basic recording equipment

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Iantheconway, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. Iantheconway

    Iantheconway Active Member

    Mar 9, 2013
    San Francisco
    I'm working on my home studio right now, and I was hoping to get some input on what the "Must Have" items are in your opinions. I have a Tascam Us-1800 (16 by 4) interface for A to D, Pro Tools 10, various Mics ( one large diaphragm dynamics, several small diaphragm dynamic, and a small diaphragm condenser) mic stands, cables, amps, guitars,a PA, a drum kit, stuff like that. These are mostly things I've acquired over the years from playing in bands, and a few that I bought for recording.
    Do I have to have a mixer? I'm working in Pro Tools anyways. are there any budget controllers for PT10 that you recommend? what kind of monitors are worth buying? should I save up and buy a fancy mic or preamp like an AKG414 or a Neve or Vintech lunchbox, or is it better to buy a bunch more sm57s so I can track more things at once?
    Obviously this all depends upon what I'm using the studio for, but I would love to hear people opinions based on their experiences. BTW, this is my first post on the forum, so, nice to meet you guys.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    No you don't have to have a mixer. The Tascam I/O you are using has a total of 8 XLR ins and 8 1/4" line ins (balanced, I believe). It also has built in Phantom power for your condensers.
    If you were going to use a console, having that console on the front end would be more useful than it would on the post end, because the Tascam only has 4 outs, so it's not as if you could do any more than mixing a total of 4 discreet tracks outside the box, or 4 mono stems, or two stereo stems. It's not as if you will have discreet control over every single track outside the box, because no matter how many inputs a console would have, you're limited to only 4 outputs from the Tascam. On the other hand, having a nice console on the front end would allow you to pre EQ your inputs, as well as insert processing like compression or gating.

    But ...unless you're using a nice console to do that with, it'll end up as just another stage in your gain chain, and unless that console has things that are appealing (nice pre's, quality EQ, etc) all that cheaper mixers will do is add noise without benefit of those things that a nice console can offer.

    A controller will give you the tactile feel of mixing as opposed to doing your mixes with a mouse. It all depends on what you prefer. There are many, many to choose from depending on what your needs are.

    Obviously, the nicer the monitors you are using, the flatter the response, the more detailed and defined your mixes will be... IF you are mixing in an environment that is acoustically favorable. The room you are mixing in matters just as much as the speakers you are mixing through. If you have acoustic issues with standing waves, flutter echo, etc., and your room is lying to you, you need to address this first before purchasing good monitors.

    The AKG 414 is a great all-round condenser. You'll find them in every professional studio's mic locker. But you'll also find a variety of 57's, 58's and other dynamic mics as well.
    Adding quality pre amps by manufacturers like Neve, API, etc. will give you more voltage, thus more headroom and the "color" that pre's like these are known for..
    The Tascam is an "okay" audio I/O, or at least what one would expect from a 16 input unit in its price class. It is what it is. Its pre amps are NOT the quality that you would find and expect in higher- end pres, like Neve's.
    As in most situations, you get what you pay for.

    That pretty much says it all right there.
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Room, monitors, mics.

    imo before you put the cart in front of the horse, the most important thing to have is;

    1) a decent monitoring environment.
    2) the next most important thing is TRANSDUCERS* .
    3) common sense.
    4) good taste, not tastes good but good taste.
    5) musical acuity.

    *see Electroacoustic:
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    This is what's really important now listen carefully...

    A refrigerator to keep the beer cold. Microwave oven to warm up cold pizza and Chinese food. You might want to invite Mr. Coffee? And a large plastic trashcan that will not leak fluids or vomit. And a pair of 2 way control room monitors that are self powered like KRK's. And that's the really important stuff.

    Then you might want to give some thought about the other ancillary equipment needed to impress your friends with. Such as a nice bag full of SM57/58's and 2 inexpensive small diaphragm condenser microphones. Don't forget the guitar cables to plug the microphones in with. And then those XLR cables to plug the guitars in with. It's OK if you get them backwards because you can always fix it in the mix.

    Of course you might realize it's really hard to plug in 8-16 simultaneous live microphones into that 1/8 inch jack on your computer? No problem... that's why God created Radio Shaft. They've got all the adapter cords you'll need. Or...?

    The very nice convenient high-speed and ample simultaneous input FireWire devices are plentiful. The problem right now is, FireWire is no longer being supported on the most recently built computers. It's considered old technology. FireWire cards that fit into desktop computers are still available. But you're not going to find it on any new current laptop. Today they all have USB 3.0 and over at Apple, Thunderbolt. And multiple input devices designed for the newest protocol are only starting to hit the market. So your choices there are expensive or more expensive? In the USB 2.0 department, there are a few manufacturers of hardware devices that can offer up at least 8 simultaneous inputs. But the FireWire devices still remain rather popular in spite of being phased out. But I have not yet found any worthy FireWire 400/800 to USB 3.0 or even 2.0 out there, anywhere? So that could be an issue if you're going to combine this with a laptop?

    Macintosh users have always appreciated the Apogee line of converters. RME gets high ratings. MOTU ain't nothing to stick your nose up at. Pre-Sonus is well built, rugged, has great included software bundle and actually sounds very smooth. Their stuff is also priced right with a great bang for the buck. Their Pre-Sonus Fire Studio or their others similar incarnations are FireWire 400 devices, for about 500 bucks with the included $600 worth of this incredible software bundle and sample library. They also make some USB 2.0 devices but they don't have as many XLR microphone simultaneous inputs.

    If you're running with a desktop computer the Mackie 1640 FireWire, 16 x 4 x 2 mixer, with their included software bundle may provide for you much greater capabilities? And you get 16 simultaneous XLR microphone inputs to software timeline tracks.

    Do not be confused by mixers that have a simple USB 1.1 interface. Those particular mixers while they can take a multitude of microphone inputs simultaneously, they only output stereo 2 track, to the computer. So those are really not multitrack enabled mixers with an associated high speed, multi-input interface protocols such as USB 2.0/3.0, Thunderbolt. So while I really like some of those FireWire interfaces, they have instantly turned into useless expenses computer audio interfaces from the previous decade. Really two decades ago. So I'm sure a lot of these semi pro audio manufacturers and pro audio manufacturers will now all have to catch up. So there'll be some good deals coming up for FireWire computer audio interface devices in the foreseeable future. If you've got that reliable laptop with a FireWire interface on it, go for it. If you're going to be replacing that laptop next year? FU'GET ABOUT IT.

    It might also help to know what you'd really like to do and what your budget might be?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. Iantheconway

    Iantheconway Active Member

    Mar 9, 2013
    San Francisco
    Hey guys, thanks. I'm looking at possibly getting Mackie MR5mk2's for monitoring. Any thoughts? I understand that the environment is a very important factor, and I'll be doing a lot of research about what can be done to the space I'm working with, but with that said, what budget monitors have you worked with? were your experiences with them pleasant? most people have mentioned KRK's to me. do you think I should go that route? RemyRAD, thanks for your reply, I'll remember to use those guitar cables for my mics, and vice versa.
    I'd like to track small bands, live, down the road. I'm thinking at the very least I want to be able to cut drums and DI bass and overdub everything else. and mix, of course. my computer is a PC (unfortunately) but it's quite fast (8-core, 32gig ram) and the tascam interface I use is 16x4 I/O USB2.0
    I hope that clears things up.
    I guess at this point I think I'm looking for monitor recommendations and ideas for other gear that you find useful in your studio.
    Thanks guys.
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    It's so hard to recommend speakers because they are so personal. I've been working with JBL monitors since the late 1970s. I had over seven pairs. In my quest to find another pair of monitors from a different manufacturer, I went through a few choices before settling on the KRK's, twice over. One pair of passive and one active pair. In fact I had three pairs of KRK's but sold a pair to a client. I tried Tannoy, Mackie and others. I found the KRK's more similar in character to the JBL's I've been using for so many years.

    I like monitors that have a lot of punch. I've found some monitors to be superclean and crisp, they didn't speak to me like my JBL's did, except for the KRK's. Though I've also used Mackie's in other folks' control room and found those to be adequate. Not bad. I can work with them. Not my first pick. I like working on Meyer HD-1's but those like those Danish ones and others are rather costly. So I went with more run-of-the-mill types that still offered a good level of performance that would translate well from other monitors.

    You know I was only kidding about the guitar cables for the microphones and vice versa. Having decent cables for those applications however are a huge advantage. They don't have to be top-of-the-line but you want good cables and good connectors. Goldplated when you can get them.

    You've got a fine and versatile audio interface that's reasonable to cook with all ready. Hard to beat 16 simultaneous inputs on something this affordable. Are they premium mic preamps? No way. That's not to say they are not perfectly fine to use. They are. Good for rock 'n roll. What I want to use that device for the operatic and symphonic work I've done? Not really but they would still get me by. No real reason to balk at that item. But if you do not over gain those preamps, it'll work and sound fine.

    Don't know why you would consider your extremely capable PC as unfortunate? I think you unfortunately have been misguided in that assumption? If you are very computer literate than maybe it is unfortunate that you don't understand how important computers are today in our digital recording world. The only thing unfortunate is the inability to know your way around a good computer. Or that you need an operating system that looks and moves and functions like a Yogi bear cartoon? In fact all those lovely functions of having menu items bubble up, fly in, fly out, zoom in, zoom out is a bunch of computer resource robbing garbage. If I could make Windows 8 function as conveniently as Windows 2000/XP, I'd be a lot happier. I'm really not into folks trying to save me from myself or my own stupidity. If your primary Internet computer is also going to be your primary audio or video capture, edit and mix machine? You may need to configure your computer for those two different types of uses. But you probably already know that by now?

    Remember monitor speakers are like underwear. You want to make sure they fit you just right. It doesn't matter what someone else finds good. It only matters what tickles your brain. Don't get me wrong, I like other monitors that caused as much as a down payment for a home. I just find those impractical, out of my budget, only for the rich folks, only for the top shelf studios, all too snobby. And rather unrealistic in comparison to what most people will be listening to your work upon.

    What other gear that I find useful? I don't think there is enough computer memory to list all of my selections and suggestions? This is a sickness. You can never be too prepared. Redundancy is good. Did I say redundancy is good? Well, redundancy is good. Remember your most important piece of equipment won't work right when you want it to in the digital age. And that comes from hiring Mr. Murphy as your assistant engineer.

    You're talking about an acoustic environment and what you can or cannot do to your current living space. Really though, good control rooms and good studios today, sound a little bit like nice living rooms and family rooms with plush upholstered furniture. My attitudes about acoustic environments a lot of people find shocking. Why? Because I really don't give a damn when it comes to the pop music genre. Again not to be confused, I like a proper sounding control room. I like large wide open studios which is kind of unrealistic by today's standards.

    In small acoustic enclosures like bedrooms, basements and garages, it's what it is. Cubic footage and diffusion would be an important factor in larger rooms. When you're talking about that bedroom or basement environment, you're talking about trying to get the entire band into a telephone booth for recording purposes. And that provides for a little comedic insight. It conjures up thoughts of the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy. I'd say Charlie Chaplin but his films were all silent and we're talking about audio here.

    So when things are too bright sounding in a room? You can start to disperse some foam or other absorbent and diffuse items. And I think it almost lunacy to sink a lot of money into the curb appeal of a room, when you can hardly afford anything better than a TA-SCAM audio interface. The most important factor in your understandably necessity to have your monitors in a good environment. So go out and spend $500,000 on a building from the ground up. No? Of course I'm being a smartass. Your budget isn't $500,000, it's $500. And a budget like that already tells me, don't waste your money on acoustic stuff. Waste your money on getting a bag full of SM-57 & 58's and some extra foam pop filters for those 58's, if you want those $100 microphones to sound like the $3000 plus German-made condenser microphones.

    Make sure you have a decent pair of small diaphragm condenser microphones to be used for your drum overheads or when you need that condenser sound. Which is actually less often than you think. That's the reason for the 57 & 58's. But it's not like you're really giving as much of a rundown on other important accoutrements of a studio environment? Like, headphones and the proper amplification to power those. Outboard microphone preamps with some actual professional Mojo to them. A hardware compressor/limiter or two, three, four, I'll stop you when you get there, five, six, seven, don't stop yet LOL.

    I mean you could be one of those kids that are perfectly fine putting on the same uniform every day for school? But for some variety in life, ya need some variety in life. And most of these home studios are already compromised sounding small spaces. So in my line of work, I look at most of these home recording studios as something of an on location job. Where your only real concern is your control room monitoring environment. The bigger the space the better the bass. And where I think it may be more productive to have one of these neo-design control room/studio, studio/control room environments. This ensures the fact that you are taking maximum advantage of the lowest frequency waveform propagation the room has to offer. You need big rooms to develop low-frequency waves. So the bigger the better which might mean not a separate control room and studio but a combined room. And then you simply record and track through headphones. So you need the best pair of headphones you can afford. And you need a bag of those cheap Sennheiser headphones for the guys in the studio. And they will destroy those headphones on their first couple of uses. And that's where zip cord and duct tape come in.

    When ya go shopping for monitors, you go down to your local music store such as Guitar Center and others where you can at least audition other perspective monitors. Bring your reference CDs with you. CDs by notable folks that you hold in high regard. It's a baseline reference. Of course the monitors you choose will never sound the way they did at the store. Not even close. And I've gone through a few pair of monitors, in the control room, during the earlier process. Some monitors I don't like, sound great in rooms I also don't like. And sometimes things that I like sound like crap in places that I like my surroundings of. So much of this is a crapshoot for the home studio unless you're ready to put your money where your mouth is. Is it a hobby or is it a business? Are you zoned commercial or are you zoned residential? Do your parents know what you're doing when they're not home?

    Tracking the entire band live is really the way to go. Especially today with home-based studios. The $300 per hour, months long full-blown album release contracts really don't apply anymore. So things have become more of a make do cottage oriented environment. A studio and control room don't necessarily need to look like a studio in control room just to work well. So this gives you some poetic license.

    Having those 16 inputs for the most part really gives you the ability to track an entire band at the same time. One can of course make things as involved and complicated as one wants to. And with your average band 16 inputs ain't a bad number. Not unusual to have 8 microphones on a drum set or more. Though 4 can also be more than adequate and in fact sometimes downright desirable. Again it rather depends upon the type of pop genre you're going for? MIC everything in stereo whenever you possibly can. This isn't like analog tape anymore. And so room mics can become quite important when they are printed to their own tracks. In fact it doesn't matter if you don't deem the acoustics adequate LOL. It's all in what you make it. Awful acoustic signatures can't be done away with or corrected for without dropping a significant chunk of change. What you can do is to accentuate this lousy acoustic signature and mold it from a lump of clay into a statue.

    Handy items to have our absorbent types of small and large, homemade, acoustic separators to place between say a couple of guitar amplifiers. Perhaps you might want to get a separate 16 input mixer to be able to develop a separate headphone mix from the output of the recorder interface? While monitoring what you want through the interface itself? Having good headphone mixes for overdubs while monitoring it differently yourself during the recording process can be a very welcomed option. And ya might like the tactile feedback of working with an analog mixer in combination with your multitrack computer audio interface? And that's getting into the realm of hybrid. The combination of external analog with computers and their associated interfaces and capabilities.

    When it comes to the hybrid setup, Chris will tell you the only way to go. But that is not necessary. It is perhaps if you have a no compromise position you have taken? Like James T. Kirk I don't believe in no-win scenarios. So you change the rules instead of cheating. And then simply to have equipment that works. You know the same way they hand out drivers licenses to bodies that are still warm? You don't need high power rails or any other kind of drugs. You merely need to observe proper operating levels and gain staging. You have to understand for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you've tweaked a level on something and it's right where it's supposed to be... then you add some kind of 6-9 DB boost on some frequencies somewhere, you'll end up exceeding that headroom specification. And everything gets flat and dull when it didn't initially sound that way when you first tweaked it. For instance I've utilized some cinema oriented equalizers where it didn't matter how much boost or cut you used? It would maintain a consistent output and in effect lowered the peaks to stay within proper operating parameters while lowering the overall level. No type of compression or limiting was involved in this type of equalizer. And then my partner sold it and I've never forgiven him since. And he keeps rubbing my face into totaling his Porsche. But he had it up for sale anyhow and the insurance company bought it. I certainly wasn't used to that mid-engine 914 design when I came over that hill, spun out and hit a cement abutment. Which is a difficult concept to understand until you have driven a mid-engine vehicle... the wrong way. The front and rear engine cars have a very different center of gravity. Kind of like the difference between dynamic & condenser microphones in relationship to ribbon microphones. So you might want to get a couple of ribbon microphones as they interact very differently when used alongside dynamic or condenser microphones? Kind of like how I'll never own a mid-engine Porsche in my lifetime since I totaled Philip's. But he didn't mind especially since he had his eye on this 53-54 or was that a 57 Corvette? It was after the Fury, the 442 and the other previous Porsche's. Good thing I built him such a beautiful studio LOL.

    So it's not unusual to track a lead vocal through a nice preamp and into a halfway decent hardware compressor with an SM58 and that additional foam pop filter. Because any condenser microphone will be awash with leakage and bleed from all of the other instruments. And where that 58 will sound every bit as nice through that signal chain as any $3000 plus Neumann 87. Without all the extra garbage you wouldn't want anyhow. And then after you find yourself overdubbing the lead vocals and you end up going back to that original live scratch 58 vocal track, don't say I didn't tell ya so. And because that was a cohesive performance that was captured. It works more times than you realize. And digital recording and computer gives you a lot more tracks than you ever had with an analog 24 track tape recorder. The possibilities and variations are nearly limitless.

    Of course there is so many other thingamajigs and do hickey's you can equip your control room with, it's almost ridiculous to discuss it unless you have a set budget in mind. Depending upon your desired demographic possibility of clientele, of course your purchases would skew that way. So you might not need a sample drum kit library if you are recording liturgical church music? On the other side of that, you might not have to worry about more than one or two microphones because you have complete sample Libraries and put everything together in the box? And then you only need an outboard black-and-white keyboard MIDI controller. So wandering around with the DUH what should I get generic question deserves a Happy Meal from McDonald's. I mean if I told you that I thought my previous EMT reverb plates sounded way cooler than any digital thingy, would you rush right out and buy one? I mean if I could schlep around my plates, I wouldn't need to goof around with these imitation digital thingies. And that's because no digital thing you can have the density or the nearly infinite depth one cannot get with today's current digital technologies. Everything today sounds like it's gargling with sandpaper. But knowin' that ain't going to make your life any better.

    These are all incredible sounding adult toys we get to play with today. You kids have it so much better than we did. We mostly had rudimentary industrial equipment and we got by. So it really comes down to what you think you might need? For instance I would tell ya to go out and purchase a used API 3124? Or maybe a couple of racked up Neve console modules complete with EQ? Those produce the kind of legendary hit rock 'n roll sound. If you think you need better equipment than that to get your message across then go for it. But if it doesn't sound like a hit record? That's why. Because you've heard something better doesn't mean it's better. But better doesn't necessarily translate into the kind of sound you might want to attain? Remember rock 'n roll is all about distortion. And distortion is usually pretty easily attained. You just want the right sounding abortion I mean distortion. Sometimes you end up with the latter? Which is also why it's handy to have some guys in bands as your guinea pigs. Nothing like having one of those weekend shakedown sessions with your buds or mates. The clock ain't taking and the beer is flowing. And then they all go WOW because they can't remember anything from the night before. Works every time LOL. And maybe you'll also go wow the day after if it still sounds good?

    The other thing you might need is all of the delivery and take-out menus from the local eateries.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. Todzilla

    Todzilla Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    Neuse River Watershed
    Home Page:
    Some very low cost items include:

    1) Time - there are no short cuts to learning how to use all this stuff
    2) A notepad - take notes on everything you do, so when you stumble across a genius move, you'll know what it was
    3) digital camera, see notepad.

    even though I'm a bit of a gear snob, don't let budget gear be an excuse. If you learn your craft, it can sing!
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Three things. Time, patience, the ability to fail without damage.
  9. Iantheconway

    Iantheconway Active Member

    Mar 9, 2013
    San Francisco
    Hey Guys, thanks for the replies. Since I posted this, my home studio has grown a little. Up until recently, all I've been doing is rehearsing with the various bands that I play in. This last week, however, I've been doing a lot more recording. I went and bought an AKG C414 so I now I own one nice mic, and Just today I ordered a pair of JBL LSR2325P 5" monitors. I also sent some time treating the walls and ceiling in my recording space with auralex foam and blankets. That's about all that's new with me.

    Just on a lark, does anyone have any experience with accessing USB devices over Ethernet? I saw this device online: Belkin : Network USB Hub
    I was just thinking how great it would be not to have a computer with a noisy fan in the small room I have for tracking, and then I could use my bedroom (where I do most of my mixing) as a control room, and record with the interface located 3 floors down over Ethernet. I know that most pro studios use a wallplate going to a patch bay in an adjacent control room patched to an interface and then into a tower, but I don't have that luxury.

    Thanks guys.
  10. Ryszard. S

    Ryszard. S Active Member

    Jun 20, 2013
    Siloam Spring's, Arkansas
    3) common sense.
    #3 make my day. Common sense is very uncommon this days :) What he need is the money to buy all this audio hardware and that could be expensive.
  11. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    May 25, 2005
    Home Page:
    A network hub will work and is relatively easy to set up. I have a hub networking the computers in our house and it's great for facilitating backup, but I've never tried using it to record to a different drive. I'd recommend giving it a try and see if it works out for you. In the end you'd still have a very useful tool setup.
  12. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    Nov 30, 2008
    Lake Ki-Chi-Saga, Minnesota USA
    "So it really comes down to what you think you might need? For instance I would tell ya to go out and purchase a used API 3124? Or maybe a couple of racked up Neve console modules complete with EQ? Those produce the kind of legendary hit rock 'n roll sound."

    Remy, you nailed it so hard with this one! If there is only one piece of advice I would have wished to have learned early on in my beginning days of recording is the value of the MIC PRE, the API's and the Neve's and so on.....

    It never ceases to amaze me how much detail is missed in this step: The Chain - - - Mic>Preamp>AtoD>CPU>DtoA>Speakers

    The cart before the horse: The expensive LDC before the expensive preamp! So true. I have made the mistake so many times! A microphone is so easy to come by, in fact you can waltz around to any pawn shop or thrift store and find one.

    The preamp is really where its at as far as I am concerned these days!

    I can only share my biggest regret with my recordings so far and that is NOT to have learned the importance of the classic MIC PREAMP right away from day one!
  13. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    The belkin network usb hub is use so a computer can acces usb peripheral through a wireless connection.
    What you want is a kit of converter like these : Kit d'extension USB sur câble RJ45 CAT5 - Convertisseurs USB or USB-over-RJ45 USB 2.0 Power Boosted Extension Adapters - Pair (150ft/45m max) - Free Shipping - DealExtreme
    Thing is, the monitor cable(s) will cost you as well. I don't know any that go over ethernet.. but you can get hd15 cable up to 100'

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