How I record musicians
I was asked what equipment I use to record people, as I occasionally do record classical and world music ensembles for Magnatune release (about 6 albums a year).
I use the ADAT HD as my main recorder:
It's a 24 track hard disk recorder.
I love it, *once* I disconnected the fan, which is easy and seems useless as it runs very cool and silent except for the hard disk noise, and you can minimize that by purchasing a "silent" IDE hard drive. To disconnect the fan, just take the top off and pop off the connector. I've never had a failure, and I can feel it running cool by touching the cabinet. The only problem with is that you have to use a very specific version (old) of WS_FTP (windows) or Fetch (mac) because their FTP server hangs with other ftp clients (even command line), though I'm told most people don't use the FTP interface (I fetch the WAV files directly off the ADAT/HD each night) instead doing a digital-to-digital copy through a PC interface, but that's another source of problems, I think.
I'm anti-computer when it comes to recording, as I've found them to not be reliable enough in the field, and problems with recording gear really freak the musicians out. I used to record to computer, and used the ADAT as backup, but now I just use the ADAT. I had one session where my PC interface started to reboot regularly, every 5 to 20 minutes, and another session where I found single-sample drops in the final WAV files that I had to fix by hand, which took 2 days' work.
But, if you want to go computer, I have a Fireface
and everyone raves about its sonic quality (even the hyper-engineers). I haven't yet used mine much, but my recording engineer mentor David Tayler loves his (uhm, the one he's permanently borrowed from me (grin)) and I bought a quiet Toshiba laptop to use it with, so I'll be trying it again in the near future. It's very light, and provides 4 channels of mic pre & phantom power. There is a wiring schematic on the top of the fireface that you need to understand to use it, and a very complicated driver.
I use the Octopre Platinum
which sounds nice, has 8 channels, and works fine with the ADAT HD. One nice thing is its dual outputs, so you can record to a PC and to the ADAT/HD at the same time, which is what I do when it really matters.
The Fireface and the Octopre both have phantom power for mics.
I have messed with a of mics, but these days I just use small diaphragm Studio Projects C4 matched-paid omni microphones
These are made by the Chinese company that makes Neumann microphones for Neumann, and now they make these clones that are quite good. Not as perfect as the Neumanns, but I can't afford a dozen Neumann microphones, at about $1200 each.
I occasionally use some more expensive mics, such as a pair of Sennheiser MKH-20s, that are gorgeous, quiet and suuper-sensitive (sometimes too sensitive) but the Studio Projects are good everyday mics.
One nice thing about using a PC to record (even if just backup) is that you can use it at as a mixer to monitor the sound. And sometimes, you need to add some room ambience (echo) to the mics to monitor them somewhat realistically, which you can't do without a computer (well, not without more gear) I generally use a cheap 12 track small mackie mixer + ADAT/HD + Octopre as my standard rig, and can imagine the room ambience, just focussing on the clean micing.
Posted by John Buckman on March 21, 2006 at 05:54 AM | Permalink
Nice post. I love my fireface. I think the point is that if you have the right gear, you don't need a ton of gear. The tricky part is finding the right gear when everyone is trying to tell you that their thing is the right thing.
Posted by: PXR8 at Feb 8, 2008 8:47:52 PM