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Building a pro studio- Need a little bit of help...

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by JesterMasque, Aug 22, 2008.

  1. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    I am building a new studio with some partners and they put me in charge of the DAW and overall recording set-up. I have decided that I want to run Cubase 4 (since I know it in and out) on a custom built PC. There are many more details, but I don't think I need to list out the whole thing for my question.

    I do not want to run a console. I think the money and space could be better used elsewhere as I am on a $40k budget for all of the recording equipment. Unless I bought a digital console with motorized faders on 48 channels, I would only be using it as a pre-recording mixer for the mic-pres. I have no problem buying a big, flat-screen wall monitor to mix in Cubase with.

    I want to have preamp units running 48 simultaneous inputs (if I run an ADAT setup: 24 at 88.2k, 12 at 192k). I know about running ADAT because it is what I have done for the past five years at my home studio. But with running so many inputs, what pro quality options do I have to run the signals into my PC? I think it would be ridiculous to build six firewire inputs into the PC and run six Mackie Onyx-8's (would it?). I know a good deal about pro/con-sumer gear, but little about pro gear.

    I am looking for clean, high-quality preamps/interface that will convey a transparent signal to the PC. Thanks so much everyone! If there is anything I need to clarify, please let me know ASAP.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    So get yourself 48 used API 312 microphone preamp circuit boards, that have the 2520 on them. Then all you need are gain potentiometers & pad switches, a handful of resistors & a 5 amp, 15 volt, bipolar power supply. Heck, you don't even need meters. You should be able to find those 312 series circuit boards with Dean Jensen transformers on them for around $300 or so, used. A second alternative would be the 325 line module. It's the same as the 312 without the Dean Jensen JE110KE or, JE115KE transformer. Those transformers will run you about $100 each. You should be able to get the 325 cards for a lot less than the 312. You must be recording some really big bands if you need 48 simultaneous inputs! But you have the right budget in mind. Use those, and you'll never look back. You won't need anything else. You won't want anything else.

    Rock-and-roll is here to stay!
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If you don't want to go down the DIY route, then consider getting 12 of the API 3124+ pre-amps. These are great-sounding units for almost everything, with the possible exception of classical music ensembles (where most people would prefer the transparency of DAVs, Grace or Millennia pre-amps). Since you mentioned "transparency" in your original post, it would be worth looking at a mix of pre-amps, for example, two DAV BG8s for 16 channels and APIs for the rest.

    For ADAT-output converters, if you are not too fussed about achieving 192KHz, a pair of Alesis HD24XRs would be hard to beat at the price, and you get hard-disk backup recording thrown in for free. You would need 6 lightpipe inputs to your computer, but you say you are already well used to ADAT I/O.

    Otherwise, you may be into looking at expandable FireWire solutions, such as a quartet of Mackie 1200Fs (even if you didn't use the built-in pre-amps). At a higher price point, there is a limited choice of multi-channel converters (Lynx Aurora etc), but they are almost all excellent. Many of these top-end converters are available with swappable output modules, and ADAT lightpipe is usually one of the options.
  4. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    Thanks Remy!

    Boswell, thanks for the insight! I am well used to ADAT I/O, however the the lightpipe inputs to the computer are what I am looking for (or another sort of PC input solution). I checked out the Aurora and it looks like something that I am interested in.

    I know ADAT, which is why I am asking about it and worried about getting 48 channels. If I want to record at 88.2k I would have 24 channels. Similarily, if I wanted to record at 192k (with all of the HD stuff these days you would never know who would knock on your door) I would have 12 channels. But still at 44.1k, I am stuck with more channel inputs than I would ever need so... Is there any kind of A/D unit that would convert 24 channels to my computer?

    Help me to understand these signal chains...
    1. Microphones
    2. Multiple high-quality pres (via XLR cable)
    3. Some sort of A/D converter (via some sort of balanced cable)
    4. PC to be processed in Cubase

    I understand between 1, 2, and 3. But I need a unit(s) for number 3 that will take up to 24 analog channels, convert them to digital, and put the information in my PC. Does any sort of unit(s) exist for this type of signal chain? What connection options do I have to send this much information to my PC?

    1. Microphones
    2. Multiple high-quality pres (via XLR cable)
    3. Some sort of A/D converter with multiple ADAT outs up to 192k(via some sort of balanced cable
    4. Some sort of ADAT interface for PC (via lightpipes)
    5. PC to be processed in Cubase

    Again, 1-3 I get; but what A/D converters would you reccomend that would give me 12 channes at 192k (48 @ 44.1k)? Also, is there a unit out there that is simply an ADAT "dock" (for lack of a better term) that would house 6 ADAT I/O cards and interface with the PC via (for example) some sort of serial port(s) on PCI card(s) (or some other means of PC connection)?

    These are basically my two options that I am feeling. I think they better explaing what, exactly, I am trying to achieve with this whole thing.

    Again, thanks so much for the mic-pre suggestions. I have looked them all up and I can't wait to go shopping!!
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I'm impressed by the care you are taking in trying to get this right!

    I know that using ADAT lightpipe interfaces would sit nicely within your comfort zone, but I think that streaming the equivalent of 48 channels at 48KHz via ADAT is going to cause problems at the interfacing end of things.

    This may be the time to break out of your comfort zone and go to FireWire, which should manage that data rate without undue trouble. A Lynx Aurora 16 fitted with the LT-FW interface card will run 16 channels at 192KHz. A pair of Aurora 16s with LT-FW cards will run 32 channels at 96KHz.

    If the original 48-channel discussion was simply to get the required channels at the higher rates via ADAT, it could be that 32 channels of 96KHz (16 at 192KHz) would meet your recording needs.

    A selection API and DAV pre-amps going via Aurora converters would be a killer combination for most music mixes. If you are only ever recording classical, swap the API for Millennia. If you anticipate using some ribbon mics, then you may want a few channels of AEA TRP or other high-gain preamps.
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I agree with Boz. You may need to step outside your comfort zone. Unless you're running to 2 HD24s, you're not going to find too many solutions where 48 channels of ADAT don't give you a mighty big headache.

    You may want to look into the SSL line of converters. I've had a chance to listen to some stuff recorded on them and they sound excellent! Consider 2 of their converters that use MADI and the appropriate RME card and you're in business. (In fact, 2 of those and a MADI card will set you back about $8K but you'd have 48 ins and outs of some seriously high-end conversion!).

    As for the pres, the advice given so far is good. The DAV and the API would be a great start. BTW Boz, I like API for classical. Sure it's not a Grace, but for a lot of (particularly Romantic and 20th century) stuff, they work great!

    I would also urge you to consider having a few other flavors in your arsenal. The Langevin DVC or the stereo pre are world class as are some of the offerings from UA, SPL, GT, and others. I might even add - the True Systems P8. While I've been "cold" on this pre for years, I'm starting to warm up to it with the right gear. With most mics in decent rooms, you get 8 awesome channels with 2 outs per channel for a very good price.

    Just some thoughts -


    I'll be selling one of my Millennia HV3D-8s coming up really soon. The price will be pretty good considering it's basically brand new.
  7. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    If I could run two of those Aurora 16's that sounds like a system that I would be interested in...

    Thanks for the suggestions Cucco! I'll do a little bit of research on the SSL stuff and report my findings (for your professional opinions, no less).

    Maybe I can throw another monkey wrench into the situation...? One of the other engineers mentioned an issue with wanting to run a 7.1 system for if we ever need it. Would the Aurora or any other kind of system support a 7.1 surround set-up (for movie stuff I suppose)? Since he mentioned it the CEO of the company (studio) wants to make sure that whatever system I build him will support a 7.1 surround. I guess he plans on doing the sound on the new Transformers movie or something, lol! He has a lot of high goals like that so...

    Also, I was doing some research on preamps and I really want to have great sounds for modern rock/indie, vocal riffing for rap, warm classic rock, and I DEFINITELY want some incredible preamps for classical ensembles for sure. Cucco, I know you do classical music (beautifully, might I add). Would that HV3D-8 be a good buy for that? If not, what sort of sound might I achieve by adding it to my chain?

    Off to the SSL website......

    PS I care so much about this because I am working with a lot of money here and I NEED to make sure that I do it right because there is no "oops, I should have thought of that before" without losing my credibility (or even my position) there!
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey Vinnie -
    Thanks to the kind words. To answer a few of your questions - yes, the Auroras will support 7.1 (in fact, if you had a way to manage it, a pair of them will suuport 30.2). Also, for classical, a few of my favorite choices are the Millennia, Grace, DAV and Crane Song. You definitely can't do wrong with any of them. Of course an entire rack of APIs would work pretty well for orchestra as well.

  9. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    I did some research on MADI and I realized that it only goes up to resolutions of 96k. I want to 192 so.... I think I will look more into the Aurora setup with your (all of you wonderful people's) blessings.

    Just wait until I start talking mics with you guys! This is going to be so much fun!! (I am honestly so serious; it's like a chef getting his/her own kitchen)

    Thanks again for the continued advice and patience my friends.
  10. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    So... Quick update:
    I have a list of mics that we will be buying-

    6 SM57LC
    3 sm58LC
    2 D112
    4 MD421
    2 D6
    2 EV RE20
    4 e602
    2 c414b/xls
    1 tlm103
    1 Rhode NTK
    2 Shure Kms84

    Also, an update on the interface: What do you all think of the Tascam DM-4800? From there, I would get the Firewire interface cards and go out into a Mac Pro. The Tascam looks like everything that I would need for inputs, DAW control, and the look of a console in the studio (which I have come to the realization that it is more important than I hoped). I will still be running the hi-fi pres before the Tascam, which I will post a list later probably.

    What do you all think of the DM-4800? Short professional reviews? Other competition in the price bracket? I appreciate all of your input (as you all know). Thanks so much!
  11. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member


    Gonna stick my nose in here for a coupla' other sheckle's worth of aggravation.....

    Not that your mic locker choices suk, because they don't, but you're lacking, IMHO, a couple of really good high end-ish mic's.

    I'd look at least at a couple of ribbons and/or higher end condenser's; Royer, AEA, Schoeps, Josephson, Peluso, DPA, Beyer, Neumann, Coles, etc...

    The truth is that if you are going to really be diggin' into the pro market, you're a tad short with the TLM, Rode and the KSM... to a lesser extent with the 414's.

    You don't need a locker full of high end mic's... but you really should consider at least a pair of something really killer good...

    While you say you want to do 192k, realistically, you probably don't have enough of a budget to really handle 48 channels of I/O processing for 192k. 92k is in all likelihood more than enough.

    You also might want to rethink 48 channels of mic pre's unless you are running a two room facility. 24 simultaneous tracks is probably plenty, with 32 about as many tracks as you'll ever realistically use, unless your facility's main tracking room is in excess of 4ooo cu ft and will hold an orchestra.

    24 mic pre's and 24 line amps is more realistic. That'll get you plenty of I/O for external processing like comps and FX.

    The MADI stuff is an excellent route. The only other way I'd consider is maybe the new UAD cards.

    But whatever you do... realize the big hidden nasty is good quality cabling, patchbay systems and mic cables. I would allow at least for 15-20% of your budget for cables. With the cost of copper rising, that may actually be a low percentage.

    Have you got a separate budget set aside for your soundproofing and acoustic treatment of the facility? If not, or if you have any concerns, I encourage you to drop down to the Acoustic forum and run things past Rod and company.

    I'm not gonna poo-poo anyone's suggestions for pre's. They are all excellent choices, but you can never really go wrong with Neve 1073's either. Granted, they aren't very transparent, but they are buttery damn good.

    If I was in your position, I might look at 8-1073's and 12-512's. Then supplement another 4 pre's of DVC or a couple of Grace 2 channels.

    Just a humble hack's .02
  12. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I understand Max's reaction. That looks like a good workingman's mic closet that will do a good job without any wow factor. If you have a simpatico clientele the current list might work well. But you also might want to put on more of a show purely for business reasons.

    Just in term of my personal favorite tools - I'd stock more SDCs and go for some ribbons. But no question you can make good recordings with that closet.
  13. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Why have 48 pres and only 29 mics?
  14. bobbo

    bobbo Active Member

    i'm no pro here, but why so many "api" preamps, sounds like someone with a big imagination, honestly if i had enough money to spend on a 48 channel api console or 48 api preamps in general, i wouldn't spend it on preamps, heh, i'd spend it on advertising, learning, room consultant, i live off recording bands currently, and i have a basement studio, i do own an api 512c, and honestly, i should of just spent money on a sweet apogee interface instead, but, you live and learn i guess,

    sorry i'm ranting tonight, already ranted in another thread. sorry to see people asking questions on a recording forum about gear that is before their time, not what they REALLY want, because if the REALLY knew what they wanted, they wouldn't have to be asking a bunch of strangers now would they.

    my two cents, go get protools and one of their expensive little boards just like everyone else, or get a cheap ass pc and get nuendo and just quanize and sound replace all the drums and use guitar modeling for bass and all guitar tracks, and all you need is one or two preamps, or even one of them focusrite liquid preamps with like 40 preamps in one box, be realistic in 2008, why can't people just be realistic, seriously, if you have to ask people on here, then you're not thinking realistically then you need to get out of engineering and go serve fries at mcdonalds or work a call center where they tell you what to do, and you don't need to think for yourself.
  15. Greener

    Greener Guest

    "just quanize and sound replace all the drums and use guitar modeling for bass"

    *vomits everywhere*
  16. GeckoMusic

    GeckoMusic Guest

    I love the sarcasm. Thanks for the laugh.
  17. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The API/DAV/TRP/Grace pre-amps into a pair of Auroras would be a whole level up in quality from running into the Tascam. If you need the Tascam for show, why not get it and then just use it as a control surface for your DAW?
  18. stickers

    stickers Active Member

    48 channels of simaltaneous input recording seems like over kill unless you will have a HUGE tracking room and plan on tracking a big band or maybe an orchestra. And yeah 48 mics to accomodate those inputs.

    For me after drums are tracking I rarely use more than 3 channels at a time when over dubbing.

    I think starting out small would be best and building up over time to suit your needs.

    Good musicians, good instruments, a nice room and good songs/arrangements make great recordings, not gear.

    The studio's design aka acoustics and layout and nice in house instruments are more important.

    192khz...thats crazy. Record at 24/44.1

    Get a Digi 003 rack+ some sort of 8 channel mic pre unit with adat outs, buy some nice additional plug ins, decent monitors, and a head phone
    amp. Screw the console unless you plan to do some mixing OTB.
  19. StephenMC

    StephenMC Member

    I can't see even a big band or orchestra needing 48 mics? Unless you're crazy for control. Everybody loves power.
  20. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I CAN see a need for 48, or even 148 mic's... if you approach the microphone as a brush with which to pain the sonic picture.

    API's are great all around workhorse pre's. Can't hardly go wrong there. Or with any other solid pre for that matter.

    My next question would be that if you have 16-24 channels of pre's... do you have enough I/O (D/A) and outboard gear to handle a real pro level mix situation?

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