The computer studio kicked off in May of 2005 when I had a PC built to handle things.
This was an AMD 64 3000 (1.8Ghz) processor running on Windows XP Home with 1Gb memory,
a couple of hard drives and the all important M-Audio 24-96 sound-card. This set-up
is still running although a couple more hard drives have been added along with another
1Gb memory. The original 19” CRT monitor has also been replaced by a pair of 19”
LCD’s. The twin monitor set-up is ideal for this sort of work as you can have the
track view on one screen and the mixer and VST windows on the other.
I started off this DAW (digital audio workstation) with a demo of Cubase but quickly
got fed up with the learning curve (me not being too technical). I tried various
free versions of sequencer programs and eventually found the fabulous REAPER. One
of the wonderful things about this program is that the fully functioning trial version
is free to download and evaluate for as long as you like and that the buying price
is so modest. It is totally the best value, and easiest to learn, of all the recording
The signal chain that I use is quite straightforward. Microphones, guitars, basses
and audio from the Roland keyboard go directly through a Behringer Eurorack UB1002
mixer, then into the audio inputs of the soundcard. MIDI data from the Roland goes
direct to the MIDI-in of the soundcard. All is monitored from the soundcard outputs
to a small pair of Enact G-401A active speakers and also to BeyerDynamic DT220 headphones.
I actually do all of my mixing on the ‘phones.
Microphones I use are a Behringer XM1800S super cardioid and a Behringer XM2000 cardioid.
I have recently up-graded to a large diaphragm condenser mic in the shape of the
sEX1 from SE electronics, which draws it’s 48v phantom power from the mixer. Keyboard
is an old Roland KR-650.
My usual technique, which I tend to apply to all acoustic instruments in much the
same way, is ‘close mic-ing’ as I don’t have any room treatment and, in fact as my
little studio is only 8ft by 7ft, is actually the only option.
Because this method tends to produce an amount of background noise I find that the
very first plug-in that I put in my Effects chain is ReaFir, which is part of the
REAPER suite, and has a truly easy-to-use noise reduction facility. I couldn’t do
without it. This is often followed by Classic Compressor or ReaEQ with the chain
most often finished off with BackStageEQone from Mildom. This gives a real sense
of sparkle and space to almost all of my acoustic instruments.
Electric guitars and basses go directly through the mixer to the soundcard to record
the ‘clean’ signal. After that processing is usually with, for guitars, FreeAmp
3 (or 2.5) and more recently GreenMachine. For bass it is sometimes FreeAmp or RetrobandLite
but more often I stick with the Classic Compressor.
This last year has seen a major upgrade in hardware in the form of a new PC. Still
with AMD chip but upped to a quad core. WOW, what a difference.