So Confused!

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by xerogh, Nov 2, 2002.

  1. xerogh

    xerogh Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2002
    Pennsylvania, USA

    I'm totally confused! I want to create a small studio on my PC at home but there is so much to choose from, and so many conflicting ideas on how to do it. I posted last week about Cakewalk and Fruity Loops then I did more research an just made myself more indecisive! I am totally new to home recording so I need a little advise.

    I have Guitar's and Bass's that I can record tracks via MIDI with my Line6 POD and BassPOD. I have a Sound Blaster Live! Audio card in my PC.
    That is all I have, so I need the following:

    Something to build Drum tracks
    Something for synth sounds
    Something for sequencing
    Something for recording and mixing

    So far this is what I think I need:

    Recording/Mixing: Cakewalk or Cakewalk XL / Cubase?
    Drums/Synth/Sequenc: Fruity Loops / ReBirth / Reason?
    Midi Interface: One of the MidiMan interfaces (Not sure which one)

    Please give me your recommendations.


  2. BigTed


    Jul 1, 2002
    San Diego
    My Current DAW Setup:

    Bass: MIM Jazz & Tacoma ABG
    Sound Card: Echo MIA 24/96
    Sequncing Software: Cubase SX
    Mastering Software: Wavelab 4
    Synths & Drums: Reason 2.0 & Cubase VSTi's
    Midi Interface: Midiman Oxygen8 USB contoller
    DI Box: SansAmp Bass Driver

    I'm not a big fan of using the PODs to record via MIDI, (personal preference) but you can get a descent 24/96 soundcard for under 200 bucks now-a-days. Then you can use the POD as you direct-in box.

    My advice would be to download as many trial-versions and demos of whatever you can so that you can find what works best for you.
  3. Xerogh,

    First of all, DON'T PANIC!! :D It IS a maze of possibilities and choices out there. There are several ways to get help though. 1/ Ask here (well done for that!) 2/ Try looking at and if you can try and snag a copy of the magazine. It's very helpful and lays out the different possibilities and choices in a friendly way. Their online material is pretty good. 3/ Another source is You have to pay to access some of their articles but what you get is exactly what is in the magazine. It tends to be a little more technical, so probably better once you've started to get the hang of things.

    I really would recommend Cakewalk Sonar as a sequencer. It will do 90% of what you want it to do right out of the box. You don't mention what OS you are running, but Windoze 2000 or XP have audio drivers that allow you to get pretty low latency. Look for WDM audio drivers on your system. (I'll explain latency later...) If you have the Audigy breakout box (or front panel) then you won't need a MIDI interface - there are MIDI ports on the front panel. If you don't have the front panel, then all you need is a cable that plugs in to the joystick port on the "soundcard" and gives you a MIDI in and out. These should be readily available. With Cakewalk you'll find controllers for the POD allowing you to setup changes to your sound from within the track you are creating. NICE!

    For building drum tracks I'd REALLY recommend something like Fruityloops. It really is the simplest way to set up drum patterns, and you can pull in your own drum sounds as samples to make it sound exactly as you want. You can also set up the basic track and then swap sounds around until you find exactly what you're looking for. It also has some pretty unique effects and sound generators / manipulators that allow you to really screw around with the samples you are working with (without changing the samples themselves). All in all, it's pretty much excellent. And (as I've said elsewhere) the free upgrades for life mean that it's an excellent investment.

    For synth sounds, there are some pretty cool free DXinstruments for Cakewalk, and again if you buy FXpansion's VST adaptor then you open up the possibility of using a whole new world of VST plugin instruments and effects (including Fruityloops itself). A lot of these are free, and Computer Music has distributed some really neat VSTi's for free recently (drum/sample synth, Analogue style synth, sampler).

    For recording, mixing and sequencing Cakewalk Sonar is all you'll need. Some of the pro-level mastering tools aren't as good as say "Pro Tools" but it's a much more intuitive program to get started with and it'll get you most of the way to where you want to be.

    Latency - when you record into the soundcard you can set up Cakewalk to allow you to hear exactly what will be recorded, including effects etc. However this means the sound needs to get into the card, around the processing and back out. Generally this puts pressure on the CPU and the soundcard. Slower drivers, CPU's allow you to work at 100ms latency (time between playing and hearing) which unfortunately gives a noticeable delay that's hard to work with. WDM drivers and a snappy CPU can take you to 10ms. Which is MUCH better. However, you can (and I DO) use Sonar with regular drivers but just don't use the option to hear the effects (input monitor). I record straight from the line2 input (or other front panel input) into Cakewalk. I use the Soundblaster control panel to monitor using the PC speakers or headphones, rather than using Cakewalk's "input monitor". If you have an external effects unit anyway, this won't really be a problem. I apply effects, EQ etc. after the event.

    Rebirth and Reason are FANTASTIC packages but geared pretty much at the dance fraternity, and not really for you to play in and sequence your input. I'd say Cakewalk Sonar and Fruityloops is what you're after.

    Hope this waffle helps. Let us know how you get on...

  4. xerogh

    xerogh Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2002
    Pennsylvania, USA
    Thanks MKS! That was quite a recommendation.

    Thanks to BigTed as well for the input about using POD’s.

    Thanks for taking the time.

    I think Sonar or Cubase SL could be what I need. But my biggest problem is that I have little experience with recording/mixing, and none from a PC platform. I am afraid I may get in over my head. So I may just get the standard Cakewalk Home Studio to mess around with and learn on. Then, when I get more comfortable with the technology I'll move up to Sonar or Cubase. I say this because I've downloaded the trial version of Sonar, but I have no idea how to use it (Does the full product come with good manuals?). The only trial software I found easy to use is Fruity Loops, so either way; I think I will purchase that.

    I will be upgrading my PC next year so if I go with a smaller software package to learn on now I can get an idea of what I need and build the correct PC and upgrade to a more versatile product.

  5. It's tough to make a reccommendation to someone with your limited amount of experience (which is not a bad thing!), but there are three points I want to make.

    1.) Learn - figure out what YOU are looking for. This takes time and more time. Really solidify and communicate on what you want to do, what you have access to, your experiences, budget, etc...

    2.) Research - again, time. Get out there and ask what products work. Look for the negative reviews and limitations of the equipment that interest you. Hit up as many forums and newsgroups as you can. is my best friend. Books from the library or your local book store are full of info. Read them. This coincides with point one.

    3.) Start Doing It - start recording songs and figure it out! It's not as hard as it seems and you'll realize your limitations. We all have them - be aware of what they are and work around them as best you can. You'll find where latency hurts, your room/mics/preamps/mixer sucks. Maybe your POD won't work, although I like see my point?

    Software/Recording Interface: I love Cubase/Nuendo and Cool Edit Pro. Their interfaces alone are easy for me to work with. Play around with all the demos you can and buy the one that sounds best and most easily works with you.

    MIDI: does your Audigy have MIDI? Play around with that. I dont use MIDI much (mostly for mixer automation, but that's a can of worms) so I use my Sound Blaster 16 right now. I am looking at a MidiMan interface myself, so I'd say you're on the right track.

    Drum software - I wish I had more experiences, but work with the demos and buy the one that sounds best and you work best with. I have friends that all love the ones you're thinking of. The only wrong answer is the one you don't like, despite the glowing reviews.

    Remember, it's your call, so take the time and do the research to figure out what works best for you.
  6. Hey Xerogh, no problem. Please do feel free to keep asking questions, either through the forum or via PM...

    The Sonar manual that comes with the product is pretty good. It covers things from the ground up (starting from really basics) so you shouldn't feel too out of your depth.

    Starting with Cakewalk Home Studio is perhaps a good idea - you can always upgrade at a later stage. I don't know that CHS would include a Studioware (control) panel for your POD though... If you can live without that then it's probably a good and inexpensive starting place.

    Good advice from int...

    Best of luck!