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DAW Front End for Recording Prog Rock/Metal/Acoustic Instrumentals...

Psykostx

I am in the market for a new front end, my current digimax setup just doesn't cut it for my needs. What I need is a pure analog mixer for its preamps/eq/monitor switching that has balanced direct outs for each mono channel. Also I will be needing A/D for the mono mixer channels as well. Here's what I have been considering:
A) SoundCraft Spirit m12 + MOTU HD 192
B) Allen & Heath MixWizard 16:2 + MOTU 24i/o
C) Mackie 1604 VLZ3 + MOTU 24i/o
D) Yamaha n12
E) Allen & Heath ZED R16
Remember I will be RECORDING mostly Prog Rock THRU this and mixing in the box. I made the mistake of not using pres for their specific application when I bought the PreSonus...which seems great for orchestral instruments but really falls short on bass and percussive sounds, including the lower strings on a guitar. It can record a mean saxophone or violin, but I want to record the full spectrum of sounds not just the upper two thirds of it...
What do you think will yield the clearest final results, and will allow me to get a good clean signal, gently eq'd, into the box...while at the same time providing a decent monitor signal to mix with ?
PS: I'm a drummer, so my main focus is a nice clear transient with an eq that adds a nice clean/smooth effect. I can always buy an single channel outboard preamp to flavor guitar/vocals/bass with a little grit.
June 23, 2009 @11:25pm
revert979

I've never used the Presonus stuff, or any of the equipment you've mentioned in your post, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I was a bit confused as to why you want to purchase a mixer though. You said you are going to be mixing in the box, but then you said you need something that provides a decent monitor signal. If you want to monitor out of your mixer I'd go with something like the Soundcraft Ghost LE. That particular mixer is built for a recording environment and has dedicated mic inputs and monitoring inputs on the same channel that you can switch back and forth to. The mixers you mentioned don't have that, therefore you'd have to section the mixer. One half the input, the other half the monitor, and that severely cuts down on the flexibility and sort of defeats the whole purpose in my opinion. But a Ghost is a hell of a lot of money.
If you're not going to be monitoring through the mixer, and mixing in the box, then why have a mixer at all? Personally, I think your $1000 would be better spent towards a multi-channel mic pre (or 2), as opposed to a mixer. The only thing your losing is EQ, and I've always been a proponent of recording dry and eq'ing/compressing later (thus in the box). The only real justification for having a live venue mixer, in my opinion, would be if you absolutely have to bus things down to save on inputs going into your DAW.
Now having said all of that, I'm not even sure upgrading your pre and converters will make THAT much of a difference. Yeah, certain pres sound better with certain instruments. But you're really splitting hairs at that point. I've never heard a pre that sounds "great" on certain applications and then sounds bad on others. Most good pres do a good all around job at whatever, but then excel at certain usages.
I'm also a drummer (been playin' 19 years ), and I've found that the drum, head, tuning, mic and mic position (and player!) affect your sound way more than any mic pre or converter.
June 24, 2009 @09:57pm
Psykostx

Right now I'm using a 48khz digimax, which probably has the oldest A/D converters on it known to man so its probably not the pre's that make everything but brass sound brassy, you are right. I agree that player and instrument are more important than mic and pre. But I am satisfied with my playing and have an awesome yamaha oak kit. Its not that I'm getting bad sounds, I just need the right sound for my application and an upgraded workflow (and A/D D/A). e-mu + presonus = yuck . I know I'm probably offending some people, but a $100 sound card plus $80 per channel mic pre is NOT the way to go!
Getting back to the point, I do not want the board for mixing as a live engineer would. What I really want are a set of channel strips that provide an accessible layout and have preamps and eq sounds that are on par with modern recording standards. Like you said, I won't be using the mix bus...I will be recording through the channels and monitoring through the MOTU and my furman headphone amp. I require a fast dynamic response AND an extended frequency response. It seems the faster and deeper the music you play, the better the gear you need!
I don't want to end up with a bunch of useless overpriced "Mickey-Mouse" equipment that is the result of an economic slowdown. You know how it is with middle of the road gear. You either end up with magic or poop. One year a particular make and model is made in America, the UK, or Japan with top notch components and the next the some model is a product of some third world communist country and everything that could be replaced by plastic, woodchips, recycled metals and pleather, is. And it goes around in circles like this! I don't want to mention any names, but guitar and amp manufacturers are notorious for this. They get a good name going on a piece of gear and suddenly switch manufacturing resources while keeping the same model to save money. I don't want to be the victim of bait and switch, I want real value and dependable beautiful sound!
June 25, 2009 @09:44am
revert979

What kind of mics are you using? Is the room treated or not? If not, is it very loud, or is it a very dead sounding room (for drums I'd rather have a dead room to get better isolation). All these things really affect your sound. With a properly treated room, whether it's with professional sound absorption or some kind of MacGyver set up, good mics and good sounding drums you should be able to get pretty good sounds. I used a Yamaha AW2816 (ya know, one of those all in one workstations) for years up until about 2 years ago when I finally decided to upgrade to ProTools. And even by 2 years ago standards it was an arcane pos, but I was always pretty happy with the drum sounds I could get from it. I listen to a lot of metal/hardcore/punk so I like big, punchy drums. So if your unhappy with the sounds you're getting, I'd look at those first three things (room, drum [that also includes the heads], mic) before going after better pres and converters.
But let's assume for a second that all those things are in the green and we have a pretty good sound to start with. Like I said, I've never used the MOTU stuff, but I just recently bought a Rosetta 800 and am super thrilled with it. That's about as much advice as I can give on that :)
And going back to the mixer, again, if it were me I'd rather put my money towards a nice mic pre, or channel strip if you want the eq, instead of a mixer. You'll get more bang for your buck and a better sound in the long run. I purchased a small venue mixer years ago, and I slowly used it less and less, and now I just use it to feed the head phone mixes. Even in the studio that I interned at a couple years ago, they would very rarely use the board EQ. I think going with something outboard or plug in based is going to be more flexible and serve you better in the long run.
June 26, 2009 @02:49am
DAS


Getting back to the point, I do not want the board for mixing as a live engineer would. What I really want are a set of channel strips that provide an accessible layout and have preamps and eq sounds that are on par with modern recording standards. Like you said, I won't be using the mix bus...I will be recording through the channels and monitoring through the MOTU and my furman headphone amp. I require a fast dynamic response AND an extended frequency response. It seems the faster and deeper the music you play, the better the gear you need!
:

I normally don't offer too many opinions about gear for a variety of mostly obvious reasons, but I can tell you a lot of our customers in similar shoes to yours buy and really like this.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ATB16a/
Not sure whether it's in your price range (and I may have missed it if you gave one -- sorry), but it does sound very good.
June 26, 2009 @12:01pm
michaelhoddy

DAS, how are the preamps on that board? How do they compare to some of the discrete stuff that they would probably be compared to (especially Daking, API, etc)?
Curious. I may just have found a new object of lust.
June 26, 2009 @04:17pm
Smithcok

^^I don't own one, but have used one a few times.
I have not done any sort of blind comparison, but IMHO, I think the analog path is very good. Its not as amazing as the Neve's or API's I've worked on, but then again its not $300k... Definitely a good board - feels good, looks good, sounds good.
I think its one of those "if you can't get a great sound out of it, the board is not the problem" sort of pieces. For someone looking for this size of a mixer in their setup - this is a good buy.
June 26, 2009 @04:22pm
DAS

DAS, how are the preamps on that board? How do they compare to some of the discrete stuff that they would probably be compared to (especially Daking, API, etc)?
Curious. I may just have found a new object of lust.

I have a hard time describing how things sound... Very smooth and punchy on drums, with a nice sheen on top. Not quite as up front as the API, more like the Daking I would say, but a bit darker overall.
June 26, 2009 @07:33pm
revert979

I would love to get something like the Toft, but I'm not a professional. I simply record my own work and others' because I enjoy it. So to really justify the cost to me, I would have to mix through it. But then I'd have to extend my patch bay (I use the 48 point 1/4" dbx), and buy all the cables. Cabling gets freakin expensive. It's always the crap ya don't think of that ends up biting you in the ass.
June 26, 2009 @07:49pm
Psykostx

I can't afford the toft. I did give a list of boards in my pricerange...lol. Typical engineers, always focusing on the details, always forgetting the big picture!
I'm creating an alternative-to-protools HD setup. It needs to be expandable, clean sounding with maximum headroom for in the box mixing, and I want the board to be useable even if I get better pres. In this case, a pair of API channels and/or something in a similar range (maybe if my lucky numbers come up!).
My sample rates will never go below 96khz until final mixdown, so these preamps have to be clean! I don't need them for "coloration" as I think plugins do a fine job of that for my purposes. I can always add a nice outboard master bus when I'm rich.
June 27, 2009 @09:09am
revert979

I'm actually using ProTools LE w/ a Digi 003R. I've got the Rosetta going into the Digi via optical and am clocking via word clock (coax cable). I'm limited to a max sample rate of 48 kHz, but I'm fine with that, and I usually just record at 44.1.
The only reason I recommend staying away from the mixers is because all the ones you mentioned are built as live venue mixers, and as such don't really fit well into a studio. That's not to say it may not work for what you want, but you may find yourself using it less and less as you pick up better pres.
Unless you have a very high quality board with a nice analog sound (like the Toft or the aforementioned Ghost), outboard pres would be the way to go. You'll get the quality at a fraction of the cost.
I don't mean to sound like a broken record, it's just you mentioned that you wanted longevity out of your gear, and I think a live venue mixer isn't going to provide much longevity
Of course, like I said, I've never used those mixers, so maybe they sound great? I don't know, but I do know that I've never seen them in a studio environment before, and if they did sound great, you'd think there'd be more internet chatter about them.
I'll stop berating you with my opinion now :D
June 27, 2009 @08:31pm
Psykostx

Actually thank you for berrating me! I had a revelation this day. I have decided to do something completely different. I am going to get better mics and use the preamp for phantom power without adding gain. Then I'm going to upgrade my plugin collection so I can boost the gain "In the Box" with minimal aliasing. Now hows that for lasting invenstment?!
My Revelation:
"Good digital gain sounds better than bad analog gain anyday!"
-Psykostx
PS: Write that down. I feel like someone should build a bronze statue in my name for that one!;)
June 28, 2009 @12:36pm