how can i build the best bedroom studio for $10K?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by aclane, Aug 23, 2004.

  1. aclane

    aclane Guest

    I need some advice from people who've been around.

    I wont be tracking drums. Probably just vocals, guitars and percussion. I'll have to outsource the drums for anything major. everything else will be direct in.

    The room is a small cube, so i'll be padding everything to get the maximum isolation and try to dispell my standing waves.

    That said, heres what i need advice on...

    In general i hate Mac's. But i hear the're just better, although i dont know why. I hear of them crashing as much as PC's.
    Also, I can get twice the computer if i just order a Dell, for the same money i would spend on a Mac. Thats a big deal on a $10K budget. I also might want to run Acid or something to do some drum loops and such.
    If it was a Dell, i'd get the latest pentium, 1 gig of duel channel RAM, 160 Gig Hard drive and probably a 250 gig removable drive.
    (I figure when i track drums elsewhere i can just bring my removable drive, dump the tracks on there and bring it home to mix.) Also, i'd either get two 17" monitors or one 21" monitor. It's about the same price. Any sugestions?

    I was leaning towards getting the digi002 board and running Protools, but is there a superior rout to go? What makes it better?

    Mike pre's- I figure a need one excellent pre, preferrable a 2 channel. But i have no idea how to select one. I want to buy a used one thats gonna hold its value well. I got one high recommendation for the DBX 786.
    After that i can probably get by with the 4 focuswrite pre's on the digi002 (cant I?)

    Mics- I have limited knowledge here as well. I know the AKG414's are good for gtrs and strings. Maybe vocals too. Maybe Neumannn KM84's for gtrs? Maybe a AKG C2000 or Sure SM32 (i think thats how you say it)for vocals? I've heard real good things from multiple people about Marshal MXL's.

    Effects/Dynamics- Should i get some outboard gear or just stick with the various plugins to get my effects and dynamics. What about for mastering? Any particular plug-in or piece of gear you prefer over others? A friend of mine is pushing his TC electronic triple C compressor for mastering, but cant i get a plug in that will do as good of a job?

    Finally monitors- its a small dead room, so i've been thinking i just need some nearfield monitors. Dont you want stuff to sound like the real world? (i.e. factory installed car speakers. Is it really important that i get some great/expensive full-range mains? Or even just mid range? I dont know if i could even utilize them in this small bedroom. And what about powered v.s. active.
    Whats best on a budget like this?

    I'm also a little fuzzy on if i need an A/D converter like a MOTU 2408. Do i even need one if i'm running through a digital board like the digi002?

    Man thats alot of big decisions!
    If you guys even have one thing opinion about one of these things, id really appreciate your input.

  2. damienthorn

    damienthorn Guest

    whatever you pick, make sure you've accounted for some form of data back-up ... i.e. another hard-drive on top of your day to day one's ...
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    You don't need a Mac ... PC's are just as powerful as Macs ... they can be a bit more finicky in regards to configuring them, especially if you're using Windows 98. XP Pro requires no tweaks to speak of. I would opt for a Dual processor as well as over 1 gig of RAM .... this will facilitate hyper threading.

    I think 2 -17" monitors would be fine ... I use one and I am perfectly happy. I advise you to look at flat panel monitors.. You won't have to worry about getting shielded speakers and they won't introduce noise .. also they run cooler (important in a small room) and take up less space. They are easier on the eyes too.

    PT is fine ... it seems to be where the largest portion of the recording business is headed. There's a lot to be said for compatibility. In your case, where you want to interface with other studios, it is even more important. Be aware however, that you cannot import files from a PT HD TDM system back into PT le ... so any studio you want to swap files with will have to be PT le equipped. Track counts for PT le are limited to 32 and you are forced to use Digidesign interfaces. I personally prefer Cubase or Nuendo for my applications.

    The pres in the 001 / 002 are the cheapest ones Focusrite makes .., (the Platinum series) and imo do not sound significantly better than those found in just about any small mixer. I would not use them unless I had to. That said, a person with abilities could press them into service and achieve useable results.. They just are not the best available. Same with the DBX and other mid priced pres... Until you get into the more expensive pres, there really isn't any significant improvement.

    Mics- AKG 414's are good for guitars and strings, vocals, overhead, hi hats and almost anything else. The Shure KSM 32 would be good but is redundant if you get the 414's.. A pair of sd condensers like the Nuemann KM184's or AKG 451's would be good also. I would avoid the AKG C 2000 at all costs ... junk! Same for the Marshall / MXL's, cheap! If you want an inexpensive LD mic I recommend the Studio Projects line. The B1, C1 & C3 all offer a great performance to price ratio. Good build and customer service too. Don't overlook dynamic mics. Shure SM57s and Sebbheiser 421's are the workhorses of the trade and I think you will find use for a few of each. A couple AKG D112's or a Audix D6's for kick drums and bass cabs would be good as well. All of these dynamics will be good for other applications too.

    As far as effects, I would stay with what's in the box for the time being. perhaps later this may be something you want to look at again later.

    Dynamics, I would leave to the recording software also unless I could afford something good like a UA LA2a , Manley ELOP or a UA 1176. You may consider a channel strip thing like a Millennia STT-1 or the new Sebatron THORAX ... this would provide you with a quality mic pre, eq and compressor path to the recorder.

    I would also leave the mastering tools until later. In general, mastering is best done by pros in pro facilities.. Home mastering solutions pretty much suck and I think they are a waste of money. I can do just as good a job of mastering in Cubase as anything done with a TC Finalizer.

    In a small room with a lot of low end modes, I would lean towards a monitor that did not have extended deep bass response to screw things up by exciting these modes. Something that goes to 40 or 50 Hz. would be perfect.. In your case I would suggest you consider the Yamaha MSP5's. They are powered and work quite well. No one I know of who has used them has ever complained about them.

    You will not need any type of converters if you go PT. Digidesign makes all those decisions for you. If you choose another software solution, you may need to consider both sound card and interface options ...
  4. aclane

    aclane Guest

    As far as mic pres go, how much am i looking at to buy a great used mic pre? what would you say i should be looking for? Or does the given budget not account for anything on the high mic pre end?
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I may not be the right person to ask this of ... I have a taste for the higher end of things, especially when it comes to mic pres.

    My opinion is all of the budget stuff is pretty much the same ... there's nothing there that is really significantly any better than the rest. All the Sytek, Grace 101, RNP, M Audio, PreSonus, Focusrite Platinum series, ART & Mackie pres sound about the same to me. They are fine but not Neve quality.

    The least expensive pres that I like would be JH Hardy, API, Sebatrons, JLMs ... all still over $1000 to get started.

    A Hardy pre will come with a rack mount that will accomodate 4 pres and will run around $1100 for a single about $2200 fully stuffed (I think). API's require a power supply rack solution (lunchbox) also but once you have that, can be found used for as little as $500 per channel (used). The Sebatron VMP 1 is under a grand and a 2 channel one is about $1250, 4 channels for $1850 ... The JLM TMP8 comes in an 8 channel package for about $2200 ... IMO a best buy at $275 per channel, you just won't find a quality mic pre for less than that.

    I think the shortest route to great recordings lies in the mic pres ... even cheap dynamic mics sound better with a good pre. I would stress the importance of good pres over converters, control surfaces, plug ins, modeling amp pod thingies anyday. Pres will last forever too if you don't get ones that are packaged with converters that will become obsolete. You don't hear of people throwing their old Neve, API, Trident, RCA and UA / UREI mic pres away but just check out what a 16 bit converter is worth ...
  6. Blueberry

    Blueberry Active Member

    Aug 6, 2003
    New York
    Home Page:
    1. Cubase SX $699
    A great DAW with all the features and very good mixer built in.

    2. Echo Layla $799
    Very good converters which allow you to record up to 96. Intergrates with Cubase

    3. Langevin DVC $1,800 Two high end hand made mic pre's with two opti compressors. Similar put the best two channel pre's you can get under $2,000. See my review.

    4. Shure Beta SM57 $130
    Every studio needs one

    5. UAD Card $750
    You need some serious plug ins. Start off with one card but at a later date, get a 2nd card. Dream verb much better than the one in Cubase. Two awesome compressors and some nice EQ too.

    6, Mackie Controller $1,000
    The best way to control Cubase at this time. Scribble strips on the unit tell you which fader is for what channel. No other controller has this .

    7. Get a Rode NT1A, and Audio Technia 4033 $700 total
    The NT1A is bright and clear, the 4033 is warmer and fuller sounding.

    8. Cables, shock mount for 4033 and wind screen $100

    9. Custom computer from Monarch computer or similar company $2,000.
    Dell has limited PSI slots in the back and they also add so much junk that you don't want running in the backround on a audio computer. You can customize the computer at Monarch or similar company with no extra software like Windows Office, or any anti virus that you don't want running in the background.

    10. Aurlex 3" foam squares. $300
    To help prevent reflections when music bounces off the back or side wall.

    11. Monitors- Tannoy System 600 Actives or the Mackie HR 624. I prefer Tannoy but that is a personal choice.

  7. kurt, can you explain a little further on the tdm compatability with session files issue? the only reason why i ask is recently i had a projected that i tracked on an HD tdm system and i finished mixing it on my 002 rack le system. there wasn't any problem bringing it between the two at 96k 24 bit.
  8. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2002
    I would reccommend that you create separate, subject specific posts in the appropriate forums of this site to tackle each aspect of your new studio:

    The Acoustics and Design mods can teach you how to correct the acoustics of your room. This is the most important step.

    The guys in the DAW products and Computing forum can help you design the right system for your needs.

    Kurt, Gaff and the gang in Pro Audio Gear can help you select the right pres, mics and such.

    And down in the Digital Audio forum, I can help you pick plugs, instruments, apps, and soundcards.

    The crew here at RO is absolutely outstanding. There is also a great wealth of information to be found using the search feature.

    I'm sure you'll find all the answers you're looking for.

    Best of luck.
  9. bap

    bap Member

    Nov 22, 2003
    You might look at Samplitude [or Sequoia ] as a software option. It's native plug-ins are exceptional.

    If you can build electronics or have a friend who can help, some DIY kits are right up there. A review of one of Seventh Circle products can be found at (Dead Link Removed)

    I almost got that one, but instead bought the Hamptone JFET [he also sells a tube pre kit]. It costs a little less, was fun to build, and is really a great little piece of kit.

    There are a few pre-amp kits that are able to please even the most discriminating gear snobs! :wink:
  10. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    First object needs to be to do something about the "cube" your planning on using for a studio...

    Acoustics are more important than what pre you're using.
  11. imissthewar

    imissthewar Guest

    For the record, the pres in the 002 are not Focusrites, they are a digidesign manufacture based on the digiPRE. The Mbox indeed has the Focusrites and they do sound better (to my ears) than the 002.

    In any case, avoid them if you can, my advice, start an API lunch box (also compatible with Brent Averill and Old School Audio stuff, both are excellent), and if you have money after, spring for a tube pre like a Sebatron or A Designs dual channel. If you want something cleaner, check out the Sytek, it's also a good value at $800 for 4 channels.

    Lastly, when making your mic choices, don't forget to grab a couple higher priced dynamics and even a ribbon. It seems everyone these days is caught up in the latest greatest condenser when perhaps an SM7 will be money on your voice for under $400.
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    BUSTED! oops, You are correct, I was wrong about that. Please excuse me. the earlier version of LE could not import files from TDM but I guess DD changed this in newer releases. I checked the PT site and found this ...

    Pro Tools is designed to serve as the hub of your audio production universe. To that end, any session you create can be seamlessly moved between both Windows- and Macintosh-based Pro Tools LE and/or TDM systems while retaining all automation, track configurations, MIDI data, and even plug-in assignments. So you’re able to pass your session to a collaborator or take it to a professional studio without compromising your session’s integrity. And because Pro Tools LE systems share the very same user interface as the professional TDM systems, everything you learn using Pro Tools LE is transferable to Pro Tools TDM systems.

    Thanks for the heads up.
  13. I agree wholeheartedly, though I would add this one caveat. If you're going the Pro Tools HD route, you really want a Mac. I'm a Windows guy (been developing Windows software for a decade), and when I decided to chuck the ADATs, I was ready to drop $10-$20k to go with a hardware PT rig. I talked to 6 different dealers across the country. None, and I mean none of them would take my money unless I went with a Mac. Simply put, they said the Windows NT version of the high end system just "wasn't there", and they didn't want to support an unhappy customer. I found that quite telling, since they were turning away a significant chunk of money. They also get serious style points for that kind of integrity.

    I ended up buying a Mackie Digital 8 Bus and an HDR to get started. Eventually, I got a Digi 001 for PT compatibility (as well as recent purchases of Nuendo and Vegas), and I'm not impressed with the Windows version of PT. It works, but it's not the tool I reach for first.

    That said, there's a lot of good DAW stuff out there now for Windows. However, if you want PT, especially the high end system, buy a Mac. Half a dozen people turning away serious money is evidence enough for me...
  14. H.G.

    H.G. Guest

    We had not problems with our PC's in the last +/- 2 years.
    I would suggest a custom made PC from one of those audio specialist shops.

    I move a lot so I am working now all the time on a custom made Laptop ( 3Gb Processor, 1Gb memory) no problems whatsoever.

    We are using RME cards already for years and I can say only the best about them.

    I am using Nuendo, great for audio. ( I have been a VIP Logic user unfortunatelly no more PC support..

    I would not recommend the effects included in Nuendo, either get a Lexicon or Eventide.

    Maybe get a pre/amp EQ, Comp. combination, there are so many good ones out there.
  15. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member

    Jan 27, 2002
    Forgive me (I've posted this several times before and on several other forums) but I think those dealers need to update a bit and see what the real performance results are for PT on Win machines, both LE and TDM/HD. Dozens of PC users are more than happy with PCs using PT on those interfaces with no problems if the machine is configured the right way; there are lists of proven configurations (all of the components and software) for LE and TDM systems on the Digidesign forum developed by end users on the field, and the numbers of the benchmark test speak for them, and NT is not supported anymore (that tells me we're referring to a thing of the past) since it's been substituted by XP and stability isn't an issue.

    Only thing one has to do is step out of his/her comfort zone and see what's happening outside, just go to Digidesign Users Conference and read it by yourself.

    C'mon it's 2004, Macs are no longer the only solution for digital audio production, those that still belive this fairy tale (both dealers and customers) need to get in touch with the true reality of things.

    I said all of this without any polemic or flamewar intent.

    If you want to go with PT for a number of reasons, and you choose a PC, then go for it without any worries, as there are surefire ways to have a powerfull and stable system with a 002 or 002R (I'm talking based upon my own personal experience, not by common talk), and save the money you'd spend on a Mac to buy some great high end preamp or mic, IMO that's a wiser way of spending your hard earned cash.


  16. Bhennies

    Bhennies Guest

    Just don't hook up a PC to the internet.

    Also, where do people keep getting the idea that PC's are SOOOO much cheaper than macs? Last I checked, a custom dual opteron or AMD PC spec'd against comparable macs is more expensive than even the dual 2.5 g5. Of course you can get some dell for 500 bucks. But comparing it to a g5 is just nonsense. That's like saying a presonus pre is a better option than an API because it's cheaper and both pres do the same thing (take a mic input). Stability, ease of use, build quality, resale value, these are all things to take into consideration.

    either way, a PC will suit you just fine, and I agree, the stability of windows is not so much of problem any more. Just go the custom built route and get something that's rock solid. And NO INTERNET!
  17. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    should qualify that: No internet except for upgrades. Many times the only way to upgrade is to download. Of course if you have a mac viruses are not as menacing as if you have a pc

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