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portable recording gear advice?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by David French, Nov 18, 2002.

  1. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    In Fall of 2003, I will be studying theory and composition at a fairly large university. This school's performance majors are required to submit a recorded recital at the end of each semester; naturally, many recordists are needed. I have been producing local amateur singers and rappers for about a year on my DAW but have little experience with location recording. What I would like to do is find a nice small digital setup with maybe a clean two channel pre and a matched pair of condensers. Also, I don't want to break the bank. So, what gear would you buy?
  2. Is this classical, or acoustic music? If so, for pres I would recommend a Millennia media HV-3B. This is a two channel solid state pre that is super clean and accurate. Maybe a little expensice, but in that case you might want to go with a Grace pre or something. The Millennia is what I would buy. What format do you want to record to? Are you going to bring your DAW along? I don't own a Masterlink, but could you record into one? The converters might not be all that great but...
    Anyway, just a couple of ideas

  3. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    to david..... how small is small? and how much money do you want to spend aprox?

    chris perra
  4. Katiedawg

    Katiedawg Active Member

    Wow...so much of this depends on how much money you can spend.

    The converters on the Masterlink are just fine. Take a look at this thread from Roger Nichols' (of Steely Dan fame) board...the comments about the converters start a few posts down:


    I use my Masterlink in the field all the time, and it's a wonderful machine. Sometimes, though, I'm lucky enough to be hired to trek across Europe with various university choirs on tour. For this type of completely battery-powered gig, I pack a good old Tascam DA-P1 DAT recorder, a matched pair of Elation KM201 mics, and this battery powered preamp:

    Model Two

    Sure, I'd love to pack the Apogee Mini-Me, but it's powered by an external lead-acid battery. HEAVY!! The conductors (university PhDs) are very happy with the result. Trust me...I've done enough of this to know that light is good when you're packing this stuff around all day. On the other hand, if you have AC power and time to set up (and a place to lock it up!!), the Masterlink and a good pre will do the job.
  5. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks so much for replying everyone!

    To Ian: I will be recording chamber music recitals: solo instrument or voice with piano accompaniment, solo piano, solo guitar, etc. Both the Millennia and Grace pres sound amazing, but I don't think I would be able to afford either of them. I will likely use 24 bit recording because of the greatly increased dynamic range over 16 bit. I will use 96 kHz. if I have it and if recording time is not at a premium, but i'm not that concerned with a high sampling rate; 44.1 is fine. I'm not taking my DAW; if I were, I could simply record the performances to it. Lugging my heavy computer and monitor around is not an option.

    To chrisperra: I would like my rig to be able to fit into a large backpack, gymbag, or something of that sort. I will have to carry it a fair distance to recital halls. This would be equvalent to the size of 4-5 rack spaces, plus mics, cables, and my AKG K240's. I will probably carry the mic stands separately, or hire an assistant (I hear Lance is available) ;) I am just a poor college student, so the ammount I can spend will not be much. I suppose $2,000.00 is close to the ammount i'd like to spend. I am quite sure I will recoup my expenses quickly and then some, but the problem is having the money in the first place.

    To Katiedawg: Thanks for all the great info! The Alesis Masterlink looks nice. Also, it is the cheapest decent hard disk recorder that I know of, which is definitely a plus for me. I have thought about buying a used ADAT for much less, but I am afraid it will break on me. Also, DAT seems to have been falling out of favor for a while now. What do all of you think about an ADAT? The Elation mics look pretty sweet. I will have AC power everywhere I go, so the battery powered pre you recommended isn't a necessity.

    So, any other recommendations on preamps, mics, or even alternate recorders?

    Thanks again.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The only way your going to get 96 K is with the Masterlink.. or a laptop and a Firewire interface. I'm afraid that will break the bank for you. That leaves us with a 24 bit 44.1 system. I'm afraid an ADAT won't do this for you either. ADAT at best only does 20 bit...what I would do in your situation is to get the Korg DM1600. You can get it for $1450 at Guitar Center... (this is the best price I could hammer out of them. ) You could probably get them to throw in everything else you need for $2K. (don't forget headphones) I have been recommending this piece to all the guys I'm working with so they can do stuff on their own and then import it into my Cubase system... This may not be as esoteric a system as you are thinking of but I can't think of anything else that won't pass the $2K limit you proposed. If your willing to go some extra to get the nicer pres and all that I would think of a laptop running Windows XP pro and Cubase SX. A Tascam USB 424 interface, (2 tracks at once) Tascam may even provide an 8 track recorder program for free, I'm not sure. A Pro Tools 001 firewire system would be a cheap way to go with a laptop also and you now get the 32 track LE software with it but I am on a crusade to squash Digidesign and Apples stranglehold on the recording community. ....... Fats
  7. Katiedawg

    Katiedawg Active Member

    You'll need a mic pre with the Masterlink...it's line in only (-10 on the RCAs and +4 on the XLRs). Another great thing about using one of these is that you can burn a raw audio CD for the performer/conductor at the end of the gig. I take the unit back to the house, and dump the audio in the DAW for cleanup/editing on the final version.

    For Elation mics, buy them only from Tayor at The Sound Room. He hand matches them, and he's probably one of the nicest and most helpful people you'll ever talk to. He also has a line of mics (called THE) that are very highly rated by reviewers. I'm planning on picking up some of these in the near future.


    DAT recorders...I use mine only when I'm on tour and I'm running on batteries.

    I don't know about packing an ADAT around in the field...they are reported to be more fragile than my DA-P1s, and I'd be concerned about knocking one around too much. They appear to be more studio use machines than portable, even though you can certainly put one in car and drive it around.
  8. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    I am not obsessed with having a 24/96 system. I am not even obsessed about having a 24 bit system. Many great recordings have been made with 16/44.1. I would ideally prefer a higher bit depth than 16, but I understand that my pre and mics are going to make a much greater impact on my sound than my recorder. I don't think the Korg D1600 you recommended is for me since I don't need a multitracker; I will be recording only live performances. A laptop is an interesting option, and I already have Cubase SX for my DAW, but I think I might be able to get by cheaper with a dedicated recorder. I also don't care for Digidesign, although the MBox, with it's Focusrite pres, is tempting. What are your thoughts on mics and pres? By the way, thanks for the reply. I have read many of your posts and they're always great. :)

    Do you still use your battery operated pre when using the Masterlink? If not, what do you use? Also, I didn't know the Elation mics were made by Oktava. I have heard a lot about their lack of manufacturing consistency, which kind of worries me.

    What does the RO community think of direct-to-CD recorders such as the Marantz CDR300 or the Tascam CDRW4U? The Marantz has built in pres, not that i'd trust them. Again, any other suggestions for pres and mics would be appreciated.
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Quality mic pres are going to cost $500 per channel. No way around it. Millennia, Grace, Crane, Earthworks all good clean neutral pres. At your budget I would be looking at some Audio Technica mics...That being said I think a USB or Firewire interface and hard disk with a laptop is a good way to go. Find a cheap used laptop with Firewire and USB for $500 or so (it doesn't have to be very fast if you just want to record 2 tracks with no effects / eq, etc. My ex-sister in laws boyfriend has a Toshiba P3 500 kHz machine he will sell for $500. It will need a Firewire card and some memory upgrade but it might work... Fats
  10. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    to david.... i have a cd-rw4u and it works great.the a/d converters are 20 bit. not that it matters cause it'll be 16 bit anyway. you can use rca or spdif as inputs. the only weird thing is the track markers.

    if you are putting it in a daw anyway you can do it there but you have to manually insert them live if you want to do it all at once.it also has a usb connection. i've never used it though.

    i do live recordings with a roland 1680 and 1880 slaved togther with 16 inputs at once. then dump it into cubase sx. via spdif. for me this works great. maybe a roland 890 might be the answer. it's 24 bit,small and works well dumping to sx.you can also get a hardshell case for it as well

    chris perra
  11. Katiedawg

    Katiedawg Active Member

    Elation mics aren't made by Oktava...they're made by Elation. Both are Russian companies. Just go to Taylor's website and poke around some. The Oktavas certainly wander from unit to unit, but he hand matches them, too. The ones that he rejects usually end up at GC. You're on your own at that point. FWIW...my KM201s sound wonderful. Full and rich, open and clean, but not splashy. I have four of them, with four matched cardioid and two matched omni heads. The cardioids are identical in sound, and so are the omnis.

    No, I don't use the battery powered pre with the Masterlink...the Masterlink and a Buzz Audio MA2.2 are mounted in an SKB road rack. The Buzz Audio pre is a serious unit, for serious cash.


    For the money, the Sytek four channel units are impossible to beat. I have a pair of them that I bought new for my DA78-HR rig, but I'm about to replace them with a Buzz Audio A-Rack (which is eight channels of the MA2.2 in one shelf). I'll probably put the Syteks on eBay. They're really fine for the money...nothing in that price range will touch them. Ya' interested?
  12. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks yet again guys.

    Thanks for the info on the CD-RW4U. Also, I believe it does matter that the material is recorded in 20 bit before being converted to 16 bit because you get to take advantage of noise shaping dither. Anyone else have any opinions on this?

    Since you like them so much, I will seriously consider the Elation mics. Thanks so much for the Sytek tip! I read a lot about them and I am very intrigued. What exact model(s) do you own? Do yours have any of the various customizations that Sytek does? I would definitely be interested in one of your old pres if I had enough money saved up right now, but i'm still working to afford my new rig; remember, I won't be using it professionally until at least Fall 2003. I don't suppose you could save a unit for me?

    I'd still like to hear more opinions on mics.

  13. Katiedawg

    Katiedawg Active Member

    I own a pair of the MPX-4AII units, with the Burr-Brown mods on channels 3 and 4 (both preamps). I don't know if I'll have them next Fall, but who knows? I might keep one as a spare, so it might be possible.
  14. David French

    David French Well-Known Member


    I've sent you a private message.
  15. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

  16. Ken C

    Ken C Guest

    If you already own a laptop with abig enough drive for around $500 you can pick up a tascam
    us 428 that comes with cubase.That can be upgraded to quite a few different steinberg programs that make a fairly portable recording system capable of recording 4 tracks at once. If thats enough

    Hope that helps

    Ken C :c:
  17. e-cue

    e-cue Active Member

    Are you considering rentals? If so, I'd:

    2 royer 122's active ribbon mics & 1 Sony 800G

    1 A design MP-2 (stereo mic pre for the Royers) and 1 Manley Slam or Avalon 737, depending on budget.

    Then a manley Vari Mu compressor post MP-2

    Go into a CLEAN sidecart board (a mackie if you are penny pitching) . If you need audience mics, the 414's and Earthworks and done my live concert / chamber music well.

    I'd go into a PSX-100se or a Cranesong HEDD unit to DAT or CD-r and a Amphex 1 inch 2 track OR a Studer A820 1/2 inch.
  18. Hasse

    Hasse Guest

    Why not have a look at http://www.rme-audio.de/english/index.htm and http://www.presonus.com , the DigiMax is great with built-in preamps. Believe it or not but the ADK A51 mics are great. Did an A-B tests recording vocals and acoustic guitar with Oktava MK-319, Audix CX-101, Rode NKT, the ADK A51 and some others...The Oktava sounded terrible in comparison and was the first one out.

    The NTK and the CX-101 sounded very alike but the NTK had it's valve touch, a touch not to nice in my ears.

    The A 51's are not the best on close-on vocal recordings, they have this "low price" valve distortion sound in the mid high. But with instruments and on distance they are great.

    I decided to buy the CX-101 and a pair of A51's. Use the CX-101 on vocals or anything actually, got a nice distorted guitar sound yesterday. When I record choires in stereo, drum overheads I use the A51's.

    A pair of Oktava MC-012 can do wonders too if you prefer the small diafragm sound.


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