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Would I notice a difference?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by EricIndecisive, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Hey everyone, now that I'm working and getting money and such, I'm looking to upgrade some of my gear.

    I would consider myself as as a 'pro-sumer'. I only record myself, and is pretty much how I plan to do it for a while. So with that said, I have a hard time spending more than $5-600 on any single piece of gear. What would you guys consider the price range for a pro-sumer?

    As far as preamps go, what kind of differences would I see between the firepod I have now and a decent tube preamp? I am only really using 2 mics at any one time... so I don't think I would really need more than 2 inputs. I direct-in my bass, mic electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and vocals. I use a couple of drum VSTs as far as that goes.

    As far as monitors go, I record and mix in my bedroom. Would it be worth spending more than a couple of hundred dollars on reference monitors if I'm mixing in a bedroom?

    Pretty much for my situation, I'm trying to figure out the range of diminishing returns. The type of music I record with is pretty much acousticy pop rock type stuff. For mics I only have an NT2-a, an AT2020, SM57 and 58 lol.
  2. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    I wouldn't worry about getting a tube pre. API, Neve, trident etc. are all solid state. People seem to get by with those:)

    If I was in your situation here is what I would get.

    API lunch box
    API 512c x 2 (they have killer DI's)
    API 525 X 2
    API 550b x 2

    You can get absolutely KILLER recordings with these in your signal chain if your skills are us to the task. There is no way that you'll get all this stuff at once. The order that I wrote it in is the order to purchase as you can afford it.

    The lunch box allows you to buy as you go. Used they go for $375ish. Used the 512c goes for $525. The pre's will make your current mic's sound better and will be far superior to the firepod ones. It may take a couple years but if you keep your eye on the ball you'll get it done sooner then you think.
  3. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Thanks for that! Those will definitely give me some sweet starting points. Looks like I'll have to be doing a lot of saving haha.

    I'm going to bed right now, I'll reply again tomorrow, but I was browsing through your gear on your website, I just picked up the same Fender DRRI in the blonde tolex a couple weeks ago, I love it!
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Paul definitely has it right. Although I wouldn't bother with the SHURE SM 7b. It's just a glorified 58 and you can get 3 of those for the price of a 7. People have indicated they can hear the difference between a 58 and a 7. Well yeah, if you don't know where the capsule is placed in a SM 7 in relationship to a SM58/57. What? You want to spend 200 extra dollars for a couple of switches? I use my 7 interchangeably with my SM57/58/Beta 58's and that's because there is no real difference. Except for the fact that a SM 7 won't fall off the microphone stand like a 57 or 58 but an SM 56 won't fall off of a microphone stand either. So is it worth $200 to have a presence/flat & bass cut off switch on the microphone since that capability is already in your software? Only you can be the judge of that.

    Judge, jury & producer/engineer.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Thanks remy! What is your opinion of the NT2-A? To me it sounds pretty good, very clear, but definitely really bright. Not a huge fan of it on my acoustic guitar which is also a very bright guitar. Would a nice preamp smooth out those highs at all?

    Also - I haven't used my AT2020 in ages.. I actually got it free with my firepod when I ordered it on ebay a while back. I was just thinking sell it for a few bucks instead of having it sit around doing nothing. I compared it to the nt2a and had more bass and even more highs, giving it a scooped sound that I didn't really like in comparison to the nt2-a.

    Also, as far as a preamp / lunchbox unit goes, I discovered the Seventh Circle Audio DIY kits. I have been reading quite a few good things about those, and it seems that if I put in a little bit of work I could get some professional level preamps and such for about half the price. I have soldered before, not extensively, but I am patient and fearless. Would this be a good, cheaper alternative compared to the API stuff? I was thinking then I would have a project to build / work on while I keep saving for the other stuff! (I love having things to build)

    Just as a comparison: With the 7th Circle Audio stuff, I could get the chassis, power supply, wiring harness, and one of the DIY preamps (n72 or j99) for $650 if I ordered it all at once!
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    If you enjoy DIY kits, I think you should go after some of the products they are selling. It's a great way to even better understand what recording is all about. Everything he offers it is quality oriented for sure. Does it sound like API, Neve, Jensen, Quad Eight? I have no idea but I don't think you'd get any closer. Does he offer any computer integration with his devices? No, he doesn't. So you'd still have to get yourself some kind of computer audio interface to go along with his kits. If you don't already have one? I think you do? Do I think the microphones that you currently have you don't care for would sound better? Yes I think so. Remember, most of his kits are older school design concepts with Transformers and such. Those kinds of quality preamps will generally make anything sound good. And you even have multiple choices all compatible with his chassis. A poor man's lunchbox. The Neve & Quad Eight circuits along with the Dean Jensen designs were all made public. The only exception to that is API. API is sort of like KFC's 11 secret herbs and spices and their schematic has never been made public. Some folks have been able to dissolve the epoxy of the 2520 to reveal the basic circuit concept. Unfortunately most of the part values disappear in the process. Nevertheless, the design criteria can largely be estimated and similar appropriate parts can be utilized. So it's probably quite close. He did indicate some improvements have been made which means it will be different but still of a quality nature that similar to the API 312/3124/512 and being in that ballpark is just fine. All of these have incredible headroom and the crunchy goodness of transformer coupling, except for the transformer less variety. Which also does come down to personal preference. But all of the popular good varieties are right there. And having kits like this are fun to build and will last you a lifetime. Soldering is also an art. So you also want to apply heat to the devices you want to solder first before applying the solder. The solder needs to flow and look shiny. Don't worry about the flux, it looks nasty but it won't hurt anything. You can also clean it up later by utilizing a small brush dipped in alcohol if you like. Of course you won't do that with power applied. And you'll wait till it dries, fully. Remember alcohol fires can not be seen and burns hotter than gasoline and is just as explosive. So no power on anywhere near that stuff.

    You won't want to sell any of your microphones with these.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Awesome, that sounds cool for sure! I have not used any of those pieces of equipment, so I am not after a certain sound in particular, but I do want to build stuff for 'the end game' so to speak. I guess it wouldn't be worth it to sell the AT2020 cheap, I'll just hold on it. From reading around these forums it seems like you never know what might come in handy!

    A poor man's lunchbox sounds good to me! The main issue is what you said - the computer compatability. I use a firepod right now.. and really I only ever use those first 2 inputs on it. But wouldn't hooking up a preamp to this unit run it through the firepods not-so-good preamps and negate the outboard preamp? Should I look at something different? Sorry I'm not quite sure how all of these devices hook together haha.

    Thanks for the soldering tips. How about just drinking alcohol while soldering? Is that a good idea? :p

    Thanks again!
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Well yes & no. Your fire pod has XLR/1/4 inch combo inputs. The XLR inputs have an additional amplification stage for the microphone preamp. When you are utilizing the 1/4 inch inputs, those are essentially closer to consumer level line inputs. They may be bypassing the additional gain stage for the microphone preamp or they may be highly reduced in level so as to also serve as line inputs. Which is essentially what you want to be plugging a microphone preamp into. Again, proper gain staging will be required between the preamp and your Fire pod. An additional simple 10,000 ohm input, single potentiometer from your local electronics supplier, connected to each of your 8, 1/4 inch Inputs can provide additional flexibility should you want to overdrive one of your preamps without overloading the input to your Fire pod would be an extremely simple DIY advantage. Especially since some of those preamps have Transformers that can saturate and produce over +30 DBM output levels. Your input level restrictions are probably around +15 if you're lucky on the 1/4 inch input of the Fire pod? Otherwise you might be complaining about too much noise and overload. There really isn't anything wrong with running a microphone preamp into a microphone preamp when proper padding & gain staging is performed. And sometimes it can even be desirable i.e. Neve into API or API into Neve and any other permutation like that. And that's what you'll have the ability to do with those units if you build up a variety of them. It's all good, all good. You can even utilize them to create for yourself a passive analog summing mixer. That's because you can also utilize those preamps as a summing network with incredible head room line outputs. So, essentially the mixing bus of a Neve or an API, Dean Jensen, etc.. So when we build analog audio consoles, we utilize the same operational amplifiers in a myriad of different configurations. You'll even find that with some rudimentary changes, you'd also be able to add high and low frequencies shelving equalizers even to a microphone preamp, should you so desire. And in its most basic way, the high and low frequency portion of a Neve or API equalizer doesn't cost you any more than a couple of extra volume controls, capacitors, resistors. So, how does the thought hit you, when you realize for a few hundred dollars, you essentially have an API and/or Neve console? Freaking fabulous don't you think? And in doing so, you will move to a higher realm than most others.

    Beer is not explosive when soldering except when it exits your body.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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