Trying to build a VERY COLORFUL analog setup...

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by Beneficial, Oct 29, 2004.

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  1. Beneficial

    Beneficial Guest

    I'm trying to buy three pieces of analog gear to use in combination with my DAW.I'm looking for extreme analog color, character, personality, etc. I want to create a very unique analog signature sound. I'm looking at getting 3 pieces of gear: a dual channel compressor, a stereo EQ, and a 16 channel mixing board. I'm trying not to spend more than $600 on each, and I'm looking at older analog stuff.

    Im thinking something along the lines of...
    Mixer: Studiomaster 16-8-2
    Equalizer: Crown EQ2
    Compressor: Orban 424a

    Does anyone have any suggestions about these items, or any other analog pieces of gear that might give me the colored sound I'm looking for?
  2. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Mar 31, 2002
    There's not much in the $600 price range I would put in my signal path for a paying client. None of these pieces you mention are likely to have any of the analog "magic" you are hoping for.

    Why not try the budget gear list?

  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Old (used) doesn't necessarily equate to "colored" sound .. at least in the good sense of the word "colored". These older pieces are likely to have pretty slow circuits (= slew rates) but the high end suffers from this limitation.

    A lot of people make the same mistake and think that something that is not as "bright" as say, a Mackie ... is "warm sounding" ... the thing is it's not really ... it' just has poor treble response ... (not a good thing).

    The better vintage and current boutique designs like Vintech, Neves and Tridents .. have a big warm low end while retaining good effortless highs as well and also have a sense of "depth" (dimension) than none of the less expensive pieces have.

    Crown has always had a reputation for fine gear. The EQ 2 is a fixed bandwidth at one octave, graphic EQ with selectable frequencies ... very cool! It was designed for FOH and monitor use (PA) and while it can be used to record (almost anything can) it is not the most desirable type of EQ to use for tracking ... we usually use fully parametric EQs in this application. The basic reason for this is graphics will have dips and peaks in the response curve as you boost and cut in various regions, where parametrics will produce a smoother more even curve, all resulting in a better sound.

    Orban is a product of John Oram ... (who is contentiously reputed as "The Father of British EQ") ...

    I suspect the 424a is a basic vca compressor/ gate / de-esser ... while useful in a variety of situations, not a piece you would be wanting to use to pull -10dB out of a signal. As long as you don't reduce the gain by more than 4 or 5 dB with it, you will probably not hear too many artifacts generated by it ... more than that and you are probably going to hear the thing working.
  4. Beneficial

    Beneficial Guest

    Wow, I really appreciate the reply Kurt. You clarified a lot for me. One day I hope I will be able to afford a Neve board, or something along those lines, but for now I have to grind away on something less desirable. You seem to have an encylopedia's worth of knowledge on this stuff. Do you have any suggestions as far as my best bet for the money I'm working with. An older mixer, stereo parametric eq, and dual channel compressor. There is so much "old" gear floating around on Ebay. I've researched so many pieces online and there is just too many opinions. It's hard to narrow down my selection.
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I'm happy to help, that's what we are here for ... What are you willing to spend? What do you record? Is it one track at a time or full bands, live in one pass, or basics and then overdubs? How many tracks / channels do you need? How many will you be recording at one time? What do you record to? What kind of music are you working on?

    I would need to know these things before I could make anywhere near an intellegent reply ...
  6. Beneficial

    Beneficial Guest

    I record/mix hip hop, but I can't stand the way newer pop hip hop is engineered. I like a grittier analog sound that a lot of the mid 90's hip hop had, and I also really love the trip hop sound like Portishead. I don't know what they do to get their tones to sound so pure. I'm mainly working with drums chopped up from old funk and soul breaks that have already been converted to digital.. they're already on my computer. The only things I'm recording are samples from vinyl and vocals.

    Right now I've got a nice turntable running through a Yamaha RX-385 reciever.. basically using it as a tube pre. I've got one Aardvark Q10 and I do pretty much everything in Cubase and I've got some decent plugins. I also have a Tascam 38, 8 track reel to reel that I havn't really used yet. Plus some Event 20/20bas monitors, and a pretty flat room.

    I can get a "decent" mix in my DAW but I really want to get a more analog feel to my tracks, and I REALLy want to try to get my own sound. Even if it's a combination of relatively inexpensive outboard gear running into the Q10. I want to run my tracks out of the Q10, through some analog components that will add color and a unique sound. I'm not interested in making poppy super digital sounding hip hop, I'm more interested in an underground sound (although most underground hip hop is mixed poorly and sounds muddy.. i'm not looking for a muddy mix with no clarity,,, I just want a colorful analog unique feeling).

    No matter what.. I need an outboard compressor to use for capturing vocals. I've gone without one for too long and digital clipping is a fools pleasure. I'd like a colorful vintage compressor (I think.. heh).

    As far as getting the sound I want. I was considering 1 of two options.

    1) Get another Q10 for a total of 16 ins/outs. Get a small relatively inexpensive 1970's to 1980's board like the Allen & Heath System 8, Studiomaster 16-8-2, Yamaha PM1000, OR save and get a Studer 089. Do all of my sequencing, delays, reverb, compression, etc in my DAW, then run 16 tracks out through the analog board and then either dump it to tape on my Tascam 38, or back onto the Q10 at 96/24.

    2) Just get a decent older dual compressor, a decent older stereo EQ, and maybe an analog filter. Since I'm working primarily with loops, I could run individual loops of samples or drums out of the Q10 , through the analog outboard stuff, and then back into the Q10. Then I could just sequence and mix the loops after they've hopefully picked up some color in the analog realm. I could also capture my vocals and then do the same.

    Now,, I know that I'm not going to get a stellar analog sound through gear that costs less than $1000, But I REALLy love how analog sounds compared to digital (I know that sounds elementary) To put it in perspective, I used to have a 4 track radio shack POS mixer, and I loved the sound.

    Im looking to spend $500 to $1000 on a compressor,, the same goes for the EQ box, and I'd like to spend $1000 or less on some 16-8-2 board. If I get some good suggestions I could possibly save and drop up to $3000 or so on a little console.

    LONG POST.. hope you're still following. I appreciate your expertise you obviously know whats up. Can't wait for a response, Thanks.
  7. Bhennies

    Bhennies Guest

    hey there, I'm not Kurt, but I can maybe offer some advice as someone who is making the same kind of music you want to make. The mid-90's hip hop you're referring to (which I love as well) is not so much the result of the recording gear as it is the "instruments" that were used. For example...Pete Rock, one of my favorite all time producers, uses an emu sp1200, 12 bit sampler for his drums. Jay Dee uses old ensoniq keyboards that sound...well old and gritty as well. That's where the tone comes from (that gritty analog feel), not so much the gear in the studio. It's pretty well known that Pete Rock is a damn good engineer...I'm not sure what exactly he ran that sp into, but it probably wasn't a mackie (most likely a nice board- SSL etc.).

    Basically what I'm trying to say is that in my opinion, a lo-fi source (sp 1200, asr etc.) sounds best when run through high end gear. And I know what you mean about that shimmery high hats, breathy vox BS that is everywhere nowadays. It won't sound like that. But it will capture your source authentically, instead of like Kurt says, degrading certain frequencies with the "feel" of grit but really it's just shitty sound quality. You can always degrade the sound source later on in the mixing phase if it's not dirty enough.

    I would maybe save on buying an outboard EQ and compressor, and throw your money into as good of a front end as possible. If you're doing hip hop, and using samples, why do you need 16 channels? I rarely use more than 2 channels at a time, and even when I do (drums) I only use 4. Maybe invest in something decent like the focusrite ISA 428, gives you 4 channels of pre (or ins) and 4 additional line ins if you buy the AD card. There are better pres out there for sure (great river comes to mind) but for your budget, the ISA might do the trick (unless you're recording bands which I doubt).

    Hope this helps,
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Like I said before, old doesn't equate to better, especially in less expensive equipment ... all it is, is old cheap gear.

    Old vintage gear is a different thing ... that stuff wasn't cheap when it was new and won't be cheap now .. the reason is it's good stuff!

    New cheap gear, performs better than old cheap gear, due to progress in chip technology and advanced construction techniques and this is where much of the confusion about this type gear comes from ... Manufacturers of rack crap claim its performance approaches that of older high end vintage designs .. and on paper they are sometimes correct .. these devices do have better signal to noise, frequency response and dynamic range that their predecessors but in most cases, they don't really sound as good as older vintage designs that are well executed and built. Some of these older designs just can't be made better ... they still hold up well decades after they hit the market.

    Getting back to your question, it is most likely that the songs and artists you mentioned were using 2" tape and large format consoles in production . Try to learn how and where these recordings were done, this will lead to more insight as to how the sounds you like were accomplished.

    Of all the gear in the list you posted, I would say save and go for the Studer.. and forget the rest of that stuff. I know that you don't want to hear that you are going to have to spend that much but it's the only way I know to get the sounds you're looking for.

    The Avalon channel strip seems to be the "go to" piece for hip hop / rap style production ... AKG C12 is the main mic used by most R&B (encompassing rap and hip hop) producers for the past decade ... I see them in use all the time in pictures and videos.
  9. Bhennies

    Bhennies Guest

    someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the now defunct D&D Studios (gangstarr favorite) had an MCI console. I know that Raphael Saadiq has an SSL and a TON of great vintage gear (teletronix, neve etc.). SSL's seemed to be really popular in those days.
  10. ShellTones

    ShellTones Guest

    In your price range, three pieces of gear that I believe would give you a very good sound:

    Preamp: Sebatron Vmp-2000e $1,200 (very versatile)

    Compressor: ART Pro VLA $200 (haven't heard one but both John Scrip "Massive Mastering" and Davedog like 'em (supposed to be very smooth)

    EQ: Speck ASC $500 (again, haven't heard it but I've heard so many great things about it that it is on my short list) (it's not stereo, but IMO one channel of excellent eq is far better than two channels of mediocre eq)

    Total: $1,900
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Yeah to that...the Sebatron is gonna give you 'grit'...the VLA for hip-hop is not a choice I would make though it will work...It just doesnt 'pump' very hard...I do a lot of acoustic music which is why I love mine....and I do use it across the sub-bus to limit my drum mix..its nice like that...for an eq there are lots of digital plugs that do everything an outboard eq will except add noise...I'd stay there for that. A channel strip is what you seem to be looking for...a do-it-all mic pre/eq/comp..there are several available with the Avalon 737 being the predominant hip-hop and R&B unit..If you had a big budget, you could simply get a Tubetech MEC1A or a Daking mic pre with eq and a Daking fet ll compressor...all yummy...
  12. DanKennedy

    DanKennedy Guest

    I think Bob Orban is going to be really pissed when someone tells him that John Oram had anything at all to do with this companies products.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    I don't know is this is a big deal or not but... Dan and Kurt, I pulled that comment out until I see an actual reference link to what is only from my POV a rumour. Back this from a link other than RO archives and I guess it's an added cross reference to this topic. For now though... No point in us going there eh. If Bob feel he needs to chime in I would be happy to help clear old news. If not, let's move on.

    Cheers! (y)
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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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