A Dream Come True!

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by Mark Birkett, Feb 8, 2017.

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  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

  1. Mark Birkett

    Mark Birkett Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Location:
    Rochdale, England
    Dear All,

    Newbie here... so please be nice! I'm hoping for some expert advice from all those who have "been there" and "got the t-shirt" that says, "I've spent FAR too much money on studio kit over the years .... and see no bloody reason to change my habits now"...

    OK, my current gear first...I have:

    2 x ageing ADAT blackface machines
    1 x Allen and Heath GS3 mix console
    Pair of 1029a Genelec monitors with sub-woofer.

    There's also a:

    TC Electronics Finalizer Express
    Behringer Composer compressor / limiter
    Alesis Quadraverb Plus
    Lexicon MPX 110

    ...in the outboard rack. And finally, I have a Quadrasynth+Piano from Alesis. Not that much of a studio I'll grant you, but I've made some reasonably nice noises with it all over the years. My main problem is with the ADATs for reliability - and with the GS3 for its crap EQ...

    As anyone who's ever had one knows, the ADATs were lovely in theory but an utter fecking nightmare in the real world. I've lost count of the tapes I've seen chewed over the years and had to 'rescue' somehow. One of them is reliable only for copying tapes, the other is at least behaving itself for now, so it's not as if I can't record stuff altogether. They have great A/D converters, the advantage of cheap storage media and of course the ADAT lightpipe I/O. I'm also familiar with them. But that's about it.

    The GS3 desk has been great for general routing of stuff here there and everywhere... and it has 16 channels in, 8 out plus your left/right stereo, and lots more input routing available if you push it hard enough. It's also got ALT monitoring and balanced wiring where it's mst needed. But the channel strip EQ really is utterly crap. I yearn for something like the NEVE sound... ooof...just once.... please!

    So...my half-baked plan is to get out of ADATs, and away from the crappy A&H EQ, bypass HD recorders altogether and head for the world of the DAW.

    The good news? Well, I'm about to come into £5,000 that wasn't at all expected. A dream come true...and I intend to blow the lot on making the switch! Unfortunately, I have next-to-zero 'hands-on' experience of either tracking or editing on a DAW computer screen. I don't really understand how much of a challenge 'latency' might be. And have no real sense of how much DSP is required to emulate my current 16-track digital set up with outboard FX. I have used PCs all my life so know little about Apple Macs. And the concept of audio interfaces and a computer screen taking over from physical knobs I can twiddle is to say the least daunting. I have checked out the Apollo 8p, the UAD plug ins, glanced at Pro Tools 12 and have examined at some length the DELL Inspiron i7 laptop... all of which appears to constitute 'The Answer'. But is it?

    1. Is the DELL laptop good enough for the Pro Tools 12 / UAD / Apollo 8p set up?

    2. Are the UAD plug ins really THAT good?

    3. Will I / should I chuck out my ADATs out?

    4. Should I take my GS3 mixing desk to the local tip?

    5. Will I regret chucking the ADATS and GS3 out, or should I keep some / all of it?

    6. What other banana skins should I look out for?

    7. Can a solution to all my issues be found for £5,000?

    (BTW... I usually record by myself, but want to be able to record my band playing live in the future... drums, bass, one guitar and a singer. Mostly rock music - a la Pink Floyd meets Led Zep meets Dylan (esp the "Oh Mercy" album sound) meets the Beatles)

    Help!

    ;-)

    Mark,

    Manchester
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Location:
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
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    I'm assuming it's an I7 ? Which is a great CPU.
    The product description mentions 16 gig of RAM loaded, so you should be good to go, depending on how much VSTi usage you plan on.
    I'm personally not a fan of laptops, only because expanding them is far more difficult than desktop models are... but if the LT is giving you what you need in terms of connectivity options, then they are certainly more convenient because of their mobility.

    IMO, not really any better than other current 3rd party plug manufacturers like Waves, Slate, Softube or IK. It's really going to depend on whom you talk to. I think, like their competitors, that they do some things that are better than others; and I think you'll find this to be true for all the major players. The thing about UAD is that they are native to an external device, and they don't reside on your computer, but instead have their own DSP engine, so it taxes your CPU less than the others that are resident on our computer. As far as sound quality? Yeah. I think they are good, and that they do a couple things better than other companies... but then again, they don't do quite as well on some other things as other plug makers.
    What DAW platform are you using? You may find that the stock plugs that come with your program are plenty good for what you are doing. Pro Tools, S1, Samplitude, Sonar, etc., all have stock audio processors that sound really good... so don't automatically think that you need to go with a dedicated plug manufacturer to achieve what you want.

    If they are operational, you should keep them. The first reason is that you may find another nitch to your business income by being able to transfer old ADAT masters to digital for people that still have the tapes lyong around. The second reason is that you won't get much money for them on the used market. Now, if they require any sort of repair, if it were me, I wouldn't put any money into them. It would very likely cost you more to have them fixed than it would to buy another used model online to replace it.

    The GS3 was one of those desks that had about a 50-50 pro/con opinion percentage from people who used them. I've heard them referred to as "classic British analog sound", while others have said that they are flat and lifeless... so you'll need to determine how much you'll be using it on your front end - (the stage before the sound hits the AD converter in your audio interface). I've mixed on quite a few A&H desks over the years, but I never used the GS3. Personally, I've always liked the A&H sound, and I always liked the EQ on their desks, too. So it kinda surprises me when I hear someone say that they don't like the GS3 EQ, because usually, the EQ section ( and the preamps) is what makes A&H usually desirable.

    It really all depends on you Mark, and what you see yourself doing in the future. Again, this gear isn't commanding much on the used market these days. I've seen A&H consoles that used to be worth pretty big money going for pennies on the dollar these days.
    So, if you do decide to sell it, don't expect to get much for it.

    Well, that's tough to say - if you are asking whether you can get a really good computer, a multi channel audio interface, and a decent mic pre (which also may or may not reside in the interface device) then the answer is yeas... probably.
    But like anything else, pal... you're gonna get what you pay for.

    I can't see where you couldn't make this happen for your budget... although we habven't talked about mics - which you own, or have access to - because these are a pretty crucial part of your gain chain and ultimate sound.

    Can you give us some details about what you currently have in mics? List all of them... don't leave models out just because they are dynamic models... it would be helpful to know which condensers, ribbons and dynamic mics you either own or have access to through your band mates...

    :)
    -donny
     
  3. Mark Birkett

    Mark Birkett Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Location:
    Rochdale, England
     
  4. Mark Birkett

    Mark Birkett Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Location:
    Rochdale, England
    Donny

    Thanks SOOO much for your considered replies. That's just the sort of advice I was hoping to lean on!

    Re: Mics...

    1 x Stagg MCO 5BK
    1 x Sennheiser 421
    2 x Audio Technica MB3000L
    1 x AKG C1000

    That's it.

    (I used to have a few Shure SM58s but they have long since disappeared to the same place all my guitar picks go...)

    Re: UAD and Apollo 8p

    The thing that's mystifying me most is whether the Apollo interface (for £2.4K) is worth so much more than (say) a more bog-standard interface (for £300-500)? Is it purely the fact that it supports external sounds / effects? In short, with no Apollo is the only REAL downside the loss of external plug ins?

    ;-)
     
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Location:
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
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    The UAD line of pre's and interfaces are quite popular. I've never used one for more than an hour or so at a stretch - when I occasionally run into one while doing the odd home studio consultation gig - so I'm not the one to ask, but I can tell you that several engineer friends of mine who live in various parts of the country are quite happy with the Apollo line of i-o/preamps. From what I've been told, the direct sound of these various ASpollo models offer clarity, and are fairly "flat" in their initial conversion, which a lot of cats prefer. Many respected engineers say that they prefer the "transparency" of the Apollo's - while others say that they prefer a certain character that is more indigenous to XFO and Tube- based pre's. Even here on RO, the preferred workflow in regard to "transparency" or "color" differs quite a bit.

    The thing about the most recent UAD devices, is that they do have 'character" options. You can either track straight through their p[re's and converters, or you can use what they offer on these later models , which is known as the "unison" feature - which means that you can track through the various sims and emulations of things like Neve preamps, LA2 and 1176 compressors, get the color you like, and then actually print that signal if you wish, with a claimed zero ms latency ( meaning none).

    They aren't the only company that offers this, though. For example, Slate Digital has their own virtual 500 Series "rack" of pre, EQ, and compressor sims that can also be tracked through to achieve certain color, and with the same claim to zero latency - although I'm sure that your computer's specs play a part to some degree... meaning that if you are using something like an older dual core Athlon or something similar, with 4 gig of RAM, that this is probably not achievable, and wouldn't meet the requirements set by the company to obtain this zero-latency.
    Though, with the newer Thunderbolt connectivity, it does offer far more chances of this being true.
    Because UAD has it's own DSP engine - residing in the interface itself - that this is entirely possible.

    Now, as to the question of whether or not it's "worth" the prices they are commanding -that's a tough question to answer, Mark. If you polled 10 different engineers, you're likely to get 20 different answers -LOL.


    I'm not familiar with the Stagg or the AT MB3000L. 421's are industry standard dynamic mics, great for miking drums, guitar amps, horns, even vocals. They are a very nice dynamic microphone.
    The AKG C1000 is, as far as I'm concerned, a pretty poor sounding mic. I thought that AKG really dropped the ball on this when they released it. As small diaphragm condensers go, I found it to be harsh, "glassy" sounding. It lacked the "silky" top end that most good SD condensers are known for. There are better SD's out there, and for not all that much more money than the C1000's cost.
    From reading your list - if it were me - I'd be looking to add a nice LD condenser with a variety of switchable polar patterns ( cardioid, omni, Fig 8).

    And I would definitely pick up half a dozen 57/58's. Whether you can collect yours back, or have to buy replacements, you're gonna find that these will come in very handy for a large variety of recording applications; guitar amps, drums, and yes, even vocals. Both of these Shure mics are tried and true. They are built to last forever, and they sound great.

    I would also consider adding one very nice Ribbon mic, something like a Royer 121. It would also have a great many uses; I love them used in combination with a 421 or 57 on guitar amps. They make great room mics for drums ( or for guitar amps), and they have a very distinctive "creamy" sound for vocals. They are not hyped in the top end like so many condensers are, and in fact tend to roll-off pretty quickly above 12 to 14 k or so. Ribbon mics do require a beefy amount of gain, though.. so whatever preamp you plan on using, you'll want one that offers at least 65db of gain ( preferably 70 or better). You could also buy an inline amplifier for boosting your preamp's gain if it happens to fall a little shy. Cathedral Pipes and Cloudlifter are two models that come to mind; each works by tapping into the 48v phantom power of your pre/i-o, and converts that voltage to an additional 20 db of usable gain. These are also very useful when dealing with some dynamic mics, too. The Shure SM7 is another industry standard mic, but like ribbon mics, it also requires quite a bit of gain to run optimally.

    Anyway, I think you've been given a lot of stuff to think about here. Maybe you should ask others here, I'm certainly not the only one you should talk to - there are some pretty seriously bad-ass engineers here on RO.

    ;)
    -donny
     
  6. Mark Birkett

    Mark Birkett Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Location:
    Rochdale, England
     
  7. Mark Birkett

    Mark Birkett Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Location:
    Rochdale, England
    Donny,

    Wow. Yes, that IS all a lot to think about!

    Funny you should mention the AKG C-1000. I recall when buying it being a little disappointed. But it was only about £150 / $250 or so. Maybe you get what you pay for? What I have found is that it's useful when recording my acoustic six string. I use the Stagg to get the main body sound but the C-1000 for the 'details' further up the neck. It seems to be a nice combination.

    Never even tried a ribbon mic so will look at that.

    Meantime, once again, many thanks for spending time answering me Donny. Much appreciated.

    I'll keep an eye out for any further replies, and of course try to digest the advice you've already offered.

    Cheers!

    Mark

    Manchester, England
     
  8. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Boulder, Colorado
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    Keep that C1000s. It's an odd mic that doesn't work on a lot of stuff, but that makes it work on some odd stuff other mics don't.

    You won't regret going to a DAW. More likely you'll be kicking yourself for not doing it sooner.

    If the A&H console is working you could use that as the front end. It gives you a bunch of decent preamps plus lots of routing for cue mixes etc. Used with an 8- or 16-input interface it would make tracking a band pretty simple, especially if you already know your way around the console. I made the transition from Tascam DA-38s to DAW but kept the M-2600 Mk II console and connected it to a MOTU interface system. I track through the console but mix in the computer ("in the box" or ITB).

    The UAD interfaces are great. A partner of mine has the Apollo 16 in his studio. The plugins are generally very good and the external processing does lighten the load on the computer, which might be especially beneficial for a laptop. He has a rack of preamps feeding the Apollo's 16 line inputs, and we use the Console (a virtual mixer) for cue mixes. It did take us a while to get the hang of everything, and I still have to remember how to do things if I don't work in his room for a while, but it accommodates just about every recording need.
     
  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2006
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    UK
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    The GS3 was a good console, but a bit of an oddity in that it was designed specifically to work when multitracking with tape machines. It has -10dBV unbalanced external line operating levels, but 0dBu levels on the auxes and inserts. Although very flexible in its routing, it is not, in my judgement, a particularly good fit with a DAW system. Nevertheless, the pre-amps are pretty good-sounding (like most A+H pre-amps above their basic range), and, with appropriate wiring, it certainly could be made to serve as a front-end to the line-level inputs of an audio interface to a DAW, and would postpone the need to spend money on large numbers of external pre-amps.

    I agree with Donny about the tape ADATs - keep the working one around for transferring your old tapes to more modern forms of storage, but avoid making them part of your workflow for new projects.

    You've also had some great advice about microphones, and it's difficult to add much more to that without further information about the type of performers you will be recording and the environment you will record in. Do I gather from what you said earlier that when you aim to capture your band, you will all be playing live under studio conditions or is it as a live performance in an auditorium?

    When it comes to audio interfaces, you could either go for a multi-channel line-input unit such as a UA or a Prism, or a full-function interface that has some pre-amps together with ADAT inputs to receive the output of external pre-amps with converters. Going the latter route would allow you to vary the character (colour) of your set of pre-amps to suit different instruments and microphones.
     
  10. RecoCham

    RecoCham RecoCham Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2017
    Location:
    UAE
    I see some great advises. In a way this is the best way to decide quickly and get going. However, when I set up my recording studio- rather small one - f0r my video production, I went for the best. That does not mean I went for the best of the available gears and software. I had Pro Tools running on basic gear which produced equal of better audio for my videos compared to my competition. My thinking is that you always match your requirement vs features you are buying.
     

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