digital workstations and software

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by evilbob101, Mar 9, 2005.

  1. I have a few questions for you gear gods out there. First, I'm relatively new to the whole recording situation. I want to start recording on my home pc. I think that the Tascam DP-01fx portastudio is what I'm looking for in a digital workstation with the funds I have available (between 500-700 dollars). Has anyone used this particular workstation? I also plan on getting some sort of keyboard, but I'm not sure what exactly which to get. I want one that has a good key range, preferably 61 keys or so, and will work with the workstation and the software. Oh, forgot to mention, I'm currently using Fruity Loops Studio 5.

    I guess I'm really confused about how this will all be compatible. I'm not sure if i've overlooked something and I'm going to have trouble hooking everything together. My computer only has USB slots at the moment, but, upgrading my soundcard wouldn't be difficult.

    I really want to get as much of this right the first time as I can, so, if you guys need to know anything more, let me know. I'm ready to put some music into the world! :hyper: :help:
  2. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Here's my opinion as a fairly savy home recorder and very savy computer geek.

    USB does not have the bandwidth to do recording. You will get bad latency and there is nothing you can do about it. It doesn't matter how fast you PC is, the USB spec is fixed to 12mb/s and you will eat that real fast recording.

    Go internal, or go Firewire.

    Software: Fruity Loops isn't recording software. I don't care what the dude at Guitar Center told you, Loops are NOT music. Loops are what people without musical talent use to make music. Real musicians use real software to record (and admitedly sometimes use loops as tools within their work).

    The two big names for PC recording software are Cakewalk and Cuebase. Both have products spanning a large range of capability from casual user to pro studio. I've used the lower end versions of both and prefer Cakewalk, though I'd advise you to read up on each and make your own decision. My personal favorit is Home Studio by Cakewalk. Its an excellent product that will do almost anything you ask of it and is quite easy to get you head around. Pro Tools LE is also popular, but I've never used it.

    Keyboard: Do you want the keyboard to be a MIDI sound module as well, or just a MIDI controller? Do you know the difference? If not you need to read up on MIDI before you drop any cash so you make sure you are getting the right thing. Regardless of the answer any keyboard that is MIDI compatible will work with any of the above mentioned software provided you get an interface with at least one MIDI port (which most have). I'm going to assume you want sounds in your keyboard since you didn't mention owning any modules. For the best low $$$ keyboard I'd suggest scouring ebay and music stores for a used Alesis QS series synth. I got a ton of use out of mine before upgrading to my Motif. They are well built, nicely equipped sound wise and have a large library of expansion cards available to get more sounds when you want them. Another option is using a softsynth like Reason to get your tones, but this takes a fairly powerful machine if you want more than 1 or 2 sounds at a time.

    That's about all I can do with the info you gave me. If you have more questions I'll be happy to answer them as best as I am able. Also please post the specs of the PC you intend to use because that is a big factor.
  3. Thanks for the response! Well, since the post, I've been doing quite a bit of research (frustrations and revalations were abound). I believe that I want an E-mu 1820M instead of the Tascam DAW. That way, I have the option to use firewire. Also, isn't USB 2.0 starting to catch up to firewire?

    As far as software, I really would like to get Cakewalk, but funds will become limited after other purchases, so I will function with Fruity Loops until I can purchase Cakewalk. Unless, of course, I find out that I literally cannot record a musical instrument into FL. That is something that I'm really not sure that I can do.

    The keyboard situation: You are correct, I don't own a sound module, so I'm looking for a keyboard to act as the sound module as well. That Alesis you mentioned is starting to look very promising, are there any other simlar pieces of equipment you could recommend. I was also wondering if something like the Alesis would be useable with Reason, for instance, could I use the sounds that Reason provides, and have the keyboard play them. Maybe that would be excess, I'm not sure.

    Last but not least, computer specs: Dell with Pentium 4 @ 2.8 GHz, 512 Mb RAM and 34 Gigs of space.

    Once again, Thanks! :hyper:
  4. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    First things first: you need more RAM in that computer. I don't care what software you are using, trying to do anything audio related with less than a gig is just painful. Most P4 mainboards can take at least a gig and you really, really will have a better time all around with that amount. Going over a gig doesn't really pay off unless you make extensive use of softsynths and plugins.

    Honestly I can't think of a better keyboard to start off with than a QS series, they're just great for so many things. Roland has a number of good synths as well, but they have a very characteristic rolandy sound that I don't care for, but it may be cool to your ears. A lot depends on what you want to do, but I found the QS series to be incredibly versitile (more so actually than the Motif I replaced it with). As I said before any keyboard with at least a MIDI out port can be used to control a softsynth like Reason. You run a MIDI cable from the keyboard to the MIDI port on your computer, configure Reason to "listen" to that MIDI port and ppof, notes played on the keyboard are rendered in Reason and come out the computer's speakers. Ideally you also want a MIDI In port on the keyboard so you can control its onboard sounds from a PC based sequencer.

    You can record music into Fruity Loops, but I think the time duration is limited. Instead of playing a song through you play each individual part and loop it, kinda like a musical lego kit. Honestly I'd cut other things from your budget to make room for decent software out of the gate. One thing to consider is that Cakewalk has a variety of upgrade paths, so you can start out with the cheaper, simpler programs and upgrade easily to Home Studio or Sonar when you have the funds and need the capabilty.

    USB 2.0 is basically the same as IEEE1394a, the first revision of Firewire. IEEE1394b is twice as fast and offers substantial performance advantages, but USB2 should be OK for most audio recording needs.

    I can't really comment on either interface choice since I've never used the ones you mention.
  5. thwackless


    Nov 24, 2003
    Smithfield, RI
    Heh. Right... I was going to speak up about USB, and I see you've mentioned USB 2.0. So, hey, have a good day. :)
  6. thwackless


    Nov 24, 2003
    Smithfield, RI
    Say, Tash,

    Any experience with n-Track? I'm considering going with that, Cubase SE, or HomeStudio. I'm using a Tascam US-428, and doing nothing but Audio: Running tape into the PC from a 4-track, and/or recording in a small band room.

    I have Cool Edit Pro and some plug-ins, but I'd like to get something simple for tracking/mixing, something that integrates well with my interface. I spent the $ on it a year and a half ago, and now I think I should be getting the most out of it. I also just can't hang too much with the mouse...

    n-Track looks good, except for the cheep GUI... which I actually kind of don't mind!

    Thanks for your time,

  7. DougP


    Sep 4, 2001
    i have the Emu 1820. you can save some money by not getting the M version. it comes with a copy of Cubase (the stripped down version) you should give that a shot. i personally didnt care for it since i have been using cakewalk products for the past few years. you should check out SONAR from Cakewalk. you can download a demo of it at the demo is the Producer Edition, but you can save some money by getting the Studio Edition.

    also, along with RAM you will eventually want to add an extra hard drive.

    but check out also. the E-MU drivers/software are very finicky. so will mostly like have to do some serious tweaking to get fantastic results.