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Home recording studio thread

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Who all has a home recording studio, what gear are y'all using? What educational resources do you find best?

 

I'm in the process of starting my own home studio, got a few mics(sm81, sm57 and sm58) and a focus rite Scarlett 18i20 interface and I'll be running Cubase once I get everything set up.

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58 minutes ago, money spud said:

I'm in the process of starting my own home studio, got a few mics(sm81, sm57 and sm58) and a focus rite Scarlett 18i20 interface and I'll be running Cubase once I get everything set up.

 

Where's it at?

 

I got 2 turntables and a microphone

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I plan on keeping it as quiet as possible for neighbors, I'll primarily be doing acoustic guitar and stuff with programed drums up front.

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So how is Cubase these days?  Back in the day, it was essentially Pro-Tools or nothing (not that there wasn't other software out there, they just were nowhere near as good as Pro-tools).

I have thought about getting a pro-tools set up to remix recordings that I did when I owned a studio many years ago.

I am not sure about now, but the forums on Tape Op (and the mag itself) were a great resource.  https://messageboard.tapeop.com/

 

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I haven't used cubuase yet,  purchased the materials at the end of last month,  still waiting on one of my studio monitors,  my goal is to have everything installed and hooked up by the end of next week.  I've recorded on both cubase and nuendo as a band and always been happy with it.

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I didn't feel like spending a bunch of money on a better computer, so I went with a Zoom 16-track.  I'm able to pass files to my friend's Logic system so that we're able to collaborate.  We did our last album on the Logic, and it sounds great after mastering.

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On 7/15/2020 at 7:35 PM, Poolflood said:

Soundproof the shirt out of it so you're not disturbing neighbors

Signed

Slimthugs neighbor 

The real Slim Thug and the boss hogg outlawzzzz?   

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9 hours ago, kangsta said:

The real Slim Thug and the boss hogg outlawzzzz?   

Ummmm sure.  But I just call him Slim.  Oh and ask to see his car collection on occasion. 

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Cross posting from the drum thread here.

I have a developing home studio in my apartment. i had an interface and basic PT version several years ago, but decided my time would be better spent learning my instrument than learning to record it. That was a good decision.

A lot has changed now. I moved into an apartment with plenty of space, so I bought a drum kit thinking we could rehearse here and we could save the money we were spending on rehearsal space. Right then COVID hit. My apartment is above a bar where a lot of local musician scum of various sorts hang out. Now I have all kinds of people who want to come over and jam. What started as recording ideas and projects with different people to my phone is slowly getting more involved and Ive decided to take the plunge into recording the stuff we do here a little more seriously.

I mentioned it in the drum thread for recording drums and got these responses.

  3 hours ago, jimmyjazz said:

Well, for a variety of reasons, I tend to go very basic.  Stereo XY pair for the overheads, usually decent small diaphragm condensers (Microtech Gefell M300 or Neumann KM84/KM184), capsule-to-capsule at 90 degrees, leading to zero phase issues.  A single mic on/in the kick drum, usually a dynamic like an EV RE20 or a Shure SM57 (yep).  I rarely mic the snare or toms.

This gets me a very natural room sound with enough punch in the kick drum to cut the mix.  However, I have very little control over the snare/tom/cymbal balance this way, so it needs to be mic'ed right the first time.  I can only do so much with EQ.

@Paul Wesley should chime in.  He graciously allowed me to bring my daughter to a pre-pandemic session at his lovely studio, and I thought his drum sounds were spectacular.  As I recall, he had mics on each drum, with spaced condenser (ribbon? can't remember) overheads.  Great kit -- I think it might have been an old Ludwig? -- and terrific gear producing a punchy, natural, modern close-mic'ed sound.  He's your reference.

 

  3 hours ago, phdhorn said:

 

 

Thanks fellas. I'll grab a pack of Emperors.

UT Fan, I do a little studio micing myself and your setup sounds good. 

The first rule of recording to me is less is more. Start with your setup and if you don't like any of the sounds, you can tweak it. You might put a unidirectional like a 57 between the two toms if they're bass-mounted. Miking the individual times underneath will give it much more punch of course. You might also back off on the snare if it's too loud but that sounds like a good start; seems like most guys like mics above the snare instead of under it.

I'd go with two or three mics at first, then add is necessary. Don't start with a bunch and take away. Less is more.

 

  1 hour ago, Paul Wesley said:

jimmyjazz is giving me too much credit.  That session was engineered by my frequent partner ( www.charliekramsky.com ) and not by me.  FWIW, the mics on that session were likely:  Beta52 and fet47 on kick, 57's on snare, 421 on each tom, probably a miktek C5 on hat, Coles 4038 on overheads, Dragonfly deluxe stereo pair on rooms. 

AUTF, the advice from the other guys above is as good as anything I could offer.  It's good to hear that you have reasonable expectations ("demo worthy"), because I've also tried to record drums at my house, and the results were pretty meh, even with what I thought at the time was a decent-sized living area.  There are just way too many things to overcome --  no proper listening environment, no isolation from control to live room, inexperienced engineers (me), and a boxy-sounding live rooms with poor acoustic properties.

So my microphone advice in general:

- Don't spend too much on mics, especially right out of the gate.   Something on the kick, a stereo pair of overheads, maybe a top snare.  20 hours of experimentation moving the mics and kit around will take you a lot further down the sonic road than will writing a giant check to Sweetwater.

- In general, everyone who starts recording at home runs out and buys a mid-level large diaphragm condenser.  Most of those sound awful.  It *seems* like you're using what the pros use, but in reality they're a very poor value for the money, and they're really good at getting more of your bad-sounding rooms to tape ("tape" includes whatever software you've chosen).  I was guilty of this as well.  I bought and sold a LOT of large diaphragm condenser mics in the $500-$1500 range.... AKG, Neumann, etc.  A lot of bad decisions.  I should have listened to the engineers who were giving me the exact advice that I'm giving now.

- High quality dynamics are a much better value ESPECIALLY if your room doesn't sound very good.  There's no shame in a Shure 57 (buy only from reputable dealer... fakes are everywhere).  An RE20 will serve you well for the next 30 years, and they're fucking fantastic vocal mics.  There's a reason you see them all the time in front of radio DJ's and podcasters who have any reasonably-sized budget.  There are a lot of other dynamics that you could deploy both on drums and in front of your guitar cabinets.

- Along those same lines, a pair of ribbons could serve you both as overheads and on guitars.

- Very rarely is a specific microphone the secret sauce in a signal path.  There are few exceptions to that statement, IMO.

- Have fun.  Try not to let the technical bullshit distract you too much.

I mentioned there that Im not looking to do anything more than demo quality of original music so it can be documented and shared in a basic way. maybe some overdubs and that sort of thing. I should also note that Im in the middle of remodeling the unit where its installed, it will all be ripped out and re-installed in a couple months when the new floors go in.

So far I have a 16 channel Mackie mixer I bought new, a couple modest 2000W 10" speakers for mains, 1 bass amp with a xlr out, several guitar amps, a Gretsch Catalina kit. I also have a handful of mics including a Shure 57 and a Sennheiser e906 that I've long used to mic my guitar amps. 

The Mackie came with a version of ProTools. I have a close friend at Apple who can get me 35% off, so Im thinking of getting a dedicated MacBook for recording. I'll get a pair of playback monitors then. For now I've just setting a mix and running a cable from the mixer into my phone to record, so that lever of control will be a whole new deal. 

For the drums I've ordered a Shure PGA mic kit that include a 52 for the kick, a 57 for the snare, and a pair of 181s for overhead. That kit set me back $246. I also ordered a Rode NT1-A at $219 for vocals. I may add the Berhinger MiniMoog knockoff to play around with at some point. 

Im open to any comments on this, or pointing out any money Im throwing away. Like I said, Im going for "good enough". I also DJ from a decent collection or 7" 45's I've collected over the years. With all that shut down, I may do some livestream sets from here once its all up and running. I've also ran a pair of rca cables down to the mixer in the bar so that I can bring anything going on down there up here.

I'll post some pictures and recordings once we get that far.

 

 

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I think Paul nailed the comment about large diaphragm condensers.  They almost always suck unless you spend considerable money.  I got seduced by the brand "Neumann" (which is of course legendary) and bought a TLM103 some 25 years ago.  I battled that fucking thing for 5 years before finally figuring out it sucked.  

I moved up to a modern, modular system which allowed capsule swaps on FET or tube bodies and holy moly, the difference was night and day.  Unfortunately, it cost in the many thousands of dollars.  I eventually sold it because I stopped recording when real life took over.

That said, I have recorded vocals of really good singers with my EV RE20 and my (wait for it) Shure Beta 58 and I'll be damned if both aren't quite a bit better than that Neumann TLM103, which cost more.

Short story long, you might want to reconsider that Rode vocal mic, but you never know what will work on a particular singer.  The drum pack is probably fine, although 181 condensers can be a little harsh.  Aim them a bit off center and they could work.

Speaking of drum mic'ing, I think people (understandably) get overly wrapped up in "matched" pairs and whatnot.  If I could only buy one great small diaphragm condenser or ribbon mic, then that's where I'd start.  Aim it straight down, kinda splitting the difference between the snare and the kick beater.  Grab another mic -- ANY mic -- and place it near the floor tom, pointing towards the snare, parallel to the ground.  Add a kick mic -- ANY mic -- and maybe a snare mic.  Voila.  Done.  Use that really good overhead to get the room and the tone of the kit, use the others to beef up the individual drums.

I think some dipshit -- probably Fletcher -- called the overhead/floor tom/kick mic his "3 mic technique" on rec.audio.pro 30 years ago and built a reputation out of that obvious solution plus a couple of sessions assisting Jimmy Miller while the Stones drank, smoked and snorted their way through France.  Such is life.

At any rate, one great mic plus some pedestrian auxiliaries often works out better than a bunch of mediocre mics.  Your mileage may vary, but it's best not to fight the 70 years of accumulated knowledge, of which I have acquired 0.001%.

 

Edited by jimmyjazz
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13 minutes ago, jimmyjazz said:

If I could only buy one great small diaphragm condenser or ribbon mic, then that's where I'd start.  Aim it straight down, kinda splitting the difference between the snare and the kick beater.  Grab another mic -- ANY mic -- and place it near the floor tom, pointing towards the snare, parallel to the ground.  Add a kick mic -- ANY mic -- and maybe a snare mic.  Voila.  Done.  Use that really good overhead to get the room and the tone of the kit, use the others to beef up the individual drums.

JJ, my mic knowlege is at or near zero. I've never really dealt with them other than that Sennheizer somebody pointed me to for my guitar cab years ago. If you were going to invest in a decent small diaphragm condenser or ribbon, what would you expect to spend and what would you buy? That 3 mic technique sounds perfect to me. Space is a bit of an issue here as well and the fewer stands i need to set up the better. 

Im gonna cancel that Large Diaphragm mic order. 

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Well, if I were starting from scratch, I'd probably buy a Josephson C42.  It's not cheap at $470, but it will nail just about anything you point it at, including drums, acoustic guitar, etc.  You will never need to sell it and can buy another down the road for a terrific pair if you want.

I would seriously pair that with a couple of Shure SM57 at $90 each and capture the hell out of a drum kit.  Perfect?  Not close, but the Josephson wouldn't be the problem.  Think about the primary drum kit signal:  snare, hihat, kick.  The C42 up top + SM57 on the kick can get all that.  Get SOME version of truth out of a cheap mic over the floor tom, pan that and the C42 left/right, and for $600 and change you'd have a helluva versatile mic setup.

I'll be interested to hear what @Paul Wesley has to say, he has a wonderful mic locker and might know some hidden gems.  I am sure there are some Rode or others other there that might be 90% there for 50% of the cost.

Edited by jimmyjazz
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Until you really get the hang of things, and maybe even after, you will never go wrong with Shure 57s and/or 58s, they're cheap and great. I highly recommend them as "starter" mics, not starter because they're inferior quality but rather because they're cheap and very, very good. From there it's just a matter of nuance, especially if your setups get a little more complex. They give you a great baseline to work from and often hard to improve on.

I like the way my vocals come out so much, I haven't even opened my Rode yet, but I will soon.

The only other mics I have are a pair of Electro Voice RE16s, but I sort of inherited them. At $330 a pop I would not have bought them myself. They're really good for lower volume things like acoustic guitars and nuances on drums as well of course for vocals.

other than that I don't have any real specialty mics and probably will never get to the level that I feel like I need them.

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1 minute ago, phdhorn said:

Until you really get the hang of things, and maybe even after, you will never go wrong with Shure 57s and/or 58s, they're cheap and great. I highly recommend them as "starter" mics, not starter because they're inferior quality but rather because they're cheap and very, very good.

If I'm remembering correctly, Mick Jagger has recorded many lead vocals on an SM57.  It's kinda honky, but . . . well, that's appropriate, right?

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Mick Jagger could probably record into Mr microphone or a tin can with string and it would still win a grammy. Nobody is like that guy,lol.

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1 hour ago, AnotherUTFan said:

I've ordered a Shure PGA mic kit that include a 52 for the kick, a 57 for the snare, and a pair of 181s for overhead. That kit set me back $246.

AUTF, I didn't know such a mic kit existed, but I like this decision.

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1 hour ago, jimmyjazz said:

I got seduced by the brand "Neumann" (which is of course legendary) and bought a TLM103 some 25 years ago.  I battled that fucking thing for 5 years before finally figuring out it sucked.  

 

Agree with all of jj's thoughts on this post, but I'm quoting this because I did EXACTLY the same thing.  I got the Neumann home and felt like I had joined the big-boy recording club, and was pretty disappointed by the mic in all kinds of applications (vocals, acoustic guitars, piano), and finally sold the fucking thing years later.

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3 hours ago, AnotherUTFan said:

I also have a handful of mics including a Shure 57 and a Sennheiser e906 that I've long used to mic my guitar amps.

So, assuming you've got those dynamics plus the Shure drum mics, here are my two budget-conscious recommendations:

1)  You're gonna want something for vocals.  Like I said on the other thread, I'd get an RE20.  It's just not even fair that they only cost $350 or so.  You could put it in front of the kick drum on an aggressive rock song, and then pick it up and put it on a stand and sing a whispered, intimate, soulful lead vocal into it, and it can sound GREAT on both. 

2)  At some point, it would be nice to have a ribbon in your locker.  I mean, if you're sending aggressive rock guitars to digital converters, ribbons do something to that signal that you want... sort of rounds it off in a way that keeps the aggression but loses the unpleasant harshness.  Ribbon mics were mostly a historic footnote until recording mediums went from tape to digital, and shortly after that, the Royer 121 ribbon mic became a worldwide studio standard for electric guitars.  Royer now makes a model called R-10 for $500 that to my ears sounds identical to the more-expensive 121. 

There are ribbon mics now for every budget.  Cascade Fatheads are pretty cheap and have become popular (I've never used them).  There's a Nashville-based mic maker called Stager who is still kind of a new company, but I've heard rave reviews about Stager mics from engineers who know their shit.  They also make a model for around $500.

 

Just to back up a bit and explain those two choices, here's why:

You can use your home rig to record your demos, work out parts, play around with instrumentation and arrangements, etc.  When you're ready, book a studio, hire a great engineer, and cut your tracks.  You can rent as big a room as you need... one with a grand piano, a B3... whatever backline you specifically need.  Then take those tracks home again (this is where the RE20 and the ribbon come in) and do your guitar solos, overdubs, harmony vocals, etc.   Maybe hire that same engineer to come to your house for half a day and give you advice on guitars and vocals.  Then you're off the clock.

If you're doing a lot of acoustic instruments, I agree with jj that a small diaphragm condenser like Josephson would be great. 

Edited by Paul Wesley
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Thanks to you guys, I canceled the Rode condenser and ordered the EV RE20 in its place. Im not in serious need right now, but ill keep an eye our for a deal on one of the ribbon mics recommended above.

Shouda started here in then1st place. What was I thinking? Always such a wealth of knowledge here on SH. Thanks.

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I'm not in recording mode, but I have been working on fixing up a 12 x 24 metal room that's attached to a big car port. It has a concrete slab floor. I had it insulated with spray foam, which is great for keeping it cozy and sealed up. I'm trying to decide what to do with the walls over the foam stuff and hoping to find a reasonably priced option for knocking down the echo and reverb, which is pretty heavy in there right now. Gonna put in some vinyl plank flooring next, and throw some rugs on it. Then I'll get to the walls, maybe the ceiling. I know there are a lot of options for isolating small spaces for sound recording, but I would like to start with a much deader room. Eventually there could be some small scale jamming and potentially smaller scale recording, among other things.

I really thought the foam insulation would cut down a lot on the reverby effect, but it seems like it's even worse, but pretty close. Probably fun for an acoustic or two, but nothing loud and electrified.

Edited by DougO

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I could post this in about four different threads but I figured I'd put it here. Just got this baby shipped to me and got it into studio shape. Just a little demo, even though it's a little rough around the edges you get the idea. This is a 1958 Hammond C-3 with a Leslie 122.The deal I got on this was incredible and the organ is in great shape.

In case you don't know, a C-3 and a B-3 are the exact same organ hardware, they just sit in different looking wooden frames.. C-3's are used a lot in studios since they're slightly heavier (by 25 lbs.) piece of furniture than the B-3 but they're exactly the same in everything otherwise.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pANTtbmWIT0EwqYtPc_2UYOvbOpUYOi4/view?usp=drivesdk

Edited by phdhorn
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Man, I love the sound of a B3. That sounds fantastic phd, congrats.

There's a bar here in San Francisco that has a B3 built into the bar and they get some of the most talented players in the city to sit behind it 5 or 6 nights a week; sometimes solo and sometimes with some kind of accompaniment. Right down the block from me too. Can't wait till they let us start congregating in there again.

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That EV RE20 is an incredible microphone, though prices on them are a little higher that when y'all last looked. I know very little about mics, but this sounds way better than anything else I have. Otherwise I've been playing around with how to use this mixer now having several mics connected. I even managed to record a couple songs we are developing to my phone from it the other night.

Now I'm ready to order a computer for recording. I have ProTools First; years ago i played around with ProTools LE and GarageBand, but Im definitely in for some learning. Im deciding between an iMac or a MacBook Pro. Both come with the option to have Logic Pro X pre-installed when I order. Is that something I'm going to want or need?

 

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Ths for the comment above, yeah it's a blast to have that thing.  The organ was my first instrument when I was 4, so it's like coming back to my first love (I also have a smaller M-3 but that's here for sentimental reasons, the one I got at that early age, I had it restored but really aren't using it in the studio).  Lots of smiles when spinning that Leslie from slow to fast!

As far as computers and software, man is that a can of worms.  The bottom line is that most of the leading recording software (DAW's or Digital Audio Workstations) are much the same.  It all comes down to preference really by now, the technology has gone so fast and has gotten so good.

Pro Tools is can't miss - still the most-used DAW and if you plan on networking or doing projects with other studios ever, it's a good choice, as it's so ubiquitous.  It's a little "tech" as in lots of little gadgets and buttons and all that, but don't be put off by anyone who says there's lots to learn.  Really they all do the same basic things.  Pro Tools' effects (onboard, not having to buy separately) are very good.

Now, onto what I use - I do my recording on an iMac and I love it (and I'm a PC/Windows guy on my "business desk").  Logic Pro is the "big brother" of GarageBand.  I will tell you that with all of the might and development of Apple behind it, these two apps have gotten awesome.  IMHO they have come further than any other software out there, an I LOVE using them.  They have simple, easy to use interfaces and their effects, and ESPECIALLY their onboard sounds, and ESPECIALLY drums, are FANTASTIC!  Many people are used to buying "drum packs", external sounds for upwards of $100 or much more.  With GarageBand and Logic Pro, you don't need ANYTHING.  They have so many great sounds it's amazing.  I also find that for me, the recording comes in much stronger and fuller with Logic Pro/GB.  Don't ask me why, they just do.  I LOVE these two DAW's, now my favorite!

You say you've used GarageBand before, so you're probably familiar with it.  But just to emphasize, if you haven't used it in 5-6 years it's gotten WAY more refined and powerful.  Don't let anyone tell you it's a "toy" or "kiddie" version of a "serious: DAW. It's not, and it's on par in many ways to the for-cost DAWs.

The only downside is of course these two are Apple-only products; they won't go on PC's or any other OS.  And Apple sure isn't about to develop for those platforms.  But if you have  a Mac, GET IT and try it.  By FAR now my favorite.

I've written enough here but I'll say just to be competent in another DAW, my 2nd choice is Studio One by ProSonus.  Its a little more "techie" than the Apple DAW's but has some cool features I like.  It's also sort of the newest DAW of the big ones, and has grown itself by leaps and bounds of getting better and getting out the "klunky or bad" stuff.  I'll explain in more detail later why I like Studio One.

But again, pick 1 or 2 and go with it, and don't worry you "chose the wrong one."  You won't.  Maybe in time you'll find one you like better, but Pro Tools, the Apple stuff, and Studio One are all great places to go.

Remember you can try most of these products for free (either limited time version or a scaled-down permanently free version).  So you can get a good idea of the feel of the thing before committing to buying.  

More on mics later maybe.  Hope this helps.

Edited by phdhorn
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