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Home Studio Requirements

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Jeremy_X, May 26, 2003.

  1. Jeremy_X


    Jan 29, 2002
    I was asked yesterday what was needed to start a home studio by my guitarist's father. He wants to go digital. I told him all I could think of off the top of my head was to get a new computer and Pro Tools or some other recording software.
    Now I know nothing about digital recording equipment and software at all. In fact I only knew about Pro Tools because I saw it mentioned in Rolling Stone a month or two ago. I haven't been much interested in recording anything really so I'm kinda out of my depth.
    I have no clue what's needed as far as gear goes, so I am humbly asking for the help of all of you. Please help me develop a rough idea of what is needed with rough price ideas if possible.
  2. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    To go PC digital you'll need a computer with a big hard drive because wave files are big. I filled a 20gb hard drive quite quickly. I've now got 80gb and that seems to be plenty.

    The PC will need a sound card that's compatible with your software. Be warned that the mic input of the soundcard is vitrually useless for recording unless you used a mixing desk or a device with a pre-amp to boost the signal.

    As for software, Pro-tools is one. The other 2 popular ones are Cubase (which seems to be popular in the US) and Logic Audio (which seems to have cornered the UK market). I've used all of them with equally good results.

    That's the basics but the limitations are endless.

    The other option is to buy a all-in -one hard disk recorder. You won't need a computer. I've used the Fostex VF16 and thought it was great.
  3. Jeremy_X


    Jan 29, 2002
    Thanks for the tips Petebass.
  4. japhy4529

    japhy4529 this is only a test... Supporting Member

    Jeremy -

    It depends on what he wants to do in his "digital" home studio. Does he want to just record himself or a full band? Is he looking for cheap scratchpad to throw down ideas, or a professional sounding setup?

    There are endless possibilites depending on the path he wants to choose. Like so many other things in life, the only restrictions are time and money. :)

    If he is only recording himself and maybe one other person at a time, have him check out the Digidesign ProTools Digi001. This is comes with a hardware interface and a soundcard (and two mic preamps I think). It will run about $700 or so.
    Keep in mind that this connects to a computer. With this option, he will need a PC that is fast enough to handle it. Check out Digidesign's website for system requirements.

    An all in one mixer/recorder is a nice option. The Fostex VF160 is a great unit. It's a 16 track, stand-alone, hard disk recorder w/ Mixer and two effects banks. You can record 8 tracks simultaneously which will work for recording a band. Price is around $900 with a built in CD-burner.

    If he is planning on recording a full band (drums, bass, guitar(s), vox), he may need to pick up a separate small mixer for all of the mic inputs. Behringer and Mackie both make small cheap mixers.

    Of course, if money is no object, then I would have him check out a Mackie d8b (digital 8-buss mixing console) and a Mackie HDR (24-track hard disk recorder). The d8b will run about $5000 ($6500 or so after you buy all of the cards). The HDR will run about $3500 to $4000 (again, you will need to pick up some ADAT lightpipe cards). If this is the route he want to go, tell him to check out the forums on the mackie.com website. I own a small studio and this is our setup (actually, we own an MDR which is an HDR without the Computer Monitor option). Total cost for the d8b, HDR, and cards will be around $10000.

    Throw in an Alesis Masterlink (for CD mastering $1000), a set of Mackie HR824's (Studio Monitor speakers $1400 for a pair), and some mics (AKG, Neumann, Audix, etc...), and he'll be ready to rule the world!

    Everything I just mentioned in the last two paragraphs will run around $15000, give or take a "G".

    - Tom
  5. Jeremy_X


    Jan 29, 2002
    Thanks japhy4529. I talked to him today and he said that he doesn't like the all in ones. He says they sound tinny or tinty to his ears. I suggested going to Digidesign's website and poking around on the internet. He seems pretty set on the Pro Tools route.
    I'm kinda getting interested in this stuff now. I've worked with recording before but it was in school so the equipment we did have wasn't exactly up to snuff to say the least, and it certainly wasn't digital.

    Let me see if I have the equpiment list right for the computer based route:
    1) Computer with sizable drive for storage and fast processor
    2) Sound card of some make, designed for this type of thing
    3) Pro Tools or some other program
    4) Pro Tools' hardware and a mixer or the hardware and a mixer for some other program
    ?5) Monitors and/or headphones?
    An all in one type device

    That it?

    Thanks again to the both of you
  6. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    as far as i know there is no hardware with protools. The mixer can be any brand. Actually it doesn't even have to be a mixer. Some companies make "channel strip" devices that are like one channel of a mixing desk and usually only take up 1 rack space. The important thing is that you have a pre-amp in there somewhere, to boost the signal of your microphone into something recordable. I have been using a yamaha Promix digital desk, but I'm just about to replace it with a Behringer Ultra voice to save space.

    I forgot about monitors. In the old days, everyone used Yamaha NS10's, and you still see a lot of them around. They were discontinued last year. So there's no industry standard monitors any more. IMO, the trick with monitors is "knowing them". SO it doesn't really matter which you use provided you know them back to front. I'd be using whatever speakers you have been using to listen to most of your music. I know that sounds crazy, but it works. And be sure to check your finished recordings on as many different sets of speakers as you can. I check mine in the car, on my big hi-fi, on a crappy portaable player, and if possible, through a PA system. Hopefully it will sound good on all of them.
  7. japhy4529

    japhy4529 this is only a test... Supporting Member

    Originally Posted by PeteBass:
    Actually ProTools software is almost always sold with hardware. The hardware is the I/O interface (M-Box, Digi001, Digi002, etc...), the software is ProTools LE. The products just mentioned all come with Microphone preamps (2 with the M-Box or Digi001, 4 with the Digi002). Just plug in your mics and your ready to go!

    I agree with Pete Bass that getting a separate mic pre "channel strip" is a good idea. But it's not necessary just to get started.

    As far as your other questions are concerned:

    1) As big and bad as you can afford. More processor power & more RAM = Greater # of tracks able to record and playback.

    2)Not necessary. Your ProTools set up will come with USB (M-Box), PCI Card (Digi001) or FireWire (Digi002). If you go with a DAW program other than ProTools, then you will need a dedicated soundcard.

    3)Yep. Shop around. ProTools seems to have the market cornered, but check out products like Steinberg's Cubase. Keep in mind if you go with something other than ProTools, you will need to also pick up a soundcard, I/O interface and Mic Pre(s). That's why so many people use ProTools! There is a high "convience factor".

    4)See up above for hardware info. As for a mixer, you can use the internal ProTools software mixer, or you can purchase a separate controller. A controller looks like a regular mixing board, but it is connected to your computer via MIDI. It will control most of your DAW functions, such as fader level, panning, mutes, etc... Check out the one from Mackie. They rock.

    5)I disagree with PeteBass in regards to monitors. IMHO, monitors are one of your most important investments. Yes, it's true that you can "get used to" just about any set of speakers. But why handicap yourself like that? You don't have to spend $5000 on a pair of monitors, but do yourself a favor and buy something nice. You will thank yourself in the future, believe me. Some nice choices are:

    Mackie HR824's: We own a pair, and they sound amazing. Nice overall response, especially the Low End. You probably won't need a sub with these, unless your into Hip Hop, or Techno.

    Mackie HR624's: The 824's little brother. Again, great sound.

    Genelec 1029A: I have not heard these monitors, but the more expensive models are legendary.

    If the Mackie's and Genelec's are too expensive, check out the Event 20/20 powered jammies. They are about 1/2 the price of the Mackie's and Genelec, and are supposed to sound pretty good. ALWAYS listen extensively to different brands of monitors, before you make a purchase. Bring a CD that your familiar with to the store. Play the CD through different speakers, and compare the results. Make sure you have your hand on the switch that changes the monitors. Or at least when the sales guys says "this is the Alesis Monitor One's", walk up to the speakers and make sure there the one's that are on! You wouldn't believe the BS sales guys try to pull!

    Oh, and pick up a good set of headphones. This is important when tracking and also as a secondary reference when mixing.

    Finally, it's always a good idea in the end to see how your mixes translate "in the real world". Burn a CD and play it in your sister's boombox, your car a clock radio, etc... When your mixes sound great in your studio and the crappy radio, then your done.

    Good luck.

    - Tom
  8. Jeremy_X


    Jan 29, 2002
    Well, I spoke to him again today. He says he wants to be able to record a whole band, but doesn't mind going at it one or two pieces at a time. He wants to go the Pro Tools route, so I gave him a list of what he needs. The only thing I was and still am unsure about is what Pro Tools product to recommend. I assume that you need one of the following for this to work: M-Box, Digi001, Digi002, or some other thing I'm missing.
    So I told him he needs to get a computer that is the absolute best he can afford, he needs to look at the processor, the ram, and the hard drive size. Basically the bigger the better.
    A digital controller if he doesn't want to use the software mixer.

    That should be it right?

    Thanks again for all the help!
  9. japhy4529

    japhy4529 this is only a test... Supporting Member

    If he's going to get even semi-serious with this, tell him to go with the Digi001. You can record up to 8 tracks at once (with a separate mixer).

    With the separate mixer, he will be able to record 8 tracks at a time. See, the Digi001 has two mic-pre's and 8 1/4" inputs. He could buy a small Mackie mixer and run all the mics into it. Then run cables from the mixer to the 1/4" inputs of the Digi001. This will be enough to get the drums down and maybe scratch guitar & lead vocals. Then just go back and overdub the rest.

    If he is only interested in recording one or two instruments at a time (which can suck with instruments like Drums), he can skip the mixer and just use the mic-pre's in the Digi001. For greater quality, he will want to pick up a separate mic-pre in the future. Universal Audio, Grace, Summit Audio, Avalon all offer really nice mic-pre's.

    So.. He will need this as a minimum to getting started tracking a band (including live drums):

    1. A kick ass computer (PC or MAC, just fast!)
    2. A ProTools rig (or another DAW program AND a I/O interface).
    3. One nice Large Diaphgram Condenser Microphone for Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, etc... (try Rode or Studio Projects for inexpensive, studio-quality Condensers).
    4. One pair of Small Diaphgram mics (try Oktava C012's). Used for Drum overhead mics, stereo pair for acoustic guitar, etc...
    5. Several dynamic mics. Pick up one or two Shure SM-57's just because they are industry standard for electric guitar and snare drums. Also, definitely check out the Audix "D" series mics for Drums and guitars. They sell them in packages. Pick up a Audix D6 for kick drum/bass guitar. Awesome!
    6. a DI box (for Bass Guitar and/or keyboard).
    7. MONITORS (Mackie, Genelec, Event).
    8. Headphones (AKG, Seinheiser, Sony) At least one really nice pair, plus 4 or 5 more pairs to track a band. OH and a 4-6 channel Headphone amp. (behringer, Rolls).
    9. Power Conditioner. Don't buy all this gear and plug it into a $10 surge protector. Buy a nice Furman rack mount at the minimum.
    10. Compressor. Even though ProTools will have compressor plug-ins, pick up a nice outboard compressor. try FMR Audio's Really Nice Compressor.
    11. A dedicated Mixer. This should go near the top of the list. Mackie is generally the best bang for the buck for small mixers. I would stay away from Behringer. Try a Mackie 1404 or 1604. If he's got the cash go with a Mackie 24*8.
    12. OR Buy a Digital Mixer. This will handle all the Mic Inputs, plus act as a digital controller for ProTools. Look around. Not all digital mixers will work as a controller. Yamaha, Roland, Mackie and Behringer all make Digital mixers.
    13. The obvious... Mic cables, Mic stands, 1/4" cables, extension cords, surge protectors, etc.... The stuff that will nickel and dime you to death.

    Good luck!
  10. Jeremy_X


    Jan 29, 2002
    Thanks japhy4529! I'll give this to him and keep a copy for myself. I think I want to get into this too! Thanks again!
  11. steve-o

    steve-o Guest

    Apr 17, 2002
    i would go mac also.....
    just my 2 cents.. i love them!!!!
    awsome for video and audio

  12. Jeremy_X


    Jan 29, 2002
    moparpunk281, I assume you are talking about the computer aspect of this right? If so, any specific make/model? If not, then what are you talking about?

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