Slate Virtual Recording System (VRS) – Q & A

My post on the Slate Virtual Recording System (VRS) prompted a lot of questions via email. I still can’t find out what’s going on with comments, but one got through; how many others didn’t I have no idea, so the best route is still email to my address drdavejjg on gmail.

COST

Several questions revolved around my rough figure of about $5,000 (US) for a full Slate setup. This is for a single VRS module, which has 8 physical inputs (digital trickery aside). How many inputs YOU need depends on the group or individual you are recording. Some engineers would use more than those 8 just for a drum set, so for most bands with a full drum set you would need a second VRS joined to the first one via Thunderbolt, UNLESS you wanted to record the drums separately, and then add the band. If I were in that situation I’d prefer to use 7 inputs for the drums and keep (at least) one for the bass and record those two instruments at the same time. Of course that depends on several things, such as how many toms and other percussion instruments need to be miked. Remember that the one bass input can be duplicated on another track in your recording software and treated differently to get a fuller or other type of enriched sound.

Of course, with another VRS you will need more mics, cables, etc. You may even need these with a single VRS if you don’t use and DI instruments.

WHICH COMPUTER?

The other most common question was which computer to use and its specs. This is a HUGE question, and several books have been written about it, most if not all of which are now obsolete because the field moves so quickly, but I’ll tell you what I can for today. I prefer a Mac but that’s my own choice. I can’t comment on the Thunderbolt card for PC’s except for the obvious: an additional component in the signal chain and another potential point of failure. Laptops area great choice for portability, but beware since the trend is to solder the RAM on these, so you can’t upgrade later without a skilled technician re-soldering new RAM onto the motherboard, IF that is possible (i.e. the system will support it) and, if it matters to you, whether it will void the warranty. So choose as much RAM as you can at the outset to put off becoming obsolete for as long as you can (the computer that is; time will take care of your own obsolescence). Go for the most memory and powerful processor your budget can afford. I like the Powerbook Pro, which (maxed out) should be able to handle most bands thanks to the work offloaded to the VRS’s. If you have a dedicated studio and don’t do location work you may be able to get by with a desktop or tower. (If you make enough from your dedicated studio you should be able to afford a laptop if you need it, and the extra work should pay for it once you have it.)

LEARNING

As for learning about recording, especially using the Slate plug-ins remember that the Everything Bundle (included for a year with the VRS)  includes the Tutorials created by pros who use the plug-ins in their work as well as Slate engineers. You can view several of these on YouTube just searching for things like “Slate Digital” “tutorials” “Everything Bundle.”  Some people have done their own tutorials, some of which are very good, but be careful about ‘knowledge’ that might be mistaken or the long way around a simpler method. In general, I’d stick to tutorials from Slate Digital or well-known recording pros (e.g. Mixerman). If you sign up to their newsletter you will be notified when they make some of these available for free, as they did over the holiday season. But like anything, if you want to do good work, you need knowledge of your tools, how they work individually and how they work with each other and the full system.

As for recording in general, Mixerman’s books and e-b00ks are invaluable resources.

NEAR FUTURE

I do read all of your emails, as well as every comment that gets through (they all go to the Spam folder). I can’t provide tech support for your particular system, nor can I compare big systems that I don’t use. A lot of questions asked for comparisons of ProTools  and Logic or another program. I don’t have ProTools and the comments from engineers seem to agree with Steven Slate’s own, so I’d suggest you look those up or contact Slate pre-sales support who I am told are quite approachable.

I have to go in for minor surgery so I’ll be offline for a little while, but I’ll get back to reading your emails as soon as I can, although I might just be checking News once a day for a few days.

I hope to return soon.

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Slate Digital Completes Its Virtual Recording Studio

If you have been following Steven Slate realize his dream, you have been expecting this day. After revolutionizing software plug-ins to rival classic effect and pre-amp models, it was only a matter of time before he moved into the hardware side of recording. The Raven replaced the physical desk with a virtual one via touch screen, and provides a great interface for using the plug-ins. The Virtual Microphone System brought the same kind of software modeling of classic hardware to the microphone realm. Now the Virtual Recording Studio picks up the rest.

video-thumb-virtual-recording-studioYou can find out all of the details of the Virtual Recording Studio and how it fits into the entire Slate ideology by clicking on the link or image above. It looks and sounds great to me but I am NOT a hardware engineer, so I can’t comment on how it compares to the high-end gear that Steven discusses, nor on their custom components. I also can’t A/B the mics as he does in the demo video, so I suggest that you check out the engineering forums to see what the recording  pros really think.

The deal itself seems incredibly great, which is why I think it is worth your while to check it out. For about $5,000 (USD) you can set up a state-of-the-art studio with the mics, inputs, plug-ins, and extras that you need (stands, booms, cables, etc.). (Oh, except for the high-end computer that’s going to be running this thing. A modern Mac Pro or PC tower should do, and if you are into recording it’s quite likely that you have one now or are planning to upgrade soon.) That’s pretty amazing — if you have a space that can make the most of such precise equipment.

So now you have 8 inputs for your sound, which you can make seem like more by doing things like adding second mic emulations on a different track but using the same physical mic, as Steven does in the latter part of the video. You can get more physical inputs by joining several VRS’s via Thunderbolt too. You now have a choice of large- or small-diaphragm mics that can emulate different vintage mics (or in some cases, the same ones, at least close enough). Because most studios outside of bedrooms need more than one mic, the VRS can be purchased with 5-packs of either type of Slate mic, and it comes with permanent licenses for the mic emulations, as well as a 1-year subscription to the Everything Bundle. But remember that it won’t be long before you want a Raven to control those plug-ins.

Slate has always provided great value for the money, and the Virtual Recording Studio looks to be the epitome of their line-up. If you do any recording, you must look into this one seriously.

Dorico Manual Available in PDF

The first version of Dorico’s manual is now available as a downloadable PDF file.

Click here to download the manual.

At this point the manual pretty much duplicates the online help pages that the  Help menu option takes you to, but it’s very handy to have an offline version. This is not an exhaustive manual, but it does pack a lot of information into 161 pages. The sidebar gives you an overview of each chapter and  links to each topic, as does the Table of Contents (although the TOC links are the page numbers rather than the topic themselves).

The manual is well done but also suffers from the deficiencies of the Help pages. Most noticeably missing is a section on Play Mode, which is no doubt the main focus of programming attention these days. While the manual doesn’t quite make up for the update that we were all hoping for by the end of last month, it is a handy thing to have.

And best wishes to you all for a happy and healthy 2017!