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Thread: Basic Home Recording Studio?

  1. #1
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    Basic Home Recording Studio?

    A question for those more knowledgeable than I. I know there are other place to go for this, but I'd be interested in what the PE gang might have to say.

    I want to start recording music again with decent sound quality. It will be mostly solo but I'd like the option of two live inputs. I used Cakewalk in the past albeit only to "master" old tapes and do sound collage kinda stuff. Last time I really tried to record my stuff was in the 80's on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. I did buy a Spire Studio a while ago but that's really only suitable for laying down a few unalterable live tracks and is very limiting.

    I would do a combination of direct-in for electronics as well as mics for acoustic instruments, mostly guitar and vocals. I don't have the luxury of a dedicated room or anything like that so acoustics (even a quiet background) might be a challenge. My budget will certainly be under $2K.

    Here's what I'd specifically like advice on. I have some decent mics.

    Computer (might try to resurrect an old laptop, how old is too old?)
    DAW
    A general effects software module or external (HW) effects unit.
    Audio Interface
    Outboard mixer?
    Pop filter / pop shield / acoustic treatments etc.

    Where/how to master - using a quality home stereo, connecting the laptop or using my Audio Engine speakers in the office (I think they would make decent monitors) or even headphones?

    Thanks in advance for any input, I hope it will be useful to others thinking taking he plunge.
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    Member MrXindeed's Avatar
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    This Kindle book is a good place to start.
    http://amzn.com/B07L7NY1LS

  3. #3
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    Thanks. I've read plenty and I'm leaning towards specific gear but was interested in any quick feedback, opinion or tips based on experience of PE members.
    There are more stars in the visible universe than there are grains of sand on planet earth.

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    Member Top Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    Thanks. I've read plenty and I'm leaning towards specific gear but was interested in any quick feedback, opinion or tips based on experience of PE members.
    I can add a few things just to get some conversation going.
    I've used Cubase since it's early days, but for a freebie or donation I've heard excellent things about Reaper DAW software. Plus some of the plug ins are supposed to be quite good.
    For effects you can't go wrong with Vahala reverbs and SoundToy for delays
    Some awesome software instruments from u-He such as the Pro 1 and Prophet 5 emulations
    GForce software: M Tron Pro, Odyssey 2 and more (M Tron Pro is a wonderful Mellotron VST)
    drum software: BFD, ToonTracks and Addictive Drums
    KvR is a great source for anything software you can want or need.

    I've really enjoyed the Focusrite Audio Interfaces. The preamps are very transparent and sound great.
    Comes in various input/output configurations
    If you're on a budget but need 8 inputs, the Tascam audio interface looks good and gets good reviews for a $ couple hundred.(sorry forgot the model)
    If you're looking for an outboard mixer look no further than Sweetwater music.
    You can go on their site and they have categories for digital and analog mixers. The Behringers are less expensive but their quality has gotten a lot better and they offer a lot if you're on a budget. Presonus is good, Alan & Heath, Soundcraft, etc

    If you're doing any vocals, a pop filter is definitely needed.
    hope some of this helps.
    btw the Reaper DAW software is used by Dean Watson who posts here and has recently released a new cd which he used Reaper while recording it. If I was starting out today, I would definitely get it, so many of the DAW software goes for $4-500US.


    https://valhalladsp.com/
    https://www.reaper.fm/
    https://www.soundtoys.com/
    https://u-he.com/
    https://www.gforcesoftware.com/products/m-tron-pro
    https://www.kvraudio.com/
    https://www.sweetwater.com/shop/stud...trol-surfaces/
    Soundcloud page: Open Window, musical meanderings https://soundcloud.com/precipice

  5. #5
    I'll chime in too..

    I would NOT USE a laptop. GO with a dedicated PC tower
    Sonar (Cakewalk) is now free. (I use the PRO version)...Reaper is also great (per my professional audio guy in Nashville)

    Interface: I use Focusrite also...VERY happy with it.

    Mixer: Behringers are good (I have one) but my main mixer is my trusty Mackie 16x8x2

    Mics: You can get great deals on used stuff on Reverb.com (I shop there a lot (too often says the Wife!!! :-))

    I'll second the Addictive Drums

    ...I could go on but that's some input for now.
    G.A.S -aholic

  6. #6
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    Great input, very helpful! Thanks! That will give me something to chew on. I’ve been a Sweetwater customer for years - and a Reverb browser even longer. I almost pulled the trigger on a Ramirez 1a they had up there, but for that money I decided I had to see it and play it before buying.
    There are more stars in the visible universe than there are grains of sand on planet earth.

  7. #7
    Fool around with a few DAWs and see what you like. I use Digital Performer by MOTU.

    For a 2 channel interface the Apogee Element 24 is a nice jump up from some of the entry level quality ones.

    Get decent headphones like the AKG 240s and some near field monitors by Tannoy or whoever.

    Not sure you need effects in a physical box nor a physical mixing board. I do all my recording "in the box" (I think that's the term) using just the computer.

    Unless you're doing some heavy tracking you should be fine with a recently released laptop with a lot of RAM. I do video editing on a MacBook Pro and it's plenty fine and that uses lots more juice than audio. Not sure you're a "Mac guy" but a refurbished computer at apple.com is a decent way to get a cheaper slightly older yet hardly used computer.

    It's good that you have some good mics already. That's important for vocals and whatever cabinets you mic up.

  8. #8
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    For DAW applications, the biggest bottleneck in a laptop is the hard drives, quite slow compared to desktop drives. That can be easily overcome by using solid state drives, rather than mechanical drives.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  9. #9
    Since you mentioned you have used Cakewalk in the past, I think getting the new Cakewalk from Bandlab for free is a no brainer. As a prior Cubase user I miss a few Cubase features (especially the expression maps), but Cakewalk is a pretty decent DAW and you can't really go wrong with any of the major DAWs. Before I went to Cakewalk, I spent some time evaluating Reaper, and I really liked it as well, but when Bandlab released Cakewalk for free, I quickly jumped into that, as the value/price relation on that one is impossible to beat...
    Having said that, Reaper is also really great, and it's the most flexible DAW I've even seen. Especially if you're into software programming, there's so much you can do in terms of scripting, you can pretty much add any functionality you can imagine, if you know how to program it. There's also a large comunity of Reaper users who share their own scripts, so chances are you might find that someone else already did whatever you're trying to do.
    About computers, it depends a lot on what you want to do. If you're going to work with lots of heavy sample based plugins (such as drums, pianos, etc), you will need lots of memory and a fast Hard Disk. But other than that, any regular laptop will do. For drum sounds, I personally prefer Superior Drummer, which I see no one has mentioned yet.
    For audio interface and mixers, I echo what others have already said here. I am currently using Focusrite and am very happy with it. I also don't think it is essential to have an outboard mixer, you can do everything "in the box".
    Also, someone mentioned M-Tron Pro, and I have to say it is amazing. If you're into mellotron sounds, you can't get any better then that, unless you get a real mellotron. And even then, you wouldn't have access to all the mellotron tapes which are included in the package.
    About room acoustics, that's a really complex issue. My advice would be for you to experiment, as it might not be as bad as you think. Do some recordings and see how they sound. Experiment with different mics and mic positions. Listen to your recordings and only if you find they are lacking in quality, then try to figure out what the problem is and fix it. Do not start by putting acoustic foam everywhere just because they look nice...
    Mahtrak Progressive Jazz Rock - www.mahtrak.com

  10. #10
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    Great advice so far - thanks again! I think I will start with the Sonar/Cakewalk since it's free and I have some experience with it. Lot's of suggestions for me to explore. Looks like I can't go wrong with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, that's now on my Sweetwater wish list ...and I don't know if I'll be able to resist the M-Tron Pro, damn it! I do love me some Mellotron!
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  11. #11
    Occipital Provocatee Plasmatopia's Avatar
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    For Mellotron I got the Toontrack EZKeys Mellotron software when they were running a special about a year ago. Sounds pretty good to me. I also have Wusik EVE which has some cool 'tron sounds (or at least did years ago when I got it) and it didn't break the bank.
    Let's blow this dinosaur heap.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    Great advice so far - thanks again! I think I will start with the Sonar/Cakewalk since it's free and I have some experience with it. Lot's of suggestions for me to explore. Looks like I can't go wrong with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, that's now on my Sweetwater wish list ...and I don't know if I'll be able to resist the M-Tron Pro, damn it! I do love me some Mellotron!
    The Scarlett 2i2 is indeed a very good choice. I am using a 18i8, just because I sometimes need more than 2 inputs.

    And here's something I did using the M-Tron Pro, which will be on my upcoming album.

    https://soundcloud.com/perspectivevo...-place/s-WMN4Z
    Mahtrak Progressive Jazz Rock - www.mahtrak.com

  13. #13
    Member Top Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmrviana View Post
    The Scarlett 2i2 is indeed a very good choice. I am using a 18i8, just because I sometimes need more than 2 inputs.

    And here's something I did using the M-Tron Pro, which will be on my upcoming album.

    https://soundcloud.com/perspectivevo...-place/s-WMN4Z
    Very nice, and tasteful use of the Mellotron. Thank you for sharing this.
    Soundcloud page: Open Window, musical meanderings https://soundcloud.com/precipice

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Top Cat View Post
    Very nice, and tasteful use of the Mellotron. Thank you for sharing this.
    Hey, thanks for listening!
    Mahtrak Progressive Jazz Rock - www.mahtrak.com

  15. #15
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Top Cat View Post
    Very nice, and tasteful use of the Mellotron. Thank you for sharing this.
    +1! A tasty little track indeed. I like the production and the other keyboard sounds as well. Well produced - nice airy overall sound too from what I could tell. When I listened, in my mind I hear adding some sweeping acoustic guitar chords to the mix.

    Perspective Vortex! Great! I happen to be an amateur Beeblebroxologist...
    There are more stars in the visible universe than there are grains of sand on planet earth.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    +1! A tasty little track indeed. I like the production and the other keyboard sounds as well. Well produced - nice airy overall sound too from what I could tell. When I listened, in my mind I hear adding some sweeping acoustic guitar chords to the mix.
    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! I just love doing those short ambient tracks with piano, mellotron and synths. I actually got to sneak one of those in the Mahtrak album as well:

    https://soundcloud.com/mahtrak/05-sinestesia

    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    Perspective Vortex! Great! I happen to be an amateur Beeblebroxologist...
    Glad you got the reference! The cover art will be filled with references to the Hitchhiker's Guide...
    Mahtrak Progressive Jazz Rock - www.mahtrak.com

  17. #17
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    I would also strongly recommend Sonar. It has the most intuitive workflow, which led to its undeserved reputation as an hobbyists toy, rather than serious DAW software.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by progmatist View Post
    I would also strongly recommend Sonar. It has the most intuitive workflow, which led to its undeserved reputation as an hobbyists toy, rather than serious DAW software.
    Well, I think it's mostly due to the fact that since the begining it was always a Windows only software and pretty much anyone who was serious about computer recording was using Apple, especially back then. This has somewhat changed today, but many people still frown upon using Windows for any serious recording projects...
    Mahtrak Progressive Jazz Rock - www.mahtrak.com

  19. #19
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmrviana View Post
    Well, I think it's mostly due to the fact that since the begining it was always a Windows only software and pretty much anyone who was serious about computer recording was using Apple, especially back then. This has somewhat changed today, but many people still frown upon using Windows for any serious recording projects...
    In the mid to late '80s, Cakewalk, then MIDI only was multi-platform. There was a version for the Commodore Amiga, the Atari 1000, et cetera, et cetera.
    Last edited by progmatist; 2 Weeks Ago at 01:47 PM.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by progmatist View Post
    In the mid to late '80s, Cakewalk, then MIDI only was multi-platform. There was a version for the Commodore Amiga, the Atari 1000, et cetera, et cetera.
    I stand corrected, I really didn't remember that...

    But I do remember this MIDI only version of Cakewalk, I think it came with the very first MIDI Computer serial interface I ever bought...
    Mahtrak Progressive Jazz Rock - www.mahtrak.com

  21. #21
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmrviana View Post
    I stand corrected, I really didn't remember that...

    But I do remember this MIDI only version of Cakewalk, I think it came with the very first MIDI Computer serial interface I ever bought...
    Since the Amiga was also capable of running MSDOS and DOS apps, that may have been what led to Cakewalk being the Windows only software we know today. Few modifications would have been required to translate it over to PC.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

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    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    I just gotta geek out for a minute and remember doing C programming in early DOS environments where if I made an error like overwriting an array the only clue was a black screen. Power down, power up and try to figure out what happened. Good times!
    There are more stars in the visible universe than there are grains of sand on planet earth.

  23. #23
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    I just gotta geek out for a minute and remember doing C programming in early DOS environments where if I made an error like overwriting an array the only clue was a black screen. Power down, power up and try to figure out what happened. Good times!
    Even geekier still would be programming in pure machine/assembly language. It was one thing keeping track of 64K or 640K worth of memory spaces. Try doing that with 8GB worth of memory spaces. It was one thing keeping track of 640 x 480 pixels with only 16 possible colors. Try doing that with 1920 x 1080 pixels, and millions of possible colors per pixel.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by progmatist View Post
    Even geekier still would be programming in pure machine/assembly language. It was one thing keeping track of 64K or 640K worth of memory spaces. Try doing that with 8GB worth of memory spaces. It was one thing keeping track of 640 x 480 pixels with only 16 possible colors. Try doing that with 1920 x 1080 pixels, and millions of possible colors per pixel.
    A guy I new did this, to write his own music-program for a Commodore Amiga, a program I used, before I switched to an Atari with Cubase.

  25. #25
    I still use Sonar - because I know it. I just noticed that the track I record has to be adjusted so its in sync with the existing tracks. - Isnt there an adjustment to fix that? - anyone recall what it is?
    I got nothin'

    ...avoiding any implication that I have ever entertained a cognizant thought.

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