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Gear advice moving from DIing to recording drums & amps

Discussion in 'Drums' started by TigerBlood, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    I've been recording my band for a while now using my lounge as a studio, but that's caused some serious compromises - we've had to use an electronic drum kit and DI our guitars due to noise issues. I've nothing against recording this way, but it really doesn't suit our style of music, hence we've never been happy with our recorded sound.

    Now we've finally got ourselves a permanent rehearsal space, I'm pretty excited about experimenting with some "proper" recording. I'm going to need to purchase a fair bit of new equipment (as well as learning a lot of new skills) so I could use some advice. I've got a fairly limited budget - I'm hoping to spend up to £1000 for the moment, but I can maybe stretch to more if needs be.

    My current recording kit consists of a PC running DAW software, an M-Audio Delta 1010 (8 inputs) and an old Allen & Heath GS1 mixer (8 channel). I've also got a couple of Joemeeks (VC3Q and VC6Q) kicking around that I can use for mic pres.

    I figure a 16 channel setup will be just about right for us, with at least 12 of the channels needing mic pres. I've been offered a second Delta 1010 and a Behringer 8 channel mixer pretty cheaply by a friend, so that's one option for expansion. But I'm not sure whether I'd be better off going for a dedicated multi-channel mic pre (possibly with an audio interface combined) or maybe selling my current mixer and buying something bigger. I'm wondering if I need a mixer at all, or whether it's overkill. I really just need some way of amplifying 12 or 16 mics and getting the signal recorded - I'm comfortable doing all the real mixing work in the DAW.

    So what I'm wondering is, am I better cobbling together a setup from the aforementioned equipment, or am I likely to regret this later? Should I be considering a different setup entirely, even if it costs a bit more money? If you were trying to put together a 16 channel setup from scratch on this kind of budget, what gear you be looking at? Incidentally, I realise that choice of microphones will be a major factor, but I'm just looking to sort the recording side of things out first - one step at a time!

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Do you need to use the new gear for live performances or is it just studio work (recording)?

    You have an implied need for 16 channels into your DAW (what DAW is it?), so you need a computer interfacing system that will do that. I would not go for a second Delta 1010, and in no circumstances would I touch the 8 channel mixer you have been offered.

    Your requirement can be met by an Allen+Heath Zed-R16, which is a high-quality 16-channel mixer with FireWire digital interfacing built-in. We are lucky here in the UK that a product like the R16 offers so much for the money, and R16s also come up from time to time on Ebay, one having gone a few days ago for just over £1K. If you want to mix OTB (i.e. not using the DAW), the R16 works excellently as the (analog) mixer. It also has control surface capabilities that will couple up to many DAWs for ITB mixing. Regulars on Recording.Org probably groan about my banging on about the R16, but it is an exceptional product for the money.
  3. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    Hi Boswell, thanks for your reply. I'm using Sonar currently. I'm buying the gear exclusively for recording, although there's always a possibility that I might do some live stuff with it at a later date.

    The Zed-R16 looks like an awesome piece of kit, and I'll bear it in mind as a possibility. I even feel a certain loyalty to Allen+Heath, having had many years of service from my old GS1! However, I think the Zed-R16 might be overkill for my needs. It's certainly pushing my budget to its limits. I really just need a way to get 16 tracks into the DAW, from which point I'm more than happy mixing in software. I've no doubt that I'd enjoy a proper control surface, but I'm not sure it's a luxury I can afford at the moment. Still, I'll certainly bear it in mind, and many thanks for the advice!
  4. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    The good thing is that you know what you want. When you start using mic's the mic pre's you use are going to start to become really important. If the extra 1010 and behringer meet your needs I'd go this route. This way you are not wasting money on a lot re repurchase items(items you'll upgrade later). You'll need to assess you needs for future I might look into the audient 8 channel mic pre as your first investment when your mic needs are met.
  5. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    Thanks Paul. I think you're right, I'm best going with the 1010 and cheap mixer for now. I'll concentrate on getting some good mics to go with it, and then I can start to worry about whether my pres and interfaces are up to the task. That Audient unit looks lovely, though I can't imagine spending that kind of money right now... but knowing me, in a couple of months I'll be blowing all my savings on something along those lines. :)
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The Delta 1010 is pretty low on the totem. It has very low headroom and is easy to overload with outboard preamps. I mean real easy. A Behr**** mixer is an exercise in gambling. It is low headroom and high noise and might or might not power up the next time. The Behr**** is brittle sounding and sibilant. The 1010 was decent enough when it was a brand new piece of gear....a decade ago......but the drivers are suspect and it's time is way in the past. If I knew at some point I was going to use outboard quality preamps I would make sure the interface was good enough to both handle the dBV and also quality enough to do the ADC adequately.
  7. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    While this is all true I get the feeling that the OP knows where he wants to go but does not have the means to get there yet. I am with you, I do not like to buy gear that won't last for years but I'm not sure the OP is in that position.
  8. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    This is TigerBlood's stated position. I don't know of many ways in which he can get 12 respectable pre-amps interfaced to a computer for £1K. I have to agree with Jack that following the Delta 1010 route would spell annoying trouble and frustration.

    Maybe second-hand gear would fit the bill. You can often get a used Yamaha 01V96 (12 pre-amps) for around the £1k figure, but it would need the ADAT expansion option and then additionally at least a 2-ADAT interface card for interfacing to a computer. The A+H Zed-R16 I mentioned earlier is an even better-quality unit, and needs only a FireWire interface in the computer.

    In terms of audio interfaces (as opposed to mixers), it would be better to consider an RME FireFace800, using the 4 internal pre-amps for the "money" channels and an ADAT-output 8-channel pre-amp for the other channels. As and when the cash allows, up to 6 more external analog-output speciality pre-amps can be added feeding the FF800's line inputs.

    I would not put any further cash into expanding the existing audio interface, as attempting to do that would be money wasted. The expansion items would not easily fit with the better system that must be the eventual end goal.
  9. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    Not at all, I must have given the wrong impression entirely. I have the means to get there, I just don't know where I'm going. :)

    My problem is that I have zero experience with "real" recording, which makes it difficult to pick the right equipment. I don't want to spend any more than is necessary, but my budget is very flexible, and if I have to stretch it to do a good job then I will. I don't want to go buying equipment that I'll just be throwing away, but neither do I want to splash out a fortune only to find I've bought something unsuitable, due to my lack of experience. That's why I'm here soliciting advice from people who know what they're doing.
  10. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    Okay, I'm getting the impression there's not much respect for the 1010 any more. No wonder my friend is willing to give me such a bargain on his. :)

    With regard to its lack of headroom for outboard pre-amps, I've never had any trouble with feeding it from the pres on my current desk. I just keep the levels down to where I'm in no danger of clipping. Presumably this is where my lack of knowledge is letting me down... is it that I really need to push the mics harder to get the best out of them, but the 1010 can't handle the resulting levels? The quality always sounded good to me, but as I've said I tended to DI more than anything in the past. I've never had a single problem with the drivers, they've been rock solid. What issues have you had with them?

    In my experience recent Behringer gear is rock solid. Still cheap sounding crap of course, but you get what you pay for, and my friend was basically chucking this in with the 1010. I figured it would get me up and running for a few spare pre-amps for the least important channels, while I consider my options.

    Okay, so we've established that my current gear is crap, and my budget laughably inadequate. If you were trying to set up a 16 channel system with 12 preamps as cheaply as possible without it sounding like crap, what gear would you buy? If £1000 won't get a decent system that's fair enough, but if we're in the realm of several thousand pounds then your idea of "good enough" and mine might be irreconcilably different. :)
  11. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    The Zed-R16 certainly seems like a tempting option, but it just seems like overkill for my needs. I don't need an analog mixer, I don't need a control surface. On the other hand, I'd also need to be 100% certain that it was going to meet my needs if I'm spending that kind of money. It's difficult to be sure of that in my position, with having so little experience of recording mic'd instruments.

    I wouldn't even know what the money channels are. :) Drum overheads plus guitar cabs? (Presuming that vocals are the one thing we're overdubbing later, obviously.) How do the preamps in the FF800 compare to those in the Zed-R16? £950 for the FF800, plus I'm guessing £300-£400 for a decent 8-channel pre, pretty much brings me up to the price of the Zed-R16 anyway. Unless there's a big difference in quality, it seems the Allen & Heath would give me a lot more flexibility for my money.

    Should I presume that the JoeMeeks are junk and should be added to the "sell" pile? What about my Allen & Heath GS1? The pre-amps on that sounds lovely to me, and everything I've read about them suggests they're pretty well-respected. Am I kidding myself? Have I just not heard how a decent pre-amp is supposed to sound?
  12. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    Oh and thanks to all of you for taking the time to help me out with this. :)
  13. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I'm not saying there is anything sonically wrong or inferior with the A+H GS1, it's just that it may not fit in the route you should plan to get to where you want to end up.

    I like most of the A+H gear, and I think the company has a good feel for where not to compromise on their lower end products. I remember using a 32-channel GS1 in some venue I had to engineer many years ago. It produced a good sound, but its facilities were a bit limited for an 8-bus mixer. However, I've had a look around the web, and can't find any information on an 8-channel GS1, so it would be useful if you could describe it briefly, and also say whether it has either direct outs or inserts on the analog channels that could be used for feeding multi-track recording gear.
  14. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    Hmmm. This is complex because it is possible to spend infinite dollars on this. In my view there is bottom of the barrel (delta 1010 and behringer) and then there is good solid life time gear. The price tag difference is big. There are things in between but the benefit sonically is small. The difference between a behringer mixer and the Zed sonically is minimal. You'll strain to hear the difference. The difference between the behringer and say a focusrite 828 and an API3124 is very noticeable, as in my wife can tell the difference.

    The problem lies in that you have not developed personal preferences. As in do you prefer colored or clean mic pres etc. So do you buy a ferrari and know it is a good car but then when you get to the point of knowing what you want you may prefer a vintage corvette.

    IMO mic pre's are not "all this that and then some" They are a tool that boosts a mic's volume without smearing the image. You won't even hear this image smearing with cheap pre's until you get good ones. Right now I prefer cleaner pre's on drums and more colored pre's on everything else generally. The difference between converters is much less important the pre's. The "best" option that MIGHT pass the "can the woman hear the difference test" would be an Alesis Adat hd 24. These converters are bottom of the barrel good IMO. I've used them beside the high-end converters and they stand up super well. The audient pre's that I mentioned before should be great too.

    The difference in price is pretty big. The general rule is that you spend 2000% more dollars achieving the last 10% more quality.
  15. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Inre driving preamps: the preamps that add color are often pushed hot to add saturation qualities etc to the audio. These levels of output would overload the input modules ofte 1010. In other words you lose the advantage of outboard preamps or much of it. Now if you want classically clean sounds the 1010 can useful if lackluster but an orchestra can overload the 1010 too if you have the mics hot enough to get the pianissimo sections with quality sound. I just think there are better options out here.

    As to the big B, I understand sometimes one has to go cheap even knowing the issues wih the company in question. I've said my piece on the sonic qualities etc so won't harp on it.

    I think an A&H board would be awesome for you or a Presonus StudioLive or even a Mackie iOnyx1640 though Mackie's quality control is perhaps not as outstanding as it once was.
  16. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    We're all typing on top of each other. Paul and Boswell are giving good info and I'll step out after this post. I think an HD24XR is a great piece of kit and can be utilized in many ways. Sonically I think there is an audible difference between the B boards and the quality level of AH or Presonus or Mackie but of course that is my opinion and worth what you paid for it ^_^
  17. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    There's some info and a link to the manual here: ALLEN & HEATH // OLD PRODUCTS

    It has 16 channels, but only 8 of them have mic pres, while the other 4 are arranged as stereo pairs of line-ins. There's an insert on every channel. There are also eight group outputs, and I normally use these to route the audio to the Delta 1010. I'm very happy with the sound of the desk, but I have very little to use as a reference, apart from the fact it seems to produce a much more pleasant and rounded sound than I've noticed from friends' budget mixers. I've never had the opportunity to compare it to anything more professional.
  18. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    If that's the criteria to use then I'm screwed. One time I left my desk on headphone output, and when my girlfriend came to listen to some music she just pushed the main volume high enough to hear it, and later asked me why my speakers sounded a bit tinny. :)

    I think you've hit the nail on the head there. I think I need to get some decent mics, play with the equipment I've got already and learn some basic skills, before I start even contemplating spending the amounts of money you're talking about. I'm not saying I would never spend that much, just that I need to know what I'm hearing before even auditioning kit of this quality will be worthwhile.
  19. TigerBlood

    TigerBlood Active Member

    No problem, it's great to get a range of different opinions on the subject, and everyone on this thread has presented info that's been really helpful to me in deciding which way to go.
  20. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Is that what you meant to type? You won't find many on these forums who would agree with that statement.

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