Studio Setup—Going for the Gusto, Part 1

Your Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at home

Your Home Studio

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   Dynamics 101


     So far in this series, we’ve covered studio setup from the most simple through a decent project studio. In the next few articles, I going to go whole hog and see what it takes to setup a professional studio equipped to handle just about anything. I’m going to assume that the location is already properly treated for acoustics and has the appropriate layout for the control room, isolation booths and main recording room and we’re not going to get into the minor details like cables, stands, etc.


     To do this logically, it’s best to start at the beginning and that’s where the sound originates and is captured, so let’s fill up our mic cabinet. To properly mic a drum kit, we’re going to need Shure SM57's ’s for each tom, two for the snare and two for the Hi-hat. They’re the defacto standard for mic’ing drums because of their ruggedness and great frequency response. Shure has done a great job of mass producing a product that’s a good value and has outstanding reliability and consistency. Assuming that we’ve got two floor toms and two regular toms, that comes to 8 at $99.99 and we might as well throw in another 4 as spares and to mic guitar amps, etc. Total— $1199.88


     For the rest of the kit, I’ve chosen Earthwork's DK/25L drum kit package that includes two omni directional overheads, a kick drum mic, the KickPad, a passive inline pad/EQ for the kick mic to capture the lows  accurately and a windscreen. If you were playing live, this is all you’d need but we want the option to isolate the snare, high hat and other drums to compress and equalize them properly. $1,699.99


     Sennheiser's evolution e906 was designed expressly to mic guitar amps but can be used for percussion and brass. Its flat design allows the mic to be positioned right on the speaker grill hung from an XLR cable and the frequency response can be altered using a three position switch that is labeled bright, moderate and dark. The diaphragm is very responsive and delivers a full, lively sound. Price—$189.99


     Now we’ve got to get some mics to handle acoustic instruments and vocals . For the former, the best mic I’ve ever heard on an acoustic guitar is AKG's C 414 B-XL II . It’s a condenser mic requiring phantom power and has 5 polar patterns—omni, wide cardioid, cardioid, hyper-cardioid and figure 8. It runs $999.99 and is primarily a vocal mic but can also be used for distant mic’ing acoustic instruments.


     No self-respecting studio would be complete without at least one Neumann microphone for vocals.  The TLM 49 has the same large diaphragm capsule as the legendary M 49 and U 47 Neumann’s from the 1950’s and has an exceptionally warm sound that is particularly suited to vocals Its transformerless design ensures low self-noise and high gain while the cardioid pattern tends toward super-cardioid since the high frequency response is very directional.  Due to its wide frequency response, it can capture low frequency sounds without coloration and the open design of the head grill is very neutral relative to the sound source. While it’s not the most expensive Neumann, it is very highly rated and a bargain at $1499.


     Blue's "The Bottle" is also a welcome addition because of the flexibility it offers. It has an add-on system of eight, hot swappable, bayonet style mic capsules that provide different polar and tonal characteristics. They include large diaphragm cardioid, small diaphragm cardioid, figure 8, mid-size cardioid, Pespex sphere pressure small diaphragm omni pattern, large diaphragm pressure omni pattern and large diaphragm single backplate cardioid. The microphone comes with its own power supply. The microphone and  the add-on system run $3995 each but since you’re getting 8 microphones in the deal, that works out to $1000 per mic—an outstanding value.


     The last thing we need to complete our mic cabinet for our spare no expense studio would be a matched pair of small diaphragm condensers to record stereo sources like a string ensemble or to use as room mic’s. Beyerdynamic's MC 930 pressure gradient is my choice with 125db SPL, 15db pad and 250hz low cut filter. Two of them will run us 999.98.


Total for all the mics—$13,586.85. Next month—mic pre-amps and outboard proccessors.