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Computer recording equipment

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by epoxo57, May 10, 2005.

  1. epoxo57

    epoxo57 Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2005
    Perrysburg, Ohio
    I just got a Dell 8400 that was new around the first of the year, so its pretty "powerful" to handle most recent applications, I believe. Its got an SB Audigy 2 ZS sound card. So far I have downloaded a demo version of Guitar Tracks Pro and tweaked with the Sound Recorder thru Windows XP. I am considering getting an interface like the Mackie Spike, MBox, or Lexicon with software bundles. So far, I am a "one-man-band" bass player and would like to test my creative juices. My questions are:

    Are there any pros/cons to just plugging into my soundcard rather than forking over the cash for an interface, besides cost?

    How do I design drum tracks and do I need a drum machine or some pads to create them?

    Same question for guitars...is there software?

    How do I set recording levels on XP? Can't seem to find a meter screen.

  2. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Good questions. It's too early where I'm at to pretend like I'm thinking straight, so here's a brief rundown.

    First off, when doing digital recording, many people think "okay, I've got a good bass, I've got a good soundcard, let's do it." You've got to remember that digital recording is a matter of sample rate (snapshots of the soundwave) and bit depth, as well as the timing of the sample rates. There's absolutely nothing wrong with using a good sound card and going directly in to your computer. The benefit of having a package setup is that you can get a better idea, from input to playback, of what you're getting and what you can expect from your hardware.

    I use pro tools with a 002r, and love it. Still, it's expensive and the learning curve sucks. I'd suggest any software that allows for multi-track recording, either simultaneous or layer by layer, and a good piece of external hardware which has its own reliable sample rate selection, clock, and level adjustment.

    Again, this is just my opinion, so take it with grains of salt :D
  3. Quality


    May 7, 2003
    Long Beach, CA
    Good questions. I use Guitar tracks as well on XP so lets see:
    1. I usually run though a mixer first, at least for live recordings. If your doing one instrument at a time then you should be fine with just running straight in. I usually run through a compressor first, but you don't necessarily have to.

    2. The version of guitar tracks I have came with a program called Drag and Drop Drummer. It has a bunch of samples on the CD that you just drag into the edit view. A drum machine might be easier though. There are other programs for doing looks like Fruity Loops and the like depending on what your looking for.

    3. I personally don't know of anything for guitar, but maybe someone around here does.

    4. Recording levels. Ok there are two options here Mic in and Line in. I have been fine with the line in but if you have a really low signal source, I've found the mic in works well.

    1. Plug in your bass.
    2. Open Guitar Tracks.
    3. Arm a track to record (it only has to be armed and you don't need to actally record).
    4. In the mix view, under the fader for the channel that you armed there should be something that shows the name of your sound card and R / L / or ST. Click on this and you should get a sub-menu.
    4. Select recording properties (may say something slightly different depending on the version)
    5. Set the channel and the master volumes in the mix view of guitar tracks to 0 dB using the faders. Set the level for the input you are using low to start. You don't want to overdrive the sound card, this could be bad.
    6. Play your bass, you should see something on the meter in Guitar Tracks. Adjust the level in the recording properties to get the proper meter level.
    If your not getting any meter response make sure that the mute is off both on the mixer view as well as on the Recording Properties page.

    Hope that helps.
  4. Well, I've spent the last few years putting together a home studio that suits my needs. With info from a friend that only does home studio work I ended up with the equipment I list below. (this is my setup and there are many way's to do it)

    Ive never tried Guitar tracks so I don't know what it's capaple of....

    Soundcard: no S.B is made for pro recording use period. I use an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 it runs about $100.00 (cheap as far as cards go but great reviews)

    Interface: I tried to go directely to the computer and it was a pain in the ass. Go get "Cakewalk" Home studio 2004 (under $100.00) You can record as many tracks as your computer will allow. BTW I did upgrade to the "Producers Edition" of cakewalk but I think its around $599.99 now.

    Mixer: Pick alittle "Behringer" MX-802A. 8 imputs ....more than I need. (I only record one instrument by myself anyway) I think around $80-$100.00.

    Midi: Pick up "Gigastudio" it is a sample program....I use it for my drums and keyboards. About $150.00. you can add orchestras and anything you want buy purchasing the cd's and installing them if you want to add to your library. Drum machines are limited and don't sound as good as Gigastudio. IMO

    Midi Controller: All this is is a Keyboard that plays the notes or drums in "Gigastudio" The keyboard hooks up directely to your sound card for midi. It has no onboard sounds, you can get them with sounds but sometimes they are cheezy and more expensive. Probably another $100.00.

    All I do is....Go in to cakewalk & setup one track to be MIDI.
    Use Gigastudio to put down some basic drums
    Go into cakewalk and setup an audio track.
    Play rythm guitar to the drum track
    Set up another audio track for bass
    Set up anothere for harp or vocals......etc

    Anyway you get the idea and if I can figure it out anyone can. Also Cakewalk has onboard reverbs, chourus , compressor ect for use when recording or mixing down. Also you can convert all your songs to .WAV MP3 etc for putting directely to CD which is what I needed.
    One more thing that might save you some money......I use an extra Pioneer home amplifier and large speakers I had laying around for all my computer recording, playback or listening (just plug your soundcard into the amp) Those powered monitors are expensive and never came close to the pioneer.

    There are probably some pro's out there reading this with $50,000.00 in their studios but this works for me and thats all that counts right?

    Your right , there is nothing like being creative and by yourself but lately I've been doing nothing but live music so I appreciate the chance to reaquant my self with all my gear. And beleive me "Home recording" is a never ending money pit :) PM me if you have any questions.....
    Good luck ... Dale
  5. Your stuff will sound better if you get a better interface. Also, if you ever plan to use a mic, you'll need a decent mic preamp, and what's in your sound card likely isn't ideal.

    You design drum tracks by, well, understanding how drum tracks are put together. That means analyzing what you hear drummers doing and trying to copy that. There are probably some books that can help you with that. Another solution is to buy drum loops and just cut them up, manipulate them, and put them together.

    If you have a good recording program that does sequencing as well as audio, you don't need an external drum machine. You can get a program that sits inside your recording program and acts as a software virtual drum machine. This can be a sampler or a dedicated drum sampler. Then you need some sounds to load into that machine. Just about any software sampler you buy will have some drum kits (i.e., organized sets of sampled drum sounds) included in the package. You can use these, or look around to buy third-party drum kits.

    There probably are virtual guitar instruments, I just can't think of any right now.

    Your recording levels would usually be set at your external interface, or else within your recording program, rather than globally in XP.

    I'd suggest you consider the Mackie SPike. It comes with a program called Tracktion, which is one of the easiest to use recording programs I've ever seen, yet is still pretty powerful. If you do, though, make sure you get a version bundled with Tracktion v2, which has just come out. That version ships with some cool "plugins" (again, these are software instruments or effects that work within Tracktion), including a dedicated drum sampler and a bunch of drum kits.


  6. epoxo57

    epoxo57 Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2005
    Perrysburg, Ohio
    Thank ya, folks, for all your help!! Another caveat I am considering is something portable and the price of digital multi-track recorders seems to be coming down. Not sure at this point, but your points and advice certainly help. This computer is a desktop and not a laptop, so portability is not quite its forte. I just thought it would be nice to take advantage of its power, especially with it still burning my wallet (hence, butt). :eek:
    It would be nice to record at other locations other than my apartment which I am sure the downstairs neighbor would appreciate! Perhaps mixdown on the PC?

  7. Cortobass


    Apr 18, 2005
    The Cirrus Logic chips in the SB Audigy Pro 4 are exactly the same as the ones in the E-MU pro cards (i.e. E-MU 0404, 1212M & 1820M) and the audio specs are the same too. So why the E-MU cards would be a pro recording solution and not this SB card? A lot of people use another card, the SB Audigy ZS, for recording because it is very affordable and it can be used for games, movies watching, etc. This card has a very low latency (between 2 and 10 ms). "Not aimed to musicians" does not mean "not usable by musicians".

  8. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    The audio specs are NOT the same. Creative just settled a law suit because they claim that the Audigy will do 24/96 khz recording, which was a lie. They only get 24/96 khz on playback. The EMU's do both. They use the same audio engine, but the converters and analog playback components don't even remotely resemble each other. The EMU boxes are better, period. Having said that, I made my first recordings at 16/44.1 on an SB Live! series years ago, and they sounded about as good as I was capable of doing at the time anyway. The audigy would probably work fine for a beginner.
  9. Cortobass


    Apr 18, 2005
    :) You're talking about old cards. Your statement was true in 2002, not in 2005. SB does not produce any more Audigy and Extigy cards (Audigy, Audigy 2 and Audigy 2 ZS are three different cards).

    Are you sure? Did you read the specs of the Audigy Pro 4? This card has 4 CS4398 DACs, the same DACs that you will find on E-MU cards. The DSP is maybe better on E-MU cards.

    The truth is that your knowledge on this matter is completely outdated. Period. ;-)

    And as you surely know: E-MU and SoundBlaster belong to the same company: Creative.


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