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$14,000 to spend on DAW, channel strip(s), mics, and monitors


I’d love some help putting together a studio. I have $14,000 of blood, sweat, and smelly vans to spend so I'm looking for guidance.
I am a songwriter, performer and composer. I record and release my own records. For a couple years I have used my Mbox and Pro Tools on an aging Apple G4 Titanium laptop while on tour. I have a controller and two SM57s, but no other outboard gear to speak of. I am upgrading my machine to a new quad Intel laptop or tower. While I love Pro Tools, I’m open to other DAWs. I'll probably always have an mBox around and use PT regardless of where I write and arrange.
My ideal DAW would offer lots of plug-ins and virtual instruments out of the box. I tend to take my arrangements to actual musicians to re-record, so I’m looking for a wide selection of playable instruments for demos instead of ‘killer’ patches. I do appreciate soft synths for electronic music, so a nice variety of electronic instruments would be nice. Overall, I don’t like spending lots of time tweaking sampled acoustic instruments. I want to write and arrange, and have lots of playable instruments ready out of the box. Right now I export midi files out of Pro Tools and import them into Finale to prepare scores for live players. Ideally, there would be an easier way to prepare usable scores.
I don’t plan on recording final drums or conducting full band sessions. Almost all of my recordings are created a track at a time, except for the occasional string quartet or horn section. I’d like to get close-to-final mixes done on my setup, but have no interest in mastering. In general, I don’t like buying entry-level equipment when it means I’ll be replacing the unit in a couple years. Lastly, I’m moving to LA and may want to expand the setup for film-scoring, commercial music, etc. At that point I'd be open to a standalone GIGA setup working in conjunction with my DAW.
I'm looking to purchase the following pieces of gear. Wherever I can multi-task gear -- especially since I only record multiple instrumentalists when recording strings / horns -- I'm game. I'm not including the computer in the 14K.
  • DAW
  • Additional virtual instruments if necessary
  • Top notch AD conversion
  • Audio Interface, Midi Interface (all-in-one or multiple units)
  • Powered monitors
  • High quality channel strip for vocals (tube pre, EQ, compression - either as a single unit, or individual devices)
  • Nice dual channel pre for string / horn stereo micing and four additional pres to be used for micing individual instruments, demo drums, etc. Could use vocal strip.
  • Two channel compressor for guitars, general use
  • Mic selection to accommodate the following instruments (recorded individually)
  • Acoustic guitar
  • Vocals
  • Upright and grand piano
  • String quartet (stereo pair + close mic * 4)
  • Small horn section (stereo pair + close mic * 3)
  • Individual brass, wind, string instruments
  • Electric guitar (room and cab)
  • Electric bass (room and cab)[/INDENT]

Your help iand suggestions are GREATLY appreciated.
October 26, 2006 @04:44am

If you are going to be recording, I recommend spending good money on quality mics and good front end. If you are going to be composing, spend more money on virtual instruments.
If you plan on doing both, then, well divy up what you want. I write with all kinds of instruments and VI's, and without a doubt, for me, VI's have given me the most return on my money, I find new sounds inspire me and need top notch orchestral sounds etc. , but I am a solo composer. who does less recording of other people so to speak.
if you are doing film scoring, go for the Vienna Cube, the whole deal. and then add atmosphere, stylus, and a few other synths to your roster. if you don't want to get vienna, which has the most playable patches, then look at east west platinum xp.
mic wise, lots of topics on this.
also, you sure you want giga? giga 3 is extremely buggy right now from what i understand, and if you are going mac, get into kontact 2 instead possibly.
get a mac daddy puter, with lots of ram and huge external drive. you can keep your old puter to host additional VI's to squeeze more out...
October 26, 2006 @05:20am

Re: the poll...what do you mean by "invenstment?" If you are asking what will hold it's $$ value the most the answer is probably higher end mics. As to what will be the most valuable to YOU in the long run is harder to say, but probably still good microphones.
If you already know Pro Tools it seems logical to continue with it by perhaps agumenting it with other things that may help for composing. For instance, the Live software program is a tool that a lot of arrangers enjoy working with.
October 26, 2006 @11:56am

Room acoustics. No amount of fancy gear can overcome a bad room. Also, honest control room monitors that allow you to directly "touch" the music without having to do counterintuitive work-arounds. How much this costs and what to get is different for everyone.
After that, mics and all the usual bell-and-whistle laden stuff that everyone likes to overbuy on. Probably for your setup, a decent vocal mic, a pair of general purpose small-diaphragm condensers for instruments, maybe something out there like a ribbon mic (for horns and cabinets), and a couple channels of preamp would suffice, in addition to whatever virtual instruments and software you're into.
When it all comes down to it, I've heard amazing records done with SM57's and Mackies, and piss-poor records done with fancy mics, pres, and AD conversion. Which leads me to believe that great records have way less to do with expensive gear, and way more to do with great musicianship, creativity, and production talent. Unfortunately, these latter things can't be bought via mail-order.
Something to keep in mind.
October 26, 2006 @03:09pm

When it all comes down to it, I've heard amazing records done with SM57's and Mackies, and piss-poor records done with fancy mics, pres, and AD conversion. Which leads me to believe that great records have way less to do with expensive gear, and way more to do with great musicianship, creativity, and production talent. Unfortunately, these latter things can't be bought via mail-order.
Something to keep in mind.

Agreed Michael. For years now I've been happy with my SM57s and MBox. I've had lots of fun recording great players. The records have sounded pretty good. My computer is pretty slow, and seems to get slower by the month, so an upgrade is in order. I've been resitant for years now!
It has been hard to get good middle of the road advice. I'll walk in to Guitar Center and people take me for a fool (not good). In one instance, I asked to "audition" some of the virtual instruments in logic, and I was told "well, I have to go out for a smoke, and you can't use my dongle, plus, you don't audition instruments, you 'play them'" I've even thought about taking a trip down to Sweetwater to really hear the gear and see if it meets my basic requirements. I'm not one for spending lots of money based on a name.
October 26, 2006 @09:24pm

Alot of VI's have demos you can listen to, to get a good sence at how they sound. I don't own logic here, so I can't say as to how their inbox stuff is, chances are, if you are serious about composing, you will need more outside. I have a ton of different VI's, and can help you out on any questions. If you are wanting to get into scoring and composing more commercially, you will need a great sound set. Real players are great, but require a bigger budget.
if you want, I can list some must have Vi's, depending on style you want to do. Since you won't be so much multitracking, a good front end and a few mics will last you awhile.
October 26, 2006 @10:56pm

Ok, here is what I would suggest as a starting place.
I would say you need a balance of mics, pres, A/D converters, plugs, monitors and room acoustics. Egad. Lots to think about.
As far as a DAW goes, if you want the most plug-ins and VIs out of the box, I think the champ is Logic Pro. Personally I would say the audio editing is not as good as protools, or even DP. The Midi is pretty good. However, lots of top guys use it for audio. Out of the box, it has some really really fine plugs too. Or, you may want to go the route of a different DAW and then buy plugins. If you go that route, I would personally recommend getting some UAD-1 cards. Great plugs, good PCI cards.
Mics. Well, since you do a lot of guitar and vocals (it sounds like) tipping the bank for a U87 may be worth it. Good small diaphragm pair of condensers, like SM-81s or something would be good. yadda yadda, get the best mics for the price given what you will use them for.
For pre's, It might work to get a few solid singal channels (UADSolo610, Avalon, Manley etc) and then perhaps like a presonus digimax 8 channel or something. Again, depends on the projects.
A/D and clocking. Depends. I might suggest getting an 8 channel from apogee, pair it with a big ben? Unbelieveable sound, but at a price. See how expensive your mic cabinet is, and then maybe decide on this/which interface.
Everything left, go into the room.
I have to go to class :(
Sorry, I'll try to reply back with more detailed opinions if anyone actually cares.
October 31, 2006 @07:51pm