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Helping choosing the gear for my first serious home studio

Discussion in 'Recording' started by JoshuaD, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. JoshuaD

    JoshuaD Guest

    I'm building a home studio from scratch. I'll be running it on a dedicated windows XP or Vista machine, whichever OS is optimal. Right now 3.0ghz pentium 4 with 2 gigs of ram. Looking to upgrade to 3-4 gigs of ram soon.

    Off the bat I'll be looking to record my piano (Stereo line-in), my acoustic guitar (no internal pick-up), vocals and a violin. I'll be recording for friends and live jams as well at some point, so I want to keep my options open.

    My budget is between $1200-$1400. I'm a little flexible there, but I already moved myself from $1000 to here, so I'm trying not to indulge anymore.

    Right now at home I have an original mbox, 3 microphone stands, and a low-quality dynamic mic.

    Monitors:
    2x Mackie MR5

    I'm pretty much decided on these, but I'm definitely looking for some feedback. I also looked at the Yamaha Hs50m, which I decided not to get because of the reviews regarding it's bass (I don't think I'll want to invest in a subwoofer for a while) and a few others. These ones seemed to stand out from the pack



    Hardware Interface:
    I've kept my searching solely to firewire based inputs. My understanding is that this is the superior technology. Should I be looking at any USB 2.0 setups? You can see from these that my priority is 8+ inputs, midi input, good preamps, and a nice hardware layout. I also like having 2 headphone outs.
    $480 - Focusrite Saffire Pro 40
    OR
    $500 - Focusrite Saffire Pro 26
    OR (if I want to keep the protools option open):
    $569 - M-Audio ProFire 2626

    All prices are the lowest I could find online, not musiciansfriend.com's prices. This has been the hardest decision for me. I previously recorded on protools through an original mbox, but the cost of re-entry, even through m-audio, seems too high. It looks like I'd have to spend an extra $80 or so for a comparable interface and then another $200 for protools m-powered. Alternatively, a friend of mine who works in the industry is able to get me legitimate versions of cakewalk, sonar or cubase for free if I decide to use one of those. Does anyone have an opinion between the Saffire 26 and the Saffire 40? here's an image I found comparing the two. What about compared to the Profire 2626? One review I read compared the Saffire 40 to the Profire 2626 and liked the Saffire better. Otherwise I haven't seen other comparisons.



    Headphones (for tracking, not mixing):
    2x: 19$ each - Sennheiser HD201
    I just went with a company whose name I knew who had the lowest price for closed-back headphones. Since I'll only be using these for tracking, the only issue is sound-bleed, and I'm not looking to dump a big chunk of change into the headphones just yet. Anyone have any experience with these?


    Microphones:
    Still undecided on this. I'd like to find two good condenser mics (one small diaphram, one large diaphram) that fit my budget and then go from there. I'll definitely be getting the SM57 at some point, but with what I'll tend to be recording, I won't need it immediately. Here are the condensers I've been looking at. Depending on what hardware interface I get and how much I spend, I'll have $200-$400 to spend here:

    $100 - MXL 990/MXL 991 bundle

    $100 - Sterling Audio Large Diaphragm FET

    $150 - MXL 990 Stereo Large Diaphragm Stereo Condensor

    $210 - Rode NT1-A Condenser bundled with pop filter

    And two that look really nice but that are a little out of my price range if I want to get 2 mics. If you guys think I'm better off getting 1 of these rather than 2 other mics, let me know that. Right now all I've got at home is a low-end dynamic mic.

    $300 - ProAudio CS1
    $250 - ProAudio C1


    Anyone information you have on any of these pieces of hardware would be appreciated, and any advice is also appreciated.
     
  2. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    You seem to have done your research, and somebody else may be familiar with the intracies between some of your choices, but basically all is good sound-quality wise in this price range, with few items that really stick out - again, someone else may no more.

    So your issue is simply feature sets and I'd suggest really just thinking clearly about what features you want - zero-latency monitoring, matched-pair stereo, etc etc, ymmv. My only comment is on mics, you're talking about piano, acoustic guitar, violin, all of these will benefit from a stereo setup, but you're looking at one condensor on your budget. To be honest 2 at $150 is probably the same as one at $300, application notwithstanding.
     
  3. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Really? P4? Stick with XP or you'll be sorry. A P4 and Vista will not work out very well for you. Also figure to keep to 8 tracks or less for sure with a P4. If it's a Celeron then lower your expectations.

    Not a huge fan of the Mackie MR series. The HR is better and an inexpensive Tannoy Reveal 5a or 6 would be better yet. IMO of course. Monitors are a pretty personal decision though so YMMV


    Skip the M-Audio unless you are bent towards Pro Tools M. I've not been satisfied at all with the M-Audio interfaces in comparison to Presonus or Mackie or Sapphire or RME.



    Tracking is tracking. You want something comfortable. I think the Sennheiser HPs are a little bass heavy but that's me. I like the ATH-M30 for cheaper and ATH-M50 for better. Again like monitors, dial in to taste.


    The best "cheap" mic you could buy would be a pair of NT55's. Then you have two quality SDC with both cardioid and omni capsules. The Rode NT55s work very respectable on piano and violin and your acoustic guitar. A Shure SM57 is a fabulous mic to have on hand for vocals and generally good on just about any generic source you can find. The NT55's are better I think for piano and violin and classical guitar but I've achieved good results with the SM57 in a pinch before.

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  4. JoshuaD

    JoshuaD Guest

    I'm still undecided on the interface, but I have it down to two units: the profire 2626 and the saffire 40. I have to spend some time with cubase to get an idea whether I like it. Whether I can learn to like cubase or if I'll always miss protools is a big big factor. Right now trying to use cubase really gets on my nerves. In the end, does it have the same functionality as pro tools? If it's just a month or two learning curve to get over it and in the end I'll have the same functionality, I might be willing to do that.

    Here are the pros and cons of each:

    Cons of getting profire 2626
    $229 Dollars
    Probably slightly worse preamps
    Break out cable for midi and spdif stuff instead of directly into the box
    2 less outputs
    No Dim/Mute button on the master volume knob

    Pros
    Works with pro tools
    -20db pad on each input, Focusrite only has pads on in 1 and 2.
    Focusrite has a Dice II chip on it, apparently causing higher latency?


    Right now I'm looking at only having a single condenser mic and a single sm58. It's a little light on the mics, but I figured I was better off getting slightly better stuff and collecting the mics as time goes on.

    Outstanding Questions:
    * Do I need the speaker pads?
    * Do I need the rack unit?
    * In headphones, is the impedance listed under specs related to how much sound it leaks? Is 24 Ohms enough? 40 Ohms? I've got the two headphones listed below. I imagine the Audio-techinica with a 40 ohm impedence for whoever's playing the instrument and the Sennheiser's with a 24ohm impedence for the engineer. If a 24 ohm impedance is enough for most tracking though, I'd just as well save the $30.

    2626 with protools:

    $559 - Profire 2626: M-Audio ProFire 2626 Eight Channel Audio Interface needs to be added to cart, no shipping cost
    $150 - Protools 8 student
    $310 - Mackie MR5: Mackie MR5 Studio Monitor (needs to be added to cart) No Shipping cost
    $229 - Rode NT1-A Buy Rode Microphones NT1-A Condenser Mic Bundle | Condenser Microphones | Musician's Friend (comes with wire and shock mount)
    $50 - Audio-Technica ATH-M20 Headphones: Buy Audio-Technica ATH-M20 Closed-Back Headphones | Studio Headphones | Musician's Friend
    $19 - Sennheiser HD 201:
    $30 - Monster Cable Standard S-100: Buy Monster Cable Standard S-100 1/4" - 1/4" Speaker Cable | Speaker Cables | Musician's Friend
    $70 - Gator Studio Rack: Buy Gator Studio Rack | 2 to 6 Space Rackmount Cases | Musician's Friend
    $40 - Speaker pads/mounts: Buy Auralex MoPad Monitor Isolation Pads | Acoustic Treatments | Musician's Friend (probably just buy the speakers from musiciansfriend too and get as pkg)
    $14 - Midi Wire: Buy Live Wire Dual MIDI Cable | MIDI Cables | Musician's Friend
    $0 - SM58 I own.

    Total: $1471


    Saffire 40 with Cubase:

    $480 - Focusrite Saffire Pro 40:

    $310 - Mackie MR5: Mackie MR5 Studio Monitor (needs to be added to cart) No Shipping cost
    $229 - Rode NT1-A Buy Rode Microphones NT1-A Condenser Mic Bundle | Condenser Microphones | Musician's Friend (comes with wire and shock mount)
    $50 - Audio-Technica ATH-M20 Headphones: Buy Audio-Technica ATH-M20 Closed-Back Headphones | Studio Headphones | Musician's Friend
    $19 - Sennheiser HD 201:

    $30 - Monster Cable Standard S-100: Buy Monster Cable Standard S-100 1/4" - 1/4" Speaker Cable | Speaker Cables | Musician's Friend
    $70 - Gator Studio Rack: Buy Gator Studio Rack | 2 to 6 Space Rackmount Cases | Musician's Friend
    $40 - Speaker pads/mounts: Buy Auralex MoPad Monitor Isolation Pads | Acoustic Treatments | Musician's Friend (probably just buy the speakers from musiciansfriend too and get as pkg)
    $14 - Midi Wire: Buy Live Wire Dual MIDI Cable | MIDI Cables | Musician's Friend
    $0 - SM58 I own.

    Total: $1242
     
  5. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    All the normal DAW's do all the same things. There are some that are geared towards loops and midi but that would include the Reason etc end of things. Cubase, Logic, PT, PT M, Audition, Tracktion etc will all be roughly equal. The workflow is what makes them different and slightly different implementation of the tasks. You can record into Cubase and then import those .wav tracks into PT for instance.

    If you really have to have PT then buy the MBox micro mini or whatever it is and it will come with PT. You need monitor pads if you need them for you workstation setup whatever that might be. You don't use them live unless they are rubber non slip pads.
     
  6. Aural Reject

    Aural Reject Guest

    They do much the same thing, although the MIDI capability of Cubase is still ahead.

    Don't get caught up in the 'industry standard' line about Pro Tools.....there really isn't any such thing as it all depends on what you're doing, and at any rate the phrase is really talking about Pro Tools HD systems not LE or M-powered.

    Don't disagree with that in principle, and it's always a good plan with mics to buy the best you can afford, though for what you propose it'd be handy to have one SDC, one LDC and - arguably - a dynamic (which you've already got).

    No. The impedance of headphones is related to how much energy is required to drive them.....lower impedance models are generally used with gear with lower voltage outputs (the very low impedance numbers are useful with battery driven equipment) as they're more efficient at converting the lower output voltages into sound.....the higher (600 ohm) impedance models are generally used when multiple headphones are wired in parallel. The difference in impedance in the models you've cited is probably negligible. The lower the figure, the louder they'll sound for a given output voltage.
     

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