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an upgrade to my studio

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by MindMeld, Dec 1, 2002.

  1. MindMeld

    MindMeld Guest


    I'm in charge of upgrading the studio i'm currently working at. I've already started with the electrical work and the acoustics (the backbone of all the upgrades), but at the same time i know the equipment needs some upgrading as well.

    We are currently running Adat XT's (which i loathe) with a mackie 24x8(which i loathe as well, but not as much as the adats).

    I noticed in the recent email issure from sweetwater that the mackie sdr 24/96 has dropped to 1299. So this brings up several questions.

    Will this unit be an obvious increase in sound quality from the adats?

    i've seen several reports that the converters are of lower quality then the hdr and the mdr, is this going to be a major concern?

    If i use an external clock, will the differences between mackie's 3 units be moot? Also is the clock a worthwhile improvement to the sdr's clock?

    if i do several takes of something on virtual tracks and want to comp them together via a daw, and then insert them back into the sdr at the same time points, would this be possible? (sorry about the run-on sentence)

    Any heads up on if mackie is going to produce something in the next month or two that would make this seem like a bad purchase?

    Any other issues that you can think of?

    Thanks a ton and hope everyone had a great holiday
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Actually IMO the board is more of a problem that the ADATS. I also hate ADATs but I've done some real good records on them. Think a lot of people blame ADATS for the bad sound when it's really the cheeso console they are used with... as far as the hard disk you mentioned...it's a MACKIE! yuk! I have never heard anything good about these machines. Take a look at the new ALESIS HDR24...getting good reviews, decent converters and inexpensive. I don't have any suggestion regarding an inexpensive mixer...there just aren't any out there that sound very good. The solution I have found is to just build the most killer computer I can and start tracking and mixing in DAW world. Good luck with the upgrades, at least you have your priorities straight with electrical and acoustics first. You're off on the right foot..... Fats
  3. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member


    I have to disagree with you Mr. Fats ( ;) ): I have used the Mackie HDR 2496 to record a location gig in a theater: 24 tracks at 24/44.1, with no problem and now back in my studio I can do some considerations: from the ease of use and user interface the machine is as easy as your ADAT/DA 98, set up, arm a track, Play+Rec and you go; you have to take into account HD issues and OS knowledge a little, but really if you are used to work with ADATS there will be no troubles. Sound: The converters on the Mackies are the same for all of the units: HDR, MDR and Lightpipe for the SDR, plus you can mix and choose as you want, from the cheaper ADAT cards to the expensive with Apogee clocks, so it's pretty much budget dependant (hey, as in everything audio, you get what you pay for, almost); in my case the sound of the recorded tracks is good and far more superior than that of the ADATs that I can remember. Plus the possibility to take the HD out of it, pop it into a DAW and edit the tracks (now with Pro Tools session file support it's even easier) and comp to your taste makes it a killer tool for production, and on the HDR you can do online editing just within the machine.
    Drawbacks: the only drawback that I encountered (even though I'm not sure that it's addressable to the Mackie) it's that in the 24 tracks 1 hour and 20 minutes of continuous recording of the show I experienced some digital drops, nothing that I cannot fix (with material coming from rehearsals) but further investigation and emails with Mackie tech support pointed me in the HD poor performance (they specifically recommend IBM ATA 100 drives) direction.

    In the end I think the SDR it's a wise purchase for a Home/project studio, or even for a bigger facility, as it can replace 3 MDMs in 1/3 of the space with better sound and flexibility and price, so much that I'm thinking of getting an MDR for my studio (don't need the editing features, I edit in Pro Tools), and for my remote recording gigs.

    Hope this helps

  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The Alesis machine uses a new technology to write to the disk that is more linear, writes the data to the disk in a fashion more like a tape, all the info for a given portion of a track in the same area on the disk. Less seek and search activity by the disk, and these box's can use cheaper drives than the Mackies including the slower 5600 rpm(?) drives. It has received better reviews that the Mackie and it's not a Mackie....I'm sorry users out there but I gotta say that anything that is Mackie has always turned out to be crummy. I own and use Mackie gear and it works great for pa but I have always found it to be lacking in performance when recording. I use my Mackies only for monitoring. Anything going to disk or mix never touches them. The Alesis uses light pipe converter technology so if you want better converters it's a simple step to interface them and sample accurate xfer to a DAW is easy. The cost is comparable but IMO the Alesis is a clear winner!
    However, I don't recommend any of these things, I think it's a big waste of money. In a few short months, or years at best, these stand alone recorders and mixers will be nothing but expensive door stops and wheel chocks! PCM digital is on its last leg...DSD is the wave of the future. If you want state of the art recorders take a look at the Genex GX9000 and 9048 recorders. These machines combine single wire 24-bit / 192 kHz PCM and DSD recording all in the same box! They offer seamless punch in / out and bi directional sample rate conversion between DSD and PCM. Up to 6 machines may be hooked up together for 48 tracks. The writing is on the wall! DSD is here..... Fats
  5. 20db.com

    20db.com Guest

    Marshall, I am not going to get into the issues with the SDR except to say that there is no free lunch.

    I am not sure what you are trying to achieve or what type of music or clients you are working with so it's difficult to make recommendations. But, there is more to getting quality A/D than just an external word clock. Yes a very stable jitter free clock is very important but the design of the analog section of the A/D's is where the difficulty and the cost comes in. You can use $.10 capacitors or you can use $20 caps in the design of analog section and the difference is audible.

    If you look at an external 8 channel A/D you will find it cost more than 2-3 times the cost of the entire SDR. And that is only 8 channels so this should tell you some thing.

    Marshall if loathe with 24*8 then you know as well as anyone the strengths and weakness of the products. The products are targeted at a specific market and price point. They have lots of features but in order to meet that balance some thing has to give.

    Also, I am not going to pull this thread off topic but with all due respect, Fats is all over the map with his recommendations. DSD is not around the corner, in fact the jury is still out on the entire technology. Also, dumping a recorder and going to a DAW is not the entire answer either. You have the exact same issue with converters with a DAW as you do the Mackie so that solution doesn't solve your problem.

    The bottom line is before you can decide on your next move you need to figure out where you are going. If quality is the goal then there are a few great sounding solutions on the market. And if you get a high quality mic pre or two you can track directly into your recorder. Remember you can always change mics, preamps, etc. but putting money into the highest quality A/D converters is one of the most important things you can do.

    Marshall all of this comes at a price. The key is to place your money where it will do the most good. In my option that is getting the sounding tracking system you can possibly afford. Remember capturing the performance is 75% of the battle. You can always take your tracks into another studio to do your mixes and mastering if you had to.

  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Lee posted....
    Looking back at my last post I can understand the confusion... I do recommend DAW over hardware solutions. The comment re; the Genex gear was just to point out that there are viable DSD products hitting the market as we speak. I would however recommend almost any piece of hardware over any Mackie gear!!! If you have money hanging out the wazoo go buy the best converters you can afford. They will be percived as junk in 12 months. I saw some Apogee 20 bit converters on Ebay the other day with a reserve of $300, no bidders! If you bill $150 an hour, you can afford to purchase items that have a short window of usability. But if you live in the real world you need to try to not keep buying the same equipment over and over and over and... well, you get the point. So many of the "golden ears" preach the merits of the highest quality converters, but IMO digital recording has fostered an age of "it's good enough-izim"... and even the best conversion introduces unwanted artifacts. Add all that to the fact that playback systems are compromised, I just wonder how much good does it really do? I say buy gear that is either a lasting investment, pres, mics, eq's comps, and monitor systems or disposable, recorders, converters...I don't see this as all over the map. As far as DSD goes, when guys like Rupert Neve, Tom Jung, Bob Ludwig all are on board it would seem it is the wave of the future ..... Fats
  7. MindMeld

    MindMeld Guest

    i appreciate the answers.

    Yes i do understand that the recording chain only sounds as good as the weakest link. Right now, for us we have a basic run of the mill project studio going, which i'm trying to slowly take up to the next level, without killing my bosses wallet.

    The reason why i was considering the sdr is mainly for these reasons.

    Its not a daw. Meaning, that for TRACKING purpouses it is less likely to crash, to glitch, or do anything else that would ruin a take.

    Its portable.

    It has future expandability. Meaning that there is lightpipe in so i can use external converters later on.

    Editing. I know the sdr has no onboard editing, but i can edit via a "editing/mixing" daw.

    Yes, if it was MY studio, i would be going for the Radar with the best converters as the backbone of my studio, and then slowly purchace analog gear, but its not mine.
    I'm personally buying great mics, and great outboard to use, I don't mind spending a couple of grand on a single mic, or a stereo compressor, but the owner dosen't quite understand that yet, and i don't want him to feel like everything he has is obsolete in one fell swoop.

    Thus is my conundrum
  8. 20db.com

    20db.com Guest

    Marshall I know where you are coming from and it sounds like you are approaching this with the right frame of mind. For example upgrading your acoustics will make a big difference than most of the gear you can buy. :)

    Also, don't get me wrong, just about every signal chain has a weak link and not many of us have the resources to upgrade every link at the same time. The key is to focus on the right link with the right about of money. Some areas you can spend a lot of money and only hear a slight improvement difference. Other areas you can spend a few hundred dollars and get a big improvement. The trick in this business is learning as much as you can so you can spend you $$$ in the right area at the right time. :)

    By the way this problem applies to just about every thing in life. The better the quality the more money you have to spend to see a drastic improvement. This applies to audio, photography or any thing else where craftsmanship applies.

    For example studio monitors. I get such as kick out of hearing discussions about monitors because this is possibly the most critical area of any studio. People spend $20,000 on a PT system or $1000's on mics and mic pres, etc and then make critical evaluations on a pair of $1500 speakers.

    As I began to upgrade my system over the years I began to realize the more I spent on a better signal chain the more important it was I had the best possible speakers. So this is just one example of what I am talking about.

    I do agree with Fats about the "it's good enough-izim". This is a major problem and it is a discussion I have had over and over with some of the top gear designers in our industry. A lot of people now days have never heard great sounding audio or simply don't care.

    If no one cares about the quality then why bother ? Why should should Radar, Great River, Cranesong or George Massenburg even bother ?

    Fats, find someone with a Radar Nyquist and listen to the A/D's, I think you will be in for a real treat. :D

    Also, its great that you are a champion for DSD but what you fail to realize is companies don't adopt technology, CUSTOMERS do. We are still listening to 44.1k 16 bit CD's remember ? If this was about technology we would thrown that technology away years ago.

    PCM has its problems but it is well established and will be around for a loooong time ! And if you listen to Rupert Neve (whom you mentioned) you will also hear him say we need to move to 192k sample rates. Yet a lot of engineers still track at 44.1k 16 bit just so they don't have to dither down when mastering.

    So while I appreciate your excitement about new technology, it might be awhile before we see real adoption of this technology. Personally I see a lot more excitement about SACD or DVD-Audio technology. This would put higher quality playback systems in the hands of consumers.

  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    It's not that I am really all that excited about DSD, SACD and DVD audio. I am not trying to champion new technology. As a matter of fact the whole thing pisses me off. I wish that mfrs would just find a frickin format and stick with it. I'm sick and tired of buying something to only have it become obsolete before I get it to my studio. I try to encourage people to not go buy the next and best...I don't really see that it does anything to improve the stuff they record. I am with you in regards to improving acoustics and I am a fanatic about recording good stuff played by good musicians. I really think all the equipment is secondary. Too often I see people throw money at this without really considering what they are recording...If I could go but a set of quality converters and retain a portion of my investment in 2 years I would do it. But I have learned the hard way that just doesn't happen in the real world. That is why I keep on harping on people to spend their money where it will retain some value, speakers and quality power amps...mics and pre amps ... compressors and eq's. All the digital stuff is transitory...like a puff of smoke, it's gone in just a short while, not to mention that even the best of it is really crap in comparison to what was being used 20 years ago. ...All fine for those who can afford it, but a big waste for someone who needs to make their expenditure count . You can spend $2K on a set of state of the art converters or on a quality mic. In two years you can sell the mic for what you paid for it but those converters will be worthless ...... Fats
  10. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    The economic points are dead on. However as I listen to 20 year old stuff (I am 44 so I remember it well), I can't say I am really all that impressed with the sound quality of the recordings. I guess I am in the "get the best monitor chain you can and keep the tracking end as simple as possible camp. If you are moving forward, having great converters will make the next biggest improvement over mics, mic pres and monitors. Someday soon (I hope) there will be very little difference between various converters in terms of quality, but for now they make a big difference.
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    If you or anyone else can afford $1000 per channel, every 12 or 16 months, then by all means do it.. I can't afford that kind of dough. This is tantamount to sending all my profit to Apogee or Benchmark.. It just doesn't make economical sense to me. If the manufactures would just release the stuff they have on the shelves waiting for the next five years... milking every cent they can out of it.. I would agree with you Steve. Like I keep saying, I'm riding 24 /48 till it drops dead!.... Fats

    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to!
  12. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Fats I happen to agree with you more than you think. The high end converters I am talking about are not the boutique level but rather off the shelf Digidesign 192 i/o flavor converters. These are about $450/channel and are competitive sound wise with some of the $1000 to $2000 per channels solutions. Its just a matter of market size and manufacturing capability.

    The funny thing is that a truly great analog path to a converter should be fairly inexpensive since the key is using the minimum number of parts possible. Small parts count means less labor.

    Anyway, what I meant was the good stuff will come down in price and the boutique stuff will be left for the people that fancy themselves as audiophiles and cannot sleep at night if they no someone somewhere may have spent more money than they did,

    As it is right now, making sure you have world class converters make s a BIG difference in your sound, so it is still worth spending a little more.

    By the way, I use my 192i/o almost exclusively at 44.1, because I cannot honestly hear the difference at higher sample rates. I think all the sound improvement has come from improved clock and analog path.
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I agree with most of what you said in your prior post with the following caveats...
    IMO Digidesign is one of the guilty parties regarding overcharging, planed obsolescence and trickling the technology out at a slow pace to maximize profit. This is the USA and I don't object to a company making a profit but even cars that sometimes cost half of what a Pro Tools system costs, last 10 years as opposed to a life expectancy of a Digidesign product of 18 months.

    Fewer parts is good. It escapes many that all this wonderful (and crappy) equipment we use never improves and audio signal, it only modifies it. In addition to a more discreet path the most important factor is power supply. High headroom power supplies make for high audio headroom! If you can heat your lunch on it, you're in the ballpark.

    I agree with this wholeheartedly! This is why I have been recommending the Q10 from Aardvark, who has a stellar background in clocking technology, to people who have been looking for a start up system.

    To be able to discern the difference in higher sample rates, I had to do an A/B test. I have spoke of this before. By playing a 2" multitrack through an MCI 600 console and monitoring the mix bus, then taking the mix bus signal and passing it through an Apogee PSX 100 at 96K, monitoring the Apogee through the 2 track return, I was able to switch back and forth between the analog and 24 bit, 96K digital. It was very noticeable that there was a difference. Switching through the lower rates down to 24 /48, 16 /48 and finally 16 /44.1 it was apparent the lower rates introduced further degradation to openness and stereo image. 96 K does make a difference but it also has a cost in processing power and storage. Fewer tracks with fewer plugins and less ability to store songs on the hard drive. With it all being truncated down to 16/44.1 or worse yet MP3 it just doesn't make sense to me to worry about it. I know a lot of people have voiced skepticism regarding DSD immediate future but I truly believe we will be seeing DSD multitrack products in the project studio market in the next 18 to 24 months. All that being said, IMO even mid priced converters are a waste of money ..... Fats

    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to!
  14. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    I guess i respect your position on Digi, but as a user that makes most of his living using their stuff as the core I am happy to pay digi's rates because of the following:

    1. The software is rock solid, well designed and extremely dependable.

    2. Their support is outstanding, I can get them on the phone quickly and I can get a part replacement in less than 24 hours,

    3. Their documentation is the best in the business. 99% of the things I need to do are easy to find in the manuals and actually work when you try it,

    4. they do a great job of testing different configurations to provide many "known" working scenarios.

    All of this requires lots of well paid staff to pull off, Staff and building space are the biggest costs in running any business so I feel my $$$ to digi are being well spent.

    The last thing is, my digi equipment has paid for itself several times over from the first lease payment I made. so their pricing and financing rates are very supportable even at the meager hourly rates I charge.

    Speaking of over priced, the Aardvark stuff is incredibly overpriced (in terms of clock distribution) if you consider that their clock technology is state-of-the-art for the 1980's. I mean building a rock solid PLL and distribution system shouldn't cost more than $50. On the other hand if their product fits what you need to conduct your business and they are configuring it for and supporting your need (in a very small market) then It is very well worth it isn't it?

    I get a little tired of the digi bashing while the same people will run out and pay $6000 for an Apogee or $1500 for a clock. All these products serve a very small but demanding market. Hiring the engineering staff to develop new products while supporting current products is very very expensive. The Digi's and Apogees and Aardvarks are world class organizations making essential tools for our trade. It thnk they need to charge what it takes to make enough profit that their employees enjoy working there.

    Sorry for the tirade.


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