Need a nice front end. Console or no?

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mwerden
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Need a nice front end. Console or no?

Post by mwerden » Sun Mar 16, 2014 3:03 pm

It's time folks, I'm finally getting my own set up together. Specifically I'm looking for some nice mic pres, at least 8 channels. I'm prepared to spend 10-15k but that would have to be on the credit card. It would be way better to stay 10k or under. I'm going to be recording some acoustic music with ribbons, so I'll need at least some channels with enough clean gain to do that sort of thing.

I'm open to individual mic pres or a console, but it's starting to look like a console is most cost effective. I'm starting from scratch essentially, so the monitoring will definitely be useful if I go that route. I've been looking at some Studer broadcast consoles that seem really good - 962, 980. There was a CADAC J type on craigslist briefly that seemed good. That being said, getting some 500 series stuff is also an option.

Anyone have thoughts or opinions? Any smaller consoles I should be aware of other than the Studers? Curious what you all think.
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Post by Recording Engineer » Sun Mar 16, 2014 4:14 pm

I don't know... I'm thinking that unless you find a nice deal on a console in excellent shape, (probably not a Studer broadcast), I'd say stick with outboard. You can go a long way with $10k and under!

Here are a few ideas:
AEA
DaviSound
Millennia Media
API
Vintech
Chandler
Shadow Hills
John Hardy
SE Electronics
The endless options in the 500 Series

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Nick Sevilla
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Sun Mar 16, 2014 6:12 pm

Save some of your money and get this one:

If you still need different "colors" you can get a few outboard or 500 series mic preamps.

http://nicksevilla.com/nicksevilla.com/ ... tos.html#2

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/GL2800-832/

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Post by Recording Engineer » Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:39 pm

Actually, now that I'm thinking more about it, if you're leaning more toward or become set on a console, then I'd find a Soundcraft Delta and have Jim Williams at Audio Upgrades (our friend here on TOMB) mod it all the way!

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Post by Jim Williams » Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:22 am

Don't blow $10k and put it on a credit card. Pay as you go. Debt isn't cool anymore.
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Post by mwerden » Mon Mar 17, 2014 10:13 am

Nick - Do the pres on an Allen+Heath really stack up against other options mentioned? I'd rather get a fewer number of nice channels. Philosophy wise I'd rather have 2 channels of nice stuff that I'd keep forever, I just have some recordings that I need to do that will require more than 2 at a time.

Recording Engineer - I'm not set on a console at all. It's just that it seems to me I can get better mic pres for under 1k/channel than if I went outboard. If you buy a bigger console you can get the per channel price down even farther, but then you have a big console to reckon with and maintain. So I'm trying to reconcile that trade off and it seems like there might be a sweet spot in the small console/side car area.

Jim Williams - Just to be clear this all won't be on the credit card. I meant I could get into the 10k+ range for the right deal but some of that would have to go on the card. If I can stay 10k or below I can probably pull it together.
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Post by Jeff White » Mon Mar 17, 2014 11:42 am

6-space rack - Approx $150
2 x Brent Averill 500 series rack w/single power supply - approx $1000
8 x CAPI VP26 preamps DIY - approx $2400 ( I have been using 4 of these for the past 18 months on every recording and I love them)

4 extra spaces for more preamps, compressors, EQ, etc.

When you say "scratch" do you also mean you'll need interface and computer? I highly recommend Metric Halo interfaces. I personally own a 2882 and I plan on picking up another one Metric Halo interface this year or next.

Jeff
I record, mix, and master in my home studio, Ch?teau Blanco, and in various spaces in the Philly area. http://jeffwhiteaudio.com/

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Post by JWL » Mon Mar 17, 2014 11:48 am

While I'm a fan of high end gear and always suggest using the best gear you have available to you, I'm of the opinion that lots of things matter a lot more than which mic pre you use in terms of getting good sounds.

One of the biggest is room acoustics. Do you have good-sounding rooms to record and mix in? If not, I'd definitely allocate a good chunk of that budget to clean up your rooms. Every day I hear from customers about how fixing their rooms make a much bigger improvement than anything else in their various upgrade paths over the years.

That said, if I needed a front end for a $10k budget, I'd probably get an Orion converter that can do USB, a Focusrite OctoPre Dynamic to give you 8 decent quality channels into ADAT, and then a 500 series rack with 8 (or more) slots to allow you to experiment with the remaining preamps.

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Post by WillMorgan » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:11 pm

Great bang for multiple pre-amp buck with combined firewire interface:

1640 http://www.mackie.com/products/onyx1640i/

around $1400!

Then you have budget for mics, room treatment.. a couple of boutique preamps..

You can't bypass the Onyx pre-amps to put your fancy pre-amps into the computer but the onyx pre-amps are reputedly transparent enough to chain in with proper gain staging.

I like having the all in one deal to mix a full band and record everything as well.

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:28 pm

mwerden wrote:Nick - Do the pres on an Allen+Heath really stack up against other options mentioned? I'd rather get a fewer number of nice channels. Philosophy wise I'd rather have 2 channels of nice stuff that I'd keep forever, I just have some recordings that I need to do that will require more than 2 at a time.
Hi,

I love the mic preamps on this console. Clean yet they do have a "sound" if you can call it that. It does not sound sterile to my ears, but musical. The Allen & Heath works well within the work I do. I use dynamic mics and tube condensers, ribbons etc with these preamps with really good results. The trick is finding the best level for each microphone, and going from there.

As to getting only two mic preamps and keeping them forever, I would look into these:

Summit Audio MPE200 mic pre with EQ and recall.
AMEK 9098i mic pre with eq x2.

Both designed by Rupert Neve. I once asked Rupert which was his favorite design, and he pointed out these two models to me as his favorites. This was when he was introducing his new Neve series of white colored gear.

You'll spend somewhere north of 2K on either option.

Cheers
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Post by chris harris » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:46 pm

I'd get three API 3124 units (12 badass channels) and some kind of nice monitor controller. Under $10k for pres you'll never outgrow.

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Post by cgarges » Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:10 pm

Do you need the other features in a console? For instance, will it be useful for tracking a whole band to have some aux sends for headphone routing? Talkback features? Two-track monitoring? Bussing groups? If so, then a console seems to make more sense. If not, then a rack of nice mic preamps might be a better way to go.

With a used console, depending on condition and age, you can put a lot of money into it to get it right and to keep it running properly. For me, this makes total sense because I track full bands all the time and I'm used to mixing on a console. I still have outboard preamps that I record through, but the console was a necessary move for me in terms of mixing and monitoring. It was surprising, however, at the end of the day just how much more I spent on getting my console to NC, having it installed, and making sure everything worked 100%. Plus, I did all this silly stuff like replacing all my 2-track wiring and speaker cables, getting new patchbay label covers, etc. So it really added up quickly. And this was with a console that was by all accounts in really good condition.

New stuff has a warranty on it, but most warranties nowadays are a joke. Still, there's something comforting about knowing that if you get all good 2520s in your new API stuff, you're not going to have a problem with it for a long time. Personally, I like the flexibility of recording through multiple outboard preamps and the routing and troubleshooting simplicity that it provides, but sometimes, the right console can be the right move for the right situation. Just take your time buying. Make sure that it's what you want, is in relatively good shape, and will not be a pain to fix when something does go wrong, be it immediately or years down the road.

Hope this helps.

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC

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Post by mwerden » Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:27 pm

chris harris wrote:I'd get three API 3124 units (12 badass channels) and some kind of nice monitor controller. Under $10k for pres you'll never outgrow.
I've only used the 3124 on one session, at the time I liked it less than the 512c's that I'm used to. Hard to tell because it was in a totally different studio so obviously there were a bunch of variables. Still, the 3124s are about 675/channel while I could get a studer at about 700/channel along with monitoring, a couple of comp/lims and eqs. So it seems like like the Studer would be a great value, plus a little more cool factor than a rack of 3124s.

Nick, thanks for the recommendations.

JWL - I hear you about what's important and in what order in terms of room treatment and everything. The way I'm looking at it is that one way or another I need mic pres so I'm trying to find the right ones for my situation. I REALLY have no interest in the prosumer route, the question for me is more "Is a small console more of a value than say a rack of 512s".
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Post by numberthirty » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:23 pm

On what Chris said above -

Are you planning on keeping whatever you buy? Would you consider selling part of it after tracking?

Also, what is your recording situation on the gear/computer/tape machine front?

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Post by Jim Williams » Tue Mar 18, 2014 8:01 am

Buy used, avoid fashion pieces. Those don't sell records any better than other stuff. They will burn a hole in your wallet instead.
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