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Rookie home studio build - much help needed!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Cruzall, Mar 24, 2015.

  1. Cruzall

    Cruzall Active Member

    Hi dudes/dudettes, :)

    I'm building a new home studio, as you might have guessed from the thread title. I have included MAX prices for each piece of equipment, but can rearrange if others are under. UK links only please.

    I need to record:
    -Male vocals
    -Electric + electric-acoustic guitar (only one guitar at a time)
    -MIDI input
    for high quality demos & will be editing in Ableton Live 9.

    The 3 main inputs will be 1)Vocals, 2) Guitar, 3) MIDI controller.

    SO, in terms of equipment, I have been thinking o_O:

    -Good quality vocal mic MAX £300 (e.g. Shure sm7B SHURE SM7B MICROPHONE Studio, cardioid, dynamic)

    -Possibly another mic for guitars MAX £120 (e.g. CAD Audio e60 CAD Audio e60 300 Ohm Cardioid Condenser Microphone: Amazon.co.uk: Musical Instruments)

    -DI/ straight line in from guitar MAX ~£100 (no clue)

    -Pre-amp MAX £180 (had looked at SHURE X2U XLR TO USB ADAPTER MICROPHONE PREAMPLIFIER USB, single channel, headphone output, phantom for Shure sm7b, but if I need more inputs/outputs, better off getting another surely?)

    -Midi controller that has synth keys, launch pads, knobs, preferably built for Ableton Live 9 MAX £100 (e.g. Novation launcher Novation Launchkey Mini Keyboard / Synth Controller with 25 Launchpad Buttons Black: Amazon.co.uk: Musical Instruments OR Akai APC http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00J3Z4Y8C/?tag=recording.org-20

    -(Audio interface)? MAX ~same-as-preamp=£180

    -(Mixing desk)? MAX £200

    -(Power conditioner)? MAX £100

    -(Control surface)? MAX £100

    Not overly sure about these last 4, are they dependable on the type of preamp? Don't shoot, rookie at home recording here.

    ALSO my external usb soundcard for my laptop is abysmal, would appreciate suggestions for reasonably low priced alternatives. MAX £50

    I have: laptop with Ableton Live 9, speakers, mic stand, pop shield, guitar amp with 1 lineout port. (Laughed after typing that sentence :cry:). Need. Help.

    Laptop specs:
    Windows 8.1 64 bit
    Intel Core i5-2430M CPU @ 2.40GHz (4 CPUs)
    8GB RAM

    A serious huge thanks to you for helping out :love: :giggle:

  2. pcrecord

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

    Please don't ! people have all sorts of problems with those and the preamp quality isn't fitting the bill.
    You are better off with a presonus or focusrite interface, something like this for about the same price: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/AudioBoxUSB
    Before choosing the SM7 as vocal mic, please try it first. It is a very good mic and a good choice because it doesn't pick up a lot of room sound and noise but other mic may fit your voice better, like the sm57, sm58 and some of sennheiser hand held dynamics. (which are more affordable)

    I understand we are talking about Home recording and Demos. So I won't go about highend preamps and pricy gear.
    I recommand you start very small and try to figure if you really like the workflow of playing and recording which is not for everybody.
    Some are spending 1k of gear that could be spent in a pro studio to have ease of mind and faster acces to pro quality.

    You say you have speakers... Know that Studio monitors are not just speakers, they are made to be as flat as possible to help us mix audio that will sound good on any speakers. They reveal more..
  3. Cruzall

    Cruzall Active Member

    Yes it looks as if I'm considering

    Shure SM7B
    Shure SM57/CAD audio e60
    Focusrite Scarlett 2i4
    Novation launchkey 49

    Will I need anything else? (Soundcard for example..)
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The Focusrite Scarlet is a preamp and a USB i/o, so unless you have other plans of routing and expansion, you won't need another interface to get audio into your computer/DAW. The other decision you would need to make, is how many input channels you would prefer to have, determining how many sources you can record at once. Both Focusrite and Presonus make models that have more inputs, although the more inputs you desire, the higher the price...

    The SM7, as Marco mentioned, is a good mic, but, it also has a very low output compared to other mics, like condensers, so you will need a pre that can gain it up to optimal levels. The Focusrite, or a Presonus VSL, should be okay, but understand that you will need to jack the gain pretty good on them when using that mic. If you get a chance, you should try it first to make sure it's what you really want.

    The SM57 is an industry standard dynamic mic, can be used on virtually everything, and hasn't changed in price in almost 30 years. $100 still buys you a brand new one, including cable and mic clip. It's older brother, the SM58, is just as good, just as much of a standard and costs about $15-20 more.

    The CAD is a condenser, so you shouldn't have any problems at all using it with a preamp such as the ones suggested, although CAD is toting the E60 as more of an "instrument" mic, so you might want to look with something that has a bit more sensitivity, and perhaps even a choice of patterns - cardioid, Fig 8, Omni...

    If I were you, I'd think about holding off on spending money on any fancy furniture - such as studio desks - and put that money into gear instead, the things that will make a difference in your sound.

    I would be looking for a good, used AKG 414 condenser. It's a great mic, a pro industry standard, wonderful for vocals, acoustic instruments, drum overheads - pretty much anything you can throw at it, and they sound great.

    I've seen them used on Ebay for as low as $500 (U.S). But, even if you had to pay closer to full price - around $900 U.S. - trust me, it's worth it. Also, you'll only ever have to buy it once. It's not a mic that you will outgrow, or feel that you need to upgrade on. If anything, you will eventually want a better mic preamp, and better conversion. The entry level models form Focusrite and Presonus are good to get you started, but at some point, you'll start to hear a difference between the quality you are getting and the quality that the pro's are getting, and the majority of the time, that quality is determined by mics, preamps and converters.

    Remember that your audio quality will only ever be as good as the weakest ink in your chain. ;)

    As far as you needing anything else... you'll find out soon enough that you'll really never have enough. It's a common illness with audio guys. Gear Addiction Syndrome, commonly referred to as G.A.S. ;)

    On a final note... do you know how to use all this gear mentioned?
    Cruzall likes this.
  5. pcrecord

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

    If you buy an audio interface, it will act as a soundcard as well. so no need to buy an additionnal one.

    Anything else ?
    • Headphones will get handy when you are tracking if you want to here already recorded tracks.
    • Studio monitors, as I said, are important to truly hear what you record. Even affordable ones will be better than an home theater PA
    • Cables are often underestimated, the mic cables and cables for the monitors should be of good quality. Not the wild monster cables but something music store sells with neutric connectors..
    • An appropriate room. I'm not saying to buy accoustic panels at this point, but if you are using mics, you'd still want to do it in a room that doesn't ruin you sound. You could put a mattress on the wall use rugs on the floor, record in front of an open closet. Anything that will reduce the effect of reflective surfaces in you room will help.
    • TIME, the most important thing is that you take time to learn the basics of mic placement and train your ears to recognise what sounds good and how acquire basic mixing skills
    • Hang here with us at RO, ask many questions, you'll get there !! ;)
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    strike 1

    strike 2

    kidding aside. lose the CAD ... those are weird mics and don't hold resale value well ... get something more mainstream ..... i'd go with the Shure.

    Craig Anderton should die!
    pcrecord likes this.
  7. Cruzall

    Cruzall Active Member

    I've gone for
    -Shure SM7b through a Cloudlifter CL-1 for vocals
    -Shure SM57 for guitar
    -Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 preamp
    -Akai MPK225 midi controller
    -KRK Rokit RP5 G3 studio monitors
    -Audio-Technica ATH-M50X headphones

    Looking forward to becoming a part of the community here :) Wasn't expecting so much help to begin with!
    Massive thank yous all round
    audiokid likes this.
  8. pcrecord

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

    You are Welcome Cruzall ! I look foward to follow your progress ! ;)
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Glad we could help.

    As a final note, don't neglect your room. If your recording and mixing space sounds bad, and is skewed to the point of lying to you, you could have the best monitors ever made and it won't matter. ;)
  10. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Well-Known Member

    What are you doing for room treatment?

    It is one of the primary factors in the recording process.
  11. pcrecord

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

    I wouldn't say it's a primary factor because many are able to produce acceptable recordings in a far from perfect room.
    Going with a dynamic mic instead of a condenser can help hidding a room's defects when recording. But when it gets to mixing your room may trick you to wrong decision, so you need to either know the defects very well and compensate, use high quality headphones or correct some of the defects.

    For Home recording, you at least want to take care of flutter echo (which is your sound bouncing between walls, floor and ceiling) It could be as simple as throwing some rugs on the floor and thick curtains ôn the walls, or putting your mattress up on the wall.

    A pro facility will usually go for at least 2 rooms with different approach, the recording room will be tuned to have a pleasant sound, either a nice natural reverb if it's big enough or no reverb at all. The control room will be tuned to let you hear the frequency spectrum equally and use the flattest monitors as possible. So if you hear the recording has too much 200hz it's the music, not the room that emphasing that frequency.
    Tuned control rooms often look like this :
  12. pcrecord

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

    An exemple of desastrous setup that you don't want to do:
    • The room is too small (about 12' x 12')
    • no bass trap installed, nothing in the corners
    • all the foam panels affects only between 500hz to 3k :
    • Nothing on the floor or the ceiling
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    As Marco mentioned.

    The OP hasn't gotten back to us about what type of space he is considering, so it's impossible to provide advice until he can provide some more info. He also hasn't mentioned if this space will just be for his own fun/hobby, or if he intends to do this commercially. There is a difference.

    @Cruzall : Depending on what you want to do, if you haven't gotten this far yet, you should probably start thinking about this parameter as a factor in the success (or failure) of your future mixes.

    The "short" answer... you're probably never going to get a decent, transparent mix in a space the size of a closet, regardless of how you treat it acoustically.
    Small rooms (bedrooms, attics, etc.) can also be difficult.... not entirely impossible, but still difficult. And, small spaces can also be tough to work in, to be creative. If you are feeling claustrophobic, you won't be as productive.

    Be reasonable about your intentions. Basically, this means that you shouldn't expect positive results out of a small space.

    Once you do come up with an area, you may want to let us know, and you may also want to ping Ethan ( @Ethan Winer ) and talk with him here about what it is you want to do.

    (If you decide to contact Ethan, as a courtesy, I'd ask that you please make this conversation public and visible to other members here, it may end up being of help to someone else out there who may be facing a situation similar to yours). ;) -d.t.

    You'll need room dimensions, ( including ceiling height) as well as specifics as to the materials used in the room (hard floors, carpet, number of doors, windows, furniture, etc).

    Also, if you are looking to further your knowledge about acoustics for home recording studios, the book below is exceptional and has been of tremendous help to many members here on R.O.


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