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New to the forum, but here's a budget studio story
 Moderated by: Troy33, RainyDayMan, HankTheTank
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 Posted: Fri Apr 12th, 2013 07:28 pm
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ajcraver
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Joined: Fri Apr 12th, 2013
Location: Lubbock, Texas USA
Posts: 29
Favorite Artist: Too many to name
I am a: Singer/Songwriter/Musician
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Brand new to this forum and saw this section on studio equipment.  I thought I might share this with you.  This is what I've managed to acquire over the last three years and how much I've paid for it.  It still amazes me.

The first purchase I made was for an item that I didn’t necessarily need, but wanted.  I love hollow body guitars.  I have longed for a Gretsch 6120 or, to a lesser extent, a Gibson ES 335, but Gretsch and Gibson guitars are a luxury, not a necessity.  It just so happened that while perusing craigslist I came across an ad for an Ibanez AFS75T with an amp.  It didn’t specify what type of amp and it wasn’t important to me as I already owned a small vintage amp, but the price for the guitar and amp was $350.00.  Roughly a $100 - $150.00 cheaper than the guitar brand new, and as an added bonus it came with a hard-shell case.  I gave the owner a call and made an appointment to take a look at the guitar.  At this point I wasn’t interested in the amp and intended to use that as a bargaining tool.  However, upon arriving to investigate the guitar I spotted the amp that went with it.  A seemingly brand new Fender Super Champ XD.  Okay, I was sold on the spot.  I liked the guitar (not loved, but certainly liked.  And I am an Ibanez fan) and, having messed around with the Super Champ previously, I knew that I liked the amp and also knew what it was selling for during this time.  Around $350.00 and $300 if you managed to catch it on sale.  Which is not a bad price for a tube-hybrid amp that is a very loud 15watt, extremely versatile  and semi-gig worthy.  You can even get it cheaper now. So the price was more than fair, no question about it, but I still negotiated with the owner and ended up spending $300.00 for both items.  A pretty good deal by any measure, but it was not going to be the best deal I was going to eventually find. 

The second purchase began my odyssey of putting together a budget home studio.  I occasionally visit pawn shops, mainly to look at tools.  It’s been a habit of mine since the 70’s and early eighties.  It’s been rare that I have ever purchased anything because the prices are so close to retail that it is simply not worth it.  Most often the price difference of, let’s say a Makita 18v drill, used and new is around $20-40.00.  That’s a little too high for me to roll the dice on a used tool.  But, during a lunch break, I might still wander into a pawn shop just to look around.  It was during one of these lunch excursions that I happened to see a Boss Br 900cd multi track recorder on a clearance rack.  It was lacking a power cord and the pawn shop had marked it down to $40.00.  I kid you not.  These retail for around $600.00.  Now, I would be rolling the dice on a unit like that if I bought it, ordered a new power cord and the unit might still not power on, but the Br 900 also accepts batteries.  So the next day I walked in with a pocket full of batteries and tested the unit.  It powered on.   Perfect.  Bought the unit.  However, while in the process of making the purchase I spotted a second Boss unit.  A BR 1600cd.  This retailed for $1500.00 at the time.  The shop was asking around $600.00 so I wasn’t interested.    I took my unit home, ordered a replacement cord for $15.00 and played around with it.  I wasn’t going to do anything serious with it so I wasn’t looking to get monitors and mics.  Fast forward a month.  I walk back into the same pawn shop and the Br1600 that was marked for $600.00 is now sitting in the clearance shelf with a tag asking $100.00 with a note stating that it had “no power”.  This is something I could afford to take a gamble on since I know how to solder.  But, once again, not without negotiating a lower price.  $50.00 was the magic number.  I took it back to my office and plugged the unit it.  Sure ‘nuff, no power.  But in the process of reaching for the power cord the unit flickered to life for a second and I knew immediately that the cord had been cut.  Easiest fix in the world.  Now I had a nice piece of equipment that had practically been given to me.  I don’t need two multi track recorders so I immediately found a buyer for the BR900 for $200.00.  At this point not only am I not out of any cash, but I’ve actually made a profit.
 
So now I've got a great piece of gear.  What else do I need.  Monitors, keyboards, a bass guitar, drums and some mics.

Let’s start with monitors.  I already owned Sennheiser HD 280 headphones.  Not bad for tracking, not so good for mixing.  My computer speakers were M-Audio  Studiophile 30’s.  Used together and with some effort I could manage some decent mixes.  But it’s hard enough to do a quality mix with really good dedicated monitors.  You don’t really want to pile on more work by having to burn a mix and play it on different devices and then remix to compensate and do it all over again.  So, once again, during a lunchtime visit to a pawnshop the skies parted and shown a light directed to set of M-Audio AV40’s sitting on a shelf.  AV40’s are not really nearfield monitors, but a little bit better class than the Studiophiles.  But priced at $25.00 they were a bargain and a half.  And they did give me truer imaging than the computer speakers so I didn’t have to work as hard to get a good mix.  I still had to work at the mix, just not as hard.  I sold the studiophiles for around $40.00 and then stumbled upon some samson resolv 65s, but these were passives and I don’t have a power amp.  Luckily the craigslist seller only wanted $40.00 for them.  I can’t stress how important it is to know what something is worth.  I purchased them and turned around and sold them for $70.00, which is still a good price for these monitors.  It just so happens that in another pawn shop moment of glory I came across a single KRK Rokit 5 G2.  They were asking for $50.00.  We tested it and I offered $40.00.  We settled on $44.00 and it totaled $48.00 and some change after tax.  Even if I had to buy a new matching monitor for $149.00 I was ahead of the game, but I didn’t have to do that.  Craigslist once again saved the day.  A single KRK Rokit 5 G2 with a blown tweeter was advertised for $50.00.  I paid $30.00.  Cost for replacement tweeter?  $29.00 on ebay.  So now I’m in possession of a set of KRK’s for a little over two thirds of what a single monitor would cost me new.  And while the KRK Rokit 5’s are still not high end monitors they are the most popular among home studios.  And the difference between them and the set of AV40’s is nothing short of spectacular.  The less work I have to do to achieve a good mix the better. 

When it came to microphones I bought both retail and used.  I already owned an old Oktava MK219 that was gifted to me many years ago when I first began creating demos.  I found a MXL 2003, new on sale, for $60.00.  I’ve always been fond of the Oktava for what it was and the MXL is actually pretty decent for being a budget mic.  I used the Oktava mainly for the amp and used the MXL for a number of my vocals.  It was good enough until I could find a better deal.  And that deal came in the form of another budget microphone from a higher end manufacturer, Blue.  The Spark is by no means high end, but it beats hands down most microphones in it’s price range.  Actually, it’s a very sweet mic.  It retails for a hair under $200.00.  Used, it can found for a little over a hundred.  Usually $120.00.  Pawn shop to the rescue.  $89.00 negotiated down to $75.00 with tax.  That included the mic, the shock mount, the pop screen and the nice box that it comes in. 

I have an old Kawai K4 synth and a yamaha YPG235.  I did want a small midi controller, however, that I could tote with me when I’m out of town on business.  Found one that was “cracked” on Guitar Centers used gear page.  MPK25 for $36.00.  I ordered it.  Received an email from a GC associate that they had tested the unit and it would not power on.  He sent me a new one.  Second generation.  Same price.  I owe that guy a Chili’s gift card at the very least. 

Yoki DD502 electronic drums.  Same thing as the OSP 502.  Traded for a graphics card that was sitting in my desk drawer.  The fact that these were cheap drums did not phase me in the slightest.  EZ drummer and superior drummer have more than enough high quality sampled drum kits to make that cheap Yoki sound fantastic. 

Ibanez 5 String bass bought for $30.00. 
All totaled I have spent just above $700.00.  Of that $700.00 at least half was paid for in the exchange, sale or upgrade of existing gear.  So the total out of pocket expenditure has been less than $500.00.  I’ll admit that some of these prices are too good to be true.  The chances of finding a 16 track recorder for next to nothing is nearly impossible.  But I do see good deals on a regular basis.  I’ve seen Roland VS2480’s for three to four hundred dollars occasionally and Zooms and Tascam units for much less than that.  And if you prefer to use a computer based DAW then you can do it even cheaper.   I haven’t acquired every piece of gear overnight.  It’s taken three years and a lot of patience and willingness to wait.  If I sell a piece of gear then I keep that money aside and don’t touch it till I find something that is too good to pass up.  I could have lived with the AV40’s, but when I find KRK’s going for such a low price then I pounce.   I don’t hunt for gear, either.  What I find is what I find and attribute it to divine intervention.

                    My cost       Retail
BR1600           50            1500
KRK                108            300
MPK25             36            194.33
AV40                25           149
Spark               75           199
Yoki dd502     100           355
Hollow Body   150          479.99
Super Champ 150           199
ibanez Bass    30            200


Total Costs     724           3576.32
Savings                            2852.32 

So there you have it, for those interested.  Not a top of the line studio, but at least a functional one that will give me CD quality recordings.  Built piece by piece over the course of a few years for the price of a small tube amp.   And I didn’t even mention the deals that I blew off and then later regretted.  A Yamaha NP31 with semi weighted keys for $150.00 still nags at me.  A Fender MIM standard strat for $100.00 is another (not that I need another guitar, but it’s the principal of the thing).  

Attachment: recording studio.jpg (Downloaded 8 times)

Last edited on Fri Apr 12th, 2013 07:33 pm by ajcraver

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 Posted: Fri Apr 12th, 2013 08:31 pm
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HankTheTank
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That's awesome! I have never seen a decent deal on Craigslist or at a pawn shop.



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 Posted: Fri Apr 12th, 2013 08:36 pm
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ajcraver
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Joined: Fri Apr 12th, 2013
Location: Lubbock, Texas USA
Posts: 29
Favorite Artist: Too many to name
I am a: Singer/Songwriter/Musician
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Lubbock is a small city with a population of around 200k.  When I lived in Houston you couldn't find a good deal either, so I think it has more to do with population and demand.  That could account for any good deals on craigslist.  But I also use search tempest since I travel so much and cover all of West Texas and New Mexico.  Much easier for me to find a decent deal.

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