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Flexibility comparison: PC or standalone HD/FM recorder?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by syciprider, Oct 23, 2005.

  1. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    I have a laptop I carry everywhere and amps both at work and at home. I also have a little drum machine. I want to start recording these doodles I come up with. I can see a guitar in the future so let's just say I may need 4 tracks. In the future I may find myself living on a cramped ship or on the ground in the Middle East as well (knock on wood). The bottom line is I need portability and will probably sacrifice flexibility for it.

    I'm debating between a USB device like the Line 6 or M Audio products or one of those Tascam or Fortex all in one hard disk/ flash memory recorders.

    Pros I can see for laptop and USB device: Less weight, availability of more software tools, capabilities can be increased via upgrade.

    Pros for all in one: Very easy to use, guaranteed to work regardless of hardware configuration, hardware vice software processing(at least I think so).

    So what do you gurus think? Also, are there any gotchas or surprises I need to know about both options?

    Don't be shy to throw out your hardware recommendations but please keep it under $300 :)

  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    If you own a laptop already, it's the cheapest solution. USB audio interfaces can be had in the $100-200 range from companies like M-Audio and Tascam that come bundled with recording software.

    You already understand the pros and cons pretty well except:

    1. For a $300 budget any all-in-one you buy will be smaller AND lighter than a laptop.

    2. Unless the all-in-one has a CD burner, it will still depend on a computer of some sort for external data storage (backups, archiving masters, etc.).
  3. Pruitt


    Jun 30, 2005
    Danbury, CT
    I bought a ZOOM MRS-8 a couple of months ago and I absoultely love it. It used SD memory cards. It comes with 128MB card, but that's too small imho. I picked up 2 1GB cards for it since. It also has a built in Rhythm machine (drum and bass). I only use the drum portion, but it has over 500 patterns that you can easily put together to create songs, etc... You can also create and save your own patterns.

    I use this thing for just about everything now. I record my private lessons with it. I record every Jam and rehersal I go to with it (it has an excellent built-in condensor mic. That's all I use and it sounds quite good). I convert songs I'm working on into Projects on the machine and can then work on them and record myself so I can listen back to them. And of course, it's excellent for recording your own multi-track tunes.

    It is quite possibly the best gear investment I've ever made.



    Good luck and have fun!! :bassist:
  4. Dugz Ink

    Dugz Ink

    Oct 23, 2005
    I would say that it depends on the laptop.

    A Mac with dual G4s? You should run great.

    A Dell with a 1.3gHz Celeron? It'll puke and die.

    Numerous people have trouble running the M-Box on PCs, but I haven't talked to anybody who had trouble with the M-Box on a Mac. That makes sense, because Pro Tools was written for Macs.

    Here's what doesn't make sense; PCs tend to do better (fewer drop outs and lock ups) with Firewire interfaces, which were designed for Macs, and are rated as being slower than USB2.

    By the way, Digidesign will be phasing out the M-Box; they just came out with the M-Box 2, which is $50 more... and $150 past your budget.

    If your laptop is up to multitracking, and you want more flexibility than Pro Tools (which has hardware and software limitations), then think about interfaces like the Presonus Firebox for $300, or the M-Audio Firewire 410 for $300... and, of course, sequencing software.

    NOTE: You can buy Sonar Home Studio for about $100, and upgrade to their best software as your budget allows... for about the same total price as just buying their best software.

    If you need to keep the cost of the interface below $200 (so you can buy sooftware), then check out the M-Audio Firewire Audiophile or the M-Audio USB MobilePre. Both will work with Mac or PC.

    Considering the cost(s) of setting up a dependable computer with hardware and software, something like the Fostex MR8 might be a good start. I haven't used one, but the features seem to be right in line with what you want... including a USB port for transfering digital files to your computer for CD burning.
  5. BulkHead


    Oct 14, 2005
    Manassas VA
  6. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    My laptop is an eMachines running an AMD Athlon XPM @ the equivalent of a P4 2.4 GHz with 512M RAM. I think it will be fine for running a Firewire or USB box and the recording/mixing software.

    I'm almost sold on the Presonus 1394 box. OTOH, the convenience of the Fostex/Tascam/Zoom boxes (no need to set up the laptop) is a godsend too.

    Ah, decisions, decisions. Maybe I'll go visit GC and try some products first hand (at least the All in One types).

    Thanks for the inputs guys. Feel free to throw in some more :bassist:
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The 400/480 rates are the MAXIMUM. In the real world, Firewire can get much closer to using it's max bandwidth than USB can.

    It's a moot point since most USB audio interfaces out there are still only USB1.1 for compatibility with older computers so are WAY slower than Firewire (but far cheaper). That's why interfaces that allow 8+ simultaneous channels of recording are all Firewire.