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Hardware advice needed!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by dochara, Sep 6, 2013.

  1. dochara

    dochara Active Member

    Hello all. I'm moving into a bigger space soon and I need advice on how to complete my set-up.

    My priorities are:
    (a) recording real instruments, mostly acoustic (folk and Irish traditional) in a studio setting. No midi. I may have 7+ acoustic instruments and 7+ vocals to mix.
    (b) having 16+ real faders (mixer or controller).

    Already I have:
    (a) PC with Sonar Producer 8.5 and WavePad
    (b) Presonus Audiobox1818VSL
    (c) Rode N1 and Behringer B1 condenser mics along with Shure SM58s

    I have a reasonable budget but am totally confused with all the mixers, controllers, digital snakes, etc. on the market. I want a straightforward set-up linking my mics, audiobox and Sonar. All advice would be gratefully appreciated.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Before we can make detailed suggestions we need to know how you intend to operate your studio space. You haven't mentioned acoustic treatment of your room or separate recording areas, so you presumably are either going to record the whole band at once as though on a stage or you will track one instrument or vocal at a time and build up the recording layer-by-layer.

    When you talk about 16+ faders on your mixer or controller, is this for mixdown? You would only need real analog faders if you were mixing in analog OTB (out of the box), which in this case would involve converting all the recorded tracks in parallel back to analog, mixing them and then digitising the stereo mix. You would not use a mixer in the recording process, at least, not as a mixer. There are some mixers that I would hapily use for recording by capturing the digitised output of each channel during tracking then using it as a real analog mixer during mixdown. Look at the Allen and Heath Zed-R16 for a unit that would work well for you in this mode.

    If you want to keep the signals digital after recording, then a digital mixer that can double as a control surface may be the way to go. The Yamaha 01V96i or the Allen and Heath Qu-16 would be two units to look at.

    On the other hand, since you already have an audio interface, it may be that you are wanting to mix ITB (in the box, i.e. using the computer as a digital audio workstation), and that you simply feel you need an external control surface to control the mix. There are many products for this job, so come back to us clarifying your needs and we can advise further.
  3. dochara

    dochara Active Member

    Thanks very much for the detailed reply. The room will not be divided into permanent spaces but I hope to use free-standing dividers when necessary. Mostly I would be recording one instrument at a time though and layering. I did a track this week with a folk-group and we ended up with 27 separate tracks. I'd like to be able to see all those tracks on screen (this is ITB?) and fade them from a mixer or controller rather than moving everything with the mouse, e.g: adding reverb, EQ, compressor, etc., each time I have to open and set each effect with the mouse. Is there any "invention" out there which allows me to do all this with my hands on an actual mixer/desk rather than fiddling about with the mouse every few minutes?

    One more thing - what's a good reason for keeping signals digital after recording as opposed to analog mixing? I'm a bit lost here, sorry!

    Probably the last option you mention above is what I hope to do as I would like to use the Audiobox. Many thanks. :)
  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    there is no affordable way to be completely mouse free when ITB. things like the digidesign icon are designed for this purpose and are aimed at high end comercial facilities. in the real world your likely going to have to use a mouse to at least open a pluggin. there are two products made that i know of that are meant to control plugins, the novation nocturn Nocturn | NovationMusic.com, and the mackie c4 Mackie - Mackie Control - C4 . i own the nocturn and for 100 bucks it's a good buy. i've got minor complaints, (slightly wobbly knobs, and no lcd scribble strips), but i would gladly buy another, or pay 3x as much as the the asking price for a 'bells and whistels version'. mackie also makes a control surface Mackie - Mackie Control Universal Pro . this will allow you to control the virtual mixer veiw in sonar w/ your hands. you would need 2 to get 16 faders. the mcu, then an expansion which is just the faders, ie, no transport, shortcut buttons ect.

    your other option like boswell referenced is to use a digital mixer that has built in effects and perhaps motorised faders/daw control, and basically use the the daw as a tape machine. i use a mackie D8B sort of like this. some things you will find you like plug-insbetter, but you can use sort of a combination of both. so maybe on lead vox you use some heavy plugins, and on the high hat use the board eq/compression.

    there's so many opinions on this so i'll try to be objective. one of the main reasons to 'keep a signal digital' is to not undergo an unnecessary/undesired digital-to-analog conversions, or analog-to-digital conversions. with the thought being it would 'degrade' the signal, by perhaps introducing noise or other artifacts. whenever you take an analog signal (guitar/vox) and make it digital you turn an e;electrical impulse, into 1's and 0's (binary code). some people believe that the less math (1's and 0's) the computer has to deal w/ the better. it also depends alot on the quality of the ad/da converters. basically, i think most people would say you should have a reason to reconvert, whatever that reason is, is purely up to the recordists.

    there are plenty of reasons to mix a digital signal thru an analog chain. be it tactile control, taking the load of the cpu by using analog gear (eq's, compression, reverbs). a subjectively improved sound is usually the goal, and i personally feel there is truth to this, although, i stick firmly by there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way. basically the consensus seems to be that you can achieve add a sort of fullness, or 'glue' to tracks by running them back thru analog gear. whether track by track, or in 'groups' or 'stems' like say a rythym section thru 2 channels, lead thru another, backups thru another 2 channels, ect.

    if your happy w/ the sound quality your getting, i'd personally focus on sontrol surfaces, because i prefer hands on control of multiple faders, and for me it makes a much more enjoyable mixing experience. wheter a control surface, or a digital mixer, completely depends on what you want/need.
  5. dochara

    dochara Active Member

    That's exceptionally helpful and I very much appreciate you taking the time to explain. Almost there now!

    I'm now considering either a Yamaha 01v96i or an Allen & Heath Qu-16. Though I already bought a new Presonus Audiobox1818VSL, I think it's best if I sell it on. One question left now is this - if I acquire one of those digital mixing consoles and if I ever want to do an analog mix, will I need another mixer also? I may not ever need to but just in case!

    Of the two above, does either one stand out as being more suitable for my needs?

    Yamaha 01v96i: 01V96i - Digital Mixers - Yamaha - UK and Ireland
    Allen & Heath Qu-16: http://www.allen-heath.com/uk/products/pages/ProductDetails.aspx?catId=Qu16&ProductId=Qu16

    . . . or do you reckon that there's another more suitable mixing console (USB 2.0) out there with DAW control? (Budget - around €2,500 / US$3,000)

    Go raibh míle maith agaibh! thumb
  6. Todzilla

    Todzilla Active Member

    It's important to note that some of your preferences push the costs much higher. If you can afford it, cool. If not, consider compromising on your requirements.

    1) Recording many channels at once - this is a huge cost driver. Not only does it require you purchase a computer interface with lots of channels of Analog to Digital conversion, but it also requires you buy that many channels of preamps and that many microphones. I solve this problem by having a boutique converter for two channels (Apogee Symphony I/0) which I use for all my overdubs, and then a mid-range converter for eight channels (MOTU 896HD) for occasions when I need more than two channels. I have 5 very nice channels of preamps and (this next part is critical) a buddy with 5 channels of portable boutique preamps for the borrowing.

    2) Analog faders - This requires an analog board, and a very good one, to not lose fidelity. It also requires many analog outputs from the A/D/A interface.

    If your needs are non-negotiable, that's cool, but if you can avoid recording many, many analog inputs at once and get away from analog mixing, you can save a lot of money and still have great sound through a boutique front end on limited channels.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Todzilla, Dochara wants to record real instruments, recording a drum with 2 mic is not the ideal for best results.

    Dochara, before you sell the presonus 1818 make sure the preamps do not surpass the preamps in the digital console you're about to buy. I'm sorry I don't own any of those units to tell. But Preamps are one thing that affect the sound of your recording the most.. (with mic choice and room acoustics)
  8. Todzilla

    Todzilla Active Member

    Yes, my response was not to advocate a solution that didn't meet his needs, but to inform him how some of his requirements severely push the budget upward. This especially holds true for folks who prefer the analog mixing experience over ITB. Sure, analog mixing has a great vibe to it, but unless you can afford a very nice level of equipment, it will be sonically inferior to ITB.
  9. naomi_beats

    naomi_beats Active Member

    T-t-treatment should be a priority. If you'd like to record live instruments it wouldn't hurt to have a selection of quality instruments at your studio that musicians/bands can use rather than their own. The Audiobox 1818 vsl is a really good USB AI, but the preamps are not the best n the world. Might want to grab some better pre-amps, expand your mic collection, etc

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