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Antelope Zen Studio

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by Josh Conley, Jul 11, 2014.

  1. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    So I noticed sweetwater was having a 24 month no interest sale going on. That's pretty keen thought I to myself, being I am in the market for at least 4 more preamps right now. I could pay off a pretty decent chunk of cash in 2 years,so I think my financial reasoning is sound.

    I really want a UA Apollo, but I am on a Windows Laptop. All signs point to :NO:. No one on the internet has posted success with a working windows laptop with an Apollo, so until I get a mac, or build a desktop around the few pc mobo's with onboard thunderbolt that are out there, I will not be expanding my UA useage anytime soon. Le sigh...

    So I told the sales guy, and he agreed that an Apollo would be sheer folly. Next solution, talk to me about either the ISA428 or the UA710D? He comes back with the Antelope Zen Studio


    and I loved it and I bought one!
    I have heard of Aardvark and Antelope for many years as a quality clock maker.

    Anyhow, I have two features I will be taking to task on this unit I would like to discuss.
    first is the sales dude assured me that this USB2 connectivity would provide the same bandwidth and latency as a firewire unit will. I'll be honest, I have only ever used firewire interfaces. There was some discussion on this recently, but I don't recall hearing anything negative about usb interfaces. Just the general (stereotype?) that FW is faster.

    The other item is the preamps. He said they are API-ish and handle transients really well. I will be using them on drums probably next weekend too. I don't know if the API comparison is pushing the envelope a bit? I have never heard and API, so I wouldn't even know :(

    Anyhow, super excited... I never thought I would be in a position where I was short on mics!
    Anyone got a couple 57's to sell? I'm picking up an older AKG D1000E for 30$ from some local dude off craigs list this weekend :)
  2. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    hey guys. did some recording with this box yesterday, today, and some overdubs tomorrow.

    i cant comment on quality at this time because im in the room on headphones, so details are lost to me until i go to mix back at home. ill post some the raw drum tracks i captured if you guys are interested to hear performance on this box with 8 pres humming at once.

    i asked about the insane loudness of a drum kit before, but that was from a preamp input trim perspective. (good tips, thx) not having such a control on the zen studio, im sitting there watching my new used (thx audiokid) cardiod oh mics hitting 0dbfs coming in.
    that worries me, its just so damn loud.
    so my question, is the internal circuitry being overloaded on said mics? is that possible? what are the potential consequences here?

    i now have a new use for this laser level thats been sitting in my garage for 10 years :) lining up oh mics!
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    If they are the ma100 the manual says they have a max spl of 130 so your probably overloading the preamp. Use the pad on the mic and or interface/pre if it's got one.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Do you have a theory as to why that is? That seems like a pretty big thing to me, not like a small incidental that can be worked around, or that doesn't matter in the end...

    Think of how many final performances are built upon punch ins and combined takes, or real time editing...

    That seems like a pretty large Faux Pas to me, especially when we are talking about a model that runs around 3 grand...
  5. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    The last thing that gave me trouble with punch ins was a turtle beach card.. Circa 2001

    People I have know that had issues like that usually had a driver issue with firewire. Things like switching the 1394 driver in the device manager to legacy sometimes fixed the issue.

    What is real time editing while looping beats? Playing a loop and moving other stuff around in your daw at the same time?
    Josh Conley likes this.
  6. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    Ok fellas, here are the raw drum tracks I captured on this Zen Studio Interface.
    I would certainly love to hear any and all thoughts you have.

    There is no processing here, just some fader adjustments for the too loud (too many?) snare tracks and some slight panning of the OH tracks.
    Here is what you are hearing:
    I forget what type of drum kit :)

    kick - Beta 52 about 4 -5" away from the beater, centered pointed right at it, front drum cover completely off.
    snare upper - 57 edge mounted, center pointing when the drummer wasn't knocking it all over the damn place
    snare lower - phase reversed ;) 57 edge mounted, relatively center pointing.
    left & right OH - Rode nt5's, ended up placing them about 58" away from the snare pointing across the kit at the cymbal array on the opposite side.

    View: https://soundcloud.com/josh-mixes/the-one-drum-tracks

    I don't like the kick sound. It's thin. Not big, not deep, I have to process it too much to get it to sound how I like it. I will admit, I am in the room. So setup feels like a bit of a crap shoot. Any thoughts on how to get a deeper boomier blast the first time around?

    I also don't like the snare mics at all. IIRC, my rough drum mix which I will post here in just a bit, I ended up with the top snare muted and the bottom snare mixed in very little. My snare capture reminds me of a cardboard box mixed with a plastic bucket. I'm assuming it's the drum I hate? Too piccolo-y, too bright, too much smack..

    The OH's I like. Very clean. Very easy.
  7. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    no I can't make the bass player be sober, but I can (and maybe will) chop up his performance to make it timed right, he's way off in some spots.

    View: https://soundcloud.com/josh-mixes/the-one-drum-n-bass
  8. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    recorded the vocals this weekend. they are not ready yet.
    I wrote a rhythm and lead part, but have not recorded them yet.
    more soon.
    please criticize...
  9. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    Drum sound fidelity wise is good.. Sounds like a old poorly tuned kit in a mid sized room. Which is probably exactly what is was. What kind of drum sound were you going for? The track with the bass sounds much better.

    For me the one skin on the kick thing is an odd thing to do. You lose the sustain and depth from the front skin. The inside mic doesn't sound much different if at all pointed right at the beater with a front skin on. The rest of the mics will pick up the front skin vibe. If it needs to be Steely Dan dead then I could see it.. But otherwise you are just losing the body of the bass drum..

    The snare needs to be tuned and muffled better for it to sound less like a card board/bucket. What does it sound like with both mics up? Sounds like it could be ringy, muffling will help with that as well as high Q EQuing to pull out the ring.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Josh, what's the problem with some radical manipulation of the bass drum, to get the sound you want? Very few rock 'n roll drums sets sound great, without some radical EQ, compression, limiting and gating. Along with some plate or algorithmic reverb, to enhance the resonant tone of the bass drum, with an extremely short decay. There is nothing normal sounding about a drum kit just miked up that doesn't sound like people are banging on metal trash cans. Most drummers are already too deaf to know what they're listening to with their drums. Most wouldn't know a good sounding kit, if they fell over it. Only real percussionists know how to do that. Not dumber's bashing and crashing on poorly tuned drums whose shells are not worth the wood they're made with. Which is what you've gotten.

    So when you get those kinds of drummers, with those kinds of pawnshop kits, sounding like that? You're left no choice but to do the thing that engineers must do, to make a $200 trash can kit, sound like something. My initials aren't RAD, for nothing. You've got to live dangerously. Take chances. Push the envelope. There ain't nothing normal about electrical recordings. What is normal is the crappy sound of the drums. That what you must de-crap, through some radical manipulation. I mean don't you like playing with knobs and dials? I do. Why be so lazy? It's fun.

    In fact, this was most likely a 26 inch bass drum, right? Most of those, I've never gotten a decent sound out of as they're too big. Give me a 20 inch or 22 inch, max. Then you get some tone. The best bass drum I ever recorded was this awful looking, beat to death, 18 inch bass drum. Holy cow! It was awesome! And the snare drum that sounded like Maria Callas! It sang pretty. But I still compressed and gated and EQ' ed. Because that's what you do. Whether you do that while tracking or in the mix. I've done it both ways. Generally I'll leave that processing of the drums, until mix time. Except for around 35 years ago, when all I had was a single 1176 and a KEPEX-1, I would track that with the snare drum. Then I would use the same thing on the bass drum on mix down. Sometimes bouncing a track to open tracts on the 16 track, MM-1200, since I had a dearth of limiters and gates. Taking things down two generations, even before the mix down. Simply because I didn't have enough processing gear to get what I wanted in a single pass as I do today. And that was analog tape, when things could get extremely mushy. Unlike our sterile sounding digital, today that doesn't mush up as badly.

    Vocals aren't ready? They should have been ready, during your tracking. Less to do then on mix down. Less noise. Less PCM bits getting yanked around hither and fro, after-the-fact. When everything starts to sound like grainy garbage at 24-bit, 96 kHz LOL. And because PCM just isn't pretty sounding, to begin with. Which is why I EQ, compress, limit, even during tracking.

    All I'm hearing today is this empty, vacant, raw, unrefined, unpolished, techno-crap sound, coming from young guys, that think they know what they're doing. And not wanting to learn anything, from those older folks that do know what they're doing. Because they know it all. And never were taught to respect their elders. I respected mine. I learned this from mine. And they were right. And so am I. So go for it dude. Do it up right. I know you can. I know you're good. So prove it. And invert the phase of the bass drum. It's the one microphone on the drum kit that should always be phase inverted. That and the under snare drum microphone. And that's it.

    With drums that sound like that, you don't just record them like that. You stick on gaffers and duct tape. You stick the drummer's wallet on top of the snare drum and tape it down. You stick a pillow in the bass drum, weighting it down with a brick or two or a sandbag. You get the sound of the drums right on microphone first before you track them. You didn't do that. Why? Was the drummer that big a prima donna? Because you sure couldn't prove that by me. This guy had the finesse of an enema. Which I guess for some, can sometimes be fun? Which I wouldn't need because hearing from recordings like that just makes me want to run to the bathroom on a regular basis.

    How was that critique? I know sometimes the enema connotation can be a Fleeting thing.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    hang on, my RAD Decoder ring is stuck....

    fleet makes enema's, check.
    my gramma used to tell my grampa "you talk like you have a paper asshole". what does that mean?

    drum kit sucks as I suspected.
    radical manipulation (TM) via decrapification...lol, no problem there ;)

    i can play you the vocal take I captured along with the drums that day, aside from the fact the vocals are of the screaming variety, and I think you all will hate them, they do sound awful. The guy was sitting in front of a drum kit. just no. the pieces will fall into place in due time.

    the intent of that first file is simply to show the sound of this new zen product.
    the second was to get feedback on how badly I am ruining it ;)

    you called it.
    though I don't feel in a position to "go for" any sort of sound, more like put em up and see what happens.
  12. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Hi Josh,
    Your drum sound is good and only need minor changes to make it great...

    The first thing I noticed was that there is a lot of room sound in the samples you posted. It seems a bit too much especially for the bass drum.
    It feels like you were using more of the compressed OV than the other mics in you mix. (I know you probably didn't do that but that's how the result feel to me. I also know that it will be worst when you get to the mastering comp, that's why it bothers me.

    Your bass drum mic will pickup lower frequency if you place it further from the beater, but you may need to put back this front head. While removing it the bass drum is not a resonant chamber anymore..

    For the overheads, if they are compressed remove some compression to have a bit less roomy sound.
    If they are not compressed, you can place them closer to the kit and you can point them a bit more to the toms instead of the cymbals. it will help a good balance.

    The snare is not bad, I guess it's more a taste thing at this point. I would have tuned it a bit lower to get a bit deeper sound but as I said : taste.

    Thanks for posting this Josh, I hope you will experiment and post the evolution of it.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The kick isn't bad, Josh, it's just different - different from what we've all grown accustomed to with that "isolated" type of sound. Truthfully, there were hundreds of hit songs in the 50's and 60's with kick sounds just like this - Motown comes to mind in particular. You certainly have a lot of room in your kit recordings, and that's not necessarily bad either, except that if you're gonna do that, you need a good sounding room to begin with. Ceiling height no less than 8', and that's a minimum.

    Here's what I would suggest.. first, deaden up the kick drum with pillows or a blanket, push them fairly snug against the beater head on the inside of the drum. Now... put the cover back on and make sure it's correctly tuned... this is crucial. For whatever reason, people always seem to ignore the kick drum when they are tuning a drum kit, and this tuning involves both the beater head and the outside cover head as well. Different tensions are going to give you different forms of presence and thump from the shell. If there is already a sound hole on the head, place an LD just outside this hole, bus it to it's own track. If there's not, cut one with an exacto knife. You don't need it to be big, either...4"-6' is fine.

    By putting a head on the outer side, you are concentrating the SPL to one specific area, as opposed to trying to use the diffused sound that you are getting with an open head, and then trying to make it sound more distinct and isolated. Put that mic where the largest concentration of energy is escaping the drum. Using an LD will help. Yes, you can use a 58 in this fashion as well, I've done it many times... but this works better if you are using a dynamic mic like an RE20, or an LD condenser. If you need to, and if your mic has the feature, engage the pad if you are over-driving the mic - although most modern mics can take pretty high SPL's these days.

    The snare seems to have an inherent ring to it... If I had to guess I'd say maybe 800hz to 2k - or thereabouts. Again... make sure the snare is properly tuned!!!!! I cannot stress this enough. This is absolutely a make or break type of thing, Josh. If the snare is junk, or sounds lousy on its own, or even if it's a good snare but isn't tuned properly, all you'll end up with is a hi fidelity recording of a lousy sounding snare.

    What array are you using with your OH's?

    Remy said:
    Very few rock 'n roll drums sets sound great, without some radical EQ, compression, limiting and gating.

    That's total BS. ;) If a drummer knows what they are doing, knows their kit, uses quality shells, lugs and heads, and good mics are used on them in a good sounding environment, a drum kit will sound great - if properly tuned. I've been a professional session drummer for over 30 years now, Josh...everyone thinks I play guitar...and I do... but I'm a drummer first before anything else... and I can tell you that I get compliments from engineers all the time for my drum sound - they need to do very little with my kit other than to mic them properly. No drastic processing of any kind. And no one puts duct tape anywhere near my drums, if they value their life. LOL... Why? because my drums don't need it. I have a very nice kit with 6 ply birch shells, and because I take the time to properly tune them to begin with, they sound great. Also, I always show up with fresh heads that are based on the style of music I am playing. I might use hydraulics one day, and coated ambassadors the next.

    It's really not rocket science. Use a high quality drum kit, high quality cymbals, robust and finely machined hardware that won't rattle and will hold tuning tension, good mics, in a good room - and a drummer who knows how to tune the kit to the optimum for what the session calls for...Oh.. and one more thing...if you have a drummer that is hitting far more mics than heads, slap him upside his head and send him packing. ;)


    pcrecord likes this.
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Whats the Q BTW?

    This is easy, I'm with D. . Sounds like rock and roll. Other than the bass taking up too much of the energy, cramming the sum, a few tweaks and this would change dramatically.

    I'd be curious to play with this. Dropbox me the master ( or better yet, the tracks) and I will run it through Sequoia on a laptop for fun, create the pocket and post it.
  15. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    this is why i come here, terrific info.
    i will do the things you say donny.
    you guys told me to poke the hole once already, but at that time he was "hell no!"
    i think hes starting to trust me, so were poking a damn hole :)

    please talk to me more about tuning. its been made irrevocably clear tuning is nevessary, critical even.
    from what ive seen, everything makes everything vibrate on drums. are we looking to minimize this, or set a specific tone just like tuning a guitar?
    what fundamental am i looking for on kick and snare? can i run the mic thru the the tuner on amplitube?
    though, i know what youtube videos im about to lookup

    ill tell you how i positioned the kick mic, since im there in the crappy room with it. i put up a spectrum analyzer, saw the fundamental was peaking hard at 62hz. good enough. go!

    in the end, i listen to everything you guys say, but ill process or not the way i see fit. im not gonna throw 3 channel strips up for no reason because RAD said it could be good. i am no victim of shiny plugins either. i have a couple i use for specific things, and thats that.
  16. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    ill do that tonight audiokid.
    the dentist is waiting to pull these rotten jobbers out of my head.
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    The beauty of replacement and midi. We should learn from it all.

    You can do all you say in the DAW Josh. If you can't hear it, or get your drummer to do it during setup, you can tune ITB. I do it all the time. In fact, its part of mixing. When you find the tones, everything falls into the pocket. You need the music to fine tune it all.
    BUT, if you have bleed, tuning becomes a very problematic issue. So, you can show your drummer, percussionists what it should sound like and explain, you can't tune it because his cymbals etc will start to get swirly. So now that you've heard this, lets tune your kit better.
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "...from what i've seen, everything makes everything vibrate on drums. are we looking to minimize this, or set a specific tone just like tuning a guitar?"

    If you are using a quality kit, with solid hardware, everything shouldn't be vibrating. Yes, you will likely get the snares to sympathetically react to the kick, or maybe to the toms, but it should be minimal if everything is locked down... and besides, some of that sympathetic "buzz" is part of what makes a kit sound like it does.

    If you are looking for total isolation for each drum and cymbal, then you're better off to use samples, or, to record the parts a pass at a time... but at that point, you are leaving out much of what makes a nice live drum kit sound as it's supposed to sound.

    Tuning should be performed to the drum in and of itself... and you need to make sure that you're not torquing down on a drum that isn't meant to be tuned that tightly, or loosely for that matter, either. Each drum will have a specific lug tension where it will sound the best. If you to de-tune a 15" mounted floor tom to achieve the sound of an 18", you'll end up with the heads being very loose and the drum sounding very "flappy". By the same token, if you try to tune that same drum too high, you'll end up with odd overtones and harmonics.

    Drums are supposed to have overtones. i hardly ever gate my drums. They aren't meant to cut off like that, nor are they meant to be duct taped, muffled and deadened to the point where they sound like a cardboard box. The trick is finding the right overtones, those pleasing harmonics that allow the drum to "sing" instead of "ring". ;)

    I pretty much tune by second nature these days, going from lug to lug in a cross pattern across the head, and then by tapping a stick about an inch into the head off the lug, and then try to match that sound from lug to lug. But there are tools available to assist you. A drum torque wrench can be quite helpful (and they aren't at all expensive); it allows you to check and tighten the head to a specific torque - for each lug - so that the drum is tuned evenly from lug to lug.






    Bottom heads matter. So many drummers came into my studio over the years and either had the bottom heads to their drums completely removed, or, simply didn't bother with tuning the bottom head, and the result - most noticeably in the millisecond 'after-ring" of the tom, can be strange, and can even give off specific harmonics, or even a single pitch.

    Always use good heads, and try to use heads that are designed for the style you are playing. If it's a hard rock style, look to pin stripe hydraulic heads... these are usually a thin dual-ply clear head with an oil / resin substance between the plies. You can really get a tight and powerful "attack" sound using these types of heads. If you are doing something that may be softer, or jazzier, consider a coated ambassador. These are most popular on snare drums, but they sound great on toms, too, if you want a warmer, richer sound.

    I avoid black dot heads like the plague - I'm not referring to white dot coated ambassador snare heads here - I consider them to be the worst heads for toms that were ever made. To be honest, I can't figure out why they are still made, because they change the drum's sound so much - and not in a good way, either - it muffles the bejeezus out of the center of the drum, and leaves the sides around it "ringy" and irregular. I suppose that if there are enough people still buying them, then the various drum head manufacturers will continue to make them, but no pro drummer that I know uses them.

    I think I've swamped you with enough information for now. Check out the videos... they will help you.


    Josh Conley likes this.
  19. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM19VkXXJp4

    I think the statement that you didn't have a drum sound in mind when you started says it all..
    If your drummer has an idea of his sound that's good... doesn't seem like he does from your example.

    Start with an idea of the sound you want then go from there. Did the kit sound good in the room with you standing there?. or sitting behind the kit?
    If it sounds like crap with 1 mic in front or behind. It'll sound like crap with 20 mics..

    You'll just have more control to fix the crap with 20..
  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I've done more than a few band practice recordings in basements and band spaces it's totally possible to get fun cool sounds. If the point is pristine then there are ways to replace and whatever, but sometimes the most appealing thing about these is the vibe the stank, the nasty, just how it all gels into the ball of noise that I practice should be.

    A 57 isn't the worst overhead option out there. In rooms like these i like minial micing and maybe room mic for giggles. Kik and snare if it's a whole band and they're not many mics, otherwise I like kick snr oh simple mono drums, grab some image/space from bleed from the other mics.

    But really tuning will kill you as Donny put so well.

    A few moving blankets on mic stands around the kit goes along way! Keep the oh low as possible, those low ceiling reflections suck. I like to put a pillow or whatever in the kick, a little on the dead side, and a blanket over the kick. The kick and the room prob aren't gonna play nicely. in general I'm happy w a nice thud, nothing exaggerated, if it's a questionable kick shove I'll have the kick mic pretty close to the beater, like 4 fingers away. Work the proximity effect. I wouldn't choke the snare to death. You gotta take actual tone anywhere you can get it, with all the other audio murk flying around the room. If it's just the drums I'd probably have tom mics and maybe a kick outside and probably stereo overheads.

    Gotta make sure your stuff is phase coherent one way or the other. And take care of it on the way in, as your zeroing in on the mic positins and polarity. Last time I recorded in a huge empty office on a crappy kit we had three tracks available for drums, so we spent about 3 hours getting the tuning, mics, polarity and eq tweaked in, till it was about as good as it was gonna get. It came out well, I'll have to post it, but really just listened and just checked things one at a time after the rough in.

    Nothing worse than crappy cymbals played loudly in a room that has concrete walls, again not that it couldn't be automated out, but that's a lot of work, cymbals can kill it, w this overbearing harshness that can ruin the whole gueirrla recording for everyone.

    Keeping minial mics and doing whatever you can w blankets around the room will basically be just about all ya can do in any room no matter how good it is, that's pretty much it. Only necessary mics open whenever possible, well tuned kit, phase coherency and some trial and error. Your on your way man, these things aren't really about perfection or anything it's vibe, and honestly sometimes just keeping it not painful is the best that can happen, but it's totally possible to get some jack white black keys sounds like that cuz that's what they did too.

    And I'm going to be perfectly truthful some bands just sound better that way, garagy. Whether it's just a vibe thing, or the fact that you really don't want superb studio style detailed sound on Johnny and the soar throats.

    The last band I was in recorded some songs at both the practice basement and at the studio for our demo, and we used the basement tracks, and shelved the studio ones. Vocals overdubbed to w a 57 3 mics and 2 tracks for drums, mic'd bass, the vibe and the overall presentation of the songs were just better in a sense that that is how we sounded, more typically, it wasn't to be cool. One sounded like us, one sounded like us in the studio and we just didn't like us as well in the studio, although any album type material woulda been done there.

    So yeah it doesn't mean you can't get good useable drums sounds man, but if your techniques for micing is using a freq analyzer you really should look into more man, there's not really a reason to do that, other than for giggles. You gotta put it up and listen to it, then make the call from there. Perfect? Boomy? Mushy? And move the mic accordingly, it doesn't have to take forever but after you've found the best general spot, within a couple of small movements back and forth you'll get the idea of how's it's effecting it, pick it and move on.

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