Recording gear options, not sure which one to go for

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by LennyPenny, Apr 17, 2017.

  1. LennyPenny


    Mar 14, 2011
    I'm fairly familiar with recording, which I've always done with my Zoom B3 straight into Reaper. For the few songs I've recorded so far, I've always used one of the amp models (particularly the Acoustic), sometimes with the BDDI emulation as well. Now I'm wondering if it would be worth it to get some better equipment but I'm not sure 1) if it would even make much of a difference from what I use now and 2) what kind of setup would best suit my needs without being unnecessarily expensive. Main priority is compactness and it has allow monitoring through headphones. Our living situation doesn't really allow me monitor through speakers and/or mic my amp.

    As I'm also looking around for an amp upgrade from the GK MB112-II I have now, it would be convenient if I could somehow combine the two (recording setup and live setup) instead of having them be completely separate rigs.

    Basically, I'm thinking of either getting a decent interface like a Tascam US-2x2 or a similar Focusrite + a preamp like BDDI or Darkglass Alpha Omega. I'm assuming that would be enough to get decent recordings. Alternatively, I could get a nice micro head like GK MB500 or Tech 21 Bass VT 500 and take the DI out from that into an interface. Benefit of that would be that I could also use it live if I save up for a cab. I'm not sure if I'd feel comfortable about only having a preamp for concerts.

    The thing is I don't know which of the two (interface + preamp or interface + amp) would yield better recordings. Is there any reason why a preamp wouldn't be as good as a full amp? It doesn't help that I can't test anything locally, so I have to be pretty sure that whatever I'm going for will work.

    One last thing: probably not the right place to ask about guitar gear, but is there any kind of preamp/interface that works for guitar AND bass? For guitar recordings, right now I'm forced to used plugins and amp sims to get a half-decent guitar amp sound. Would be great if there's some kind of box that allows you to dial in a good sound and use that to record with.

  2. Hey man,

    To answer your last question first. I hear the Line 6 Pod is great for going DI recording guitar.

    In terms of bass, I'd say an amp is completely unnecessary for recording DI. I would get a good interface (I use an Apogee Duet 2 which has pretty great preamps and allows for headphone monitoring). And also get a good DAW. I think Logic Pro is really great and user friendly. It also comes with tons of amps and effects to spice up your recordings.

    Another good investment, especially for recording guitar DI, would be a DI box that takes your instrument level signal and turns it into a stronger Mic level signal. An example of that is the Radial JDI. Recording guitar DI can sound pretty good with a good DI box and some of the amp emulators on your DAW.

    Again, I would invest in a good interface, a DAW, and a DI box and you have everything you really need to get quality recordings. Then you can start to invest in other gear from there to continue building your studio.

    I'm sure others will chime in with more great advice

    But I do have one question to add for anyone who chimes in which is in line with what you're asking:

    I have a Genz Benz Shuttle Max 9.2. Would you use the DI signal from that amp head or just go straight through a Radial J48 DI box instead?
  3. In my experience mic-preamps with high quality transformers in general are much better for recording purposes than the DI-outs of bass amps. There is a reason that in professional recording environments most of the time you go direct into a good mixing desk or use outboard gear like mic-preamps and compressors.
    The same is true for most budget preamp-pedals from bass amp manufacturers.

    You don't get a really good preamp with an eq or maybe a compressor and a tuner for 200,- or 300,-.

    I like the Sans Amp gear, but I use it live or if it has to be fast. I would at least think about neve- or api-like preamps - there are very good budget versions of them from GAP and Warm Audio for example.
    I don't know any contemporary interface that doesn't allow direct monitoring through headphones. If possible chose an interface that allows you to go direct (bypass the preamps of the interface).
  4. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    If you're just recording bass tracks, what you have is fine. It will get the job done with good results.
    For guitar sound, I like to record guitar straight DI. It took me a long time to tune my ears to the software. And I was able to get some good presets established for the various styles of guitar and bass tones.

    If you're looking to create songs with multiple instruments and tracks you're on the right track. A USB interface will allow you to do a lot. The Presonus AudioBox USB is a great inexpensive interface that comes with the Studio One 3 DAW Artists version (not free version), It has a lot of features, instruments, and plugins, and pre-recorded loops and fx. With this DAW, you can create drum loops, and do anything a pro studio can do in the mix. It's also easier to operate than many other DAW. Less need to pull up menus in menus, and most everything is done by point and click with mouse. Check out the YouTube video tutorials and reviews.

    If you can't use full studio monitors, a good set of studio headphone monitors will get you the best mixes, and recordings. And it's much cheaper than buying a pair of Studio Monitors, and acoustic treatment for your room.

    As for recording via the amp. You can do it with good results, but it will take some trial and error to tune your ears to how the amp behaves. And if you want to record the amp, you'll need to invest in a good mic, and develop your ears to how different mic positions affect the sound of the amp.

    To get the best recording you can do it exactly like you're doing it, run a insrtument direct to the interface, or through your fx pedal and then to interface. To start, it's best to go direct without much fx in the signal. Once you develop your ear to how it sound once, you render it in WAV and playback on other devices like car CD, you'll have trained your ears to mix.

    The quality of your recording, is going to be based on the mix. That is, how well you can make volume and pan adjustments among each track to get the right balance. And how to use EQ to enhance the sound of each track, so that every track stand on its own, and not all bunched up and muddy in the same frequency range. Once your ears are trained to do this, you'll be able to mix in FX and turn out recording fast and easy. And then, you can create just about any music you want.

    Mixing is the most challenging part of recording. It takes ear training, and understanding of how each track will behave in the overall song. It's not something you can buy, or something that's given free. It takes effort, and learning. But the good news is, there are tons of free video tutorials online that target specific techniques of mixing. As well as tutorials for the beginers, and advanced.

    So, once you get the interface and DAW, you've opened up a world of possibilities. You can use it as a basic recording device, or use it as a full on professional recording studio. Keep in mind that you really don't need to spend anything on FX, preamps, compressors, reverb, delays, multi band parametric EQs, channel strips, limiters, etc... And, you don't need to plug your instrument through all these FX and run it to a amp to record great sound. Everything comes free in the DAW. And for most music, the cleaner sound is often the easiest way to get clear articulate mixes with more dynamic range.

    I hope this helps, good luck with your recording.
    LennyPenny likes this.
  5. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    You don't need software to do this.

    I use an Allen and Heath Zed10fx. The USB allows you to use the mixer as your default audio output. And any audio signal coming out of the computer can be mixed with anything plugged into the mixer. Can route to headphones or monitors or an amp. You can also use it to record 4 channels into garage band.
  6. LennyPenny


    Mar 14, 2011
    Thanks for the suggestions so far, they do help!

    This is what I think would be the smartest way to go:
    - Focusrite 2i4 (2nd gen) interface ---> from what I hear/read, it's the best option for my budget and out of the ones I'm considering it's the only one with pads. I gather these help a lot when recording guitar/bass direct. Recordings with my B3 (without a separate interface, it has USB) sound fine but I miss a separate headphone control, it only has a monitor-mix blend and gain which isn't very accurate. Unless I'm doing it all wrong, recording guitar with the B3 (with no effects active) and amp plugins is problematic because I can only turn the blend to 25% or so towards mix before it gets way too loud. At one point I was wearing my custom made earplugs underneath my headphones to make it bearable.

    - For bass: Tech 21 VT Bass DI ---> really like the sound of it in the several videos I've seen. Some tones are horrible but it seems very versatile, and I believe the Character knob on the VT would be more useful to me than Presence on the BDDI V2. Plus I could use it for the occasional gig because it has the optional cab sim.

    - For guitar, I might get something like Amplitube or S-Gear in the (near) future, but for now I'll probably stick to a few free plugins I've used and quite like, i.e. LePou HyBrit and Ignite Emissary for amps and NadIR cab sim with free impulses I found.

    I REALLY like the sound of the Alpha Omega but I'm not convinced I could justify spending that much on it before I get other basic components. I'm guessing it's not ideal to use it in front of an interface with nothing else because it doesn't have a simulated output. Seems like it could make for a pretty sweet compact live rig: Alpha Omega into VT Bass (with cab sim on) straight to the board...

    For anyone interested, here's a track I made a while back. Guitar = Epi SG with HyBrit amp sim, bass = Squier VM P with B3's Acoustic model and BDDI model (I think, can't be sure), drums = free samples I found online (NSA Custom Series Drumkit). I really like the song itself but the recording/mixing could use work :bag:

    Badwater likes this.
  7. LennyPenny


    Mar 14, 2011
    It does seem like a good piece of equipment but I/we simply don't have room for it right now, and it seems pretty complicated for a novice like myself :p
  8. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    I've been using the Presonus AudioBox 44VSL. It has a volume control for the headphones, as well as a lot of headroom in the preamps, I record usually at -16db on the input, and adjust volumes levels for tracks in the mix. Here's a song I did with 2 guitars, bass, MIDI drums, and keyboard. All the instruments were DI, no FX. Used mostly EQ and the amp plugin. As well as a tiny bit of comression and room reverb, and a limiter on the master track for the final mix. These are great interfaces if you can still find them.

    Here's a sample track of a original song I did last year.
    <iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=""></iframe>
  9. LennyPenny


    Mar 14, 2011
    I can find them (without much difficulty actually) but they're 25% more expensive than a 2i4 and honestly I don't know what I'd need 4 inputs for. Something to consider though.
  10. the harp unstrung

    the harp unstrung Humankind: be both. Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2014
    On The Bus
    I've spent $600 in the last half hour!
    ...a BOSS BR 1600cd, and a $100 pair of AKG headphones!

    ...any suggestions re studio monitors in my price range?

    Apparently, it's Game On... :thumbsup:
  11. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I felt this way when I bought my 2i4 last year, but now I'm wishing I had had more foresight and had gone for the 18i8 instead (to record more tracks simultaneously). Not so much for recording my own stuff, but if you ever want to record a band, 2 tracks is quite limiting.
  12. the harp unstrung

    the harp unstrung Humankind: be both. Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2014
    On The Bus
    Arrived this morn!
    Thank you lovely FedEx lady!
    Game ON! :woot:
  13. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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