Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tools, Baby, Tools!

It goes without saying that home studio recording and project recording are not the same as going to a full-fledged professional studio. It's worth the money to have an experienced hand at the faders and a facility with the equipment necessary to make you sound your best.

That said, there's something attractive about the D.I.Y. ethic, which can fan out over many levels - from novice buying their first multi-track recorder to careerist, making decisions on the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for the buck. Recording yourself and others at home offers plenty of benefits including the ability to track whenever you desire and without keeping a wary eye on the wallet clock. Another benefit is the gradual education you receive by slowly immersing yourself into the infinite world of gear, gear and more gear.

Over the years, having a home studio rig has become more affordable with plenty of resources out there to lend you a helping hand. Believe it or not, what's also made home recording so attractive is the fact that millions of people tend to listen to their music via mp3 files. This compressed audio format tends to level the playing field just a little bit in terms of fidelity. A very little bit.

During my own engineering journey, I find there are purchases made that greatly plus my ability to create and record good-sounding music tracks. Cruising on that for awhile, I continue to add onto the knowledge of recorders and mics, processors and amps, hardware and software. In recent months, I've purchased a couple of microphones (Shure SM57 and SM58 Beta) which have already improved the quality of what I record here at home. The next logical step was to get into an inexpensive microphone pre-amp to help warm up the tone that those microphones (and others in my collection) pick-up.

After getting a lead from David Lee King (@DavidLeeKing on Twitter), I ended up setting my sights on the ART Tube Pac. (A play on Tupac, perhaps - who knows?) I've long preferred the sound of tubes over solid state for amplifiers, so it made a lot of sense to employ their warmth to vocals and instruments during the recording process. As you get deeply into the whole production process, a rather largish world of details begins to unfold. Like the difference between dynamic and condenser mics or the wonderful world of manipulating frequencies during the E.Q. and mastering process, the deeper you go, the more there is to absorb. Compression plays a big part in all three phases of production (which, for you non-tech heads out there is pre-production, production and post-production) and it seemed handy to have a mic pre that would also allow for some signal compression.

So, I'm waiting on delivery of this unit sometime this week. Next on the list will be to upgrade from the PreSonus Firebox recording interface to something a little less glitchy with more inputs and sonic controls. Then: I'll be stepping up and looking for a good deal on a Rode NT1a.

As David put it, "amazing how there's ALWAYS more gear out there, huh?" It's true. Especially if you continue to develop, nourish and perfect your craft, whether it be playing an instrument or recording one. You need the proper tools to do the proper job.


tommie brewster said...

Interesting - thanks for those insights and I entirely agree that if you really care about your music and want to do it justice in the recording of it, then you have to develop or at least try and learn as you go along.

Bing Futch said...

Thanks for the comment, Tommie! One of the things that makes the internet so great is all the info available out there. I try to publish stuff that will ultimately help others, since we're all in this same lovely boat together. : )