3 Studios, 3 Budgets: What Would You Buy?

Mar 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Markkus Rovito, Kevin Becka, and Wes Maebe


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THE MIX ROOM: $25,000

By Kevin Becka

In this budget class, you have to be careful not to overthink your studio’s capabilities. For instance, you’re not going to be able to track a band in this category without cutting serious corners and settling for tools that will make your job a tough one. For that reason, I’m limiting my gear picks to mixing in the box, mastering and simple overdubs like vocals, acoustic guitar or other mono or stereo recording channel workflows. I’m shopping for price here, as well, so we’re talking street, not retail.

Let’s start with the transducers at the front end since this will be where you’ll spend most of your money. You need a good pair of microphones for stereo applications and a single, versatile mic for recording vocals. The DPA 2011C mics reviewed in this issue are a great place to start ($799 each). DPA pitches these for live sound use, but I think that’s an underestimation. The 2011C is moderately priced by DPA standards, is versatile, sounds great and can grow with your studio. The capsule is interchangeable with other DPA products so you can mix, match and upgrade easily. Their design is optimized for excellent rear and side rejection, meaning they’re great for close-quarter recording where off-axis noise may be a problem, like a control room. They also take a ton of level at 146 dB SPL, so they excel across a range of applications from screaming guitar cabinets to acoustic guitar and piano.

DPA 2011C

DPA 2011C

Next is the vocal mic, and the Lauten Atlantis FC-387 is a great choice ($1,499.) It is a large-diaphragm condenser with three distinct circuit paths, meaning you can essentially EQ within the mic. If you’re recording a brash saxophone, kick it down to the gentle setting, or if you’re recording hand percussion and want more top, move the switch to the Forward position for added upper-frequency definition.

Lauten Atlantis FC-387

Lauten Atlantis FC-387

It would be great to have one great analog recording channel, and the Retro Powerstrip or Millennia STT-1 are both excellent choices. The Powerstrip ($2,895) is a tube unit with a vintage vibe featuring a transformer coupled Class-A tube microphone preamplifier, passive EQ, variable-mu tube compression and both a highpass filter and a separate highpass sidechain filter. The STT-1 is also a channel strip with EQ, compression and a high-quality mic preamp. It is just a bit more money ($3,067) but offers Twin-Topology so you can choose whether to go tube or solid-state at each stage: The EQ, compressor and preamp are all separately switchable between paths. With these two choices you can add personality to your vocal or single-channel recordings before you get inside the box.

For an interface, I’ve chosen the Universal Audio Apollo Quad ($2,499), which as a bonus offers some excellent preamps and access to UAD-2 plug-ins. It’s also Thunderbolt-ready for portable use, has an integrated software mixer, and, recently announced at NAMM, is expandable by chaining two together. This buys you more DSP power for the plug-ins, plus an extra four preamps. Growth potential is always a great bonus when you’re buying gear, and these extra preamps get you within the range of a larger tracking room for no extra money—just add more mics.

Universal Audio Apollo Quad

Universal Audio Apollo Quad

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