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The affordable SMALL studio thread


KuruPrionz
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Over time, I've managed to put a pretty OK medium small studio rig together, get it up and running and start in recording.

I set it all up in the living room of my small condo.

 

Life can be full of twists and turns. Recently I moved a footstool with a guitar amp on it and noticed that black mold had begun creeping up the wall above the base board. It's an outside wall and I caught it pretty early.

I scheduled a contractor to take a look, he pulled out the sheet rock below the windows, inspected and will be coming back soon to remediate the problem. That said, this has taken a bit longer than one might wish. I get it, my job is maintenance coordinator for an Association management company with 60+ Associations and over 3,000 doors. The holiday season was madness, contractors on holiday, lots of rain, leaking roofs, all sorts of fun. So, everybody is behind.

 

Before the contractor came, I decided that my studio set up would be in the way of workers, would get dust on it from the work and that there was no reason for them to know what stuff I own in the first place.

I packed it all up and stuck it in the spare bedroom (aka the too much stuff I don't need room!!!).

 

Last week I was jones-ing to record but i didn't want to pull my rack back out and hook it up (see The Rack Thread, Who What Why?). I decided to get a small interface and go basic, that evolved into this thread for those of us who want to do something that sounds good but not spend a chunk of money doing it.

 

Since many of us started small in any case, this thread is for EVERYONE and all are welcome to post or lurk.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Since I have a computer already (2014 MacBook Pro) and all of you who read this are at least using a computer, we'll skip that part except to mention that the more RAM you have the better. I've got 16 gigs which seems to be enough for the kind of fun I'm having but not by much.

 

Primarily, at this point I needed a small audio interface that I can easily tuck away in a moment. I started by surfing eBay and Reverb and when I found something interesting I would copy and paste the product name, add the word "review" and see what I could find out about the item. I also went with my experiences with some less expensive interfaces (even if it was only holding it briefly at the thrift store before putting it back on the shelf) and a bias or two - I refuse to purchase anything that says Behringer on it. One total crap mixer and sub-par microphone was enough for me, no more.

 

I found a Steinberg UR22 Mk II interface for $140 including tax and delivery. It was well reviewed (including a fairly in depth interview from Sound on Sound), minimal yet complete and there is one feature that I really liked - the Mix knob allows you to adjust the amount of direct input vs. playback from the DAW so you can track with zero latency - simple but clever. It also has 5 pin DIN MIDI in/out, can be powered by USB or a phone charger, which makes it mobile.

 

I did look at new ones, Reverb had them but with shipping and tax they were around $190 and coming from farther away. I don't need the software CD, the important stuff can be downloaded online and I've already committed to a DAW.

If you did need a DAW and some other software to get started then that's reasonable.

 

It arrived today, the build quality is really nice, it feels solid. The knobs and switches all feel tight and firm, there is nothing that looks like it would be easy to break. Steinberg is owned by Yamaha, a company I've grown to respect for their QC and reliability.

 

There are certainly LOTS of choices, some of them much less expensive (like the $20 dollar M-Audio box I left at Goodwill). It was USB 1, no MIDI and felt kind of flimsy even though there were no signs of damage. A friend picked it up for live streaming and it's working well for him so it's all good.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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OK, computer and an audio interface. I will point out that I've bought quite a few things on eBay using PayPal's 6 months with no interest plan. I always make sure it is something I can easily pay off in that time and it's a way to sneak your way up to something better without being broke all the time. No affiliation, just my way of getting back at them for all the fees I have paid when I sell things.

 

What's next? We need a cheap microphone, right? But we want a good sounding one too. I was going to go with one of my Neat Worker Bee mics but testing showed it was a bit noisy, at least sitting where I was and using the crap mic cable a friend gave me. Other mics were quieter with the same set up. I'll just keep using them for acoustic guitar, they sound great that way.

 

I have some cheap mics, list follows:

An EV PL95 that a friend gave me. This is a good sounding mic, it needs a foam windscreen or a pop filter as it can be sibilant. I'll dig a windscreen up and try it that way soon.

 

An Audio Technica MB4000 cardioid SDC that I found in the tools at Goodwill for $3.50. Slightly noisy but running it off a battery may alleviate that. There is not much low end but that's probably fine. It would work.

 

A Sennheiser MD421. These are not usually cheap but I went to the final closeout sale for a music store going out of business, the mic is very used looking and I got it in a package with a set of headphones and 2 AKG D225E mics for $125 total. Then I sold the broken AKG D224 for $70 as parts. The Sennie is kind of a two-fer since it includes headphones too. And it sounds very good. That metal band across the front of the grille is a disperser and reduces pops and sibilance very well. At the same time, I know most of us will never find one at a price anything close to what I have in this one.

 

A Blue Encore 300. $60 delivered, a poorly listed auction on eBay. You can get one of these pretty cheap most of the time and they sound great on vocals. I'll be trying this one for recording.

 

A CAD D-82 ribbon mic. I see these used in the $100 range pretty often. You'll need a pop filter and it will pick up in back too - figure 8 pattern It can really flatter a voice but it's not a great choice here with uncontrollable external noise factors. If you have a quiet place to record it might be worth trying.

 

Shure Beta 87A. I've had this for many years, played a ton of gigs with it. Bought it used for $180, you can still do that or less easliy. Very quiet, sounds great on vocals and with a foam wind screen you can get right up on it without pops or sibilance so the signal to noise ratio is very good. Not an all rounder but great for vocals.

 

Heil PR-40. Needs a pop filter, has a great, huge sound, very sensitive and a great all rounder. I would use this on anything. I'll try it too.

 

I also have a Neat King Bee that I paid $100 for new but they don't sell for that or even close anymore. It's also big and heavy, maybe a bit too cumbersome for quick and dirty recording.

 

At this point, I am going to choose the Blue Encore 300 and see what I can get with it. That and the interface puts me at $200 if anybody is counting.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Last but not least, we have headphones and or speakers. For tracking, headphones are a must. You could plug in direct and put headphones on, rock out and disturb nobody. You don't want speakers blasting when recording vocals either, at least I don't (usually).

 

I have a pair of AKG K240 - the original made in Austria version. I got 2 pairs some years back at Goodwill for $2.50 each. They are still very affordable, very comfortable and easy to listen to as well. They do not provide much isolation if you are tracking vocals you'll likely get bleed into the mic from the playback.

 

The headphones I got with the Sennheiser MD421 are EX25 Extreme Isolation. Very good for tracking but they don't sound "real" to me. And new they are a bit spendy.

I've another pair of Sennheiser closed back headphones that somebody gave me, they are probably in the $125 range new.

 

We'll just say decent headphones will probably cost $75-100 and call it good.

 

I also have a single Mackie MR5 monitor speaker I got for a few bucks. I do see other sets of monitors on craigslist often (and head phones and even interfaces), mostly at reasonable prices. Up here, people seem to want too much for their microphones most of the time. We had somebody selling counterfeit SM58s and 57s for a while up and down the coast so you have to be careful buying one of those used.

 

What's left? Software, MIDI controller, guitars/basses, percussion and TALENT.

I'll let this ride for a bit, hope other will post and get back to it soon. Cheers, Kuru

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Software!

There are quite a few free options, I don't know all of them by any means but will list a few. I welcome others to list their own favorites.

 

I use Waveform for a DAW and there is a full version for free at www.tracktion.com. I know Presonus and others package a version of their DAW with hardware, that's not a bad way to get in and get started.

A DAW is a personal choice, often made by coincidence. Except for Garage Band, which is limited to 44.1 khz, the sound of your DAW is not something worth considering. They all sound amazing, done deal.

Whatever works, works.

 

Plugins! There are tons of free plugins out there, some of them are much better than others. First, I'll note that Mac OS comes with a nice set of AU plugins provided. I especially like the 31 band EQ and the New Pitch pitch shifter but compressors, distortion, reverb and many others are included as well. If you are a Mac user (I am), be sure to scan for those plugins, they are useful. I use Windows at work and we don't do audio so I don't know what is available there.

There's no reason not to use either Mac or Windows and some DAWs will run on Linux as well. If it works, it's good.

 

Native Instruments, Arturia, Soniccouture, IK Multimedia and others offer free software that can really open up possibilities. Of note in the "others" category - U-he Zebralette, Surge (whoever coded that) and Crystal are fun soft synths with lots of options. Every now and then I will do a search for "Best Free VST Plugins" or something of that sort and I often find some great tools. Voxengo Boogex is a great sounding guitar amp sim, they have Old Skool Reverb which is also nice. Keep an eye on software vendors during the Christmas holidays, some of them give away a good plugin every year.

 

I see I left out Izotope, they have a bit of free stuff as well. Most of these companies will allow you to download and try a plugin for a reasonable time period if you want to check it out. I did that recently with IK Multimedia Modo Drum and I bought it.

 

Software could be the least expensive part of the whole package if you look around and work with what is offered.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Last but not least, we have headphones and or speakers. For tracking, headphones are a must. You could plug in direct and put headphones on, rock out and disturb nobody. You don't want speakers blasting when recording vocals either, at least I don't (usually).

 

I have a pair of AKG K240 - the original made in Austria version. I got 2 pairs some years back at Goodwill for $2.50 each. They are still very affordable, very comfortable and easy to listen to as well. They do not provide much isolation if you are tracking vocals you'll likely get bleed into the mic from the playback.

 

I love my original K240M phones but don't use them much these days. The impedance is too high to work as well as I'd like with some of my gear.

 

The headphones I got with the Sennheiser MD421 are EX25 Extreme Isolation. Very good for tracking but they don't sound "real" to me. And new they are a bit spendy.

 

I have a pair of EX-29s that get some use when needed. Not ideal sound, but not nearly as horrible as the early models were.

 

We'll just say decent headphones will probably cost $75-100 and call it good.

 

And thank the companies carrying their manufacture into China for this. As recently as five years ago, there were no headphones on the market for less than $100 that sounded at all reasonable. Now there are several alternatives, which I can list if anyone wants.

 

Finally: Sorry, Kuru, but I cannot agree with the practice of buying headphones or monitors secondhand off Craigslist or through a thrift shop. God knows what abuses they've been subjected to and whether you can trust their sound to be near what it was when they were new.

 

EDIT: Long screed about the importance of monitoring, removed and moved to its own thread because I couldn't say what I needed to say without it seeming like a personal attack on Kuru, which is absolutely NOT what I meant or intended.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

 

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job

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Last but not least, we have headphones and or speakers. For tracking, headphones are a must. You could plug in direct and put headphones on, rock out and disturb nobody. You don't want speakers blasting when recording vocals either, at least I don't (usually).

 

I have a pair of AKG K240 - the original made in Austria version. I got 2 pairs some years back at Goodwill for $2.50 each. They are still very affordable, very comfortable and easy to listen to as well. They do not provide much isolation if you are tracking vocals you'll likely get bleed into the mic from the playback.

 

I love my original K240M phones but don't use them much these days. The impedance is too high to work as well as I'd like with some of my gear.

 

The headphones I got with the Sennheiser MD421 are EX25 Extreme Isolation. Very good for tracking but they don't sound "real" to me. And new they are a bit spendy.

 

I have a pair of EX-29s that get some use when needed. Not ideal sound, but not nearly as horrible as the early models were.

 

We'll just say decent headphones will probably cost $75-100 and call it good.

 

And thank the companies carrying their manufacture into China for this. As recently as five years ago, there were no headphones on the market for less than $100 that sounded at all reasonable. Now there are several alternatives, which I can list if anyone wants.

 

Finally: Sorry, Kuru, but I cannot agree with the practice of buying headphones or monitors secondhand off Craigslist or through a thrift shop. God knows what abuses they've been subjected to and whether you can trust their sound to be near what it was when they were new.

 

EDIT: Long screed about the importance of monitoring, removed and moved to its own thread because I couldn't say what I needed to say without it seeming like a personal attack on Kuru, which is absolutely NOT what I meant or intended.

 

So that's where that came from!!!! Lol. I gave you another shot at me. I do not disagree with you and I don't have a thin skin either.

Other than gigs, I found myself jobless and nobody particularly interested in hiring me for a long time.

 

You don't have to agree with me about thrift stores and pawn shops, I don't care. I bought a Gurian guitar at Starvation Army once for $65, it needed a bit of work so I sold it as-is on ebay for almost $1,300.

3 years ago I found a solid flamed Koa ukulele at Goodwill for $5, from a company that went out of business in 1920. That needed work too, I sold it on ebay for $500.

I like thrift stores because nobody ever goes out and steals a bunch of stuff, then donates it to the thrift store. Right after Christmas, lots of people take their awesome old stuff to the thrift store and donate it to make room for their awesome new stuff. I've bought a few things that didn't work or didn't work right but I never paid enough for them to complain.

 

The like new Roland Cube 40GX that I often gig with has made me 10x the $40 I paid for it and I could get $200 for it easily if I wanted to, but I like it. Cheers, Kuru

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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You don't have to agree with me about thrift stores and pawn shops, I don't care. I bought a Gurian guitar at Starvation Army once for $65, it needed a bit of work so I sold it as-is on ebay for almost $1,300.

3 years ago I found a solid flamed Koa ukulele at Goodwill for $5, from a company that went out of business in 1920. That needed work too, I sold it on ebay for $500.

I like thrift stores because nobody ever goes out and steals a bunch of stuff, then donates it to the thrift store. Right after Christmas, lots of people take their awesome old stuff to the thrift store and donate it to make room for their awesome new stuff. I've bought a few things that didn't work or didn't work right but I never paid enough for them to complain.

 

The like new Roland Cube 40GX that I often gig with has made me 10x the $40 I paid for it and I could get $200 for it easily if I wanted to, but I like it. Cheers, Kuru

 

All fine, but none of those things are monitors. Monitors play by different rules, or they should.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

 

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job

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You don't have to agree with me about thrift stores and pawn shops, I don't care. I bought a Gurian guitar at Starvation Army once for $65, it needed a bit of work so I sold it as-is on ebay for almost $1,300.

3 years ago I found a solid flamed Koa ukulele at Goodwill for $5, from a company that went out of business in 1920. That needed work too, I sold it on ebay for $500.

I like thrift stores because nobody ever goes out and steals a bunch of stuff, then donates it to the thrift store. Right after Christmas, lots of people take their awesome old stuff to the thrift store and donate it to make room for their awesome new stuff. I've bought a few things that didn't work or didn't work right but I never paid enough for them to complain.

 

The like new Roland Cube 40GX that I often gig with has made me 10x the $40 I paid for it and I could get $200 for it easily if I wanted to, but I like it. Cheers, Kuru

 

All fine, but none of those things are monitors. Monitors play by different rules, or they should.

 

Like the Mackie HR824s I got at a pawn shop? They looked used, they were used, now they look more used and are more used. And there is not a thing wrong with them. No visible damage to the speaker cones, no audible damage.

They are not the best recording studio monitors by a long stretch but they are far from the worst. The sound has only changed by what else was in the room or the location of the speakers, which is the room response more than the speakers. They are very good sounding speakers and have been consistent for over 10 years, despite being used and purchased at a terrible place.

 

As to the AKG headphones, if I switch cans while listening I hear differences in output and response, there is also a comfort difference. None of them are failing. Compared to the Sennies they have their own sound but it isn't the sound of a crapped out pair of headphones. I do know what that sounds like!!!!

 

So there is apples to apples and not a problem. I don't recommend problems. They do happen anyway, sometimes.

The Mesa Mk III head I bought brand new at the Mesa store in Hollywood had a cold solder joint on an output tube socket. I drove up to Petaluma and Mike Benedelli fixed it for me.

$1,300+ amp head in the mid 80's, all hand wired and it came from the factory defective.

 

The safety factor of buying new is the warranty, not the QC. Some companies are better than others, before Mesa found the problem they were ready to give me a brand new head they had in their Petaluma showroom because they want their customers to be happy. I've owned 8 other Mesa amps since then because I trust the company.

 

There ARE gray areas, besides my 5 or 6 brain cells... :laugh:

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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When I was a kid, I REALLY wanted a guitar, any guitar. When I was 9 my parents finally bought me a $15 Sears piece of crap but it was a guitar and it played and for me it was magic.

Then my sister's friend's brother hit his sister over the head with it and broke it.

 

When I was 13 and "graduated" Jr. High, Mom gave me $40. I took the bus downtown and bought a Harmony archtop at the pawn shop. It was pretty much a piece of crap but I not only learned how to play on it, I learned what a guitar was, how to level the frets, adjust the action and intonation and it led me down a path of music that continues to this day at age 65.

 

I wish I'd started sooner, but I didn't. I wish somebody gave me a good guitar, but they didn't. I could not afford a nice new guitar but I only cared about how it played. I bought a boogered 59 Strat, a hideous metalflake purple with green woodgrain pickguard 65 Tele and a formerly black 62 Jazzmaster that looked like somebody had painted it with a broom, all for $75 each.

 

I got them all up and running and became a guitarist.

 

Fast forward to the age of Covid and I started the affordable studio thread because many are struggling and many need to express their music. With no gigs for now, recording is a way to be heard, to arrange your ideas, to create new music.

And we can all make much better recordings more easily than when I was a kid starting out. My intention was to provide a place for conversation on "growing into it."

 

Dr Mike, did you suddenly start recording on great equipment? If so, you are truly a rare bird (I would say that anyway, meaning it as a high compliment!).

I started recording multi-track with a Teac Cassette deck, an Akai stereo reel to reel that did "sound with sound", a Tapco 6 channel mixer, an SM58, a guitar, a bass, an amp and a tongue drum I made myself in the wood shop. I'd play and sing a track, record it then play that back and play along, record that back to the cassette. I could get a 4th take in and there would be a loss of fidelity and increase in noise that made it an education but also a profound annoyance (this may be the aspect that makes you adamant about great playback, I get it).

 

Mike Rivers has called me a "Great Scrounge", I am honored, truly. And it is true, 50 years of scrounging and making do, coming up with ways to get things done. I evolved, got a Teac reel to reel with 4 track heads and re-wired it to work like a 3340 (except the heads would go into screaming feedback if I turned too many of them on). It was better, I became friends with guys who had 8 track reel to reel studios and I got to hang out and/or engineer sometimes.

 

4 track cassette is a great format, that's where I really learned.

 

Here's a song I co-wrote, engineered and played lead guitar on, we wrote and tracked everything in about 3-4 hours in Doug's living room. I had a spot in my parents garage where I set up a small studio and mixed this down with effects.

https://metapop.com/opossum-apocalypse/tracks/01-h-ula-boyla-boy/171612

 

Should I not have moved forward with substandard gear or just given up on recording? Honestly, if I could only have one guitar ever and had a chance to trade it for the best set of monitors in the world, I'd keep the guitar. Cheers, Kuru

 

I think I'll post this in the affordable forum too, it might spark more interesting conversation. I've certainly enjoyed this one, Dr Mike, please don't misunderstand anything I've said as being of negative intentions. I love this place and the friends I've made here!!

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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I'm not sure I have the stamina to give quite as much detail as KP, but then I have a bit less stuff. Even if this list is laughable, I consider myself blessed to have it. Here goes...

  • Room: 13x21, carpeted, hallways on two ends, entry into the kitchen, big picture window to the back yard. Approximately 1/2 of the wall length has packing quilts hung semi-permanently from the ceiling, with other temporary hanging areas so I can get rid of most standing waves when needed.
  • Computer: Windows 10, 7th gen i5, 16 GB RAM.1/4 TB SSD. Low-end gamer monitor interface connects to a 43" UHD TV (cheaper than most 27" monitors of similar resolution). Second video monitor is a disused 24" TV.
  • Interface: Behringer XR-18. Midas-ish preamps, 18 analog inputs to USB, up to 18 outputs from USB, MIDI interface, and equalization for the non-optimal Alto TX8 monitor speakers.
  • DAW: Reaper, home/semi-pro license; also Slate SSD 5.5 Drums, Roland Zen synth engine ($3/month), and two or three free plugins where Reaper is too cumbersome, e.g., Blue Cat chorus.
  • Sound Sources: mainly Kurzweil PC3, which I have programmed to be very responsive to my own playing / expression styles; and a Casio Privia PX-5S piano. I also have a decent set of "latin" hand percussion, and (unfortunately) my own singing voice.
  • Mics: Roswell mini-K47 for vocals, mono percussion tracks, and real guitarists. Also, two EV ND267 dynamic mics, available for "matched" stereo if I use analog audio sources.
  • Other: Simmons SD1200 electric drum kit to drive the Slate drums. Before that I used either a keyboard or an Octopad to enter MIDI drum parts in real time. I never enter drums in Step time.

 

Future priorities are (1) true near-field monitors (probably iLoud Micro Monitor) and (2) matched condensers, e.g., Neat Worker Bees.

-Tom Williams

{First Name} {at} AirNetworking {dot} com

PC4-7, PX-5S, AX-Edge, PC361

 

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Welcome Sir Tom!

You have a nice set up going, no reason you can't track some great sounding music.

We all grow as we go, I keep learning new stuff.

 

I'm hoping to share ideas, techniques and anything that makes things better. The gear matters, the space matters, in the end they will just sit there if we don't engage.

 

The music matters more than anything else.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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I'm not sure I have the stamina to give quite as much detail as KP, but then I have a bit less stuff. Even if this list is laughable, I consider myself blessed to have it. Here goes...

  • Room: 13x21, carpeted, hallways on two ends, entry into the kitchen, big picture window to the back yard. Approximately 1/2 of the wall length has packing quilts hung semi-permanently from the ceiling, with other temporary hanging areas so I can get rid of most standing waves when needed.
  • Computer: Windows 10, 7th gen i5, 16 GB RAM.1/4 TB SSD. Low-end gamer monitor interface connects to a 43" UHD TV (cheaper than most 27" monitors of similar resolution). Second video monitor is a disused 24" TV.
  • Interface: Behringer XR-18. Midas-ish preamps, 18 analog inputs to USB, up to 18 outputs from USB, MIDI interface, and equalization for the non-optimal Alto TX8 monitor speakers.
  • DAW: Reaper, home/semi-pro license; also Slate SSD 5.5 Drums, Roland Zen synth engine ($3/month), and two or three free plugins where Reaper is too cumbersome, e.g., Blue Cat chorus.
  • Sound Sources: mainly Kurzweil PC3, which I have programmed to be very responsive to my own playing / expression styles; and a Casio Privia PX-5S piano. I also have a decent set of "latin" hand percussion, and (unfortunately) my own singing voice.
  • Mics: Roswell mini-K47 for vocals, mono percussion tracks, and real guitarists. Also, two EV ND267 dynamic mics, available for "matched" stereo if I use analog audio sources.
  • Other: Simmons SD1200 electric drum kit to drive the Slate drums. Before that I used either a keyboard or an Octopad to enter MIDI drum parts in real time. I never enter drums in Step time.

 

Future priorities are (1) true near-field monitors (probably iLoud Micro Monitor) and (2) matched condensers, e.g., Neat Worker Bees.

 

I took a look at your EV mics, just for fun.

https://www.manualslib.com/manual/43478/Electro-Voice-N-D-257b.html

 

I'd hang onto those EVs and consider using them for more than a stereo pair. Try putting one alongside your vocal mic (presumably your Roswell, which is excellent). Instead of using EQ, you may find the EV track handy for bringing vocals out it the mix by blending a bit of that track in to add the high mid/treble peak they've built into that mic. Could be good snare mics too or any number of things including an extra track for adding effects.

 

Unlike monitors, where consistent, flat response is the priority, microphones can be valued for their lack of a consistent, flat response. You've got a notable (and variable by distance) proximity effect curve going on in the low frequencies, that could be useful for bringing out the bottom in percussion or electric guitar speakers and a consistent "hill" of higher frequencies - designed to make vocals come out in front in a live mix but also potentially useful for recording.

 

As to where they go and when, your experiment to conduct if you want to. I've tried quite a few variations and am not done yet by any means.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Unlike monitors, where consistent, flat response is the priority, microphones can be valued for their lack of a consistent, flat response.

I may have to make that my tag line.

 

Please do, I'd be honored to have my first borrowed tagline!

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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I have 2 King Bee Mics in the classified section over at KC

 

Holy Diaphragm! Someone (not Dave, but it was a hint, I suppose) else is looking for $700 for a pair. Weren't those selling off brand new for $100 just a few months ago? But this stuff happens. I remember when 2" analog recorders in full working condition were going for a couple of grand, about 10% of their new price. Now people are asking more or less sensible prices - about what they were going for around 1985 - when you can find one for sale.

 

Economics 102.

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I have 2 King Bee Mics in the classified section over at KC

 

Holy Diaphragm! Someone (not Dave, but it was a hint, I suppose) else is looking for $700 for a pair. Weren't those selling off brand new for $100 just a few months ago? But this stuff happens. I remember when 2" analog recorders in full working condition were going for a couple of grand, about 10% of their new price. Now people are asking more or less sensible prices - about what they were going for around 1985 - when you can find one for sale.

 

Economics 102.

 

Yes, I got one for $100 but they sold out and everybody realized that they are very good microphones and $100 is too cheap. Supply and demand, they sell at the new price and they are worth it.

No dings Sir Dave, not in my book. I doubt one post will turn this thread into the classified section. Best of luck selling them, I wish I had the ducats laying about.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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I thought the Worker bees had been selling for about $100, and King Bees around $200. (Workers are down to $90 each as I write this, also probably lower than they oughta be(e).)

 

Yep, I bought a pair of Worker Bees a while back. They are not as good as the King Bee but still very good mics. I put them in a stereo A/B setup, close together and it sounds fantastic for acoustic guitar.

The Worker Bees use a charged backplate (electret condenser mic) so they are not real persnickety about phantom power. I also owned a Beecaster for a while, that had 3 of the same capsules as the Worker Bees and ran off USB, it even had an audio interface and headphone amp built in. I never used it, a friend bought it.

 

Edit to add - And they'll only be $90 until they sell them all. Then it's hard to say where they'll end up.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Dr Mike, did you suddenly start recording on great equipment? [...]

Should I not have moved forward with substandard gear or just given up on recording? Honestly, if I could only have one guitar ever and had a chance to trade it for the best set of monitors in the world, I'd keep the guitar.

 

I think I'll post this in the affordable forum too, it might spark more interesting conversation. I've certainly enjoyed this one, Dr Mike, please don't misunderstand anything I've said as being of negative intentions. I love this place and the friends I've made here!!

Thanks for the kind words, Kuru, but you're still skating around my main point.

 

The fact is, you always knew that because of your love of guitars, you WOULD have more than one, no matter what. So that "if I had to choose" is irrelevant, as is your "best set of monitors in the world" caveat and most especially the idea that I might be saying you should have given up since you didn't start with the best possible gear.

 

I did get my start in professional academic studios, but when I was at home, I used a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder to great effect for many years. At first, I didn't understand why my music always sounded muddy and indistinct no matter how careful I was in the recording process. Part of that was the medium, but the other part is that I was listening on home stereo speakers and home listening headphones and had no idea what I was hearing. It took me YEARS to finally get my GAS under control enough to stop buying new synths (my studio was full of them) and actually invest in my very first set of affordable passive monitors, a power amp, and some good headphones. It was night and day, and I never looked back. Did it stop me getting started? Of course not. Did I move on as soon as I understood the importance of monitoring? Not soon enough.

 

My argument here is that there is no reason to not get proper monitoring once you understand its importance, and that (as I said before) 90% of the improvement you'll ever get in whatever tiny room you're in will be with your very first purchase of proper monitors and phones... or, at a stretch, 80% on the first round and up to 95% after some years of experience when you have learned how to take the next steps, which can and should include basic room treatment.

 

There is no need to defend where you started or where you were. I'm talking about where you, and many other small-studio recording musicians, are at this moment, and where you should be eventually.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

 

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job

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I'm not sure I have the stamina to give quite as much detail as KP, but then I have a bit less stuff. Even if this list is laughable, I consider myself blessed to have it.

It's not laughable at all! It's a great set up by any measure short of bespoke studios.

Future priorities are (1) true near-field monitors (probably iLoud Micro Monitor) and (2) matched condensers, e.g., Neat Worker Bees.

The iLoud Micro Monitors are surprisingly good for their size, but I'd recommend something a bit bigger, truly. If space is really an issue, there are a few companies out there making remarkably good tiny speakers that can work OK on your desktop if that's your only choice. My personal favorite would be the Vanatoo Transparent One, followed by the Transparent Zero. The latter are very affordable (still way costlier than good full-size monitors, though) and you get a 30-day free trial if you buy direct. I've been tempted to get a set for my VERY awkward room.

 

The Transparent One Encore seems to be a bit of a copout to me, going for a more traditional "bookshelf" design, but I haven't tried it.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

 

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job

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Unlike monitors, where consistent, flat response is the priority, microphones can be valued for their lack of a consistent, flat response.

I may have to make that my tag line.

 

Please do, I'd be honored to have my first borrowed tagline!

I just got mine from Doerfler, and I can't decide if I'm honored for the recognition or uncomfortable about the content. Probably the former; I try to stick to "if you wouldn't write it and sign it, don't say it".

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

 

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job

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Future priorities are (1) true near-field monitors (probably iLoud Micro Monitor) and (2) matched condensers, e.g., Neat Worker Bees.

 

I own a pair of the iLoud Micro Monitors. If US $300.00 is your budget, these cannot be beat, IMO.

I was very pleasantly surprised by them when I reviewed them, and I agree that they're pretty remarkable for something that small. That said, I think you'd be better served with a pair of 5" monitors if you have the space for them, and if you can squeeze out another $50 to fit something into a truly tiny space, the Vanatoo Transparent Zero is incredible. And there's a 30-day free trial that they WILL honor without being weaselly, they're good folks.

 

BTW, thanks for the tagline quote, Dave. I think. :hider:

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

 

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job

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I thought the Worker bees had been selling for about $100, and King Bees around $200. (Workers are down to $90 each as I write this, also probably lower than they oughta be(e).)

 

since this has become a topic for discussion, the origional MSRP for King Bee's were US $399.00 Once production was halted, there was a blow out price of US $99, then the MSRP was raised to US $129.00.

The cables are seling now for US $30, there previously were US $40. So at what price should they sell for now? IDK, which is why I asked for offers and didn't post a price. Kind of like American Pickers. :)

:nopity:
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The fact is, you always knew that because of your love of guitars, you WOULD have more than one, no matter what. So that "if I had to choose" is irrelevant, as is your "best set of monitors in the world" caveat and most especially the idea that I might be saying you should have given up since you didn't start with the best possible gear.

 

I've simply failed to make my point clearly. For myself, I have a studio because I want to record my music. I don't want to record my music because I have a studio. If the music cannot be played, the studio is stuff that I would sell for money, I would not need it.

 

The truth is that I spent quite a few years playing only one guitar, a well beaten Martin D-35. Nothing else, no mics, no amps, no gigs, no studio, nothing. I did have a couple of picks and a case for the guitar. That was it. I was very happy doing that and would be again if I hadn't gotten the recording bug.

 

I had a cobbled up crap equipment studio prior to that time and cobbled up another one after I came back down from life at the hippie commune and got back into electric guitar.

 

Moving forward, I put my first digital studio together in 2003. A G4 Macbook, a MOTU 896, a pair of JBL 5" 2 way studio monitors and (tragic!!!) a pair of Octava mics with resonant bells for bodies. I got rid of them and got a Shure Beta 87a for live vocals and recording. I wasted a few years trying to like MOTU Digital Performer and the sound of the mic preamps in the 896 (which seemed dull yet lifeless). Eventually I found Tracktion and a Mackie Onyx interface. When I got the Mackie HR824s I sold the JBLs to my brother. I've owned reasonably decent studio monitors for 18 years. Preaching to the choir on that one Brother Mike. :- D

 

I think one thing that may have set you off is I started this thread, wrote a few posts and stopped before I got to talking much about speakers. Or rooms.

Recently with the mold situation I've had to rethink my entire strategy with having a studio in my condo. It is going to get moved into the larger bedroom eventually. I've got a LOT of non-studio related work to do before that and quite a bit of studio related work preparing the room. I don't have much to say about rooms, yet.

 

I am not arguing against having great speakers. I am glad you've posted here and in your own speaker thread. I think both speakers and room treatment are essential parts of a home studio, I've thought those things for a long time.

Speakers are easier than the room, at least that's been true for me so far. Some rooms sound magical. I don't have any magical sounding rooms available, the best I will be able to do is try to get a room with minimal external noise penetration that does not sound bad.

 

This looks interesting: https://app.primacoustic.com/app/index.html?v2

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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A primary reason I capitalized SMALL in the title is that a small setup can easily be mobilized.

I had the intention of going mobile on the more or less current run of putting together a studio and tearing it down for mold remediation made me realize I'd gone way too far.

I'd need another, much smaller rack, reconfigure everything to make something easy to move.

 

Or, a different small system, which is the direction I've gone. I don't think there is much of a commercial application for mobility in our area, if nothing else Covid has given many musicians a reason to transition from gigging to live broadcast and or recording music and video. The market, small as it was, has shrunk considerably.

 

To add to that, quite a few venues now have modern digital mixers that can also be used as an interface. Add a laptop and a couple of video cameras, clean up the stage and you are good to go. Fine with me, I am more interested in collaborating in various places with some of the great friends/musicians I've met and been in bands with up here.

 

I've got the Rack thread and the Mic thread to share ideas with everybody on those topics. My goal here is to be able to set up a small, quick and dirty studio, get the music happening and record it. Once I get the larger, more cumbersome studio set up I can bring things there to mix down. For mobile, a set of headphones and maybe the one Mackie MR5 so everybody can listen when we are done, that's pretty much it.

 

Also good for spontaneous creativity at home base without firing up the whole she-bang.

 

Some of us will be more inclined to set up at home and stay there and that's great too. If my friends put little studio setups at their place I won't need to move stuff, maybe bring a few mics, stands and cords and call it good.

 

If you ARE putting a home studio together then Dr Mike's words on monitors/headphones and room treatment are spot on.

 

You need those things, you should budget for those things. They will make more difference than just about anything you could buy, exception being possibly microphones - and assuming you have a computer with a decent bit of RAM.

 

I pointed out above that DAWs and software plugins can be had free or cheap. You'll never hear the difference in sound between ProTools and the free version of Waveform. Quite a few free plugins are absolutely excellent as well.

Not much difference in sound between a decent 2 channel audio interface and a more expensive one until you get into the really spendy stuff. Start small, grow if needed. You might not need. The little Steinberg UR22 MkII I picked up sounds very good. I love my Quantum with 8 mic/line/DI inputs because I can dedicate functions but I rarely record at home with more than 2 channels. 4 channel interfaces would cover almost anything I'd ever do.

 

Over time, you'll want nice mic stands, a groovy desk and chair, etc.

Meanwhile, get some nice speakers. I've had and used decent monitors for a long time, they are well worth the initial investment and properly cared for should last for decades.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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A primary reason I capitalized SMALL in the title is that a small setup can easily be mobilized.

 

While what I have could hardly be called a "small" studio (in physical terms), for several years it traveled in a truck with some acoustical treatment, soffit-mounted monitors, a 2" multitrack analog recorder [sold at the right time and now functionally replaced by a Mackie hard disk recorder], 100 yards or so of cabling, a compartment for the mic cases, and so on. I've had the same gear since about 1985 and have added only a few digital tidbits now that it's all in a back room of my house, ready to go when there are some clients. I play a little music, but I don't call any of it my own music, nor do I have any interest in recording myself. I'm not that good. ;)

 

When the truck was active (I sold the vehicle when it became impractical and unprofitable) I was recording folk festivals and old time music contests, as well as recording artists at their home who weren't able or didn't want to travel. I tried to sell the DIY approach to local bands - park the truck at a place where they wanted to record, show them around the console, patchbay, and recorders, then leave them to do their own recording - but most of them really wanted someone else (like me) to push the buttons. Since I had a full time job at the time, I couldn't always accommodate their schedules, so the truck went back into my driveway where it served as the control room, with the room that's now the control room and test lab becoming the "studio."

 

That's my "small studio" history. I still want a new console, but it's hard to justify the cost for what's now a no-profit playroom. I can have fun with what I have now.

 

If you ARE putting a home studio together then Dr Mike's words on monitors/headphones and room treatment are spot on.

 

You need those things, you should budget for those things. They will make more difference than just about anything you could buy, exception being possibly microphones - and assuming you have a computer with a decent bit of RAM.

 

Good monitoring was one of the things that made my truck work. There wasn't the wide choice of monitors in the early 1980s that we have now. My first monitors were JBL 4311s. After reworking the truck (basically turned everything around so I was facing the back doors rather than the windshield) with the help of a good local designer, the late Neil Muncy, for the kind of music I work with, KEF 103.2s, a somewhat popular audiophile-ish speaker, made a good choice, and I'm still using them today.

 

I pointed out above that DAWs and software plugins can be had free or cheap. You'll never hear the difference in sound between ProTools and the free version of Waveform. Quite a few free plugins are absolutely excellent as well.

Not much difference in sound between a decent 2 channel audio interface and a more expensive one until you get into the really spendy stuff.

 

Right. The audio quality of a $250 interface today is far above that of a couple of channels of console and analog tape (and later on digital tape). But to go along with good monitors, you also need good microphones - notice the trend here to electro-mechanical hardware rather than bits and graphic editing. While I do a fair percentage of my recording with a digital recorder and two KM84 mics, I'm not ready to give up the capability of recording a full band with multiple mics to multiple tracks, and mixing on a real console rather than with a computer. That's hard to do in today's market - both to buy and to sell.

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