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Captain Jim 12-11-2018 02:23 PM

Another wait - guitar related, but not another guitar. Yesterday, a Spire Studio arrived; it is a recording device that has a built-in condenser mic and two combo inputs with Grace Design pre-amps...

I definitely prefer the acoustic sound with the built-in mic compared to the Zoom H4n Pro I have been using... and, this Spire is easy and intuitive.

I posted about it in the Recording sub-forum, but thought some of you CF folks may be interested.

For full disclosure, this was my wife's idea. A good one.

Here's a SoundCloud link...

6 tracks on this song, all auto with the levels. X20 (acoustic), X10 (plugged in), a Yamaha bass, electronic drums, Vocals on the built-in mic.

jdinco 12-11-2018 06:46 PM

That is very nice Jim ! Great job, your recordings seem to improve with every new one. Reading up on the Spire....that is really something. Very impressive.

kramster 12-11-2018 08:25 PM

So cool..I think I want one

JimCA 12-11-2018 10:29 PM

Really sounds interesting Jim..., very savvy wife! Is it useable entirely self contained? It's not clear where the recording is stored.

kramster 12-12-2018 06:56 AM


Originally Posted by JimCA (Post 5916371)
Really sounds interesting Jim..., very savvy wife! Is it useable entirely self contained? It's not clear where the recording is stored.

A few good videos on it on YouTube

Captain Jim 12-12-2018 08:24 AM


Originally Posted by JimCA (Post 5916371)
Really sounds interesting Jim..., very savvy wife! Is it useable entirely self contained? It's not clear where the recording is stored.

It is certainly usable self-contained, but using it with the app opens lots of possibilities and options. Last night, I was just messing with it to get a better feel for the amps and pedals... not recording, just listening to the various tones and effects.

The recording happens on the Spire, then moves onto your phone or iPad, as you're recording. If you are using it without being connected (wirelessly) to a device, your recording stays on the Spire until you do connect. Using the Spire alone, or the app alone is not as full featured as using them together. Then, it is just a button press on the app to upload the file to a DAW, a compressed file, or direct to SoundCloud.

It is not unusual for Joan to know what I will want before I do. ;)

raysachs 12-12-2018 10:51 AM

Very cool - thanks Jim!
I just checked out the Spire app on my iPad and I think that might be all I want or need. And it's amazingly, impressively simple to use... On the rare occasion I've done any recording recently, I've been fighting with Garage Band, which is a PIA to setup and has waaaay more options to navigate than I like and it just makes the whole thing complicated enough that I use it almost never. But this is great!

I already have an Apogee mic and guitar interface, so I can get a mic'd or amplified guitar signal into the iPad. Just playing around for about 15 minutes, I was able to build a little four track recording with rhythm acoustic, vocal, second acoustic, and lead electric guitar, mix it, and email an mp4 / AAC file of it to myself. I know the hardware recorder extends the capability, but I'm fine without an automatic soundcheck - it shows you the levels right on the screen and it's very easy to dial in on the Apogee input devices. And I don't need the built in effects - I already have guitar effects on a pedal board that come through my amp, into the line out to the Apogee, and then into the recorder. So I can do that with any of my guitars as needed. Although with acoustics, I tend to just record them with the mic, as I do with my (very very bad, no good, awful) vocals.

There are only two things I miss from the old 4-track Fostex cassette recorder I had 30+ years ago or from Garage Band. First, there's no punch in - punch out function to make small repairs. Maybe you can just record over a part of a track - I haven't tried that yet - that could work for vocals but probably not guitar parts if you have to use your hands to start it and stop it. And you can't save a file with a dynamic mix - like if you want to bring the lead guitar up during breaks in the vocal and drop it back during the vocal - you can do that while you're playing with the mix, but it just saves the file with whatever settings are showing on the mix screen when you export it. Are those features any different if you have the recorder? I'm thinking not, but not sure.

I'm thinking if you don't need the sound check or guitar/vocal effects and don't plan to plug other higher quality microphones into the unit, I may have pretty much all of the rest of the functionality just with the app. In any case, it appears it's got plenty for my extremely meager needs. For me, recording is just playing around with ideas - there's no finished product to it, it's just fun to mess around with. For that, just using the app with my existing analog to digital mic and guitar interface, I may be just fine with only the app.

I'm glad you mentioned this Jim - I'd never heard of it before, but it's a cool system. Either the app alone or the recorder alone, or, if you want all the bells and whistles, the recorder and app together... Really simple usability is the whole ballgame with me and recording, and this has that in spades!


Acousticado 12-12-2018 11:00 AM


Originally Posted by raysachs (Post 5916768)
.....there's no punch in - punch out function to make small repairs. Maybe you can just record over a part of a track - I haven't tried that yet - that could work for vocals but probably not guitar parts if you have to use your hands to start it and stop it.

I wonder if thereís a foot controller.

raysachs 12-12-2018 12:25 PM


Originally Posted by Acousticado (Post 5916781)
I wonder if thereís a foot controller.

I don't think there is - there doesn't appear to be any sort of port for one. And with today's tech, it seems that being able to set the in / out boundaries and do the punch in automatically is more common, with a foot switch a backup option, and there doesn't appear to be any such functionality in the app or, AFAICT, in the recorder. So my guess is that type of function is just beyond what they were going for with this, which would be easy to understand since they're clearly over comprehensive features.

I'm more comfortable with the footswitch approach, which I used with my old Fostex deck, than I am with the auto in / out approach, which I've used with Garage Band, but either way being able to overdub a small part of the recording rather than have to re-record a whole track, is pretty useful.


Captain Jim 12-12-2018 01:15 PM

You can "punch in" sort of... the app allows you to make cuts. Unfortunately, the cut removes everything to the right or left of the cut. It would be easy enough to lay down another track starting just before the cut, then cut away the beginning of the second track.

As easy as this is, I just press "delete" and make another track.

Here's this morning's effort...

Acoustic track (X20)
Electric track (X10)
Bass track
Vocal w/ onboard mic
Harmonies w/ an external dynamic mic

For my use (making music for Joan's phone and iPad), this is fast and easy. I haven't tried to move it into a DAW to make any adjustments - the graphic "mix" takes seconds.

raysachs 12-12-2018 01:54 PM

Nice stuff Jim. It's actually pretty easy to just record over part of a track. It would be difficult to impossible to do on a rhythm part, but on a lead track that had breaks you could probably pull it off. And for vocals, where I need by far the most remediation, it's quite easy to just find the spot, hit record, re-sing that portion, then hit it again to stop recording. The new bit drops in pretty seamlessly. So, it'd definitely workable for some things, probably not for others.

I'm having a blast with this just using the app. My files don't sound as good as your uploads, so maybe the recorder brings more to the dance than I'd have thought. But you're not doing most of the stuff you're doing with the built-in mic, right? I'm guessing you're inputting a better signal to begin with...


Captain Jim 12-12-2018 04:45 PM

Hi Ray; I am recording the acoustic guitar part with the built-in condenser mic. Some of the vocals. Today, I experimented with using a dynamic mic as well. Bass, the X10 plugged in, and electronic drums are plugged directly into the Spire. The onboard mic is actually quite nice - I think it does a better job than the X/Y mics on my Zoom H4n Pro.

What the Spire really has going for it is the same thing that brought many of us to consider carbon fiber: the ease. Not in the humidifying aspect, but in automating the levels and compression. Do the 10 second "sound check" and you are good to start recording.

The app is, likewise, intuitive. Using the Spire with the app is downright enjoyable. I have a clip on my mic stand for the iPad (use it with OnSong for set lists), so it is all "right there"... no pressing little buttons, click-wheels, or knobs. The graphic "mix" is fast and easy to bring a particular track up or down. It certainly isn't a full-featured board, but that isn't the intent. It really is all I need for my particular use. Once the Spire and iPad are connected wirelessly, I don't touch the Spire unit other than plugging or unplugging something - all done with the app.

I have Audacity, Pro Tools First, and Garage Band on my laptop - haven't had a need for them with the Spire. Good for me since those each have a learning curve... and I seem to have a frustration level linked pretty close to any learning curve these days. ;) I had downloaded the Spire app before the unit arrived and played with it a bit. Easy.

I figured the components in the Spire were easy to add up to the price of the unit. The condenser mic is decent (better than I expected), the Grace Design pre-amps in the other two combo inputs are good (and really quiet), and the easy interface pulls it all together. The amp, space, and pedal features are a bonus.

I plan to do "a song a day" this week... and that's before I get out of my jammies. (I like to play to get my day started) We'll see how that works with my attention span. My wife said she misses her "hour of music" the past two mornings, so I played for her after making this last recording. Rufus was in the music room with me while I was recording, but looked a bit confused while I played guitar with no vocals, sang with no guitar, and no noise at all while playing bass.

My "system" with this has been:
Set the metronome and do a soundcheck with the acoustic guitar.
Record that track.
Then, a vocal track.
A bass track.
Another guitar track.
More vocal tracks as needed.

Easy enough to mute a track, do a second take, and delete one of those. The toughest part for me has been the bass. Yeah, I know many of the bass player jokes. I have been fortunate to be in various bands with some truly fine bass players, and they make it look effortless. My mind still thinks like a guitar player and I have to really think about how the bass works with each chord change and the rhythm. I don't think I could play bass and sing at the same time. :hmm:

raysachs 12-12-2018 08:00 PM

Thanks Jim - thatís helpful information. I guess if I ever get more serious about recording again, I may look into buying hardware again and I think the Spire would be at the top of the list. But for now, just having an easy way to work a quick and dirty eight track recorder is pretty cool. And the Spire app is the easiest I think Iíve ever tried...


Captain Jim 12-13-2018 12:33 PM

Day 3, song 3 - a request from my Honey. A Beatles' "silly love song" (I didn't tell her the guy sounds like a stalker to me)...

7 tracks: one guitar (Emerald X20), bass, drums, shaker, 1 main vocal, 1 backup vocals. First time I've been on a time frame to finish - we're heading out to lunch with friends. Just under an hour for all 7 tracks, and a quick trim at the beginning and end.

Danz567 12-13-2018 03:32 PM

Sounds good Captain.

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