gives you all the possibilities of that 4000G+ you yearn for, plus very sophisticated DAW control (and reportedly better to come as a free upgrade) and every tool you will ever need. Add a decent patch-bay and you're in business!
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby SkamUK » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:41 pm

Were I to be in your shoes right now, I would get an Allen & Heath GSR24 with Firewire card and use Reaper (or whatever your poison is!) as DAW. The mic-pres on that GSR24 are better than on that old SSL desk! That gives you all the possibilities of that 4000G+ you yearn for, plus very sophisticated DAW control (and reportedly better to come as a free upgrade) and every tool you will ever need. Add a decent patch-bay and you're in business!

Wow I think you've pointed out a nearly perfect mixer for me! This thing looks amazing and has every feature that i want and need (apart from onboard compression but i can live with rigging up a compressor externally if necessary)!!!

Ur a diamond!

I think the plan now is to get the room sorted and save up for the GSR24, a new mic and maybe a compressor. I don't think i'll ever replace the desk! Unless music turns into some form of 25.5 surround 4D magical sound. Its very cheap for what you get, though it is a lot of money.. I'll be saving up for a long time, but i think it will be worth it. I love the fact that i can just plug in my firewire and rig up straight to pro tools, nothing in between, no unnecessary conversions. and full DAW control.

This has answered all my questions in 3 lines. Cheers mate
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby SkamUK » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:08 am

and full DAW control.


Urm, I've just learnt that the faders are not motorized so it would be completely pointless to have midi control over pro tools but not get it back in return. I cant see why you would want to mix like this unless you have total recall on your mixer. Still, would have been better if it had motorized faders.

Gutted now I thought i found the perfect mixer at a reasonable price.
I suppose you could run all of your outputs from pro tools at zero out to the mixer and mix like that but still, you cant save you mixer settings and come back later! FFS!

The perfect mixer seems to be an SSL Matrix. No chance of affording one though.

I think i'll stick to my original plan and get all of these features separately.
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Re: Choosing the right gear

Postby SkamUK » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:19 am

Quote SkamUK:


Thanks I will defo have a look into these. Reading about the mic now, looks good so far but would like to test it somewhere.

If that's in reference to the CAD then I think the's only two places holding these currently (well Google didn't prove me wrong) in the UK and that's us in the north and the distro itself (based in a shop) in the south so if you can get to either I'm sure a demo would be viable.

I've heard the comparisons between the CAD and the Neumann TLM103 and prefer the TLM. It seems to have a richer warmer sound and also cleaner, the CAD sounds more suited for an acoustic guitar, in my ears anyway.

I did think they were a rare mic as I found it hard to track one down to buy.

Thanks for the info though.
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