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Recording equipment

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Whistle Stop 05 Oct 00 - 08:38 AM
Whistle Stop 05 Oct 00 - 09:17 AM
Whistle Stop 05 Oct 00 - 09:18 AM
Tiger 05 Oct 00 - 09:41 AM
Mooh 05 Oct 00 - 09:57 AM
IanS 05 Oct 00 - 11:17 AM
hesperis 05 Oct 00 - 11:20 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 05 Oct 00 - 11:31 AM
Whistle Stop 05 Oct 00 - 02:35 PM
MK 05 Oct 00 - 02:53 PM
tradsteve 06 Oct 00 - 12:53 AM
IanS 06 Oct 00 - 04:04 AM
GUEST,bayou sam 04 Apr 02 - 07:59 PM
Amos 04 Apr 02 - 11:32 PM
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Subject: Recording equipment
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 08:38 AM

I mentioned on another thread that I have just picked up some recording equipment and set up a home studio. This is something I'm incredibly excited about, and it was great to get encouraging responses from a number of people (thanks, folks). A couple of people wondered what equipment I had decided on, so I figured I'd start a thread and see if we can compare notes. Keep in mind that I am a relative novice at this -- I'm not unfamiliar with recording studios, but I have never been the "man in the booth" before. So I would not suggest that anyone looking to do something similar should rely on my recommendations alone. But I did a little research, and talked to a few people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do, so I'm hopeful that time will prove that I made good choices. Anyway, here's the rundown:

Roland VS 1880 hard disk recorder: This is the latest iteration of the Roland VS series. These are becoming ubiquitous, I think for good reason. The sound quality (largely due to the 24-bit AD/DA converters), editing capabilities, "virtual tracks" (I haven't used these yet), and ease of use for novices like myself make it an attractive option. Retail around $2200. (US).

Roland DS90A monitors -- I bought these because they are matched to the above unit. They're powered monitors, so a separate power amp isn't needed. There are cheaper options out there, and I heard some good things about the Event monitors. These suit me fine. They also have a "speaker modeling" capability that I haven't yet tried. About $900 for the pair.

Roland effects cards -- don't remember the model number, but they're the ones that are matched to the VS unit (seeing a pattern here?). I bought two, although you might be able to get by with just one. About $250-300 apiece.

Microphones: (1) Audio Technica AT 4050 large diaphram dual element condenser, about $600; (1) Shure SM 81 small diaphram condenser, about $300; (2) Shure SM 57 dynamic, about $80 apiece. I also have a couple of Sennheiser 835 dynamic microphones that I use for vocals in performance (I think they were around $90 apiece, although there's currently a package deal through the big retail chains that offers three for $200), but I haven't yet recorded with them. I think these were all decent choices, although the jury's still out on the SM 81.

Aside from all the ancillaries (cables, mic stands, pop filters, etc.), that's it. Anybody have thoughts on the wisdom of my purchases (buying this stuff has been a lesson in humility -- I've still got a lot to learn), or other preferences? How about recording techniques, particularly mic positions and/or mic preamps for recording acoustic instruments?

Thanks again for all the encouragement -- I'll let you know how things progress.

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 09:17 AM

I forgot to mention that I also picked up the Roland CD burner (again, the one that's matched to the VS 1880), for around $550. And a pair of Sony 7606 headphones for around $90.

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 09:18 AM

Make that Sony 7506 phones.

I'm done -- I'll let somebody else talk now.

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: Tiger
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 09:41 AM

Home studio, you say?

It sounds like the Strategic Air Command to me. I'm still figgerin' how to squeeze out a few hundred for a Tascam unit. All I've got so far is a good mike.

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: Mooh
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 09:57 AM

Sounds great to me, and I am envious. A good chair is a must. And keep the dust off your gear.

Have a good time! Mooh.

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: IanS
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 11:17 AM


I set up a similar system to yours about 3 years ago and have had loads of fun and released 2 CD's (production runs of 200 and 500. I looked at the Roland VS880 (as it was then) and was very impressed as it offers everything in one box - effects as well. In the end however I went for a seperate Mackie VLZ1604 desk and a Fostex D80 8 track HDD and outboard effects as I thought it offered more flexibility though for 90% of the time you probably don't need it. One thing I think you will need which you haven't mentioned is an analogue compressor. I have found that when recording things like percussion and even guitars and vocals it does improve the recording substantially if used correctly. It may be worthwhile even getting a valve compressor to warm up the sound a bit - tat should make your vocals sound even better - I think Joe Meek make some reasonably priced models. One thing you do learn is that recording can empty your wallet quite quickly!! One thing I would suggest you try is a pair of Tandy (Radio Shack) PZM mikes used a stereo pair for recording guitars. I you place the PZM's about 1m infront of the guitar about 1.5 m apart with your Audio Technica fairly close to the body (not in front of the sound hole though) and pan the PZM's hard left and right you should get a very full but natural guitar sound. Anyway I could chat for hours about recording but I had better go.


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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: hesperis
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 11:20 AM


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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 11:31 AM

Are you satisfied with the mixing capabilities? Also, it seems like it could get to be a problem not having outboard effects processing--And are you using MIDI at all?

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 02:35 PM

Ian, thanks for the tips. I'm especially interested in the Tandy PZM mic idea you mentioned -- I've come to realize that high-end microphones can really bust the budget (as if I haven't already!), and trial-and-error is not a great option. But a matched pair of Tandy PZM mics doesn't sound like an outrageous expense, and if I can blend them with the AT as you suggest, so much the better.

So far I'm working with the compressor that's available on the integral effects cards. Roland doesn't give you much to go on here -- there are a zillion effects to choose from, but you just have to open the menu and go by the name ("hmmm... wonder what this will sound like?"). But given all the variables, I'm going to spend some more time with what I've got before investing in any outboard effects, because I don't want to be spending more money as a substitute for doing my homework. I'll definitely keep your suggestions in mind for the future, though.

Ted, I'm not using MIDI. I may end up getting into outboard effects, but the sound cards can be used as insertion or loop effects, and offer a pretty wide range of options, which I have yet to fully explore. As for mixing, my needs are pretty simple so far, because I'm recording acoustic guitars, mandolins and vocals one at a time (I'm all by myself down there), and the most complicated thing I've tackled so far involves only three instruments and two vocals. The Roland only has two XLR inputs, which might end up being an issue -- I may ultimately pick up a Mackie 1202 to put in front of it (that might help give me a little more gain on the mics, too -- when I'm recording delicate fingerpicking stuff I come pretty close to maxing out the gain on the Roland preamps).

Thanks again for all the suggestions, guys -- I'm still on the lower end of the learning curve, and can use all the help I can get.

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: MK
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 02:53 PM

Record everything dry. Add the effects in during mixdown. Gives you much more control over texturing, etc...during final mixdown. A stereo outboard compressor is a very good idea, especially for vocals. Furman and Symetrix are two good companies that come readily to mind. (I believe they both have websites.) PZMs are good, but can be awkward for recording acoustic instruments, because you have those thin attachment cords dangling either off of a mike stand or having to place them somewhere imoveable. My experience with them is that they tend to work better for live taping of stage performances. One on either side of the stage for a good general wash. Radio Shack carries them and they are affordable. You'll have to experiment with all this, and that is at least half the fun, and educational as well. Best of luck and enjoy. I've had my own home recording studio for years, and know the buzz you are currently experiencing. It's a great thing to have at your disposal. Best of luck.

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: tradsteve
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 12:53 AM

Wow, I'm trying to squeeze sound out of a Tascam 424 and a philips cd burner. Can I come to your house?

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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: IanS
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 04:04 AM


Don't knock the 424. I bought one years ago and the fun I had with it led me on to get the digital setup I have now.

I still use it today when I'm thinking about arrangements and just want to experiment quickly. I converted my garage into a studio (sound proofed the walls etc) and so if I don't want to be too anti-social and spend all evening in the studio I can use the 424 in the house just to get ideas down and at a later date record them properly.

Incidently I mount my PZM pair directly to a wall and route the cables along the wall - its also an easy job to remove the jack supplied with the PZM and fit a standard XLR. If you are interested in PZM's then I suggest you have a trawl around the net, there is quite a lot of good information about them - converting for phantom power etc.

Whistlestop - I don't think you need to invest in outboard effects for quite a while yet, the Roland effects cards in the VS are very good. The only reason I mentiones the compressor is because the compressor in the Roland is a digital compressor which is after the AD convertors. Ideally to maximise the signal to noise you should do your compression in the analogue domain before the AD conversion.



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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: GUEST,bayou sam
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 07:59 PM


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Subject: RE: Recording equipment
From: Amos
Date: 04 Apr 02 - 11:32 PM

Wow. I am amazed. I use a simple ASudioTechnic AT822 hanging from a string and feeding a loverly little Sony MDLP which I then replay directly into Sound Studio tracks under OSX. It works pretty well for my purposes but I am nowhere neasr the sound engineering buff you guys are!! I can take the dry tracks and mix them, filter them thirty ways, and do a lot of other neat things, but it's all software.


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