Building a mobile rig

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alexevansohio
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Post by alexevansohio » Sun May 05, 2013 12:00 pm

wren wrote:After seeing countless computers go down for no reason just before or in the middle of tracking live shows, I'm never using a computer for location recording without a 100% redundant backup again. I heartily endorse the HD24/HD24XR idea - however, like you said, it's definitely better for tracking a live show than doing overdubs/multiple takes/etc.

Maybe look into the new Allen & Heath ICE 16 once it comes out? I can't speak to its sound quality, obviously, but if your computer totally shits the bed at an inopportune time you wouldn't be completely hamstrung if that was your interface. And it would be a good backup system if you do end up tracking some live shows

And I'd definitely recommend a nice old analog board over a Studiolive - the SL's functionality is great for live stuff once you get the hang of their workflow, but I've never been a huge fan of their recorded output. I've got an Allen & Heath Scepter rack I use for location stuff and I really like it - something like that, or an old Soundcraft, is a good bet. Hell, I've made some pretty nice recordings using nothing but A&H ZED board preamps.

Oh, and buy a decent UPS. It just needs to be enough to save and shut down in case of catastrophic failure or a foot pulling a power cord out of the wall.
Thanks for the recommendation on the ICE-16- the current version doesn't totally fit what I'm looking for (all unbalanced I/O and nearly zero metering), but there seems to be some discussion of Allen & Heath potentially releasing an updated version more geared towards the studio market with balanced I/O on DB25 connections and improved metering. Depending on how the converters sound, that could be a really excellent option for getting 16 I/O in a single rackspace.

I'm still going back and forth on whether or not to go the mixing board route. I really don't know that I have the space unless I can find something rackmount, and there seem to be basically no 16 channel 8 bus rackmount consoles around for any kind of decent price. Plus I feel like I may be better off on a mic preamp front buying 2 SCA chassises full of T15s, as that would work out to around $2500 if I build them myself. It wouldn't give me the EQ, bussing, and summing options of a mixer, but I feel like the pres may sound a lot better and it would potentially be more portable.

alexevansohio
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Post by alexevansohio » Sun May 05, 2013 10:39 pm

I think, based on a lot of reading this evening and some consideration of what I want to get out of this rig, that I'll stick to the rackmount preamp idea and hold off on a console till I have a more permanent space to work in. It seems like too much hassle to cart around a console, and there's pretty much no chance that I could keep that set up in my apartment (its tiny and I share it), so I probably wouldn't be able to mix on it for the most part.

So at this point I'm planning on picking up 8 channels of Seventh Circle Audio pres (probably 4 T15s, 2 N72s, an A12, and a J99), a Furman HDS-6 and a couple remotes for headphone distribution, a decent snake, a few good compressors (thinking at this point an RNC & RNLA and maybe a dbx 160x or two), and a TT patchbay + cabling.

Since I'm buying all of this gear piece by piece as I have the money, I'm probably going to roll with just my 003 for a month or two at least, but I'd really like to upgrade to at least 8 channels of 'great' conversion. As has been discussed, there doesn't seem to be anything ideal price/features-wise around right now (16 channels, Firewire/USB, balanced I/O, good conversion, probably under $1500), and I don't really want to compromise quality just to have the extra channels there. Because of this, I'm thinking of selling the 003 and picking up a Rosetta 800 + Firewire card. I've been looking through the gear lists at many of my favorite studios (Tiny Telephone in SF, Type Foundry in Portland, and a few other smaller places around the country), and they all seem to be using Rosetta 800s. The converter seems to sell for around $1200 or so on Ebay, plus $300 or so for a used FW card would put me at $1500 for a converter that is world class. Is this a bad choice?

Clearly this is moving in a bit of a different direction, but it seems to be more of a quality over quantity type idea (not to say that a HD24XR + Soundcraft Console isn't quality- its just much more of a bulky live setup than I'd like to go for).

Any opinions?

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Post by Jim Williams » Mon May 06, 2013 8:28 am

The HD24XR is ideal in a fixed studio/overdub enviroment. It also does well live. Think of it as a reliable tape recorder that uses a hard drive.

I ran mine against a Radar Nyquist and my HD24XR had better low end depth and clearer top end transient details.

They are not too far apart in design as both used the AKM 5393 ADC chips and Motorola 33078/9 opamps. They are far apart in price, weight and operating noise.

Coming from a 500 lb analog 24 track background getting hauled around, this box fits under my arm and is the same size as my cassette and DAT recorders. Zero failures, can't say that for the old 24 tracker. You only have one chance to screw up a live recording.

12 sized rack? Not here. I use the HD24, the 16 track console (or mic preamps, 8 in one RU), a couple of bar stools and a set of headphones. Everything is set up so I can carry it in, no heavy cases, no casters, no dollies. I like light and easy.
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Post by AndersonSoundRecording » Mon May 06, 2013 9:19 am

Might have missed it, but didn't see two really important things amongst the suggestions here:

1 - transformer-isolated mic splitters. You need these to do live gigs so you can share mic's with the PA. Get the best you can afford - cheap transformers suck. Take the direct side unless the live sound guy throws a hissy fit.

You'll need snakes too - a long one for you and short tails for the PA. If your splitters are your stage box, get fan->fan XLR.

2 - Of mondo importance: a redundant recorder. If you are planning on charging for your services, having a backup recorder is vital. You never want to have to apologize at the end of a gig.

Laptops (even MacBooks) are too finicky to be trusted completely. It only takes one Pro Tools hiccup to ruin your day.

HD24 is a great box, but unfortunately it does not look like Alesis will continue to make and support them. Forget Digi and MOTU - take a look at the RME UFX. It works as a standalone HDD recorder AND functions as an audio interface, so you have a built-in backup for your laptop right in one box. I know it's out of your proposed budget, but it's worth the extra bread.

Forget about lugging around outboard processing and TT patchbays - complete waste of rack space and money unless you are mixing live-to-air (and even then...). Spend your money on a good front end - good mic amps and good converters. Get good clean signal to "tape" and then you can do your processing in a better monitoring environment.

If you are concerned about rack space, invest in decent 8-banger mic amps. DAV and True Precision 8 are good middle-budget solutions for single RU 8-channel boxes; Presonus and Focusrite make cheaper and, perhaps in your situation, more practical boxes. Coupled with a UFX, if you have lightpipe outs on your mic amps (as the Presonus and Focusrite do), you could utilize the full 30 inputs that it offers.

If you want to go higher end on the conversion (makes a bigger difference as you go into higher track counts), grab a used Apogee AD16 (x or not). They can be had for a song nowadays. The sound quality and the soft limit feature make them a no-brainer for location work. The X-version can be used with a firewire card as an interface, however, only if you have some sort of DAC with AES inputs, can you actually monitor what you are doing. Otherwise, you have to take it on faith. I've used mine as interfaces without issue, but I am monitoring another recorder taking their lightpipe feeds in that situation.

16 inputs is rarely enough, but it's good enough to start (even 24 inputs isn't enough half the time). Don't waste your money on cheap stuff: when you spend money, you are investing in yourself: spend it wisely with an eye towards good quality, proven performance, and expanding your capability down the road.
I heard they inserted a Jimmy Hendrix into the chain somewhere before the preamp.

...Anybody know what that preamp was, 'cause I'd also love to get that sound.

- Mike Tate
https://www.facebook.com/AndersonSoundRecording
andersonsoundrecording.com

alexevansohio
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Post by alexevansohio » Mon May 06, 2013 10:20 am

Jim Williams wrote: The HD24XR is ideal in a fixed studio/overdub enviroment. It also does well live. Think of it as a reliable tape recorder that uses a hard drive.

I ran mine against a Radar Nyquist and my HD24XR had better low end depth and clearer top end transient details.

They are not too far apart in design as both used the AKM 5393 ADC chips and Motorola 33078/9 opamps. They are far apart in price, weight and operating noise.

Coming from a 500 lb analog 24 track background getting hauled around, this box fits under my arm and is the same size as my cassette and DAT recorders. Zero failures, can't say that for the old 24 tracker. You only have one chance to screw up a live recording.

12 sized rack? Not here. I use the HD24, the 16 track console (or mic preamps, 8 in one RU), a couple of bar stools and a set of headphones. Everything is set up so I can carry it in, no heavy cases, no casters, no dollies. I like light and easy.
I like the idea of the HD24XR, but it just seems like it may be too much for what I'm going for. Looking around at the mobile rigs that studios have for location recording in a cabin or rented space, I'm seeing a lot of Symphony I/O, Rosetta, Aurora, etc. Simple, compact converters plus a laptop or Mac Pro running ProTools. Either that or a tape machine, but I don't know that I really have the space for that right now.

While a console and HD24XR are perhaps lighter than a 12U rack, having the space to keep the console set up would be near-impossible in my apartment, whereas a rack of pres and converters can simply stay set up in the corner with a long FW cable to my laptop and cables out to my monitors for easy mixing at home.

I think the Alesis could be pretty cool, but I'm really thinking the console route may not be the best way to go at the moment. Plus I kind of like the variety offered by having a rack of a few different kinds of pres, and I'm still like to have some tracking compressor options at hand as well.
AndersonSoundRecording wrote:Might have missed it, but didn't see two really important things amongst the suggestions here:

1 - transformer-isolated mic splitters. You need these to do live gigs so you can share mic's with the PA. Get the best you can afford - cheap transformers suck. Take the direct side unless the live sound guy throws a hissy fit.

You'll need snakes too - a long one for you and short tails for the PA. If your splitters are your stage box, get fan->fan XLR.

2 - Of mondo importance: a redundant recorder. If you are planning on charging for your services, having a backup recorder is vital. You never want to have to apologize at the end of a gig.

Laptops (even MacBooks) are too finicky to be trusted completely. It only takes one Pro Tools hiccup to ruin your day.

HD24 is a great box, but unfortunately it does not look like Alesis will continue to make and support them. Forget Digi and MOTU - take a look at the RME UFX. It works as a standalone HDD recorder AND functions as an audio interface, so you have a built-in backup for your laptop right in one box. I know it's out of your proposed budget, but it's worth the extra bread.

Forget about lugging around outboard processing and TT patchbays - complete waste of rack space and money unless you are mixing live-to-air (and even then...). Spend your money on a good front end - good mic amps and good converters. Get good clean signal to "tape" and then you can do your processing in a better monitoring environment.

If you are concerned about rack space, invest in decent 8-banger mic amps. DAV and True Precision 8 are good middle-budget solutions for single RU 8-channel boxes; Presonus and Focusrite make cheaper and, perhaps in your situation, more practical boxes. Coupled with a UFX, if you have lightpipe outs on your mic amps (as the Presonus and Focusrite do), you could utilize the full 30 inputs that it offers.

If you want to go higher end on the conversion (makes a bigger difference as you go into higher track counts), grab a used Apogee AD16 (x or not). They can be had for a song nowadays. The sound quality and the soft limit feature make them a no-brainer for location work.

16 inputs is rarely enough, but it's good enough to start (even 24 inputs isn't enough half the time). Don't waste your money on cheap stuff: when you spend money, you are investing in yourself: spend it wisely with an eye towards good quality, proven performance, and expanding your capability down the road.
Thanks so much for your reply- I think you may have misunderstood my purpose though. It seems like there are too many terms for location/mobile recording that can all mean different things.

I'm planning on using this setup for tracking full records with bands in houses, rented rooms, and practice spaces. At this point I don't advertise for live concert recording, and though it would be fun to get into, its not at all a priority right now. My main concern is getting 16 great sounding channels into my computer to record. The redundant recorder is cool, but doesn't seem like a necessity for doing a bunch of overdubs and that sort of thing. While 16 inputs may be pretty low for a live recording setup, it should be more than enough for tracking small bands, at least for now.

I'd like to have the patchbays and outboard to give me some variety and allow me to compress on the way in, or mix with some hardware compression.

For reference of what I'm going for, maybe check out the Hangar Studio's 'Remote' system. http://thehangarstudios.net/remote.html ... lex Evans

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Post by AndersonSoundRecording » Mon May 06, 2013 10:56 am

Thanks so much for your reply- I think you may have misunderstood my purpose though...
Yep - my bad.
I'd like to try and stay as close to "high end" as I can with this setup, which is why I'm looking at Apogee Rosettas. They're converters that I see all over the place in nice, fairly high end studios. The Seventh Circle Audio pres also seem to be treated as affordable high end gear. At this point, I'm trying to stick with equipment that I won't outgrow quickly, and that will last for a while. Having made 3 jumps between interfaces in the past year and been disappointed for one reason or another with all 3 (Focusrite Saffire, Profire 2626, and now 003), I'd like to get good tools, purpose built for the job.
Very happy with the UFX here as an interface for Pro Tools for a couple of years - both for on-location sessions and live gigs. In your case it offers something else that may be of great importance: zero latency monitor mixes for the musicians. The TotalMix software is a beast to learn, but once you get your head around it, and learn to use it in conjunction with your recording software, it's pretty ridiculous.

I love Apogees on the front end - Rosetta with X-Firewire card might be just the thing too. I've found Pro Tools to be a little finicky sometimes at the outset when using the AD16 as an interface and a FW HDD daisy chained on my MacBook, but once it gets rolling it does what it's supposed to do. Usually I just use the AD16 as conversion front-end and a digital splitter between redundant recorders (in my case an HD24 or two and/or the UFX). Not as much a concern in your situation.
I'm not meaning to come off as ignoring your advice, so I apologize if I am. I'm just trying to clearly communicate my vision for this setup.

Thanks so much for all your help,

Alex Evans
[/url]
Not at all man. I wouldn't rule out the live thing as an additional source of revenue though. Good luck!
I heard they inserted a Jimmy Hendrix into the chain somewhere before the preamp.

...Anybody know what that preamp was, 'cause I'd also love to get that sound.

- Mike Tate
https://www.facebook.com/AndersonSoundRecording
andersonsoundrecording.com

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Post by Jim Williams » Tue May 07, 2013 8:20 am

If size matters my Soundcraft Delta 16x4x2 console is 2 1/2 feet wide, weighs about 25 lbs. It sits inside a closet when not in use, on end. The HD24 is the size of a cassette deck.

Seems your intended use would benefit from this type of console. It will do the recording thing very well via inserts. It allows full monitoring to studio monitors. It allows 6 headphone mixes for those 'sensitive' musicians. It has EQ, phase reverse, filters, etc. It's a ground compensated design that avoids grounding problems and loops.

It is an all in one problem solver for recording, interface and monitoring, BTW, you can use it at the end to mix too. Beats ITB mixes for depth and width. No PC, no PC hassles, no latency, no PC 'disasters'. Press record and play.

This is stuff you can pick up used for little $. I paid $550 for the Delta console. The HD24 can be had for about $600 if you shop around.

This is a good setup if you like traditional rock band recording. Not so hot if you sample, process, edit or need auto-tune. If you got a tight band that can play together, it's ideal, small and affordable.

Results are usually better than the performances, typical these days...
Jim Williams
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curtiswyant
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Post by curtiswyant » Tue May 07, 2013 2:43 pm

It seems like a laptop would be fine for mobile recording. You don't have the live-or-die aspect of a live recording, and a little downtime probably isn't a big deal.

alexevansohio
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Post by alexevansohio » Tue May 07, 2013 3:10 pm

curtiswyant wrote:It seems like a laptop would be fine for mobile recording. You don't have the live-or-die aspect of a live recording, and a little downtime probably isn't a big deal.
That was my thought as well- especially as most of what I'll be doing is tracking drums separate from guitars, separate from vocals, etc. I'm definitely leaning towards the Apogee Rosetta idea, but I'm still considering the Alesis that everyone's supporting. We shall see. The Apogee just seems like a higher end and more permanent solution, whereas the Alesis is something I'd probably upgrade from.

The Delta is a super interesting option, and fairly portable. I'll definitely look into it!

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Post by AndersonSoundRecording » Tue May 07, 2013 5:52 pm

If you are doing sessions on-location with things like overdubs and punch ins, editing and mixing, as much as I hate laptops, coupled with the right interface, they are definitely the best tool for the job when portability is a factor.

When i do sessions, I'll usually roll a backup of some kind like an HD24, or let the UFX freewheel (or both), but Pro Tools is the primary. If PT farts up a CPU error, I still have the backup(s) going, so the take isn't lost.

Usually it's not much of a problem. It's just when you only have one chance to capture it (as in a live situ), "usually" is not good enough.
I heard they inserted a Jimmy Hendrix into the chain somewhere before the preamp.

...Anybody know what that preamp was, 'cause I'd also love to get that sound.

- Mike Tate
https://www.facebook.com/AndersonSoundRecording
andersonsoundrecording.com

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Post by weatherbox » Wed May 08, 2013 8:49 am

You could grab something to run into the optical input of your 003 if you don't mind stopping at 48k. I used a similar setup for years. Using an RME UFX with a mobile Pro Tools rig now, which is pretty nice. Totalmix software is daunting at first, but works really well. Onboard preamps are totally good, too. For really small location stuff I don't bother bringing external preamps anymore. There've been times where I wished I had four more inputs, but it just means you've got to make choices. Make good choices, and you've got no problems. Dealing with rooms where the main selling point is "well, it's available..." you'll maybe not have the sort of acoustic situation where you want tons of mics up anyways.
If you wanted to take a more split approach - a day or two in a studio, overdubs at home/practice space - might check out the UA Apollo. 8 channels is enough for any reasonable overdub situation, plus you've got UA plugins on hand for home mixing.
As far as compressors go: I hated the RNC. Tried to like it, for months and months. Never made me happier than when I hit "bypass." DBX160, ART Pro-VLA 2, and Symetrix 501 are the three available at sub-$300 compressors I've really liked.
PS: you the same Alex Vans who's friends with Ryan Walker and the Norman Rockwell guys? Stop by the studio sometime if so. Ryan's record should be done this week.

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Post by Spark » Thu May 09, 2013 4:36 pm

My mobile rig includes a Macbook Pro, M-Audio 2626, Digimax LT, Behringer headphone amp, and two Golden Age 73 preamps. For all that it is, I dont feel much need for an upgrade. The only thing Id consider is adding another LT for 24 channel ins...

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