Looking to ramp up my console - Need Advice

Discussion in 'Consoles / Control Surfaces' started by likea45, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. likea45

    likea45 Guest

    I have a small project studio and have been slowly (as I'm sure most people do) ramping up my gear.

    I've been running all my drums and guitars through an Alesis studio 32.

    When I bought this board I was just getting into tracking and wasnt going to drop $5K+ on a board.

    Here is the deal - Out of the 16 channels on the board the most Ive ever used at once was 12. I mix everything in the computer and dont route back out to the mixer or dump to tape.

    So my big question is, what console would be good for me to ramp up to that wont be more than I need but will make an audible difference.
    Im looking to spend not a dime over $2K at this point.

    I was thinking of just getting new pre's and continuing to use the studio 32 for its eq - but basically Id like some other options on what to do.

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    How do you connect the Studio 32 to your computer? Are you using the channel direct outs of the mixer via a digitizing interface? If so, what type?

    It may be that the best investment for you and the way you work is not another mixer but a couple of multi-channel interfaces with mic pre-amps.

    However, if you are determined to get another mixer, a digitizing console such as the Mackie Onyx 1640 with the FireWire interface fitted comes in under your $2K budget and would be a step up in sound quality from what you have at present.
  3. If I were you, I'd go for new Mic-Pres AND keep the Studio 32, even if it's just for monitoring purposes.

    I have a Studio24, which I still am very fond of. Though these days, I record most of my stuff via two four-channel Tascam Mic-Preamps connected to my AD-converters.
    Still, I keep the Alesis for all stuff that exceeds 8 simultaneous channels, because it still provides another eight mic-pres of reasonable quality
    The routing, the Aux-Sends and the Tape returns allow for comfortable tape monitoring, in conjunction with a four-channel-Headphone gives me all the foldback mixes my performers want.

    My Equipment might be in a smaller league than yours, but maybe my way of handling this might work for you, too?
    Unless you need something to impress future customers, and the brand name Al.... on the mixing board just ruins the "high end image" of your setup :)
    (I got rid of several B...ringer stuff just for that reason, not because it was bad.)
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I was hoping to see the answer to Boswell's question before I reply, but here's a thought.

    Using the Studio 32 in your signal chain (for the EQ) with $2000 worth of preamps would be like buying a Porche and giving it to your grandma.

    You'll only degrade the signal. Try dumping the Studio 32 and going straight from the preamp into the computer and using any EQ within your software.

    Going through an external EQ that is designed for the sole purpose of EQ would be very nice, but good (or even decent) outboard EQs cost more than the budget you've laid out for us. Good software EQs though can be pretty darned inexpensive.
  5. likea45

    likea45 Guest

    Currently I use the studio 32's direct outs to 2 M-Audio Delta 1010 units then straight to the computer. The deltas are 8-in-8-out so I simply use the outs on one to monitor back with.

    Also I'm running Nuendo 1.5 as I like its interface for tracking and am not very fond of later versions.

    I've heard the Mackie stuff isn't much nicer than the Alesis as far as pre-amps go although I've good things about the Onyk Pres.

    I'm against going from a nice pre into the interface and eq'ing in the system. I used to do that with an M-Audio Tampa straight into the interface and the results I felt didnt give me as much control.

    Maybe I'm old school or it goes back to years of doing front of house but I like to EQ on a board or in "analog" at least the first go round - I like to use the plug ins to take it up a notch if need be.

  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Yes -
    The Mackie line is leaps and bounds beyond the Alesis, particularly the Onyx line.

    However, you cannot use the EQ on it on your recorded tracks (without a modification).

    Also, it is seriously fool-hardy to use a separate preamp and a mixer just to use the mixer's EQ. Especially if the mixer is an Alesis. These are not known for their quality EQs, nor are they known for passing a clean signal. I don't know their schematics to be able to tell you whether the line-inputs (if there are any) bypass the preamps, but I would bet that they don't.

    I understand your desire to tweak a knob to change the EQ, but using the one in a cheap desktop mixer is not the way to go. The EQs on those kinds of mixers (Mackie included) are designed for use in live-sound applications - feedback hunting, etc. They are not designed for recording.

    I am also curious as to your choice to use Nuendo. People don't generally spend $2K on a piece of software because they like the interface, especially when its cheaper brother (Cubase) has the exact same recording interface. Is this owned software? Or is this "borrowed" software?
  7. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    Cocoa, FL
    Home Page:
  8. likea45

    likea45 Guest

    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by using the mackie on recorded tracks - I think you mean using it in conjuction with the DAW correct?

    I have a hard time believing going through a nicer board with its EQ and pres is a bad idea...maybe I'm misunderstanding you but I have friends in other parts of the country who use consoles in production quite a bit and only use boutique gear for vocals and other more intimate things.

    I've heard good things about older crest boards and they make a smaller compact mixer for tracking which is reported to have the same pres and EQ as the Ghost. Also Allen & Heath has come up a couple of times in my search for better quality. I dont care if I have to go to a larger footprint but I have to have a notable quality difference.

    I bought Nuendo because I used to be into video production for independent film, at the time it was the best thing available for scoring.

    I liked it better for tracking and still use it. 1.5 doesnt need a dongle so I've been using the same copy on multiple systems for years now.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I mean that you cannot take a mic, plug it in, send it through the Mackie mixer and its firewire device into your DAW and use EQ on the analog signal. The EQs in that device are post AD conversion.

    Also, yes, it's common to use a "nicer board" (your words) for all of your primary tracking needs.

    A Mackie, Alesis, A&H, Crest, Soundcraft do not qualify as a nicer board. An API, Neve, SSL, Euphonix, and so on do. However, these are not in the price range you identified.

    If you spend $2K on preamps (let's just hypothetically say the True Systems P8 since it's around that range) and then you feed them through your Alesis, you've wasted your money.

    I'm not sure how much more simple I can state this.

    If you want to upgrade your sound and are stuck on the concept of a console, find a used MCI or maybe a modified Ghost (stock ones leave a little to be desired although their EQ is usable, I wouldn't consider it a good recording EQ) or perhaps an old/used Otari.

    However, for $2k or under, you're not going to get huge differences in sound. You're going to get a cheap mixer which is designed to act as a dual purpose machine with its primary purpose being live-sound. The Onyx is a great board and I love some of its features. However, it is not a "good console." It's a good all-purpose device with pretty good sounding pres.

    If the following statement, which you made in your initial post is accurate, then you're wasting your time and your money.
    I'm not trying to be rude here, it's just the idea of taking up to $2K worth of preamps and going into a piece of sh*t mixer like that so that you can use the EQs is absurd.

    Since you already have the Delta 1010s and have up to 16 Inputs, I would STRONGLY encourage you to get maybe 4 to 8 really solid pres for your $2k (or maybe even only 1 or 2 which would be even better) and run them into channels 1 and 2 or 1-4 or 1-8 on your first 1010 and use the Alesis only when necessary on the rest of your tracking.

    The other problem I have is that in ANY recording situation which I've encountered in nearly 20 years, I can't think of any single instance where the EQ on a cheap or even moderately priced console would do anything I want for the sound.

    I'd say that at least 50-75% of the time that someone complains to me that they can't get their mix sounding right and I come look at their setup, it's because they used crappy EQs all over the place.

    Your best EQ is your microphone - how you place it, how you angle it and how you load it.

    Again - not trying to be a jerk, just trying to be honest and helpful. Sometimes the answers one gets around here aren't the ones they were looking for. You have to decide what you do with the information - ignore it and do what you want, or listen and process it.

  10. likea45

    likea45 Guest

    I can definitely appreciate what you are saying.

    Having a Neve or SSL would be great - but alas in my small studio a half a million dollar console isnt even close to feasible.

    My biggest issue is Drums. Allot of people will keep an Avalon or Mercenary around and use the pre's on that for over dubs. But this doesnt solve 8-10 mics on a rock drum set.

    I know the Alesis isn't a "great board" but I've been able to get some great results and made some pretty good records using it. In the most recent Tape Op this band called The Books was featured, they use even worse equipment and people buy the records.

    I guess it may be personal taste and budget. If buying one of the consoles I mentioned (A&H,Crest,Soundcraft) isnt a step up, then it sounds as if Im better off to keep what I have and expand with a new 2 channel pre for perhaps snare drums, voxs, keys etc.
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Yes - that's the idea.

    Getting a couple channels of nice pre is a great option. Again, I would STRONGLY urge you to not pass these channels through your Alesis as it would be a giant detriment to the sound.

    Also, in general, I think there are far better pres out there for the money than Avalon. I'm not familiar with any Mercenary pres. I know of Mercenary audio and that they have some Mercenary Editions of some stuff, but I don't know of their pres.

    Just a thought - you could get 4 pretty nice pres for around $2k. Something like the Langevin dual preamp plus a couple Grace 101s or Summit 2BA-221s. Or you could get something along the lines of the Benchmark preamp (a very open and clean sounding pre) or even an API lunchbox with a few modules in it that would allow you to add later when a few bucks trickle in.

    But please, please, please, don't put an API into an Alesis for the sake of its EQ. That's like marrying Kate Beckinsale because she can cook.
  12. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    Kate Beckinsale can cook? A double threat! :)

    +1 on Cucco's comments. That is really the best recommendation.

    But if you really want a different mixer...Click here

    That'll leave you with some extra cashish for extra goodies.
  13. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Actually if you buy the pres you should try it both ways. Quickest way to get over your love of tweaking analog knobs.
  14. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2005
    Giving your Porsche to your Grandma? Having Kate Beckinsale cook? How about this:
    Have Grandma cook, and give the Porsche to Kate. Both of them will reward you!
  15. sshack

    sshack Active Member

    Dec 25, 2007
    Atlanta, Ga
    Cucco...you and Dave have mentioned those Langevin dual preamps in one of my threads. Do these guys really excel with vocals or in any given area?
    I GAS for too much gear so I've been eyeballing this and/or a Vintech X73.

    Sorry for the slight hijack.
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I can't say enough positive things about the Langevin preamps. They are, in my opinion, some of the best values in audio today. They sound absolutely huge and wide open and everything I've ever recorded through them sounded fantastic - from symphonies to rock to rap vocals, etc.

    They rock as a bass DI too.
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