Do we need to spend thousands of dollars on recording gear or software?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by audiokid, Nov 27, 2016.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    When it comes right down to good sound, the mix and master, I personally believe I can get by on most basic DAW platform with good to excellent pre-amps and conversion.

    That fact that I use and discuss excellent gear is because its available to me, and because its also a passion of interest.
    I am convinced a well recorded performance will mix and master to professional results on the most basic DAW system.

    I believe I should be able to produce, mix and master good enough sounding music with basis DAW software if... we are first and foremost recording a good performance in a good room, use proper mic(s) get proper mic placement, have good preamp(s) and use good conversion(s) to start with.

    How about you?
    • What do I think of plug-ins and software?
    • What do I think of pro audio hardware?
    • What is your story?
    --------------------------------
     
  2. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Well-Known Member

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    I've got great gear - guitars, amps etc... a really good computer, and pretty much a basic recording interface (M-Audio Profire 610) and a few good but very basic mics (an SM 57, an EV 357 n/d, and a couple of Rode M5's) , and the most basic and tiny midi controller as a keyboard (Arturia minlab). I use Reaper (and its stock plugs) and a few I've picked up a few other plugs here and there - plus a guitar amp sim (Guitar Rig Pro 5) -- and that's it. My "room" is wherever I record and I'm getting better at dealing with the limitations of a room. Where I feel and hear room more is in the vocals -- still working on better workflow and technique there - but it's all coming along. I'm still trying to craft my mixes with basic EQ's and reverbs -- I barely use compression (as I just don't have the skillset there yet to "know" it). Proper gain staging is a big one for me - all pretty general and basic and I think I've got a long long way to go with these tools as far as plugs go before I could imagine "needing" what I don't even now exists yet. What do I want? A better interface and mic pre -- maybe a better vocal mic and I'd love a Royer Ribbon as well ----- a full size keyboard -- but those wants are still pretty basic. I think my point is my recording gear is not limiting my mixes or my growth at this point --- there's very little I can imagine that would "get me to the next level" beyond maybe better speakers and/or headphones --- I'm still learning the $*^t out of what I have.
     
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  3. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I love amp simulation for my guitar. I've been using guitar effects for decades. I love being able to change and model my sound in the mix but I also love my analog amp and the raw sound of the speaker and tube.

    I like splitting it so I have a few options. I'm looking forward to leaning more about re-amping so I bought an amp enclosure for that.

    Ya, I love Royer mics. I suspect you've watched some of those videos I've posted too? They really are that smooth. I think a good preamp is essential for them though. Pre-amps are really where it all starts and ends. Good pre's do make any mic sound better.
     
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    There is many online video promoting small budget and homestudio as if you could do an as good job as million dollar studios. . .
    It's pretty simple, they sell you the dream. The same dream TV shows like The voice and American idols sell and hundred others...
    Everybody is being hypnotise to believe being a star is easy. Being the best in the world is easy. Sounding like a pro can be done under 1k
    Well here's my wake up call to the world.. It's just not true. They just want to sell you products...
    Being the best, being a star is hard... Anyone who wants to do great for more than a brief moment needs to work hard and use the right tools.

    I think, the minimum needed to sound like a pro recording studio is this :
    • a fairly good sounding or neutral room
    • a few good mics and highend preamps (preferably a variation of them)
    • A fairly good interface or a cheap one with adat or spdif to use a preamp with a better convertion.
    • Good monitors and ear training
    • Using quality instruments and have good musicianship
    • Training and experience with all the gear and aspect of recording instruments.

    Where you can save money is :
    • The daw and plugins (no need to put 10k there)
    • headphones and pa for the musicians ( very basic setups will not change the en results )
    • The computer can be very basic, have the right ports to plugin the interface and enough space and CPU to drive the project.

    I've tried to do it cheap for many years and it never worked.. I had fair results but nothing like the big players.
    Now with the setup I have, I feel I'm very close, but I'm down to around 30k (including the instruments)

    Of course if you do a piano album with a few VSTi that's another game.. I'm talking recording a band with real instruments here ;)
     
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  5. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    We've all come here for our own reasons, mine has been to learn more about pro audio recording and producing. My interest has been more about digital audio and emulation.
    I left analog tape in 1992 and never looked back really. Digital audio started out as a faster and cheaper way for me to capture sound. The problem has always been conversion.
    Great conversion equals beautiful captures. DAW'S ARE SAMPLERS. If we don't have good conversion, the capture will sound no better than those cheap samplers of yesteryear.But it is getting better and better. :)

    Interestingly enough... for almost 20 years before I started recording.org, I had been earning a good living as a professional musician, who programed, sampled my own music while playing a guitar.
    I started playing to my own tracks and loops the first time I could 2 track on tape s so my quest to buy better and better samplers grew until I discovered Pro Tools!

    Back in the late 70's, I was using a very modest Tascam mixer, those primitive drum machine and keyboards while I played guitar and sang pop and rock songs from the classic 60's, 70's and 80's for decades performing coast to coast in a techno band.
    Digital audio was cutting edge and I was all over where Pro Tools was headed in the recording world.

    Sampling and drum machines was the dope. Like all DAW's, Pro Tools is sampler. Those who saw DAW's coming, knew Pro Tools and digital audio was going to take over this industry. I was all over the DAW for personal and business.
    I bought my first Pro Tools rig in 1998 and opened RO up to the public as a Pro Audio social media site called http://recording.org "RO".

    The first 10,000 members of recording.org were for the most part, world leading, some even Grammy award recording engineers who hid behind aliases. They gathered here through my invite to "Fletcher" from Mercenary Audio. Fletcher was the main "go to" gear pimp on the elite social media network (R.A.P. = "recording audio pro"). (started around 1995)
    Fletcher, discovered RO in 1999 as a way to pimp his pro audio gear list to studio engineers around the world. Little did I know who all these people were and how much money it was going to cost me to maintain this fast growing website.

    Recording.org's first 100,000 posts began as a high end gear discussion board. We basically went viral in 2000 until I could not afford to pay for server bills anymore. I had to start asking for donations to keep up with it all. Baby coming and needed to eat to say the least.
    Unable to get people to help me enough, Gearslutz was formed and it is what it is today.

    As Recording.org content kept populating, I watched our forum grow more and more into a true blue analog gear dominant discussion board. There was very little discussion about digital mixing and cheap gear. Digital audio was more familiar to me as this is how I was earning a living and saw the world going.
    Digital Audio and Pro Tools was a bad word around here. The big studios were going broke and workflows were starting to split, thus hybrid began.

    Even though I owned the big Digidesign system and used drum machines and plug-ins, I kept quite about that part. The people in Fletcher's circle were not interested in digital audio then.
    RO was pretty much exclusive to expensive hardware, great microphones, analog consoles and tape all the way.

    The mastering engineers (many world class ME) had their own forum here too, and they lined up ready to accept files from engineers reading our forums.

    RO was basically a place where Fletcher spread the word, the engineers supported their purchases and he continued selling gear for the manufacturers who hung out here as well. What a gravy train, party for the Pro Audio circle.

    Today that great analog gear we all talked about is now even more unreachable to many more of us due to our current state of the recording industry. However, just because you don't own some of this gear doesn't mean its off your radar. We can emulate. ;)
    Do yourself a favour some day and search through our forums dating 2002 back, you will discover all sorts of valuable information on analog recording not found anywhere else. These old school engineers knew their stuff. Say hello to Kurt BTW. He is living proof of this around here. :love:

    Starting around 1998 I have been enjoying some of that elitist specialty stuff used in various hybrid workflows, then sharing those experiences us here. I've enjoyed (mixing OTB), comparing the sound of this gear against software.

    As of a few years now, I come to the conclusion that once we are in the mixing stage (ITB)... and we have a good handle on how to mix, analog gear has a lot more benefit in the front end and very little to even backwards gain when used hybrid for mixing or mastering. Digital audio has it beat.
    Analog gear is best used on the tracking side and once ITB, its digital all the way.

    To correct any misconceptions of what some may think of me .... (Once mixing or mastering) : I DO NOT THINK any of us need to spend thousands of dollars on extra mixing hardware or software. A basic DAW systems will get it done.

    RO in general is a dedicated recording forum for people who want to learn more about microphones. When it comes to recording musicians, the best sounding music I've heard is recorded well from the start. Good music mixes and masters, easy. Which is why I think most DAW's will do that fairly well.

    If you are a good musician wanting to build a perfectly adequate recording system, we can build an inexpensive DAW system for under $5000.
    That cost would basically include your computer, DAW and a good converter for under $5000.00.

    If I was to start out recording my music today, one example of many products I might be looking at would be a PreSonus StudioLive console. You can get a StudioLive console and Studio One software for a few thousand dollars.
    Add a computer to that and you have a multitrack recording system that can sound really good.

    If you want that extra sheen and big sound... that extra sheen is what I hear part of the tracking chain, and it unfortunately gets expensive.
    I think this is what most of the pro's have been saying for years. Its not elitist, its just the way it is.
     
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  6. Keith Johnson

    Keith Johnson Active Member

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    Mar 25, 2016
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    Over the years I've been doing this, the majority of my money has been invested in my 'electronic ears' - so increasing both the quality, quantity and flexibility of my mic box.

    My recordings are all made on location...and it was said about about the quality of the performance and room being paramount. That'll never change...but I see my job as capturing whatever they do as best I can...and that starts with those 'ears'.

    Because of the nature of the recordings, I go for 'neutral' pres - generally Audient or equivalent as they give me what I assess as giving me the best return on a cost per channel....at one point I was considering moving up to DAV or maybe Crookwood iPres for at least some of the channels or for smaller rigs....but given that although there'd be an incremental improvement in what I'd do, I remain unconvinced that my client base would notice it...certainly not as much as they'd notice me putting the mics in the wrong place.

    Same thing goes for converters IMO...there's a level that's 'good enough'. That may be either the Audient converters in the ASP880 that I use, or the RME Fireface 802...or maybe using my old Alesis HD24XRs as ADC for higher channel counts...again to me that's less important that using the right mic in the right place. Although I'm sure it'd be very 'nice' to have 48 channels of Prism conversion, I'm not sure people would like their bills when I passed the cost on to them ;)

    Once it's in the box for me it's all about workflow. For years I did straight to stereo mixes and edited those in Wavelab 6, but adopted Samplitude Pro X a while ago for multitrack editing...and the subsequent upgrades....but they weren't picked for price or how they sound, just because I could work out how to get what I wanted (fairly) quickly.

    And never underestimate the amount of money stuff like decent (and flexible) stands and cabling costs! That's frightening!
     
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    indeed! I can't imagine what it would cost to replace just my cable. I keep thinking, hmm I wonder how long it will be before some of this stuff is wireless or at least simplified.

    As an example, my AES EBU cabling costs me about $3000. I switched to a MADI interface and the same track count cost $20! One simple cable.
     
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  8. Keith Johnson

    Keith Johnson Active Member

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    Mar 25, 2016
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    Yep.

    In some ways I'm faced with a similar dilemma.

    I'm looking at upgrading the (currently copper) main multicores to a more modular system but to do that I'm looking at a fair chunk of money....add in the inconvenience of lugging around all that weight and then rigging it in some sometimes quite precarious buildings and it starts to become less attractive than waiting a while and going the whole hog and investing in remote pres and a reel of Cat5....
     
  9. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

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    Minnesota
    And a good reflection free listening environment. Make that a GREAT reflection free listening environment.

    My guess is a lot of home enthusiasts have:
    gear $$ > listening environment $$
     
  10. davidsguitar

    davidsguitar Active Member

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    Jul 22, 2015
    Location:
    seattle
    Nope - But it sure is fun!
    I like all hardware going in - then some of the UA plugs that are amazing for fine tuning and some effects.
    I have been digging the 55 Fender Sim that UA put out several months ago. I've never really been a Sim guy - but this caught my attention.
     
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  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    Dec 10, 2001
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    I NNEEEDDD IT ALL!…No wait. I only need that, Oh and then there's this thing. Gosh, I've read about those….wonder if they work? There's those things that sound just like those other things which are budget versions of THE thing we all strive for……..

    Song. Performance. Ear. Arrangement of said performance in a quality enhancing way. Simple capture as best possible with a nod to the environment. Some basic knowledge of correct manipulation of said environment. Gear.

    When you are inspired to want to capture your own or others' performance you take on a certain responsibility to learn the basic tenets of doing so.

    Its the same as creating anything….There is the inspiration followed by the perspiration.
     
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  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    I have GAS ( Gear Addiction Syndrome). I've had it for many years. And there is no 12-Step program for it. It can't ever be helped. It can never be cured. All you can do is to try and manage it.
    There's certain things that I feel I need, and then there's those things I WANT. They also overlap into each other, none of which is any good for my Discover card.

    It's always something. Sometimes it's not all that expensive, and other times it may cost you a lung and a kidney.

    I don't believe that anything I buy is an "investment" anymore - because that word implies that you are buying something that is going to make you more money, to eventually pay-off.
    Very few pieces you purchase will ever end up being a good business investment.

    Would I love a Neve, or SSL, or Harrison desk? Of course I would. But not one of those desks would ever end up paying for themselves, at least not in the area/market that I live in, and competing with home studios who are charging $5 to $10 per hour is impossible. From a business POV, in order to have one of those consoles - or, say a rack of beautiful analog peripheral gear, or a locker of gorgeous mics- I'd need to charge far more than what anyone is willing to pay these days.

    I suppose that if I lived somewhere like L.A., or Nashville, or Toronto or NYC, that I'd probably have to have that kind of gear just to compete - then again, in the past several years, we've seen beautiful, famous, iconic studios with that caliber of gear shutting their lights off.

    Which takes us back to the difference between what we feel we need, and what we want as recording aficionados, as lovers of the craft.

    So, these days, when I purchase something, I do it only because I want to, because I want to have whatever it is I'm buying. It's a desire, a personal indulgence.
    When I buy certain things it's because they bring me joy to have and to use... But, not one piece of the gear that I currently have, or ever will have, is ever going to make me any more money than what "Joe Blow's Basement Studio" up the street is getting per hour.

    Are there exceptions? Yeah, probably. You might find that "one" client every 6 months to a year or so, who is willing to pay your studio's rate, that is based on the gear you have.
    But just that one ( or even two) clients who are willing to pay a rate that is commensurate with the gear, isn't enough to get you out of the hole that having "that" kind of gear helps you to dig deeper.

    Buy what you want, and not what you feel you need. If you want - and can afford - a Neve desk, then by all means, get it if it brings you pleasure to have. That's your reason, right there, because these days, there are no other reasons.

    IMHO of course. ;)
     
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  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    Dec 10, 2001
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    A key word to G.A.S. is overhead. Not headroom…..Especially in a commercially vision'd use. Yeah, lots and lots of home recorders. Some very basic some a marvel of ingenuity in the space given. Some are vanity studios where there is a lot of cash-flow elsewhere and this is the 'playroom'….some where the owner is the artist and has a firm grasp on the internet school of misguided information….some are retired electricians<HAH!!>….some are really good engineers…some are producers who defray the cost of serious projects with budgets by doing things in-house….and list goes on and on.

    When I read Donny's comments about competing with $5-$10 /hr studios it strikes me like this: These are projects that someone with skills,talent, and a decent set of kit would never want anyway.

    I would never want to try and compete with studios that take on clients who would even think of going into a studio @that rate to create their vision. I know there are budgets and not everyone who is talented and driven has the bucks to get into a "real room" but it doesn't make sense from the point of business to ever take on these types of projects.

    The last couple of years I have completely stopped taking on clients from other 'bigger' rooms who weren't able or didn't want budget projects. I made a few dollars doing these 'castoffs' and had several producers sending potential clients my way because of this. Am I a $5-$10 studio? Not on your life. I found that the work load was increased proportionally to the lessening of the talent level. An even bigger detriment was the true amount of ego based "knowledge" some of these project individuals possess and as the hired venue, in a good business way, you are expected to do what you can without mashing the toes or even dashing the hopes of the clients.

    I can't do that. I am NEVER going to be a full-service guy. I know too much and have been doing it too long to put up with half-baked factoids and semi-educated whanks with a modicum of talent and no real clue how to get themselves better. The starry-eyed bunch is even worse to deal with than the half-knowledge crowd. Someone has told them during live performances in dimly lit venues with questionable acoustics that they should be stars and they believe that.

    So I prefer to use my G.A.S. to save the planet from bad songs and egotistically driven drivel. I only take projects that have a commonality and a mature vision. Not saying easy, just easily finished with all on board.
     
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  14. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    I believe we all get GAS from time to time, I think it comes with the territory, but I disagree about the existence of investment-grade purchases.

    The first part of this is really simple. Don't spend money you don't have, on something you don't absolutely need. If you are literally financing a gear purchase with plastic or any other high APR loan, nobody wins but the lender. The exception to that being, if you absolutely have to borrow very short-term while the income to pay for it is already in the pipeline coming in. Or sometimes if the new equipment / tool is pivotal to you landing the good paying project (which will offset all or most of the cost). That requires some risk-management. You should at least be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Regardless of what trade we might be in, we have to be able to differentiate. And if you're looking at it as a business purchase, you have to ask yourself the following:
    • Is this thing a valid equipment investment that's going to pay dividends, or just an operating expense (necessary or not) to my line of work?
    • Will this thing make my job easier, workflow more efficient, and/or noticeably improve my results?
    • Do I already own a thing that has been, for all practical purposes, doing the same job satisfactorily?
    • Will anyone other than me notice the difference in quality, or quantity, of output?
    • Will I use this new thing often enough to justify it taking up space, in addition to draining my bank account?
    • Is this thing going to generate enough income to pay for itself in the foreseeable future?
    • How rapidly will this thing depreciate, (or appreciate) in value?
    • Is this thing going to have any resale value, or be totally worthless next year, or even 5-10 years from now?
    • Are there other ways I can use this thing, outside of my normal business routine, (like providing rentals) to make money with it?
    • How does purchasing this thing affect my tax-situation? Is it a plus? Is it a minus? Is it a strategic minus applied in an advantageous place?
    • Will my wife, girlfriend, or significant other think this thing looks good sitting in our living room for the next 10-20 years?
    So much of the shiny crap that is out there for us to drool over, is just the fashionable flavor of the month. Trust me, 99.99% of it will pass. The music equipment industry would kill us all if they did late-night infomercials. They're experts in making you think you can't live without that thing that looks so enticing and works so well in every situation.

    Everyone should be able to buy something frivolous and idiotic for the pure fun of it from time to time. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but when we do that we have to call it what it is.

    Computers and software are an expense, half the time they're obsolete by the time you get your hands on them. Purchasing digital stuff in general is bad news as an investment and REALLY needs to be scrutinized. On the other hand, good mics, good pre-amps, good front-end, good cables, good monitors etc. will never go out of style.
     
  15. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

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    It depends on what level you want it to be at.. If you are recording a prestine acoustic album for Hi Fi aficiantos .. then you'll need great everyting..
    If you are doing a classic Rock album, the requirements are as high..

    Most pro Daws ala Logic, Samplitude, SAW, Cubase, Protool ,DP, Sonor etc. all have solid pugins that you can do an album with if you had to..

    For me it comes down to speed and workflow with plug ins.. And that is from what you've learned to use over time.. There are differences in sound plug in wise.. But realistically everthing sounds different that everything else.. as long as it's not terrible.. which these days everything is solid.. You can do a solid album with minimal gear.
     
  16. Brother Junk

    Brother Junk Active Member

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    Aug 6, 2016
    Location:
    Lowell Massachusetts
    Could someone put into simple words/concepts what mastering is vs. mixing?
     
  17. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    Very simply put :
    • Mixing is the action of puting together different mic recordings/tracks so they sound good together.
    • Mastering is the process of making sure the songs of an album sound good together and have a similare volume and frequencies as other albums on the market. The goal of mastering is that the listener don't have to reach for the volume or EQ of his/her listening device between each songs.
     
  18. joey2000

    joey2000 Active Member

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    USA
    Good lord. Under $5000??? You can do that for under $1000 (i.e. the PC, DAW, and AI....excludes instruments and mics). No, it won't have all the gee-whiz abilities of a mega-bucks studio, but if you know what you're doing, you can record some very professional-sounding stuff. Key phrase worth repeating: if you know what you're doing. :) It's much less about the equipment and much more about the skill in using it.
     
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  19. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Cool, it's always fun to be challenged or simply enlightened.

    Please share the list what you would build that would come under $5000 ? What DAW, PC, preamp(s), converter, interface, monitoring, cabling etc ?
     
  20. joey2000

    joey2000 Active Member

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    Jul 11, 2016
    Location:
    USA
    Note I said just the PC, DAW, and AI. :) But basically:

    - PC: if you spend more than about $500-600 on a PC now days, your requirements are either unusually high or you wasted money.
    - DAW: you kidding? Reaper, one of the most popular, is $60. There are other highly regarded ones in the $100-200 range.
    - AI: again, a wide number of quality AIs available in the $100-200 range, if not less, pending how many inputs you need. I won't waste time listing specifics, but once quick browse at GC or Amazon (etc) will easily prove this out.

    Even if you toss in cables and monitors, you don't need to add a ton more to that budget.

    I've heard results with such systems that sounded very good. I wouldn't recommend that Steely Dan use such a studio, but most people aint the Dan. :)
     

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