Studios without any type of "board" at all

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Mradyfist
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Studios without any type of "board" at all

Post by Mradyfist » Fri Jan 11, 2008 8:32 am

I'm hoping to get a general impression of how other studios work in this situation.

My studio partner and I both agreed, while we were laying out the basics of our studio, that ultimately we didn't want a board at all. I don't just mean no analog board, but no control surface either, at least not one as the center of focus. We both started on computer-based recording, and while we've had experience using nice analog desks we never preferred it.

Are there a lot of other people out there who are doing studios without an end goal of some type of board? If so, what kind of issues do you run into? One thing that's always concerned me is how the studio looks to clients; for a while we were sharing our space with another engineer with his own rig. He had a Control 24 hooked up to a Digi001 for a while, and while it was obvious to us that the Control 24 wasn't important to audio quality every time we showed our studio off, they'd notice the board and get all excited over it. He told us that a while ago he had the choice of either going to PT HD or getting the Control 24, and while he knew that the Control 24 was just a gigantic glorified mouse, he got it because he'd get way more clients with it.

Does anybody have some good ideas for impressing clients without a whole bunch of complicated buttons and faders?

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Post by @?,*???&? » Fri Jan 11, 2008 8:51 am

Yup. This essentially describes Third Monk. No patchbay either.

www.thirdmonkrecords.com

And the studio is thriving.

Oh yeah, to answer your last question- simply do good work.

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Post by CurtZHP » Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:28 am

I've heard of a few guys going boardless. I've been kicking around the idea of doing that with my own room someday. You do what works for you and gives you the results you want.
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Post by chris harris » Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:34 am

@?,*???&? wrote:Oh yeah, to answer your last question- simply do good work.
this might be your best response ever. :^:

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calaverasgrandes
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Post by calaverasgrandes » Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:38 am

I was a long time mixing board holdout. I even went so far as to run everything back out on individual channels and mix it on a board, then bringing it back into the box on 2 tracks. I would blather on about how the audio has to live on a wire for it to be real audio etc. Then I tried mixing the same project on the mixer and "in the box". The difference in background noise was readily apparent and what I had already expected. The solidity of the soundstage and lack of phase smear was what I wasnt prepared for.
I limped along using a mixer to monitor inputs and outputs. I justified my need for a mixer saying I had to have a fader to grab in case there was feedback or a sudden computer spaz-out.
Then on a whim I pulled the mixer out of the signal path and wired the monitors directly to my audio interface. Wow. I can actually hear where I am screwing up now. I can actually hear the reverb now.
I think DAW audio quality has come up a lot. Sonar 7 is pretty fantastic. With the 64 bit engine on its pretty much an ideal medium. (thats more bits than PT btw)
I still use a control surface though. Not for automation. I do that by mouse so I can exactly push plosives down or solos up.
I use it to get balances. I also use a couple patchbays so I can have everything patched all the time, in a general fashion after what my signal chain is. I also like the patchbay thing because it allows me to jump in and do fun stuff like route a synth through my Deucetone Rat before it hits the DAW.

As far as clients go, with the money saved on a mixer, do some interior design. Get some LV track lights. Hit up Ikea. My old studio I just painted the whole place red with black trim and put mirrors in strategic places to give that "bar" vibe. For certain cleintele it was magic. For the not so metal it was like the 7th circle of hell.
??????? wrote: "everything sounds best right before it blows up."

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Post by lotusstudio » Fri Jan 11, 2008 10:02 am

Gosh, I wish someone could convince me I need a nice board. It's certainly a good feeling presiding over a mixing board. But I currently don't have one and it's sort of by chioce.

Here are some pros and cons in my opinion - with the caveat that I don't have much experience with boards except for running live sound.

Reasons to have a board: I would want a board if it improved the quality of my sound (high quality preamps, analog summing (a myth?), etc.). With a board, one can manipulate more than one parameter at a time with both hands and can move very quickly in making adjustments while mixing.

Reasons not to care: I record and mix in pro tools with 2 computer monitors, a PT keyboard and a Logitech MX Laser mouse. I feel that I can do everything I need to do this way and I enjoy it. To me, a control surface would probably just be "eye candy".

More specifically, I don't even know how I would incorporate a real nice analog board into my system. I use a BLA modified Digi 002 and always record at 88k so I can only record 8 tracks at once and can only send 8 outputs to a board at a time for mixing, but in-the-box I can mix up to 32 tracks. How do other people deal with this?

Part of me would like a board because mixing with a mouse is sometimes like mixing with tweezers, but I get the job done and generally like it that way.

I tried a Frontier Designs Alphatrack (one fader control surface), but returned it to the store because I found it distracting. Again, having an analog board would be great if it would, by nature, improve my sound. Any thoughts?
You just got to keep puttin' the good stuff out there

http://www.myspace.com/jimlotusstudio

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calaverasgrandes
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Post by calaverasgrandes » Fri Jan 11, 2008 10:19 am

I sometimes go for days without using my control surface. But it really helps to get balances. Sometimes it just is better to close the fucking eyes and just listen. Turn knobs and push faders until its in the ball park.
Unfortunately setting up control surfaces is pretty annoying in a lot of DAW environments.
??????? wrote: "everything sounds best right before it blows up."

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Post by chris harris » Fri Jan 11, 2008 10:45 am

have any of you guys actually used a GOOD analog console being fed by some GOOD DA? I don't personally know anyone who has and has then decided to use ITB for any reason other than convenience.... certainly not for sound quality.

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Post by Kindly Killer » Fri Jan 11, 2008 11:34 am

A great board has a different sound - so fresh and so clean (clean)...

But they cost as much as my little crackerbox house. Not that I'm in the market - I'm a hobbyist recorder, pro player tho.

I can hear the difference between my M-Box setup and an expensive studio, even with the exact same session file. I'm told it's the console.

There is no sense in buying a pretty good board IMO. A great console with character will help, but not a mediocre mixer.

Do I get the correct sense of how you work - you basically mix with the pencil tool? If that is the case I can tell you that using a drawing tablet helps me a lot. I have a very old Wacom Graphire tablet left over from my passing interest in animation in the late 1990's. I had a 9x12 Intuos, too, but it made sense to convert that back into cash. The cheap little Graphire is fine for things that don't have to be on to the pixel. I find that with a pen, things go exactly where you want them, and with a mouse it takes more concentration and more do-overs.

And like others have said, a very simple control surface is helpful. I use the knobs and shuttle controls on my Axiom 25 keyboard and I have decided that is good enough for me. It makes it fast and easy to get levels while tracking, and a starting point while mixing. I looked at touch fader type surfaces last month and finally decided that it would just be one extra step before busting out the pencil tool.

Until it makes sense to buy an SSL, Trident, etc for my rickety little home studio, I'm going to stick with the Axiom keyboard and my Graphire tablet.

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Post by Jeff White » Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:04 pm

At this point in the game I would much rather finally buy a house and construct a treated studio space inside of it than even consider needing a mixing console. I'm perfectly happy using a mouse these days, and I don't see a board or control surface at all in my future.

However, never say never.

Jeff
I record, mix, and master in my Philly-based home studio, the Spacement. https://linktr.ee/ipressrecord

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Post by Mradyfist » Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:09 pm

Sure I've used good boards. I've got this Behringer MX3242, and I used this SWEET Mackie 24:8 at my church...

Just kidding.

I went to school at McNally-Smith here in the Twin Cities. We had an SSL in studio 1, and a Trident in studio 2. Both wonderful, but I think the best work I ever did there was in studio 10 on the Pro-Tools/Control 24 rig. Personally, I feel like my workflow is way better without a board, and for me workflow trumps everything. When I've got a desk full of faders in front of me, I spend way too much time constantly tweaking things that don't need to be tweaked. Also, if this makes sense to anybody else, it's easier to be alright with levels that don't "look" right when you're watching a screen with the waveforms on it versus a meter bridge or a row of faders. If you tracked with good levels, the waveforms all look good and hot, and you don't feel as bad about having a particular fader down to -40db. Obviously not something that's critical, but for me I like it.

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Post by chris harris » Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:31 pm

Mradyfist wrote:If you tracked with good levels, the waveforms all look good and hot, and you don't feel as bad about having a particular fader down to -40db.
If having faders down at -40db is common for you, then you're NOT tracking with "good" levels.

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Post by calaverasgrandes » Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:41 pm

exactly. A good mixer does sound better than an ITB rig. But its locked into the Neve/SSL/PM1000/Soundcraft 200b etc sound. There is also the apsect of space. Studios seem to be getting smaller. Mixers take up assloads of space! And then there is clarity. I am POSITIVE that I get a much clearer sound going straight from my interface to the monitors. It's simple physics. Even with a Neve or an SSL in there, it couldnt make the signal more accurate. Just by the inclusion of more components in the signal chain I'd be degrading my signal. Even if it is in a euphonic way.
In my price range(and quite a few others I would assume) I can only afford lackluster mixers. Mackie 1604's, PM1000's and Soundcraft 200b's. While I can get a mix out of any one of those. I can get a superior mix ITB. I cant believe I just said that! A few years ago I was firmly in the other camp. But try mixing the same project both ways. The quality of DAWs has really come up.
I think it also bears mentioning that this all depends on having at least a couple really good outboard pres, comps etc. This is what mixers really excel at. when you get a 4 piece band in there, all playing at the same time. The workflow of setting up 16 or 20 inputs on a mixer (with cue mixes!) is superior to trying to do the same on a ITB rig. I mean, I couldnt imagine setting up gain that way! I dont, I fiddle with a preamps gain knob to get it to hit the proper level. Leaving all my interfaces inputs at unity. Thats part of my strategy for retaining clarity in source material. I try to avoid making gain changes in the box if I can help it. I automate mutes and some fades but generally it comes out as it goes in.
If I went back to a full size studio I'd just buy a bunch of 500 series pres from different companies, and get a big old Mackie control surface.
I dont think many clients know the difference between a mixer with automation and a DAW + preamps with a control surface.
??????? wrote: "everything sounds best right before it blows up."

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Post by Mradyfist » Fri Jan 11, 2008 1:18 pm

I'm extremely adept with a mouse. I've been using computers my whole life, my day job is entirely on computers (IT), and I'm an avid computer gamer. I'm always amazed at how many engineers will say that using a mouse is unpleasant, when they've got a 2-button Dell ball mouse from 1992 that hasn't ever been cleaned, with all the settings completely wrong. If I said that I hated working with a board because it's so slow and clunky, and I was using a board with half the fader caps missing and faders that are all filthy on the inside, you'd think I was an idiot.

Kindly, are you asking if I write automation with the pencil tool? If so, then yes. I always found it to be much less stressful; I drop my points in where I know I want automation changes, adjust them, and sit back and take a listen. If something's wrong, I tweak it and play back again. I find it relaxing because you never worry about making a mistake, and you can listen to the mix as if you were the audience instead of feeling like you're trying to perform it. Not for everybody, sure, but I like it.

Anyway, I'm not really talking about studios where you just can't afford a board yet. I'm interested in hearing about people who are specifically never [i]planning[/i] on getting one, because they don't like the workflow.

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Post by Mradyfist » Fri Jan 11, 2008 1:21 pm

subatomic pieces wrote:
Mradyfist wrote:If you tracked with good levels, the waveforms all look good and hot, and you don't feel as bad about having a particular fader down to -40db.
If having faders down at -40db is common for you, then you're NOT tracking with "good" levels.
Um, there are plenty of times when something should be faint in the mix. I'd still track it so it was peaking appropriately on my interface meters, and then I'd bring down the fader. Why throw away resolution if you don't have to?

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