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A Great Sounding
Tweak's takes you on a tour of his own signal chain
Today a home studio can rival a professional studio's sound, given you pay attention to every element of your signal path. Rather than use the compromised path offered by all-in-one audio interfaces, I suggest you replace the functions that have less than stellar audio capabilities with those that do. Let me be clear, the components that a high end professional studio use will still exceed those from this gear. But by much less of a margin than if you just went though your typical better quality audio interface. The difference in sound is striking.
The Lucid AD9624 is a 2 channel analog to digital converter known for clear sonics at 24 or 16 bit, at samples rates of 44.1, 48 and 96 kHz. It can be switched to stereo mode where the top level control affects both channels, or may be used as 2 independent channels, which is great for mono recording. The metering helps you keep your signal from your preamp from overdriving the converter and gives an accurate reference of what you are actually recording.
You can add any audio interface to this system, as long as it has s/pdif. I have the MOTU 828mk2 and choose it for its generous i/o. It's preamps and converters are not bad, but you won't have to use them with this system. Indeed one of the first things I did was an A/B comparison when I put this chain together. It was like removing a veil of crud between the mic and the speakers. See my review.
The Presonus Central Station is more than just a monitor switcher and headphone amp, though it does those chrores well. It also has an excellent DA converter which can take the digital signal coming out of your audio interface via s/pdif and put it in analog form for your monitoring system. See my review.
The Mackie HR 824 active monitors can be found in studios world wide. While choosing monitors can be a subjective thing, the Mackie sound does not disappoint. For critical mastering you might want to choose something else as the Mackies exceed many other speaker systems and don't translate as well. But for hearing the fine details of your work, and hearing the quality of your recordings I think they are an excellent value. See my review.
In the sidebar you see the approximate cost of all the items together, which as of this writing will cost you $3685. You can cut the cost a little and not compromise quality by going with a less expensive audio interface. Just about any audio interface with decent drivers that has the i/o you need will do. (It has to have s/pdif i/o). That could save about $400 or so. You might also consider the DynAudio BM5 as your monitors to save another 260. Many argue those will be more accurate and better suited for mixing and mastering. But we could argue all day about that! That would take you down to almost $3,000. I'd not swap anything else out.
Of course you can always make this signal path sound even better with a higher quality preamp like the Presonus ADL600 the Phoenix DRS2, or those by Great River, Avalon, Universal Audio, Grace and of course many others. Here's a page of some of the better preamps available. You could also outfit the system with 2 mono preamps rather than a 2 channel preamp, or better yet, get a patchbay so you can switch between your favorite two channel preamp and your favorite mono preamp. That is what I do.
- Building a High Quality signal path
- Review of the Great River ME-1NV
- Compare 35 different Firewire Audio Interfaces
- Review of the Presonus Central Station
- Review of the MOTU 828MK2
- The Truth about Studio Monitors