Q It Up: What's In Your Home Studio? - Part 1

q-it-up-logo2Q It Up: What’s in your home studio? Mac or PC? What audio software are you using? What about your microphone and preamp? Do you use an external mixer for anything? If so, which one? Are you happy with your setup? Do you have any changes or upgrades to your studio planned for the immediate future?

Guy Harris [guywharris@btinternet.com], www.voiceoverguy.co.uk: My Home Studio? I use a PC but hoping to hoping to switch to a MAC once I can be sure Adobe audition will work on Fusion alongside an MBOX 2. If someone can confirm that then I am ready to switch. I use an iMac in the office and Macbook Pro for Voicing on the road. (Very useful.)

As a Voice Artist I use a Neumann U87 and a TLM103. A Basic Soundcraft mixing desk and a TC Electronic Finalizer. Although it’s an old piece of equipment and I have a mild compression setting that I never stray from, I would love some advice on new bits of kit that do a similar job or Finalizer settings for it that sound awesome!

Have just built a studio at the house and am awaiting the woodwork going in before I move everything into it. That’s quite an exciting project with pictures on my Facebook Page www.facebook.com/voiceoverman.

New website being built too. Happy with the old one but gonna clean the new one up.

Chris Stevens [chris@devaweb.co.uk], Devaweb and TM Studios, Dallas, Texas: I converted in the last year to a Mac setup in my home studio, and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s primarily for Pro Tools usage, and although I have a DigiDesign 002 hooked up, I only use the faders when riding delays – most other graphs I’d rather draw on the screen. I do very little mic work, though I have an AT4033 in case of emergencies. I’ve a couple of keyboards in the system too, and although I’m normally using sounds generated by plug-ins, there are still some really cool noises on my Korg Triton that I’ll dub in sometimes.

As for upgrades, I’ve got a list of new and extra plug-ins that’s far too long. Hurrah for those 15% off sales at Guitar Center!

Steve Lushbaugh [stvlush@gmail.com], 93-3 WMMR, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: I’ve been building a home studio since 1982 and it has had many changes and iterations from its humble beginnings with an Ampex 350 2-track, an Otari 1/2” 4-track and a homemade mixer. Currently my home studio is built around Pro Tools HD using a 96 I/O running PT 8.0 with a Mackie Baby HUI control surface, the Waves Gold Bundle 6.0, Sound Toys, Amplitube, Sans Amp, MOTU Mach Five sampler and a few other plug-ins. My home system is almost identical to the Pro Tools system at WMMR for compatibility. It all runs on a 1.6 Ghz, single processor Mac G5 with 3 GB of RAM. It’s not super fast but it runs fine, though I’m itching to get a Mac Pro. I have dual 23” Apple Cinema displays. Wish I had them at work too. It’s great having the mix and edit windows fully visible simultaneously.

I’ve been all Mac since 1987 both at home and at work. I have a Panasonic SV-3700 DAT, Denon DN-C680 CD player, Genelic 1029A speakers with sub-woofer, a Symetrix 528 voice processor as my mic preamp with just a touch of limiting dialed in to catch any stray peaks on the mic and a little gating to keep the room noise down. Lately I have been experimenting with using the record electronic units from my old Ampex 350 ATR as mic preamps, but the Symetrix is the default pre. I use a small Alesis 12R console to handle monitor functions and route audio sources to and from Pro Tools. It’s only 3 RU high and fits perfectly in a 3 RU space in one of the turrets of my Argosy furniture. I have a Studer A810 reel-to-reel for dubbing my old tapes to digital formats, a process I attack in spurts. I also have a Roland RD-300 keyboard, Roland CK-60 keyboard amp, Roland D-550 synth module, Fender Squire Strat, Premier bass, Takamini acoustic guitar, Heathkit AJ-29 tuner, Panasonic CT-1384 video monitor, Gentner SPH-3A phone hybrid, Denon CR-300 CD recording deck, Sony MDS-JE510 mini disk deck, MOTU Midi Timepiece AV, Mitsubishi HS-U770 VCR, 3 APC Backup Pro 500 UPS’s and an old AIWA 3500, 3 head cassette deck from 1984. I wonder if it still pulls tape?

All my actual mixing is done in Pro Tools and bounced to disk as uncompressed files for burning to CD or as MP3s for emailing. Audio only passes through the console a maximum of once on its way into Pro Tools. The DAT and CD are connected digitally to Pro Tools.

I have a wide variety of mics including Shure SM57 and 58, EV RE-20, RCA-77, Neumann U87, AKG-414B-ULS and several others. I’ve tried many, but I keep coming back to my AKG-414. It’s a versatile mic and until recently, the only mic used at WMMR since I got management to upgrade from Sennheiser 421’s way back around 1984. While certainly no slouch, it may or may not be the best voice mic in my collection, but I am so comfortable with it and have decades of sessions and EQ settings tuned to it that it’s hard to get away from.

I also have an Intel MacBook, Pro Tools Mbox Micro and Presonus Fadermaster so I can assemble, edit and mix Pro Tools sessions on a laptop. The Micro doesn’t have inputs for recording. I generally use it on planes and trains.

Living in the Northeast Corridor it’s a good way to make use of a 6 hour train ride from Philly to Boston. It’s also a convenient way to work at home. I do any recording necessary downstairs in the studio, take the session upstairs on a portable hard drive, put the MacBook on the rolling bed table and edit the day away between the sheets.

Well, I think that’s everything. I tried to be ridiculously thorough.

Dave Shropshire [dave@daveshropshire.com], Dave Shropshire Voiceovers, www.DaveShropshire.com, www.Shropsounds.com: I am using a PC based computer for both my dedicated DAW setup and my office computer. I have the two computers networked so the office computer is used for sending files -- mp3’s and aif’s as attachments and wav files are ftp’d. I am using ProTools LE 7.3, Digidesign 002 rack, Waves Gold audio plugins, 2 Glyph external hard drives, and a Mackie Baby HUI digital interface with two widescreen LED monitors -- one for editing ProTools sessions and the other for video monitoring for voice to picture sessions.

My studio audio chain consists of: Soundelux 251C tube mic and Sennheiser MK416 Shotgun mics. (I have a pair of Neumanns (191 & a U89i), EV RE-27nd and a vintage RCA DX77 mic all boxed up. Mic pre is a Focusrite Voicemaster Pro, which feeds a Manley Massive Passive Tube EQ (just bought that, so I am still playing with it), dbx 160 compressor / limiter, Apogee Rosetta 200 A/D converter (which I love !!), dbx drive rack monitor system, Behringer Power play pro headphone distribution amp and JBL nearfield monitors. I have an audio engineer in Chicago who comes down to help me with technical problems. He helped me set all this up and I couldn’t have done it without him.

When I built the studio, I had in mind doing a lot of producing, but as it turns out, 99% of my income has come from voiceover (ISDN). I have a Zephyr Xstream ISDN codec, Source Connect communications software and JK Audio phone patch so clients can phone in and direct their sessions. It also allows me to play back down the phone line, so they can “hear it again.” I have a Mackie 1401 Mixer, but as all my work is digital, I just use that to monitor. The Monster Power 5100 Power conditioner rounds out the setup.

Gary Michaels [michaels@wkoa.com], WASK, Inc., Lafayette, Indiana: I use a PC in my home studio. Dell Core Two Duo 8300 with 4gigs ram and onboard sound. It’s clean enough for my voice work. I record and edit with Acid/Vegas and Sound Forge and remote desktop to my computer at the stations. My mics (EV20 and ShureKSM27) run through a Mackie 1403 board. I use a BlueTube through an Aux Send so I can add tube drive a smidge at a time for the RE20. Everything else is rack-mounted: headphone amp, monitor amp, Tascam cassette deck, Tascam CD recorder, Eventide Harmonizer. Very happy with the setup I have now. I also have a gigbag with a Dell laptop and MXL008 USB mic for recording client VOs on the road. All very utilitarian.

Changes? I want to go to dual monitors so I can spread out the mixer windows for more workspace. That’d be the only addition right now. Might start shopping more mics later this year.

Brian Wilson [wizman440@hotmail.com], Citadel Media, Dallas, Texas: My home studio started with a Mac based system in 1986, but is primarily PC based these days -- I sold my Mac G5 a few months ago. To me, a Mac is like the most beautiful woman in the world with AIDS. Tempting to get involved, and I always regret it. The Mac works well with software designed for it, but Apple will change the OS which makes the entire computer obsolete. I have a $9000 Quadra 950 in the garage holding up a shelf because it won’t run anything beyond OS 7.6. The G5 was giving me “audio engine overload” warnings after two tracks with the Mbox 2, so I dumped it. ProTools works great if you go with the big system; Mbox isn’t the best way to go. My Dell is powerful enough to run 5 audio applications at once, and there are tons of shareware and freeware VST plugins and softsynths available, so I really don’t miss Macs. I did get a new iPhone recently. Five weeks later they came out with the iPhone 3Gs, so I got that same warm feeling of owning a Mac all over again. ANYWAY... currently running quad core Dell with 4 gigs of ram, 2 TB of storage. Main multitrack software is Cubase 5, with Vegas 9 for audio/video, and Sony Sound Forge 9 for two track work (editing voicework like The Huckabee Report) and Sony Acid for looping, Sony CD Architect for CD mastering.  I have an RME Hammerfall 9652 optical card for audio running into a Yamaha O1V96 with a MY8AT ADAT card, monitoring is a pair of KRK V6s, very happy with those. The Yamaha is primarily for keyboard inputs, which as of today include a Fender Rhodes 73, Mini Moog, Hammond XK, Access Virus, Synthesizers.com modular 22, Roland XV3080 and JV2080, a Triton Rack and a Yamaha TX816. And I didn’t mention last month so I will now, I use AKG 240 DF headphones, the same pair for 21 years. I have a new set of 240 ear cushions and jack cables coming from Full Compass as we speak.

I’m pretty satisfied with the rig as it is, my only plans are upgrading software versions, and I’m sure something is coming out soon that I’ll just have to have... Isn’t there always?

Eddie Bye [ebye@dmgradio.com.au]: Studio 1: Mac power PC dual 2Gig - 2X19 inch wide screen monitors, PC core 2 duo 2gig, Digi 002 mixer, Protools 7.4, Waves Gold, DV Toolkit 2, McDSP bundle, 42 inch plasma for vision, Canopus, Sennheiser 416, Yamaha NS10’s.

Studio 2: Mac power PC dual 2Gig - 2X17 inch screen, PC core 2 duo 2gig, Mbox2 pro ProTools 7.4, Waves gold, DV Toolkit 2, Sony 24 inch CRT for video, JBL (forget) Big though!

Planned upgrades: Source connect, Avalon 747 mic pre, KRK VX8’s, Pitch n time, GRM Tools, Upgrade Studio 1 to ProTools 8, and setup 5.1 mixing capability. More outboard gear - DAT, CD Player, Pre’s etc. to make it look more like a studio!

I’m very happy with the studios. They are set up perfectly for video post production. We use a 1 TB network drive to transfer sessions from one studio to another (40km’s away). This means that both studios can work on different aspects of a job at the same time. We don’t have much outboard gear. We chose to have all the good stuff inside the Macs!

Michael Montgomery [michael@voiceoverture.com]: I have a PC with Adobe Audition 3.0, Heil Sound PR-40 dynamic mic, MXL V88 condenser mic, and a Behringer mixer with phantom power and USB audio converter. I also have a dbx 286A mic processor that I rarely use. I quickly learned that little processing is needed on my end as a voiceover talent. All processing is done on the producer’s end.

As for my contentment, I like the equipment I have, but, like any VO talent without one, I’d like to have a Neumann. I’d also love to have a Whisper Room... or any type of vocal booth that is somewhat portable! However, with the economy the way it is, I cannot afford such luxuries.

Rob Maurer [robmaurerprod@yahoo.com], Alan Colmes/John Gibson/XM 168/Sirius 145/FoxNewsTalk.com, FOX News Radio, New York, NY: My home studio (nickname: The Echo Chamber III) is a Digi 001, running Pro Tools LE v6.4 and Waves Diamond via a Mac Quicksilver G4/Dual 1 GHz tower. Mackie Baby HUI is my flying fader of choice, and monitors are Genelec 1030A’s. State of the art for 2002, and still plenty powerful for me today. I’ve got one of my two processors dedicated strictly to Pro Tools, and I am rocking and rolling. Being a serial tinkerer, I’ve maxed out the RAM, traded up to larger, faster hard drives, added extra FireWire and USB ports... whatever’s been necessary. Since I have the luxury of working from home half a day, every day, this rig is getting fed every day. Still humming, after all these years.

I do see going modern at some point, likely sticking with Mac, though with the flexibility of running Windoze too if necessary. Upgrading the computer will necessitate going to a Digi 003 or MBox Pro as well.

Andrew Frame [andrew@bafsoundworks.com], BAFSoundWorks, Lehigh Acres, Florida: Compared to my friends, I’m under-geared, but I’m big on simplicity. An AKG-C3000B microphone feeds a JoeMeek ThreeQ preamp, then to an A/D USB converter, then into the desktop PC.

No other outboard gear, processors, or mixers. I do all audio manipulation in Cool Edit. All my music and effects are ripped to hard drive, so they’re simply imported into the session.

I use Cool Edit 2.1, still, for all work. We do local/regional and national spot production, long-form work, forensics for investigations, etc., so we know how to make the software work well. If Adobe came out with a Linux or Mac port for Audition, I might “upgrade,” but everything works as is -- and works very well -- so I see no reason to spend the money just for the sake of spending. I would rather put the outgoing money into taking care of my talent, instead of buying more “stuff.”

We have a Windows XP desktop for Cool Edit and our accounting software; and Ubuntu 9.04 on a separate machine for everything else, from web to word processing, to photo-manipulation, etc. An Apple G4 iBook goes on the road for e-mail. Using the machines like this keeps our concerns for virus, spyware, and other nasties to a bare minimum, so we can stay focused on work.

I think the daily practice of simplicity makes us somewhat less in need to “upgrade,” so the current Depression isn’t keeping us yearning for new toys. The only change in store is possibly moving the office to another room in our house.

Rob Frazier [rob@robfraziercreative.com], Rob Frazier Creative, Burbank, Califorina: I’ve been putting my home studio together for a few years now, here’s what I’m running:

I have an AMD Athlon PC that’s probably about 3 or 4 years old. It could use a RAM upgrade but otherwise it works fine. Running Sony Vegas, Sound Forge and Acid for software. The mic I use most often is a Bluebird from Blue microphones. I got it as part of a package deal with my Focusrite Platinum Voicemaster Pro mic processor. This is a great box with a lot of features, though I pretty much only use the Class A pre-amp, choosing to add compression in Vegas. Very clean sounding. This I run through an Alesis 6-channel USB mixer which is also very clean, little or no noise.

A few paces away is my “vocal booth” which is a cool little homemade setup consisting of a 4-panel shoji screen with foam board and egg crate foam on the interior. Coupled with the optical expander on the Focusrite, this is usually enough to keep my mic isolated (although I do have to turn my aging refrigerator off when I am recording!). If it’s trash day or the gardeners are in the neighborhood, the dogs are barking or there’s a lot of traffic at nearby Bob Hope Airport, I have a couple of sound blankets (they look like those pads you use in a moving van) that I can throw over the top of it, though it tends to get a little warm in there.

Next on my list of things to get are a JK Audio phone patch, some new powered monitors and eventually a new sound card. This little set-up serves me quite well however and has paid for itself many times over. Ultimately, I would like to get a small space here in town and set up shop, if only just to get me out of the house.

PART 2 NEXT MONTH!

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