A tiny recording setup and needing help!!!!

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by solis88, Feb 3, 2005.

  1. solis88

    solis88 Active Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Hi I've been wanting to record a decent little CD but I just can't get the right adjustments nor knowledge on how to use the equipment that I have. I have a very meager and small studio but I'd sure like to know how the get the best out of it. I use a Boss BR-8 8 track digital recording studio, a Shure KSM-32 condenser mic, a shure sm-94 condenser mic, Edirol MA-10D Powered studio monitors, and of course phantom power for the mics. I was thinking of buying a DBX 166 compressor/limiter for the vocals since I seem to get distorted when recording at a louder volume (although the BR-8 studio has a compressor but probably not the best). Also, maybe buying an Aphex 204 exciter but I don't see why if my setup doesn't even allow it.
    Does anyone have any suggestions on equipment I should buy especially a tutorial online on how to use it? Or is what I have now good enough? I've been wanting those Roland 24 track workstations, but I hear that recording onto a computer is better????
    Well my main question is how I can record a good sounding recording with the equipment that I have? I'm a mariachi musician and I use the acoustic bass, tenor guitar, trumpet, violin and vocals. I've always been a huge fan of Javier Solis and the recordings that he has made. Here is a sample of his work from Amazon.com:
    Can anyone tell by listening to that if he used compressors, exciters, or any equipment that I don't have? I'd sure love to get that quality of recording if I only knew what to use. Any help would be great it seems that this forum maybe have the answers I've been looking for for 2 years!! Thanks in advance.

  2. solis88

    solis88 Active Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    Los Angeles

    Anyone at all??? Oh and with the link above, the song is called *Recuerdos de Ipacarai* That's a great song I really like the quality of sound engineering done on it. Not too much over the top with super clear effects or plugins, not poor either like a ham or am radio. I hope someone can help me I'm having a crappy time trying to figure out how to finish my recordings. Thanks
  3. artgug

    artgug Guest

    If your looking for more eqipment that might help, try looking at some pre-amps, maybe focusrite or Presonus. You can get several decent ones for under 1K.

    As for getting a good recording out of what you got, as long as you know what you are doing, you will be fine. Its not always in the equipment, its in your ears and your know-how.

    You can put a great producer or songwriter, and he can make a masterpiece with your equipment, then you can dump and amatuer into a 120 track Pro Tools studio, and he will probably record a piece of $@%!.

    Dont forget, the Beatles recorded Sgt Pepper on a 4-track. Not quite sure how, but its probably the songwriting.
  4. solis88

    solis88 Active Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    Los Angeles
    A preamp is something I would need? I'll look into that. Where should I go to learn more? I'd really like to get the most out of what I have.....but how? Should I study that AudioPro home recording course? http://musicbooksplus.com/product_info.php/products_id/1400?osCsid=6ac43b1b72f93636d0e8c42f3a15def7

    It seems good but I'm not sure if recording is something I could study at home like this. I'm really interested in learning more but I just need to be pointed in the right direction. I tell ya that Javier Solis song is just great. Do I need anything else to produce a better recording? Thanks.
  5. artgug

    artgug Guest

    ok, well i listened to some of the Javier Solis songs you are referring too, and unfortunately, unless your voice is as good as his, you are not going to sound like that. Other than a nice microphone, probably a very nice pre-amp/compressor, and a spectacular voice, they didnt use anything special to record that.

    The preamp and mic they used does not make him sing like that, they only help to even out the recording, giving it a little "life", then let the talent take over.

    Not sure what level your coming from. Do you have any formal training in recording, are you self taught, or are you a complete newbie?

    I went to school for audio production for 2 years, and am still light years behind some of these guys. Its practice, listen, practice, listen, study, and maybe read some books. Understand the theory's, as there are no rules. understand what each tool does, then use your ear to integrate them. A compressor is probably the most needed piece of outboard gear to start making your recordings more "professional", as it keeps the audio level even. Just dont overdo it, its really not an effect.

    "recording and Producing in the Home Studio" by David Franz is a great book for beginners/intermediate.

    Check out the Focusrite Voicemaster, it has a compressor built intot the preamp, and is geared towards vocals.

    Goto Sweetwater.com, look up Focusrite, and there you will find plenty of preamps ranging from 500 to 5000 dollars.

    Also, as for your Boss-8 track, its a great way to learn, but sometimes a computer based system is better for learning, because its more visual. you can edit on the monitor, as opposed to a little LCD screen of a Boss multitrack. Plus, the computer is generally only limited in number of tracks by your computers power. And with today's newer pc's or macs, it is quite a bit. (32 tracks is a minimum you be able to get, probably more, depending on your software package.)
  6. solis88

    solis88 Active Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Thanks artgug! All this information was really helpful. I'm actually self teaching myself the whole recording deal. I'm looking to take some classes at my local college but they use pro tools and computers instead of standalone workstations which is what I usually lean towards. So really I'm just a newbie just trying to soak up as much info as I can.

    I looked into the focusrite and it looks like something I would buy especially if it would really help my vocal recordings. It's true, I don't use a compressor and the vocals get horribly distorted....I give them no threshold so anything I sing above 0 db will more than likely distort soon thereafter. I actually was thinking of getting a DBX 166 compressor/limiter but now since you mentioned the focusrite preamp with built in compressor......which is the better buy?

    Ok here's the dumb question *well not really since no question is ever stupid if it's sincere*: What is a preamp for? I mean, I use phantom power for my condenser mic but a preamp I've read is also used in ADDITION to the phantom power. What does it do?

    Everything is coming more together and clearer for me. I record in the bedroom with no sound proofing at all.....is that an important factor when recording? I guess I could dampen the natural echo in the room with covers and what-not since I doubt I could put that studio foam on the walls. Nobody has ever mention if it's important to have a room that absorbs sound instead of bounce it back. Is it?

    .....So is it the DBX 166 or the focusrite? and why a preamp? Apparently if it gives the recording more *life* to it, which is exactly how I described what I needed from my recordings, it must be a useful tool. Thanks a lot for the help I really appreciate it. I'm gonna have to send you a copy of my cd when it's done....it's a 2 man band kind of a thing and it's going really good.....except for those damn vocals haha.....
  7. artgug

    artgug Guest

    A preamp is essentially one strip of a really nice mixer. Mixers all have multiple strips, with built in preamps, but they are not as high quality as a true preamp. When you buy a focusrite, or the equivalent, you are buying one strip of a mixer, taylored to improving the sound and boost it to a proper recording level, such as a mic, line instrument, or whatever. Plus they generally have compressors on them to further insure you are recording the best possible signal from step one.

    As for the class you mentioned, the same theories apply whether its Pro tools, or a boss. Dont take a class for "press this button, press that button", take a class for "What does a compressor do?, How do i properly record a bass ? How do i ensure good vocal recordings", etc etc

    Although it would be nice for the DBX AND the preamp, if you have to go for one or the other, get the preamp. (eventually get a stand alone dual channel compressor also)

    BTW, where are you located ? I am in NJ.
  8. BitBurn

    BitBurn Guest

    phantom power is for providing power to the microphones... instead of batteries or a wall wart that might cause hum, it pulls its power through the cable from whatever the cable is plugged into... a preamp is something entirely different. a pre just boosts microphones up to the proper signal strength, but it also imparts some "color" or "dimension" while its at it that kinda gives it the "gloss" you hear on professional recordings...

    I kinda only skimmed through the first post, but are you recording your instruments direct? or are you using Mics? because if you are micing up instruments, than getting a good sounding room (not just a dead sounding room, mind you) is important... but recording direct is just straight signal, no open air in between, if you see what I'm saying...

    hope I helped out

    haha, he beat me to it...
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    OK a couple of things ..

    I don't think that the Boss has provisions to use an external pre amp with it .. Unless there's inserts on the channel strips.

    My opinion of the mid level Focusrite and PreSonus pres differs from some other peoples .. I don't feel they are significant improvment to warrent the added costs when compared overall to everything else ...

    That is to say I do not believe you would get a better recording only by using them and doing everything else the same ...

    The use of some compression on the inputs will keep the dynamics in check and prevent clipping so in that respect you might gain some ground but the pres in those things (Focusrite & PreSonus) really aren't any better than a Mackie IMO.
  10. solis88

    solis88 Active Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    Los Angeles

    Alright thank you all for the replies.

    Artgug I'm in Los Angeles here. Lots of work for musicians, especially mariachi musicians like myself. I'm thinking of getting the preamp and the dbx dual channel compressor. Maybe not the focusrite but a preamp standalone without the compressor (maybe cheaper?)

    Bitburn: Ya I'm recording through a microphone as I play trumpet and acoustic bass/guitar and violins. I'm wondering what's the best way to make a bedroom a bit more acoustically pleasing to a recording without spending lots of money on improvements? That *color* you're talking about is what I've been observing while listening to past pro recordings. I've wondered about how that came about.......now I know it's probably a preamp and compressor among other basic things.

    Kurt: You know I'm not sure if the BR 8 allows for a preamp or even the dbx 166 XL compressor. On the back of my BR-8 I have a Midi Out socket, a digital out socket, a Foot Sw socket, a EXP pedal socket, a headphone socket, a red and white RCA Line out, a red and white RCA Line in, a Mic 1 (vocal) socket, a mic 2 socket, and a guitar/bass socket. If I bought the DBX 166 XL compressor would I be able to connect it? Is the DBX even good enough as a compressor/limiter??? Also, what preamp do you recommend in addition to the compressor? Something less than 1000 dollars is what I can afford. Also something that may work with my BR-8. This is pretty tough since compatibility is an issue. Will the compressor and preamp make a difference to my recordings instead of just using a preamp with no compressor?

    What are your AIM screennames? If any....

    I'm really looking for that *color* and dimension that Bit burn mentioned for my vocals....

    Last big question: I enjoy working with standalone workstations instead of a computer. Can I still produce a good recording on say a Roland VS-2480CD 24 track workstation than on a computer? Is that Roland a better buy for the future?

    Thanks again for all the help
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I does not sound from your discription like there is any way to use external mic pres and compressors with your Boss ... the Roland has the same problems as does the KORG D1600 anda lot of the all in one porta studios. Look for one that has inserts on the XLR inputs ... the AKAI has this as does some of the others ... look at the Yamaha too. You can bypass the mic pres by plugging into the insert returns.

    The DBX is as good as any other inexpensive comps ... there are some comps in the mid price range that are actually fairly decent .. the RNC from FMR comes to mind.

    But mic pres are a different thing ... The absolute least expensive mic pres that IMO are really any good are (here we go again, everybody join in) the Sebatrons! They make a very nice single channel pre for under $1000 ... take a look at the website http://www.sebaron.com and check out the "THORAX". It's a channel strip, with mic pre, eq and compressor all in one ... I should be getting one for review soon (I hope).

    I don't have an AOL instant messnger screen name ... I do all my talk here where it can be archived and of available to others in the future. But I am more than glad to answer all your questions if I can.
  12. artgug

    artgug Guest

    I hope the product is better than the website, as of 7:30 am EST, the website is down. (sebaron.com)

    Are they a new company, I am totally unfamiliar with their stuff, and searches on google, and at Sweetwater, Sam Ash, Manny's, and Musicians friend bring up nothing.

    Very interested in checking them out, just cant find it.

  13. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Jan 10, 2005
    Near Clagary
    Home Page:
    Hi dudes, (and dudettes where applicable)

    Mine is a non expert opinion, but looking at this, a few things strike me.

    I mean no disrespect, but we always have to ask the right question. The question isn't: "What GEAR should I buy to sound good?" The question is: "What do I have to DO to sound good?" There's a subtle but real difference.

    It seems to me, in my reading here, and my own recording experiences, that to get a great recording, there is a heirarchy of important things to be done. Number one has to be figured out first, before we allow ourselves to address number two, and so on.

    This is my heirarchy of issues to address on the road to a great recording:

    1-A great song

    Only after you have that, can you move to number 2

    2-Great musicians

    Once you have that, go to number 3

    3-A great room. You said you record in an untreated bedroom, and I'd bet that has more to do with the quality of your recordings than your gear. I know this isn't popular, because investing time and money in room acoustics just isn't sexy, but it's a HUGE factor in the recording.

    Once your room is 'to die for,' go to 4

    4-a great recording engineer, even if it's you.

    Practice, practice, practice, fiddle, experiment, record every chance you get. Learn your craft. Gear is NEVER a substitue for a keen ear.

    Notice we're most of the way through the list, and we haven't even addressed things that plug in to a wall, that's because I believe if we're at this point, we're 95% of the way there.

    5-a decent compressor

    If you held a gun to my head and asked me to choose one piece of gear, this is it.

    I think if you have all these in place, and each one figured out BEFORE you move on to the next, you could record the thing on a 20 year old 4 track cassette with a $150 mic, with no other outboard gear and, and you could get something that people would want to slide into their CD player. That's because if you have a great song, done by great musicians, in a great room, with great technique, and proper compression, how could you NOT have a great recording?

    6-a great pre-amp

    The cherry on top, and the extra 5% to a really great recording.

    Now that your first CD has made you rich, you can invest in U87's, $5K pre-amps, and other sexy gear that makes us all drool...

    If you've ever seen my other posts, my own questions are quite naive too, so take my opinions for what they are worth.

    I'll be interested to hear what those in the know have to say.

  14. artgug

    artgug Guest

    I think you just emphasized what I had been saying, with the talent level of the performers, and the knowledge of the engineer being formost.

    Also, i did suggest the compressor and its importance, although those on a limited budget can get a preamp with some compression abilities, although no a substitute for a great compressor, its a start.
  15. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    Hi all
    http://www.sebaron.com is, in fact a lousy company!!! :D

    However -- http://www.sebatron.com is a great company and has a forum on this very sight.

    Before you buy anything -- do a bunch of browsing and searching on this site you'll understand why after you start reading the recommendations.

    In particular check out the "Before you buy" , "importance of great monitors" "KF mic recommendations" the acoustics forum, etc....
    You waited two years, a few more weeks won't hurt and may save you plenty of time and money later.

    You also may want to spend the money on taking a track or two to a professional studio w/ the recording you like and see how a pro does it. Ask questions and take notes - then you can make a better decision.

  16. solis88

    solis88 Active Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Great thanks for all the input! Well it seems like a good compressor and preamp is what is favoured after good technique and good musicians. My playing technique I feel is good enough to make people want to listen again.....but my recording skills suck.

    If the all in one porta studios usually have the compatibility problem, what's the best way to be able to use all those preamps, compressors, exciters etc.....???? I mean, I always thought that those Roland workstations and Boss workstations were all you needed and that ALL recording systems came like that. Now I'm beginning to suspect that that's why mixers are involved SEPERATE from the recording medium. What kind of hardware should I buy to record and use all these other devices like a preamp, compressor etc...?? I use the Boss BR 8 and it has an onboard mixer.....I figure it's a good start, but if I were to invest money on a decent recording setup, would a workstation be the way to go? Or is the harddisk recorder, seperate mixer, and other devices a better way? I'm thinking of taking my recording to a studio and see what they have to say. My mic is pretty decent but that's about the best equipment I have that makes up my set. Before spending more money, should I change my recording setup from an all in one portastudio to a piece by piece recording studio??? It's something that' I'd be willing to do in it's time.

    I was thinking about the room acoustics......what can I do for a bedroom to make it more useful when I'm doing my recordings? Thanks a lot.....that sebatron looks great.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Porta studios are primarily intended as a starting point for people just getting into recording or as a remote recording solution. All the tools needed are included ... there are compressors and effects built in so there is no provision for the use of out board gear for the most part. The higher end porta studios like the AKAI will allow for the use of outboard pres and comps as well as effects.

    I doubt that most experienced recordists would be very content with the restrictions imposed with these porta studio products. Your quandary is a perfect example ... people usually outgrow those things pretty quickly .

    With a computer based DAW, you need to have pre amps, compressors, EQ's (all considered front end) which are patched in prior to the converters.

    When analog ruled, mic pres used were usually found in the mixing console ... and the consoles used were of sufficient quality not to necessitate the use of outboard pres. Not to say that outboard pres weren't used, they just weren't as critical as they are with DAWs. Now days we need pres as a front end for the DAW because most of us are using either inexpensive boards to only monitor with in which the pres pretty much suck or no mixer at all.

    So if you are interested in using better pres and compressors, you need to either get into a porta studio that has inserts on the mic pres, get a stand alone recorder and mixer combination or move into a DAW rig.
  18. solis88

    solis88 Active Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Hey Kurt thanks for that answer. That's really what I was looking for. I have a few musicians that have ridiculously developed voices *for the practice they still do* My uncle being one of them. He's one of those hidden Pavarotti voices working as a truck driver.....pisses me off I wish I had his voice. So the talent is there, but the equipment and knowledge is just inching up.

    You mentioned a stand alone recorder and mixer. What do you recommend to start out? (If you go back there's a link to a song by Javier Solis called Recuerdos de Ipacarai) They obviously didn't use computers since that recording was made in 1961.....I don't want any kind of contemporary sound because I'd be perfectly happy with something like what Javier Solis used to record. Since he didn't use any computers and worked with analog, I know that if I don't use a computer based DAW I could still achieve a good sounding recording. For some reason I'm not really into using a computer to record. Some say it's cheaper and (better) but I'd much rather prefer using hardware and devices instead of software to record into. The only reason I'd want to use a computer is to transfer a finished Mix and recording for possibly mastering if anything and eventually to burn a CD but that's about it.

    Any products that will start me on my way towards that direction? Thanks a lot I hope this post will also help other people that are interested in hardware based recordings and not computer based.

    BTW what does DAW stand for? I see it thrown around a lot and I can't find the answer in the forums.
  19. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2002
  20. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    DAW = Digital Audio Workstation

    The thing is to achieve the kind of quality you want you would need an analog recorder and a high end mixing desk.

    Most likely the recordings you refer to were done with a few mics set up in a Decca Tree array recorded to 3 or 4 tracks (at best ... they may have been tracked to 2 track or even a mono tape machine. But it was probably a very good tape machine like a Studer, 3M or an AMPEX and the pres were probably UA pres or Telefunkins. (this is a conjecture based on what was commonly used in the early 60's)

    Back to the present.

    As a stand alone recorder IMO digital is the way to go ... these would include the RADAR and Mackie or more on a budget the Alesis machine... but herein lies the rub ..

    A good board is going to be very expensive ... and hard to find. Maintenance and a place to accommodate it will be an issue.

    The solution most of us have come up with is DAWs ... no mixer, no huge rooms to house a lot of gear ... it's all in the box... a few good pres and mics and you're off to the races.

    Of course, it's not going to have that old time analog sound or feel ... but its a new day and a new world. We can't live in the past no matter how good the memories are.
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