Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

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guitargyro
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Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by guitargyro » Tue Jan 21, 2020 5:28 pm

Hello. A bit of background. I spent a good amount of time on this forum about 15 years ago when I got my first real home studio setup: iMac, Logic Pro, Apogee Ensemble (Firewire), Chandler Germ Pre, AEA TRP, 414, Royer 121, decent SDC mics, Mackie Monitors (not great). I never got around to getting a good EQ.

In some ways not much has changed. This stuff has served me well. I haven’t bought ANYTHING for my studio since about 2010. Recorded a few albums, etc. Though I sadly sold my Distressor after having not touched it for a while.

Since then I’ve collected pretty much all my dream guitars and a decent collection of synths: Moog Sub37, Prophet Rev 2, 2 Mother 32s, 2 DFAMs, as well as an Elektron Octatrack and Digitakt.

But I’ve decided I’m ready to upgrade my setup a bit. I have a budget of about about $10-15K. $4k of that I just put down on a Baldwin upright.

In the past year I’ve pretty much switched over to a UA Apollo Twin that I’ve been using for most of my tracking and I’m about $1000 in worth of plugins. I’ve also got a new iMac and MacBook Pro.

I’m definitely looking to retire the trusty Ensemble even though I still think it sounds decent. But I find it just doesn’t perform that well with all the new Apple upgrades etc., plus I think Id like to switch to a platform that incorporates the UA plugins more easily (Luna perhaps). So I’m leaning towards one of the Apollo 8 input models, though is that overkill for my needs?

I probably won’t be doing much live tracking other than guitars, bass, and vocals. My music is largely synth, drum machine based, with a decent amount of acoustic and electric guitars. I’ve also been thinking of making the switch to Ableton.

I do have the Twin already...but my plan is to use that as my laptop companion or when I want to record the piano downstairs from my studio room.

I’m definitely looking for do-it-all EQ with some character. Thinking about possible a 500 lunchbox with an API 550, and/or a Pultec. What outboard EQs do you like with synths?

I’m leaning towards buying my second Distressor. Though I haven’t stayed current as to what is good out there these days. Are the stereo Elysia 500 series Compressors well regarded?

I should also say, though I’m open to using plugins, I’m looking to buy at least one EQ, and one comp for now. So those should ideally have character, but still function surgically if need be.

I could see myself getting one great EQ, great comp, Apollo, and maybe my first decent pair of monitors for about $10k.

Or possibly I forgo the Apollo for now, stick with the Twin and buy a very nice vocal mic?

Also, I don’t know anything about monitors. I have a pair of Mackie monitors that I’ve had for almost 20 years. To me they sound ok. But I think it’s time for something decent. Again, I know nothing.

Sound wise, I’m obsessed with Thom York’s solo records if that helps. Thoughts?

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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by Nick Sevilla » Wed Jan 22, 2020 8:37 am

NEVE.

Try to buy one pair of decent Neve mic preamps / EQs, (see Heritage Audio / BAE erc. for new less expensive clones).

Don't bother with the AMS Neve 500 series stuff, they suck ass.

The good stuff is 19" rackmount.See the brands above for super nice clones for less money.

Radiohead loves Neve stuff for recording. They also recorded their biggest album at Ocean Way LA, which had a
one off custom console called "The Bat", and no one has anything like it commercially available, so don't even bother
to look. So go with the Neve stuff.

This should set you back 3-4K.

Monitor wise, I personally love the JBL powered speaker series, their 8" LSR308 mkii are great. For small monitors, get some new Auratone self powered cubes. You should not need anything more after those two sets.

Good luck!!!
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by Snarl 12/8 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 4:58 pm

I'm going to do my broken record routine and say "room treatment and monitors". It's not sexy (to most people) but much less than $10k will get you some great speakers in a treated space. How else will you judge if your other purchases are moving you in the right direction sonically, or not?
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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by joninc » Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:56 pm

This is a tough question to answer... to know how to best help it may be helpful for you answer this question:

What are you struggling with the most in your work? Mixes that translate well? Capturing rich tones?

I have a bunch of different outboard eqs and I like them all on different things and none are a one trick pony that will do it all and be surgical and vibey...

Germanium tonecontrol is amazing for thickening and tone shaping. really very radical and powerful.
Harrison 32 is smooth and great on vocals.
Api 550b is great on drums - tight and aggressive sounding.
Capi BT50 has more vibe and sounds less hard and thicker than the 550b to my ears.
Purple ODDs are phat and smooth.

I agree having at least 1 high end channel strip (or stereo if you do lots of stereo tracking and can afford it) is great - an awesome pre amp, outboard compressor and eq.

I'd actually recommend checking out the Louder Than Liftoff Silver Bullet - it's an amazing piece that is great as a colouring box for mixes, any tracks, and a stereo preamp to boot with neve and api style settings. I use this ALL THE TIME. I run every mix through it and track through it a lot as well. Onboard eq is excellent for sweeting broad strokes - opening up the top end a little or adding some weight down low. (BTW i owned the Warm Pultecs and sold those after getting the Silver Bullet - they are ok, not amazing. Probably worth buying with some mods - I think zen pro audio does this)

That paired with a great compressor (check out UBK fatso - awesome on synth - or BG1 by Highland Dynamics - incredible for adding richness and smoothing things out)

But - like Snarl said, if your room doesn't sound good and is making it hard to capture good sounds and/or make good decisions in... it's worthy of treating. Likewise, your monitors need to tell you the straight goods and help you make good choices so if those aren't in order - they are really important. Especially if you mix your own stuff.

If you're in the market for a high end mic - check out the Soyuz 17 - Nigel Godrich is a big fan and it's a very sweet mic.
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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by joninc » Thu Jan 23, 2020 12:27 pm

Nick Sevilla wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 8:37 am
Radiohead loves Neve stuff for recording. They also recorded their biggest album at Ocean Way LA,
side bar... You consider HAIL TO THE THIEF their biggest album? Bigger than OK COMPUTER? KID A or IN RAINBOWS?
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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu Jan 23, 2020 3:50 pm

joninc wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 12:27 pm
Nick Sevilla wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 8:37 am
Radiohead loves Neve stuff for recording. They also recorded their biggest album at Ocean Way LA,
side bar... You consider HAIL TO THE THIEF their biggest album? Bigger than OK COMPUTER? KID A or IN RAINBOWS?
I love all their work... hard to compare each.
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by joninc » Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:12 pm

you referred to it as their most successful?
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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by vvv » Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:29 pm

joninc wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:56 pm
I'd actually recommend checking out the Louder Than Liftoff Silver Bullet - it's an amazing piece that is great as a colouring box for mixes, any tracks, and a stereo preamp to boot with neve and api style settings. I use this ALL THE TIME. I run every mix through it and track through it a lot as well. Onboard eq is excellent for sweeting broad strokes - opening up the top end a little or adding some weight down low.
A friend was just today reco'ing to me the Chroma +.
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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by Magnetic Services » Fri Jan 24, 2020 10:41 am

guitargyro wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 5:28 pm
I haven’t bought ANYTHING for my studio since about 2010.
Whoa. Congratulations! :worthy:

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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by joninc » Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:49 pm

vvv wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:29 pm
A friend was just today reco'ing to me the Chroma +.

I have a Chroma 500 and its pretty great. I use the Royal Blue (Neve) transformer in it and the tone shaping options it has on board are useful and can go from clean to full on blistering fuzz. I love this on guitars but it's impressive on vocals and drums as well. Pretty fun and I also use this in Line Mode in my mixing - primarily as a bass channel for adding weight and density. Hoping to pick up a MassDriver (API) module for it this year.
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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by Recycled_Brains » Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:56 pm

joninc wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:49 pm
vvv wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:29 pm
A friend was just today reco'ing to me the Chroma +.

I have a Chroma 500 and its pretty great. I use the Royal Blue (Neve) transformer in it and the tone shaping options it has on board are useful and can go from clean to full on blistering fuzz. I love this on guitars but it's impressive on vocals and drums as well. Pretty fun and I also use this in Line Mode in my mixing - primarily as a bass channel for adding weight and density. Hoping to pick up a MassDriver (API) module for it this year.

Haven't used Chroma, but the Silver Bullet is for real. I had one on loan for a couple projects. I was skeptical, but it's sick. I have been able to ballpark it with my Lola's (with the BA512 DOA's) and some Fabfilter EQ ITB, but if you can swing it, you won't regret it.

I own 2 Mr. Focus Stage II modules. Both with the Royal Blue option. Love them. Just picked up a Mr. Focus Comp (1176 version) and so far so good. It's very new though. I will say, that the Mass Drivr was instant gratification on a bass track. Just pulled the mids forward enough to give it more perceived loudness. I think that company is really on to something.
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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Jan 27, 2020 3:32 am

joninc wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:12 pm
you referred to it as their most successful?
Maybe by now it isn't... I don't really follow sales...
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by guitargyro » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:07 am

Thanks for all the good replies. I took my time and I think I did alright.

Did some research. And by some, I basically haven’t done anything other than read gear forums and online reviews, watch YouTube demos, etc for the last month. Ugh.

Got a pair of Dynaudio LYD8 monitors. Still getting used to the sound. But they definitely are more fun than the Mackies. Way more. Got a GREAT deal on an acquaintance’s barely used Apollo X8.

I’ve got a pair of CAPI VP28s on the way. I’ve heard nothing but good things. And the price is right (even for ones already soldered, still half of what the APIs would cost me. Very excited about these.

8 slot API Lunchbox and first up is the Kush Electra. I have to say...I’m very impressed. Especially for the price. I was VERY close to throwing down on a pair of 550bs or 1073 EQs and I chickened out at the last minute. Figured I’d try a dark horse. Went with the Kush after hearing one intriguing demo on YouTube, and I’m glad I did! I was worried I was hearing something weird, since not many people talk about them, but the Electra KILLS on electric guitar. I’m already getting some of the best guitar tones I’ve ever had combined with my of Germ Pre. Can’t wait to try it on some other things. I may have to grab a second one for stereo apps.

Also got a A Designs 2 channel REDDI. I figure this will be great for bass, as well as stereo synths, drum machines, etc. Great company, and great service dealing with them.

Went with a pair of Distressors EL8xs again. I almost went with a high end tube comp: CL1B, STA, and even considered the LA-2A a bit (love the bass tones on all of them!). But the price was right, and they do so much. Though I’m not crazy about them on vocals yet. May have to try the Retro Doublewide soonish and see if that gets me there.

What else...Telefunken TF-39. Haven’t plugged it in yet. But I’m excited.

2 TRS patchbays...1 XLR. Haven’t patched it all up yet, but I know this is going to change my life.

Anyone know if the Ultimate Support acoustic treatment stuff is any good? I may be able to get a deal on some.

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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by guitargyro » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:18 am

What’s the issue with the Neve 1073 500 stuff? Almost thought about grabbing one as a change of flavor to the CAPIs I’ve got coming...

Almost went with 2 Tonelux EQ5Ps for stereo EQs. But I couldn’t find enough talk about them anywhere. The demos I listened to sounded good. Anyone have any opinions on them, or their 500 series stuff in general?

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Re: Time for some home studio upgrades...help me spend $10K

Post by digitaldrummer » Tue Feb 18, 2020 6:39 am

if you want a really good all around 500 pre I'd recommend the A-Designs P1 (like the pacifica but in a 500 module - styled after the Quad 8 ). the CAPI are again good for that "API" sound, or look for some "Old School Audio" pres (but many are older and need fixin now). The Hairball Audio Copper is great for a thick sound. I also have a Hairball "gold" that I really like (especially on snare). And if you really want Neve style, try the Avedis MA5. That has always been my go to Kick pre and nothing else that I've tried is even close when it comes to the low end it captures.
Last edited by digitaldrummer on Wed Feb 19, 2020 6:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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