Jump to content

Really happy with my upgraded studio (video included)


Recommended Posts

  • Members

I've been slowly upgrading my home studio over the past year and a half or so, and just a couple of months ago finally put the last piece I wanted in place (a UAD2 card). I have to say that I'm really happy with this setup - everything has really exceeded my expectations. Any of you who know me or my tastes know that I'm really picky about this stuff, and that my aesthetic is all about getting the classic, raw, "live" sounds without relying much on editing and mixing to "fix" stuff, so to me it's crucial to have stuff that sounds good in the first place.

Anyhow, as a "proof of concept" once I got everything in place, I've done some "quickie" covers with various people that I play with, which has been really fun. Basically we give ourselves a time limit, so we don't over-think or over-fiddle with anything and there aren't many overdubs. For one of these we (one of the bands I play in) did one of my favorite songs ever, "Love Reign O'er Me" by the Who. It's a pretty ambitious tune, and we didn't rehearse it, but I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I'm especially happy with no longer feeling like I'm fighting with gear to get good sounds, as I've felt for the last decade plus. It just feels really easy now to throw up my mics and go, and then not have to spend ages tweaking things in the mix to coax something decent out of it.

Anyway, here's the video. If anyone is interested I can share more details about the setup, process, etc. The video was just filmed on our iPhones and I hacked together an edit just to document the process - obviously video quality wasn't a priority. biggrin.gif

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Yeah, I didn't know whether he could really pull it off or not, and I'd say he nailed it! It's certainly not his normal comfort zone, vocally. So I was pretty freakin' impressed. The vocal was take 2, and I don't think he could've done another! Those high notes are a beeeyotch!

We only took a couple of hours to do the basic tracks (including getting sounds). The only overdubs were the lead vocal, piano and synth. There were a few punch-ins on the vocal and guitar - just on a few lines. That's about it. Pretty much everything was second take. It went surprisingly smoothly. It doesn't hurt that everyone's a Who fanatic and loves the song. biggrin.gif

The synth part was done by another friend of ours who recorded it at his house. It probably took all of an hour between me calling him up and saying "Fancy playing synth on this song?" to him sending me the finished track, plus video (of him in his PJ's - it was late at night... lol).

The rain sound effects were recorded by Kenny on his iPhone, when he was out one day driving in the rain. It was originally for a song on his own album, so I had the files handy when we did this one. biggrin.gif

Oh, and the big French horn ending was drummer Kelly Shane's wife Jeanne, who's a pro (orchestral) horn player, so he got her to do that at home. Just to complete the picture. smile.gif

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

So here's the lowdown: everything was tracked through my Allen & Heath ZED R16, using its pres and converters and I think a touch of the board EQ.

Drum mics:

Kick - Heil PR40
Snare - AKG 414 B-ULS, in figure 8
Rack - Beyer M88
Floor - Sennheiser 421
Overheads - CAD M179x2, in cardioid

Bass: direct thru Sans Amp Bass Driver
Acoustic Guitar: direct into board

(I kinda wish I'd been able to spend a little more time beefing up the direct instruments, but as I say we had made it a goal to get it done quickly)

Piano: CAD M179x2

Electric guitar: thru Vox AC15CC, miked with Beyer M88

Vocal: Advanced Audio CM12. I think I tracked through an RNC as well.

Effects: Mostly UAD2 plugins - 1176LN, Pultec Pro, EMT 140 plate reverb, Echoplex. PSP Vintage Warmer on kick and snare.

DAW is a home built i7 based puter with a Gigabyte mobo (has a TI firewire controller), 8MB RAM, and of course the UAD card, running Windows 7 x64. Recorded and mixed in Reaper x64.

The room has a low ceiling, but it (the ceiling) is well insulated to absorb the reflections, and I have 8 RealTraps Mini Traps in the corners and along the walls.

That's about it. It's not totally dirt cheap, but it didn't break the bank at all. I'm pretty delighted with what can be done these days for not a whole lot of money, having once been spoiled by working in big studios and getting to use really top shelf gear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very nice... but you left out two of the most important things IMO - the producer / engineer's skill, and the skill of all the musicians involved. Really nice work as usual Lee. cool.gif

So... how are you digging the UAD2? I've got a new MacBook Pro, complete with quad core 2.2GHz i7 and 16GB of RAM and a nice fast Thunderbolt port, and I'm still a fan of Pro Tools (especially insofar as the software), but the hardware situation is completely up in the air right now. My HD2 Accel system won't be supported after PT10, and I'm kind of hoping they'll do a HDX system on Thunderbolt. They recently announced the HD Native system on Thunderbolt, and I really don't see any reason why they can't put the DSP into the interface itself, as Universal Audio has done with the Apollo.

Heck, I might even consider Apollo. Everyone I talk to who has the UAD stuff seems to really dig it. I've got a gripload of RTAS and TDM plugins, and I'm either going to have to upgrade all of them to AAX... or do something else. idn_smilie.gif I really don't want to / can't justify spending another 5-10 grand on my DAW right now... and even an Apollo and a Thunderbolt card is going to be two or three grand - plus a TON for plugins, since that's a completely different platform. frown.gif

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Well I haven't tried the Apollo, but UA seems to have a knack for getting things right, IMO, and I'm guessing the Apollo is no exception. I can certainly vouch for the plugins being great. I haven't used much else on any new projects I've done recently, and - this is pretty funny - I have gone back to some previous mixes that aren't released yet, and replaced the plugs I was using with the UAD stuff just for comparison's sake. And it's now gotten to where sometimes I'll be listening back to a mix and detect some faint whiff of brittleness or phasiness or lack of coherence, and invariably I'll discover that I still have some non-UAD plugin on a track or two. biggrin.gif And it's not like what I was using before was terrible or anything. It's just that I really notice an improvement. It's really good stuff.

I don't doubt the prospect of losing your huge investment in RTAS and TDM plugs doesn't sit well with you at all. frown.gif But it seems like you're eventually going to be forced to get something different no matter what, so... the Apollo is definitely worth a look!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by ggm1960 View Post
Lee, can you pinpoint any specific item that really makes the difference, or perhaps in a more general sense did the biggest differences occur after some hardware changes/upgrades or was it in treatment(s) of the space?
Well as far as the space treatment, I originally built the room with the insulated drop ceiling, and the bass traps happened about 6 or 7 years ago - so that wasn't part of the recent upgrades. The traps did make a big difference when I added them, though. You could hear a dramatic difference in the way things sounded in the room, and of course that made a difference in the recordings. But, I still knew I was battling with some hardware deficiencies.

The 2 things that have made the biggest difference in my recent upgrade were the A&H board, and a few new mics. The CAD M179s have just really exceeded expectations. I'd highly recommend for anyone to pick up a pair, at least! I got the 414 not long before I got the 179s, and I love it - it's been my favorite snare mic for a long time - but honestly the 179s sound very similar to a 414 for a third of the price, so I'm guessing it wouldn't suck at all on snare.

The CM12 is just fantastic. I wanted something that would get me in the ballpark of my all time favorite mic - the AKG C12 - without, umm, having to spend $12K. icon_lol.gif So far I've mostly used it for vocals and acoustic guitar, and it really has the qualities I was looking for in my go-to LD condenser. So that's been a big improvement too.

I got the Heil PR40 a few years ago and it made a huge difference as a kick mic compared to any of the usual kick mics, IMO. Finally gives me the definition I really was looking for, without sounding annoyingly click-y or having the "basketball" sound the D112 and a lot of other kick mics have.

Can't really say enough about the A&H board though. The pres have plenty of headroom, and sound really, really nice, as does the EQ. I managed to improve quite a few tracks that were originally recorded before I got the board, just by mixing through it. I love the flexibility of it too, being able to track with 16 mic pres and mix with pretty much any combination of analog and digital. But none of that would matter if it didn't sound good. Which it really does.

So yeah, the room treatment happened to be the first thing I did that made a difference. Then the mics and the console. Last the UAD2, which was the icing on the cake. Like I said, I just don't feel like I'm struggling to get the sounds I want anymore. The tracks sound good right off the bat, without any processing, and the UAD plugs give me all the extra sweetening I need plus have helped me to rescue some not so great tracks. It's a really sweet setup and I still can't believe I can have all this in my basement. Sure, it still isn't quite up to the level of a big studio, but it's close enough that it really doesn't bother me anymore, and of course only a tiny fraction of the cost! It has really boosted my creative output to have such a nice work environment too, I can tell you that!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Thanks! Great info and the video sound is awesome!
I'm in a place where I finally have some nice basement space to work with. I've been looking at options for treating the room. My situation is different from yours in that I primarlly work alone and often vocals are the only thing I don't direct record but with the space I have now I'm hoping to create an environment where I could actually record live drums, amps, etc. if I wanted to.

I use the UAD solo laptop card and so far I like the plug-ins although sadly, I haven't had nearly the time to play with all the software I have as much as I need to. I always feel like I never even come close to using this stuff to it's full potential and the upgrade train constantly leaves me spinning.

Your advice on mics is certainly something I need to look into. Probably at some point I might also want to incorporate a nice mixing board but due to the way I work, I'm fine without it for now. A more professional pre-amp is definitely on my list though at least.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Also just a little addendum to Phil's comment "the most important thing is the skill of the engineer and the musicians." It's pretty common to say that, and it's also pretty common to assume that these days if you can't make a decent recording, the problem is you, not the gear. Or "You can get something that sounds just as good from cheap gear - you just have to work harder." And I know such statements are well intentioned but... it's really apples and oranges. I would hope we're all constantly trying to become better engineers and musicians, but I think anyone at any level still benefits greatly from having decent gear. I didn't get the vast improvements that I have over the past couple of years because I suddenly became a vastly better engineer and musician a year and a half ago. It was because I got better gear. And luckily I knew enough to know that I'd been wrestling with cheap gear for years and what its limitations were. I knew that I was able to get the sounds I wanted to get when I was an 18 year old second engineer, which was frustrating.

So, sure, you can take a certain amount of pride in wringing blood from a stone, but 1) a stone is still a stone at the end of the day. And 2) while you may be able to get 80% of where you want to be if you work your ass off at it, who wants to struggle so much to get a decent sound all the time and still not quite end up with what you want? To me, it's a creativity killer. And the fact is that just within the last few years a LOT of gear has come on the market that isn't too expensive and yet has enabled me to finally just get to work and not worry whether it's going to sound right.

I'll grant you, part of this is an aesthetic thing. Obviously, my personal taste is for natural sounding stuff. If you're happy with using lots of samples, direct instruments and heavily effected sounds, the gear doesn't matter so much. I've heard people do amazing things for next to nothing, using lots of cheap or free plugins and loops and samples and softsynths. I don't deny their talent at all, but it's just not my cup o'tea. To me, much of what's on the radio these days sounds like poo, even if I like the music. If your tastes run to organic, live sounding stuff, then no matter how much skill you have you're going to run into some limitations if you have really cheap gear and/or a really crappy sounding room. And I've also seen some young people with pretty obvious talent get really down on themselves because they've listened to everyone tell them the problem must be them, when it's actually that their gear can't handle what they're throwing at it and they aren't experienced enough to know that. I'm glad that I started off getting to use really good gear, because if there was one thing that I could know for certain - if something sounded like crap, it was NEVER the fault of the gear! biggrin.gif

Obviously, we all have a budget, and also there's a lot of expensive gear that you don't really need. That's why people like to say that skill is more important than gear - they don't want you to spend a lot of money thinking that some expensive hardware is going to suddenly make everything sound great when there are other factors that might make more of a difference. But it certainly helps to TRY different gear and see if it really does what you think it will. If something doesn't give you a dramatic and obvious difference, either it isn't all it's cracked up to be or your particular environment doesn't bring out its strengths. So you should just return it and try something else. Not all inexpensive gear is created equal, and the same with the more expensive stuff. Lots of times the difference between a $500 preamp and a $2000 preamp is nothing more than a tiny bit of noise that a classical recordist might really appreciate but it would never make any difference in the world on a typical pop/rock/R&B production. But you don't know these things till you try them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by ggm1960 View Post
Thanks! Great info and the video sound is awesome!
I'm in a place where I finally have some nice basement space to work with. I've been looking at options for treating the room. My situation is different from yours in that I primarlly work alone and often vocals are the only thing I don't direct record but with the space I have now I'm hoping to create an environment where I could actually record live drums, amps, etc. if I wanted to.
Cool. Best advice is to go for an absorptive ceiling, slightly reflective floor, and bass trap the crap out of the walls, especially the corners. You can build your own bass traps for not too much $$$ and there are some good plans on Ethan Winer's website.

But don't carpet the floor. It just kills drum sound. Put in a floor (or even leave the floor concrete if it's unfinished) and use area rugs and no padding. Kill floor to ceiling standing waves by insulating the ceiling or putting acoustic tile on the ceiling.

I use the UAD solo laptop card and so far I like the plug-ins although sadly, I haven't had nearly the time to play with all the software I have as much as I need to. I always feel like I never even come close to using this stuff to it's full potential and the upgrade train constantly leaves me spinning.
Yeah, I'm still getting used to working with the UAD effects. Looking forward to unlocking even more of their potential.

Your advice on mics is certainly something I need to look into. Probably at some point I might also want to incorporate a nice mixing board but due to the way I work, I'm fine without it for now. A more professional pre-amp is definitely on my list though at least.
Yes, preamps are important. A lot of cheap pres simply can't handle the SPL of a drum kit or loud amp. And in that case, no matter what you do it's not going to sound all that great. Distance miking the drums, rather than close miking, is about the only recourse, and that works OK if your room is OK, but it doesn't work for everything.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by Lee Flier View Post
Cool. Best advice is to go for an absorptive ceiling, slightly reflective floor, and bass trap the crap out of the walls, especially the corners. You can build your own bass traps for not too much $$$ and there are some good plans on Ethan Winer's website.

But don't carpet the floor. It just kills drum sound. Put in a floor (or even leave the floor concrete if it's unfinished) and use area rugs and no padding. Kill floor to ceiling standing waves by insulating the ceiling or putting acoustic tile on the ceiling.
This coinsides, and expands on, some of what I've heard elsewhere. I think I'll use some of the fake wood vinyl flooring I recently saw being used in a Man Cave magazine. As far as the ceiling, I would have liked to do a drop ceiling but on further inspection this probably won't work in the section of basement I have reserved for my live area. Resilient channel will be the way to go I believe but I still need to figure out what type of insulation and covering material to use.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Love the song and your cover of it. Probably my favorite Who song/album. Singer did GREAT!

Thanks for all your input. I learn so much from you guys even if I don't contribute much. Sometimes I feel like the guy sitting in a restaurant who's listening to the cooler guys at the next table talk shop.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Just breezed through the comments. I'll have to agree it does sound great. I'll also add I'm a big fan of the M179's. I bought them after hearing them on toms. Once I got them I realized they sound good on pretty much anything. Maybe not 414 good, but I bought 4 for about $400 used. One day I may get a pair of 414's, but I'm definitely not in any rush. wink.gif

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by Lee Flier View Post
Also just a little addendum to Phil's comment "the most important thing is the skill of the engineer and the musicians." It's pretty common to say that, and it's also pretty common to assume that these days if you can't make a decent recording, the problem is you, not the gear. Or "You can get something that sounds just as good from cheap gear - you just have to work harder." And I know such statements are well intentioned but... it's really apples and oranges. I would hope we're all constantly trying to become better engineers and musicians, but I think anyone at any level still benefits greatly from having decent gear. I didn't get the vast improvements that I have over the past couple of years because I suddenly became a vastly better engineer and musician a year and a half ago. It was because I got better gear. And luckily I knew enough to know that I'd been wrestling with cheap gear for years and what its limitations were. I knew that I was able to get the sounds I wanted to get when I was an 18 year old second engineer, which was frustrating.

So, sure, you can take a certain amount of pride in wringing blood from a stone, but 1) a stone is still a stone at the end of the day. And 2) while you may be able to get 80% of where you want to be if you work your ass off at it, who wants to struggle so much to get a decent sound all the time and still not quite end up with what you want? To me, it's a creativity killer. And the fact is that just within the last few years a LOT of gear has come on the market that isn't too expensive and yet has enabled me to finally just get to work and not worry whether it's going to sound right.

I'll grant you, part of this is an aesthetic thing. Obviously, my personal taste is for natural sounding stuff. If you're happy with using lots of samples, direct instruments and heavily effected sounds, the gear doesn't matter so much. I've heard people do amazing things for next to nothing, using lots of cheap or free plugins and loops and samples and softsynths. I don't deny their talent at all, but it's just not my cup o'tea. To me, much of what's on the radio these days sounds like poo, even if I like the music. If your tastes run to organic, live sounding stuff, then no matter how much skill you have you're going to run into some limitations if you have really cheap gear and/or a really crappy sounding room. And I've also seen some young people with pretty obvious talent get really down on themselves because they've listened to everyone tell them the problem must be them, when it's actually that their gear can't handle what they're throwing at it and they aren't experienced enough to know that. I'm glad that I started off getting to use really good gear, because if there was one thing that I could know for certain - if something sounded like crap, it was NEVER the fault of the gear! biggrin.gif

Obviously, we all have a budget, and also there's a lot of expensive gear that you don't really need. That's why people like to say that skill is more important than gear - they don't want you to spend a lot of money thinking that some expensive hardware is going to suddenly make everything sound great when there are other factors that might make more of a difference. But it certainly helps to TRY different gear and see if it really does what you think it will. If something doesn't give you a dramatic and obvious difference, either it isn't all it's cracked up to be or your particular environment doesn't bring out its strengths. So you should just return it and try something else. Not all inexpensive gear is created equal, and the same with the more expensive stuff. Lots of times the difference between a $500 preamp and a $2000 preamp is nothing more than a tiny bit of noise that a classical recordist might really appreciate but it would never make any difference in the world on a typical pop/rock/R&B production. But you don't know these things till you try them.
Very well said.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by Lee Flier View Post
I've been slowly upgrading my home studio over the past year and a half or so, and just a couple of months ago finally put the last piece I wanted in place (a UAD2 card). I have to say that I'm really happy with this setup - everything has really exceeded my expectations. Any of you who know me or my tastes know that I'm really picky about this stuff, and that my aesthetic is all about getting the classic, raw, "live" sounds without relying much on editing and mixing to "fix" stuff, so to me it's crucial to have stuff that sounds good in the first place.

Anyhow, as a "proof of concept" once I got everything in place, I've done some "quickie" covers with various people that I play with, which has been really fun. Basically we give ourselves a time limit, so we don't over-think or over-fiddle with anything and there aren't many overdubs. For one of these we (one of the bands I play in) did one of my favorite songs ever, "Love Reign O'er Me" by the Who. It's a pretty ambitious tune, and we didn't rehearse it, but I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I'm especially happy with no longer feeling like I'm fighting with gear to get good sounds, as I've felt for the last decade plus. It just feels really easy now to throw up my mics and go, and then not have to spend ages tweaking things in the mix to coax something decent out of it.

Anyway, here's the video. If anyone is interested I can share more details about the setup, process, etc. The video was just filmed on our iPhones and I hacked together an edit just to document the process - obviously video quality wasn't a priority. biggrin.gif

That's awesome!!!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...