Upgrading pres, mics, and audio interface for a home studio

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by FoundSounds, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. FoundSounds

    FoundSounds Guest

    Hello Recording.org Folks,

    I have been lurking in the forums for quite some time and am finally trying to put together a real home studio for my own recordings. I have been a Creamware user since 2000 and have been using Creamware DSP synths and VST instruments (mostly Reaktor) for the majority of the soundscapes. I make ambient soundscapes with flamenco influenced classical guitar that contains sparse vocals often layered in several harmony parts. My influences are Brian Eno, Biosphere, etc. My mixing board just died and I figured it was time to upgrade.

    I need to get a better soundcard, hopefully with better AD converters (I'm not concerned about the DACs), mic preamps, one decent vocal condenser, and a mic for my nylon stringed guitar. Frankly, I really haven't been able to tell the difference between most converters, but I can tell the difference between SB Audigy and my Creamware card.

    My recording setup is build around Cubase SX and Reaktor, which I have used to create several custom synths and sound modules. Currently, I've been just using the EV 757B for vocals and an sm57 for the guitar but I'm looking for a studio setup that will allow me to improve my production quality without spending too much money.

    Here is what I'm currently using:
    Cubase SX
    Ramsa WR8112 (Broken and not worth fixing)
    Creamware Luna II
    Reaktor 4 (For effects as well as synthesis)
    Waves Musicians Native Bundle II
    - Ren Compressor (I'm very happy with this)
    - Ren EQ
    SIR Reverb
    3 Sm57s
    Electrovoice N/D757B
    I'm monitoring with HD280 headphones

    So far I have this list. I should mention that I am hoping to spend less than a thousand dollars to create a semi-professional studio.

    Mackie 1202 w/ XDR pres -- I didn't think I could afford better pres on this budget.
    Rode NT1 (used) -- Seems sufficient.
    Rode NT3 (used) -- For guitar...
    M-Audio 1010LT -- A cheap interface that should provide adequate sound quality.

    Some other possibilites for mics are:
    Audio Technica 2020
    Audio Technica 3050
    MXL990/MXL991 Kit

    I recognize that there is no possibility of getting pro quality on that budget but would appreciate comments or suggestions from anyone in these forums.

    (One person who is an engineer suggested that I should just stick with the SM57s and 58s until I can afford something like an AKG 414 or BLUE baby bottle. )
  2. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    I love SIR Reverb. :cool:
  3. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    15, or even 10 years ago, I would have agreed with that but budget gear has evolved enough that you can now take advantage of most of what a high qualty mic can offer. Even if you never have anything but budget gear, having a great high end mic available to you when you do one day upgrade, or find that someone or somewhere that has a decent mic preamp but nothing but buget mic's, you'll be really thankful about it.
  4. FoundSounds

    FoundSounds Guest

    Yes, it is very impressive, and to my ears, much better than any other non-convolution reverb that I have heard.

    One reason why I am considering buying either the Waves convolution reberb or Altiverb is because of the large library of impulse responses that come with each product. While impulse responses are available all over the internet, including file sharing networks, it is often unclear whether or not they are copyrighted in some way, and they are often of poor quality.

    I need to search the forums but I am interested in finding out what the professionals here think about the respective impulse response libraries shipped with each reverb, and which are considered to have the best audio quality.
  5. FoundSounds

    FoundSounds Guest

    Yeah, the problem that I am having is deciphering the reviews; which in the case of these lower priced mics, seem to all be mixed. The NT1 has gotten some praise, but other reviewers have called its sound dead. I'm just concerned that what I buy will not result in much of an audible difference between the sound that I'm currently getting with what I have.

    Luckily, at least until the end of year I have access to the mics at my University so I can do some demos with them. The problem is that they are almost all out of my price range. And god forbid I drop a U87 which I'm responsible for!

    I just may be able to afford a used BLUE baby bottle mic (400 - 500$), but it is way more than I want to spend on a single microphone.
  6. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    Waves IR-1 is very good, the impulse collection is large and diverse.
  7. FoundSounds

    FoundSounds Guest

    I need 2 channels of pre-amp and don't need a mixer.

    There have been a few suggestions for cheap pres in the forums:

    Studio Projects VTB1
    M-Audio DMP3
    Mackie XDR

    These are all within my budget (except that I would need 2 VTB1s).

    My goal was to do my tracking at home and then dump my files over to protools at the studio and transfer it to 2" for mixing. I just want a big vocal and acoustic guitar sound that doesn't sound overly digital, shrill, or thin.

    I need a mic that will sound good with cheap preamp. (I thought I would add this to my above question.)
  8. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Start at the beginning.

    First, upgrade your sound card(Assuming your computer, itself is OK). Without the new sound card you won't hear ALL the difference your later purchases will give you.

    Lynx or RME are two goodies(Pricey, but this IS the 'base' of your system!).

    Actually, after the sound card you could upgrade the 'other end' - your speakers(Or "upgrade" to speakers, at all?). Even a reasonably priced pair will give you a different outlook on your mixes than only using phones.

    Yamaha SP5's or even Alessis M1A's would be a good start.

    Next, your mic pres. Better pres will help the mics you already have sound better. Actually a really good pre can MAKE your mics sound better..!

    Frankly, if you can swing it, something in a John Hardy, would be v-e-r-y nice.

    Last, your mics. Now that you have the other stuff, you can make far more intelligent decisions on your mics and how to use them...

    EV RE 20 or Senn 421's, for dynamics and I'd like to see you in an AKG C414(Or better) for condensers.

    Try not to skimp on any part of the system! Better to get one really fine piece and save-up for the next, etc., if budget really counts and you can afford to wait a bit. The "good stuff" lasts for a long time...

  9. FoundSounds

    FoundSounds Guest

    Thanks for the recommendations. John Hardy pres were about 1k per channel which are a little out of my price range.

    As for the sound card ADC, here are the ADC chips that I found that they use:
    M-audio AKM AK4355
    Creamware AKM AK4524
    RME AKM AK5394
    Lynx AKM AK5383

    All of the ADCs are from the same manufacturer, but they are different models. I can get a used RME 96/8 pad or 96/8 pst.

    For mics, the AKG 414 is almost 1k by itself, which again is a little too much for me. Right now, the BLUE baby bottle is the only decent mic I could afford. I have decided to just get one mic and one pre, and use the large diaphram mic on guitar, rather than getting two poor quality mics and pres.

    I'm not doing any mixing at home, only tracking, so I don't need good monitoring (and I couldn't afford real monitors anyway.)

    Thanks for your help. I'll try to find out if used John Hardy pres are within my budget. I should mention that I really would like a colored sound so the recording doesn't sound so digital. I do intend on dumping everything to 2" before mixing, however.

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