My quest for lighter gear!

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Cucco, Feb 13, 2012.

  1. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I'm getting old!

    Seriously...carrying 400lbs of equipment gets to be a pain in the back!

    For even the simplest of 2 to 4 track jobs, I wind up bringing everything including the kitchen sink. I bring out a rack of True Systems pres, an analog summing mixer (primarily for monitoring and for redundancy), a Fireface, a computer, mics, cables, stands...argh!

    I did a couple straight to 2 track recordings recently using just my Royer SF12 and my Korg MR1000. Unfortunately, the pres in the MR1000 weren't up to the task, but I was still able to get some pretty good recordings! It was after that wonderfully easy setup that I decided I needed to go lighter. 1 mic, one stand, one thin snake cable and one battery-operated recorder. I can take all of that with me on the Metro!

    I began looking at a lunchbox setup to enhance the pres in the MR1000 (the line ins and sound of the MR1000 are great!). But, the more I messed around with that, the more I wound up having heavy gear to drag along and I was soon back to pretty close to where I started.

    Then, a friend of mine came up for some musical geek-out time where we were trying out different horns. He brought his Sound Devices 702 with him along with a pair of Schoeps CMC 6 MK4s. The thing sounded great! And it was flexible! The pres, the conversion, everything - top notch! However, for my goals, the 702 is too constraining. I need something that I can scale into my larger rig if I need to. So, I found Sound Devices USBPre2. It has the same pres and conversion as the 700 series, it can feed analog and digital outputs at the same time, it can act as a USB audio interface (with great sound quality!) and it can scale upwards so I can add another one and with a MacBookPro, 2 USBPre2s, a small pack of stands and mics and I can record 4 discrete tracks while running redundant rigs! (Finally, I can use my M-Audio MicroTrackIIs with their SPDIF inputs and bypass the analog in!)

    My first USBPre2 is on order from Sweetwater now and should be here anytime! I added a Zagg Sparq 2 for USB powering. I'm very eager to try out my first recording using:
    Royer SF12
    1 Mic cable
    1 stand
    1 Sound Devices Pre
    1 Zagg
    1 Battery powered MR1000

    and having a killer DSD rig that I can carry in 1 pouch over my shoulder, sounds great and I can set up in 5 minutes!
    Oh...and yes, the analog/mic input to the analog output is a direct path. It doesn't digitize first!

    I'll update with more info soon!
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Sounds pretty nice Cucco.

    I just ordered a Lavry AD11 for my next big festival here. I have the AD10, DA11 and their MP10 Blacks and love them all. The AD11 is new. Its USB and has their very sweet micpre's. My rig is an SF24 and a matched pair of DPA 4011/ 4006. Takes me 30min to setup and ready to go.

    I'd love a DSD so I'm working on a MR2000 but for now my laptop works just excellent. Can burn a CD right their or take it all back to the studio and do our magic on it. Works great and is simple. Lavry's are pristine. They also fit well with a any mastering rig so they serve many purposes. You might want to look at those too.

    Looking forward to your news!

    I'll post some tracks in March.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I beat you guys by 29 years on these lighter gigs. I used to pack 1 API 3124 mixer. A Sony PCM F1 with Hitachi 2 piece portable VHS recorder. 4 microphones. 3-12 foot collapsible aluminum stands with 400 feet of microphone cable, headphones. Redundant recorder was a Denon specialized, Walkman like portable Cassette recorder, with manual level control and Dolby B. All on my 1982 Honda GL 500/Silver Wing motorcycle. It was the 2 reel/2 track, park it anywhere convenience mobile recording facility. Sometimes I would have up to 3 hours between shows at NBC-TV and I would run out on extended lunch hours to make quick recordings.

    One particular funny story was the Washington DC Hebrew Congregation. They were approximately 1/2 mile from NBC-TV. I think it was Rosh Hashanah? This is a holiday where everybody has been fasting from the previous sunset. They put me in a closet for my mini control room right off the sanctuary. Thankfully, I have been able to call in a Chinese food take-out order and picks it up on my way there. I was enjoying my Chinese food dinner in the closet with all of this Chinese food . Wafting this delicious smell into the sanctuary. My friend the Cantor, told me everybody was rolling their eyes around in their head from the smell of this Chinese food permeating the entire congregation. LMAO, working two jobs in one work day, even as a Jew, I forgot everybody was fasting! LOL And what do Jews do on Christmas day? They go to a Chinese restaurant. This was no Christmas for them but I enjoyed opening up all of my packages in that closet. Yum. Did you know that twice cooked pork also has lots of garlic in it? Pork in a Jewish synagogue. Only I could do something like that.

    Crab Rangoon anyone? (That ain't kosher either)
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey Chris -
    I had actually considered the Lavrys, but I wanted to be able to run completely on battery, plus the flexibility of the USBPre2 is unrivaled (analog, digital, HP on 1/4" and 1/8" jacks, etc.). Not to mention the cost/performance ratio. Yeah, I like Lavry's stuff, but for the most part, I find it to be too pricey for what it is. I feel like I'm paying as much for the name as I am the product. Your rig does sound nice for sure! I will say that, even with my complex (big) setup, I've got the setup to a science. I can pull up to the parking lot and set my timer - within 30 minutes, I'm ready to roll.

    The impetus behind this purchase is that:
    1 - a large majority of my live recordings are 4 channel recordings. I can get two of these and a pair of microtracks (which I do already have) and run completely power-cable free for a couple hours.
    2 - I'm doing a lot of video work lately. For many of my clients, the video is the primary concern and audio is secondary. They want better than camcorder sound, but their primary concern is 'YouTube' ready. With a pair of Schoeps or an SF12, I can get GREAT sound for video (especially adding reverb in post if necessary) and then set up 3-4 HD cams and a pair of mics all within 30 minutes total. All of which is battery powered and all fits over my shoulders.

    I'll definitely keep you posted.
    I'm really excited about this purchase!

    Another great bit of news (at least for me) is that with having SPDIF out, I can incorporate it into my RME FireFace800 with ease. I've got some pres with ADAT output. Now I can do 10 native channels, 2 SPDIF channels and 8 ADAT channels and get a full 20 inputs! SCHWEEET!
  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Update -
    My SD USBPre2 arrived Friday. It's an adorable piece of kit, but is built like a TANK! There are so many features on this little booger that I haven't even begun to play with. Even though the faceplate is crammed packed, they squeeze in a bunch more stuff into dip-switch controls on the back (like sample rate selection, analog brick wall limiting, phantom, etc.)

    This thing seems to have an endless amount of gain. I mean ENDLESS! As best as I can tell, this thing has darn near 90dB of gain! Most of it is clean as a whistle too! Of course, once you get into the 70-90 dB gain range, you start hearing the electronics - there's no way around that.

    I hope to test this thing out today, but it's not a given yet.

    Since it runs off of USB power at all times, I got a Zagg Sparq 2 from Amazon for $99. It's a remote USB charging device to charge your iPod or similar when not near power (camping, etc.) However, I used it to run my USBPre2 for when it's in stand-alone mode (most of the time). I left it plugged in yesterday with two mics using phantom power. I left it alone for just under 10 hours and it still had juice!

    I'm stoked about this! I can imagine a scenario where I walk in with two of these, a Zagg Sparq, a small handful of cables, mics and stands that I can carry in hand and get an amazing recording!

  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Looking forward to hearing more about this setup Cucco! I was interested in the Zagg Sparq 2 and found a youtube clip on it for reference :

  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    So, I recorded a concert yesterday using this setup:

    Royer SF12
    AT Shockmount
    AEA 15B mic stand
    Royer stock stereo cable for SF12
    Sound Devices USBPre2
    Zagg Sparq 2
    Korg MR1000 (battery powered)
    Beyer DT770 Pro headphones

    Carrying in all of that gear, plus my horn and my tux, I was able to get it all in one trip without struggling in the slightest!

    The results were, to be blunt, frighteningly surprising!

    I expected to get something usable that I could **make work** in post. What I got, however, is simply amazing! The pre matches BEAUTIFULLY with the Royer. I would call it "warm" in the grand spectrum of pres. It is transformer coupled (input), but that doesn't make it inappropriate for classical. In fact, it makes it (to me) very involving. Especially when paired with the beautiful sounding SF12. Ideally, I'd like to get the mic a little further back to avoid the "hard right and left" sound that I got.

    I'll post a clip up soon of an unedited portion. Wow. Just wow!

    I foresee myself buying another one of these and doing SO many of recordings with just this gear!

  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Remy, That is too funny!

    Woop!, can't sit back on this statement without chiming in :)

    Re Lavry: Yes, they are pricey but that's the cost for pristine sounding American Pro Audio thumb No China crap there. Now whether a project warrants that, is another story. Every bit that helps those sss less rash and my mixes more open sounding, is worth it to me.
    Have you ever used the Blacks? I owned 2 FF800 and compared all the Blacks side by side to the FF800 and sold both with a smile. RME "high end" however, is much better but it still isn't Lavry. Lavry sounds sweet at 44.1 and the rest is history. FF pres work but are cheap sounding, they can keep the pres but are cool in a jam. The Black pre's and converters however, are choice for acoustic music, wow. This makes the AD11 an incredible product but yup, they cost some doe but that's what high end is all about too.

    FF800 converters are nice but in comparison from a Pro Audio perspective, sound thinner and less open to put it blunt. They do work great but they aren't in the same sound bracket as Lavry. You are comparing off shore gear to fine pro audio that comes at a price.
    I do miss my FF800's but only for an interface.

    Lavry with DPA's or Royers are sheer silk. Surprising the USBPre2 will do the Royers justice! I bet the USBPre2 is a good value but not in the same league as Lavry. If you didn't run Lavry down in a pro audio comparison, I would have let this pass but can't because I have owned both and know different.
    Its what makes it all fun around here and why we share our experiences:)

    The closest thing I get to battery powered in live work is an H4N for backup and even then, I use a wall wart. You are a brave man!

    Sounds like a slick compact system though, thanks for sharing!
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Chris -
    I'm surprised at your post. It seems a tad defensive and over the top. It seems like you feel the need to attack both the RME and the SD stuff because I'd prefer to not buy the Lavry.

    There's no denying that Lavry stuff is good. I don't particularly like their Blue or Black line of converters and I've owned/used their Blue line of mic pres and didn't care for them either. It's not that there was anything wrong with them (either the pres or the converters), it's just that there wasn't anything remarkable about them either. Granted, I agree, they both sound better than the conversion in the RME. However, I'm of the opinion that moving the mic 1" will have a far greater impact on the sound of a recording than any change in converters.

    As for the pres in the RME, I disagree. Are they great? No. Are they very usable? Absolutely. They have plenty of headroom, they are clear and clean, and don't emphasize anything. Would I use them as my primary pres? Nope. Would I use channels 9 and 10 in a thick multi-channel mix? Absolutely.

    As for the price of the Lavrys - I stand by my assertion. They're overpriced. Yes - they're good and a lot of people like them. But, there are plenty of other American made pieces of kit that fetch far less. (The SD is American made, uses a similar op amp in the mic pre as the Black and uses a similar converter chip and analog hardware as the Black and it's about half the price. Plus it has a few extra features! can run over it with a friggin truck and it will still keep working!) Back when Lavry used to be dBTech, their stuff was a bit more affordable. When their gold line of converters (sweet sounding) got great press, they bumped their prices up across the board. For less money than the Blue or Black series, the Mytek converters have them beat on almost all fronts. They have a very smooth, clear and engaging sound that (IMO) is beyond reproach.

    I don't know why you're surprised that it will do the SF12 justice. It has plenty of gain, it's a super quiet preamp, its impedance is suitably high and the pre has a great sound! In fact, it's the exact same pre and circuitry as found in the 7xx series recorders than cost mega-bucks. They're made with the intent of making super quality, dead-quiet recordings for use in the film industry.

    As for using battery powered and portable gear - my goal is to be able to manage smaller recordings easier.

    There are a lot of times where I have to play in the very concert I'm recording (such as Sunday's gig). When I have to play some seriously major works (such as earlier this season where we played Mahler 4 and I played the solo horn part), it's a serious pain to spend 60 minutes of back-breaking labor lugging in and setting up gear when I should be meditating and focusing on my playing. If I could grab a small camera bag's worth of gear and be set up within 10 minutes, I'd be free to get SO much more "horn" time in. Plus, running on battery isolates me from the house power lines (which are always a source of frustration!) and I can keep the recorders and mic pres within feet of their source mics. When I grab a second USBPre2, I'll run it to my other Korg DSD recorder and have a 4 track DSD rig that I can sync in post (within seconds) that have less than 20' of cabling involved and are running off of pretty constant power with no fear of brownouts/blackouts (or kids tripping over the power cable) and no need to lug in a 50lb UPS... ugh.

    Anyway - as with all things audio related - YMMV, one person's treasure..., yada yada yada.

    I'm not hatin on your Blacks...don't be hatin on the SD. I think if you were to try it, you'd rather like it a lot! And if you don' biggie. I do like it. A lot. In fact, I liked it so much, I'm considering selling off one of my True P8s and getting 3 more of the SDs to use instead. I'll have to do a lot more experimenting before I go that route!

  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Hey Cucco, No, not at all. Just responding to your overpriced opinion on Lavry and giving my opinion on why I don't think they are :) I also love RME stuff and own 2 high end converters of theirs but I'm not going to BS the community by saying they sound as smooth, because they don't. I wish they did but they don't. They are close, but not quite as open. They are also much better than the FF800. Lavry has a smooth, more open sound so I'm guessing this comes at a cost. When people share opinions it should be because they have used something. I thought you would be interested, not offended.
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I'm not offended at all Chris.
    Like I said, everyone has their thoughts.
    I just was wondering why the full-frontal attack on the RME. I didn't claim their converters were great or as smooth as the Lavrys. They're not. However, the AD in the Sound Devices is damn fine. I'd happily put it against much higher dollar converters. (It was the SD that I've been talking about, not the RME. In fact, the way I'd implement the SD with the RME is to bypass the RME's converters in the first place.

    To me, the AD converter is the single least important part of the signal chain. The difference between a great converter and a decent/good converter is marginal at best and is easily overcome by using a different mic in a different spot, etc.

    To me, my favorite converters in order are (bearing in mind, these are only ones that I've used or extensively played with. Just using it once, it doesn't make the list):

    Mytek 8x192
    Waves (believe it or not, the ADC in the MaxxBCL is killer!)
    Lynx Aurora
    Prism Orpheus (I'm considering trading up from the RME to this, but I'd lose total channel count. And I haven't found it to be as stable as the RME)
    Lavry Blue

    Beyond that, either I didn't care for it or I haven't tried it.

    I didn't list the SD because I've only used the AD once. I liked it, but I need more experience with it before I claim my undying love for it. As for the pres and the analog portion - it's nice. VERY nice!

  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm playing with you. We're talking about simple gear for a mobile rig and sound quality. Not just what you want or are buying. Please leave your personal take out of this.
    You are reading way to much into me.

    You mentioned both these converters in earlier posts and also asked for opinions so I gave mine too. I'm keeping it real for both the end user and manufacturer:)

    Cucco, I own all the gear I am giving opinions on. I say it the way it is and don't promote or compare something unless I've had hands on experience with it. I'm not interested in being all fuzzy or winning friends in a public forum. There is no frontal attack on RME either, I love RME, especially the ADI-8 QS for hybrid converters ( I own 2 of them). I really like the FF800 for mobile recording but in comparison, they do not sound as rich as the simple Lavry Blacks. FF800's however are excellent interfaces and choice. They are popular for a reason. Some people will find this post interesting and can count on my opinion being truthful or helpful too.

    To elaborate: The Blacks are designed for light weight mobile recording and mastering. They are exactly (fit) something you were asking about. You mentioned using the FF800 in an earlier post, and because I've owned those too, I gave you my opinion on the sound quality of all the above and some extra info relevant to this discussion to chew on :) I have done comparisons on all these products, you can disagree :)
    I don't care if you don't like my opinion, I just want to know if you've used them and WHY you think they are overpriced? I'm trying to understand where you are coming from here. Why are they overpriced and what did you compare them too and how were you using them? Nothing fuzzy here, just wanting to know how you get to that conclusion?

    Plain and simple: Your opinion on Lavry was a bit off because you are placing them into a lower bracket of gear and for that I ask you if you, have used them or done an actual comparison?

  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Okay, Just read you last post, no worries. (y)

    Kind of a contradiction in all this but its cool. I understand where you are coming from now. I agree and disagree. If I was on a budget, then of course. If you need 10 mics and you need to make a choice of one high end converter or ten mics, well... no brainer.

    There is a sweetness that comes from quality converters and rash , closed in sound that comes from less quality. Converters do influence everything that goes in and out of its path and for that reason alone, you got to wonder what its doing to the over all sound. When I am recording classical music, I want the best sound I can get. If I am using DPA and royer, I want the best sound I can get. I want clean, full and transparent signal.

  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Chris -
    You're getting really defensive and really offensive. I'm not sure where the hostility and pissing contest is coming from.

    I never asked for anyone's opinions on the Lavry or the RME. Yes, I've owned (or do own) both. I owned a dBTech converter for quite a while. There are even some pictures floating around on this website where the converters were being used in my live setup.

    You're welcome to your opinions. I don't dispute them. You hear things differently than I do. I have a very classical approach to everything I do and hear. I don't suspect that you do. That's not to say that mine is inherently better than yours. Just different.

    I don't know how I could claim to make differences and comparisons between gear if I've never heard or used it before, so yeah, I've used this stuff. I played with the Lavry Black for about 2 seconds. I didn't get that much time in on it for two main reasons:

    Its form factor is such that it won't easily rack mount the way I need it to
    It requires external power (if I'm going with a little 1/2u device that is designed to be carried, I want a battery-powered option)

    I don't want a fight here. I'm just here telling you what I purchased and how I'm using it. I told you that I'm not interested in the Lavry's because they're too expensive and because they're not the right form factor for me. You don't have to spend the next several posts attacking me and my gear because it doesn't live up to your standards.

    Bottom line -
    I have a decent location-based setup. It's big. I wanted something smaller. I bought the USBPre2 and am happy. That's my story. If you're upset that I'm dissing the Lavry's, sorry buddy. To me, they're not worth the price.
  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    This is coming off as rather holier-than-thou and insulting Chris.
    It's not a contradiction at all. Please tell me what part is a contradiction.

    Also, the last time I checked, I've been recording classical music for around 15 years now and have a few label credits to my name. I know how a good converter sounds and how a bad one sounds. I also know how to use a tool for its purpose. If the sound of your recording is being destroyed by a converter, then the bad news is, it's not your converter.
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    YIKES! Cucco, you are getting way too personal here. We're adults talking about gear for gawd sakes. Please chill.

  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Chris -
    Please re-read this topic.
    You'll see that the moment it derailed was when you started bad-mouthing my gear and my opinion.
    If you don't see that, then we have an issue.
    If you do see that, then we don't.

    Your posts read like:
    "Look - I have no problems if you have opinions, as long as they agree with my own!"

  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    my apologies.
  19. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Thanks Bro!
    We're on the same team here. I have absolute respect for all that you have done and currently do.
    I honestly felt like I was in the Twilight Zone here.
    Best wishes,
  20. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Back to the originally scheduled program -

    One of the things I am happy about is the AD conversion in the USBPre2.

    I haven't had much chance to play with it yet, but it too is the same AD used in the 7xx series of SD products which are beyond reproach. They spec well, but I have't played with their actual sound quality yet. I often use my FF800 as a platform for inject 8 external channels in via ADAT. As you point out, the quality of the AD in the RME is good, but not great. I have several different ADs that I can and do use, but it all comes down to weight.

    If I'm going out with an assistant and have 2 hours to do setup, I'll drag out the big stuff.
    If I'm going out on my own with an hour to set up in a less-than-stellar location, the RME along with the True Systems work great.

    The advantage of this particular setup is that I can walk in with a camera bag where all the gear is already connected. I fish a lead for the mic, turn on the units, fly the pole and hit record. Literally, I can be set up and get a great recording in minutes! This isn't for my "high-end" clients. This is for the high school band that wants a quick recording for archival purposes. It's for a Junior high kid's audition tape to summer camp. I get tons of that kind of work and I really hate dragging out the kitchen sink for that.

    If (a big, but probable if) the SD unit has good pres (check) and good conversion (remains to be seen), then it might very well take a place in my regular rig too.


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