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Putting together a high quality home studio


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OK, so despite being really poor right now, there is the always and ever looming possibility that my company will get picked up by some larger Sugar Daddy. The nibbles are happening more and more and if one bites, I will be in a position to put together a nice studio (in an actual house, which I would pick in large part based on it's having a very good space for such a studio, so a nice sized room with high ceilings and amenable to good accoustic treatment.)

 

So, in the spirit of optimism that may be dellusional, I've been putting together the list for what I would put into that studio should the blessed day arrive before I die. It would be purely for my own personal use, though I might help out someone here and there. For someone at my current level of advancement in this thing of ours, someone with many more years at it but lesser means would rightly hate me. But I'm very serious about it and I'd get here eventually anyway, so it makes no sense to spend two or three times as much to get there in incremental steps. I'm kind of exploring this up front because, if the blessed day does come, it'll be a busy time for a while, and I'd like to have this list ready to pop so all the stuff will be on the way while that initial flurry of activity goes on, instead of not even starting the process until afterwards.

 

Obviously there will be various other expenses for some accoustic consultation and materials and other odds and ends, but this would be the vast bulk of the load here. Though, if I pop for all of this from one vendor at one time, or almost all of it, I'd be looking for a fairly nice discount as well, so that will help, and should offset some of the other expenses.

 

OK, having said all that, here is my list. I would appreciate any comments about it, if you think any particular components are just stupid, or where I could get two of equal quality and varying character (and hence more range) for the price of one I have on my list. I'm trying to do a good bit of 'one from column A, B, and C' type selections, so as to get a good range of options.

 

If nothing else, it'll be an enlightening discussion as to what others might put together for this price (and I'd like to keep it at this price or below so as not to be completely crazy.) Obviously you could spend many times this, but the trick is what could make this better or more flexible for less or the same. I want an environment where I can do very high quality tracking, mixing, and mastering of my own stuff, purely for my own pleasure of mastering the whole mess o' toys and techniques over the years to come.

 

Where I'm completely unsure on a particular item, I've got question marks below, so suggestions there would be much appreciated.

 

 

 

 

Some other bits of the current system I'd just give away to friends. A lesser Strat, M-Audio sub, Mackie 824MkIIs, UA Solo/610, SONAR, etc...

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You want the Eventide Anthology II bundle too Dean. Trust me on this one. :)

 

Outside of that, and a few "personal preference" changes I'd make, I'd say not a bad list at all... I could definitely work in that room. :)

 

Hope everything works out for you the way you'd like it to. :):wave:

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All I can say is wow.

 

Why is the Waves stuff so damn expensive? I guess you get what you pay for. I plan on getting the UAD Xpander Xtreme with all their plug-ins... they seem to cover all the grounds I will need...

 

Unless Logic has some kind of stereo phase 'widening' tool, I will get the expander from Waves.

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Disclaimer - I'm a hobbyist, not a professional. So take anything I say with a grain of salt. :) That said...

 

Wow, man. To me, that's not a "home studio" at all. Even if you build it AT your home, that's enough gear to make a small commercial facility. Are you planning on spending quite a lot of time charging people to use your studio? Or is this just for your personal use? From your post it sounds like it will just be personal use, so do you really need 32 channels of I/O? I have 18 channels with my ProTools LE rig, and for a four- or five-piece rock band that's usually plenty, even when tracking everyone "live."

 

Unless your room is VERY large, wouldn't you be better off with near-field monitors instead of mid-field? A decent set of near-field monitors (ADAM A7, for example) would serve you very well in a properly-treated room. Will you be more than 10-12 feet away from your monitors? Don't get me wrong - you certainly don't want to go cheap on the monitors. But mid-field seems overkill unless your control room is huge.

 

You've got a lot of stuff there, and should be able to capture some killer sounds as long as your room is good and you have good players.

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No, it wouldn't really need 32 inputs. But the options for the Apogees are either 2 or 16 input, AFAIK. 16 isn't enough to keep all the pre's permanently connected, and I really didn't want to be behind the rack swapping stuff around. There is a balanced patch bay in there, but I saw that more for patching the compressors/EQs into a given chain, and that the pre's would always stay permanent connected. That would also allow for, in PTs, having a project template that always had every input pre-named and setup. So that required more than 16 inputs.

 

And I also wanted to be able, for the most part, to just set up the drums and mic them and always have them ready, without going through hours of re-setup. I might steal a mic off it everyone once in a wile to use on guitar or bass or something, but otherwise always have it ready. So that required the 3 APIs and that adds a lot of inputs to the mix if they are going to have fixed inputs. I guess I could dump one API and spread a few of the other things around to the other pre's, which might get me down under the 16 input requirement, but it would be tight, and might not make for a consistent sound, I dunno. And I wouldn't just be able any time I'm ready to sit down at the drums and start tracking with everything ready to go.

 

I would say that it's definitely a home studio in that it wouldn't have a separate control room, just a single room. And that's also why the mid-fields partially because it's not a small control room off to the side of a larger tracking room. It would just be one room for both since I'd have be engineering myself as I track. But that should also make it large enough to justify the mid-fields and to make it a reasonable mastering room, which really requires a sufficient room and something other than near-fields. You need them far enough away to allow the sound to fully develop and the left/right interactions to happen and get some room interaction and so forth.

 

Of course all of this may just be delusions of grandeur if our Sugar Daddy doesn't come along. So I'm burning candles and sacrificing goats and all that.

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Any suggestions? It's kind of hard to imagine there's anything out there with twice the performce of those pre-amps for the same price.

 

 

You've got $7200 into the Avalon, Manley and one 3124+. 8 CH of API is plenty, and the Avalon and Manley stuff isn't up to the caliber of stuff like Hardy, A-Designs and some of the other newer mfg. out there.

 

For the same price as the Manley and Avalon, you could get 4 CH of Hardy and a Pacifica, which get universally ecstatic reviews.

 

Then get a Tabfunkenwerk V78 and a Chandler Germanium, or some other "color" units.

 

That would give you just about any flavor of pre, for any source.

 

If you've got a studio this nice, you'll be able to afford real mastering, so invest in gear that 98% of the folks use during tracking. For tracking, you'd be better off with the classics, IMHO:

 

You could get a Purple MC77 AND a Distressor, for the price of the Avalon.

 

You could get a Tubetech CL-1, or another La-2A clone instead of the Vari-Mu, and still have $ left.

 

For what you spent on the Massive Passive, you could a different high-end EQ (GR, API?) and still have money left for a 2-Buss comp, such as the Drawmer 1968, Alan Smart C2 or API 2500.

 

For mics, take the $5K you'd spend on the Neumanns, SM-81 and the EV and buy:

 

Pair of used KM-184s, or Josephson C-42s.

 

Royer R-121, or AEA R84

 

Shure SM-7B

 

The best U-47 clone you can afford.

 

MG

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I don't have any real interest in 'real mastering'. The point of this whole thing is for me to produce my own stuff, and 'master' the whole soup to nuts process. It's being done for the enjoyment of learning, not just to create good output. And I wouldn't want to buy any used equipment, personally.

 

But, I'll look into some of your suggestions, and if there is a general agreement among respondents and various posters in various fora who have used a variety of them that those are better choices, I'm happy to go that way. I'm kind of betting though that there won't be any real agreement :-)

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I don't have any real interest in 'real mastering'. The point of this whole thing is for me to produce my own stuff, and 'master' the whole soup to nuts process. It's being done for the enjoyment of learning, not just to create good output. And I wouldn't want to buy any used equipment, personally.


But, I'll look into some of your suggestions, and if there is a general agreement among respondents and various posters in various fora who have used a variety of them that those are better choices, I'm happy to go that way. I'm kind of betting though that there won't be any real agreement :-)

 

 

There will be on the 1176/MC77, Distressor and LA-2a.

 

As a broke professional engineer, I've got to get the best "bang for buck," and I've researched this stuff to a degree that would make your head spin. Before I buy anything, I look for two things:

 

1. Does it get 99% positive reviews, across the board?

 

2. Will it work for what I want to accomplish, which is making better recordings easier?

 

So far I haven't purchased anything which hasn't done this.

 

Almost everything on my list meets those criteria.

 

On your list, just the GR and APIs do.

 

Good luck,

 

MG

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Unfortunately, some great pieces can only be purchased used... for example, the Neumann KM84 (which, no offense to Mark, I greatly prefer over the current production KM184's).

 

I do agree with Mark that a pair of Distressors with Brit mods, an LA-2A and a couple of 1176's would be nice to have. And like Mark, I wasn't in complete agreement with your microphone selections - for example, I've never been a huge U87ai fan... but if you can get a good (also discontinued) U67, that would be very cool. Ditto that for a good U47 clone - maybe a Wunder Audio. I'm also not a huge TLM103 fan - at around the same price point, I'd much rather have a Soundelux / Bock Audio U195.

 

I also disagree with Mark about the Manleys - I consider most of their products to be very good to outstanding, but again, we're talking preferences here. :) I do agree that the Avalons wouldn't make it into my rack... I don't hate their stuff, but I'm not overly wowed by it either - especially at the price.

 

IMO, if you want "as good as it gets" in terms of a transparent preamp, you want a GML 8302 / 8304. I also agree that you probably don't need three API 3124's - they're great, but even on drums, I don't think I'd want to use API's on everything - YMMV.

 

I could go through your list line item by line item and say "yes, absolutely essential, no, not for me, I'd prefer this instead..." but ultimately, it comes down to what YOU like, and what you want to do... :)

 

Besides, ask 20 different engineers for their opinions on various pieces of gear, and you may find some consensus on some things, but chances are you'll find lots of differences of opinions too. ;)

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OK, well I think that one obvious move at this point is to drop one API, use the two for direct drums mics, and use the others, as desired, for overheads, rooms, high-hat (if it needs direct micing in a given scenario.) Not a huge chunk off the list but every bit counts. For directs I need 2 snare, 2 kick, 4 toms, so that works.

 

And I could replace the Avalon with another transparent option.

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Looks like that one has the phantom power switch on the back. Why do companies do stuff like that, and power switches on the back sometimes and so forth? The panel on that unit is almost blank. They could have put a Dr. Frankenstien sized switch or two on the front.

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I'm sure George had his reasons - probably something to do with the internal circuit layout, noise, etc. It's a small hassle, but OTOH, unless you plan on using it with ribbon mics, there's ZERO reason to ever turn them off anyway... and if you're careful about how you plug the mikes in, you'll probably be fine even with ribbon mikes.

 

Remember what I said about consensus and engineers? You may sometimes see trends in terms of opinions about gear, but you'll rarely see universal praise / acceptance for any device.

 

GML gear is probably one of the VERY few exceptions to that rule. Ask 20 pro engineers - REAL pros, folks who have used them and not just people who talk the talk - and I would be willing to bet you that you'll get at least a 19:1 ratio of ravers vs haters when it comes to GML gear, if not unanimous praise.

 

When it comes to engineering - making records AND making gear - there are very few people in this world who I have as much respect for as George. He's the real deal.

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Where you even buy Soundelux?

 

Under that name, you don't anymore. David Bock, the guy behind Soundelux microphones, is now making / marketing microphones under his own name. Unfortunately, not all of the Soundelux microphone models are currently in the Bock lineup, so if you want something like a U99 or a E47, Ebay is your only real option.

 

www.bockaudio.com

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OK, here's my next cut. The price is only down a little, but definitely I think more value for the money, and more variety I think as well.

 

Getting rid of the third API means fewer than 16 channels of pre's so one of the Apogees could be dropped as well. I tossed the Avalon stuff, the u87/103, the second C414 (since there are two pairs in the list now already). So I guess almost $20K almost of stuff got re-applied to other things.

 

Added the Distressor, Pacifica, GR pre and EQ, Royer 121, Telelfunken AK47 (2) and M16, and Neumann 184s (2). Kept the Manley's still so far.

 

I'm not sure there's enough difference between the Tele AK47 and M16 to justify adding the M16 to the list, and probably I could toss that. I put in two AK7's and two 184s, so that I should have drum overheads, drum rooms, stereo guitar, etc... covered I think. And I assume probably the AK47 would serve as well for vocals as the M-16 would, right? Supposedly the M-16 has more air for vocals I guess.

 

 



			
		
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No control surface? If you're going to be spending that much money on a PTHD rig, I'd want to be able to mix with faders instead of a mouse. Then again, I wouldn't buy an HD rig for my home studio. :) My LE rig is plenty for me. But if you want or need an HD rig, you should look into a control surface.

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I'm quite comfortable with staying in the box myself. Now I probably will end up getting one of those really small control surfaces that you can just put wherever you are tracking in the room to control the one track you are working on at the time. Just put it on a music stand and that would be highly convenient. But I don't have any real desire for a console or anything.

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I'm comfortable in the box, but sometimes you just want to grab all the drum faders at once and do something. :) Can't do that with a mouse.*

 

For other suggestions - I've been happy with the Hosa XLR patch bays I use for mic pre inputs. It's just 12 XLR F inputs on the front connected to 12 XLR M outputs on the back. It's very easy to use a short XLR cable to connect the input on a mic pre to the back of the patch bay, and then when I want to plug in a mic I just plug it into the front of the patch bay. They're also easily reversible if you want the M on the front and the F on the back.

 

I have Neutrik balanced 1/4" patch bays for all of my line ins/outs. XLRF to 1/4" cable goes from the mic preamp outputs to the patch bay, and then I have them normaled to the line inputs on my converters. That way I can easily patch a pre into a different converter without having to get behind the rack. It also lets me run from the line outputs of my converters to the inputs of my preamps then back to the converter inputs if I want to bring out a track or mix for some out-of-the-box processing.

 

If you're going to be sticking with in-the-box, and you record yourself often, pick up a wireless keyboard and mouse. Maybe even a Bluetooth set. It's very nice to be able to get all the proper tracks record-enabled, then carry the wireless keyboard over to the drumkit and get settled in before hitting the record button. MUCH better than hitting the record button at the desk and then scrambling over to get settled in at the kit and hope you get there in time. You probably knew that already, but man it's helped me tons since I went wireless. :)

 

That's all I can think of at the moment. Man, you've got a lot of gear there.

 

 

*-Yes, I know you can send all the drum tracks to an aux using a stereo bus and then grab the aux fader with the mouse pointer to move all the drum volumes at the same time, but it isn't the same. :p

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