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5k budget, what to do?

Postby I Am Tall » Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:31 am

Ok, So i'm an experienced guitar player but I've done hardly any music recording, I've got a spare room in my new place which I'd like to turn into a small home recording studio as the mrs is a singer.

So, I've got about 5 or 6 grand to spend, with that I need to buy a guitar and amp, and I'm guessing a Mac, but then what?
do I need a mixing desk and what not or can I use the Mac for most things?
What studio speakers should I get? Should I get one of those home vocal booth things or just a good vocal mic? which one?
What software for the Mac will i need?

Sorry for all the questions but I am a recording newbie and could do with some advice before I go splash the cash.

many thanks
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby James Perrett » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:15 am

Don't buy everything at once. I know of too many people in your situation who went to a music shop with 5 grand for a recording setup, came out with loads of gear, tried to use it for a week or two and then gave up because they found the learning curve too steep.

You're already connected to the internet so I assume that you already have a computer. Why not start with a basic audio interface and cheap software that runs on your existing computer? Once you get a little experience you will have a better idea of what you want to do (and what you don't want to do) and can then try expanding your setup.

Cheers

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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby ef37a » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:59 am

I am right behind James here.

I read of so many people handwringing over which AI/mixer/card/mics to drop their wedge on, terrified of making a "mistake". Don't worry, there will always be some armpit who says "You haven't bought one of THOSE have you!?"

A modest usb AI,I am a fan of the Emu 0404usb 2.0 but the Novation Nio has caught my attention lately, bit guitar oriented but you can put reverb on the monitor feed, should please the missus!

You say you have a dedicatable room (is that a proper word?)? These days it is very easy to run the recording kit by remote, Tanzport, cheap video kit. You could treat the room in the best way for recording and maybe set the "kit" up elsewhere? Much depends of course on the sort of music you are going to be doing.

Download manuals of AI's and mixers etc. These usually give hookup diagrams and signal flow block diagrams and help you get your head around the nuts and bolts.

But yes. Get something simple (a £50 mixer will NEVER be out of use, if only as a talkback system!)and get stuck in!

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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:16 pm

ef37a wrote:But yes. Get something simple (a £50 mixer will NEVER be out of use, if only as a talkback system!)and get stuck in!

Absolutely. A small mixer plus a simple FX unit on the aux send into a straightforward interface (something like an Emu 0202 that comes with stacks of free software) will teach you an awful lot that will stand you very well in future. Most DAWs, for instance, pretend to be a multitrack recorder plus a mixer and when you've used a real mixer you can see why.

I wouldn't get cheap mics, though. All you learn from a cheap mic is that you've wasted your money. However the next step up is not overly expensive either. I would suggest something like a Rode NT1a plus a Rode NT5 would get you well started and you would be unlikely ever to discard them; however others will likely have other suggestions.

Cheers,

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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby Ian Savage » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:09 pm

Seconded on the mics, don't skimp there as it's dead money later; I'd echo the Rode NT1 recommendation (or an NT2 if the budget will stretch), and if you're going to be recording a lot of amplified guitar I'd also pick up a Sennheiser E606 or 609 (to my ears a more refined character than the 'industry standard' Shure SM57, and these days often a smidge cheaper too).

As far as amps and guitars go, are you looking at playing live or just recording with them? I ask because there's been a plethora of low-powered valve amps designed for home recording released in the past few years, and I've been blown away by the quality of some of them - Blackstar's HT5 and the RAT-modded Epiphone Valve Juniors in particular, but Vox, Marshall and Fender all have their own take on the format.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby 20-second-mistress » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:33 pm

id have to echo what james said,

you can always upgrade!

i started off investing £1500 10 years ago and that was enough to start me off, then buy 1 good piece of kit every couple of months or so when you have got the hang of it...

dont rush in to it....... it all takes time.

good luck and welcome to the world of......"gear lust"

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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby TB1 » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:50 pm

I'm afraid I disagree with the 'buy now, then buy again later' routine. I'm the sort of person who has learnt the hard way that it always leaves you wanting, and if you find yourself short of cash in the future you will regret not buying sensibly in the first place.

How many tracks will you need to record at the same time? Will you be using MIDI and soft synths?

I've personally never used a mac for recording and if I had the option I wouldn't start now.

I would buy an i7 PC with a 1366 chipset so that it'd be more future-proof, also a Texas Instruments Firewire PCI card. If you can, do lots of research and build your own. You'll save loads.

Then I'd buy a Steinberg MR816CSX as my firewire interface. Potentially with this (and a couple more) you could record up to 32 tracks simultaneously!! Always better to be prepared. Great pre-amps and very good conversion. Can't go wrong. Not only that but it integrates really well with Cubase, which at some point or another, you'll want to give a try.

Assuming you want a microphone that will also work with your guitar cab when you want a different sound to the SM57 ;) then I would be tempted with a cheap Neumann like the TLM103. Classic.

Studio monitors MUST NOT be skimped on. They are there to represent the sound that you have made. This is also a very personal choice so auditioning is a must. And remember to set a budget stick to it. If you don't you'll be choosing forever. But to reiterate, DO NOT SKIMP ON MONITORS.

Next would be to treat your room. The acoustics forum here is great. Lots of helpful people and lots of unmissable advice. Home made installations can really bring down the price and the education you'll learn on the way is invaluable, but on the other hand you'll learn just enough to make the missus want to shove that Neumann into your face :D :D

All this is just my opinion and specifics are, of course, up for discussion. Sorry to overwhelm you and I guess buying simple, cheap components to get going with seems like a good idea, but I stand by my opinions.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby I Am Tall » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:09 am

thanks so much for the info, much appreciated.
My situation is and the stuff I'd like to do...
I have a decent laptop it's got plenty of memory a good fast processor and can handle pretty much most things.

Guitar wise I've got an old telecaster which I'll be be updating in the near future and I'll be looking to buy a nice clean sounding amp to go along with it.

The Mrs is a singer and the room we have has a small walk in closet which I'm hoping to make into the vocal booth? (good idea?)

Oh and I'll probably get my hands on a bass at some point too.

So the plan is to record live guitars and vocals and then have the drums and any synth/organ sounds via the lappy.

Most people I speak to say I need to get a Mac for home recording which I dont have a problem with as I'd like one any wayy, but you think my lappy would be ok for now?

now here is where I show my musical recording newbieness (which is kinda sad considering how BIG a nerd i am)

So, whats the best way of getting the sound from my guitar/amp to the lappy? I buy one of these Emu 0404 or the novation nio? plug that from my lappy to the amp and away i go? (i know it's not that easy but you get my drift)

I'll only ever be recording one or a maximum of two tracks at a time

and what's the software of choice? i've played around with fruitloops in the past at making drum loops and basic arrangements but is that like a "beginners" program?

I'll leave my stupid questions here for the moment

and thanks again peeps.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:54 am

I Am Tall wrote: I buy one of these Emu 0404 or the novation nio? plug that from my lappy to the amp and away i go? (i know it's not that easy but you get my drift)

I don't know about the Emu but if you buy the Novation Nio it is that easy! It'll run fine on a PC with negligible latency.

Plus you'll get Ableton Live lite (which personally I'm not that keen on but is highly rated by many) & a collection of software synths, drum loops, etc to get you started. Plus you can use the effects rack as a standalone unit for guitar, bass practice etc. The Overloud guitar effects are pure class, and will have your old tele singing in no time. I don't think I've used my Vox amp for recording since I got the Nio. The Focusrite effects should complement the wife beautifully (which saves you having to :lol:).

Also you and the Mrs will get independant headphone sockets so you can play & sing together without the inevitable 'does it have to be so loud' argument!

Now that just leaves you with £4,870 to dispose of :bouncy:
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby I Am Tall » Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:04 am

thats great, i'll try to pick one of these up at the weekend, tho finding a decent cheap supplier in Australia isn't too easy.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby MarcusH » Thu Feb 25, 2010 8:21 am

There are some dilemmas for you. Others may disagree, but personally I've regretted almost all the cheap stuff I ever bought - and replaced it with relatively expensive equipment - which cost me more. So cheap stuff can be very expensive! I now own very little gear - but it is good stuff.

It's been said before, but it bears repetition that you should prioritise monitoring and acoustic treatment. One of the early mistakes I made was not prioritising this highly enough. Obviously good monitoring means you can hear yourself and your mixes and it means that your mixes sound the same in on other people's stereos. But it also means that you can really hear the commercially released music that inspires you. New monitors and acoustic treatment totally changed my appreciation of what I was trying to achieve. In fact if I was a beginner again, the first thing I'd do would be to create a good listening environment and spend hours listening to the kind of music I wanted to make - that and buy a decent ergonomic studio chair.

For the acoustic treatment, online back issues of Sound on Sound will tell you all you need to know - together with the Studio Design/Acoustics forum here. It need not be expensive if you build it yourself - but it can be surprisingly time consuming to do it properly.

Regarding vocal booths, the usual advice is not to have one in a small home studio. Here's an article from the Real Traps website explaining the specifics.

There's tons of other useful information on the Real Traps site too.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby ef37a » Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:14 am

"So, whats the best way of getting the sound from my guitar/amp to the lappy? I buy one of these Emu 0404 or the novation nio? plug that from my lappy to the amp and away i go? (i know it's not that easy but you get my drift)"

Now THAT!^^^, TB1 and other is precisely why the OP should not be dropping k's of cash about! You do not learn to drive in a Veyron! An AI such as the ones already suggested will serve him very well and since he has a laptop and is thinking of getting another machine it will always be useful.I find having two pc's hooked up via S/PDIF (and networked) far more than twice as useful as one. Heck, his lady might even fancy a dabble!

In this game you WILL buy redundant kit but generally things like mics, mixers and AI's can be pressed into service somewhere when you have gone Benchmark!

Closet Tall? IMHO, no. Might be ok for newsreading in a totally dead acoustic but would be a very oppressive a space to sing in. Others here have much more nonce on matters acoustic however. I would use it as a "machine" room for noisy kit, patchbays etc.

Laptop (give the make and model and the gurus here will give you chap' and verse) will serve you very well to start with and for 2 tracks probably forever. Mac V pc? I know nothing of macs but that argument will run and run. I am an inverterate tinkerer so a mac would NOT be a good idea for me I understand!

Software: Both AIs suggested come with good stuff. I note that the Nio has the BFD drum plugin bundled. We have that and it is excellent.

Recording guitar/bass: Yes, you can just plug them into whichever AI you decide upon but if you are getting an amp and can make some noise with impunity, mic'ing that up will give good results, takes practice tho'! See SOS Aug 07.

Monitors: This is one area at least where you should spend a decent wedge upfront. If you want accurate, loud and deep bass, that is 5k gone in a pooof! Plough thru' the SOS reviews, there are plenty of good monitors in the £500-1000 bracket. An alternative is headphones, for now. Again SOS comes to your aid as they did a big shootout a couple of issues ago. Whatever you decide upon get two sets so that both you and your good lady are hearing the same thing. You might need to budget for a headphone amp to drive two pairs.

Most of all, have fun!

Dave.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby The Elf » Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:52 am

I’m with the camp that says don’t blow all of that 5k up front. All you will do is confuse yourself and waste money. Start small, but buy gear that will last you; when you need another piece of gear it will become obvious to you, but if try to get it all at once you will not know why you’ve bought much of it, other than ‘a bloke on the ‘net said…’.

I Am Tall wrote:Most people I speak to say I need to get a Mac for home recording which I dont have a problem with as I'd like one any wayy, but you think my lappy would be ok for now?

My advice is to ignore ‘most people’ and to use what you have and are familiar with. Nothing wrong with Macs, but if you have something that will do the job then press it into service until *you* know what you need.

I Am Tall wrote:and what's the software of choice? i've played around with fruitloops in the past at making drum loops and basic arrangements but is that like a "beginners" program?

There's no one program - we all have our heroes and villains. Not quite a 'beginner’s' program, but if you’re serious you could do worse than download Cockos Reaper (free to start) and see how you get on just fooling around – not even any need to get the audio interface at this stage. Just try a few things, see what works/doesn’t work for you and get some background to know how you’d like to work. If you can get your head around Reaper in a couple of weeks you’ll be ready to take on just about any DAW out there, with a clearer vision of what you want/don't want.

And best of luck with it – you’re going to have a lot of fun!
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby ken long » Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:35 am

TB1 wrote:I'm afraid I disagree with the 'buy now, then buy again later' routine. I'm the sort of person who has learnt the hard way that it always leaves you wanting, and if you find yourself short of cash in the future you will regret not buying sensibly in the first place.

Wholeheartedly agree. Also, if it does turn out that its not something you really want to pursue, you'll have an easier time re-selling high end.

For that money:

- 1 High Spec Computer
- 1 Great All Around LDC Mic (U87 perhaps)
- 1 Good Mic Pre
- Software
- 1 Excellent AD/DA

You can get great instant results with that kind of set up. Sure, you can get great results with a cheap set up also but it will never sound as good and you'll need to work to make it sound decent.

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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Feb 25, 2010 11:03 am

Well, you've got two clear views to choose from here. I'm sure you'll be OK whichever way you go. One other possibility: when I started (all of five years ago!) I bought most of my stuff on ebay and if I didn't like it or find a use for it I sold it again. Overall I didn't lose much and I tried a number of things (like a Korg D1200 multitracker) which I decided weren't for me. It was quite good fun and, as I say I learned a lot without spending that much. And I still use the Soundcraft mixer I bought for £130, though as was suggested above it is no longer at the heart of how I work but I learned an awful lot from it.

Have fun, you likely will. And I envy you your budget :)

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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby James Perrett » Thu Feb 25, 2010 11:28 am

TB1 wrote:I'm afraid I disagree with the 'buy now, then buy again later' routine. I'm the sort of person who has learnt the hard way that it always leaves you wanting, and if you find yourself short of cash in the future you will regret not buying sensibly in the first place.

There's another way of looking at things - if you go for cheap gear then think about how you could use it later in an upgraded studio. In my case, when I was building up my studio, I bought a 2 track Revox tape recorder rather than a 4 track Teac because I knew that I could use the Revox as a mixdown machine in a 16 track setup whereas the Teac would have had no place in an upgraded studio. The mixer I bought to go with the Revox is still in use for live gigs.

In your case I would maybe hold off buying a budget vocal condenser mic and buy something like an SM57 instead. The SM57 will continue to be useful, no matter how far you progress, whereas something like a Rode NT1 will quickly lose its usefulness if you graduate to a better vocal mic.

The same goes for audio interfaces - if you buy a cheap one now make sure it has digital inputs and outputs so that you can add on better convertors later.

Cheers

James.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby grab » Thu Feb 25, 2010 12:18 pm

Re buying expensive first-off, the big problem there is that you need to be *very* sure that you're buying the right thing. If you don't know about it yourself, you're entirely at the mercy of whoever recommends stuff to you, and that's not necessarily a good place to be. Sure, you can always sell the stuff later if you find you don't need it. But you'll be taking a hit there on the difference between new price and used price, and in most cases that's a damn sight more than the cost of a cheap equivalent.

Some things of course you can be fairly sure you'll always get use out of - U87, for instance. But for other stuff (mixer, outboard compressors, control surface, etc.) you'd be better figuring out how you're going to use everything before you start splashing the cash.

Guitars too. A friend has a 1970s thinline Tele with P90 pickups which is worth a few bob, but my favoured use for it would be as firewood - there simply isn't a good tone to be had from it. And on acoustics, a few years back I went guitar-shopping with a friend who's very into acoustic blues and has always wanted a Gibson or Martin, but we checked every guitar shop in London and every Gibson or Martin sucked donkey balls compared to even the basic mid-range Larrivees or Seagulls.

It's dead easy to spend money on expensive kit. It's much harder to spend money *effectively* on expensive kit, and you can't do it unless you know enough to make informed judgements on what you're buying. Until you can look at your workflow and say "I'm going to need *this* to do *that*", you're buying blind, and that's never a good place to be.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Thu Feb 25, 2010 1:18 pm

Whilst I can see the point of those who recommend spending out on high quality equipment, they are making two suppositions. Firstly that you'll enjoy it & want to pursue it further, and secondly that you'll be any good at it.

In all likelihood the more you spend, the more disappointed you'll be with your first attempts. If you find you're getting passable results, then decent monitoring and room treatment would be the next logical step before gearlust takes hold.

In relative terms you'll lose more money on inexpensive gear, but in absolute terms I doubt there'll be any difference. You'll lose more money drivng a Mercedes off the forecourt, than you do driving a Kia off a cliff.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Thu Feb 25, 2010 1:46 pm

I Am Tall wrote:Ok, So i'm an experienced guitar player but I've done hardly any music recording, I've got a spare room in my new place which I'd like to turn into a small home recording studio as the mrs is a singer.

So, I've got about 5 or 6 grand to spend, with that I need to buy a guitar and amp, and I'm guessing a Mac, but then what?
do I need a mixing desk and what not or can I use the Mac for most things?
What studio speakers should I get? Should I get one of those home vocal booth things or just a good vocal mic? which one?
What software for the Mac will i need?

Sorry for all the questions but I am a recording newbie and could do with some advice before I go splash the cash.

many thanks

I'd agree with everything that's been said thus far, but I'd also add that you don't have to spend big to get very high quality gear. For example, a secondhand RME9632 (which is Mac and PC compatible) will set you back £200 on Ebay, but you're talking about an audio interface that's capable of the most professional of results, i.e. it's not in the least bit a compromise.
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Re: 5k budget, what to do?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Feb 25, 2010 1:53 pm

RolandFantom wrote:but I'd also add that you don't have to spend big to get very high quality gear. For example, a secondhand RME9632 (which is Mac and PC compatible) will set you back £200 on Ebay, but you're talking about an audio interface that's capable of the most professional of results, i.e. it's not in the least bit a compromise.

Definitely +1. Also, it's amazing how much you learn when you look at something on ebay or wherever and you start Googling to find out about it.

Chris

Edited to add PS: There's a good article on "What do I need to start recording my own music?" in this month's SOS. So either take yourself off to the local newsagents or buy an online subscription (very well worth it, I have to say).
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