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Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by sergeantedward, Apr 11, 2017.

  1. sergeantedward

    sergeantedward Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2017
    Location:
    Indiana
    Hi all! This is an incredible website, and I feel lucky to have found it. I've been lurking around on and off for a few months, reading dozens of threads, and trying to learn what I can. I've read more "Here's my situation and what mic setup should I use?" questions than anything else, because that's my question too. But I need help, and so it's time for me to post.

    Here is the recording project:
    - 12 singers (all pro, all with university degrees, most have recorded on albums before)
    - repertoire: classical music, all a cappella...a lot of Renaissance music, and modern a cappella music too.
    - venue: I have access to two recording venues. One is a sound-engineered hall at a university, which has curtains which can be lowered or raised to give reverb or not. The second is a brand new orchestra recording room, which is covered in sound sucking panels to make it incredibly dry. I am not sure which room is going to be better. In the hall, I will get lots of beautiful ambient noise, and the choir overtones are heard very clearly. In the recording room, I'll get a totally dry recording...but that makes it way easier to mix and edit later.

    Current gear:
    - MacBook Pro 2017 (only USB-C ports...and I wonder if using adapters will screw with the recording process?)
    - Zoom H6 (possibly use as the Audio interface? Bad idea?)
    - Nothing else!

    Budget:
    I have $4,000-$5,000 which I can spend on an audio interface, on microphones, and any peripherals (headphones, mic stands, etc.)

    Your suggestions for gear purchase, which room to record in, and so on would be very, very welcome!
     
    audiokid likes this.
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    With 5k, I doubt going with 12 good mics and preamps with headphones amps and more will be possible.
    If you have access to nice recording rooms, I would suggest recording with one omni mic or 2 figure of 8 mic in blumlein config. with this technique, the signers could be placed around the mics in a circle and you'll get a great sound
    blumleinpair.gif

    If I was in your position, I would concentrate to get :
    • a good interface with nice converters and direct to converter inputs.
    • 2 good external preamps (low noises and accurate)
    • 2 high-end mics with figure 8 (with a stand and stereo bar)
    • good studio monitors
    The Zoom isn't a bad unit, but the preamps aren't as accurate as others we can find but of course they could be a starting point. If you want to start with buying mics and buy interface and preamps later, it could be a way to go. Just keep in mind that if you have to push the volume of the zoom preamp, you'll get electronic noises in no time.
     
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  3. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    What a compliment, thank you and welcome to our recording community.

    Good call on the recommendations, Marco.

    The first mic that comes to my mind is one of the Royer SF series. SF-12, SF-24, SF-24v . I have the 24's and they are absolutely awesome for choirs and what you are shooting.
     
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  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    You've had good advice from pcrecord and audiokid.

    I have recorded many renaissance singing groups of the sort of size you describe. This type of music to a large extent dictates that you should not use a close miking technique, since you want the building acoustics to form a part of the sound. That would also favour your using the less dry room.

    I usually start with a pair of microphones (or a single stereo microphone) at a carefully-located central point, feeding into good-quality pre-amps and converters. I rarely use exactly the same equipment each time, but my simplest kit is a stereo microphone, an Audient Mico pre-amp with optical S/PDIF output and a (pre-Retina) MacBook Pro, as MBPs of that vintage had an optical S/PDIF input. This is all easily transportable with the exception of the high stand (3 -4 m) that is required, especially when the group has a conductor and you have to position the microphones some way above the conductor's head.

    There's no one type of microphone that will cover all cases. I have used pairs of condensers, pairs of ribbons as well as stereo versions of those types. You could do worse than consider a pair of AKG C414s, but there are at least half a dozen versions of these microphones, some having small "presence peaks" that make them less suitable for this type of work. For ribbons, the Royer SF-12 stereo ribbon gives lovely sound for singing groups, at the risk of being a little too lush. I've also made some great recordings with MBHO small-diaphragm condenser (SDC) microphones, which are similar to but lower-cost versions of some of the top-end Schoeps range.

    When it comes to choosing your converter/interface, you either have to be confident that you will not want more than two channels, or you have to pay for a 4-8 channel unit to cover more eventualities. In the latter case, you could be laying out significant money for channels that you may not use for most of the recording work. Your new MBP unfortunately does not have the S/PDIF input, so you are going to need a USB- or Thunderbolt-interfaced pre-amp/converter (audio interface). As I indicated, high-quality audio interfaces generally are either 2-channel or 8-channel, with a few 4-channel units, but none of the good ones is low-cost. At the top end of the middle-range, Focusrite, Presonus and RME are worth looking at, and then there is a more limited choice in the upper-end range.
     
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  5. Keith Johnson

    Keith Johnson Active Member

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    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    I'm on the same page as Boswell here....nice sounding room with as few or as many mics as it needs to get the sound that you want...which will be dictated by - amongst other things - the performers, the room and the repertoire you're recording....without knowing those things it's not really possible to give a definitive answer.

    Boswell's suggestion of 414s is a good one as it allows you flexibility with the switchable polar patterns such that you can try different mic techniques. As he says, though, the different flavours of 414s complicates matters - my own preference is for 414B ULS (or earlier if they're available like the EB) over the later XLS incarnations (and definitely over things like the XL II which personally I find too bright). Other alternatives would be the AT4050 or if you can find them on the S/H market Beyerdynamic MC740. Bear in mind that if you're going to use them as a true stereo pair you'd ideally have mics from the same lineage with a similar history.

    There are loads of SDC options from the Line Audio CM3 wide cardioids or OM1 omnis, through the Rode options (personal preference is actually the Line Audios over, say, the NT55), through various models including Neumann Km183/4 (or their modular variants), Gefell M300, various Schoeps mics and so on. With loads in between.

    The higher up the food chain you go with mics the more the difference between them becomes a matter of preference, rather than how well they perform...for example in most circumstances if I have them available I'd choose a Schoeps MK2S over a Neumann KM183 because I prefer how they sound (usually), but you can get fabulous results with either.

    Something else to bear in mind is how often you're going to be doing this kind of thing. If it's not that often, you may be better off hiring some of these things rather than investing a lot of money in stuff that will take ages to start making returns (or even to get your money back!). That way you can get a broader choice of gear and experiment (should you have time) until you find something you like rather than blindly trusting opinions of others (absolutely no offence intended to any contributors anywhere!).

    Additionally, never underestimate the amount of money you may need to spend on the periphery - the stands, the cables, the shockmounts, the red light system....
     
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  6. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    Funny how relative the phrase 'sizable budget' is, huh?

    You're going to have $2200-$2600 of it tied up in either a matched pair of AKG C414 XLS, or one great stereo mic like the Royer SF-12. The pair of AKGs being more versatile, but the Royer being less obtrusive and requiring less set-up, since it's always fixed at the correct angle to give a perfect stereo image. I often see guys out there with a matched pair of Earthworks SDCs too. And although it's not in the same class as any of those, the Rode NT-4 is a very respectable X-Y stereo mic capable of good results to get you started.

    My budget has dictated that I go the C414 route, because I need them for their versatility in countless other applications, but if all I wanted to do was stereo choral and ensemble recordings the SF-12 would be all I'd need. I really like the stereo image you get with a Blumlein pair of C414s, but the mounting apparatus you need to do this is admittedly a little unsightly, and requires some careful assembly and set-up. If you're ever recording a live performance the aesthetics matter. If you're lucky enough to be to recording in a controlled, non-performance environment, it probably won't matter to you at all.

    That will also determine whether you need super-tall stands too. You certainly don't want to put a couple thousand dollars worth of mic(s) 10-20 in the air on a flimsy stand.

    So jump straight to a professional level, it's easily conceivable to burn through $3k just for the mic(s), stand(s), and cables - before you even address the interface / pre-amp part of the equation.


    USB-C transfers data at twice the speed of USB 3.0, and it's backward compatible to older USB devices. Using a quality adapter cable should not have an adverse effect, but the data-speed can only be as fast as the slowest device in the chain. If I use a cable that's FW400 on one end and FW800 on the other, it's performance is limited to the FW400 spec. All other things being equal, if an interface runs well on USB 2, it should run just as well on USB 3, or USB-C. I wouldn't expect any improvement, but it shouldn't get any worse either.
     
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  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    How about this :

    Mics (with figure of 8 polar paterns):
    AKG 414 match pair : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/C414XLSST 2249$
    Royer SF 12 : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SF12 2495$
    Royer 101 matched pair : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/R101MP 1648$
    Or
    2x https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/AT4050 2x 699$

    Preamps (need enough clean gain for ribbons or soft sources) :
    Millennia 2 ch: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HV37 1439$
    Or
    Focusrite ISA Two : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ISATwo 799$

    Interfaces (need line inputs for external preamps):
    Audient ID 14 : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/iD14 299$
    or
    Focusrite Clarett4 : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Clarett4Pre 599$
    or
    RME Fireface UC : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FirefaceUC 1399$


    Monitors:
    2x monitors : Focal https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Alpha80 549 x 2$
    or
    Yamaha HS8 : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HS8 349$ x 2
    Or
    Depends on the listening environment

    Sometime when we list the prices, it redirects the dream ;)
     
  8. Keith Johnson

    Keith Johnson Active Member

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    Location:
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    Just a further word on Fig-8s....if they're fixed pattern and they're your only pair of mics they can be limiting....especially in suboptimal spaces....
     
  9. sergeantedward

    sergeantedward Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2017
    Location:
    Indiana
    This is amazing. Thank you for all the feedback so far.

    I know I'm sort of jumping into the deep end all at once here, but I've been given the opportunity now, so...! Not going to say no. I'll just jump in, and learn as I go.

    So the following setup looks good to me. This below is about $3,600.
    • Mic: 1x Royer SF 12 (my reading says that this is exceptionally good for classical choral singing)
    • Preamp: Focusrite ISA Two
    • Audio Interface: Audient iD14
    My questions though...
    • Is this preamp overkill? Or is investing in one with that much power going to make a real material difference to what the Royer SF 12 picks up?
    • Does the Audient iD14 have what I need? Looks very simple...but at this stage, I like simple. :)
    After sorting out gear, it sounds like I'll need 1x tall mic stand and 1x long cable, to run from the mic to the recording setup.
    • Suggestions on a brand for very stable tall mic stands (guessing tripod w/ telescope is what I want)? Like it was mentioned above, you don't want to put $2k of equipment 10 feet in the air on a flimsy stand!
    • This sounds like the dumbest question ever because all of you CLEARLY know your craft...but I've never purchased a cable before so: recommendations?
    Again, thanks to everyone...I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed trying to get this sorted out, and only since reading through this thread have I started to feel like like my feet are finding the ground.
     
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    K&M 20811 for center works excellent. Get all the extensions you can with this.
    https://recording.org/threads/recording-choirs-need-stands-and-setup-advice.48411/page-2#post-363622
    https://recording.org/tags/stands/
    You will never regret that mic.
     
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  11. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2008
    Location:
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    All K&M stands are absolutely excellent. I have a set of the 12' Manfrotto Quick Stack Stands which also do nicely, but they rely on a wide footprint rather than weight if that's important to you.

    According to the online specs, the Manfrottos are only 5.13 pounds each, and still I can attest that they are plenty stable at 12ft. straight up. The K&M weighs in at 22.67 pounds and of course no small part of that is in the top 11 ft.
     
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  12. Keith Johnson

    Keith Johnson Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2016
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    Totally agree in a way, Chris, but I'm not sure if I'd want it as my only mic...possibly too many eggs in one basket...

    In terms of stands, I use use both the K&M and Manfrottos mentioned. With the K&M, the boom arm gives you more flexibility and potential for reach if positioning is awkward...but they're heavy. The Manfrotto is, as stated, much lighter, but they do have a tendency to move if they're kicked by an errant choir member so quite often I'll weigh them down with sandbags...which negates the weight advantage....
     
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    I don't believe I could add anything of value that my esteemed RO colleagues haven't mentioned already..
    But I will say it's refreshing to have someone ask pros for advice BEFORE they run out and purchase gear, as opposed to "I bought this $89 I/O and this $59 mic... how can I sound pro?" queries we get here.
    ;)
     
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  14. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    The audient is a very nice unit. Its preamps are very good for the price, if you'd decide to go without an external preamp and that's why I suggested it.
    The only thing I'm not sure is if the line/ins have a clean path to the converter. (which I think they don't) in that case you would be better off with the Clarett.
    You see putting a preamp in a preamp is kinda like diluting porto in wine. Altought it could sound very good, you are not hearing the full quality of your external preamp.
    The Clarett have 4 line ins inputs that are not tied to a gain knob so I would assume they have a clean path to the converters.

    I never tried the SF12 but if it is like many ribbon microphones, the output level is lower than a large condenser mic. So having a preamp that gives you more clean gain is something very valuable. Also, even if you would use large condensers, the fact that the sources won't be close to the mic implies that you will need to put the gain up significantly. When we do that on a budget preamp, past a certain point, you'll get electric noises from the unit circuits. You won't experience that with a highend preamp.
    The ISA preamps are what I would consider the most affordable of preamps I would consider highend. They have transformers at the input and output stage which will color the sound a little but they remain very clean. Their design is a variation of Rupert Neve's work and they are real work horses. I have 8 ISA preamps in my current setup and I love them ;)

    If true representation of what the mic captures is a priority, the Millennia would be the best choice. There isn't many other preamps as transparent as those.

    Maybe the True systems Solo/ribbon preamps could also be an alternative but I don't know them very well : https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/PSoloRib

    So in conclusion, what you want to do is very specific and it presents its own challenges. Noiseless gain will be one important key of your success.
     
  15. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Is this a one-off, or a series? If it's going to be the only one, then hire the gear, do NOT buy it, because while it could be very useful in the future, I have plenty of gear I have bought and used once!

    I'm going to ignore the gear because everyone is saying sensible stuff, based on their experiences - I'll concentrate on the singers.

    The absolute critical element in all this is what do they sound like as an ensemble. They could all be seasoned pros, but what do they blend like? In my own experience of professional people doing new things, it's nowhere near as simple. Worse are those with powerful voices who often seem unable to pull it back, so their voice predominates. Whatever you do, you MUST have access to a room with real speakers where you can hear the balance - and then have the courage to move people back and forth to balance them. Professional singers who sing together in a group manage the balance and blend effortlessly, and leave you to record 'quality'. Others leave you fighting to tame some and hear others.

    The style of music is also critical too - will you have clearly defined SATB separation? If so, there is scope to mic up each of these groups, rather than attempt a stereo mic technique - which in my humble view is far, far harder than doing a multitrack with a rock band!

    Probably not your style, but look at this video.



    4 mics, looks simple but these guys really know their stuff, and handle the things almost effortlessly.

    Then compare it to this one



    Not a bad recording - but every now and then certain voices pop out, their breathing is dreadful, and the acoustics seem to clash with whatever technique was used to record it. The middle parts often seem to fall away, and while some bits of it are rather nice - it's lost clarity and there's a very odd noise every now and then. The room looks like the acoustics should sound better than they do.

    Then compare it to this rather weird one which holds together very well, and you can see the microphones too. Can't say I understand it, or even like it - but it's very different.

    Finally - one from a cathedral where the RT60 is huge and getting definition should be tricky, but you can hear every word and the balance is really good.

    Note the flown cluster in just the right place.
    I found one of mine a few weeks ago from 1994, one of my first big recordings and I think I have learned rather a lot since then - and I'm still not good enough.

    You have a really, really hard job coming up.

    Oh forgot - if you have a conductor, the balance will be best just over his/her head, because that's where he is hearing it and adjusting it.
     
  16. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I don't disagree with anything you've said @paulears, it's not an easy assignment. Using YouTube videos, however, for examples isn't necessarily a fair comparison unless you can definitively tell us the audio-path associated with each video.

    Video 2 and Video 3 are obviously multi-camera, and by all indications, multi-track audio.

    I would not be surprised to find out that the Baylor example is just using the on-board mics from the camcorder in the balcony (set to Automatic Gain). In which case, the extraneous noises we hear could be made by the generally disinterested university student who has been tasked with recording it for course credit - looking at the program to see how soon they can leave. The Auto setting would explain the garbled audio every time the dynamics swell, especially early on. I can't prove any of that, but that's my point.
     
  17. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Exactly! That's the problem with this kind of recording - sooooo many techniques, and I picked example that sound very different, but are different levels of complexity - but the overiding factor is that money is not guaranteed to move you up the quality scale a huge amount, until you do the basic stuff first. The example of the choir in the church. Very good choir, great building for that type of music and an appropriate technique. If you were on a really small budget, putting almost any cluster of mics in that position would produce some excellent results - and the differences in end sound would be the usual subtle things we talk about. The other large choir piece is the one where everything went the other way. The wrong mic postion for the space, a good choir but unbalanced and some 'identifiable' voices. That, in fact, is my real issue with choral recordings of randomly put together groups. The loudest voice can also be a character voice, and be heard. I've heard choirs where this person is kind of held in reserve in a piece until the characteristics of his or her voice are needed. It's a bit like that flute solo in an orchestral piece - where the composer and conductor create a 'hole' so that quiet instrument can be heard, or where in an ff section, that damn trumpet manages fff and gets over the top in a way the flute never could. Sometimes it's just a case of placement - moving a third line person to the front, pushing a front line one back - but even with professional singers, some leaders or conductors arrange them in height order, not voice order.

    What must happen is that all the defects dvdhawk spotted need spotting BEFORE the recording, and headphones are pretty rubbish at doing this because you lose the ability to create a soundfield that a loudspeaker does - which is often revealing.

    It sounds like the OP is an experienced recordist and probably knows much of this stuff.

    My recommendation is to find the most suitable room for the singers. If you know there will be lots of edits - perhaps joining takes together, then a dry room and artificial reverb might work for you. Matching reverb tails in large churches is very difficult to manage because you need to keep silence for too long, and people always cough or shuffle around.

    I still prefer X/Y, but with angle adjustments to bring it together. I have a one piece stereo mic I love, with Omni/Fig-8/Cardioid large diaphragms mounted above each other so the top section can swivel, and I use this for the recordings I do in theatres where one flown mic doesn't look too bad. In rehearsals I mount it on a boom pole (a rode one) and with headphones on wander around new venues looking for that special place where it's going to be great. Then I try to find a way to get it up there. For one recording I ended up leaving it on the boom pole and lashing the pole to an unused camera crane so the mic was almost over the orchestra, looking down at a fairly steep angle at the smallish ensemble, playing on carpet in the middle of a circus ring. The actual ring was a lift - and it wobbled and the isolation mount on the mic transferred every thump and bump to the mic, so dangling it was not ideal, but worked.
     
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  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    (@pcrecord @paulears @dvdhawk )

    The millennia would be a great choice for transparency, another choice in the same price range would be a Grace. Both have sufficient, clean gain to handle distance mic'ing and to give sufficient gain to Ribbons and low output dynamics as well. Both are also whisper quiet.

    I have to say that Paul brought up a solid point, in that if this is a one time thing, consider renting what you need and building it into the cost of the job. Unless of course, you see yourself doing this as an occupation, and can be confidant that there are other gigs like this on the horizon.
    You've gotten a lot of pro advice here in regard to equipment choices and from guys who have done this type of recording scenario before.
    Both Paul and Dave Hawk have experience with what you are doing.
    But you're the one who has to run your business, so keep that in mind when you come to the place where you are pulling the trigger on the gear you choose. I don't really have anything else to add, other than to do the best job you can ... do deep research on live venue recording; understand mic choices and mic placement, gain staging and capture. You've chosen a pretty intense form of recording for a "newbie" ... venue recording is a much different beast than recording in the controlled environment of the studio. Of course the gear you use will matter greatly - but you have to know how to use it to its optimum, too.

    IMO of course. ;)
    d.

    Ps... question for Dave Hawk (@dvdhawk )
    Would he be best off using the simplest platform of DAW recording for this? Something easy to learn, without a bunch of bells and whistles, and that is also solid and dependable...
    Perhaps something like Presonus's CAPTURE program?
     
  19. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Many years ago - I had the job of organising the UKs first music technology A level qualification and my area was the bit of the exam that dealt with what was called the 'natural acoustic' recording - students had to record something using stereo microphone techniques - the majority using orchestral, choral or maybe a live acoustic jazz type source. Compared with their multi-track recordings, the results were pretty dire. Nobody in the schools and colleges figured managing such a 'simple task' to be worthy of much effort. Student would be wheeled in, randomly pointing a few mics and then adding rear mics in some kind of attempt to make a rubbish classroom sound like a proper recording space. So few of them took advantage of better spaces. They'd obviously read up on mic techniques, and went into great details about using Decca Trees, ORTF and other exotic techniques, but modified to use the simple pair of C1000 mics most schools seemed to have bought. Listening was horrible. No marks were gained or lost by having a bunch of beginner musicians, or people that could not sing - the thing was graded on the quality of the recording, stereo field, avoiding noise and distortion and that kind of thing. Many managed to use cables with reversed wiring giving a huge width to the recording, or somehow managed to record in mono, or had very in the face errors. Very few sounded like professional recordings. Using a small number of mics sounds easy. It isn't!
     
  20. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

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    Dec 18, 2008
    Location:
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    First, I would say that although I'm very satisfied with the classical choral recordings I've done, I would gladly defer to Boswell, Chris, and Keith Johnson, who I think it's safe to say have much more classical recording experience than I do. There simply isn't a lot of opportunity for classical work in my (decidedly red-) neck of the woods. And when I do get a job recording choral groups, it's a group of 100-200 of the best high school voices from all over the region, jammed shoulder to shoulder on risers around a grand piano, on a stage in a public high school auditorium, with far from optimum acoustics, audible lighting dimmer fans, noisy air-handlers, and a house packed full of friends and family from 1-101 in age - with all the noises that entails. What could possibly go wrong?

    I'd like to hope his top-of-the-line new computer can record tracks 2 at a time into any DAW at any sample-rate and be solid and dependable. I like Capture for live performances, where there's no Take #2, no stopping the recording (or the show) to make adjustments. I'm sure whatever comes bundled with the Audient will do the job just fine. I get the impression (from the fact he can choose a venue), he's not constrained to one take and all the other wildcards you get doing a live performance. Playback is possible with Capture, but it is strictly the playback source - there would be no mixing, no Eq-shaping, or anything else you might want control over.
     
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