Best Beginner Rigs

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mojobone
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Best Beginner Rigs

Post by mojobone » Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:52 am

Another thread got me thinking about this topic; what's a good under $1k starter studio rig? Assuming there's already some kind of basic computer, say a not-too-old Dell laptop or equivalent, what would you recommend for your music-mad niece, and why?

I think I'd go with

Zoom R16 interface/control surface: portable, easy to operate, enough inputs to record a small ensemble

Shure SM57 dynamic mic: workhorse mic of the millennium

Audio-Technica 2035 lg diaphragm condenser mic: cardioid, lo-cut, pad, high quality, shockmount included

Samson Resolve A8 powered monitors: the least expensive monitor option that still lets you hear the low end without adding a sub. For another hundred bills, you could get the very nice Mackie MR8s, though

I left out a bunch of necessary peripherals like mic stands and cables, for which you can pay as much as you'd like, and some less crucial, but good to have accessories like headphones and a decibel meter; it'd probably be a good idea to pick up a matched pair of small-diaphragm condensers, too, but left 'em off in the interest of keeping the quality high enough that nothing would need to be replaced/upgraded for a year or so....
Last edited by mojobone on Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by mazz » Fri Jul 30, 2010 9:28 am

Don't forget some kind of software!

I know you said it should already include a computer, but if I was starting from scratch for a serious kid, and I had the budget, I'd go with a MacBook, which comes with GarageBand. GarageBand is pretty amazing software considering it's free (if you don't include the price of the dongle: i.e., Mac computer! :lol: ). That and an Apogee Duet or even the One, would be a pretty great way to start. Then you could go on with the other stuff you recommend like the stands, cables, etc. Most of that stuff can be bought really inexpensively online or at your local mom and pop store.

Oh, and a little MIDI controller for playing all those software instruments in GarageBand.

I'm not up on the lowend for the PC world so that's what I would do.
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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by jdhogg » Fri Jul 30, 2010 1:44 pm

you dont say what type of music she likes.

I would upgrade the speakers to a well known one used in a lot of budget studios this will also maximise sell on price when they are upgraded or just sold.

Mic MXL 2003A gearslut/google it.

I would start her on that.

Then reaper and ez/sup2/ad etc for drums.

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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by mojobone » Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:56 pm

Zoom R16 comes with entry-level recording software.(lite version of Cubase and Ableton Live, IIRC) Most interfaces do, if you buy new. I assumed an instrument as well as the computer; owning an instrument and being able to play it are the first prerequisites that define a musician, imo. I'll agree the Samsons are a bit of a compromise; just about any sub $1k monitors are, but I believe there's little point in spending that much until you can work in a treated room.

Of course a keyboardist who primarily records herself could save some buckage; 2 audio I/Os and one MIDI can be had for half what the Zoom costs. On the other hand, having an integrated control surface really speeds up the recording process, at least for old analog goats like me. ;)

Yep, style has a bearing on this, too; for pure electronica. you wouldn't need much more than Reason and a pair of Auratones.
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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by billg1 » Sat Jul 31, 2010 4:05 am

I'll second the R16. Actually, I don't see any reason why that couldn't be a good starter rig and with some additions down the road (pre-amps etc.) it should be a good basis for a pro set-up.
BTW they just came out with the R24.

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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by whatsthedealman » Wed Sep 15, 2010 1:47 pm

This discussion is very helpful to me - thanks to everyone here for the input!

Here's what I have so far, and I'm ready to upgrade:

- First off, my computer is a new Mac Mini, and I mostly record live vocals and acoustic instruments, though I want to have the capability of using quality MIDI sounds, particularly drums and bass.

- my Mic: Shure SM58

- I've been using Garageband with an M-Audio Keystation 49e and it has served me well for tinkering and playing around but it's high time to upgrade to more pro software and a better MIDI keyboard/synth - Ideally one that I can also play live performances with, as I am a singer-songwriter who composes on keyboard but can never play those songs live since I don't have a portable keyboard.

- I've been using a 2-channel M-Audio MobilePre but have been frustrated with it from the start because of impedance issues - I have to use an additional pre-amp with my acoustic guitar and I still haven't figured out how to cut out the "fuzz" (which is a result of having to crank up the volume so high) when using a mic - never been able to get a nice clean, clear mic recording and it has been detrimental to all of my demos. I need a better interface for sure, and one with more than 2 channels.

As I've been reading your posts and doing research on products, it seems the Zoom R16 would be a great choice for me, and since it comes with Cubase, that would take care of upgrading my software too. I am assuming that with the R16 I would no longer have to worry about impedance issues with my acoustic instruments/mic?

I see you also recommend getting a monitor and some nice headphones, though both of those things might have to wait for the time being as I can only upgrade in stages here on my budget. (I have phones, of course, but I have no idea how "quality" they are.)

As for the keyboard, I have read some other posts and discussions but if anyone feels like recommending something for me here or knows of a discussion on this forum that would help me out with this topic, that would be great. I am interested in a full or almost full keyboard size, at least semi-weighted keys, and "believable" synth sounds. Again, something portable for live shows would be ideal. Hopefully not bank-breaking, but I understand that price = quality and features.

Other than that, I wouldn't have to replace my mic, though I see you recommend a couple other types of mics. Can I get by for the time being on my SM58 or is getting these other mics essential for good quality home recordings?

So what I am wondering is if getting the R16 and upgrading my MIDI keyboard would be good enough of a start for a home studio improvement project, and if there's anything crucial I am missing.

My goal is to be able to record those "top notch" home recordings TAXI submissions require, and also perhaps produce my own album some day as I learn how to do so. Think I'm off to a good start?

Thanks Everyone - I have really appreciated having this forum for help - whew I have so much to learn :!: Might as well start now.

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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by eeoo » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:39 pm

The R-16 is a great unit and very affordable, highly reccomeneded! If you want to play shows with your keyboard you'd be better off getting a stand alone key board rather than a midi keyboard so you don't have to take your computer to shows. As far as mics go, the 58 is a great all around, indestructible beast and no one should be without one, but for recording, once you have some experience recording vocals through a decent large diaphragm condenser mic it's hard to go back to the 58. There are exceptions to this, there have been plenty of hits that have used a 58 for vocals I'm sure but in my experience an LDC is the way to go for vocals. In the $400-700 range look at Audio-Technica, Rode, Blue, Gauge and I'm sure others can chime in with good reccomendations. Good luck! eo.

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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by whatsthedealman » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:31 am

Thanks for the response, eeoo.

I'll check into what you mentioned!

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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by mojobone » Sat Sep 18, 2010 7:44 pm

whatsthedealman wrote:This discussion is very helpful to me - thanks to everyone here for the input!

Here's what I have so far, and I'm ready to upgrade:

- First off, my computer is a new Mac Mini, and I mostly record live vocals and acoustic instruments, though I want to have the capability of using quality MIDI sounds, particularly drums and bass.

- my Mic: Shure SM58

- I've been using Garageband with an M-Audio Keystation 49e and it has served me well for tinkering and playing around but it's high time to upgrade to more pro software and a better MIDI keyboard/synth - Ideally one that I can also play live performances with, as I am a singer-songwriter who composes on keyboard but can never play those songs live since I don't have a portable keyboard.

- I've been using a 2-channel M-Audio MobilePre but have been frustrated with it from the start because of impedance issues - I have to use an additional pre-amp with my acoustic guitar and I still haven't figured out how to cut out the "fuzz" (which is a result of having to crank up the volume so high) when using a mic - never been able to get a nice clean, clear mic recording and it has been detrimental to all of my demos. I need a better interface for sure, and one with more than 2 channels.

As I've been reading your posts and doing research on products, it seems the Zoom R16 would be a great choice for me, and since it comes with Cubase, that would take care of upgrading my software too. I am assuming that with the R16 I would no longer have to worry about impedance issues with my acoustic instruments/mic?

I see you also recommend getting a monitor and some nice headphones, though both of those things might have to wait for the time being as I can only upgrade in stages here on my budget. (I have phones, of course, but I have no idea how "quality" they are.)

As for the keyboard, I have read some other posts and discussions but if anyone feels like recommending something for me here or knows of a discussion on this forum that would help me out with this topic, that would be great. I am interested in a full or almost full keyboard size, at least semi-weighted keys, and "believable" synth sounds. Again, something portable for live shows would be ideal. Hopefully not bank-breaking, but I understand that price = quality and features.

Other than that, I wouldn't have to replace my mic, though I see you recommend a couple other types of mics. Can I get by for the time being on my SM58 or is getting these other mics essential for good quality home recordings?

So what I am wondering is if getting the R16 and upgrading my MIDI keyboard would be good enough of a start for a home studio improvement project, and if there's anything crucial I am missing.

My goal is to be able to record those "top notch" home recordings TAXI submissions require, and also perhaps produce my own album some day as I learn how to do so. Think I'm off to a good start?

Thanks Everyone - I have really appreciated having this forum for help - whew I have so much to learn :!: Might as well start now.
In your particular case, I'd recommend the Gauge ECM-87 mic, Apogee Duet, Logic Express, and this: http://forums.taxi.com/topic23463.html

In this way, you can upgrade a little at a time and for a smaller incremental investment; (though the Duet costs as much as the R16, the preamp quality trumps it for your applications) the R16 is a great deal, with tons of functionality, but you need a sensitive mic and a quality preamp for recording acoustic guitars. The Gauge is well-suited to both vocals and acoustic guitars, and if you're more a music geek than a computer geek, you'll probably prefer Logic to Cubase, and the R16 comes with a rather limited version of Cubase, anyway. It would also be helpful to upgrade your monitor situation, so you can more clearly hear the sounds you're making. I like Addictive Drums and Spectrasonics' Trilian, for bass, and your machine should handle both, easily.
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Re: Best Beginner Rigs

Post by whatsthedealman » Sun Sep 19, 2010 1:47 pm

Awesome - thanks Mojo! Yeah, definitely more of a music person than computer, but I'm trying to learn more about the techie end for my own good. It is a bit overwhelming when you first dive in! I like ramping up the learning curve though - it's good for me. I'll be sure to take a look at what you suggested.

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