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First time home studio setup

Discussion in 'Recording' started by celodog, Jan 5, 2012.

  1. celodog

    celodog Active Member

    hi there everyone. im going to be investing some money into a descent home recording setup and was wondering if anyone here can give me some advice on what to buy. i know how to get a nice clean mix out of my band but what i need help on is compression and mastering. so here is my first question, lets say i have a song that has already been recorded at a nice level and the mix is ready to be mastered (i believe thats the write word). could i run the mix out of my computer, into a presonus compressor, then through a presonus tube preamp and have that "mastered" sound you hear from the pros? or what kind of setup would i need to accomplish that? again lets assume that i have a good sounding mix, but i just need to clean up the edges with the comp and then i need to get as much volume out of the mix as possible without compromising the sound quality. all tracks will be layered, so drums, then guitar and ect. straight into a zoom r24 then uploaded to cubase for level setup. thanks in advance
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Your questions are a little convoluted in a professional manner.
    OK, let's assume you have made a recording off of your PA console. It's a two channel stereophonic recording. Fine, good. And you want to jazz it up with some " Mastering ". You must first understand that Mastering is an art unto its own. Real Mastering Engineers jump through all sorts of analog and digital hoops to highly enhance that stereo mix. The process of which is so individualized, it cannot be fully explained here. But all is not lost for you. There are plug-ins and already resident enhancements to most recording programs allowing a certain amount of entry level Mastering capabilities. One I purchased quite a few years ago was by an Italian firm called IK multimedia. They had a mastering program called T-Racks. It was offered both in a standalone program (meaning it didn't tie into any other program) or as a VST plug-in. This program provided quite a bit of integrated processing " devices " such as a tube modeled equalizer, broad band compressor, multiband limiter & soft peak clipper. It also has presets that one can choose that emulates certain Mastering scenarios. Unfortunately, I find most of the presets too over-the-top. So I never use the presets myself. Everything is highly adjustable if you know what you're doing. If you don't know what you're doing, you'll create a brick that will be over loud, distorted, lacking any dynamics whatsoever and in short, just sounding awful. So I really don't think you're ready for this?

    There are other similar series of software processing available from companies such as WAVES, I-ZOTOPE, too many to mention here but it will cost you a considerable amount of money for those all. You might best be served by just taking your recordings to an actual Mastering Engineer instead of screwing them up for yourself.

    I find it a little amusing that you are asking these questions since you indicate you already have Cubase and obviously know nothing about the program. Because if you did, you'd know that all of this is already built into Cubase in some manner shape or form. You have compressors, you have limiters, you have equalization and you have the ability to stack those in any order that you want to to achieve what you are asking about. But you must read the manual and the help file before you rush off to ask questions about what is already in front of you ready to answer them.

    And so what do you mean by all tracks being layered? Do you mean you are recording in multitrack already? Every instrument on its own channel? Who's doing your mixing in the software/with the software? Why don't you pick up a book at your local music store as I'm sure there are plenty in San Jose California, that explains all of this. Including actual courses on how to utilize Cubase. It appears that your workflow as you indicate is really a little bit ass backwards i.e. you take your mix from the computer and feed it into a Pre-Sonus compressor and into a Pre-Sonus tube preamp which quite frankly, is getting a little ridiculous. All of this can be accomplished within your software so what really are you doing? What grade are you in junior high school? Or is that a high school? Elementary my dear Watson? College-bound but not college read? And can you actually tune your own guitar without sending it back to the factory for repairs? Really nothing you are asking is making much sense. So it's almost impossible for a professional to properly answer your questions without you understanding the basics of how to make recordings to begin with. And then actually articulate it correctly. So you are either asking us questions or telling us how it is to be done. And we don't need to know your knowledge as we have our own for many years of experience & education in this subject. Not to be tough on you my friend but your question is quite convoluted.

    Probably why you have not received answers as yet?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. celodog

    celodog Active Member

    gotcha! you know i have cubase 5 le which is the lite version so im not quite sure it has all the same features. now, i am not a professional recording engineer. i build stock car engines for a living and happen to play guitar pretty well. i was just looking to spend about $1000 to get some fairly descent recording equipment so i can record my band's demo cd. now my recording experience is not quite as extensive as yours obviously so your help is very much appreciated. what would you recommend with that kind of budget? im looking to record the drums, guitar, bass, and vocals separately. i already have a 24 channel mixer but would like to get a Zoom r24 multitrack recorder so that way when i go to record the drum track i can have an individual track for the snare, kick drum, cymbal overheads ect... and when i upload those tracks into my computer and add them to cubase i can adjust each individual tracks level, eq and effects. now is this the point i would compress the mix and then take it to get mastered? or should i leave the compression out and just take the raw recording in to get mastered? or is there an easy way for me to achieve something close to that "mastered sound" here at home? that's basically what i was asking in my previous question, i just dont think it came out right simply because it was late.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    OK, I see what you're saying now. Thanks for clarifying. So we both understand a little bit about automotive engines. I'll describe this with analogies to that.

    When you build up a hot engine you know it's going to go ZOOM so much better than a stock engine. However, that's not really the reason to purchase a ZOOM 24 track machine device because it ain't. It really isn't a 24 cylinder engine, it's an eight cylinder engine. And for your band, you actually need a 24 cylinder engine so that it can all run harmoniously together when tracking or racing. The zoom would be equivalent to trying to run the Indianapolis 500 only allowing 8 cars on the track at a time. And what would you have then? A hodgepodge relatively unexciting race. So my recommendations for you is something like the ALESIS HD 24 in either its original or XR/EC-2 derivations. This is a true 24 track digital recorder that works much more simply than having to deal with gobbledygook software. You first mash the 24 tracks for record ready buttons and the green flag comes down when you press the red record/play buttons.

    Now here's the rub. While you're recording 24 tracks,you have to have a decent front end known as an engine for superior performance. And this is what the Zoom lacks. The zoom engine are just 8 simple 4 bangers. But you want some high performance V8's. So this will require that you go out and purchase 8 Ford engines, 8 Chevrolet engines, 8 Chrysler engines. All of which you will plug into the ALESIS HD 24 (or equivalent). This will give you 3 different types of engine engineering concepts, all of which are good, all of which are different. We're talking about here is 1 U (unit) of 8 microphone preamps each. These microphone preamps are available from various manufacturers. So get 3 different ones by three different manufacturers. Each one will have its advantages & disadvantages over each other. You might find that the Pre-Sonus devices might be better on drums while the Beringer devices might be better on guitars and the other brand might be better for vocals?

    The biggest hitch in this get along is that you will also need, perhaps, a 24 channel mixer with which to develop a headphone mix for everyone by monitoring the output of the HD 24 (or equivalent multitracked device). After you have finished recording, later on, in the winner's circle, you will dump this 24 track recording into most any computer with your choice of multitrack software. This software will allow you to do the postproduction necessary to present this race on the TV or radio. And in that postproduction process, you will take all of these dry unprocessed tracks into various equalizers, compressor/limiter's, reverbs and other effects to add all of the excitement one would experience by actually attending an Indianapolis 500 race in person. And none of that is done at the time of the actual race. It's packaged for television. So you'd be working in essentially the same workflow as you do today in automotive technologies. You've got to build the engine before you can race the engine and you need all of the proper parts with which to build it with. It's not just some Jasper you buy and take out of the box and install. I mean it could be a Jasper but you're still going to want to install your multipoint fuel injection system, superchargers, turbochargers, headers of your choice. Otherwise all you have is a ZOOM which doesn't exactly zoom at all. And always remember your timing should be slightly advanced above top dead center otherwise you are robbing your engine of its peak performance.

    I'm from Detroit in the 1960s that actually met big daddy Don Gartlet, before he broke 200 mph and Surely "cha-cha" Muldowney. One of my dads copywriters for his advertising agency was the announcer for Motor City Dragway and got me all of the subscriptions to all of the automotive magazines when I was just a kid. So cool... I can actually also troubleshoot automotive engines by just listening to them. I come from a background of fine mechanics as my uncle Bill (who was 4F) became the chief mechanic on Pres. Roosevelt's DC 3, before it was ever called Air Force 1 since it was still the Army Air Corps.

    My dad was a pilot and I was a student pilot at 14 or was that 13? Either way I wasn't old enough to solo even though I could have. You had to be 16 to solo. And I guess it took Dana Kilpatrick a few years before she could sit in an Indianapolis racer. She made it, I didn't. But most of my audio goes at 186,000 mi./s instead of the slower watered-down version of Digital.

    I'm a fast woman in both of the terms of that meaning
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. celodog

    celodog Active Member

    cool. thanks for the analogies, they really did help me get a better understanding of things. but i cant afford to get all those preamps at the moment so would it be possible to get a good sounding recording by plugging the drum mics (there are 8 drum mics) into my 24 channel mixer then through one preamp and into the digital recorder? i figure if i eq the mics on the mixer to how i want them then set the levels to around -4db at there max peak (or whatever you would recommend) then adjust the preamp accordingly would i get a nicely amplified sound going into the digital recorder? then if that works my plan would be to play the drum track back and add in the guitar, bass, vocals ect... i get what your saying about having 24 preamps, but all i really need is a minimum of 8 inputs because i plan on recording the drums first, then playing that and adding in the instruments one by one. i dont want to record the song all at once because there a chance of instruments bleeding into each others mics.
  6. celodog

    celodog Active Member

    ok so after researching a few products i found these two:

    Focusrite OctoPre MkII Dynamic Microphone Preamp at AmericanMusical.com

    Zoom R24 Multitrack SD Recorder Controller and Interface at AmericanMusical.com

    so after reading what you said theoretically this is the same principle except these are lower quality components. now i only need 8 actual channels at a time so this would allow me to compress each drum mic, then set the gain and record directly into a digital recorder (r24). i would love to get a nice hard disk recorder like the alesis hd-24 but its just out of my price range so i would have to use the r24 or maybe even thetascam 2488 neo digital recorder (Tascam 2488 Neo Multitrack Digital Recorder at AmericanMusical.com) which actually has built in simple to use mastering effects (or so it says). actually the tascam only has 8 inputs but i believe you can record the drums then move the tracks down to channels 16-24 the play that back and record the guitar and bass ect. [h=1][/h]
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You are absolutely correct. Back in the old analog tape days, at one particular studio, I didn't have a 16 or 24 track machine. I only had an eight track machine. And because it was analog, I had no virtual tracks so I was highly restricted to only 8. And I worked in a manner similar to what you are describing. Generally, however, in that situation, I would be recording 4 tracks of drums with 6 or 7 microphones. I would isolate the bass drum on one track, isolate the snare drum on another, toms, hi hat & overheads to another pair of tracks. I would also have the bass guitar on its own track along with the guitar on another. I would then have to mix the drums with my 2 1176 limiters, 2 KEPEX downward expanders, some reverb and bounce that down to a single track. I could then erase the original drum tracks and start adding the strings, brass, woodwinds, etc.. So having 8 discrete inputs to 8 tracks is totally doable for you. It's just that it would be incredibly difficult to try and record the entire band at the same time. That's something I also believe in doing as spontaneity & cohesiveness makes for more magic than having everybody track individually. Your situation of course is different. As long as you realize that your workflow will only allow for 8 simultaneous recording tracks at a time. But since it is a digital recorder, it does have the capacity for 24 tracks internally. So you will still be able to generate a full 24 track mix down upon completion of all of your recording. So I'm glad you understood. While I'm not a big fan of TA SCAM, It is still 100% data quip although I would prefer the Roland device myself. You may also want to look into the approximately $500 US Pre-Sonus product which has 8 class A microphone preamps which sound quite nice. It also includes some very powerful software to run on your computer. This opens up a greater amount of possibilities than a do everything in a single box device could. But the TA SCAM device is an "all in wonder", similar to their other strictly digital consoles. So that will get you up and running pretty quickly.

    I would say however that the Focusrite may have vastly superior sound since its roots were with Rupert Neve and I have enjoyed the sound of their numerous preamps. I've never really enjoyed the sound of TA SCAM which are fairly underwhelming sounding. My secondary selection would be with the ZOOM followed by the TA SCAM. Whereas the Focusrite is designed to be utilized with a computer and the others not so much. Those others are more analogous to a TV dinner or a box lunch. Whereas the Focusrite is like building up a racecar from the ground up.

    Remember when you're driving you need to Focusrite.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    we use both the octopre mk2, and a presonus digimax 8 for drums in my studio. Octopre is much better in my opinion, it's less noisy when alot of gain is required (say for room mics), and i feel like i get an overall cleaner sound, with more headroom (how much into the 'red' before distortion) very important for enthusiastic drummers). And honestly you really don't need 16/18/32 channels of drum mics, you really run into a lot of phase issues. You can get a great drum sound w/ a kick, snare, and 2 overheads. mic the toms, and you've got a trak left for a mono room mic. In your situation i don't see why you need an external pre-amp unit right now anyway. The sound of either of the unit's your thinking of are no better than an average mackie board to me. dunno what kinda mixer your workin w/ but if it's an average board it's probably just fine for now. You can use your aux send 1 on each mixer channel to plug into your recorders line in 1-8, and you now are using 8 channels of pre-amps and most likely eq.
    If your happy with the pretty clean sound your getting of the master bus, then i don't think either of these preamps will and any more 'character'.
    I'd probably take the 500 and get a kick mic, a couple sm57s, maybe a couple AT3035's. You could get all that used, probably for just about the price of the pres. and it'll go a lot further in sound quality than radio shak mics into an entry level pre. The pre's in an average mixer, will probably not be your weakest link. Most likely it'll be your room.
    I very much agree w/ the standalone recorder tho, computers are annoying, and like the idea of a dedicated piece, you are giving up some editing power, but that's what takes are for. LOL last night i spent six hours on a bass part, only to have my guitarist play it in three takes. good luck. rememeber-good mucisians, good rooms, and good engineers make good records, not just good equipment. Oh yeah while your at it, pick up the recording engineers handbook, and check out the acoustic's forum here.

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