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Using a Computer as My Full Time Practice Amp

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by greekorican, Apr 23, 2010.

  1. greekorican


    Mar 12, 2009
    I bought a set of Sennheiser HD280's to use with my amp for silent practice. I was really unimpressed with the sound. It sounds empty, very sterile, no matter how I fiddle with eq. I've also tried the amplug.

    I'd like to use my computer as my full time practice amp, in order to keep volume levels down. I'd like to be able play along with drum tracks and mp3's through computer speakers (I'll upgrade those as well), as well as headphones.

    I'm considering a new soundcard or a firewire interface (their supposed to be better than USB, right?) and some kind of preamp (Sansamp possibly) I'd like to know:

    How similar is it to playing through an amp? Does it respond just as quickly, or is there a little lag? Does it sound just as detailed? If you're practicing, you want to hear every little bit of extraneous noise you make.

    I'd love to hear my bass sound GOOD through headphones. Is sound quality going to be a step up from an Amplug or headphone out jack?

    I've got a million more questions, but I think I'll start with just those

  2. I use my computer with my bass more than I've ever used my amp. Works great from the Line-In through my sound card (a Soundblaster Audigy 4...not the greatest for reecording though, but that's another story.)

    I use headphones, and I run my whole rig through my computer and will soon have a Sansamp myself to try out with it. If you want no lag whatsoever, I would just use a good soundcard, as you won't run into problems with latency using that, as long as you're not using ASIO drivers that is, which I think only engage when recording, and then can introduce latency issues. I would however use something external to do recordings, as you'll get more control that way I think. But for just jamming - as I do - a soundcard will do just fine, and your headphones - provded they are good quality - will be perfect for the bass.

    I perfer wearing headphones when playing the bass than using my stereo's speakers or using my bass amp; I can totally hear what I'm doing. Just like In Ear Monitors. They also keep the sound down as others can only hear the strings on the bass and nothing else.

    That's my two cents so far anyways. I'll let you know how the Sansamp works with everything once I get it (hopefully on Monday.)
  3. greekorican


    Mar 12, 2009
    I guess I should mention that I would like to record. I want to record me playing along to drum tracks and such, but I'd also like to be able to record a small band. I wouldn't mind getting into recording a bit, and it would be useful if we have to make a demo. I think it'd be better to get a nice interface now than to upgrade later.

    So there will be latency using Firewire? I also have Firewire 400, my motherboard is kinda old. Is that going to be laggy?
  4. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Can't beat this deal

    It includes a low latency iUSB nterface. The latency is not a big issue that many would have you believe. It no different than standing a few feet from your amp.

    Sometimes you want a honky sound, sometimes you don't. Ampeg SVX amp and cab simulation sounds just like the real thing (with a good interface). Add some reverb and you feel like you're in the room with other musicians. This and a few other plugins and your set for any type of sound.

    Free VST effects
    Free VST plugins
    So many out there, some are bad, some very good.
    Voxengo free ones are great
  5. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    For recording - latency is not an issue. The DAW reads the latency of the interface (ASIO drivers) and adjusts the tracks accordingly. Tracks that are already recorded will match up fine with new tracks you lay down. If for some reason they are off - it's no big deal to shift a track a few ms one way or the other.
  6. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Banned Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    A hint of stereo digital room reverb (with musical pre-delay and decay times) in the headphones will restore the acoustic ambiance/room tone which is absent when practice-playing bone-dry bass through 'phones.

    Whereas mono reverb on bass generally sounds muddy, tasteful stereo reverb sounds gorgeous.
  7. waleross


    Nov 27, 2009
    South Florida
    I bought one of the line 6 products Back Track where you can go via UsB into your PC, jam by yourself and then transfer to .wave files....(under $100)......:cool:
  8. greekorican


    Mar 12, 2009
    alright I've been doing more reading, and I've got more questions.

    Windows 7 or Ubuntu? I'm a cheapskate, what I love about Ubuntu is that you get tons of free applications, instead of trying to pirate them. Ubuntu Studio looks VERY cool, but I'm not sure how any of it works. If Ubuntu Software is powerful, then I'd like to do that versus buying (or pirating) good recording software. I'm not that good with linux, but I'd be more than to put in some work to get my system configured right if it means free software that works well.

    I have been trying to use Hydrogen, but it does not keep a steady beat. I've also got some sound driver issues with games, as well as Audacity. I think my best choice is to get a new sound card. I'm hoping that a new soundcard would fix all my sound issues.

    Travis' post makes me a little concerned about recording. If I got a good soundcard, would latency still be in issue with recording?

    Any soundcard suggestions? Cheap would be nice, but at the same time, you get what you pay for.

    Now if I get a soundcard, I will need a preamp, correct? I'm thinking a Sansamp Bass Driver or VT Bass. This is getting pricey already...
  9. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Read the Ubuntu thread in this forum.
    It's has all kinds of helpful information.
    You'll need to pick a soundcard that works with it.
    Wine can be used to run some windows apps.
    A lot of "free" stuff isn't really free - it's usually donation ware.
    If you don't donate, you may not see it ever updated.
    I do donate if I ever use it professionally.
  10. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    Having used Linux (Ubuntu, RedHat, Kanotix, OpenSuse) extensively, I would be careful with that option. Linux is great, but you have to be prepared to tinker quite a bit to get things to work right. So, caveat emptor.

    note: Please, all Linux super users, please do NOT jump on this post as an anti-Linux comment. I like Linux fine, and use it regularly (have been a user for many years), but it DOES require some intestinal fortitude to get audio stuff working well, and IMO/IME the average user is just not ready for what it takes. peace :cool:

    I would say go with what you know. if you are already a Windows person, use that. if you are a Mac user, use that. If you are ready to do some tinkering, go ahead and use Ubuntu (probably the easiest Linux distro for newbs at the moment)

    Listen to what Seamonkey said and remember that your bass straight through a computer into the reasonably flat Sennheiser 280's will be pretty much exactly what your bass sounds like. I have the Senn 280's myself and really like them for their honest reproduction. Try a bit of small room reverb and possibly some compression and EQ if you like, and you should be able to get a very nice practice setup.

    I do what you are looking to do with GuitarRig, Ableton Live, iDrum and a decent mid range laptop. As a practice rig it's great, even as a recording rig it's pretty decent. With just a touch of effort the bass tone is great.

    Keep at it, you'll get it right.
  11. singlemalt

    singlemalt Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2007
    White Salmon, WA
    Presonus firepod with preamps to a imac. Garageband, itunes, ect.


    Zoom B9.1 ut. effects out the wazzoo, usb interface, aux in., XLR and 1/4" outs, headphones. Better if you have midi as well for getting into the zoom editor software, comes with Cubase 4 LE.

    Or both together.
  12. greekorican


    Mar 12, 2009
    Ok- I've done countless hours of reading, and I am still confused. Possibly more confused even.

    Still caught up in the whole USB vs PCI vs Firewire thing. I'm concerned mostly about latency as well as sound quality. Which would give the least amount of latency? I'm probably freaking out about latency, but I hate the idea of not hearing a note right as you play it. That's definitely not the way you want to be practicing, I'm sure it would hurt your playing. Just out of curiosity, what is the latency playing in an amplifier?

    I am really not good at all in Linux, but I've been using it for about 2 years. I love to tinker, and Ubuntu Studio looks really cool. 64 studio also looks interesting. According to my friend, Ubuntu Studio will have lower latency than Windows. Is that true?

    I really like Linux and the fact that it's fact that it's free, you can't help but feel like you are sticking it to the man. I especially love it because I can tinker with just about everything. If this setup works well for me in Linux, I'm going to donate.

    I'm having a hard time choosing an internal sound card. Obviously I need to find something Linux friendly. Am I going to find any with a XLR or 1/4" jacks? Or am I going to have to rig up some adapters? Is interference a serious issue on a good sound card? Any suggestions?
  13. atheos


    Sep 28, 2008
    Tampere, Finland
    Drivers are a big thing in latency as they define how well the OS and the device communicate with each other. Generally USB interfaces can achieve almost as low latencies as Firewire (low enough not to notice the delay), the main difference is that USB data flow is bursts and goes through CPU while Firewire data flow is constant and Firewire has DMA (direct memory access) so it allows higher throughput. This is an issue in multitrack environments but if your setup is like 2in/2out you're totally cool with USB.

    I suggest getting a modeling preamp such as Line6 POD family (better modeling) or Zoom B series (more effects). Amplugs are nice and compact but they also lack quality and adjustability.

    Linux is a bit troublesome in creative environments (crude user interfaces, very limited hardware support and occasional need of conf file tinkering or source code magic) but if you're cool with it, good for you. But no flaming at all, just my 2 cents.

  14. Oh man that's so cool!! Now, I have a basic Dell Latitude E6400, stock. Using this software, all I would need to do is plug in a USB cord that hooks to my bass, some headphones, and I can play along with my iTunes?
  15. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    you'll find 1/4" for the line ins, and usually XLR for the ins equipped with pre's.

    don't sweat this so hard my friend, get a decent interface load it up, do a little reading on the manual and go for it. I am constantly amazed at the quality and general ease of use you can get from the current products available.

  16. I'd go with a Tech 21 product. The tube emulation from my Tri-AC sounds better than playing through my amp.:)
  17. I have a Mac Powerbook with Alesis i|o26 + Garage Band/Logic. On paper it does everything you could possibly ask for but in practice there is a little lag, The Alesis direct headphone monitoring isn't all that loud (computer indirect level is louder), Software levels need adjusting and there are other niggly little things that start to annoy you after a while when all you want to do is plug in and play. Great little recording setup but I ended up getting a Cafe Walter for practicing - they're really cheap and a far better audio quality.

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