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Looking 4 studio quality recording gear w/out using computer

Member for

21 years
I am newly getting into the recording world. I am just a guitar player with no band. I want to record my songs using guitar, vocal, and some other instruments. I needed a something like a multi track recorder that I can record the tracks one by one. For that purpose, I bought a Yamaha AW16G digital audio workstation, a few weeks ago. After reading the manual I recorded a few songs. Unfortunately the sound quality is not as good as I expected. I can not hear very small details in the recorded tracks. Also each added track makes the song more noisy.
Here is what I am curious about. Is there any way that I can record the tracks one by one in studio quality without any noise and using NO computer? My budget is around $2000 for just the recording (including having the master streo track). I have effect units which are good enough for me. I just need to record, overdub, punch-in, etc. when listening the other tracks, so I need to control the recording and playback of each track.
I listened some audio samples of some other stand alone multi track recorders including Roland's DAW's on sale, (price range $1000-2500). They are not good enough either. Like I said, I don't need any effects or any other attactions on the recorder. I just need clean tracks.
Do I really have to use a computer to get a studio quality sound? I don't like to look at the screen and find the small knobs and click and turn them with mouse, when using computer. It also destroys my consentration somehow. But I can use it in very final mix.
So what would you suggest? Sould I just buy a converter and connect it to a multi track recorder? Does it make any difference?.. HD recorders??But How do I control the tracks, over dubbing, punch-in etc?
Any other suggestions?
I'll consider any advice.. Thank you very much.


Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 11/14/2006 - 23:46
Wouw.. What did I say?!! First of all, thank you all very much for all the helpful responses. But it's still difficult not to get offended for some commends though. Anyway. I guess I need make somethings clear. I really didn't want to blame any equipment here. I know there is alot to learn about recording and I am willing to work on it. Yes there is unacceptable noise in my songs and I believe that it can be figured out to eliminate or minimize it. But I also mentioned that I listened so many songs recorded with popular stand alone recorders (including the same one as mine). Some of those songs were recorded by professional studio engineers. I was assuming that they recorded those songs with full capability of the units and their skills. The samples I listened are really good. But they just sound slightly (some are very) different to me. I downloaded them from several websites. - If the way I chose is wrong, please correct me.
What I am trying to underline is that I don't waste my time and money trying new equipment again and again to see if the result is satisfactory. I want to buy a resonable equipment at the begining and then spend time with them. Also I don't want to deal with a software-mouse combination when I play and record.
I really respect you for all those years you spend in this field. But I guess it was a very humble question. I just want to make a good start.

Here is my equipment Cusebassman;
AW16G DAW, Lexicon PCM 80 effect proccesor, Fender Ame. Strat, and Charvel elec. guitars, Cube 30 guitar amp (I really like its sound!), Digitech RP21-D guitar effect processor- with digital out, Shure KSM27 mic, Mackie 1202 VLZ Pro mixer, medium quality instrument cables and mogami pacth cable (Y adaptor), Sony studio headphones for monitoring. The space is pretty quite with no car noise but no sound isolation.
Thank you all again.

--By the way.. I haven't picked up an instrument yet Remyrad. But I will. Is Texas Instruments a good one?

Member for

16 years

RemyRAD Wed, 11/15/2006 - 00:34
LOL! I think you would be the first person who would own a Texas Instruments guitar? Otherwise, you have quite an impressive equipment list. So what was with that stuff about "I want simple"

So here is my next recommendation for you. Dump the Yamaha and get yourself a Alesis HD 24, you don't need the XR version, save you a few $. Guitar Center and Musicians Friend has the HD 24 for around $1500. It is strictly a hard disk 24 track recorder and works just like an old-fashioned analog tape machine. Unfortunately, your Mackie mixer doesn't have enough inputs to accommodate a 24 track mix but if you don't need to mix 24 tracks, you'll be golden! So you would use your Mackie as a monitor desk. Then you could just plug your stuff directly into the HD 24 inputs. You'll probably find however that you will become ensconced in a more complicated workflow? For mixing purposes, you'll want the FireWire adapter device that matches the HD 24 unit. You will then mix in your computer after transferring the HD 24 hard disk drive to your computer hard disk drive as you cannot work directly from the HD 24 Disk Drive. But you're starting to open up a huge can of worms. If recording was as simple as you would like it to be, we wouldn't need recording engineers and that ain't going to happen anytime soon.

Rolling my eyes around in my head
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

15 years

cusebassman Wed, 11/15/2006 - 05:54
I had written out a lengthy explanation of using the Mackie's pre's and a couple of other issues when I realized, you probably shouldn't go for a 24 track HD recorder, unless you want to spend a decent chunk of money...

Let's assume that you are fine with Remy's setup and are willing to mixdown the final recording on the PC. The Mackie board you currently have has 4 mono channels, and 4 stereo channels. This will give you, with some tricky wiring, 8 channels of audio that you can monitor while recording (minus whatever tracks are currently being recorded to). I had a small Behringer board before I bought the beastly Yamaha MG32, so I know, it is not a great situation. You would need at least 8 or 16 mono channels on the board just to monitor while recording, to get anywhere near close to using the HD24's full capacity, and also get your money's worth at the same time. It just seems to me that you'd be wasting an awful lot of cash if you can only end up using 1/3 the capacity of the HD24 at any one time.

With the proper number of channels, you are looking at:

Alesis HD24: 1500
Decent 24 mono-channel mixer: 1100, 900 min (based on Yamaha price)

From here you have to decide if you want to use the Yamaha's onboard pre's or if you want to use an external preamp. If you use the onboard preamps, you will have to buy 24 channels worth of insert adapter cables, as well as complicate the setup when you want to place an effect in the insert path of a channel. Of course, if this is only for monitoring, that's not an issue. If you want to use an external pre, look at another 300 bucks for a decent 2-channel preamp.

Then add the cost of the cables for whichever setup you have decided on from above, and you are looking at close to 3200 dollars. Now, if you returned/sold the mixer and recording system you have now, coupled with the 2k you have to invest, you could pull this off, but you also want to ask yourself, is it worth it to do all this if you think you can get a decent recording out of the Yamaha AW1600, after you solve your noise issue. I am by no means bashing Remy's suggestion... after all, she basically suggested my current setup, minus the mixer.

I suppose it all depends on your needs at the moment, and where you think you will go from here. I started off with a single 8-channel digital tape recorder, and a board that could barely handle that many channels, even using an outboard preamp. I quickly realised I had to expand, but had already invested in one of those tape decks, so I bought two more instead of going for an HD24. I am happy with my tape setup, and it worked out well for expandability, so, at the risk of getting slaughtered, if you only want/need 8 tracks, I'd say look on ebay for a DA-88 with low drum hours (Below 500 is decent for a used machine). You'll find em for 300-400 bucks. Get an outboard preamp and a slightly larger mixer (one that can effectively handle 8 mono channels), and you're all set. However, this route expects you to look into the used market for one-gen old technology, which many people frown upon, especially since repairs for DTRS tape machines is tought to find if it happens to go bust on ya.

I have had amazing results with my DTRS recorders, but that's just one man's experience. If you are interested in a detailed setup, send me a private message, but again - consider what you want to do with your setup before making any decisions, and hey - let us know, Im sure we'll have plenty to rant about no matter what you want to do!

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 11/15/2006 - 08:08
>>But it's still difficult not to get offended for some commends though. Anyway.
Ah! If you got offended by what was written you are definitely in the wrong business!

If you want "STUDIO" quality tracks you must have the following:

1) Studio quality chops

2) Studio quality gear

$2,000.00 won't get you far.

In spite of what you might think, the advice given was the BEST for your situation: LEARN about recording, gear, etc...

In you gear list there is a lack, for example, of a GOOD pre which is a necessity for "studio" quality sounding tracks. No ifs, no buts, no offense ot be taken. It's a fact of life.

Also, it seems you bought the recording before knowing how it works and how it sounds. Again, do your homework before buying gear.

That machine is particualrly interesting because it has 24bit A/D converters BUT, the audio is handled at a 16bit word lengtht (I guess to save space?).

To put it simply, the sinlge MOST important TWO pieces of equipment for DIGITAL recordings would be:


2) a GOOD A/D converter.

Once you have those you'll be able to have tracks good enough to be taken to a real studio for mixing.

With $2,000.00 you'll be able to get those.

Microphones, guitar amps, etc... are a separate issue.

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 11/16/2006 - 23:15
Doing homework?? I guess DIGIT is right. All you recommended to me totaly makes sense. But I guess I need to learn more about the essentials of recording, and the equipment, and how they work. I didn't do my hw before I bought my current recorder. Now I am struggling and trying to understand the logic of quality recording.
I will get a book about recording right away. - I am open to any suggestions-- . I guess it's not going to take time since I have an engineering background. I mean I won't need to find the meaning of each technical term. (So let's say a couple weeks??)
Then I hope I'll know what I really want.
What I do know now is, I want to record crystal clean tracks.
I really appriciated your suggestions. After I am done with my homework I'll be back here. I've already started searching about the gear you wrote to me.
If you have any audio samples recorded with your equipment (not the sophisticated ones- I don't need the thermal sound of an electron!) on the net, that would be spectacular, if you post/send the links.
Thank you all again. - still waiting for the book suggestions..

Member for

16 years

RemyRAD Tue, 11/14/2006 - 01:23
blueapple, first, if this recorder does not sound good and you're getting excessive noise, I can guarantee you, it is operator error. Can't hear the subtleties at 24-bit?? Something's very wrong. 100 plus DB signal to noise ratio on each track and you are talking about noise being unacceptably additive for 3 of 16 channels?? My dear friend, you are running into a busy street with lots of traffic and not looking before you run. Things don't get any simpler than this device. Just "buy a converter" and plug it into what?? High-definition? You've got high-definition with low definition skills. You may have read the manual but you did not understand the manual.

What kind of source are you trying to record??

Your microphone is noisy? Your guitar is noisy? Your samples are crappy? You stuck your finger into an electrical outlet maybe?

I'm sure when you first picked up a musical instrument (if you ever picked up a musical instrument) nobody wanted to hear you play anything because you didn't know how to play anything. You first had to learn how to play something and then you had to learn how to play it well (if you ever learned how to play anything well). You are not ready for prime time my friend.

You must read and do more research. We don't get into a car and start to drive before we learn how. Not wise. So you are like 16? 18? 14? Not to be insulting or anything but you have never picked up a recording magazine much less cracked a book about recording. It's not easy but it is easy. Your noise problems and complaints are probably from not understanding how to properly adjust input gain settings. This is one of the fundamental problems with most folks when they start off.

You have given us no details on what your source inputs of sound are? This information is important to be able to help you. It's like saying, I don't feel good inside. Where? Inside. Where inside? Inside. Which side front or back, left or right? Inside. Um.......?

Recording without any noise? That's a misnomer. Everything has noise, and most everything these days has a noise level so low, it reaches down to the theoretical limits of thermal noise of an electron. Shhhhh you might be able to hear them fall onto the floor if you don't have a carpet? Then your mother will get mad if she finds out.

If you want something simpler? You might want to try to melt some wax on to a toilet paper role tube. Mount that onto a wooden dowel with 2 pieces of wood to support the wax roll. Connect a handle so you can rotate the wax tube. Now all you will need is a psychiatrist to try and interpret my lunatic suggestions. And voilà! You are dancing to the oldies!

Now, what did your father do to you to make this way?
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

15 years

cusebassman Tue, 11/14/2006 - 06:29
Yeah... it sounds like you just need to spend more time working with what you have. You should also shed some light on the equipment you are coupling with the Yamaha multitrack system you have. A friend of mine has one of those units and has produced some wonderful piano and guitar stuff with it, but he is also using decent condenser mics with the thing. Another major source of noise will be the guitar amp, which I have had endless problems with, and it is very much hit or miss.

Seems like Remy is having a sarcastic response day, but I guess you'll get to that point once you've read your 5 millionth post about getting "studio quality sound" from a grand of equipment and no recording experience. You can only expect to get so far depending on how much money and time you are willing to spend (or have spent thus far).

I definitely believe that even with inexpensive equipment, you can get close-to-pro sound if you know what you're doing... I currently use used Tascam digital tape recorders (DA-38s) and a Yamaha MG32, with some inexpensive preamps and some Rode mics, and the sound I am getting has virtually no noise, partly due to the closet I padded and soundproofed. I think I spent, total... *busting out the Windows calculator, one sec*... around 3 thousand dollars on everything when it was all said and done, for the 24-track setup I currently have available, but it sounds great.

Anyway, my recomendation is as follows... first, let us know what else you are using... down to the wire. Mic's, cables, amps, guitars, recording space, everything. This will give a better idea of what might be causing your problem. Now - if you are just setting gain improperly and other things like that, it is just going to take time. The all-in-one package you are using right now should suffice for what you are trying to do, so it may very well be the mics or some other piece of equipment, or it may just be impatience on your part.

Perhaps it would be better to get down the songs you want to record on the equipment you are using now, so you know them down-pat, and then book local studio time and just get the job done by a professional. If you are just recording some multi-part acoustic songs, you could very easily get them recorded pretty quickly in-studio if you know what you are looking for and know the parts very well.

I realize that digital technology has made everyone and their brother believe they can spend some cash on a home studio and crank out a professional album, but we just aren't there yet. However, I won't go on a rant about that... again. Let us know your setup, and we'll go from there!

Member for

16 years 7 months

moonbaby Tue, 11/14/2006 - 06:33
Omigosh! What anger.....and Remy is 100% correct, dude. I take issue with your blaming the tool. I personally know a number of players who use the AW16 ( as well as the AW24 and the Roland units) with very good results. In fact, several of them have been clients who want to track drums in a "real" room and then take the recorder back home to do the rest. I have some issues with the mic pre's, but that is easily remedied.
You need to learn GAIN STAGING, mi amigo. And you probably have crap to monitor it with. Instead of spending more $$ on another toy you won't know how to operate properly, try reading a book or two on the subject...this site has a section for that, and there's also the MIX Bookshelf you can Google. Then, when you have at least a hint of what you are doing, you can get a decent pair of monitors and an external mic preamp...

Member for

17 years 3 months

JoeH Tue, 11/14/2006 - 10:17
Remy, it sounds like you've had enough coffee for today...hehehe..... I do agree, though, that it's amazing how easily folks can mess up a perfectly good recording system, and then blame the tools.

I've been saying for at least 5 years or so now, that there are NO MORE EXCUSES for bad recordings. You cannot blame "digital" and you cannot blame this pre or that pre for any particular sound. Certainly, devices may sound different from one another, but it's all relative; not necessarily better or worse, just different, dependant on the job at hand. One simply has to do their homework, and know what these devices are good for, ahead of time. The quality level of todays gear - even the amatuer, 'pro-sumer' stuff is far superior to what was available to the little guy back in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. It's just silly what's available now, at fairly affordable prices, for anyone who wants to give it a shot.

The things that used to ruin recordings are essentially gone - poor gain stages, bad S/N ratios, wow and flutter, tape shedding, drop outs, etc. (unless you WANT that sort of thing of course). There's really no limit to what talent and creativity can achieve with even a simple bedroom recording system nowadays.

The tools are there, but GIGO still applies: garbage in, garbage out. (I'm not attacking the original poster here...this applies to ALL of us). Whether you're printing to an analog 24 track (and there are still a few out there) or going DI into a killer HD rig, you still have to know your stuff. The signal chain is still the key: Talent, instrument, arrangement, composition, room, mic, pre's, mixer, software, mastering, storage. (Ok, some of these may not be in your own personal order of importance, but hopefully you catch my drift....)

Keep reading those manuals, making mistakes, and trying it again and again till you're happy with it, Blueapple. I think you'll find when you look back on this someday, you're just at the start of a great journey. 8-)

Member for

15 years 2 months

natural Tue, 11/14/2006 - 13:44
Time to do a little trouble shooting.
To ck the noise of your recorder:
1- remove all input sources. (remove mics, DI's, CD player etc)
2- remove all on board FX (eq, reverb, echo etc)
3-Put several tracks into record and hit record for about 30 sec to record nothing.
4- Play it back. (again make sure that fx have been removed)
5- How much noise is registering on the meters?

If more than 1 bar shows on the LED meter, then there is [A] something wrong with your unit. or something is still plugged in or inserted incorrectly.

If less then 1 bar, then any additional noise that you hear later is the result of something you are adding externally (bad mic, cable, amp, fx)

Always start with the simplest connection setup and expand from there when trouble shooting.