Tired Of My Recordings Sounding Like Crap - New Studio Rig Help! - Mac Demarco Sound-

#1
I'm tired of my recordings sounding like crap, and I'm wondering if I'm due for an upgrade. Right now I'm using an old Line6 Toneport UX2, MXL990 Mic, and the included amp models provided from the line6 software. I just can't seem to get the sound I'm looking for guitar or vocal wise.

Everytime I think I have it sounding halfway decent in my headphones Beyerdynamic DT770 and play it through my computer speakers I'm getting a totally different and terrible sound. So much time is wasted going from my head phones, mixing it down to mp3, then playing it through other speakers testing to see if it sounds right.

I'm really into Mac Demarco right now check out this sound... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR_R1kt4V54

Upon some internet searching, his rig includes:
Monitors: KRK Rokit
Vocal mic and probably guitar amp mic: Shure Beta SM57
Pre Amp: Focusrite ISA ONE Apogee Duet
Mixer: Allen Heath ZED22fx Fostex A-8 LR
Effects: Roland Space Echo RE-201
Alesis Microverb 4
Guitar amp: Fender Vibrochamp
And an 8-track reel to reel tape recorder

One question I have is why do you need the ISA One, and the Apogee(or any) interface?

What do you guys recommend as a big upgrade? I have $3500 to spend.
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#2
Mac is awesome! A huge part of that sound is the reel to reel. Recording to analog tape affects the tone of a track dramatically, if you really love and want Mac's sound I would say the tape and a nice Fender amp would go a long way. Tape is expensive though and can be a pain in the ass, so skipping that step I would recommend:
1. A real amplifier, preferably a Fender or Vox tube amp
2. A decent dynamic and decent condenser mic. An Shure SM57 and an Rode NT1-A for example.
3. A decent DAW with an analog tape emulator.
4. Skills

I honestly have no idea why he has a digital interface, maybe just as a preamp to control his input into the board.
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#3
Dalilama is correct about the cost of going analog. I come from a long analog tape background starting in the 70's with a TEAC 3340 4-track and a Revox A-77 1/2 track reel to reel (both really high quality for time). In the 80's I went to a Fostex E-16 16-track and a Sony 1/2 track mastering reel to reel. I only bring this up as a background to my reply here.
I loved what was coming off those machines at the time but it was same story as it is today with digital: GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage out). A good set of quality monitors is essential to a good mix. Good headphones are a workaround (and yours are nice!) but you really need to hear your mixes in a room with decent monitors as others will hear them. Also if you are even considering going analog go on line and see what's available on the market in blank reel to reel tape. Not much anymore except some old stock and you are taking a chance that it has been stored properly in a nice controlled space not some dusty un-heated humid warehouse. The other problem with reel to reel machines these days is finding parts. At the time it was fairly easy to get parts like rubber capstan rollers, belts and replacement heads, but not today. So I suggest forgetting the analog idea unless you have some previous gear and knowledge.

I have never tried an analog tape emulator but that sounds interesting. As for microphones I agree with the Shure SM57 (probably the world's most versatile mic) and if you can afford it the Rode NT-1 (newer ones comes with a spider cage and pop filter). I wouldn't look for any old Roland Space Echo. I own two that are collecting dust balls in my basement. They are analog recorders with a tape loop that has to be changed and motors and capstans that have to looked after a lot or they run off speed. If you have your heart set on going to tape, look on EBay for a Tascam 488 MKII 8 track with DBX II noise reduction. It records to a cassette at double speed (3 3/4 I.P.S.) and I have seen them sell for less than $100.00 (and stock up on Q-Tips and alcohol).

Sorry for the rambling. I am actually in an on going project to download many hours of reel to reel tape to my hard drive so I am using my old reel to reel machines for the first time in about 15 years and hopefully they will hold up till I am finished. It's mostly old garbage from bands I was in years ago and projects with friends but it's my old garbage and I guess I want to keep it.
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at May 20, 2015,
#4
He doesn't have a digital interface, he has a Focusrite preamps. For those that don't know, Focusrite was making preamps long before getting in business of digital interfaces.
Honestly, their preamps were OK, clean and maybe just a touch "vibey", nothing all that special but probably it gives him an opportunity to get his vocal sound on the go - just plug mic, tweak a little eq and compression and go.
The Allen & Heath consoles are great.
Going analog for home studio will pretty much be madness at this stage of the digital game but I guess you can master to analog (if you can get decent stereo machine) or use analog as an effect, I wouldn't track to analog even though I still have two machines in working condition laying around.

Only time I'd go analog is if I am recording a full band or capturing that kind of feel, it sounds magical on pretty much everything, well maybe a little noisy if you're recording acoustic guitar or classical music but on the rock genres it is great. There's this jelling that happens that I've never been able to achieve with digital...but still, probably would use it as a tracking, then editing will happen on digital, or I'll record digital and then drive the tape back.
#5
Thanks for the input guys. I love that analog sound but you're right it's expensive and hard to maintain...

You're also correct in saying I need proper studio monitors. I think that's my biggest road block right now.

I spoke with the guys at Sweetwater and they recommended I get the $1600 Audient & Lauten audio interface & mic bundle http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Atlantis-ID22 With the jbl lsr308 monitors http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/LSR308.

Do you think it's necessary to get the interface package or just get the monitors first and see how that works. Do you think it's worth upgrading the Line 6 Ux2 or just get a rode nt1 and a sm57 and monitors?
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Schecter C1-Elite w/Duncan Distortions
#6
Quote by Optimus485
Thanks for the input guys. I love that analog sound but you're right it's expensive and hard to maintain...

You're also correct in saying I need proper studio monitors. I think that's my biggest road block right now.

I spoke with the guys at Sweetwater and they recommended I get the $1600 Audient & Lauten audio interface & mic bundle http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Atlantis-ID22 With the jbl lsr308 monitors http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/LSR308.

Do you think it's necessary to get the interface package or just get the monitors first and see how that works. Do you think it's worth upgrading the Line 6 Ux2 or just get a rode nt1 and a sm57 and monitors?


That package doesn't look bad but to get the full utilization of the Audient iD22 you need ADAT capable preamp/mixer, otherwise you'll just have a 2 channel interface. Depends on how many channels you need but unless you're recording full band that is probably overkill. In this case I'd say look at the Focusrite interfaces or the competition, somewhere around $400, you can pick up SM57 and an AT4040 (better than NT-1), get same monitors if you want. Microphones are kind of weird though, you'll have to try a few to see what suits your voice best.

The Audient is an interesting choice though, I found this review here, maybe it is not a bad deal but I ma surprised they're bundling it with such cheap monitors, this makes me want to question Sweetwater at why are they're throwing this bundle together.

It will be a step up from that Line6 audio interface though.
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan14/articles/audient-id22.htm
Last edited by diabolical at May 21, 2015,
#7
I just finished setting up my new rig and I'm absolutely blown away. I can't believe the difference, night and day!

New setup: Focusrite 2i2, JBL LSR308's, AKG C214

I almost dropped kicked that line6 ux2 after hearing the difference lol. Now what I actually hear through my headphones is what I hear through the monitors!
Marshall DSL 40C
Gibson Les Paul Classic Lemonburst 2014
ENGL Fireball 60
Peavey 5150 412 Straight
CRATE Blue Voodoo BV120HB
CRATE GT412SL 4x12 Cab
Peavey Vypyr 15
Schecter C1-Elite w/Duncan Distortions