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Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?

mandotim 23 May 08 - 06:10 AM
Callie 23 May 08 - 06:19 AM
Jack Blandiver 23 May 08 - 06:34 AM
Grab 23 May 08 - 07:14 AM
mandotim 23 May 08 - 07:26 AM
Joe G 23 May 08 - 08:00 AM
Darowyn 23 May 08 - 08:16 AM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 23 May 08 - 08:19 AM
Grab 23 May 08 - 09:52 AM
WalkaboutsVerse 23 May 08 - 11:14 AM
Darowyn 23 May 08 - 01:00 PM
Acorn4 23 May 08 - 01:20 PM
Jim Lad 23 May 08 - 01:54 PM
Jim Lad 23 May 08 - 10:02 PM
olddude 24 May 08 - 09:46 AM
GUEST,semipro 24 May 08 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,leeneia 24 May 08 - 10:37 AM
olddude 24 May 08 - 11:41 AM
Acorn4 25 May 08 - 04:26 AM
Richard Bridge 25 May 08 - 09:22 PM
Lowden Jameswright 26 May 08 - 07:07 AM
mandotim 26 May 08 - 11:19 AM
Darowyn 27 May 08 - 04:52 AM
Jim Lad 27 May 08 - 05:18 AM
Grab 27 May 08 - 05:25 AM
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Subject: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: mandotim
Date: 23 May 08 - 06:10 AM

Hi all. I'm in the process of building a large music room/studio onto my house, and I'm thinking about a recording setup to record my own stuff and (semi-commercially) stuff by local singers and players. I want to use a computer to record with, but I'm a novice when it comes to the gear required. I already have a high-end, silent running computer that can be more or less dedicated for this purpose, but I'd appreciate advice about mixers, interfaces, software, microphones, effects/processors etc. I'm not looking at the high-end, commercial studio gear, but I'd like to be able to produce good quality, listenable CDs. Any thoughts?
Thanks
Tim


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Callie
Date: 23 May 08 - 06:19 AM

I have the most basic ProTools set-up (just 2 inputs) and when i have borrowed good mics i can get quite good results. It was tricky to learn at first, but now it's second nature. It is an expensive program and not compatible with other hardware. Also, the plug-ins that come with the basic pack are not very high standard so i have ended up going to a studio with raw recordings and getting someone else to do the mixing/eq-ing.

i know it can be very expensive to get all the right bits and very obsessive/time consuming. it is less trouble and money to go to a studio, but not as satisfying as doing it yourself!!

good luck with it

Callie


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 23 May 08 - 06:34 AM

Some good large diaphragm condensers are essential; I recommend Behringer B1 & B2 as a nice place to start. They need phantom power, so you'll have to invest in a suitable mixer - again, Behringer is ideal.

As for soundcards, I'm still running my old Sound-Blaster Audigy Pro which we had fitted when we bought the PC back in 2001 (!) - touching wood, it's still running good & strong, though the antiquated operating system (Windows ME) limits my adventures into new software, which is perhaps just as well.

As for software, try Sound Forge for linear editing & recording; I'm still using SF5, so God alone knows what they're capable of now. Cubase is still pretty standard for multi-track recording, but with computer recording the problem is always a matter of seperate inputs. If you're recording just voice & guitar, then it's entirely possible to do this in stereo with two mics panned exteme L & R giving you two unmixed channels to sequence accordingly. Even on the basic digital 8-tacks, two inputs are standard, which does limit things rather when it comes to bigger projects. Mixing at source is the solution, or investing in a machine with more inputs!

Ableton Live is pretty essential too I'd say, but how many other folkies would agree with me I couldn't say. I use Live 3 (again very old!) to construct all manner of loops & drones & as a composing tool in itself. I've even used it in the performance of traditional ballads, but not, I admit, to a particularly folk audience...

Have fun - that's the main thing. Buy a few copies of Future Music or Computer Music, which come with workable free software, samples & demos & loads of essential advice. And remember - whatever anyone tells you, someone will always tell you something different!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Grab
Date: 23 May 08 - 07:14 AM

Mixing, you can do that on your PC just fine.

Software-wise, Reaper or nTrack get you most bang for your buck with multitrack stuff. Mixcraft is in the same ballpark cost-wise but doesn't have the same features. I'm currently using nTrack but the UI is getting on my nerves, so I might change to Reaper. One downside of Reaper is a lack of MIDI control-surface support though, but this might not be an issue for you.

The big question is how many inputs you want, and how many of those need to be mics. For folk, you probably want as many mics as you can get. There are several bits of kit that give you 8 mic preamps with a Firewire connection back to the PC - Tascam, Presonus, MOTU and Focusrite spring to mind immediately. They all have phantom power.

I haven't got enough experience with different mics to recommend any. But Anahata has recommended Behringer C2s (small-diaphragm) for instruments in the past, and I've used those successfully for drum overheads. They're dirt cheap (£40 for a stereo pair!) so you can't really lose on them.

Most people have some SM57s hanging around as a "default" instrument mic. They're not actually that good sound-wise - I've got £10 Maplins mics which sound almost identical. :-/ They're nice and robust though, which explains their success as a stage instrument mic, but for a studio mic you're probably better saving your money.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: mandotim
Date: 23 May 08 - 07:26 AM

Cheers folks. I already have a selection of mics, including some decent condensers (large and small diaphragm.) I suppose what puzzles me is how you use either a digital or analogue mixer to get the signals into some sort of software so you can play about with it. I've got three or four analogue mixers, and I'm looking at some of the Yamaha digital jobs, but I'm not sure why! Keep the ideas coming, this is really helpful.
Tim


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Joe G
Date: 23 May 08 - 08:00 AM

Although I haven't done any live recording and just worked with midi and audio samples I have found Magix Music Studio which is only around £50 has been reliable - though it has changed a lot in the latest version, now being based on their higher end samplitude - the older versions were based on older versions of Logic for midi work but as that is Apple only now presumably the code is no longer available for PC. Higher end software studios will be much more versatile and I have read good reviews of Sonar which seems to be winning more plaudits than Cubase at the moment - best bet is to get a demo of those you are interested in and try them out. As also mentioned ealier Computer Music is a useful mag with most of the software you need to get you started in their CM Studio whic is on every disc along with free and demo software. There is also now a Music Tech mag but that does not look as good as CM though I have never bought a copy just glanced at it in the shop.

Hope you enjoy and it would be good to hear some of your work when you get it down on disc!

Joe G


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Darowyn
Date: 23 May 08 - 08:16 AM

I teach this for a living, so I could cover most of the possibilities,if you wish.
This is my home set-up.
An 8 bus analogue mixer connects to an M Audio Delta 1010 interface.
Sixteen analogue channels on the mixer can be routed to the 8 audio inputs into the computer (PC), running Pro Tools 7.4 M Powered.
At College we use a DigiDesign 002, giving us 8 inputs to a G5 Mac, or in the Analogue studio, a 24 track Spirit Desk runs direct outs into an Alesis HD24 - a dedicated hard disk recorder.
All of these come close to professional standards.
Many students are happy to record 2 tracks at a time onto their Mac laptops. This can be adequate as far as sound quality is concerned.
They are divided about 50/50 between Digidesign M Boxes into Pro Tools, and Edirol interfaces into Logic 8.
In my opinion,if you are bringing other people in, you should not be using free software, nor can you use "Good" and "Behringer" in the same phrase. I have tried Audacity, but I'm not happy with the sound quality of the plug-ins- but you get nothing for nothing!
Reaper is just too quirky if you are used to the pro software, both programs seem to be based on the idea of low-fi home MP3 production for amusement.
If you have good mics, I'd recommend getting some higher-end kit.
Check out the reviews in Sound on Sound
Sound on Sound Magazine
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 23 May 08 - 08:19 AM

First,and most important for getting quality recordings (particularly if acoustic instruments are involved) is a good space where you aren't going to have problems with background noise or troublesome room acoustics. A mixture of acoustically "lively" and "dead" spaces, and a separate booth is ideal.

None of this need be expensive- plenty of folks have improvised a vocal booth out of an old duvet hanging over the back of a door- but if you're building the room, you have a great opportunity to get it right now as it may make more difference than the great you use. (I speak as someone who runs a studio out of a converted store cupboard lined with carpet next door to a hall with dance classes in it 3 days a week)

As regards specific equipment, you'll get as many opinions as people you ask. But at the very least you need:

- 2 good condenser mics,(Rodes are very good for the price)

- a soundcard / audio interface to get audio signals into and out of your computer (crucial point: how many things do you need to record at once?) this could be a simple 2-input box, a dedicated soundcard with rackmount breakout box or a mixer with a built-in USB or Firewire interface.

- Software. Cubase, Logic (on Mac), Pro-tools are the best-known. You often get "light" (but fully functional) versions bundled with hardware or often the soundcard/ software comes as a package. Don't overlook cheap and even free software (just do a web search for audio recording software) I know one commercial studio using Reaper, my brother has a portable setup on a laptop with a Linux system running Ardour. Ask anyone you know what they use, what they like about it and if possible sit in and have a go yourself.

- at least one pair of good preferably closed-back headphones so you/ others can listen as they play

- DECENT SPEAKERS !!!! Monitor speakers are designed to give you an even and true response. Remember, every decision you make is based on what you hear so you want to be sure you're hearing properly.

you may also need
- a mixer to give you more routing options and EQ before the sound gets recorded.

- outboard gear mic preamps to sweeten up the sound, compressors to control dnyamics. Maybe reverbs, multi-effect units, there's all kinds of toys you can get- bear in mind though that most software has effects you can play with



As Sedayne says, read any relevant magazines (Sound on Sound is very good) to get an idea of what's out there and would best suit your needs. All the manufacturers advertise in them

Beware of the big slippery slope that is GAS (gear acquisition syndrome!) Good luck, let us know how you get on.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Grab
Date: 23 May 08 - 09:52 AM

SoundOnSound *is* good, but the quality of their review writeups can be a bit variable. For 8-preamp Firewire interfaces, for example, you find plenty about how it connects to the PC and everything, but generally there's bugger all mention of whether the preamps are any damn good, which I'd think was something they should report. There's often some *very* good technical articles in there though.

how you use either a digital or analogue mixer to get the signals into some sort of software

You don't necessarily need to. The easiest way is that one mic goes to one input on your interface box. Record like that, then you can juggle things around afterwards however you want on the PC. If you record via a mixer, generally you'll have more inputs than there are mixer outputs, so some things end up mixed together. This might be OK if you get the mix just right, or if you're only recording one input at once so you've got enough outputs. But if you want to record a whole band playing at once, and you need to mix several inputs to a bus, and you can only record the bus and not the individual instruments, then you can't retrieve the situation later. You can't unscramble the egg, in other words!

Digital mixers have the big bonus that they *are* the interface box! So you can put all your inputs into the digital mixer and get a true multitrack recording of everything. My Behringer DDX3216 for example does just this, sending all 16 raw input channels out over fibre-optic cables to the PC. When I can afford it, I'll likely upgrade to a Tascam or Yamaha, because the Behringer's mic preamps aren't very good and the FX can be a bit iffy too. But I need some better mics and some outboard gear before it's worth upgrading that.

Basically you usually get what you pay for, and whilst Behringer might not be brilliant, they often do the job for a lot of people who want to record reasonable quality demos or live recordings. Once you start looking at Neumann mics and stuff in that sort of range, of course, then Behringer is probably a no-no. :-) But your sound is only as good as the weakest link in the chain.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 23 May 08 - 11:14 AM

I've also read all this with interest and appreciation and, just in case it's of any use, my simple shoestring recording with a late-80s computer, free Audacity software, and a computer mic. resulted in this quality - myspace.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Darowyn
Date: 23 May 08 - 01:00 PM

Nothing personal WAV, but that is a perfect example of why a cheap Mic, a poor soundcard and a free DAW is just what you don't need.
The sound is very poor- nothing like a professional recording.
There are breaths and pops, odd audio clicks and the overall sound is very boxy and lacking any top end sparkle.
(Auditioned on DT100 professional headphones.)
There is no way you should ever purport to record music for other people with a finished result like that.
It is possible that you cannot hear the faults- it does take experience, but they are there, I promise you. A student would fail even an introductory Music Tech course with a recording of this quality.
I will make no comment about the pitch, but Simon Cowell would.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Acorn4
Date: 23 May 08 - 01:20 PM

I've written a series of articles on recording at home for a magazine which I could email to you as word files if you leave me a message with your email address.

Also there was a thread on recently called "Home Recording, is this quality good enough?" or something very similar which contained a lot of useful stuff -if you could dig out that it might be helpful.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 23 May 08 - 01:54 PM

One of the very first questions I asked when I joined Mudcat was "How do I get the sound from my microphone, into the computer"
Darowyn (Dave) as well as many others has been a mine of information.
I happen to enjoy WAV very much by the way. He's a friend of mine on
MY Space .
If you pop in there, you'll find five or six songs, all recorded at home and in various stages of completion.
I am using AKG Perception 100, AKG C1000S, Shure Pencil mic., Behringer C1 & Behringer C2s. I'll be getting a Cascade, Fathead Ribbon mic. in a week or so.
Audio interface... M Audio Fast Track Pro. (2 lines is about all that my 1 1/2 gigs will handle.
Software programme, Mixcraft 4 from Audacity. You should try this.
I have learned much from the folks here and the rest from tinkering around.
Due to compatibility issues with some audio interfaces, I suggest that you do not purchase online.

Dave: Don't make me put my drink down!
Cheers
Jim


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 23 May 08 - 10:02 PM

Should also note that Behringers are not good mics as a rule but they do have individual qualities which are useful from time to time.
The C1 needs a lot of gain and is too bright but I can use that to my advantage.
The C2 matched stereo pair costs less than $60 and comes with a stereo bar, clips, packing case & wind screens. They are surprisingly good and possibly the exception to the rule when it comes to that particular brand.
Been a very long time since I used a Shure for anything other than a paperweight and with so many good affordable mics on the market I see no reason to ever use one again.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: olddude
Date: 24 May 08 - 09:46 AM

I use a onyx satellite firewire recorder, It has some decent software bundled with it. It is far from the best but is inexpensive and the quality is not too bad. If you are thinking along more professional lines this is not the one to use. If you just want something decent for home use, I like it quite a lot


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: GUEST,semipro
Date: 24 May 08 - 10:18 AM

I have a Line 6 TonePort™ UX2 USB recording interface.
Very useful and versatile for home and mobile recording.

Worth checking out this very cost effective
well respected line of computer recording products
which cover 'serious amateur'
to 'working pro' range of equipment and bundled good quality software/plugins.

http://uk.line6.com/products/

The new 8 input/output TonePort™ UX8
looks well worth considering.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 24 May 08 - 10:37 AM

Not everybody needs to make a professional-quality recording. Sometimes, a listener just wants to hear a friend or loved one. It's not unreasonable to want to make a reoording which is good but doesn't need to be top of the line.

It's funny when you consider how many people think they need a perfect recording, then they play it in the car while wheels are rumbling or they listen at work while phones are ringing and others are talking, etc.

Most of the emphasis on sound quality is just marketing. Most people don't know when music is out of tune or unnatural.

Recently I made a recording with a lot of hissing and sent it to the nephew of a friend. He has had to move away from all his friends.   He also got home from work recently to find his mother lying dead on the floor. When he asked for a reocrding of us playing, we did not start a months-long quest for perfect equipment at the best price. We banged it out, and he was thrilled. (I told him to listen to it in the car so the motor would drown out the hissing.)

Now we are mildly interested in doing a better job.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: olddude
Date: 24 May 08 - 11:41 AM

by the way, I got my firewire on ebay for 200 dollars US. It seems like many people buy various recorders and then don't use them for whatever reasons. I got mine only to send songs that I have written to my daughters via email and not any professional reason. It works really good. My advice, check out ebay and find a used one , save some money and make some pretty nice recordings without paying an arm and leg. The software is pretty good that is bundled with it

Dan


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Acorn4
Date: 25 May 08 - 04:26 AM

Leeneia,

I agree.

A friend on mine has a favourite saying:-

"Never overestimate your audience".

Emily Slade when interviewed on radio recently about recording said you can end up fiddling around with minutiae that no-one but you is going to notice!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 May 08 - 09:22 PM

The various Meek mic channels are reputed to be good.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 26 May 08 - 07:07 AM

You can get amazing value in buying used 8 track/16 track recorders (eg Roland) on Ebay - why faff about with plug-ins for your computer when you can have a dedicated recorder that's portable?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: mandotim
Date: 26 May 08 - 11:19 AM

Hi all, keep 'em coming, this is very helpful. Acorn4, the articles you sent are great. When I've been in 'proper' studios, what's hapopening in the computer is controlled from the mixer, giving a king of 'analogue' feel. I'm comfortable with mixers from doing live sound, so I'd like to go that way if I can, rather than the stand-alone recorder. I've tried cheap versions of those, and they don't seem to do a lot more than a simple tape recorder (albeit with more tracks).
If I want to use a mixer, any recommendations? Some of the Yamahas look nice, but does it have to be digital?
Thanks again to all
Tim


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Darowyn
Date: 27 May 08 - 04:52 AM

If you want to control the on-screen faders with real faders on your mixer, then digital is the only option. Yamaha desks are nice, but there are many others. Just remember that when you are researching them, they are more likely to be called "Control Surfaces".
In some cases, a control surface is dedicated to one program.
Pro Tools, in its standard version, needs a Digidesign control surface. The LE and M powered versions will work with other interfaces, but need a control surface which is compatible with the Mackie HUI standard.
Some control surfaces are only that, others, like the Digidesign 003 (and 002) will do the job of control surface and audio interface, pre-amps etc.
It's a complex subject, and I'd recommend that you talk to someone locally- someone in the 'proper studio' perhaps.
I'd just like to add a comment about quality. If you are using the recording as a notepad, just to record work in progress, then I agree that quality does not matter. If on the other hand, as the original post suggested, you are offering a recording service to anyone else or attempting to produce CDs for sale, then you should always record to a professional standard. Anything less is tantamount to deception.
The test is to play your track back to back with a commercial release. The levels should be the same, and the sound as good.
Good enough for Folk should not apply. Perfect is good enough.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 27 May 08 - 05:18 AM

Perfect is just about good enough.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Computer recording; what do I need?
From: Grab
Date: 27 May 08 - 05:25 AM

Lowden, I certainly share your taste in guitars. :-)

But I'm not as convinced about those standalone recorders. Their spec is often significantly less than you'd get from a corresponding PC and interface. 44kHz isn't a big issue, but 16-bit recording doesn't give you as much headroom if the sound has lots of dynamic range or if you screwed up and didn't have the preamp gain up enough. You're likely to be getting cheaper preamps too. Also, "faffing about with plugins" is a good way of experimenting with different tones - different flavours of EQ, different compressors, maybe adding some simulated valve overdrive, different reverbs, etc, etc - where a dedicated box limits you to what's in the box. This makes things easier initially, but ultimately will be limiting.

And finally there's the price. If you've already got a PC, a "proper" interface tends to be cheaper than a dedicated recorder. And even if you haven't, I did a few sums over on another thread to compare similar specs, and a new dedicated recorder comes out at almost exactly the same price as a new PC and a new interface box. Yeah, you can get second-hand recorders fairly cheap - but as olddude says, you can get anything else fairly cheap on eBay too.

From doing live sound, I love my digital mixer. Yeah, it's a heavy beast and the mic pres are a bit ropey, but it compensates by having 4-channel parametric EQ and a compressor on every input, which are very handy features indeed. And being able to save and retrieve settings is fantastic too - much easier when you need to soundcheck several bands, and you can also build up a little "library" of known-good settings for particular instruments which speeds up soundchecks.

If you like the feel of faders under your fingers, you can get MIDI faders which will control your software package. Behringer (cheapest again, predictably! :-) have an 8-channel fader board for £150. You need a software package that'll handle it though - Reaper and Mixcraft currently don't support MIDI controllers. nTrack does in theory - I've not managed to make it work yest with my setup, but other people have so that might just be me. And all of the full-on packages (Cubase and the rest) certainly do it.

Graham.


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