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US$4000 to spend on front-end. Help me!

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by insanecooker, Jun 10, 2004.

  1. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Hi everyone,

    I've been scraping for quite some time, and think I can finally afford something nice.

    All I own right now is my DAW (based on the MOTU 828mkII) and a Shure KSM27 (which loves my voice), a SM57 and a Beta 52, besides other instrument related gear.

    All I'll be recording is electric and acoustic guitar, drums, bass and voice. The style is mostly something on the softer side of rock, lots of clean electric and acoustic.

    I've been thinking of getting a couple mic pres (and limiters to go with them) - 4ch total - and a pair of small diaphragm condensers, for the acoustic (I don't like the KSM27 on my Larrivee).

    The problem is that I live in Brazil, and the import taxes are astronomical (close to 80%). The only store I know that I can get away with lower taxes is B&H Photo Video, so it would be better if I could get most stuff from them (they have a special import method).

    With that in mind, I have the following ideas:

    - Focusrite Red 8 + DBX1066 or 166XL
    - Langevin Dual Vocal Combo

    I'm thinking of getting both units. If the Focusrite stuff is versatile enough, I could get the ISA428 (4-ch) and save quite a bundle.

    For the mics, I thought of Rode NT5's or Shure SM-81's (for the acoustic guitar). What do you think?

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    That all sounds good to me ... I might not go for the DBX s , I prefer el op style comps myself..
  3. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Hey Kurt,

    Thanks for the answer, but I don't know if I got it right.

    Would you go for the Red8 + Langevin or just get the ISA428? Or is it that, anyway I go, would be good? Is the Langevin far enough sonically speaking from the Focusrite stuff to justify the extra expense?

    As for the compressors: I'm planning on using them just as limiters for tracking, as transparent as possible. Any models you'd recommend in the same price-range as the DBXs ($250 per channel)?

    Thanks a lot.
  4. mikE@THECAVE

    mikE@THECAVE Guest

    I think for that type of music i might try to get a Sebatron ---either the Thorax or a 2 channel .Theres one on ebay for 1000$or so.
    This will sound sweet
  5. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    I'm sure the Sebatron would be sweet. I've actually been considering it after this initial purchase.

    The fact is that it'd be pretty hard for me to get one, I'd have to pay for the import taxes and then I'm getting a 2-ch unit for over half my budget.

    Are you recommending it over the Langevin or the Red 8?
  6. Bhennies

    Bhennies Guest

    From what I've heard in my own research, the Focusrite ISA428 is a wonderful pre. You'd have plenty of cash left over as well if you went that route- not to mention you can always add that A/D card later on. i have not heard one bad thing about the unit. I'm itching to buy one myself. Personally, I don't use my outboard compressors that much. You might even be able to get away with purchasing a tube pre as well to add some versatility. But I'll let the big guys rule in on that one.

    EDIT: On Kurt's advice, I purchased a pair of Studio Projects c4's ($300 US). I haven't heard one bad thing about those (haven't received them yet) in fact people love them, while I have heard a few bad reports about the Rodes. I have demoed a pair of the Studio Projects c3's, and can honestly say that they way outperform their price. If you want to burn some $$$ on the SDC's, I've heard that the Josephson c42's are amazing (950 for the matched pair).
  7. mikE@THECAVE

    mikE@THECAVE Guest

    no im not recomending it over anything ---just putting some ideas out there for you to pick from.However I do have a Sebatron unit that gives a nice warming to all tracks.And I think it would be good to get some tubes in your signal path.
  8. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Come to think about it, I could get the ISA428 AND the Langevin, since it goes for about the same price as the Red 8 (and I get two more channels).

    mike: I'll have to wait a bit on the Sebatron, at least till next time I go to the US. It would go for over $2000 alone, and that's a bit too rich for now.

    I'll check out those Studio Projects. How do you think they compare to the SM81s?
  9. Bhennies

    Bhennies Guest

    Ask Kurt...he certainly thinks that the SP's compare favorably to the AKG c451's. However, I have not tried them yet...they are en route. The SM81's are great mics- however I've only heard them on overheads but they performed well in that situation. For a little extra though, you could probably get the Josephson's, or even the AKG's.
  10. mikE@THECAVE

    mikE@THECAVE Guest

    trouble with me is i dont have any expierence with other eqipment.I do have the sp C1 and sp T3,Sebatron Would be my best gear..$1150 for 2 channels of sebatron on ebay right now -I think its brand new.
  11. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    If your going to get a nice mic pre like the Focusrite Red or ISA series, don't muck it up with the crap sounding dbx 1066 or 166XL. The only decent comp dbx makes nowdays is the 160SL or the newer 162SL.

    Don't know nothing about the cheap china made mic's other than I wouldn't likely own one, but I do have a pair of old AKG 452's and a pair of Shure SM81's that I do really like. The SM81's are much different than the china made stuff as they are made to be consistant, linear and flat in freq response which is something you may or may not want/need.
  12. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    I have an ISA 428, and love every minute of it. There is no way you can go wrong with that unit.

    I also have a friend who has the Langevin, and he raves about the compressors/limitors.
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The Focusrite Red and the ISA 428 are pretty much the same type of pre amp .... transformer balanced OP AMP style pres ... the main difference is the Red Range stuff is probably more hand built, point to point, discreet where the ISA stuff probably uses more PCB ... & chip components, surface mounted, robot assembled.. but the overall design types are close.. I guess the Red Range stuff might sound a little better but it may be difficult to tell the difference..

    Now, to the comps, el op style comps can compress more without audible side effects. I have often knocked up to 10dB off a signal with an el op and not be able to hear the comp working but with VCA based comps like the DBX, knocking off 10dB would absolutely leave audible effects.. pumping, breathing , modulation noise..

    el ops are not as fast as VCAs and that is probably why they are easier to use.. and don't have the audible side effects ...

    Last, anything from Manley is going to be expensive ... but well worth it. The Langvin probably has an el op limiter built in to iif it's the one I'm thinking of.. you get your pre and limiter in one package and the good thing is it's available in Brazil ....
  14. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    To clairify, there is NO handwiring in the Focusrite Red and very, very few discreete parts. All old school DIP IC's many of which are socketed as well as being obsolete. The only thing close to handwiring is a couple of ground wires screwed from the side chassis to the PC board. The current ISA series which is not really like the orginal ISA units in sound, is pretty much all surface mount newer IC's. Not bad stuff and it is certainly a testimate to how good the original design was, but hardly the orginal Neve designed classic tone. Even the the current and last several years of the Red series is not the same as it was in the past that has seen on-going changes with cost cutting measures including the elimination of the expensive output transformers which had a lot to do with the classic sound and tone.

    As far as the VCA comps, Kurt is correct as usual, but this is also something that is more associated with the VCA junk comps. Real good quality VCA comps can do 10db of GR easily and don't sufffer from bad or nasty artifacts unless the user doesn't know to use the parameters or chooses to obtain less than ideal artifacts. While it is true that all VCA comps do have a roll-off of some kind on the hi-end, they don't completely kill off the hi-end like the cheap junk does.
  15. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    AudioGaff: so, do you think the Red series are worth the investment over the ISA ones? Or am I getting just a (much) better looking faceplate?

    Kurt: yes, the Langevin does come with el op limiters, which are supposedly very nice.

    Any stand-alone el op or good VCA limiters I could get for less than US$400 per channel? Or do I have to go higher?

    Thanks for all the replies.
  16. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    At his point in time, your money and value is more likely better served with the newer ISA series than the Red. Thou, as a guy that owns a few of beautiful Red units, they sure are nice to look at and clients love the sex appeal of them. I wouldn't buy a new Red unit these days unless it was just too dam good of a deal to pass up.

    The Manley El-Op is a great unit and is of outstanding value. It is worth the extra spent over the Langevin El-Op. Look to the used market for your best value. Just be careful and weary while you do it.

    I don't look at gear in dollars per channel as being good or not. When I want or need a specific piece of gear, I simply will save, trade, barter, beg, sacrifice and do what it takes until I get it.
  17. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Hmmm, the Manley unit goes for quite a bit... I don't think I can fit it in my budget, specially since I'd have to buy two of them (and there goes my budget).

    I agree with you on the whole saving part of it, that's what I've been doing to even be able to buy what I am right now (I don't make any money off it, this is just for my own fun), but I'd have to save for quite a while to get the Manleys, and that would leave me tracking without limiters with the ISA, which doesn't sound very good :)

    I'd really have to get something to get going until I can afford a better box.
  18. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    You get what you pay for.

    The El-Op is a two channel unit but is not meant to be a very flexable limiter (much like the LA2A). If you need two, buy one now and then buy another later. If your intent is to just limit and not worry or need color and/or automatic gain control, then the Aphex Dominator is a good, cheap way to catch peaks.
  19. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Yeah, unfortunately, that's true...

    Funny thing is the Dominator is roughly the same price of the Manley down here, if my quotes so far are correct.

    The problem is I think the Manley is overkill for the job. I planned on doing my processing in the digital domain, and using such a fine unit just to avoid clipping seems ethically questionable.

    I guess I'd have to start using it as an actual processor, which should be fun too :)
  20. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Ok, but for what the El-Op lacks as an all around flexable limiter, it provides in a real beautiful tone that can't really be duplicated later in the DAW. Your real problem is that a real good mic pre and/or limiter just simply costs a lot of money no matter where you live.

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