Sound Advice Needed From Forum Members.

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by trustgod, Apr 27, 2002.

  1. trustgod

    trustgod Guest


    My wife and I were blessed recently with the birth of twin baby boys. Since I will be spending more time at home we agreed that it would be an ideal time to purchase the desktop recording system I have been musing on for several years. However, I must admit that I am more than a little bit confused at all the options currently available. Although I have been playing guitar, bass, and piano for over 25 years I have never attempted to record anything myself.

    In a nutshell: If YOU were starting out all over again - knowing everything you know now - what high quality entry level system would you chose?
    Please be as specific as possible. List the Apple or PC computer, motherboard/chipset, soundcard, software, active speaker/monitors, etc. Kindly point out anything relevant I may have overlooked.

    I intend to write and record contemporary Christian music. 95% of the time it will be just me playing the instruments. When the Worship team is called in to sing I will require a few additional mic and line level inputs.

    I realize that responding to my post will take a considerable amount of time and thought on your part. I appreciate the effort involved and thank you for the assist.


    Edward G. Jones
    Minister of Music
    Faith assembly of God
  2. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Ed, you're right - This could be a really tall order. Before even getting started, it would help to have an idea of your technical abilities and comfort levels. Please answer the following questions:

    Do you hate, tolerate, like, or lust after, computers? (You may not need one, and could save considerable time and frustration without one)

    Do you know how to solder, and are you handy with tools?

    Do you like to tinker, or do you want to just set up a system, then forget it's there and just make music?

    How close are you to a semi-serious, recording oriented music store such as Manny's music, Guitar Center, or something similar, where you can walk in, kick a tire, embarrass a salesman, etc?

    Do you envision eventually producing your own CD of you and your church choir, for replication and sale to church members, possibly even to the public?

    How large (and what shape)an area will you have EXCLUSIVE use of, where children, pets, and technophobes can either be locked out of, or at least controlled?

    Is this area already quiet enough that you don't notice outside noises, or will some degree of sound deadening construction be necessary/possible in order to get it quiet enough to record in? (If YOU can hear it, so can a mic)

    How many vocalists/mics do you envision working with simultaneously? Do you currently own any mics? Which ones, by make/model?

    Can the vocalists be in a separate room, or does the recording equipment have to be quiet enough to be in the room where the recording is done?

    Do your vocalists have any experience in recording studios, specifically mic technique, and singing with headphones on? Are they used to gathering around a single mic? Or is it "D, none of the above"?

    You mentioned Guitar, Bass, and Piano. Will there be drums, and if so have you considered/listened to electronic ones?

    If you play piano, a synthesizer might be a natural follow-up, which opens up the possibility of "sweetening" tracks, such as horns, strings, woodwinds, chimes, etc - With this in mind, do you have a feel for the maximum # of tracks you might want on a song? Bear in mind, this could vary a lot depending on whether everything you do will be "straight ahead" gospel, as in piano and voices, or a full orchestral production, or something in between.

    Lastly, we need to know, to the nearest $500, what you percieve your TOTAL budget to be, including money for any other instruments. This helps define which, if any, areas can be trimmed if necessary, or even if the goal is reachable. Your comment, "high quality entry level system ",beside being an apparent contradiction in terms, isn't descriptive enough to clue us as to what range of price/quality to consider.

    If you can answer most or all the above, we can start working on some practical answers to your original question. Before long, you'll probably wish half of us would shut up so you can assimilate some of the information. Don't worry, this isn't really a test so there are no wrong answers - Your answers will just give us a "jumping off" place for the start of what can be a very rewarding (sometimes scary and disgusting) journey. (The scary and disgusting part is prompted by your comment that you've never recorded yourself - be ready for a shock)

    Anyway, think about these Q & A for a while, maybe even print this out and see how many of your answers cause you to change some of your other answers, then post again with your best guesses, and we can get started... Steve
  3. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    Sep 10, 2000
    Indeed, knightfly is right on. Probably most important is the money issue. With enough money, most of the other things can be overcome. $20k goes a lot farther than $2k! LOL
    He touched on the synthesizer issue. You mentioned that you play piano. Do you have a synthesizer, or do you intend to buy one? Are you familiar with them, and how they work? Are you familiar with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)? Do you have other MIDI gear? How important will MIDI be in your recordings? This is a very important issue, since some recording programs are better for MIDI than others.
    You are very fortunate that your wife supports you in this. Getting started in DAW recording is fairly costly, and once you get into it, it quickly becomes a major money pit. Just a word of advice ... make it clear to your "other half" that this will be fairly costly, and as you want to add more gear, talk it over with her BEFORE you make major purchases. This will keep you out of "the dog house"! Been there ...
    We'll be waiting for the answers to knightfly's questions so that we can help you get the best system to suit your needs, and get you the best bang for the buck.
    Good luck!
  4. trustgod

    trustgod Guest

    knightfly and SonofSmawg,

    I apologize for taking so long to reply. Your questions demanded a great deal of thought and open discussion between my wife and I.


    I embrace new technology and enjoy learning. I am a perpetual student always delving into new areas of study. My current computer is an old IBM Pentium 133Mhz laptop which was given to me last year by a member of my church. I like computers when they are working and dislike them when they cease to function. I am aware that the big three systems for audio are: Apple G4, AMD PC, and Intel Pentium 4 PC platforms. My wife, babies and I visited the Apple store last week to check out the new 800Mhz iMac, 800Mhz G4 and 933Mhz G4 towers. We were very impressed and the Apple people were outstanding. They even let my wife feed our babies in the store and warmed up the baby bottles. We both loved the new iMac. I was blown away by the 933Mhz G4 tower and 22" Cinema Display monitor. Shortcomings of the new iMac are: 5400rpm hard drive as opposed to 7200rpm required for audio applications and no available PCI slots for add-ons. I am open to Apple, AMD PC or Intel PC systems.

    I do not have any experience with a soldering iron. I am handy with tools and have spent the last two months demolishing and rebuilding our home to accomodate our babies. This was a major renovation costing upwards of 50 thousand dollars. I own many construction grade tools and know how to use them. I am positive I could learn proper soldering techniques if required.

    Ideally I want to set up a system, forget it is there, and make music. Time is a prescious commodity and I would rather spend it enjoying my family than troubleshooting an errant DAW.

    Guitar Center and Sam Ash Music are twenty minutes from my home. However, these stores are always understaffed and overcrowded. After 40 minutes of "Just a minute sir or I'll be right with you" I decided to leave. My church and I made a decision to deal with from now on and my rep there has been excellent. It was he that suggested I visit this forum to both post and read other posts. Tomi is outstanding.

    It is my hearts desire to write, record and publish my own CD featuring our 6 piece Worship Team. The team consists of four vocalists, one keyboard player and myself on bass/guitar/piano.
    Our drummer got married last year and moved away.
    I plan on learning how to incorporate electronic drums into the mix. I see that there are many drum based loops, samples, and software available.

    The designated recording area will be in my Master Bedroom. I was going to order an Omnirax Pro Station Jr. M/C workstation to house all the gear in. The room is not soundproofed. The neighborhood is quiet though. Chirping birds, barking dogs, planes flying overhead, cars rolling by, all the usual. I plan to write all the music and record the instruments over the summer. I also need this time to learn one or more of the following: Digital Perfomer 3.1, SonarXL, Cubasis, ProTools LE, Cakewalk Pro Audio 9, Cool Edit Pro, etc. Then in the fall when all the kids are back in school and the air conditioners are removed from the windows I will start to bring the vocalists over to record. The maximum number of mic inputs required will be 4 or less at once. We use Shure Beta 57, 58, and 87 microphones at church as well as two UHF wireless systems. I have access to these for recording purposes.

    It is more important that the equipment be quiet as I will be recording in close proximity to it and not in a separate room. I will hang thick drapes over the windows when it is time to use the microphones. This will also be when my wife takes the children to visit their Grandparents.

    The vocalists have no experience in studio work, mic placement, or singing with headphones on. They each sing into their own microphones.

    In my home I have a: Kurzweil Ensemble Grande Mark
    IV Piano, Kurzweil PC88MX Workstation/Controller, and Kurzweil MicroPiano sound module hooked up to the Mark IV via midi. At church I have a Korg Triton Pro X with the Pianos/Classic Keyboard PCM Expansion Board installed. My bass rig is a Fender Precision Deluxe to ART Phat Boy to SWR Workingmans 12 to Mackie 1604vlzpro. I have a Tom Anderson Classic Strat, Fender American Standard Telecaster, Fender Telecaster Deluxe, and Tacoma DM10 for guitar work. Too many effects pedals and guitar processors to list. My guitar amp is a modified 1963 Fender Vibroverb Reissue with Weber 10" speakers and FREDS (Fast Epitaxial Recovery Diodes.)

    To the best of my ability I calculate 6 vocal tracks, keyboard track, guitar track, bass track, drum track, strings, horns, brass, percussion, etc. I believe I can do everthing with 24 tracks.
    Then again I've never done this and may be wrong and need more than 24.

    My exposure to MIDI is minimal. I have 1 MIDI cable connected between the Mark IV and MicroPiano. That is all I know about MIDI. I would like to learn more about MIDI.

    I am not familiar with synthesizers and the intricacies involved in programming sounds. I understand they work on waveforms and have noodled around on the KARMA, MOTIF, and NORD. In all honesty I had no idea what I was doing. I was merely turning knobs and pushing buttons to see what would happen. It got out of control very quickly.

    My budget is modest. I am going to see if I can get financial assistance from the church. If that happens I can afford a much nicer setup. If left to my own resources I am limited to no more than $6000 initially for a turn key system.

    I hope I have answered all your questions and supplied the necessary details to assist in designing my first DAW.

    Thank You,

  5. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2001
    Hey Ed, I'm kind of glad Knighfly got to the answer first as he stated it best!! Great questions all around...
    Ok, first...Tomi at Sweetwater is a great guy! I know him personally since I worked with him when I was the tech support dude! Tell him thanks for the referal to this site!
    Now, for 6 grand you can definately get your money's worth in no time at all..
    Now you say you need to learn Digital Performer, Sonar, Cubasis, Pro Tools LE, Cakewalk and Cool Edit....well, DP is mac only, Cubasis is a joke and you should just go with Cubase for more options, Pro Tools LE you should stay clear of just because you are limited to 24 tracks and no more, if you need more you're out of luck, Cakewalk and Sonar are pretty much the same thing, Sonar is newer version of Cakewalk..that, I will leave up to you...Cool Edit, sure...why the hell(forgive me if that's a bad word to you!) not, all Radio stations use that program..
    Now, Digital Performer is Mac only..Pro Tools LE can go on both platforms..same as Cubasis...Cool Edit and Cakewalk are PC only...

    Sounds to me like you just need to get up and running and not have to deal with steep learning curves..have you thought about going to Cubase SX when it comes out? That's what I would do. I've messed around with a Beta version of it and it's pretty cool. nice interface and flexibility.

    The decision on computers can definately be a tough one..the new G4 mac's are very nice and powerful indeed but there's a catch....OS X hardware and software support is kind of limited at this point as the core audio feature of OS X isnt quite there thus making a serious AMD or Intel machine in the lead.
    Here's my overview...if you want a serious mixing machine with plugins abundant than get yourself a dual AMD system...if you want a solid tracking machine get yourself a single P4 machine.

    A PC will cost less than a mac in the long run...a P4 fully loaded that is custom built from me would cost you around 1600+...a mac itself costs close to 2000 and that's only one hard drive and no other cards included...there are more options for a PC than there are for a mac so you have to weigh those options as well.

    Quiet..well, that's a different story..depending on how the case is(what material and what fans and PSU's) will be the determing factor to how loud or quiet it will be...sounds like you will need to have it enclosed in some way or another..that will be the only way unless you want to place it somewhere in a closet to help reduce bleed in to the mic's. Recording in the bedroom huh? been there before! lol

    If you only plan on doing 4 mics at once I would say than that you should plan for 6 mics at once just to make you plan on recording live drums? A mixer or mic pre will definately be needed as well as a way to send a headphone mix out to your vocalists...

    I think one aspect at a time should be discussed here...first should be your platform of choice..that will help narrow things down considerably.
    We see what you have for gear, keyboards and so forth...that's not an issue at this doesnt seem like you are going to be too MIDI intensive...well, ask some questions regarding platforms and let's get you under way as to what you truly need
  6. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Hi Eddie - (see how fast I picked up on what appears to be your preferred handle?) :=) Seriously, don't apologize for taking the time to answer thoroughly - if you think YOUR answer was slow, wait til you see how long it takes to actually answer enough of your questions now that we know what they really are... BTW, it would help to know the actual shape and all 3 dimensions of the master bedroom you'll be using, just so we can spot any potential need for extra acoustic treatment. As to soundproofing; as I said, anything YOU can hear, so will a mic.

    It's good with the budget you mention that you already have most if not all the instruments you need - Also, that $figure tells me not to suggest a stand-alone DAW such as the Roland or Yamaha units, even though they might simplify things. The downside to an all-in-one box over a computer with add-ins/software is that you get what you pay for, and never more. Updating those boxes is sometimes possible, but they are generally pretty restrictive that way.

    Also, the budget will probably limit you to a PC system with a P4. (Son of Smawg will tell you how much he likes AMD systems...)

    Some of the programs you mentioned are "lite" versions, and will not allow enough flexibility for a serious CD recording project. Digital Performer is a Mac only program, competent and pretty much debugged by now. Unfortunately it only runs on a Mac, which would limit what else your $6000 would get you. Cake 9 and SonarXL are pretty similar (same company) Sonar is the update to Cake9, with added soft-synth capability (internal, computer-generated sounds - upside is nearly free sounds, downside is major CPU hog tendencies - most people run a separate computer if they're going to use more than 1 or 2 soft-synths) Cubasis is a freebie usually thrown in with entry level hardware so customers don't feel "gypped" by not being able to use what they just bought; Protools LE has some limitations, but is fairly compatible with their full version; CoolEdit Pro has a lot of features for the price and is somewhat popular partly because the Lite version is bundled with several sound cards, and people who get used to it tend to upgrade to the full version for the easier learning curve. Logic Audio is powerful but has a reputation for being unfriendly and hard to learn, manuals are marginal. Nuendo by Steinberg is liked by people who use it, powerful, expensive, very sparse on MIDI, and Steinberg is not noted for their support from all reports. Cubase (Steinberg) see above, + a friend of mine has it. I set up his DAW for him, and couldn't find or do anything with Cubase without opening and searching the manual. I wouldn't personally put that program on a computer I was going to throw away. I own Sonar XL and a couple of soft synth modules, but as yet haven't installed them as my budget isn't quite ready for a computer upgrade and my old DAW is a 500 P3. Not enough horsepower for too many host-based applications without major hiccups in the audio stream. I am using Cake9 in tandem with Samplitude 2496 on the old machine, and unless Sonar has VASTLY improved their audio recording/editing, I would not recommend it. (Remember, I haven't used Sonar yet, so it could be wonderful.) What I've done is use Cake9 for all MIDI functions, then internally sync it to Samplitude, which is the best digital audio program I've ever seen. If you can't do something with it, you probably don't need to. Samplitude is very deep, and still quite intuitive, so you can jump in, do a lot, read some, then do even more. Hard to beat. (No, I'm not a salesman, just a happy customer.)The newest version of Samplitude has some limited MIDI recording/editing, but not nearly as comprehensive as Logic, Cakewalk, Sonar, Cubase have - All of these are nearly identical in MIDI functions, allowing you to cut/paste/stretch/transpose, etc, to your heart's content.

    Soldering - I only mentioned that in case you were looking to build a real, separate room, and wanted lots of wiring on a budget. You shouldn't need that skill for what you want to do.

    It helps that you already have the Mackie 1604 - that will save having to get multiple discreet preamps unless you find that you don't like the built-in Mackie preamps with the Shure Beta series mics. If you have a solo or lead vocalist that warrants special treatment (sonically, not preferentially) you may want to invest in a quality outboard preamp and a large-diaphragm condenser mic. If all your vocalists are inexperienced at recording, they might not do well singing without the rest of the vocalists, so it might be good to try the "one-at-a-time" approach with headphones and the built-in pre's in the Mackie, before investing in an expensive mic pre and condenser mic.

    Roughly, I would estimate the costs as follows:

    Computer - $1500(there are threads in this forum that hash this to death, but Opus will be glad to (yet again) list the components that have proven reliable; also, he has done an optimization guide for Win2k and XP which will save you about 2 years of study and exasperation - ask him for the link, it's around here someplace...

    Monitor - $250 - $600(I wouldn't recommend anything smaller than 19", 21" is better, 2 x 21" is perfect. All software likes more space for windows, more of which are available without keystrokes means quicker/easier working. Get cables that are long enough so you can put the computer in a closet with clothes hanging around - this will cut the sound level of the computer considerably. Also, spend more on the power supply, such as a PC Power & Cooling Whispercool model - much less noise and cleaner power than others.

    Soundcard (in addition to computer) $250 to $10,000, (??!?!) depending on taste, budget, # of simultaneous SEPARATELY recordable tracks, etc. - The Echo series are well thought of by both Opus and myself, as well as RME and a couple of others. The echo Layla allows 8 simultaneous in's and outs for about $800. It ships with a 15' cable between the interface and the computer, which is plenty long for placing the computer in a closet.

    Hardware control surface - $200 to $infinity, If you tweak your mix more than 5-6 times, you'll get tired of a mouse and want hardware faders. This can be as simple as an 8 or 16 channel MIDI fader pack, to an integrated fader/button/display controller, such as the Tascam US-428, Event EZ-Bus, Sac 2k, etc.

    Discrete Mic pre - $150 to $4000 ($4k obviously not an option yet)

    Large Diaphragm condenser - $99 to $$$$ - Rode and Audio Technica make some good-sounding models at less than $500. In particular, the AT3035 from AudioTechnica is available for $199 mail order, and is very clean and accurate for vocals. I recently heard an A/B/C test of it with a Shure KSM32 and Rode (don't remember which Rode, sorry) The AT3035 was the least expensive, and it made the other two cry and want their mommies. This was thru a Mackie 32x8 mixer into a pair of HR824's, and I personally balanced out the gains and zeroed EQ's to get rid of any sales tricks, so I know what I heard was real.

    So far, we're up to about $4100, figuring competent sounding choices with two condenser mics and inexpensive (or no) preamps. With inexperienced vocalists, you will probably need a good separate headphone mix amp, such as the Oz Q-mix - this will allow each vocalist to have more of them and less of the others in his/her own personal mix, as it allows a stereo mix and 4 separate other inputs, each of which is adjustable in each phone mix. Cost is about $250, if I remember correctly. Phones should be closed-back type for minimum leakage to mics, and there are several around $50-60 that should work fine. Sometimes you have to call and ask about whether phones are closed or open or semi-open because it's not always mentioned in print descriptions.

    While you digest this and ask the next round of questions I'm sure it will generate, I'm going to go get a start on cleaning out my garage. If you have access to mail order catalogs, their descriptions will eventually start to make sense and help you decide which features might be important to you. Eventually, you will probably want to do a "Ben Franklin Balance Sheet" on 3-4 choices for each piece of the puzzle, and finally present the Sweetwater guys with a list to talk over. I know their prices are a little higher than the others I mentioned, but one visit to GC obviously told you why. Those places are best left to mail order purchase by people who already know exactly what they want and why. Sweetwater started out as a recording studio and couldn't find the gear they needed, so now are also a music store. Gee, I wonder why they seem to know their stuff! Get back to this when you can, most of us are here 'way too often... Steve
  7. trustgod

    trustgod Guest

    A big HELLO to everyone! I must offer my apologies once again for the delay in responding to your followup questions. Sunday is always the busiest day of the week for me.

    OPUS2000: "HELL" is not a great place to spend eternity. Hell doesn't offend me - it frightens me. As a descriptive word it can have a powerful impact. For instance, I want my experiences with desktop recording to be pleasurable and not the living hell I have read about in other posts.

    I visited Steinberg and checked out the Cubase SX. I also visited your website and would like to contact you privately if I opt to purchase a PC based DAW over the Apple G4 Mac. I reread my earlier post and need to clarify the software issue. I am looking for the easiest software package currently available. I dropped a great many names down as a point of reference. I do not have the time to learn "one or more" software programs; just the easiest for a novice such as myself. The megamusic stores were pushing Sonar XL as the premier starter package for a beginner. I took the suggestion with a grain of salt since salesmen work on commission and different products are more profitable for them to sell in terms of "spiff." I noticed that Cubase SX has a tremendous feature set. My chief concern is mainly availabilty - will it arrive in the USA in time to be installed on my first DAW? Another issue is the fact that it is version 1.0 and may have quite a few bugs to be taken care of.

    In my webtravels I have encountered a few companies that specialize in building ultra quiet DAWS. I seem to remember Raxxess or Quik Lok offering a sound proofed enclosure to house home recording equipment and rack mouted PC's. A setup like that is more appealing than placing the DAW in a closet.

    I did not plan on recording live drums and was going to learn how to use loops, samples, etc. as an alternative to the real live thing. Our drummer got married and moved away at the end of 2001 and we currently use the Korg Triton's drum patterns during our Worship service. It works out well. In the event we have a drummer join the team then I will most definitely record him or her live.

    I hope the term "platform" refers to MAC vs. AMD PC vs. Intel PC. If not, let me know. Finally, knightfly mentioned that you have a link to an optimization guide for PC's, can you tell me where it is?

    knightfly: Keen observation - I prefer Eddie.
    The designated recording area is a rectangular shaped room measuring: 12'6" wide x 16'long x 8' high. The studio furniture will be positioned flush on the short wall - not in a corner. I have been considering purchasing the Omnirax ProStation Jr. M/C as my audio furniture. The active monitors will be angled towards me. However, on the opposite side of the room is a double window with lots of glass. Further my wife has a triple dresser with a gigantic tri-fold mirror attached to it. All that reflective surface area cannot be a good thing for home recording, correct?

    I auditioned several active monitors the other day and the Mackie HR824's were incredible. The Tannoys and Events were nice too. The M Audio Stereophile 8" active monitors sounded good and were a real bargain. The Mackies bested them all in my opinion.

    Knightfly wrote: "It helps that you already have the Mackie 1604 - that will save having to get multiple discreet preamps unless you find that you don't like the built-in Mackie preamps with the Shure Beta series mics. If you have a solo or lead vocalist that warrants special treatment (sonically, not preferentially) you may want to invest in a quality outboard preamp and a large-diaphragm condenser mic. If all your vocalists are inexperienced at recording, they might not do well singing without the rest of the vocalists, so it might be good to try the "one-at-a-time" approach with headphones and the built-in pre's in the Mackie, before investing in an expensive mic pre and condenser mic."

    My reply: The church is a considerable distance from my home and the Mackie1604vlzpro is hooked up in a SKB rolling rack system with QSC power amps, Lexicon effects processor, Furman light strip/power conditioner, HHB CD burner, and Tascam cassette recorder. It is simply way too heavy to move back and forth between locations. The flip side is even worse - the acoustics in the church are a sonic nightmare. The building is constructed of stone and marble. It is a mini-cathedral with 30' to 40' ceilings and loads of stained glass. It is not the best place to record in. It has a very deep warm reverb effect with a long decay time. All in all the Mackie will stay at the church and my DAW will stay at home for now.

    Like Sergeant Shultz on Hogans Heroes - "I Know Nothing" - about mic preamps or condenser microphones. Unfortunately for me I have always been an instrumentalist and relied on others to handle the sound system. I should have made an effort to learn more over the years. My fault. No time like the present to learn something new.

    Many thanks for the highly detailed all-inclusive equipment guide you prepared for me. There are a few items listed I never heard of - discrete mic preamps, large diaphragm condenser, and hardware control surface for example. Tomi mailed me the Sweetwater Progear catalog and I received it yesterday morning. During lunch this week I will do my homework and read through the product descriptions to gain a better understanding of the relationship between all the equipment.

    I have heard of four soundcards that are supposed to be good values for a PC based DAW.

    1. Aardvark Q10
    2. M Audio Delta 1010
    3. Aardvark DirectPro 24/96
    4. M Audio Omni Studio with Delta 66 Card

    I just read a review in Sound On Sound magazine about the LYNX TWO and it rated very highly.

    For a Mac based DAW I have heard good things about:

    1. MOTU 828
    2. MOTU 896
    3. MOTU 1296

    There are so many choices available that it is easy to get overwhelmed. I will not get discouraged and abandon my quest. I will not fall into the trap of researching DAWS to death and fail to reach a conclusion. Originally, I was going to install a Creative Arts SoundBlaster Audigy Platinum EX soundcard into a 1.2Ghz AMD PC that needed a new hard drive, CDR/RW drive, DVD and case. The cost quickly began to escalate. I discovered from reading a few reviews online that the Audigy Platinum EX is not really a pro soundcard for musicians.


  8. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Hey, Eddie - sorry to hear about the Mackie needing to stay in the echo chamber - However, it is so much easier to set up a DAW using a mixer for routing, monitoring, preamps, etc, that one is close to mandatory. The good news is that the budget isn't stretched to the breaking point yet, so there could (and should, in my opinion) still be a 1604 VLZ PRO in the picture. I would never recommend their 1202 model - No one who's EVER mixed anything more than a strawberry milkshake would consider using rotary knobs for mixing. The 1604 VLZ is available for about $1000, and would take care of several requirements at once. I started to recommend one of Mackie's slightly smaller mixers, until I checked their website and found out that the 12 and 14 input models do NOT have direct outs, insert points, or any other way to record each mic pre's direct out straight into an interface such as the Delta 1010, which would be a reasonably priced alternate to the Layla. (One thing the 1010 has that the Layla does not is MIDI interface.) Recording direct outs is the easier of two ways to get most superfluous circuitry out of the way for the recording function. Less circuitry, less noise, better recordings. Simple. (The other way is to get a sound card that includes mic preamps in the rack mount unit. This usually is not as flexible a way as using a small mixer, as it doesn't give you as many options for system hookup and may not let you work the way you want to. I also will not recommend ANY sound card that has its converter circuitry INSIDE the computer, since that is one of the worst things you can do to your sound. The conversion needs to take place as far away from the electrical noise of a computer as is possible, so do yourself a big favor and make sure that whichever card you get has a rack-mount breakout box with A/D and D/A converters outboard from the computer.

    I was going to run your room thru my spreadsheets to check acoustics, but it's late and I already know what it will look like. (Dont cry...)Sorry, by that I mean that the dimensions are nearly exact multiples of each other, which makes for some serious resonances. You may need to move the entire Raxess unit a couple of feet away from the wall when mixing, just as an example; speakers against walls always exhibit un-natural bass boost, which can fool you into mixing a song light on bass.

    So, does this seem like a worthy challenge yet? Hang on, we're just getting started. I too will need some time to put together some specific recommendations and budget scenarios.

    Oh, for now just one more thing: Please don't apologize for anything again, unless you suddenly decide to be really rude - If you get delayed, things will still happen. All of us here have other lives and do this as a hobby and help to others, because we've all been thru this; most of us with minimal or no help. Remember, no one here is perfect either, except me and Opus, and just between us I have my doubts about HIM... :=)

    Gotta go for now, I'll post more when I get time to check out a few more things. BTW, if you get the chance, compare the Mackie HR824's to a set of KRK V-8's. I haven't heard them myself, but have heard good comments. I own a set of KRK's passive speakers, and they have never let me down. The KRK V8's are about $60 less per speaker than the Mackies. You've got a lot of information to assimilate in order not to make any major purchasing mistakes, so don't rush it too much - each time you read thru any info you have, you will pick up things you missed before and eventually it will make enough sense to start buying the equipment you need.

    Again, there will be a lot more posts before this is a wrap - please don't start each one with "I'm sorry", or I could lose my place (hehehe) Seriously, in my book the only people who should apologize are those who AREN'T trying. More later... Steve
  9. trustgod

    trustgod Guest


    I tried to log on this morning and discovered that I had to pay a yearly fee to access this forum from now on. It's worth it.

    My wife and I were discussing the home studio project and she is not at all thrilled at the thought of foam acoustical treatment on the walls and ceiling. Actually, her answer was "NO!NO!NO!"

    Given this recent development I starting thinking of a new location to set up the studio in our place. There is none and I am locked into using the bedroom. Now for the good part - we have a 5' x 7' walk-in closet in our bedroom that currently houses our clothing, shoes, belts, ties, etc. I asked my wife if it would be alright if I set up microphones inside the closet for vocal work. She did not exactly share my enthusiasm about the idea but considering the alternative of foam, foam, foam, she accepted my proposal haltingly. I plan on purchasing three or four 20' Monster microphone cables and using the walk-in as my recording booth. That's one problem solved.


  10. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2001
    Well besides the foam you could always get baffles..or gobo's as we call in them...movable accousic treated panels that help absorb and deflect sound away and so forth..they're on wheels so you can move them around very easily..
    I use my bathroom in my loft area as my vocal booth! I drape a heavy blanket over the shower door and am going to put some foam in there as well to deaden it a little...
    As far as the 1202 thang Steve was talking about..he's correct..I could never imagine mixing or recording with rotary faders..I use the 1402 and love it..I don't need too many inputs and only need stereo out so it's perfect for me..
    well, that's all for me for now!
  11. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    Sep 10, 2000
    I just have a couple of things that I'd like to contribute right now...
    First ... the computer. I've been running digi001/PTLE on a Mac G4-400 for over two years. I definately don't recommend either one. The problem with both is lack of upgradability. If you buy a Mac today, and want to upgrade it in two years, forget it. If you want to upgrade an older Mac to the latest technology, you have to buy a new Mac. With a PC, you spend a few hundred bucks on a new CPU and motherboard ... bang ... you're up-to-date. Also, don't go the AMD route. I'm in the middle of that nightmare. The smartest thing to do is to put yourself together an Opus ANUS system, as described all over this forum. A lot of people on here have built them, they work very well, they're rock solid, and you can get all the help you could ever want right here on RO.
    Secondly ... your software. As I said, I have PTLE. Don't get it. A program that I didn't see brought-up in this thread is Logic. If I were to build a host-based PC DAW system right now, that's what I'd use. It's not an easy program to use, but for sound and features for the price, it's very hard to beat.
    My alternate suggestion to all that has been previously discussed would be to spend a little more money and go with a Soundscape R.ed system. It's not host-based, and you can run it on a teenie PC that'll cost you next to nothing. You may want to get ahold of Bert down here at the Soundscape forum to learn more about the advantages of going with this system. This would put you into a Professional grade recording studio at a very modest price.
    There are a few things that I can recommend that I would not do without...
    *Microsoft Office Keyboard
    *Microsoft Trackball Optical
    *Samsung Syncmaster 955DF monitor ... ria=513475&bop=and
  12. Eddie,
    I've recently been using my Soundscape R.Ed with an HP Pentium 133 (now everybody can laugh, but my CD burner runs like a champ in it... I don't really wife got this PC for $50, and it's making me money--now it's my turn to laugh!)
    Seriously, in the Soundscape DAWworld, it's really not a question of how big or fast your PC is. Audio is streamed to its' own array of drives.
    I'd be happy to talk to you--call me, or send me a Private Message. I'd be honored to help you in any way I can.
  13. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Eddie - First, I'm not at all surprised at your wife's reaction to the dreaded "FOAM MONSTER" - what self-respecting lady wants her bedroom transformed from her idea of House Beautiful's next feature story into a "padded cell"??!? The good news is there are ways of both of you having what you want, just not simultaneously... I'm talking about Opus' suggestions of "gobos", which is a slang contraction in studio-talk for "go-between" - Don't ask me how it got there, instead of "go-be", but it did.

    This idea is so relevant to so-called "project studios", that at least one company manufacturers portable panels in kits which can be used to turn nearly any space into a reasonably controlled listening/recording environment. This company is Auralex, whose site can be found at (strangely enough) - Their products are not the cheapest, and you could most likely make your own versions cheaper, but a look at their site will give you a quick and relatively painless course in acoustics 101. In fact, they have a separate page titled just that. Here is a link

    Here is the link to their main page, follow the links under to products, to maxwall, just to get an idea of possibilities for portable treatments.

    I believe it would be more cost effective to buy some of their studiofoam and build your own version of MaxWall, but as much construction as you've done, the ideas should get you started. By using this approach, you would only need space to store maybe 5 4'x4' panels 3" thick, which would only have to be in place when actually mixing, or recording with mics. (IE: family at parents house)

    Another idea possibly in conjunction: Use veneer plywood for mounting the foam, finish the non-foam side to complement the existing bedroom furniture, and use the panels as a screen around the equipment desk when it's not being used. This would have the added benefit of not being such an "attractive nuisance", to borrow a legal term - Actually, in an aesthetic sense it would be MORE attractive than a large desk with massive amounts of "eye clutter".

    I don't need to tell you that there is never a good time to cause any rifts between you and your life's partner, so be sure to discuss the above ideas/websites with her, and maybe (if she's willing) get her to post her own words on the subject regarding specific objections. Not only have I been married for 37 years to the same wonderful woman, but I actually think she still likes me :=) so there's a chance I might be able to help figure out a workable compromise with a bit of "tri-alog" -

    Also, here is a link to Auralex' university site, with some examples that may help explain the necessity of acoustic treatment -

    On the subject of Soundscape, I would like to say that Bert Neikirk has been very helpful to me in the past, and isn't a pushy sales type like some - probably in part because he is more of a tech that sells equipment. Plus, he only trolls a little bit, and gently... Hey, Bert, how's that for a left-handed compliment? :=) Soundscape has a general reputation for solid and dependable equipment, and if Bert can show you a way to get all the tracks you require plus the other necessities mentioned above and not bust your budget, it would probably be the most reliable way to go. The only downside of systems similar to Soundscape is that adding tracks requires adding hardware (forgive me if I've missed something, Bert - I've been wrong before) Whereas if your computer-based system is fast enough, you can usually cheat a few more tracks out of it one way or another.

    MIDI - you mentioned wanting to learn more; this is a subject for several books. MIDI is basically a digital control protocol, used in everything from keyboards/drum machines to lighting and mixing control. There are many ways of implementing it, some of which can get very elaborate, and books range from a simplistic "midi for dummies" approach to in-depth tomes best left to full time engineers.

    Hardware control surface - This is a generic term for almost any unit with knobs/faders/buttons, including most newer digital mixers, that puts out a MIDI signal corresponding to a movement of a hardware control. The main advantage over using a mouse to grab virtual faders and knobs, is that it isn't virtual. If you need to pull down 3 or 4 signals simultaneously in the mix, a hardware surface allows this - a mouse can do it only if your software allows "grouping" and you have it set up that way. Also, virtual faders require a window to be open with the faders in it, so you can adjust things with the mouse. Hardware is there all the time, no matter what you're looking at on the monitor.

    Discrete preamp - refers to a separate (discrete) preamp, one that is not part of the mixer. These are usually either tube type specialty boxes that somewhat "warm up" the sound, or high quality separate transistor designs that don't exhibit some of the noise/distortion that most audio IC op amps do. They are not cheap, but the quality is worth it if you can afford it. A lot of project studios only build a mix 1 or 2 tracks at a time, so you don't have to buy a multi-thousand dollar mixer with 36 of these circuits included in order to get the advantages of the higher quality circuitry. Remember, the more tracks you have in a mix the more noise and distortion, so a noticeable improvement per track is REALLY noticeable on mixdown of 24 tracks.

    Large diaphragm condenser mic - This refers to a type of mic that is designed for low self-noise and (usually) very accurate sound translation. The term comes from the fact that this type of mic uses a metalized diaphragm, normally about 1" in diameter, for part of its sound transducer. This diaphragm is mounted parallel to a solid plate, the two of which form the two plates of a capacitor. (capacitors used to be called condensers, a misnomer that was corrected in other electronic jargon, but that stuck in mic terminology) Anyway, this "condenser", gets its capacitance varied by the movement of the thin metalized diaphragm when sound waves cause the diaphragm to move toward and away from the fixed plate that is parallel to the diaphragm. This changing distance between "plates" of the capacitor, changes the capacitance in step with the pressure changes of the sound. This capacitor is wired into the "tank" circuit of an oscillator, which then causes the frequency of the oscillator to vary in step with the sound pressure. This causes a signal to be generated by the oscillator which is FM, or Frequency Modulated - the same method used in FM radio broadcast. This FM signal then has to be de-modulated to get an audio signal, which is then sent out the pins of the mic into whatever pre-amp is being used. The "condenser", or capacitor, needs an electrical charge across it - also, the circuitry for changing the capacitance to frequency to audio signal requires a power supply in order to work. This DC power is supplied by what we call " phantom power", which is required by almost all condenser mics. The standard voltage for phantom power is 48 volts DC, usually at about 1 to maybe 5 milliamps. This is a much simplified version of what happens, but probably more than enough for most non-designers...

    Hope I didn't scare you away with that, these were points you mentioned needing more info on.

    I would guess that the first order of business here is trying to reach acceptable compromises regarding aesthetics vs. function; if I can help with any of that, please don't hesitate to ask. Longwindedly yours... Steve
  14. That's honest--I do have a vested interest--but I wouldn't promote the product if I didn't whole-heartedly believe in it. I'm passionate about audio--it's how God wired me.
    Well, with 32 rock-solid tracks that aren't PC-dependent, even modest PCs can run at least some other program simultaneously!
  15. trustgod

    trustgod Guest

    Greetings to knightfly, Opus2000, SonOfSmawg, and Neikirk Audio,

    Borders Books and Music has a reputation for stocking an eclectic mix of periodicals. The emptiness of my wallet pays tribute to this very fact. Here is a list of magazines purchased recently to aid in my home recording knowledge quest:

    Sound On Sound
    computer music
    Desktop Music
    PC Magazine

    I ventured to Sam Ash Music and collected an assortment of free brochures on software and hardware. GLYPH appears to make interesting products.

    The Digidesign 001/PTLE was dismissed from consideration a few days ago. My wife and I received a free DVD from Digidesign featuring the 001/PTLE bundle. The DVD was unintenionally funny in parts and downright annoying throughout.
    The decision not to purchase this product was reached through analysis of posts on this and other forums. Bottom line - the quality of the mic pre-amps seemed to be a major source of contention amongst current and prospective owners.

    I fell asleep reading an article from RECORDING magazine on Primaacoustic Primakits which are similar to Auralex. The article was highly informative and I plan on finishing it today. Exhaustion won the battle last night - not boredom.

    Bombshell dropping: I am considering a career change and would like to pursue the field of recording and broadcast engineering. Liz and I have been discussing my career aspirations for the better part of two years now. Currently I am a Business Manager for a small firm and have never really been happy in the role of businessman. My vocation as a Music Minister for a small Pentacostal church brings great joy and personal satisfaction in my life. However, neither offers paid health insurance coverage and with the twins I need to find something better. Parental responsibility dominates my thought processess now as it rightly should.

    Rather than take another job in business I am considering a new direction. Does anyone know of a forum member in the NY/NJ/CT area that I could contact to bounce questions off of or physicallly meet with? Ideally, I would like to hook up with someone and be a fly on the wall for a week or two observing what goes on day in and day out typically or untypically.

    This will have to suffice for now and I shall respond in detail to each of your prior posts when I return this evening.

    Peace to all,

  16. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Hey, Eddie - In your list of periodicals, you should check out Electronic Musician. I subscribe to it and have even given gift subs to like-minded friends. They have some very informative articles and, unlike most other mags, actually put useful info on their website so you don't have to scan the paper mag to archive things of interest. Here's a link -

    If I were to quit taking print periodicals altogether, this would be the last to go. Nuff said...

    Now, on the subject of career changes - If there is a way to accomplish your desire for a new career in recording/sound, by all means go for it. Here is a nutshell version of why I think so: When I was still in High School, my parents told me that if I really loved music (they knew I did) that I should NOT try to make a career out of it. Their rationale was that doing it for a living would cause me to "burn out" on it. Like a dutiful son, I followed their advice as best I could, which also included my Dad's wish that I "better myself" over his profession (he was an electrician for a major power company) so I went into electronics, taught in military electronic school, then in civilian life worked for several video and audio companies, designed systems for both professional and home at various times, and finally realized when I was buried in supporting a family that I was not happy with my life (other than family) - by this time, I was 35 years old. I have been working toward what I SHOULD have been doing all along, and at 57 years I am within sight of being able to follow MY dream to some degree of fruition. If I had followed my heart instead of (unintentional) bad advice, I feel I would have been over 20 years closer to my true calling. My advice, born of life - follow YOUR heart, not someone elses. Yes, you have a serious parental obligation now, and yes, that is the single most important and joyful obligation in your life. Doing what seems right to you outside of that responsibility is number two, but not by much. Anyone who truly loves you will either help you or get out of the way. If this advice seems a bit strong, it's borne of half a lifetime spent living SOMEONE ELSE'S dream. Don't fall for that unless you enjoy being miserable.

    On a lighter note (F#, I think) what's your position on Helium-assisted vocals? Yeah, ya can't keep a smart-ass serious forever, live with it... Steve
  17. trustgod

    trustgod Guest

    Opus2000: Greetings. Can you build me a system similar to your dream system with a few minor modifications. Specifically, I would want a stronger power supply, DVD drive, faster CDRW drive, larger hard drives, silent fan technology, and all this in a rackmountable unit. I noticed a few great looking PC based systems at

    What soundcard and software would you install in the Opus2000 system I would purchase? Aardvark, M Audio, MOTU, Egosys, Echo, RME, Nuendo, Logic, Cubase SX, Sonar XL, Samplitude, etc??? Please bear in mind that I want the easiest software currently available to learn on. I will upgrade or change to something entirely different later on down the road once I have mastered the basics.

    How much of a deposit do you require? What is your support policy for hardware and software questions once I receive the Opus2000 ANUS dream system?


  18. trustgod

    trustgod Guest

    Neikirk Audio: Hello Bert. I stopped by the soundscape forum today and read many of the posts there. I also went to and read about the products as well as checking out the forum. In all honesty I had a difficult time understanding the posts due to the level of technical language used by the forum members. Way, way over my head. I want my first system to be as easy as possible to learn on. Further, the price is not in my budget at this time. Thank you for the followup to SonOfSmawg's initial recommendation to consider Soundscape. The $6500 required to purchase the Soundscape system would not leave me much money left over for other home studio equipment. Thanks for the suggestion though.


  19. trustgod

    trustgod Guest

    SonOfSmawg: Hello. The Apple Dual G4 is one excellent machine. It is also one very expensive piece of equipment and I believe that the money saved by purchasing an Opus2000 ANUS can be used in another area of the home studio. Thanks for looking out for my best interests. Your recent Soundscape suggestion was appreciated. However, I decided to pass for the reasons stated in my post to Bert. Thanks for the link for the computer monitor. I have a credit at Staples and planned on ordering a 21" Samsung monitor once I decided on the PC vs. Apple equation. Do you know of anyone who has purchased a DAW from Opus2000? My wife and I will reach a decision by the weekend as to what will be purchased. I, for one, feel like the kid in the candy store. I once read about a fire breathing Dragon named Smaug.


  20. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    Sep 10, 2000
    Ed, great decision, staying away from digi 001. You would have quickly had buyer's remourse.
    If you're serious about getting into audio recording heavily, you should know that it's not as easy as it sounds. A couple of weeks hanging out at a studio is not going to automatically put you in the drivers' seat. I know all about dreams, goals, and ambitions, but as you know ... your family must come first. What I'm suggesting is that you take it a step at a time, don't quit your day job for a while, and gradually ease yourself into your new vocation. A lot of people start their businesses like that. Get your gear, learn to use it well, get some experience under your belt, get enough clientelle built-up to guarantee you an income that can support your family, then quit the 9 to 5er. The hard reality is, and I'm sure others here will cobfirm it ... without enough knowledge of computers, recording gear, and actual recording experience, it will be darn-near impossible to hire you and your small studio out for money and have satisfied clients. I am not trying to discourage you from your dream, I'm only trying to suggest a better approach to getting there. Let's face it ... there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and a wife to keep happy, comfortable, and confident in your endeavor. I know this first hand. I am saving for my Soundscape system, and won't put it on credit, because I want a clear shot at my goal, without the pressure of a creditor hanging over my head, so I am patient. I sock-away what I can, and I get it when I have the money, and who knows, maybe they'll have improved it more by then, and maybe the price will come down (?).
    If you're really this serious about doing this professionally, I strongly suggest you look deeply into the R.ed system. Here's the link...
    Also, register to get on their BB. You will only be allowed read-only access ( which I helped to implement ... thank you, thank you), but it will allow you to see what everyday users are experiencing with the system and the company. Trust me, this isn't ANYTHING like the Digidesign Users' Group, where people do nothing but complain about how bad the company is, how bad the products are, and treat it like a AIM chatroom. You will quickly see that the SS systems are used by serious pros who use the BB to their advantage, and generally have nothing but praise for the gear and the company. The gear is fantastic on it's own, but the company's support, and the caring attitude exhibited by the SS people are what really make SS what it is. No, I don't work for SS or have any monetary gain from them. I've simply seen how so many DAW manufacturers treat their users like dirt once they have their money.
    To the best of my recollection, I believe SS has been in business for around 10 years. They STILL support the products that they sold from the START! Do your homework ... find-out how many other companies do. Remember, this is a fairly large, pretty long-term investment. Your success or failure in your dream will largely depend on how easily you can get help with any problems that will arise. You haven't been "at it" for 10 years, you're just starting, and there will be MANY questions. The R.ed system is self-contained, and only uses the puter for display purposes, so that takes the puter headache out of your equation. Therefore, all questions or problems that arise are with the R.ed itself, and you can get all of the Professional help you could ever want for it. These are the reasons that I'm going with the SS product.
    I recorded analog since the 70s, and didn't go digital til 2 years ago. I'm no puter genius, but I want to make top notch recordings, with as little headache as possible. The whole host-based thing is too "seat of the pants" quirky to me. I want a system that is solid, stable, and predictable. I honestly feel that it may also be wise for you to give it some thought, given your situation.
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