Building my first "studio"

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by mattyg1027, Jul 1, 2004.

  1. mattyg1027

    mattyg1027 Guest

    Hello all. I've been waiting to jump into the world of recording for a while now. I don't have a lot of money, and it will mainly be used for my own purposes (not trying to get paying customers or anything! at least not for a long while) so I won't be buying top of the line equipment. I want to know what you guys think as far as where "budget" gear turns to "crap" gear.

    Here's what I'm looking at:

    Powerbook G4 1.5 ghz 512 mb ram w/ LOGIC pro 6.
    MOTU 828mkII

    that much is pretty certain. but everything else is up in the air.

    A couple Sm57s for their various uses (snare, tom, some vocals)
    SP B1 or B3 for vocals, piano, guitar etc...
    SP C4 pair for drum overheads, acoustic guitar, piano etc...
    Audix D6 for bass drum/bass guitar amp

    RME Octamic/OctamicD
    Focusrite Octopre Platinum
    Sytek mpx4aii

    I really like the price of the first two at about $110 (RME) and $120 (Focusrite) per channel, but I've heard great things about the Sytek (almost twice as much at $220 per channel). Is it really worth double the cost to me?


    clueless where to even begin. Yamahas? Its my first day on the board here and I can already tell that monitors mean as much to some of you as your own lives, but I'm afraid I'll have to start at a significantly lower grade than many of you. Whats a good recommendation for brands to check out for a pair under or around $500? I don't know much about this stuff but I gather that I want powered monitors since I dont have an amp. I'm sure anything that is "good enough but nothing special" to some of you would be plenty good for my purposes.

    I'm also thinking of getting a pair of Extreme Isolation Headphones to help with mic positioning, and for drummers click track and stuff espescially since I will be doing everything in my one room (except for in cases when I leave my home with my gear to a more recording friendly environment).

    Thanks in advance for your help
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    All of these mic preamps IMO, fall into the "crap" category ... Of them all, the Syteks are the best but can still run out of headroom ... Syteks are electronically balanced and IMO, don't "sound" good ... pretty neutral (I hate that, others love it) .

    Pres with transformers, like 3 stage Neve clones (Great River MP2NV, Vintech) & Sebatrons, "sound" good but are expensive. No real inexpensive solution ... if you cant afford the best, just get a Mackie mixer for mic pres, they are as good as anything else (that is inexpensive) out there.

    As for monitors ... the only inexpensive ones I will recomend are the Yamaha MSP5's (not the MSP10's). The good news is they do sound pretty darn good ... KRK's and Haflers are pretty decent and don't cost a lot .... but not as nice as the Yamahas.
  3. imissthewar

    imissthewar Guest

    I've discovered this is not the place for newbs.....anything under about a grand gets pissed on, by this guy especially. Go to, much nicer people.
  4. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    You know what, "Imissthewar", I couldn't disagree more. I find that this place is respectful of budgets and people just getting started and of people whose needs aren't those of multi-grammy winners.

    If something is garbage and you're considering buying it, wouldn't you want to know, or would you perfer to just get pat on the back buy people that don't have the professional standard or interst to know the differences?

    I think most people come into recording after some level of acheivement in some musical craft, guitar, bass, drums keys, singing, or whatever. We all know our own craft and hold ourselves to a high level, when entering recording I hoped to eventually acheive the same level of knowledge and skill that I have musically. I know with sub-standard gear and sloppy techinic and a lazy approach no one will get far on guitar, and no one will with recording either.

    Instead of knocking the advice he got, offer your own. Shilling for another website because they're more tolerant of substandard equipment is kinda lame.
  5. mattyg1027

    mattyg1027 Guest

    Thanks for the tip on the MP5. I see it listed on Yamahas site as the MP5A, but on some music store sites just MP5. Is the MP5A a recent update or something? And if so, should I seek that one out.

    Wow I really didn't expect a recommendation that only cost $250, but I'll take it!

    As for the preamps, theres really no noticeable distinction between the mackie pres and the pres I listed that go for a lot more (when you consider the other features in the mackie mixers and # of pres)?

    Anyone else have an opinion? Anybody use the sytek, or is it not up to snuff for anybody here?
  6. imissthewar

    imissthewar Guest

    Maybe it's just this Cedar Flats guy then. I've seen him completely trash the Digi002, and now the Sytek is crap??!? If you're running on a budget of 5k of course you can afford a Great River and a Soundelux U195, but that's gonna be it.

    Sure, I'd like to know if something is garbage. But 'garbage' is subjective....and depending on your budget, you gotta get what you can afford.

    They aren't more 'tolerant of substandard equipment''s a forum completely geared towards the HOME STUDIO OWNER, like our friend here. It's all about the entry and mid-level stuff, which is what I personally can afford, and can also make some great recordings using.

    I'm just perplexed that now the Sytek MP4 is a piece of crap now and you might as well get a Mackie. To my ears there is loads of difference.
  7. mattyg1027

    mattyg1027 Guest

    Thanks for your input "imiss" - I'll still check out the sytek then.

    I have a (probably stupid) newb question. When I connect the monitors to the motu, and the motu to the powerbook, does all of the sound from the computer go out to the monitors, or just the audio from Logic? For example could I listen to CDs and mp3s and stuff through the monitors?
  8. heyman

    heyman Guest


    I agree there is a diffrence between sytek and the mackie. I Have the Sytek 4 channel with burr brown mods on 2 channels and I think it is a great investment.

    I think it is one of those units that comes as close to a high end pre as you are gonna get without forking over an additional 2,000 .

    Does a Great river, Chandler, API sound better, yes...

    But I would put the Sytek somewhere between the High end and the Mackie.
  9. imissthewar

    imissthewar Guest

    I'll throw in my two cents (I recently put together a project studio on a budget of 7.5k)'re on the right track, but I'd skip the B1 and go for the C1 if you're doing vocals. I personally like the ATM on is a beat cheaper too.

    Pres....I'd definitely go for the Sytek if you can afford it.

    Monitors....I love my BX8s. Even more important than your gear is your ear, make sure you become familiar with your sounds. Play alot of records you like over your studio monitors to get a feel for how they will project. Heck, people say Yamaha NS10s sound like crap yet they're a studio staple.

    I'm just getting started too, so ymmv.
  10. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    I also have the sytek and I do use it. Its pretty neutral in the channels without BB, like Kurt says, but that is not neccesaraly bad. The clean channels sound a lot like the grace 101, though the grace have more top end and airness. The channels that have the burns brown option I find work better for pop vocals.
    Add a K2 tube mic to the channels with the BB option and you have a great vocal sound happening!
  11. mattyg1027

    mattyg1027 Guest

    Thanks for your input!

    The reason I was thinking B1 in stead of C1 is that I've heard its less colored and its suited to a wider array of vocal styles (even the website makes it sound like it) even though its cheaper (which I also don't get). Is that a load of crap? I could spring for the C1 if its pretty good for vocals all around. Would it be good for any instruments too? I've been told to try the C4s on some instruments even if I only use one.

    What's this ATM youre talking about? Is that a brand or model? Audio Technica?
    "I think [the sytek] is one of those units that comes as close to a high end pre as you are gonna get without forking over an additional 2,000."

    Thats exactly the comment I was looking for!
    Sounds like Sytek is the way to go. Now I just have to be able to find that same level of quality in everything else I need :)


    And can anyone answer the queestion from my previous post? What can I listen to through these monitors using my Motu? Any audio generated in the computer?
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Sorry that you feel that way but I submit that anyone who can hear and has ever worked on a large format consoles or with top of the line mic pres for any length of time, would feel the same way. So I will write your reaction off to deafness or ignorance.. and as you pointed out, "this is not the place for newbs", it is the Pro Audio Forum.

    "anything under about a grand gets pissed on, by this guy especially"

    Yes, quality costs ... transformers are expensive ... hand built point to point wiring costs ... meaningful power supplies cost, so yes, it runs about $500 per channel (minimum) to produce a decent mic pre .. add in the expense of a case and other costs, by the time it reaches the consumer it could be around a grand.. There are alternatives... API cards are $500 each used and once you purchase the lunch box for $600, to rack and power them, you are in business. Fully loaded with 6 cards an API lunch box can be as inexpensive as $600 per channel. Sebatron makes one of the nicest sounding tube pre I have ever heard, about $900 per channel with shipping and customs .. JLM offers the TMP8 at about $2200 for eight channels! That's $225 per channel ... one of the best audio deals around.

    Do Syteks and other "mid level" mic pres sound different than those found in the typical Mackie mixer? Yes, they do but IMO different doesn't necessarily equate to "better" ... it's just different.

    To tell the truth, modern day solid state electronically balanced mic pres almost all sound pretty good compared to the ones that were available in the past. The specs on all of these pres are impressive. But that doesn't mean they "sound good" ...

    To really get an improvement I think you have to get out of the shallow end of the pool. So I advise people to save their cash and just go for the less expensive alternative rather than line the pockets of manufacturers who exploit the novices desire for quality audio by promising "pristine" or "stellar" performance, while only delivering different or mediocre improvment, if that.

    In the past I have been challenged for this opinion. I recived a particular mic pre that was in contention for many months and posted comparisons of said mic pre along with that of a Mackie ... and then asked for opinions... The lowley Mackie vlz won over the $500 stereo mic pre...

    I would do the same with the Sytek if someone will send me one for a few weeks. I won't ask for one from the manufacturer because I am tired of explaning to manufacturers why they didn't get a review on their product. What am I supposed to say, that it's a rip off? I would also encourage someone else to do this instead of me .. in fact I think that would be even better. Just use a matched pair of good condenser mics (I used vintage AKG 451's) placed side by side and record a performance of a nice acoustic guitar ...

    "I've seen him completely trash the Digi002
    When did you see that? I have nothing against the 002 .. other that I am not a PT advocate in any sense of the word ... The pres in the 001 and 002 are not premium mic pres .. they are Focusrite Platinum pres ... but other than the pres, I am sure the 002 works just fine, even though it is over priced IMO.

    I get a lot of flack for this position but that's ok .. I sleep well knowing I am offering the best advice I possibly can and not simply schilling for the manufacturers and gear pimps..
  13. heyman

    heyman Guest


    Cedar, can you point me in the right direction on where I can find API's used at 500 per channel. Are we talking 500 series or the 200 series?

    Also have you had experience with both and is their a huge diff in sound between the 5's and 2's ?

  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    You need to subscribe to a publication called "Pro Audio Marketplace"
    ( ) Used 500's are in there for 5 or 6 bills all the time ... as is a lot of other great gear. I have found this publication to be invaluable for learnig what kind of gear is out there and in demand ans well as what stuff I have is really worth on the open market... No auction bullsh*t .. just the real prices..
  15. heyman

    heyman Guest


    Also have you had experience with both and is their a huge diff in sound between the 5's and 2's ?

  16. imissthewar

    imissthewar Guest

    You're right, this is the PRO audio forum....I doubt I'll be visiting here much again. I don't doubt any of your opinions on gear...believe you me, if I had the money I'd be going API and Urei all the way, but I'm a broke kid that makes no money doing this, it's a hobby.

    My problem with your posts was the fact that you completely disregarded the fact that this guy is a newb....maybe he was in the wrong forum, but he doesn't need someone telling him he's gotta spend $1000 a channel or he's wasting his money.

    Engineering skills and the original source sound are actually the most I hear. Maybe that should be preached a little more?

    Sorry if I offended you or anyone else. Cheers.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.

    First, you never responded to my question as to where I was slamming the 002?

    IMO, all the Focusrite Platinum, PreSonus, Sytek and RNP type pres sound closer to the small mixer pres than they do to the Neve API etc. types ...

    Let's ask , who does my saying that hurt? IMO only the gear pimps and manufactures who market marginal products designed to a price point. Perhaps he does need someone telling him he's gotta spend $1000 a channel or he's wasting his money. Besides, I offered several alternatives that were considerably less than $1000 per channel. Some of these offerings are actually less expensive than some of the "budget minded" pres that are available. You seem to be ignoring that for the sake of argument.

    I think that if someone can't afford a great pre, perhaps they should not waste their hard earned cash on something that really is only at best marginally better and in most cases only different.

    I have been moderating here at RO for over three years now and I have seen this a hundred times ... First people ask about mid price - mid grade mic pre improvements ... and others respond with the standard answers for junk / crap pres that are marketed and hyped as being better than those found in small mixers. The problem is, these pres aren't really significantly better, just slightly different sounding. Those who have never worked with really good pres don't know any better (ignorance) and sometimes perceive these differences as better. But if they ever compared these mid grade pres with a large format console or Neve or API outboard pres, they would come to understand ... that the cheap stuff all sounds pretty much the same and is no where in the league with the great designs.

    Case in point; I have a Yamaha MLA7 mic pre. I have had it around now for over ten years. I used to think that it was better than a Mackie pre because it was much "warmer" sounding... then one night during a session I decided to compare it against my MCI consoles mic pres. I was astounded to hear that the MCI was as warm but much clearer sounding. When I switched back and forth between the MLA7 and the MCI it was if a blanket was being lifted off of the speakers (with the MCI) ... I later spoke with Jim Williams at Audio Upgrades and he told me that the MLA7 was a very slow pre amp ... (slow slew rate).

    Then these same people come back to us here and ask how we get "that" sound ... and we have to tell them that a lot of "that" sound is coming from boutique designs, tube types, Focusrite Red, API, or Neve / clone pres and eq and quality comps and mics... These people are then disappointed because they feel they were suckered into buying some hyped up product and take it out on me by lashing out and personally attacking me with off topic rants about how I don't like anything that costs less than $1000 because I had the audacity to point it out to them ...

    Yes to a point ...and it seems to me that only reinforces my POV that a simple Mackie will do just fine.
  18. MrGrooves666

    MrGrooves666 Guest

    Cedar, I'm a small studio owner from Mexico.
    I have read and enjoy most of your knowledge sharing here, incluiding the anatomy of a drum mix mp3's.

    In my small studio, I use an A-Designs MP2 pre, the Langevin DVC and True's Precision 8. These are the pre's that I'm more customed to hear, because I own them of course. About True's, this one has 8 pre's in a 1U rack, but a very long one. I've read its based on burr brown chips. It is very clean, with some spark on the highs. It also appears to have lots of headroom as my apogee converter clips way before there's any internal clipping on the pre.
    Do you have any experience with these? Would you consider them good? I like them so far, been using them for some months now. I'm just wondering if I'm missing something. What about the MP2?...I like its smooth sound, but has a bit of high noisefloor. What do you think about these pre's?
  19. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    I'll butt in here.... NO. There is not a huge difference in sound. The only real difference in sound is due to the 200 series using smaller transformers.

    And the Sytek does sound diferent and better than the Mackie, at least compared to how the orginal VLZ does, and not nearly as good as any Neotek which I think the sytek were derived from.
  20. mattyg1027

    mattyg1027 Guest

    does all audio (ie mp3s, wavs, cd audio) from the computer go into the motu via firewire and out to the monitors?

    I'll be using a Powerbook G4 if that means anything

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