Need help adding outboard gear (or plug-ins)

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by purebloom, Feb 23, 2007.

  1. purebloom

    purebloom Guest

    I recently purchased a Fostex MR8-HD to record some demo-quality material. Now, I believe the next step in making some of these recordings "decent" is to add some outboard gear (or plug-ins). Having very little knowledge I'd like to know some opinions on what to purchase first, and if I should purchase units that are "all-in-one". I haven't
    set a budget, because I'm just getting ideas... but because I'm horribly cheap and poor it will probably be in the 100-200 dollar range.

    I've looked at the Presonus TubePre and Bluetube mic pre's and from what I've read it seems the TubePre is not really worth it, but the tubes in the BlueTube are better and a lot of the reviews were positive (I want atleast two channels for my mic pre anyway.... although if someone only need one channel they could purchase the TubePre and just buy better tubes to put in it... I'm thinking out loud). Anyway, any opinions on either of these? If not, any opinions on a different two channel mic pre that is comparable price wise?

    What about a compressor? Limiter? Equalizer (MR8-HD has no EQ.... so this seems fairly important)? Compressor/Limiter? Exciter? Multi-effect unit? Again... very little experience with outboard gear items so any advice is appreciated. In addition, I don't want to add on gear just to have more gear - I like the minimalist approach and really only would like to get it to contribute to the recordings (not in an attempt to impress people).

    Lastly, you should know I dump all the .wav files from the MR8HD onto the computer to mix, so plug-ins are also an option. And.... one final question related to the EQ comment above. In your opinion is it better to record the EQ'd material or can you get equally good results EQing recorded material after the fact with plug-ins? If this is the case, I can avoid purchasing a lot of extra equipment and save space and edit my audio with plug-ins. I am open to that idea as well.

    Any and all advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks!
  2. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    #1...Depends. If you record in stereo, get a two-channel unit. If not, a single-channel may do. The question is, will it work properly with the inputs of the Fostex, and make things sound better? Find out, and if it will work, beg, borrow, or otherwise try out several in your price range to see what happens. Check a store's return policy if you don't like something you bought. If you get to know some of the store personnel, maybe they'll loan you something, with a deposit?

    #2...May be handy...may make things worse going in. Depends on the unit and how you use it.

    #3...Uh-huh....tell the truth, now. Nobody does this stuff to NOT impress listeners :wink:

    #4...It's probably better to tweak the original source first, going in. The guitar or bass amp tone controls. The mic choice, placement, room, mic technique, vocalist, etc. If your keyboard is being run direct, and it can't be tone-tweaked it through an outboard EQ to keep it out of the way of the other stuff. Same with all the other stuff...if you have to. If the singing can't be controlled dynamically, maybe a compressor/limiter (often the same thing depending on model and settings) is worth trying.

    Reverb and other time-based effects may best be put off until it's in the computer...unless you have a high-end outboard unit. Still, you record with it, you can't remove it.

    You may not want to squash the life out of everything going in with compression. You may want to leave some depends on the music. If you get the tones and levels of everything going in good at first, then you may need to do a minimal of tweaking when you mix it all down, which is better.

    Since you want to get a decent level when recording, all the levels may be mismatched when you start mixing. Adjust the levels then. If something keeps popping out (frequency, level, etc), take care of that a bit on that track, or the competing track.

    It's a balancing act. The less you are able to futz with the recorded signal later, the better. Sometimes, it can't be avoided, but if you have to do drastic changes to something, it usually means it wasn't done very well in the first place.

    Just some things to think about. As usual, this is just stream-of-thought, (and sometimes what I thought I thought was thought with scant thought) so corrections are welcome. :?

  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    KK gives EXCELLENT advice here. I agree with everything he said.

    I find that WAY too often, young recordists feel that the only thing missing from their tracks is EQ, or compression, or limiting, or whatever effect they recently just heard of.

    The fact is, if you didn't capture the sound right to begin with, those things won't make a hill-of-beans difference.

    The key is understanding what an effect is and how/when to use it. Notice, it's called an "effect" not a "band-aid." In other words, you use compression or EQ when you want to make the sound different for a reason, not to fix the sound. If you are fixing, start over. Retry your mic choice or mic placement, amp settings, etc.

    I have a nice EQ which I use for mastering, but I must admit, I RARELY ever touch an EQ during tracking or mixing. If I do, it's usually a HPF just to avoid AC noise or passing trucks...

    All that being said though, it's not a bad idea to get some inexpensive hardware boxes and see what they can do for you. You may wind up selling them on Ebay in a year or so, but they may also help you figure out what they can and can't do and why you like or dislike them.

    Cheers -

  4. purebloom

    purebloom Guest

    Just wanted to say thanks to both of you for your advice. I appreciate it.
  5. purebloom

    purebloom Guest

    Just wanted to say thanks to both of you for your advice. I appreciate it.

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