June 17, 2007

Postulatin' on a hypothesis...

by Chris Randall

Okay, here's an interesting challenge. Say you had US$2000 to spend, and you wanted to make an analog recording studio with at least 8 tracks of recording. What gear would you choose? Mixing isn't necessary; only recording. And let's assume you already have monitors, microphones and cables. Just the console (if necessary), deck, pres (if necessary), comps, etc.

T3H VERDICT: Yes, of course it is. You have to get a little lucky with your gear finds, but you shouldn't have any real trouble putting together a console and deck for $2K that will record music fine. That is, assuming your songs don't suck in the first place. If they do, that can't be helped.

It is worth noting that I arrived at this conclusion on my own. If you read this thread, the _actual_ verdict is apparently the old maxim "opinions are like assholes, etc."



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Jun.17.2007 @ 5:34 PM
Not wanting to spend all my hipster cred, I would go with a Tascam 38 and a Soundcraft Spirit Studio. Natural compression, great headroom and I did a shitload of records with that set up years ago and the masters still hold up.


Jun.17.2007 @ 5:47 PM
odd timing with this post. i was just thinking about phoning this guy and trying to make a deal on this 1/2" 8 track:

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some other interesting stuff he is flogging:

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link [vancouver.craigst.or...]">link [vancouver.craigst.or...]

link [vancouver.craigst.or...]">link [vancouver.craigst.or...]


Jun.17.2007 @ 5:59 PM
Chris Randall
1 7/8 ips on that deck. I'd pass unless you know for sure you can convert it to 15/30. 1 7/8 is like a hard-slope LPF set at like 1.5K



Jun.17.2007 @ 6:42 PM
yeah, i reread the ad. not for me.

Jun.17.2007 @ 7:58 PM
One inch 8 track. IF you can find a working one, IF you can diagnose and fix stuff from a schematic, and IF you can do everything old-school.
They sound godlike, though.

If not, a Tascam 48 or 58 will do you.


Jun.17.2007 @ 8:01 PM
Chris Randall
That's fantastic, and 1" 8-track machines are by no means uncommon (Studer ftw). However, are you taking in to account our imaginary budget? By the time you bought the deck, you'd not have anything left over for ways to put audio on it. If you could find one for $2K in the first place, that is. The going rate for a Studer 1" 8-track is around $2500, unless I'm totally out of the loop.



Jun.17.2007 @ 8:54 PM
Ampex 440 1" 8-track. Sound great, and they're all discrete electronics, so anyone with a little electronics knowledge, a little time, and a little help can reasonably maintain one.

I got mine for $450 about 4-5 years ago, not sure how much they go for now.

for 8 channels of mic pre: spare me the laughs, but I'd choose 8 channels of the Mackie Onyx pres. They're solid, really clean.

Not much $$ left over after those, probably, but to stay within the (unrealistically) low budget, I'd grab a handful of RNC's and call it a day.


Jun.17.2007 @ 9:47 PM
How about a Otari MX5050 III 1/2" eight track. I've seen these in ads for around 1K with only ten percent head wear (or so they say) - and a Trident Series 24 24 channel 16 bus console.
(I was recently offered one of these babies for free (just to move it) however I didn't have the room or a place to store it. Someone has since taken it - probably pretty happy. .... also came with TT patch bay)
Provided your willing to replace caps yourself as needed (not hard at all) we should come in under the 2K mark and probably sound pretty good.


Jun.17.2007 @ 10:51 PM
Ampex 8 tracks used to be cheap until people got the mistaken idea that their tube electronics made cool mic pre's (they don't). . To get a fully-functioning setup with this budget, I think you're stuck in Tascam-land with a pile of beat-up Unidyne mics. Not a pretty place.

I wonder what's the annual tape budget for a prolific musician? Probably more than this whole setup

With this objective and budget, i would get 8 wire recorders for a few hundred bucks and then pay someone an exorbitant amount to get them to run in sync, and go mega lo-fi. otherwise, what's the point?

btw, that studer desk is worth about $3k. beautiful things. mine's a 24 channel.


Jun.17.2007 @ 10:52 PM
Chris Randall
Both the MX5050 III and the Tascam 48 go for around $500 now. I don't know why as the Otari is a far better deck. Actually, I do know why. The Tascam is more dependable, mechanically. But the Otari sounds better. Everyone knows this.

So, let's say, for posterity's sake, that our hypothetical deck is one of those two. Can't be a Tascam 38, because it doesn't have balanced I/O. I mean, really. We have to draw the line there.

So we have $1.5K left, and we need either an 8-channel console with both pres and line in (for recording _and_ monitoring) or a console with at least 2 "mic" channels and 8 line returns (for monitoring only) or a whole mess of outboard and something to monitor on. It'd just be easier with a console. And we need at least a pair of compressors that can be linked. Take in to account whether the console has inserts or not; if it doesn't, obviously you have to give the mic gain before it hits the comp, and you'll need EQ as well.

Probably the cheapest solution would be an 8 (or more) channel console with mic/line inputs, insert points, and direct channel outs. Nobody else is going to find a Trident 24 for free, so that's not something we can depend on. Also, it's far more than what we need. Probably that Studer 169 pictured above, if we can find one, or something similar.


EDIT: I don't think anyone is reading my post. I said we already had mics, monitors, and cables. All we need is a deck, and the ability to record to it and monitor from it.


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