PDA

View Full Version : Let's Build a Budget Studio



AC Baltimore
04-17-2010, 02:13 PM
Opening:

Many folks want to take their recording to the next level but either don't know where to start or think it will cost a fortune. I am going to attempt to help you build a quality studio on a budget.

What You Need:

>Behringer Xenyx 502 Mixer - $44.95

>Nady HA-1X4 4-Channel Headphone Amp - $39.99

>MXL MXL R144 Ribbon Microphone - $99.99

>Sennheiser HD 205 DJ Headphones - $49.95

>Live Wire 1/8" (TRS) - Dual 1/4" Y Cable - $8.99

>Live Wire Stereo 3.5mm Male-Stereo 1/4" Cable - $6.99

>15ft Live Wire Advantage Standard EXM Series Microphone Cable - $19.99

All of these items can be found via the search function at www.musiciansfriend.com.

What Will We Record With:

Reaper! This state-of-the-art software offers features and layout very much like Cakewalk Home-studio... only they do not make you buy Reaper. It has every function you will ever need to produce studio quality recordings ready for print. Get it at: http://www.cockos.com/reaper

Closing:

I THINK I covered everything to get you rolling with a functional and feature rich studio on a budget, feel free to ask any and all questions... I am here to help.


http://i949.photobucket.com/albums/ad336/acbaltimore/diagram.jpg

nomis
04-17-2010, 03:25 PM
Don't ever mix using headphones. in using headphones, both your sense of stereo imaging and frequency response change... imaging is exaggerated due to the isolation of one ear from the other, and frequency response gets skewed in the bass and mid-range areas due to the proximity of the drivers to the ear. So you can't be sure of the relative levels of frequencies in that area of the spectrum. It's very important to use good quality monitors. If you can't afford good monitors - just don't bother.

The 502 Mixer (although popular) is a pretty ropey piece of kit, the peamps are going to be horrible and it's going to screw your signal in many other ways. It's also single voltage. Apogees Duet would be an infinitely better option. Alternatively if lots of knobs and lights is your thing (and youve got some cash) look at Mackie. The preamps are soooooo important.

Again, Reaper is a pretty low-end piece of software (the bundled plugins - reverb ect) are just unusable. Logic Express would be a much better option.

Ribbon mikes can be very good for recording guitars, ukes etc. particularly for known for naturalness and high frequency detail but the MXL is very low end and in this case a Dynamic Mic like a Sure SM57 would be better.

A headphone amp is not necessary.

GrumpyCoyote
04-17-2010, 03:28 PM
Why the headphone amp? PC should drive 'em just fine.

Also, I'm curious as to why you would want a direct line from the uke, since that mic is pretty good at the job?

AC Baltimore
04-17-2010, 03:38 PM
Don't ever mix using headphones. in using headphones, both your sense of stereo imaging and frequency response change... imaging is exaggerated due to the isolation of one ear from the other, and frequency response gets skewed in the bass and mid-range areas due to the proximity of the drivers to the ear. So you can't be sure of the relative levels of frequencies in that area of the spectrum. It's very important to use good quality monitors. If you can't afford good monitors - just don't bother.

The 502 Mixer (although popular) is a pretty ropey piece of kit, the peamps are going to be horrible and it's going to screw your signal in many other ways. It's also single voltage. Apogees Duet would be an infinitely better option. Alternatively if lots of knobs and lights is your thing (and youve got some cash) look at Mackie. The preamps are soooooo important.

Again, Reaper is a pretty low-end piece of software (the bundled plugins - reverb ect) are just unusable. Logic Express would be a much better option.

Ribbon mikes can be very good for recording guitars, ukes etc. particularly for known for naturalness and high frequency detail but the MXL is very low end and in this case a Dynamic Mic like a Sure SM57 would be better.

A headphone amp is not necessary.

There are better componants for sure... but we are talking cost effictive. That WAS the focus.

AC Baltimore
04-17-2010, 03:42 PM
Why the headphone amp? PC should drive 'em just fine.

Also, I'm curious as to why you would want a direct line from the uke, since that mic is pretty good at the job?

Using the mic to record the uke/guitar is always an option... one which I normally choose, I just illustrated the DL for those that choose that route. The headphone amp is not a must have but it adds a quick touch element to lack of volume most soundcards have.

tad
04-17-2010, 03:56 PM
Don't ever mix using headphones. in using headphones, both your sense of stereo imaging and frequency response change... imaging is exaggerated due to the isolation of one ear from the other, and frequency response gets skewed in the bass and mid-range areas due to the proximity of the drivers to the ear. So you can't be sure of the relative levels of frequencies in that area of the spectrum. It's very important to use good quality monitors. If you can't afford good monitors - just don't bother.

The 502 Mixer (although popular) is a pretty ropey piece of kit, the peamps are going to be horrible and it's going to screw your signal in many other ways. It's also single voltage. Apogees Duet would be an infinitely better option. Alternatively if lots of knobs and lights is your thing (and youve got some cash) look at Mackie. The preamps are soooooo important.

Again, Reaper is a pretty low-end piece of software (the bundled plugins - reverb ect) are just unusable. Logic Express would be a much better option.

Ribbon mikes can be very good for recording guitars, ukes etc. particularly for known for naturalness and high frequency detail but the MXL is very low end and in this case a Dynamic Mic like a Sure SM57 would be better.

A headphone amp is not necessary.

On the other hand, some of my favorite songs were recorded on four-track casset recorders with budget mics in someone's bedroom.
Some people like Lo-Fi. And Lo-Fi DIY stuff is certainly more cost-effective.

Really, it depends on your aesthetics, your budget, your ethos...
No need to be so prescriptivist.

AC Baltimore
04-17-2010, 04:27 PM
On the other hand, some of my favorite songs were recorded on four-track casset recorders with budget mics in someone's bedroom.
Some people like Lo-Fi. And Lo-Fi DIY stuff is certainly more cost-effective.

Really, it depends on your aesthetics, your budget, your ethos...
No need to be so prescriptivist.

Thank you... and Amen. The Apogees Duet unit he mentioned is $499.99 alone and is a USB unit. USB is nice and easy shortcut but it will often bring latency issues and will deff. not teach anything in regards to standard recording. The 502 is low end, but I have setup probably 20+ home studios for people on a tight budget with that unit... I have yet to run into any noise or other issues with it. He is somewhat correct on the monitors, you should get a decent set when possible, but it is not a do or die need right out of the gate. My attempt was to help those that want to get into some real recording with a limited budget. The MXL R114 is a FANTASTIC mic for the money and it really lends its self to home recording of instruments and vocals in non sound-proof rooms.

euchre
04-17-2010, 04:51 PM
Nomis, the whole point of the original post was to build a "budget" studio. AC suggested items that have worked for him.


If you can't afford good monitors - just don't bother.

While I agree that headphones are not the best way to mix for the reasons you stated, for the budget amateur recordist good monitors may not be an option. A pair of stereo speakers you're very familiar with may yield acceptable results considering the source of the recording and its intended purpose. I'd also recommend listening to the mix on your car stereo, boom box and anything else available. I'd hate to see anyone NOT get into recording because he can't afford good monitors.




The 502 Mixer (although popular) is a pretty ropey piece of kit, the peamps are going to be horrible and it's going to screw your signal in many other ways. The preamps are soooooo important.

I have no idea what "ropey" means in this context. Sure, preamps are important, but I doubt most users could hear the difference between many. Again, we are talking budget. Often, the built-in pres on mixers are adequate.


Again, Reaper is a pretty low-end piece of software (the bundled plugins - reverb ect) are just unusable. Logic Express would be a much better option.

Sure it's low-end, that's the point. It's also pretty powerful software that's become highly regarded among many users.


Ribbon mikes can be very good for recording guitars, ukes etc. particularly for known for naturalness and high frequency detail but the MXL is very low end and in this case a Dynamic Mic like a Sure SM57 would be better.


Better, really? Different, definitely. Everyone has their favorite go to mic/preamp combo.

AC Baltimore
04-17-2010, 06:24 PM
Nomis, the whole point of the original post was to build a "budget" studio. AC suggested items that have worked for him.



While I agree that headphones are not the best way to mix for the reasons you stated, for the budget amateur recordist good monitors may not be an option. A pair of stereo speakers you're very familiar with may yield acceptable results considering the source of the recording and its intended purpose. I'd also recommend listening to the mix on your car stereo, boom box and anything else available. I'd hate to see anyone NOT get into recording because he can't afford good monitors.





I have no idea what "ropey" means in this context. Sure, preamps are important, but I doubt most users could hear the difference between many. Again, we are talking budget. Often, the built-in pres on mixers are adequate.



Sure it's low-end, that's the point. It's also pretty powerful software that's become highly regarded among many users.



Better, really? Different, definitely. Everyone has their favorite go to mic/preamp combo.

Agreed. You made most of my points.

Brandon7s
04-17-2010, 08:15 PM
What about an A/D converter? Standard soundcard mic input is going to sound bad, at best.

Something like this: PreSonus Audiobox (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/AudioBoxUSB/) would be my recommendation, or if you wanted to spend less, one could try this one as well: Art USB Duel Pre (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/USBDualPrePS/)

I use a E-MU1820 PCI audio interface device, and really like it. Firewire (USB, too) would be more convenient, but it's still a wonderful device. The above would sound quite a bit better than your standard onboard soundcar mic input though. That's how I started out recording, before I moved onto audio interfaces. Big difference.

Also, why choose a ribbon mic for your only microphone? It'll be nice on voices, but for acoustic instruments (ukulele, acoustic guitar) it will be a bit of a mismatch. Slow transient response time and all that. I'd recommend a cheap Large Diaphragm Condenser mic, like: MXL 990 LDC (http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/product/MXL-990-Condenser-Microphone-with-Shock-Mount?sku=273156). Not that a ribbon mic is bad, but I think an LDC mic would be flexible.

AC Baltimore
04-17-2010, 10:14 PM
What about an A/D converter? Standard soundcard mic input is going to sound bad, at best.

Something like this: PreSonus Audiobox (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/AudioBoxUSB/) would be my recommendation, or if you wanted to spend less, one could try this one as well: Art USB Duel Pre (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/USBDualPrePS/)

I use a E-MU1820 PCI audio interface device, and really like it. Firewire (USB, too) would be more convenient, but it's still a wonderful device. The above would sound quite a bit better than your standard onboard soundcar mic input though. That's how I started out recording, before I moved onto audio interfaces. Big difference.

Also, why choose a ribbon mic for your only microphone? It'll be nice on voices, but for acoustic instruments (ukulele, acoustic guitar) it will be a bit of a mismatch. Slow transient response time and all that. I'd recommend a cheap Large Diaphragm Condenser mic, like: MXL 990 LDC (http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/product/MXL-990-Condenser-Microphone-with-Shock-Mount?sku=273156). Not that a ribbon mic is bad, but I think an LDC mic would be flexible.

You are incorrect on most of your "points". But hey if you only want to learn enough to plug in a USB cord and use very limited "dummy units" then more power to ya.

Brandon7s
04-18-2010, 12:24 AM
You are incorrect on most of your "points". But hey if you only want to learn enough to plug in a USB cord and use very limited "dummy units" then more power to ya.
I really have no idea what you're talking about. You not only did not address any "points", but you insinuated that I use a USB audio interface when I clearly stated that I use a PCI interface, which makes me wondering how much of others' posts you are even reading. Why all the USB hate anyways? Sure, a firewire interface would be a better option, but most people would never be able to tell the difference unless they are recording 24+ tracks simultaneously. Especially for most of the people here, since I would bet that most of us here would use a maximum of three inputs at a time: 1 for vocals, 2 for a stereo recording of their instrument (in all probability, 1 input would be enough for most), unless they want to record more than one person at a time, which is of course possible, but for a budget setup that'd be difficult.

I seriously have no idea what "dummy units" is supposed to refer to, but as someone who's been into home recording for around 5 years and as someone who is rather satisfied with my current recording's sound quality, I doubt "dummy units" means anything to anyone else here that would be building a budget studio.



I posted this to offer some help to those looking to step into real recording on a tight budget... sadly know it all USB hounds have taking us off track by offering insulting input on gear and methods they probably have never used.
Again with the USB hate. Strange.

I understand why you would be upset with people offering alternatives to your specific recommended configuration, but to call the input of everyone else in this thread "insulting" is just plain bizarre. You could at least address a few of the criticisms that you are confronted with, instead of using vague and offensive sweeping generalizations about the character of those who would offer their personal opinion on the topic at hand. Though, since I guess you have me on ignore now, you won't offer your own opinion of a transport method (namely, A/DC) that would offer higher quality than a standard soundcard input. Or your opinion of why a ribbon mic would be a superior choice for microphone type; nor will you tell me what a "dummy box" is. Bummer, cause I actually thought you might have had something worthwhile to say about those points.


For anyone that wants to hear a home studio recording done with a recording-related budget of about $450 (could probably do the same with about $250 with what I know now), here's an instrumental recording of my own, even though it's not ukulele: http://www.mediafire.com/?edjdxiw4jtz - I'll give specifics on what I used to record this with if anyone is curious.

nomis
04-18-2010, 03:09 AM
@ AC Baltimore

The Duet is not a USB unit, it uses Firewire (not FW400 but FW800) which is very very fast indeed. No one's trying to shoot you down Baltimore, I'm sure your intentions were good but it sounds as if you're quite new to recording so it may not be a great idea to be posting this kind of advice. At the risk of sounding like a tw@t, some of us do this kind of thing for a living.

Nuprin
04-18-2010, 05:35 AM
Just wanted to throw out a thanks to Baltimore for posting his setup! I agree that in some cases it's not an ideal setup for those who have been recording for awhile but, if it's working for him, then some others might find it useful.

@Baltimore: I really don't believe anyone was trying to be "insulting" towards you, I think they were just offering their input as to what they think might improve upon your setup so you shouldn't take offense.

I do agree with the others in this thread though...an interface (be it USB, Firewire, or PCI) will give you better A/D and D/A conversion than the computer's built-in line input. I also probably wouldn't choose a ribbon as my first all-around microphone...a large diaphragm condenser would be more versatile.

@Brandon: He did mention in an earlier post why he doesn't like USB.

USB is nice and easy shortcut but it will often bring latency issues and will deff. not teach anything in regards to standard recording.

I'll be honest...I've never had latency issues tracking 2 inputs simultaneously (when I was running my MBox). The 502 mixer he recommends will teach you more about proper gain staging than an interface will so I can understand his reference to "dummy" units.

For those interested, I went to Berklee College of Music and graduated in their Music Production and Engineering degree. I've run sessions on some really high-end gear (SSL 4000G+ consoles, some amazing outboard gear: Massenburg, Neve, API, Chandler, Tubetech, Manley, etc., all running into Pro Tools, some amazing mics: Neumann u87s, Earthwords TC40s, Coles 4038s, Royer mics, etc.) so I like to think I know what I'm talking about. For the record, my current setup is as follows: Digidesign 003 rack, Digimax LT (utilizing the ADAT outputs), Lexicon MX400 reverb, a bunch of mics including a Blue Blueberry and matched pair of AKG 451s, a Tascam FW1884 control surface, and 2 pairs of monitors for A/B-ing (Yamaha HS50Ms and a pair of Event monitors). It's not an amazing setup but, as I only do recording for fun, I'm happy with the results and I'm not willing to put more money into it.

So, again, thanks to Baltimore for posting what's working for him for a limited budget setup, as well as thanks to the others for posting their suggestions.

nomis
04-18-2010, 07:17 AM
I've not heard of Berklee College, it's not in the UK is it lol.

It's amazing how much of you kit list comes from Europe isn't it.

P.S. I've also got a pair of Yamaha HSs - the sturdy cabinets make them ideal for resting my feet on when I'm working.

AC Baltimore
04-18-2010, 07:40 AM
If I responded defensively, I apologize. I was really just frustrated because some seemed to be missing the point of this thread. I don't personally use this setup anymore, but my thought was to help members that want to start to dabble in multi-track recording on a tight budget. I have been recording for ten years, I currently use a M-Audio project mix I/O as the center piece of my home studio, however most of my recording is done in full time studios as a session guitarist. I was trying to help recording noobs, but I guess it all got sidetracked.

Pippin
04-18-2010, 08:20 AM
I've not heard of Berklee College, it's not in the UK is it lol.

It's amazing how much of you kit list comes from Europe isn't it.

P.S. I've also got a pair of Yamaha HSs - the sturdy cabinets make them ideal for resting my feet on when I'm working.

Berklee College of Music is highly regarded on the US East Coast. There are lots of serious singer-songwriters that have come from their composition school and I have met several top-quality sound engineers as well.

GrumpyOldMan
04-18-2010, 08:36 AM
I'd never heard of Reaper so had a look at downloading it. It's actually only FREE for 30 days. After that it's $225 which is about 150 to me and I don't regard that as cheap. Could Audacity not do the job?

tad
04-18-2010, 08:43 AM
At the risk of sounding like a tw@t, some of us do this kind of thing for a living.

...That's it. This forum has officially jumped the shark. No wonder so many people who used to be central to the UU community are no longer active on UU. I got into this forum 'cause it *wasn't* full of self-congradulatory snobery like this, unlike certain other uke boards. It was open to people with all levels of experience, interest, etc.

UU's jumped the shark.

You're hijacking a thread about starting out recording on a budget in order to prove how much more you know than the OP about recording. That's a jerky move, if you ask me.

tad
04-18-2010, 08:46 AM
I'd never heard of Reaper so had a look at downloading it. It's actually only FREE for 30 days. After that it's $225 which is about 150 to me and I don't regard that as cheap. Could Audacity not do the job?

Two tape recorders from Goodwill and a couple audio cassettes *could* do the job.

AC Baltimore
04-18-2010, 08:49 AM
...That's it. This forum has officially jumped the shark. No wonder so many people who used to be central to the UU community are no longer active on UU. I got into this forum 'cause it *wasn't* full of self-congradulatory snobery like this, unlike certain other uke boards. It was open to people with all levels of experience, interest, etc.

UU's jumped the shark.

You're hijacking a thread about starting out recording on a budget in order to prove how much more you know than the OP about recording. That's a jerky move, if you ask me.

Yeah I kinda got that sense too.

AC Baltimore
04-18-2010, 08:51 AM
I'd never heard of Reaper so had a look at downloading it. It's actually only FREE for 30 days. After that it's $225 which is about 150 to me and I don't regard that as cheap. Could Audacity not do the job?

Grumpy, it says that but it never runs out.

nomis
04-18-2010, 09:03 AM
@Tad

Okay you next time I see someone post a topic about budget recording which is just pure nonsense I'll just ignore it. And never mind that some poor b@st@rd will actually go out and buy that pile of junk. And when that person realizes that the quality of his recording is about equivalent to sticking your ipod in the corner of the room, I guess you'll be there to return their money - Right Tad?

Members seeking to start recording on a budget would be better off going to a dedicated recording forum where the will get sensible advice from experienced engineers.

AC Baltimore
04-18-2010, 09:05 AM
Please do not personally attack people. - Melissa

Melissa82
04-18-2010, 09:51 AM
This thread is going in the wrong direction. Maybe try again later when some of you can stop personally attacking each other. No need to get all bent out of shape and take things so personally.

I just want to add - if someone is going to take someones advice online, I really hope they research their options. So, comments like yours, nomis, are out of line, to say the least.

seeso
04-18-2010, 10:14 AM
We don't have a lot of rules here, but you have managed to break two of them, nomis. The first is "don't be a jerk," and the second is "check your ego at the door." Consider this your first warning.