Unsure of what to invest in next....

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by scorpionldr, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Years ago I tried home recording, I invested in a digital mixer/4-track tape recorder back in my day, and needless to say, hadn't really gotten desirable, replicatable results, ever. So that was a decade ago.

    Now I'm thinking about trying to record again. I have a digital audio workstation, but thats something I really use more just to make my electronic music. I've been leary since the last time I tried to record with a band I left off with saying "**** this, a studio would be worth the time."
    But on the other hand, I have Mics, I have cables, all sorts of "stuff" that I probably wouldn't really get much from selling.

    So in short, do I need a compressor now for recording guitar/vocals/stuff or a soundcard or what? I see bestbuy selling m-audio gear and thats actually not out of my way compared to trekking out to the nearest guitar center/sam ash (we're talking 45 minutes from me, minimum).

    What price range should I be looking at? I'm looking for durability and plug and play.
  2. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Your first investment is going to be an audio interface. M-audio (aka Avid) makes a number of them, and there are many other companies that also make good interfaces.

    Your decision will start with how many inputs you want to record simultaneously. If the number is low like 1-4, then a lower-cost USB interface will do just fine. If you want to record 8+ inputs at once, you're probably looking at stepping up to a slightly higher cost unit with a FireWire interface.

    Think $100-$200 range for entry level and $500 for the next level up. The are a ton of products available in both of these categories. Too many to make a comprehensive list. But if you come up with the number of inputs you need and price range first, I'm sure you'll get a lot of good suggestions.

    As for a compressor, you can probably go with a software plugin either built into or added to your DAW. At this point a hardware based compressor is probably premature until you get some tracks laid down and decide you really need it. I think you'll probably come up with other requirements sooner.

    BTW - there's not much value to a storefront for this type of gear unless you're talking to someone who really knows their stuff. Amazon.com with prime membership is a great investment for building a home studio. Sweetwater.com plus a host of other good online retailers are also a great idea. I don't think you'll get all the advice you need from Best Buy since they represent a fraction of the available products. They can probably get you started ok, but you may find you outgrow their advice quickly.

    Your second investment will likely be a decent pair of powered studio monitors if you don't already have them. PC speakers won't lead to quality mixes that sound good on other devices.
  3. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    Westchester, NY
    +1 to all of that
  4. spector_boogie

    spector_boogie No Limit Honky Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2012
    The Woodlands, TX
    this is what we are getting for our room to recording with just in practice:


    they're great value for the $$ and you can find them used on the cheap.
  5. Right, well the soundcard reviews I've been reading have been pretty dodgy, doesn't even seem to make a difference the make. I'm guessing the computer drivers determines the quality more than the hardware?

    Compression I wasn't really sure how things worked. I mean, granted, I have FL studio and it has the compression, the reverbs, etc, but I wasn't sure what would really qualify. Like I said, durable and plug and play. If it sounds a little digitized at least I'm heard.

    ha, as for best buy, yea, I learned the powers of "the geniuses" but if they have it in stock, then easy pick, you know?

    atm I mix with a couple pairs of headphones to monitor what I make.
  6. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Most important consideration IMO if you're going with an audio interface that's FireWire based is the FireWire card on your PC. The chipset for the FireWire card should be made by TI. That's the only chipset I'm aware of that fully supports the IEEE 1394 spec - but hey, TI helped write the spec so that's to be expected.

    I hear good things about Avid, Presonus, and Focusrite audio interfaces on a pretty regular basis. I use the Avid Profire 2626 and think it is one of the top three interfaces in the $500 range.

    I'd plan on using your audio interface for both instrument/mic input and output to speakers. I wouldn't use a PC "sound card" at all.
  7. I hope that this doesn't sound too negative but I have seen way too many people spend a ton of money on home recording and end up with crappy recordings and a bunch of used gear that isn't worth squat.
    In my most humble opinion I think that you would be way better off if you took the money that you were going to spend on recording equipment and spent it at a real studio.
  8. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    That's very realistic. A bunch of toys does not make anyone a sound engineer. The investment in time and commitment to learn are very important. Don't expect to pick up a few magic boxes and crank out the next White Album in your bedroom over the weekend.
  9. Yup, recording bands is a lifetime learning process, but if the idea of learning it sounds like fun it can be really rewarding.

    +1000, don't get a compressor yet, major wasted money till you are quite far down the line. Try out some free downloadable plugin compressors if you don't like the fruity ones, or plenty of good ones for VERY cheap. Try the voxengo crunchessor, very cool and about £35. Loads of free alternatives tho!

    The driver has no effect on the quality, and it DOES make a difference manafacturer to manafacturer ;) The quality of a soundcard is in the internal analog electronics, the preamps etc, the clock and the A/D converter.

    Focusrite stuff is good, plenty of other options. I'd scan for known issues and read a few reviews but don't be too put off by people claiming 'it don't work', they normally haven't set it up properly. To be honest, they will all get very similar results, A/D's are so good these days. The more important thing is paying for the features you need.

    The home studio interfaces sound different but not ever what I would call better from one to another. You have to pay quite a bit of cash to get into the 'great' sounding territory but don't worry about that, wait until you can make a great sounding record on simple gear, if you can't do that anything else is wasted money :)

    Focus on features and make sure you have enough mics etc.

    And yes, if you are not prepared for your first dozen or so recordings to sound really crappy this may not be the path you wanna take :)
  10. ha, like I said, I'm not really expecting rockstar quality, but I mean, I am looking for pretty much what I put in. Like I'm not expecting crystal clear audio quality, but I'm definitely looking for an accurate representation of what I plugged in.

    I remember the old days of setting the stuff up to go to tape and getting either static or nothing at all.

    My camcorder these days has some pretty decent quality...Took a couple recordings of gigs and to my surprize unlike other cheap mics on cameras, smart phones, or mini digital recorders, the sound didn't break up. Wasn't great......wasn't unbearable tho.
  11. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Inactive

    Jan 20, 2011

    Hello Music has recording gear once in a while. Worth keeping an eye on.
  12. jungleheat

    jungleheat Inactive

    Jun 19, 2011
    I agree with Liam. Based on what you've said, it sounds like you wouldn't really benefit much from spending a ton of money to have your own setup. You already have a DAW (I assume you mean a standalone HD recorder, something like a Boss BR800 or similar), just use that for your sketches (using whatever mics, etc... you already have), and spend the money you would otherwise pour into gear on studio time when necessary.

    It sounds like you've been at it for at least 10 years with little or no success. Adding more expensive gear isn't going to magically make amazing recordings happen. Some people just aren't cut out for it, frankly. Not everyone can be an F1 driver, or an astronaut, or be president, or be an awesome recording engineer. People who become great (or even good) recording engineers almost ALWAYS start out on very limited, basic gear, and prove themselves at each successive level. They make the best out of what they have.

    Plus, the glut of everyone thinking they can be the next George Martin or Roger Nichols has nearly killed the studio industry, which 20+ years ago was vibrant and thriving. The studio system means that there's some credibility in who is recording, mixing, and mastering the music you hear every day. Without that credibility you see a serious decline in quality, not just in local bands, but in everyone.

    So if I were you, I would take a pragmatic look at what you hope to achieve by recording at home, and a realistic assessment of how much of that is possible/plausible. Then go spend $20 on a "home recording 101" type book (the publishing company that puts out Guitar Player, etc... usually has good stuff), read it cover to cover, and try out some of those techniques with the gear you have on hand. That should hold you down for basic demos and ideas, and anything more serious you could just go into a studio and give a talented and skilled engineer some much needed work (and get an almost surely better recording as a result).
  13. I feel that. The DAW (FL studio) is software based. Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it.
    I've been reasonably successful with writing my stuff purely digitally, be it by mouseclicks or midi keyboard, just I've got the guitar, the bass, the saxes......and after a while, they're sitting around rather than being put to work. So that was my objective, to inject some "real" parts into my comp generated sounds.
  14. Opinion....simplify and get some high quality recordings with one track

    You can do respectful quality work with a $60 (used) interface .. $60 used condenser mic and audacity

    Recording is a ton more than gear - takes time ank learning
  15. jungleheat

    jungleheat Inactive

    Jun 19, 2011
    Ok. Then I say get one of those $20 recording 101 books, and a cheap but decent 2 or 4 channel interface and don't go any farther until you can start getting good results with just that. I'm not really sure what all FL can do, but if it can't do regular "tracking" from an external source, either go with something like Reaper/Audacity (both effectively free, although they accept "donations") or get an interface that comes with some basic recording software (often they come with "starter" versions of Cubase, Sonar, etc...). You should be able to keep all that under about $250 or so.

    There's not really any magic to just getting basic decent recordings' Most of it is signal flow and gain staging. Once you get those 2 elements sorted out, you should be all set and ready to delve into more detail like mic placement, EQ'ing, and stuff like that. It takes time though. I've been recording stuff in some form or another since I was 9 or 10 maybe, and since that time I would be reading articles in Electronic Musician and things like that learning all the different elements that go into recording, different technologies (which have evolved a lot in the intervening 20+ years), how to use different gear to get what you want, etc... It's all cumulative.
  16. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    IMHO, Forget the computer for your actual recording. A hardware recorder such as the Zoom R16 (I own a R24) will allow you to easily record up to 8 tracks of simultainious 24 bit/44.1 khz audio just about as simply as using a cassette recorder. The Zoom requires almost no "menu surfing" to get you where you want to go with basic recording. It's also very easy to set up for overdubs, etc.

    THEN plug a usb cable in and dump the tracks to your PC, edit in your program of choice, and render to a stereo file. At that point you can burn to CD or convert to MP3 for the web. The huge advantage in this is not requiring a huge hardware investment in a firewire interface, a good solid two channel is all that's necessary. (I use a Mackie Blackjack with Onyx preamps) Unless you want to dedicate most of your life to setting up a dedicated recording PC and dealing with latency issues, program conflicts, memory allocation setup and the rest, then recording on a dedicated hardware recorder and doing all the editing stuff with your PC is the ticket.

    The hardware recorders such as the R24 come and go, but your real investment will be good mics and a good monitor system to enable you to mix and master effectively. Plus a lot of time developing your hearing chops for good mixes!
  17. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    The OP comes from a computer-based music background and now wants to record live acoustic instruments and vocals. I'm suggesting something that works and will result in actual recordings rather than spending inordinate amounts of both time and money that more than likely will result in bouts of hair-pulling and possibly nothing to show for the effort.

    I speak from experiance...:)
  18. gavinspoon


    Feb 11, 2008
    Cardiff UK
    I've got an R16, and I drop the tracks into REAPER for editing. I've been very happy with the results. I put the R16, some headphones and a SM58 into a computer bag to give me a basic portable studio. I've layered up acoustic recordings using only that basic kit with decent results, and done some rough and ready full band recordings using a bunch of mics they had hanging around our practice place.
  19. darius8

    darius8 Guest

    I'm with Gavin and Rudy, the Zoom R16 is something to consider if the OP wants to do simultaneous multiple channels.
    If the OP is sticking with the PC, his single most important investment would be the computer itself. A computer with at least a quad chip processor with 8 gigs of ram, a fast 1 Terrabit harddisk, and with firewire inputs. Then a firewire 8+ channel interface.
    The OP can use his existing mics and cables.
  20. darius8

    darius8 Guest

    Crap! sorry if I sounded discouraging. I was just pointing out the biggest factor is the computer. But thats if your doing multitracks simultaneously.
    MNAirhead is right if your doing single track recording, all you need is a usb interface about $60. The latency problem come from a slow computer and not the interface. I use fl studios too. It's got a couple of really nice compressor VST plug-ins.