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Overhauling home studio equipment

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Overhauling home studio equipment

Postby Remolino » Sat Feb 15, 2020 5:00 pm

Hi everyone,

Great to be back here after so long.
I need your advice.
I've been meaning to get around to this for a very long time. So, I'm a flamenco guitarist and actually recorded an album of my own music more than 20 years ago, back in 1997 to be precise. Yep I can't believe it was that long ago. So you may chuckle a bit when I tell you what my set-up was. Tascam digital portastudio 564 recording on to minidisc, a Lexicon reflex rack reverb unit, alesis SR16 drum unit, 2 x Audio Technica AT835b shotguns (can't remember why I went with those tbh), pair of Absolute 2 Spirit monitors (although I ended up putting on my earphones most of time).
The sound from one of the tracks can be heard here:
I recorded in a fairly large room with high ceilings and wooden flooring and had a bit of air and echo. Main issue was trying to get mic placement and also correct levels to get maximum gain without distortion. I didn't use compression. I still have all that equipment. The challenge with this style is that within one track I can have heavy strumming and then very reflective and long sustain the next phrase.

Anyway, now I'm planning to re-record my album of 10 tracks but this time I want to create the highest quality stereo sound and highest level of gain across the range without degradation and take advantage of the latest recording technologies. This time it would be in quite a small room (not acoustically dampened yet) . I'm willing to purchase whatever required. So, based on my research, so far I reckon I need a) pair of high quality microphones (but what type?), b) a decent digital audio interface, c) digital audio Workstation software, d) short length cabling like 0.5m, e) some kind of unit or portable trolley to house this stuff between PC and where I'm sitting. Some of my music involves playing a 2nd guitar track over first, like overdub, or playing a natural rhythm like clapping or a percussive effect on guitar.

I recently purchased a Roland RC300 looper station so I have that (not sure how to connect this up for direct recording) and I also have a spanking new high spec PC with plenty of USB connections etc. I can download a DAW for that but I don't mind paying for one IF it comes with high quality effects like reverb (I play acoustic so I don't need all the strange electric guitar effects, just the highest quality sound possible) and the best editing and mixing suite. For digital audio interface I had considered Roland Rubix 44 as it provides multiple xlr inputs. Someone recommended the Yamaha MG 10 XU mixer as well (taking output from Roland) but I wondered why I need that, unless it is to take multiple channels and premixing (?) but is that more for live performance rather than recording? Then there is the microphone choice but I'm bewildered by the options. Here are a few I looked at:
Aston Origin, Sennheiser Mk4, Aston Starlight, AKG P420, MXL 770, Rode NT5, Neumann TL103. Do I go with cardioid, small diaphragm, large diaphragm, omni pattern etc?????
Here is another piece I composed where I would just love a really high quality recording to do it justice :

You can hear it is very airy and spacious.

What's your advice regarding microphone type/model? DAI? DAW? Connectivity?

Any advice much appreciated. I'm really excited to get this project up and running.
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Re: Overhauling home studio equipment

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:17 pm

Hi Remolino and welcome.

I guess that in the video you are miming to the original recording as you say the guitar was made in 2013?

The piece is nice and has IMHO a lot of potential but sounds a little cluttered and muddled, the bongos are clear and distinct and seem to stick out. Usually I'd say for that style the big echoey room would be an advantage but maybe it wasn't as big as I think and was working against you? The reverb in domestic sized rooms is usually not great and I would see big, in a recording context, to mean a small/med church or concert hall (or a 'proper studio live room).

You mention acoustic treatment and in any room it will help control the reverb and keep it manageable so in your current space consider that a major priority.

WRT equipment there is lots of decent gear that will be capable of producing superb quality recordings and gain before distortion is no longer an issue with modern kit running at 24bit/44.1kHz or better (there is little reason to record at higher sample rates in practice).

The Roland would do the job but from reading on here I think you'll be recommended buy an RME interface as their driver support is superb even into the future and the quality is excellent.

USB will work over a few metres so you'll be able to get the interface into the middle of the room and probably no trolly needed. The only issue is arming tracks and starting/stopping recording which is easily achieved with a wireless mouse.

You don't need the mixer mentioned.

Any of the currently available DAWs will get the job done and unless you have special requirements there is not much reason to spend on one of the high cost ones. I use Reaper for which a personal/small business licence is $60. It will have all the fx you will need built in so no need to buy hardware fx units. Save the money and spend it on mics and room treatment.

Disclaimer :- Im a live sound guy and only a dabbler in the recording side so if anybody comes along and contradicts me just ignore what I've said ;)

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Re: Overhauling home studio equipment

Postby Arpangel » Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:43 am

Then technical recording quality is fine, can’t hear anything wrong with it. It could do with a lot more ambience though.
The playing is the main thing, and could be worked on, it’ll make more difference than "better" recording equipment.
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Re: Overhauling home studio equipment

Postby CS70 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:37 pm

Checked the first track. Well played!

The sound however is indeed letting it down a bit. Not sure if it's the recording or the mix. It's very reverberant, which works well for a classical piece but flamenco (and your piece) is all about energy so you want the guitar really up and front, sharp and clear, with all the percussive sounds well in evidence. Like it is, it's a trifle washed. Fast runs and loads of non-predelayed and tempo-synched reverb don't work that well - and at flamenco speeds, usually you just don't have any space for more than a little natural ambience.

Mind me, it works perfectly as background or lounge music - indeed that's the kind of sound I go for when I'm asked for that kind of mix. So if that's the goal, it's fine.

The "rough" live flamenco sound I've often in mind is Paco's rendition of Rio Ancho that you can find here - you can hear how the guitar is always on top of anything else that's going on.

Also the drums sound very electronic, are they? Not so important during the piece but it's the start that let things a little down, it sets the scene for a bit "fake" sound.
Panning and balance seem a little odd as well?

Without hearing the original recording, can't say if it's the recording or how you've mixed, but I suspect the mix could do a lot to remove mush and sharpen up things.

I love flamenco and the sound (even if I can't claim any real ability in playing it) so if you have the original multitrack PM me and would love to hear the original recording and see if it can be mixed differently.
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