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Better mixing desk or more pieces of outboard gear?
Old 10th September 2012
  #1
Gear Addict
 
T.V. Eye's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Better mixing desk or more pieces of outboard gear?

I planing on getting a hybrid setup for my little home/project studio. I´m thinking of a 12-16 channel mixing desk and a few pieces of nice outboard gear for tracking an (partly) mixing OTB (please no discussion about OTB vs ITB ).
The desk should be transportable, I don´t have a big live room, I can do vocals, overdubs etc. at my place but have to move to our rehearsal room for recording basic tracks (drums, bass, guitar etc.), and a real big console would be an overdose for my room “space-wise” anyway.

Right now I struggle to make up my mind about if I should go for a better mixing desk and limit the amount of outboard gear, or if I should go for a cheaper desk and add a few more really good outboard units. Short example of the two scenarios I´ve got in mind:

First would be going for something like a ZED R16, a Midas Venice or something in that ballpark, and than set up a nice rack with some preamps, EQs, compressors (maybe 500 series?) as an addition for getting different flavours at least for the most important tracks.

Second would be to look for a really nice vintage desk, I´m very attracted to the Studer mixers, the x69 or the 96x series. They would be more expensive, but after all I read about them they can be considered almost highend, and I could get away with less outboard-stuff, maybe just a mixbus compressor and a nice EQ.

To me it´s really a tough call. I like the idea of an old vintage desk with some “vibe”, even it somehow limits me a little more. If the desk sounds really good, it dosn´t bother me being stuck with that sound – how many records where done on just one desk, without jumping from API to Neve to SSL to whatever for every other track? And such a desk would be probably be a real keeper, without the “urge” to upgrade sooner or later.

On the other hand, it´s tempting to have at least a few great pieces of different pres and EQs for the most crucial tracks. And a modern desk especially like the ZED R16 with the integrated firewire (the Venice F does have firewire too, right?) would have the benefit of reducing the amount of cables to set up everything and the need of a second audio interface (the 12 ins and outs of my audiofire 12 wouldn´t be enough I guess). In fact I could even sell my audiofire. And maintain would be probably a lot less of an issue with new or relatively new equipment compared to a desk that is some decades old.

Maybe some of you got some opinion and pros/cons on both variations, that I might not thought of yet.
This is not really about "exactly which piece of gear should I buy", more a general brainstorming (not even sure how much money I can spend). But of cause if someone got some suggestions for other desks or outboard stuff that would fit to my demands is welcome.
Old 12th September 2012
  #2
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T.V. Eye's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Nobody’s got any tips or thoughts on this? Vintage desk with some drawbacks in flexibility and a little pricier, but probably really great sound VS a new budget "allround" desk without that much character but the possibility to add more outboard?

Yes, I know, shameless bump this is...
Old 12th September 2012
  #3
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Vintageidiot's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I think the Studer idea is a good one.
Old 12th September 2012
  #4
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SWAN808's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Studer is nice but problem is its expensive for a few tracks and trasnport may be tricky-and also its vintage and so it could be tempramental if you move it...

Its hard to advise against a Zed R16 tbh because of the integration and all round decent functionality - plus a couple of coloured pre amps and compressors...I hear the Venice is good also...
Old 12th September 2012
  #5
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T.V. Eye's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks for the input. And I think you are both right. that´s exactly my dilemma. There will be no straight right or wrong, more like a decision from the heart or the head. My heart tells me "a Studer would be really great", while my head says "more flexibility and probably less maintain issues with new stuff".
Old 12th September 2012
  #6
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2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
The idea of having compressors on a mixer is very tempting, at least in my view since I love compressors. I know some people really love Soundcraft mixers from the past. I like the new small format mixers that are coming out from SSL and Focusrite. Summing mixers are hot too. You will definitely find some good consoles for sale online. I do love my front end and have a hybrid setup that I wouldn't change for anything.....unless I was to buy a large console.
Old 13th September 2012
  #7
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
You know that since you want to use a separate rack of pres for tracking bringing the "good" mixer along to the remote would likely not be needed as you could use any number of cheap mixers for cues and just leave that at the remote location (look for "Line In" on the mixer that doesn't go thru an additional pre and a "Direct Out" or "Send" right after it in the signal flow to go to your converters) or live with the latency and use your interface's software mixer for cues. You then could have a permently setup mixer of any size and outboard at your home for the other overdubs and mixing. What you really need to consider is how many simultanous tracks and at what sample rate. No listing of budget either. Define your exact needs better for number/cost of pres and converters to whittle down the options.
Old 13th September 2012
  #8
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How portable is a ZR16? You'd need to sort out how you'd move it - road case or what have you - and whether all that bulk in one unit would fit in your car...

Sent from my GT-I9300T
Old 13th September 2012
  #9
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T.V. Eye's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
@Vintageidiot

Would you mind to tell me a little more about your hybrid setup – just for inspiration?

@jrakarl

Yes, that´s an important question. But from the specs I read about the desks I got in consideration I should be able to move them. The Studers would be quite heavy compared to the new desks, but space wouldn´t be a problem. And for what I´m doing, I wouldn´t have to moved them every other day but maybe 5-10 times a year. I´m not a pro engineer, recording my own bands or friends of mine mostly.

@Bassmankr

That is an interesting point you stated. Your right, with a rack of nice pres and a small line mixer just for cues and monitoring, I could get away without moving the desk at all.

About your question, I do simple rock stuff almost all of the time, basic tracks that would be recorded together are usually drums, guitar, bass. And I like to keep it simple, no fancy double or triple micing on all sources. 6-8 tracks for drums maximum (I also like a Glyn Johns- or recorderman setup with just an extra kickdrum mic a lot for quiter/more acoustic stuff), guitar and bass usually just on mic each, and if I got a channel left I like to keep the guide vocal if done live while tracking. So all in all I´ll be fine with 10-12 simultaneous tracks (and atm I cover that with my audiofire 12). And usually even with overdubs my sessions don´t get a track count of more than 16-20. That´s why I would be fine with a relatively small desk for mixing, too. 12-16 tracks would be all I need, If I exceed that I could easy group some tracks in the DAW before sending them to the board. Samplerate? I record at 48/24 usually. My audiofire can to 96kHz too, but I don´t feel it´s necessary.

And about budget, I still looking how much I´ll get together for the first upgrade that covers my basic needs (I can add more outboard stuff later), but my rough calculation for the two scenarios I mentioned in my first posting was like this: 4-5k€ for a Studer (or other high quality vintage) desk - if in good condition, plus maybe 2k for 2-3 pieces of outboard (a buss compressor, maybe a nice EQ).
Or the other way, about around 2k for a new mixer (that what the ZED would cost, the midas is a little more), that would leave me with 4-5k for outboard. I know 4-5k won’t get me 10-12 pres even if I buy 2nd hand – considering that I want to buy stuff I probably can keep for a very long time and not thinking “yes, and in 2 years I´ll swap that for something better” the moment I buy it.
But that would be OK for me. I would have the take the desk with me until I got a rack filled up, but as far as I read both the ZED and the Venice have decent usable pres. I know I can´t get it all perfect at once, this will have to grow over time.
Old 13th September 2012
  #10
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Why don't you consider the suming box option. Since it seems you have to move your set-up for takes, that make sense.
Think about 2 racks with :
Rack 1 : 1U API 3124+, 1U ATI 8pres or 2U ISA 828/Auroro GTP8 (on taste)
Rack 2 : 1U st comp, 1U or 2U st EQ, 1U or 2U summing mixer, 1 or 2U interface

If your comp and EQ are double mono / stereo, you can use them for takes AND mix.

You might just need a control surface if you want faders, but you can leave it at your place.

Plus mixing on a analog board will make you buy an external FX device and more treatment pieces of gear such as comps, Eqs and so on... Not talking about recalls...

My 2cts
Old 13th September 2012
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Well you list an 8 channel interface/converter so you will have to change that also. Looks like you could just do something simple like this to stretch your budget and get a decent hybrid rig.

Rack of Pres: look into the SCA and Capi offerings, if you don't want to build them yourself there are people out there that will for not much more money. Probably one of the better ways to get decent pres without breaking the bank. A couple other gems we like around here that stretch the budget are the 4 banger API 3124+ and Sytek units. Do yourself a favor and lookup the JBL 7510A / 7510B threads here too.

For converters / interface this will make a great combo for remote and hybrid setups. Pick up a used Alesis HD24XR hard disk recorder ($1200) and a used RME 9652 PCI card interface ($300, get the newer version with 2 midi I/O). That will give you 24 channels of converters for hybrid mixing and a stand alone recorder WITH METERS for the remote so you will not have to drag a computer to it. File transfers are easy with a simple cheap hard drive caddy bay installed in your home computer and a free program call you can find links to here in the threads about the Alesis. So for $1500 minus what you can sell your Audiofire for you now have 24 channels I/O and a remote recorder.

If you don't have a PC with an available PCI slot you can find a used one that will do a 100 tracks with plugs for under $350. If you can't find one locally PM me if you are in USA and I can probably help there. Grab a cheap mixer for the remote location like what we talked about above and that end is covered. The rest of the budget I'd go with a good USED mixer and outboard for your home hybrid setup as you will get more quality for the same amount of money given someone else has eaten most of the depreciation on it.
Old 13th September 2012
  #12
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T.V. Eye's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
The racks sounds nice, a lot of options there. And for tracking, this could really be a good way to get along without moving a desk. But to be true, I really want to get my hands on a desk again for mixing. I still would have to do some work ITB, but I would like to do at least some of the fun stuff on OTB, like eqing, balancing, twisting some knobs on a compressor.

I know this is somehow a drawback, but it worked when I started to record, and I´m sure it will work again, even better as I´m more experienced now. Yes, there will be no recall on the boards I can afford. But hey, I guess it makes you work even harder, and it lets you make decisions. Back than, everybody knew when I came to print a mix, it will be THE mix. And if you want some changes on a mix after you moved on to the next track, it will be a lot of work. So if someone is not happy, he better make up his mind at that point and don´t complain afterwards.
This attitude would probably not work if I would run a commercial studio, but working with my own bands, with band from friends of mine or at least people that I know from the local scene, I think I could do it this way. To tell you the truth this is on reason I really would like to work without recall. You can finish things, not like "oh, can we change this and that, and maybe 1/2 dB more or less of this" 10 times after you thought you are done with the song.
Old 13th September 2012
  #13
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fastlanestoner's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I second the Studer. I think you'll like that flavor added to your workflow. The outboard stuff can come later
Old 15th September 2012 | Show parent
  #14
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by T.V. Eye ➡️
The racks sounds nice, a lot of options there. And for tracking, this could really be a good way to get along without moving a desk. But to be true, I really want to get my hands on a desk again for mixing. I still would have to do some work ITB, but I would like to do at least some of the fun stuff on OTB, like eqing, balancing, twisting some knobs on a compressor.

I know this is somehow a drawback, but it worked when I started to record, and I´m sure it will work again, even better as I´m more experienced now. Yes, there will be no recall on the boards I can afford. But hey, I guess it makes you work even harder, and it lets you make decisions. Back than, everybody knew when I came to print a mix, it will be THE mix. And if you want some changes on a mix after you moved on to the next track, it will be a lot of work. So if someone is not happy, he better make up his mind at that point and don´t complain afterwards.
This attitude would probably not work if I would run a commercial studio, but working with my own bands, with band from friends of mine or at least people that I know from the local scene, I think I could do it this way. To tell you the truth this is on reason I really would like to work without recall. You can finish things, not like "oh, can we change this and that, and maybe 1/2 dB more or less of this" 10 times after you thought you are done with the song.
I've been here too back in the days, and if you choose this option, you must buy a good camera to take pics of your settings It might save your life. 'Cause eventually, somebody at some point will ask for recall
Old 15th September 2012
  #15
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2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
My front end consists of 2 pairs of nice preamps, a mono vocal compressor, a stereo compressor into a pair of eq's, and a nice stereo fx unit going into convertors into Protools. That gives me analog in and for mixing. Nothing new in the rack, mostly cobbled together vintage parts that techs made sure were working properly.
Old 15th September 2012
  #16
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T.V. Eye's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
@Blues10

Yes, good idea. With a digital camera it´s a lot easier to recall an OTB session. Just 2-3 photos, instead of making endless notes of every fader an knob setting, and than save the photos directly in the project folder.

@ Vintageidiot

Thanks. Never a bad idea to have a good tech at hand when dealing with vintage stuff, I guess.
Old 16th September 2012
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
sluttygear's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
MCI boards are clean, vintage and can be fairly affordable. A few of their models are not super big. They sound great too.


500 racks are fun.

Shadow Hills Mono Gama pre's are great (500 series)
Avedas Ma5 is very tasty too (500 series)
Old 16th September 2012
  #18
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subspace's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I've got a new desk and an old, I mean vintage desk. The new one is portable enough for remote work as it's rack-mountable, an Audient ASP2802.
The vintage one was designed for portable recording in 1981, a Trident Trimix, but I wouldn't try moving it around much today.
Take a look at the Focusrite version of the 2802, nice solid center-piece to build around with 8 pres and a stereo bus compressor.
Old 16th September 2012
  #19
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T.V. Eye's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
@sluttygear

I read good things about MCI boards, but I almost never see them used hear in Germany. Manbe the ar more popular in the US. That´s why I thought about the Studer. The pop up on ebay quite regular.

Year, API 500 Series is interesting, especial because it´s small format, one or two racks could be easily moved around.

@subspace

Two desks would probably going beyond my budget, especially with the 2802 not beeing that cheap.
How do you have the 2802 integrated to your DAW? Does it work without problems?
Old 16th September 2012
  #20
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subspace's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Not suggesting getting two desks, just stating that I use both the 1st and 2nd options in the OP.
The 2802 is set-up to do live cue mixes pre-DAW during tracking, blend those with the DAW mix during overdubs, then act as an analog stem mixer and DAW controller at mix down. The HUI control is solid and reliable, interfaces over a single ethernet cable.
I've got a pair of 1084 and a pair of 1081 clones for outboard pre/eqs, a Pro VLA II and a pair of 160XTs for additional compression, and Lexicon LXP1, LXP5, and 300 reverbs to supplement what's on the desk. Makes for a compact and capable hybrid rig.
Old 16th September 2012
  #21
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
So many permutations possible, I'll only say if you plan to use the mixer for mixing, make sure you buy one that puts a smile on your face when you hear it. Plus get more channels than you think you need. If you want to mix with it, get as many channels as you have physical room for, you will use them with fx returns and whatever eventually. Also, the slightly bigger channel count desks (24-32) are better value than the small ones (10-16), as most don't want to occupy the space.

Plenty of second hand choice for little cash now. Obviously make sure you don't buy a turkey, but a well kept desk shouldn't cause too much maintenance, depending what it is. I would think an old Studer, once recapped and properly serviced will give you very little grief. Likely less than most new things.
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