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Rigging Serious Songwriter Demo Studio

Member for

21 years 3 months
I'm a songwriter and musician looking to simplify my current setup--I need to make radio/demo-quality recordings: vocal, guitar certainly; but it would be nice to have the room to add more. Want it portable. Really I want the ease and simplicity of pushing the rec/play buttons on a handheld cassette recorder at my kitchen table.

Currently, I use a Digidesign Digi 002, Pro Tools LE 6.2.2, a Glyph Technology 40-GB external firewire drive, a Sony CDR-W33, an Audio Technology and Research Dual MP two-channel mic pre, a Marantz CDR300 portable recorder, and a PowerMac G4 dual processor 867-Mhz computer with 2 GB of RAM.

My thinking keeps coming to a PowerBook 15.2-inch, 1.25 GHz, max'd out with 2 GB of RAM and an Mbox, an FMR Audio 8380 Really Nice Preamp, Mackie HR824 active monitors, and maybe a Mackie 1402-VLZ compact mixer to have even more XLR input than I would get with the addition of the FMR RNP.

This is sort of the project studio equivalent of "layering" for foul, cold weather--you know, where you can remove or add items of clothing as you need to. I want the basic setup to record demo/radio quality when I sit down to write, yet if I want to take the song farther, well, I can.

Here's the hang-up, maybe: USB vs firewire. Should I be hung up, given my limited-yet-expandable needs? I really do want Pro Tools portability as the de facto industry standard. That said, well, damn the Mackie Spike with Tracktion looks interesting. M-Audio's 410 and MOTU and Metric Halo all have firewire units, and the Metric Halo unit gets such fine, high-end remarks.

If one of you, with professional-quality demo needs (including recording industry portability) were designing a flexible system for a musician and songwriter who is not spooked by technology, and that system was to be built off a Mac PowerBook platform, what would it look like?

Or do I need to build a recording rig for songwriters and musicians--it's interesting: as fine as the hardware and software is that exists, there still seems to be a hole in the market where high-end, industry-standard quality meets "rec/play" button ease of use.

Many thanks for any experience your can share and guidance you can give



Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Mon, 01/12/2004 - 20:44
Hi Pete

I'm not as experienced as many folks arond here. But you should probably check out the following items for portability:

- MOTU 896 HD (instead of the Mackie) you get 8 mic preamps, 192kHz analog I/O; a flexible DSP-driven 18-input/8-bus mixing and monitoring matrix that eliminates the need for an external mixer or patchbay.

- Apogee Mini-Me: 2 mic preamps, and DI; soft limit-compressor, Apogee A/D converter and USB interface. Plus works with battery (will run on AC or DC from 6 to 16 volts)

I hope this helps, Good luck!

Member for

20 years 9 months

AudioGaff Tue, 01/13/2004 - 04:56
Standalone all-in-one units are portable, flexable, solid in reliability and can provide acceptable results. They do however have their weakness in the mic pre's and having to deal with small screens, pages of menus, short faders, lack of full time metering and many other little quirks.

The PC route has many advantages but your stuck mixing with a mouse. If you can't deal with the mouse, and I sure can't, then you need to add/interface either a control surface or a real mixer so that complicates things. And if you want to get a decent control surface you might as well pony up and get a real mixer, analog or digital, so that you get all of the other features, flexability and interface options.

I would skip USB. All the better quality gear is using Firewire and it is also a more matured technology for pro use.

It seems to me that a lot of your decision depends on how much editing and processing you expect to have or need to do. I would suggest you do what I have already done and have the ultimate in flexability by having a remote setup for recording/monitoring as well as quick and dirty on site mixing, then take that back to the home studio for more serious editing and processing.

For the smallest portable setup, A laptop with a hi-end firewire multi-input interface should work just fine. I would likely add on a great mic pre and comp or some sort of channel strip with great converters or adding separate converters but you could get acceptable results with just the firewire interface.