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What To Buy??

Discussion in 'Recording' started by tubatinker, Sep 2, 2007.

  1. tubatinker

    tubatinker Guest

    I have a community band in southern-Indiana. We currently own a Zoom MRS4 but rarely use it because it... mainly because it's very difficult for a non-techie to use and doesn't have much capacity. I've just receive approval to purchase a new digital recorder that has the capacity to burn directly to a CD. I've been looking at a Tascam DPO1-FXCD that was recommended by a local music store. I would like to speak with someone (besides a factory rep) who already owns one of these. My goal is to be able to record a two-hour concert in stereo without having to do a lot of setup. Something with 'one touch' recording would be nice.

    Dan Schultz
    The Old Dam Community Band
    Newburgh, Indiana
    http://www.olddamband.com

    Band Instrument Repair
    http://thevillagetinker.com
     
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hi Dan!

    Welcome to the forum! Just FYI, you'll find a LOT of advice and some good experts in the Acoustic Recording forum elsewhere on the main page. I do a LOT of work with wind ensembles and bands (playing and recording) and I can honestly say that this machine is probably not the best choice for what you want to do.

    In addition to issues with mediocre sound (at best) and a clunky interface that (unless you have a seasoned sound guy oh hand) will be frustrating to work with, you are going to hate life with this unit. This is designed for young rock bands who want to record a demo and that's about it. I can tell you from VERY bitter experience that these units are not designed to run for 2 hours in record mode. You will suffer a horrible disappointment when your unit locks up and you lose the entire concert.

    Let me ask a couple quick questions and then I'll chime in with some recommendations.

    1 - What other gear do you (or the band - referred to as "you" henceforth) own? Microphones, mic stands, cables, mixer/mic preamp? (If you're not familiar with any terminology, please don't hesitate to mention this! We're all friendly here (well, most of us...))

    2 - What kind of budget do you have? Assuming from the gear mentioned, it looks like about $600 - is this assumption correct?

    3 - What kind of quality are you looking for? Is the band pretty good and you want a pretty good sound, or is it really just for archival and nothing else? Believe it or not, VERY good recordings can be made of community bands. The stuff that most people are accustomed to hearing (noisy, shoddy recordings with no focus, no depth and horribly washed out) are not representative of good recordings. They're representative of inexperienced (though usually well-intentioned) folks throwing more money at gear than experience and the lack of such shows in the final product. In other words, don't settle for less unless you really don't mind too much about the final quality.

    4 - Where do you perform that you're looking to record? If in a theater/auditorium or performance venue, is it recent? Is the AC noisy or is it pretty good as far as acoustics? If outdoors, that's a new/big can of worms... :wink:


    The best advice I can give you is as follows:

    1 - Don't settle. I don't mean you have to go blow a HUGE amount of money. Good, quality products can be had for low money. But, most "cheap" gear has serious compromises. You just have to choose what compromises you're willing to accept. A great example is a Mackie 1202 VLZ mixer compared to a Behringer mixer (of equal specifications - sorry, don't know their model numbers) which might set you back $100. The Mackie will set you back $200-$250 on the used market, but it will be around for another 40 years and will work the same (or darned near it) for that period of time. The Behringer won't sound quite as nice as the Mackie, nor will it last quality wise. Then there's the ethical argument (the lawsuit from when Behringer stole Mackie's intellectual property and "redesigned" the same mixer using cheaper parts and much poorer quality control...but that's a WHOLE different subject WAY to big for this topic...)

    2 - Simple is always better! Especially for what you're doing! You don't need a lot of controls! In fact, for what you're doing, the fewer the controls the better - meaning, if there are a lot of knobs and huge list of functions, this is probably a detriment rather than a positive for what you're wanting to do. For recording wind ensembles/concert bands, there should not be a lot of fiddling around with controls. It's pretty much "record, trim the silence (get rid of the wasted space between applause and beginning of next piece, etc.) and then burn to CD."

    3 - A little education goes a LONG way. Learning where to place your microphones and how means FAR more to a good recording than even the best piece of gear money can buy. There are plenty of folks here who are willing to help either via this cold medium of e-mail and Internet or by even coming out to work with you personally (usually for a small fee, but some for free or a case of good beer and some gas money!)

    My advice would be to get a simple recorder - one without a lot of options. Something that basically has 2 inputs (left and right) and a capability to record. Then get a decent mixer or something like the Aphex 107 microphone preamplifier (available used on Ebay for less than $100 in many cases!) Then, get the cables to hook everything up. A couple microphones (meager is fine, nice is better) and an appropriate stand and mic clip (The mics need to be 8' - 12' above the stage floor and in most situations, no further back than maybe 10' from behind the conductor). Good mic stands are dreadfully expensive. However, there are very good alternatives at VERY good prices!

    I would then use the computer as your means for editing and burning onto a CD. The reasons are quite simple.

    1- Most interfaces that burn to CD will leave you aggrevated at best with the quality of transitions between tracks and the interface is usually clunky and annoying.

    2 - Computer software is often free or very inexpensive for simple audio work like this. It's also quite predictable on how to use it. There may be a small learning curve, but once you learn it, the knowledge and experience will transfer to other systems when you need to upgrade or change your process 5 to 10 years down the line.

    All of this can be rather daunting and I hope that I haven't (A) insulted your intelligence with stuff you may already know and/or (B) overwhelmed you with too much new information.

    I'll leave you with my last bit of information:
    The folks at your local music retailer are probably the best-intentioned folks, but when it comes to recording a large ensemble such as band, orchestra, choir, I've found that none of the retailers know the first thing. I don't mean to sound insulting - it's just that recording a rock band and recording a concert band are two completely different things and they rarely know enough about the science, art and technique to recording to know how to accurately do the band justice.

    You've taken the absolute right first step and come to a good community and asked for help.

    Best wishes!

    Jeremy
     
  3. tubatinker

    tubatinker Guest

     
  4. tubatinker

    tubatinker Guest

    ....Let me ask a couple quick questions and then I'll chime in with some recommendations.

    1 - What other gear do you (or the band - referred to as "you" henceforth) own? Microphones, mic stands, cables, mixer/mic preamp? (If you're not familiar with any terminology, please don't hesitate to mention this! We're all friendly here (well, most of us...))

    We already have a couple of descent mikes, mike stands, an assortment of cables, and a Roland 350 keyboard amp that we use for announcements. We also have a very difficult to use Zoom MRS4 that I've hated since we bought it.

    2 - What kind of budget do you have? Assuming from the gear mentioned, it looks like about $600 - is this assumption correct?

    I am ready to spend up to $1,000 for recording equipment. More if necessary.

    3 - What kind of quality are you looking for? Is the band pretty good and you want a pretty good sound, or is it really just for archival and nothing else?

    We are just an amatuer community band. We usually hire a recording engineer twice a year to record a spring and a Christmas concert. The CD's are used mainly as gifts for family members and our archives. We're pretty good but I doubt if we will ever produce a professional CD. This is just for fun.

    4 - Where do you perform that you're looking to record? If in a theater/auditorium or performance venue, is it recent? Is the AC noisy or is it pretty good as far as acoustics? If outdoors, that's a new/big can of worms... Wink

    Our recordings are always live concerts.... complete with babies crying and air handlers running.

    Any editing that will probably be done on a computer. All I want to be able to do is to put the file directly onto a CD that can be distributed 'as is'... or massaged with Audacity or another program if we want to remove noise, etc.

    All I want is a simple device that will record up to 2 hours and burn a CD. Anything further I will do on a computer.
     
  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Would you be willing or able to get more specific? What mics? Do you have very tall stands? (I know this isn't the target of the question, but they're equally important)

    The budget that you mention is pretty decent to get some respectable gear. My advice within that budget for doing exactly what you state is the Alesis Masterlink. It's very simple and very high quality. You'll need some means to get the signal into it though - mic preamp or mixer. I would again advise the Aphex 107. Between the two devices and a small rack case, you'd be out for under $1k and have a very nice portable recording rig.

    I completely understand. I probably do at least 12 recordings of this nature yearly and no one wants to do it as a professional CD (it's too expensive, doesn't make a good fundraiser and doesn't generate enough interest). There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing this for fun and it sounds like you've been going about it the right way.


    Again, absolutely nothing wrong with this. Live recordings make up about 80% of my business. In fact, most of the recordings on my sample page were made from live concerts. Believe it or not, you can get some VERY amazing recordings from live concerts. Using the right gear the right way, you can make magic!

    The only editing I would do (and the only editing that I do) is simply trimming the excess (the space between tracks, narration that isn't needed on the CD, etc.) Removing noise using commercial noise reduction tools makes for a very weird sounding recording. If there's noise (and there usually is), I embrace it.

    The following example:
    (Dead Link Removed)
    was a live recording made in a banquet hall while 200 or more patrons ate dinner. The AC was noisy and there was plenty of background noise, but with the right placement, it's mostly inaudible.

    The Masterlink is, IMO, the absolute best choice for this. It's reliable, will run for 2 hours no problem and sounds fantastic. They can be picked up new for a great price and used for even better!

    Cheers!

    Jeremy
     

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