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Building the Studio

Discussion in 'Recording' started by lipmanajl, Mar 11, 2003.

  1. lipmanajl

    lipmanajl Guest


    A rather extensive question for those who might have the time/interest/inclination (of course I understand this seems too involved--I realize many here have more experince than I):

    I would like to set up a home studio in an apartment for the purpose of creating high quality demos of songs based around acoustic guitar and voice, also incorporating bass, drums, keys, strings on many of the songs, which will typically also involve 3-4 part vocal harmonies.

    My knowledge is perhaps a step above basic. I've been recording for many years, as an avocation, with little knowledge however of equipment. I began in the era of multitrack cassette, and my recording deck is a Yamaha MTX-8 8 track cassette, which I am willing to replace with a digital if it will give me better recording quality/flexibility. However, I have little knowledge of the advantages/use of digital recording. I use an old 1980s Roland drum machine.
    I know of MIDI but do not know/understand as yet how to incorporate it in recording (I have a vague suspicion that shifting to computer-based recording would expand flexibility and precision, but do not know as yet how to create a rudimentary set up, etc.).

    That having been said:

    What would any of you regard as basic components that would constitute a home studio for high quality demos of the type described above? I suspect there are many choices, so, if inclined, please feel free to offer any opinions on particular components re:

    Recorder--digital or analog
    Vocal and instrument mics
    Effects to sonically manipulate/ punch up vocal and guitar
    Drum sounds

    I am budgeting between 3-5000 for the entire set up.

    I recognize that I may have excluded many basic components necessary to get high quality sound here, and would welcome any additions that the more experienced would regard as necessary or useful.

    Any descriptions of such a basic setup in terms of the items needed, and particular models woul would recommend, as well as compatibilities of each component with the rest, would be high appreciated.

    For those who regard this questions as possibly too much in one bite, or redundant, my apologies.

    Very Best,

    Alan Lipman
  2. mixman77

    mixman77 Guest

    Hi Alan,

    Digital is by far better than cassette recording at most all levels. I would look into a MAC G4/1 gig w/512 meg of ram. Run DP3 for your recording software with a Motu 2408 as the interface. Native platinum bundle with mastering. One Presonus Digimax connected to the 2408 through Adat light pipe. You will need one Glyph 80 gig rack mount external drive. The trick to running computer based software is to load your programs on the internal drive and save all your projects/files to the 80 gig or another drive. Keeps things fast and holds down lock ups. You will also need a console for many reasons. One, record monitoring without latancy and effects to the headphones (monitoring) without recording them. Also the warmth that comes from a good console. It will also give you more control of your mixes. I would look at the Soundcraft M12 or M8, 12 or 8 mono mic/line inputs and 4 stereo inputs. Also it is digital out. The board has 100mm peterson faders that are very smooth for a console in it's price range. This would give you 16 simultaneous inputs.

    Estimated cost: Not a quote.
    MAC G4 - 1600.00
    Motu 2408 With DP3 - 1100.00 - 1500.00
    Presonus Digimax LT - 700.00
    Native bundle - hmm, can't remember but it seems to be around 800.00 maybe.
    Glyph - 800.00 - 1000.00
    Soundcraft M12 - around 1200.00 I think
    Soundcraft M8 - 800.00 again not sure, that sounds a little high.
    Fastlane for midi - 50.00

    I realize this is a little more than you showed for budget but I must say this is a smoking system. You could wait on the Digimax until later and just add a second internal drive for now or use the same 60 gig that comes in it. This would save you a good bit. Also, with a MAC you have less problems with lock ups anyway. So it's not a absolute must to have the second drive right now but I would add it as soon as you can. This would only allow for 8 simultaneous tracks recorded at one time. However, you could add two more say Digimax later without ading another 2408 for a total of 24 simultaneous inputs.

    Ok, now how do you hook all this up. First the 2408 will will be the interface to the MAC patching in through firewire into the Motu PCI 324 card. The 2408 has 8 analog inputs and 8 analog outs all TRS (balanced). You would come out the direct out of 8 channels on the Soundcraft M12 into the 8 analog inputs on the 2408 allowing 8 of the 16 simultaneous inputs. Then patch the Digimax in through the adat light pipe input on bank "B" of the 2408. This allows for the other 8 digital inputs completing a total of 16 inputs simultaneous, the best of both worlds. The Glyph will patch into the system through firewire input/output. DP3 is very easy to install and setup and is a extremely strong recording system. You can more than likely do 60 plus tracks with effects, EQ, etc. without any problems depending on the effect or effects. The Fastlane is USB and again very easy to setup. PM me if I may be of assistance to you with this as I would be more than happy to help.

    Note: you can stripe a track on your 8 track cassette recorder to sync up your midi to your audio tracks. Once the track is stripe and the start point is set it should lock up every time perfectly. Tip - allow 10 seconds before the audio track starts for everything to lock up good.

    Cheers and Good Luck,
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Or you could go with a PC with 2 Western Digital 80 gig IDE drives, a Frontier Dakota sound card, 2 Alesis ADAT converters and Cubase or Nuendo for less than 3K. I have a system like this and it kicks ass. It doesn't lock up. It doesn't crash. I can run over 24 tracks with eq, dynamics and reverbs on almost every track, submasters and the 2-bus with 20% CPU load and a system latency of 6 ms. (that is pretty good). You would need a couple of mic preamps or a small mixer as Kevin mentioned for the same reasons he brought up. If you were to go with the more expensive ones like the Soundcraft then you would be able to forgo purchasing outboard mic pres and just use the ones in the mixer. If you would prefer an all in one solution the Aardvark Q10 is a great system. It comes bundled with an 8 track recording software for about $1000. Class A pre amps and superior clocking design makes the Aardvark a great choice.

    There is a lot of difference of opinion regarding Mac vs. PC but I have noticed that most of the folks that hang around here go with the PCs. For more information on computers you can get some great info from Opus and the gang over at the computer forum. There are a few die hard fans of Mac who will say thing like the Macs are more stable, faster but IMO that is not the case anymore. I think Macs inability to perform modifications and updates to the hardware is a definite drawback. With a PC as processors and Motherboards and other components are updated you can update your machine. With Macs there is almost no alternative except purchasing a new machine every 2 years. The only company that builds Macs is Apple. PCs are built everywhere by almost everybody. These are age old arguments.

    There are a lot of alternatives that are much more cost effective. Large facilities need to spend cash and update their equipment every 16 months for tax reasons but for the home recordist this is not a good thing.

    There is more than one way to skin a cat, the best advise I can offer is to familiarize your self with what is available and on the market, do some homework for a month or two before jumping in the pool. If I were in your position I would get about a dozen more opinions before I even started to think about a final decision. Kurt
    To help keep this site alive and growing, please show your support by purchasing one of our caps, studio clocks, T-Shirts etc. Banner ads too!
  4. NeonCactus

    NeonCactus Guest

    Go digital for what you want it's cheaper.

    Recorder-Motu 2408 MK3 like 1000
    Mixer- Tascam DM24 has not real great but acceptable demo Preamps also built in dynamics,
    eq, and effects. like 2,200 without meter bridge.
    Mics as far as Vocals and Acoustic guitar-Shure KSM 44 great mic for both vox and acoustic guitar
    it's like 1,100 bucks
    A computer well you probably have one since you are on this forum so that brings us to software
    well you are probably on pc so i recommend
    Cubase SX it's great it's 500 bucks
    Waves Platinum Bundle for plugins I think It's on sale right now for 1,200 on Sweetwater or Pro Audio Design.
    Now you will need
    3 tdif cables
    2 bnc cables
    2 spdif cables
    assorted mic cables and instrument cables
    price on that all depends really.

    As far as drums get Reason and The Drumkit from Hell sample library alltogether for both it's like
    with reason as far as doing drum stuff you really don't need a midi interface.
    But if you wanted one the Midisport 2/2 is great so you can use the midi capabilities on the dm24 also, 60 bucks
    and of course you will need a keyboard get one of those cheapie ones at radio shack you aren't really looking for something with great sounds just midi capable.

    A little over budget but hey it's really worth
    it. This is what my friend has and he has actually done some really good stuff.
    If you can though get a mac and go with DP3
    I happen to think it is the best piece of software one can buy. there is alot more you will need but I wont scare you out of trying to get into recording (just think accessories)
    those I think are the biggest expenses for anyone
    it's not the hardware it's everything that you have to hook up to the hardware as far as cables and junk like that... a tuner,power conditioner,
    hard drives, these are the hate to have to buy it but need it things. haha anyways I hope at least one thing off of this list helps you in your buying. Peace
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Prince George, BC
    Home Page:
    good thread.

    hehe, go Mac. ain't no comparison. You can upgrade no problem. I have a 9600, mix +++ with a G4 upgrade, waves bundle, an many other plugins plus 20 grand worth of imaging software in it and it is smoking. I use it for building RO, web design and making music. I can't wait to buy a new Mac. They are unix based and to me that say's a lot.
    I think it's what you start with too. I tend to buy high end if I can. Too me that's a mac. But then again, I have never used a PC for anything other than a foot stool so I don't know for sure :D Sorry, I couldn't resist lol. Carry on, you guys were doing well until I popped in here.

  6. There are options to computers .. if you'd prefer to use your hands and some faders rather than a mouse as your tracking and mixing medium.

    Also, keep in mind that most computers are not very quiet either ... if you went with some Adat XT-20's you'd save initial outlay, and keep the recording media costs at a low level .. these can later be patched via the MOTU into a cpu, and a simple but well thought out program like Cool Edit Pro could be used.

    Then you can look at buying some nice mics, since you'll need a bunch if you intend to do drums and the other instruments you refered to.

    You can also look at the Alesis 24 track hard drive digital recorder as a possible option to the Adats.... The console could be a variety of options .. the Panasonic digital console and the Alesis HD 24 track .. or a smaller Tascam or Yamaha digital console ...

    If it sounds like I'm against using a Mac or PC for recording ... You're partly right! I'd suggest that any recording method you choose should be a vehicle for you to do the process quickly. In my experience I have noticed that more time will and does get spent on computers with cut and paste etc than perhaps should be. Many times a simple second take is far quicker. On the other hand you can't beat some options a computer can afford in say, the "mastering process", or in audio/video synch options.

    I'd love to get away from my non-automated 32 track Soundcraft console, since having a "mix recall" would be a terrific help with some sessions .. but I'd have to have a hands on console like the Soundcraft so that I would not give up the ability for super quick mix moves .. and that leaves me looking at a $25,000 Sony console .. hope this gets you at least thinking in more than one direction?
  7. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member

    Feb 28, 2001

    I'd put more money into the front end gear (mics and pres) because those are the tools that will be useful for a lifetime. Digital stuff is ever changing and you'll always be tempted to "upgrade" or keep up with the Joneses in some way.

    So, since your budget is $3 to $5k, I chooe $5000.

    Microphones: $850

    3 Shure SM57s (around $200 for all three)
    1 Neumann TLM103 (around $650?)

    Pre-Amps $1150

    1 FMR RNP ($500)
    1 Speck MicPre 5.0 ($650?)

    Audio Interface

    MOTU 896 ($1200)


    Can you use the one you have? That's a big advantage in that you know how it works and its paid for. Listening to other people argue about computer platforms is pointless. There are zealots on both sides that are more into the arguing than each platform's merit as "tools". I use both but my work requires it. If you like Mac, use Mac, if you like PC, use PC.

    It costs whatever it costs. To work the way I want, I'll pay whatever it costs just the same as if I like playing Steinway instead of Baldwin.

    Software $800

    Again, a matter of preference. Download "lite" or demo versions and see which one suits you. They all do MIDI and Audio (basically). Your platform will dictate software to a degree (Logic is only on the Mac, for example). For "full" versions, you'll spend around $800. Smaller versions cost less.

    Mixer $300

    I dunno, find a used Mackie or something for line level stuff. Around $300

    Spend the remaining $700 on cabling, stands, backup drives, a MIDI interface and a cue mix system.
  8. mixman77

    mixman77 Guest

    Hi all,

    Ok, we sell both PC's and MAC. The normal starting point for most folks is a 4 track, then to Adat or outboard HD recorder, then to computer on our side of the world. They will argue that they like their PC and would like to try something like Vagas, Cakewalk or Cool Edit Pro. Then without fail they will call or come back complaining how they can't get that sound. So they buy outboard gear and plug-ins. They go away for a while and before long are back complaining again. Then! a lightbulb will go off in their heads and they come up with a great idea to get a MAC and DP3 or Protools. They purchase it then leave and never come back or call again concerning the system unless to say "thanks again," this happends every time. Have you ever heard of someone going back to PC from a MAC. Very Rare! As a matter of fact in more than 20 years of dealing pro audio gear this has never happend to us. It's quite the opposite.

    I would not say PC recording is bad, I'm saying if you are starting a new studio then do it right the first time. MAC's are faster and more reliable than PC's we know because we are the guys who have to service these accounts. PC's are around 4 times slower than MAC and that is a known fact throughout the entire professional industry. Trying sending a top notch studio a project on PC. Most of the time you will be told "we don't deal in PC recording, we only use MAC" "I wish we could help you". So don't go and throw your PC away, use it to access the internet or download a picture or a song. Buy a MAC and save your money for mic's, stands, cables, etc. you get the idea.

  9. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mar 19, 2001
    New Milford, CT USA
    Home Page:

    > MAC's are faster and more reliable than PC's <

    That's the silliest thing I've seen in a long time. You can make great music on either platform, and the quality of sound has more to do with the room and your technique than what brand of computer you use. Windows has the registry and services to deal with, and Macs have extensions. To use either platform successfully you have to know what you're doing!

  10. themidiroom

    themidiroom Active Member

    Apr 20, 2002
    St Louis
    Maybe after buying the Mac and Protools, they had to sell their car and couldn't return to the store. I use a PC with Sonar and a MOTU 828. I have Mac and Protools users in disbelief all the time because I can get the same if not superior sound quality compared to their setups. :eek:

  11. Pez

    Pez Active Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    PC's are around 4 times slower than MAC and that is a known fact

    Sorry, in all due respect I'm going to have to chime in here and say that this is the biggest bunch of BS I've heard in a long time. If you want to spend less time configuring your computer get a mac. If you want to spend more money get a mac. If you're tired of greek error messages on a PC get a mac. Is the price difference worth it? In my opinion no. Unless you want to use a program that's mac only (new versions of Logic) or you're just more comfortable with one. But then again I like to get under the hood. Switch out motherboards, overclock the CPU, etc, and have lots of competitive choices for components. For the same amount of money and a little knowledge you could put together a computer yourself that would smoke a G4 and it wouldn't be as noisy as a hairdryer either. Sorry, it is not my intent to bash macs. They are good computers and they work well and I have no problem with folks that decide to use them. I only object to false information when the two systems are compared. While it was once true that all audio pros used macs this is no longer the case. Economics is a driving force and it is my belief that unless mac prices start to come down PCs will dominate in pro audio in a very short time. I would bet that 80% of the folks on this board are PC users. It would not make any economic sense for facilities to ignore work done on PCs.
  12. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member

    Feb 28, 2001

    Before this becomes another "Platform Thread", can we simply say that "both platforms allow you to record music containing more tracks, processing and procrastination than necessary, chose the one that runs the software you prefer."?
  13. noteFarm

    noteFarm Guest

    I agree with Nate and Ethan.
    I personally use only Macs, because I like them and find them very stable and they suit my needs. I don't know enough about the math as to why one platform would be better, so I cant comment. All of the studios in my area use them (Macs) and all my friends use them, so I have built in Tech support. And that is a nice safety net to have.
    Regardless of my love of Macs, I think It would make sense to find out what most of your friends are using if you all want to stay on the same platform or in the event of a crash some one can help you out.
    So try out your friends machines and software and see what you like, and how it woks. and choose what is best for YOU and the way that YOU work..
    I had Sweetwatter do a custom install for me and I use that G4 for nothing other than Pro Tools, no internet no Desk top Publishing. Just PT, I've only added plug ins. that way I have an Audio only machine, no other clutter.

    The computer after all is a tool, and a tool is something with which to do a job.
    Peace,love and good mixes,

    ( said with a Cheeky grin - "but I do think you should by a Mac" if nothing else, just to stop Gates geting his fingers on you hard earned $$$$$") ;)
  14. FloodStage

    FloodStage Active Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Why get a computer at all.

    Get one of the all in one Roland digital recorders, a decent mic pre, a "money" vocal mic matched to your lead vocalist, and spend the rest on mics and direct boxes for the instruments. Get a Bass Drive DI for the bass.

    If it's vocal based music, put your money where your mouth is.

    You've been using an 8 track cassette deck. The learning curve will be much shorter with an all in one recorder. If you use a good mic/pre combo, the Rolands sound pretty darn good. The Yamaha aw4416 is nice but they are NOT user friendly. I have a friend that makes great recordings, but watching him struggle with the menus and hidden commands makes me want to puke.

    Computers are cool. As long as you don't mind spending time that you could be recording to get it configured/working/and yourself trained to operate it. Then of course it's just in time to have to load the new OS and start over. (That said, you can do amazing things with computer based systems.)

    If you are already VERY computer literate, a computer is a choice to consider. If not, you'll be better off buying a recording device and spending your time recording.

    just my 2 yen
  15. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mar 19, 2001
    New Milford, CT USA
    Home Page:

    > Why get a computer at all. <

    Excellent point. I happen to prefer a computer over a stand-alone recorder for many reasons. But I also recognize that computers are not for everyone.

    In the old days if you wanted to run even a small semi-pro studio you had to know how to align and demagnetize tape heads, set the bias, and do at least some equipment troubleshooting. It's a lot easier today, but there's no getting around the need to develop some technical chops. Either that or be dependant on others to do everything for you - no doubt at great expense!

  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Macs work well, so do PCs. But Macs have closed architecture and are not “upgrade friendly”. They also cost about 40% more at best. I bought a Dual AMD 1800+ with 1 gig of ram, 2 WD 80 gig drives, dual head video card (so if I want, I can run 2 monitors) for 1600 bucks! A comparable Mac would have been $3500

    The reason Macs became so entrenched and the “defacto standard” was because up until about 2 years ago, the only system that could truly run 24 + tracks with a lot of effects, eq’s and instances of dynamics was a Mac with Pro Tools. This wasn’t because Macs were more powerful but rather because Pro Tools TDM systems come with extra cards that help share the load with the computer. Pro Tools would only run on Macs. Apple and Digidesign built a user base in the professional studio world.

    Now days however PCs, with the introduction of more random access memory, have become very fast and powerful and capable of running some very sophisticated programs without the aid of extra cards to help provide processing power. This is called “Native Power”. Now we have a choice and PCs are just as viable in the world of audio. The system I outlined will perform just as well as any other at a substantial cost savings which can then be plowed into the things that matter, like mics, monitors and front end gear.

    As far as not getting into computers, get on the bus or you will be left behind. Everyone I have ever met that used a stand alone all in one system became dissatisfied with it at some point. …..Kurt
    To help keep this site alive and growing, please show your support by purchasing one of our caps, studio clocks, T-Shirts etc. Banner ads too!
  17. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member

    Feb 28, 2001
    Some people buy because they like the way the machine works. To some people, that's worth $2400 and even more. Not everything is about specs. Buying a computer because of its specs as a little like buying a microphone because of its frequency plot.
  18. mixman77

    mixman77 Guest

    Hi All,

    I realize that most of the folks on this site use PC based recording systems. And there is nothing wrong with that but your facts here are misconstrued. Ethan I would strongly recommend you research this a little further. There are several things that sperate a MAC and a PC concerning their respected speed. One, the CPU in MAC is buy far more efficient , secondly, the OS operating system is much more efficient as well. Also, MAC are less likely the crash. These are all proven facts. We are not just some guys with a studio here we are professional studio designers and consultants. We outfit more studios in one year than most other design/install companies in the USA. We also know the facts we presented are correct. I can appreciate your feeling the need to defend the system you currently use but again you need to do more research.

    This has been discussed on many forums before and I realize this is a forum based on smaller home project studio's.

    John, what do you base your comments about my comments being BS. Again I really believe you fellows need to do your home work. This is what we do for a living all day not just when we get home for our day jobs. You do not stay in this business over 20 years and retain a reputation as our company has buy talking BS. As far as MAC's being more expensive, trying putting together a PC that may even try and keep up with a MAC. You will spend a great deal more in doing so. You will also have a great deal of more problems.

    I am going to end this conversation as far as my participation in this thread as it feel as if I'm talking to a brick wall. Education is key, talk to me when you sell as many recording systems as we do! We average around 70 to 140 recording systems a year and have for many years. Topic closed in my book.

  19. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Prince George, BC
    Home Page:
    There are large studios here too lol but like Kurt says, they are petering out because of what's happening in A/V technology. More and more musicians are becoming self sufficient (DAW musicians). The world is 90% PC so debating over what OS is best always ends up with the obvious, majority appears to rule. There are more PC users in every forum/ room, office, world etc. So I just have fun poking at the PC users. Kevin is right, Nate, Ethan etc. We've been through this a lot of times and it always ends up in an OS flame with a ralley of PC users in the end. IMO, you pay for what you get. To me the subtle differences with Macintosh are what adds up to why we are so loyal and sure about it as a professional working tool. Mac users are willing to pay extra for this. Like a car, we'll get there in the end. Everything has it's pros and cons. I think the big question is, if I was to choose an OS system for "recording music" and it was offered to me for free, which one would I pick?

    My answer would be:

    excellent pre and mics
    control board
    monitors etc.

    Why? I like to get to where I'm going fast, safe, fun and reliable. :D

    I'm with Kevin!

    Oops, I did it again :D ....... back to business.

  20. popcorn

    popcorn Guest

    Hi ,Alan!

    Let's face the things in the curve of what you learned with a cassete multitrack.May be to stay in hardwear area will be convinient to you.I would sugest at first to buy some multitrack/Fostex VF160,Akai etc./You have 16 physical chanels.You may use it also for AD/DA converter to PC,Mac.Anyway you need a decent mixer desk and in my opinion Cubase can't replace it.So for recording you can use some good chanel strip device with preamp and compresor.
    But for PC or Mac set-ups I sugest RME HAMMERFAL soundcart and Motu 2408,or RME AD/DA converters.
    For drums sounds ,well it's my place I use Triton,but there are some sampler decisions using Sample CD's
    I like a lot Lexicon MPX500 or TC M-ONE for EFX processor.
    About mics - Rode NTV,but for guitar I use SM57,MarshalMXL 1000 or 2000- one can say they are cheap-YES!But our guitar player likes the sound we record:)

    Best regards!



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