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Thread: Overhauling home recording gear

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    Overhauling home recording gear

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    Hi everyone I need your advice.
    I've been meaning to get around to this for a very long time. So, I'm a flamenco guitarist and actually recorded an album of my own music more than 20 years ago, back in 1997 to be precise. Yep I can't believe it was that long ago. So you may chuckle a bit when I tell you what my set-up was. Tascam digital portastudio 564 recording on to minidisc (this was a 4-track but could bounce up to 10), a Lexicon Reflex rack reverb unit (amazing unit), Alesis SR16 drum unit, 2 x Audio Technica AT835b pencils (can't remember why I went with those tbh), pair of Absolute 2 Spirit monitors (although I ended up putting on my earphones most of time).
    The sound from one of the tracks can be heard on my YouTube channel, look up "Dunc Eduardo Remolino Eterno Track 2". Don't think I can include link here as a newbie.
    I recorded in a fairly large room with high ceilings and wooden flooring and had a bit of air and echo. Main issue was trying to get mic placement and also correct levels to get maximum gain without distortion. I didn't use compression. I still have all that equipment. The challenge with this style is that within one track I can have heavy strumming and then very reflective and long sustain with sweet high treble notes the next phrase.

    Anyway, now I'm planning to re-record my album of 10 tracks but this time I want to create the highest quality stereo sound and highest level of gain across the range without degradation and take advantage of the latest recording technologies. This time it would be in quite a small room (not acoustically dampened yet but am willing to purchase shielding around the mics) . I'm willing to purchase whatever required. So, based on my research, so far I reckon I need a) pair of high quality microphones (but what type?), b) a decent digital audio interface, c) digital audio Workstation software, d) short length cabling like 0.5m, e) some kind of unit or portable trolley to house this stuff between PC and where I'm sitting. Some of my music involves playing a 2nd guitar track over first, like overdub, or playing a natural rhythm like clapping or a percussive effect on guitar.

    I recently purchased a Roland RC300 looper station so I have that (not sure how to connect this up for direct recording) and I also have a spanking new high spec PC with plenty of USB connections etc. Still to look at sound card spec so not sure what I have right now. I can download a DAW for that but I don't mind paying for one IF it comes with high quality effects like reverb (I play nylon string fingerstyle acoustic so I don't need all the strange electric guitar effects, just the highest quality sound possible) and the best editing and mixing suite. For digital audio interface I had considered Roland Rubix 44 as it provides multiple xlr inputs. Someone recommended the Yamaha MG 10 XU as well (taking output from Roland) but I wondered why I need that, unless it is to take multiple channels and premixing (?) but is that more for live performance rather than recording? Then there is the microphone choice but I'm bewildered by the options. Here are a few I looked at:
    Aston Origin, Sennheiser Mk4, Aston Starlight, AKG P420, MXL 770, Rode NT5, Neumann TL103. Do I go with cardioid, small diaphragm, large diaphragm, omni pattern etc????? I'm looking for high clarity and low noise if that's even possible without spending thousands. I am willing to spend a good sum though.
    Here is another piece I composed where I would just love a really high quality recording to do it justice :
    Look up "Dunc Eduardo Tarantas Destino Eterno Track 3"

    You can hear it is very airy and spacious.

    What's your advice regarding microphone type/model? DAI? DAW? Connectivity?

    Any advice much appreciated. I'm really excited to get this project up and running.

    Thank you so much.

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    Listening to the Youtube recording I'l left a little confused. The thing that stands out is the left right separation is quite distinction, hardly gentle panning, but the actual quality from the 20+ year old recording is perfectly fine. If you have access to the original source tracks, then modern mix down and effects would work really well. Would you be able to re-record it better? I hear no horrible microphones or faults to fix. Modern eq and warming processes would seem to be perfect for application here. I certainly would worry that modern kit would make little appreciable difference to the captured sound. Your digital recording wasn't the weak link back then, it was what you did with it afterwards.

    If you have the original tracks - could we have a listen to a little of those to confirm the 'quality'?

    I recently re-recorded one of my old 1990s recording because there was one drum hit I always hated as it was mis-timed. I now have a quality, balanced and treated recording that totally misses the point of the original.

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    You have a lot ahead of you. I'd keep reading and learning before spending a lot of money, but I'll suggest that any interface you look at has at least 2 good quality mic preamps so you can use 2 mics to capture the guitar. If your budget allows, consider getting something with 4 mic preamps because that gives you a lot of flexibility and can allow you to keep things plugged in. Read reviews and ask for opinions from people currently using the interfaces you are considering. Check the manufacturer site for driver availability, etc.

    You do not need a mixer like that Yamaha, IMO.

    Personally, a large diaphragm and small diaphragm together can work well, since it allows you to do some balancing of what is captured vs what is produced by trying different placements with the mics that each have different qualities. Again, if your budget allows, a pair of SDCs and a single LDC, together, can really let you cover a lot of ground, like maybe a single NT1 and pair of NT5s (all RØDE). If you think you want to start simple, I'd start with the LDC.

    And, yes, good treatment will be necessary because a small room is unlikely to contribute much to the recording that you want - the opposite, in fact. This means cardioid pattern to me. Multi-pattern options are nice, but probably something you would not use. So, you'll want to keep the room out, and add reverb and the like in-the-box (ITB) using the DAWs built-in plugins or others you might try.

    Good luck.
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    Hi Rob thanks for advice. Actually what I didn't say in my introduction was that I got those pieces remastered in a professional studio, but by that I mean raising the levels of the premastered track that I presented to him. Unfortunately I could only give the engineer a finished recording and not the individual original tracks. So I mexed them myself on that digital minidisc machine. He did everything he could to raise the levels as the original was a very low level. Yet when I set the levels I had the master volume as high as it could be without clipping, but as I said the problem back then in not using compression with the style I was playing, was that the quiet phrases in the same "song" would be very quiet in comparison to the louder sections. If I compared my original recording to a CD for example, my volume was about half. So what you hear on YouTube is the original mastered product by me, but with some enhancement and relevelling. There was a limit to what he could do.
    I actually want to record new pieces as well and have been told by some sound engineers (who were not telling me this in a shop trying to sell me stuff) that the right mics, placed correctly and a new high quality DAI and mastered in a decent DAW would make world of difference, and that the digital recording technologies have come a long way in 20 years. The quality now is much much better. Well, I've heard some of the evidence and I find it hard to disagree. I'm looking for professional studio quality or as near to it as I can get whilst using a home studio set-up.
    On the left right panning, well basically I had the mics very often in a x cross placement and then each channel panned hard left or hard right to get max stereo effect but I know what you mean.

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    Hi Keith thanks for your advice. The Roland Rubix 44 DAI has 4 low noise mic preamp with XLR combo Jack's. Up to 24-bit, 192khz. Thanks for confirming re. Yamaha mixer. It's interesting you mention cardioid and 2 SDC and 1 LDC together. The Rode NT5 SDC gets good reviews being low noise, sensitive and on par with much more expensive options. I need to do more research for sure. Any more advice more than welcome. By the way this DAI does have built-in compression. Would that only be good for live performance and is it always better to use the compression on the DAW for recording? Also can I apply that from the computer as I'm playing /recording so I can hear the effect as I record it???

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    By the look of it, the Rubix looks as if it can operate without being connected to a computer, which means you could use it and its compression live.

    The NT5 enjoys a good reputation, has very low self-noise, and is good value for money.

    Being able to apply some compression on the way into the computer is handy in dealing with wayward peaks and troughs in playing when recording, but is not essential.

    Any contemporary DAW will have its ways of applying compression, and the benefit of applying it at this stage is that you can undo it if it is not to your liking.

    Any contemporary DAW will allow you to monitor what you are recording, along with any effects you use, as you record it.

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    Thanks gecko I figured that was case re. DAW but thanks for confirming. Good to hear about NT5. Do you know how Roland Rubix 44 would compare against equivalent Focusrite or Steinberg or any other? I ask because I know Roland only recently started competing in the audio interface market. I'm also concerned about Windows 10 and sound card compatibility.

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    My first interface (2011?) was actually a Roland (nee Eridol, IIRC). A friend still has it. Maybe they haven't been big or in all markets, but they've been poking around in this stuff for a while - possibly driven by their presence in the keyboard/MIDI and other areas (most of their amps have line out, some USB). I'd say it's mostly a driver and support thing, but if they do have more interest in live performance than some of the others. Read reviews, ask questions, etc.
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    For DAW, Presonus Studio One or Ableton Live could be good options. Some interfaces come with free versions which are probably good enough. I'd consider the Gen 3 Focusrite interfaces as the preamps are very nice, and the price is reasonable. I wouldn't imagine you'd need more than 4 inputs.

    Can't help with the mics....I'm in the same boat looking for new ones so I'm planning on renting a few different ones from the local music store first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by agiledood View Post
    For DAW, Presonus Studio One or Ableton Live could be good options. Some interfaces come with free versions which are probably good enough. I'd consider the Gen 3 Focusrite interfaces as the preamps are very nice, and the price is reasonable. I wouldn't imagine you'd need more than 4 inputs.

    Can't help with the mics....I'm in the same boat looking for new ones so I'm planning on renting a few different ones from the local music store first.
    Thanks mate. Yep I'm aware of the Gen3 Focusrite. I guess for mics one key is low self noise as well as room setup. Also a flat response. Some mics also good for vocals have some emphasis on low end which I don't need really. I'll be in small room but am considering the mic shields as well as some wall dampening. Renting or trying in shop first might be a good idea.

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