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Best Upgrade for "quality"?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by SuperChester, Dec 9, 2004.

  1. SuperChester

    SuperChester Guest

    Hi friends,

    I know it's generally socially unacceptable to create a new thread for your first post on a forum, but I've been reading over these forums a lot and most people seem willing to offer good advice to the 'new' guys. It also seems that the best responses come from specific "scenarios" or "setups", so I figured, I'd throw mine out and see what you all come up with. :)

    Anyway, I help local bands in my area put out demos. It's all D.I.Y. I charge absolutely nothing and purchase all the equiptment on my own or ask my family for parts for Christmas/birthdays. ;) The more I record bands, the better the outcome, obviously. However, I feel there are still some "bottlenecks" that are holding the overall sound quality back. The sound quality right now is perfectly "fine". I can produce a very clear, well mixed demo, timely and efficiently.

    Now, I am getting a new job and would like to take my "project" studio to a higher level. The goal, would be to *eventually* be able to put out stuff as good as small indie labels. Something along the lines of Nirvana's "Bleach" album or Blink 182's "Chesire Cat". The room I want to use for recording is a "master" bedroom, but honestly, its probably smaller by most standards; probably 10' x 11' and the "control room", would be the smaller, adjecent bedroom.

    All the recording is done on a PC computer.
    8 channels in is absolutely necessary (using a Delta 1010)...
    Currently I am recording/mixing with Cool Edit Pro and doing some light mastering work with T-Racks to give the mixes some gloss.

    I don't need any help with the computer side of things. That would be my realm or "expertise". But, I would like to know where I should start upgrading my audio gear.

    My current equiptment consists of:
    M-Audio Delta 1010
    Nady PRA-8 preamp (terrible - 1 channel works variably and 1 is completely gone)
    Samson 7kit Drum Mics
    3 Shure SM-57's
    a Sennheiser e835 vocal mic
    embarassing monitoring system using computer speakers and headphones

    That's pretty much the core of what I am working with. The music styles I record are indie-rock genres like punk, hardcore, etc. 8 channels in; usually: kick drum, snare, tom(s), floor tom, 2 overheads, guitars 1 and 2 - then overdub bass and vocals.

    So that leads us to the point of all of this. :) Where do the improvements need to start to being working towards a goal of "releasable" sounding albums (heh, even on a punk rock level)?

    My instinct is to upgrade the preamp first, which is terrible to begin with ($100 sale online ;)) to either a high quality pre-amp, or upgrade it to a nice console/mixing board. Then, I would assume I would need some better mics, but I don't know what kind(s) and for what applications. I assume I would also need a decent compressor; but again, am not sure what would be the best for my scenario. I know I will eventually need a great set of monitors, but they are low priority on my list right now, because I am mixing at personally satisfactory levels that translate acceptably across different sound setups...

    The budget for this project is "rolling". I should have an extra $1000 a month to spend on upgrades. So the upgrades would roll in "gradually"; which is why I am concerned about which upgrades make the most dramatic improvements.

    Thanks for reading this entire mess. Any suggestions would be absolutely considered in full and appreciated even more. There are several bands in our area who will indirectly be saying "thanks" as well. :)
  2. Sebatron

    Sebatron Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2002
    ....... that's where you should start ......... :lol:
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Start on your room.This will make the MOST difference before you improve your gear.Kill all the flutter echos,all the primary standing waves..Do yourself a favor and rent a high-end analizer and mic setup..any decent pa speaker with a decent cd player can be used to amplify a signal in your rooms...run the volume up to where it would normally be in your tracking area and likewise in your control area.The analizer will show you what you need to do to the acoustics in order to bring them into a usable response.Study the acoustics books and ask on our forum here about materials and types of construction you'll be able to do to achieve your goal.This will initially cost as much as your equipment upgrade, BUT in the long run it will be the one thing that will make your future equipment upgrades a much more valuable asset.When you can clearly hear what you're recording and have control over it, you will make much better choices in gear...
  4. David French

    David French Distinguished Member

    Jun 19, 2002
    What he said.
  5. tornbird

    tornbird Guest

    i cant afford good monitors for editing, so i just use my stereo. The stereo works as as the amp(you put it on aux) and all you need is to send from the output of your computer to the stereo inputs on your stereo. Ive been editing pretty well with these speakers. Try that. Also, if you are using cool edit, compress every track, then compress the mix down, and then give the mixdown a final eq. Thats what i do for my little "mastering"
  6. Reggie

    Reggie Distinguished Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    I'm gonna have to disagree in this case. My vote goes for the new preamp or mixing board. Let's face it, fancy acoustic analyzation is not going to improve the sound of the Nady by much. Functionality before perfection. Next I would split any remaining funds betwixt some acoustic treatment and some decent little monitors.

  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Its amazing how good crap equipment sounds in a good balanced room...............................really. Its also amazing how perfectly average very good equipment sounds in a bad room and how much WORK it is to make it sound good. Recording quality STARTS with the environment its recorded in.Its the backwards forwards principle and its true every time. Room>Mic>Preamp>Processing>Recorder. Why would anyone want to spend thousands of dollars on a monitor system that the environment its placed in completely negates its ability to perform. Disagree all you want but this is not my idea... its simply facts as they are.
    Obviously by the original posters post, he needs a preamp of some kind to even record at all.His question was what is the most improvement on sound for the dollar I can get. It will always be the room unless youre sitting in a complete well designed studio, then I'd say mics.Then pres.then an ear.
  8. SuperChester

    SuperChester Guest

    I honestly do appreciate all the feedback!! You guys rule.

    However, I was more intrested in obtaining information on upgrading the gear I currently DO have. More to the point: what specific kinds of mics, preamps or mixers could make a leap in difference, assuming I was using a perfectly tuned room. ;) This Nady would still suck balls, imo... Heck channel 6 doesnt even WORK anymore. No amount of auralex gonna help that!!! :D

    I dunno if you guys have heard "Chesire Cat" or "Bleach", but they are some pretty weak sounding albums!! ;) I am hoping that in the past 10-15 years, technology has come far enough that I can reproduce something similar to these albums in my bedroom. Maybe it's not possible.

    Although I am NOT using a perfect sounding room, I honestly and thankfully appreciate how much importance you all have placed on it. I have now jumped in to learning more about it, scouring this forum for information and links abound from it. I plan on making significant room improvements soon. I even have a friend that knows a bit on the subject and has told me the wonders of bookshelves, mattresses and Pergo flooring. What fun! :)

    But disregarding my room, and disregarding the monitoring situation (pretending they are both acceptable); where can I make the biggest bang on quality improvement? I have a Delta 10/10 which accepts 8 Inputs at once, which is my goal. Right now I am seeing that a Mackie VLZ 1604 is equipt with what I am looking for - but some people on this forum, seem to doubt it's audio quality and knock its preamps. Is there something else in this price range that would considerably blow away the Mackie?

    I certainly am not neglecting the importance of a quality tracking and monitoring environment. Those things will get taken care of in another post at another time! :)

    Thanks again to everyone for your time and pointing me in the right direction on certain issues!!!
  9. Reggie

    Reggie Distinguished Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Nah man, doubtful anything will "blow it away" in a similar price range. In fact, the Mackie may not blow away the Nady! But it will be much more functional, which sounds like what you need. :cool: The newer Mackie Onyx might be better, and they have a stripped down version that is just the preamps if you don't require
    the busing and junk (you probably do that in the box anyway).

    BTW Davedog - I am new here (except my months of lurking) so I don't want you to get the wrong idea about me. I am in no way advocating that he overlook acoustic treatment; but come on, a barely working Nady? That's where I point the finger. :)

    I should post some pics up here of my crazy moveable acoustic panels I made to tame the flutter echos and such in my vault-ceiling drum tracking room (aka living room). I took 6 panels of 8' x 4' x 1 1/2" pink insulation board and stuck some 2" and 4" charcoal-color wedge foam on them. I know it isn't feet and feet of fluffy fiberglass insulation coupled with rigid fiberglass insul., but it does help; especially since I can't go tearing up my rental house. :D
  10. Pez

    Pez Active Member

    Dec 27, 2002

    I'm with Davedog on this one. Room first. Good monitors will really show how good your room, mic, preamps, converters, etc, are however so they are a really high priority in my book. Dave's logic holds true in that a good room sound will help tremendously on your final mix even if you don't realise it on a poor monitoring situation. First and formost of course is a good musician who knows how to get a great tone out of his instrument.
  11. sdelsolray

    sdelsolray Active Member

    Jul 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    Pay attention. Room and monitoring chain.
  12. _NW_CHAOS_

    _NW_CHAOS_ Guest

    Thank you. :)

    This one thread has pointed me in a lot of directions to look in, thank you all who were involved. =)

    - Dave, a.k.a. _NW_CHAOS_

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