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Starting a pc studio

Discussion in 'Recording' started by reelizem, Jul 28, 2003.

  1. reelizem

    reelizem Guest

    I trying to build a rap studio through my computer. Thus far i have been recording on a ten dollar mic and the sound quality has been ok, but im looking to expand and get a legit studio.
    Please list where i should start and the equipment i need, price isnt a major concern. Thank you very much

    Yung Reezon
  2. Ras Judah

    Ras Judah Guest


    As a beginner myself, you might not take what I say seriously. However, if money is really no object I'd suggest that you abandon the computer altogether and go analog.

    If you feel that you must have digital audio facilities, then the industry standard is Pro Tools (I think TDM is the top version, but I don't know this for sure). You could also (or instead of) go for a RADAR system - not quite as versatile as a PC/Mac + sequencer but VERY, VERY clean converters and a piece of piss to operate (wish I could afford one, better still three).

    As far as mics go, there are a few industry stalwarts - Shure SM57 & SM58, Neumann U87, M49, AKG C414, and so on - but your choice of mic(s) depends on three main things; 1. the source of your recording (spoken voice, rap voice, singing voice, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, etc.), 2. the recording environment (e.g. small room, large concert hall, etc.) and 3. your (or the person(s) doing the performance) personal preference. To this end I would suggest that you and/or whoever you intend to record go to your local music store(s) and audition as many mics as you possibly can. Remember to try to replicate your recording environment(s) as closely as possible when auditioning.

    So far, we've covered recording medium and signal source. Of course there's a lot in between as well - mic pres, DI box, processors (EQ, limiters, compressors, gates, de-essers, etc.) and not forgetting the cables (NEVER skimp on cables, your system is only as strong as it's weakest link) - and once you've recorded your signals (from whatever source, including MIDI, samplers, etc.) you'll probably want to use some effects on some (if not all) of the tracks - examples include reverb, delays, filters, etc.

    Once you've sorted that lot out you'll need to 'mixdown' to two (or six for surround sound) tracks for mastering, so you'll need a stereo recorder of some sort (probably CD, but not necessarily).

    The lynchpin for all of the above is usually the mixing desk (again not necessarily if you're using a DAW and multi I/O audio interface(s)) and you can easily spend up to half a million on this alone. Add to this the cost of the monitoring (control room acoustics, amplification and speakers).

    On the other hand, if, like me, money is actually an object after all I'd suggest that you still audition as many mics as you can (and any other gear for that matter), find a dynamic, a small diaphragm condenser and a large diaphragm condenser that you're happy with and you've got a selection to choose from then.

    Buy a second-hand analog mixing desk - useful for counteracting latency and combining/routing signals - as a cheap source of mic pres and EQ. If you can afford it a good standalone dedicated mic pre and/or D I box will be a good investment (with or without the desk). As I mentioned above, even when working within a budget NEVER skimp on cables.

    You can probably use your computer's built in optical drive as your 2-track (or mixdown) recorder, but if you can afford it buy a standalone CD writer too.

    An all-in-one multi-effects unit (e.g. Lexicon MPX550) should cover your effects needs, however a lot of this can be done within the computer - watch out for CPU hoggingplug-insthough.

    You can use your hi-fi for monitoring, provided that you keep checking your mixes on different systems and compare your music to commercial releases in the same genre(s).

    Despite the length of this reply, there's probably a whole heap of stuff that I haven't even thought about, let alone mentioned. However, I hope that this reply will help you to understand what's involved in terms of equipment, knowledge and expense.

    Good luck.
  3. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    Hey MR.Yung! Analog is cool, but very pricey, and very tedious and slow to perform editing functions. It would not be a good choice for you especially in the rap genre.
    Using a computer based system is good for your type of music, and as lond as you have good da conversion you should have an excellent way to record your sounds. For ypur mic's, you will need preamps. You will take a direct line from the pre, into your comp hrough conversion. Another option, and might be my own personal preference, is a hard disk unit capable of interfacing with a computer via ethernet or firewire. Alesis, tascam, and mackie all have such units, and you may find it to give you more value for the dollar. Either way, digital is much less expensive and it doesn't come with all the hassle of analog maintainance, and functionality.
  4. pandamonkey

    pandamonkey Active Member

    Dec 28, 2001
    Although I think that your question is waaaaaaay too wide open to really give you the exact answer you need, I want to take the challenge and tell you what I would do with, say, 1500 bucks U.S. (2000Canadian!!)
    Assuming that you already own a computer with enough ram (at least 512MB) and hard drive space etc.. then we'll go from there...

    Mixer - Behringer Eurorack UB1622FX-Pro
    Why? Bang for your buck. I know that Behringer has a bad rap for copying other companies technology but their mixers are decent (Mackie knock-offs) and inexpensive. You can choose a variety of similar mixers with different I/O options, FX, etc. All at competitive pricing.
    End of story. (about 250USD, Cheap)

    Audio Interface - Digidesign MBox.
    Why? Portable, this interface connects to your computer with one single USB cable for both power and audio I/O. (great for a laptop) Focusrite mic pre-amps (very nice quality) SPDIF connection (digital), phantom power etc. Best of all, this interface comes with ProTools LE software. You get your audio interface and ProTools all at around 500USD. No better combination deal in town. (I like saying that!)

    MIDI Interface/Controller - MAudio Oxygen 8
    Why? USB powered again (optional DC power and midi cable out if you have an interface) I like options. Keys, 8 knobs, mod. wheel, pitch bend, 1 data I/P slider. A decent combo and number of control parameters at a good cost (140USD on Sweetwater)
    Is this the "best" interface? Prob. not but it's a lot for the cost once again. It's also perfectly portable if you do the laptop thing, but also great in a studio.

    Mics - Rent them till the cows come home.
    I rent standard dynamic mics locally here from a music shop for about 25Cad./month. You can't beat the cost and it's the only way to truly make an educated purchase down the road. They turned me onto Audix mics, now I am happier!
    If you must buy, a very universally useful mic is the Sure Beta 58A. About 200USD, good for just about any recording and sounds very nice.

    Sound Sources - Native Instruments, Propellerheads
    There are a million companies racing to become the "source" of all popular soft synth developers these days... I like Native's because they are so powerful and sound amazing. Some of my favorites are the FM7, Absynth, Kontakt, Battery, and of course, Reaktor. (although I don't own Reaktor :( !)There are more N.I. synths and they are all very modern and sooooo cool! (200-500USD)
    Propellerheads - You cannot deny the impact these guys have had in electronic music production these days.. Reason is an amazing tool, sounds good, comes with a great sound library, synths, drum machine sampler, effects and more. You buy this and you have a very powerful, user friendly software package for writing music. (350USD aprox.) You could also get "Rebirth" at a low cost these days which is also a cool production weapon. Propellerheads software is always very, very user friendly and interfaces with an Oxygen8 controller very easily.

    Plugins - Check out DFX VST Plugins, they're free and very cool. (I like saying that too!)
    (Dead Link Removed)
    You can never go wrong with any Waves Plugin Packages and I am partial to Sonic Timeworks plugins as well, but both of these can be a little pricey. Any software package that you get like Protools, for example, should come with some basic plugins as well to add to your collection.

    Which brings me to my next topic...

    Production Software -
    There is just too much out there to list them all and all have their own merits. If I could only buy one more software package to go with my MBox, to make Rap in a home studio, I would consider the following...
    Sonic Foundry's Acid v.4
    Can use VST instruments (soft synths)
    you can automate FX, might be the best PC program for chopping up loops and arranging pieces of audio. One of the most under rated but coolest programs out there.. Well priced. (around 350USD)
    Abletons's Live - Again a loop based production tool, you can record with live, it has rewire (to synch. with Reason and soft synths) you can use your external controller with it when recording or performing live, a killer programs gaining more popularity by the second. Also a great price at around 300USD
    (Check them all out, download demos, know what's out there before you buy because there are soooo many good products for music production out there)

    Lastly, if you want to produce Rap and Hip Hop, use what the pros like Dr.Dre use....
    Akai MPC4000 An all in one production machine. You just might be able to make the funkiest beats in the universe with this thing. It's got internal memory and storage, burns cds, about a million sample CDs that are marketed for it and can act as the heart and soul of any studio. It's expensive at around 3000USD, but it's mack daddy!

    I will stop there because I could discuss the virtues of gear forever... I was thinking more along the lines of a home studio and It's only a start but hopefully it will get the brain ticking...

    Best Regards,
  5. Ras Judah

    Ras Judah Guest

    Greetings mIchAEl,

    It's funny that you should mention Acid for Hip Hop as that's what I use. The latest updates have added ReWire hosting to the bundle and although it's not a multitracker (i.e. you can't record more than one track at a time) for someone like me (a non-musician, working in a limited space) it's great because I'm not likely to be recording more than once audio source at a time anyway.

    I've recently started using/learning Cubase (VST/32 & SX) and they have their strengths too (especially for MIDI).

    I agree with Steve that analog is expensive, however if money were no object I'd definitely have some form of analog medium in my set up (preferably 2" and 1/4") as well as a RADAR and a computer (probably a Mac) running Logic or Nuendo or whatever linked to a Tascam MX2424 or similar :( and so if, as in my current situation, it's the only medium you have for recording it can get very frustrating.

    Anyway, Yung Reezon, I hope you're able to make use of the good advice mIchAEl and Steve have given you and don't end up spending good money on poor choices. Once again, good luck!

  6. sagreene

    sagreene Guest

    Omni studio by M-Audio:

    You can probably find one on ebay for a good price.

    Two mic pres and two line-ins. So, you could record a duo who like to riff off each other.

    Also I'd REALLY recommend a computer for recording rap and making beats as working with samples on a screen beats the hell out of anything else
  7. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    If money is no object, try an Avalon VT-737SP mic pre/comp and a Neuman U87 condenser mic. For a lower budget, try a DBX 376 micpre/comp or a Focusright and an AKG Solid Tube Mic or I've heard some Rap studios use an EV RE20 Dynamic mic.

    You will need a good soundcard also. Try Pro-tools or Nuendo system if money isn't a problem. For a tighter budget try an M-Audio delta 1010 or maybe one of the Ardvark or MOTU cards.

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