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basic PC based home setup build

Discussion in 'Recording' started by MontesaGold, Jun 14, 2012.

  1. MontesaGold

    MontesaGold Active Member

    Thanks in advance for any help, sorry if i've ask a question that has been covered in here already, please redirect me if so.

    First of all, looking for a very basic setup to record guitars and drums. Not looking to make a polished product, but rather a tool to write original music myself. I play several instruments and cant go any further until I build some material. I have several guys interested in playing original music, but none of want again to be in the awkward situation with a room full of instruments and no material to start with other than covers.

    With this said, i would assume I would need enough tracks to mic up 3 or 4 mics on the drums (possibly could use a mixer to get that down to one track). Would want to have a few guitar/bass tracks, and maybe some extras.

    I do have a limited background in recording, as a band we recorded several tracks at a professional studio. The engineer was a close friend and answered as many questions as I could throw at him and let me get my hands dirty throughout the process. This time experimenting with pro-tools is what lead me to realize I want a PC based program. The idea of visualizing the material on a screen in front of me makes me think I could have a better shot at making this piece of music become a reality. Since only separate blocks of material are going to be polished before hand, I want to utilize the recording phase as an instrument as well. I have used a simple 4-track in the past and need more editing capabilities than a stand alone unit.

    I have a friend who is a computer wizard by trade (works IT at a nuclear facility) and can help me with that end. I'm looking to buy a new pc in the near future if mine will not meet the minimum requirements.

    So, I guess my questions are:

    -basic requirements of PC
    -suggestions for entry level program
    -interface/sound cards?(thats the part I'm clueless about, saw an article about using a cheap $50 sound card and $100 mixer, will this work)???
    -basic cheap studio monitors?
    -which mics? one good to mic up guitar amp, the same for bass or different? and a simple drum mic kit

    Again, I'm not as worried about the final product, just the ability to collect material, cut/paste and layer it.

    Thanks for your time,
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You have so many options available to you. It will make you crazy. To go strictly the computer route, the Presonus Fire Box/Studio is a very nice sounding and popular FireWire enabled unit. It comes with some lovely software that I personally have found a bit confusing. But I'm old and I don't adapt as quickly as I used to. So the software that I run is Adobe Audition & Sony Vegas which are my personal choices. I have entry level ProTools which really doesn't turn me on much.

    All you need is a tag of SHURE SM57's and some foam pop filters. So that's $500 for the interface and $800 for the microphones. One pair of Sennheiser 280 headphones and 4 Sennheiser 202 headphones and you'll be cooking with gas. You'll also need a simple headphone amplifier for one other musicians need to be overdubbing parts. You'll also need a pair of control room reference monitors. Inexpensive KRK's are some of my favorites. And that's really all you need other than some microphone cables and stands. The whole package a little under $1500.

    If somebody tells you the 57's aren't the best mics to get, they don't know what they're talking about. So beware.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. MontesaGold

    MontesaGold Active Member

    Thanks for the information, very helpfull. One more question, if I dont need that many inputs, can I get by with a different interface? Could I use something with 4 inputs and get the same job done? Other than being limited to 4mics on the drums, what would be the down fall? I've seen some of the components for half the money. In the price range, what would you advise? Could I use somthing like that with one of the free or cheap software packages like Reaper?
    You seem very knowledgeable about this stuff, Thanks again.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You generally only find in computer audio interfaces with 2 microphone inputs or, 8 microphone inputs. Sure, PreSonus makes a two channel interface along with dozens of others all in the $150 price range. All come bundled with fine multi-track recording software. Many bundle Steinberg's CueBase, which is extremely powerful and versatile. Basically, today, most multi-track recording software all do the same things. Each one has a visually different GUI which will either click in your brain or it won't click in your brain. If you are already utilizing a software package like, you can continue to use it with any of the above interfaces.

    The reason why I had recommended the 8 XLR/1/4 inch input device is that I have heard so many people through the years like yourself say all I need are two microphone inputs. ACK! You'll outgrow that the day after you get it. Like when you want to record your guitar in stereo while singing at the same time. I've rarely seen a 4 XLR input device. There have been some but they are not as prolific as the 2 & 8 input devices are. And if some of your musician friends come over and you want to lay down some tracks together, you're going to need that eight input unit. So by spending a few extra dollars you'll be saving a few extra dollars. And FireWire devices are faster and so they have lower latency than USB devices since most 2 channel USB devices are still USB 1.1. PreSonus makes two variations of their Audio Box. The $150 version is USB 1.1. But for an extra $100 ($250 version) you get USB 2.0 on the same device. What they've done there was because of the increased speed USB 2.0 has to offer, it can run real time effects which the USB 1.1 version cannot do. It also has a few extra tricks it can do in addition to the real-time affects. But then for twice that price, you are into 8 tracks and FireWire and would practically be a full-blown studio with that capability. You'd learn more, have more fun, maybe even be able to charge your friends to make some recordings for them. With the two input device, you're extremely limited.

    When I recommended the bag of (BTW there was a typo in that original) SHURE SM57's, most folks would recommend a SM58 for use on vocals. They have a larger metal ball over top of the exact same microphone element that the 57 has. So a 57 with a foam pop filter is a 58 and a 58 with the metal ball on screwed is a 57. 57's can be easier to place on drums and guitar cabinets since you don't have the big metal ball. You even see the 57's on the president of the United States with the additional foam pop filter instead of 3-58's. These microphones are an industry standard and have a very recognizable tonality used on so many hit records you couldn't even count them all. In many applications, I even like them better than my + $3000 German condenser microphones. People think that condenser microphones equals studio quality when in fact, that's not really true. Everything has its place when you understand what it does and what it sounds like. I've only recommended the most goof proof best bang for the buck you can start with. So save that paper route money and before you know it you'll get there.

    Ms. practical
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. MontesaGold

    MontesaGold Active Member

    That makes perfect sense, the setup you suggested would be very, very versatile. I found a link that review some of the two channel interfaces, and they also included a TASCAM US-800 in the review. I know it is the lower end but how would it perform? Also what are the minimum requires I need to consider when shopping for a new computer, who know, my computer may be competent for now. Can you tell me a bit more about real time effects. And about the differences in the Sure mics, I didnt realize the simularities.
  6. MontesaGold

    MontesaGold Active Member

    I understand that you get what you pay for but my budget allows for about half of what you suggested. Good news is, I have a few mics to start out, some good head phones. After I get a new PC, I'm looking to spent closer to the $250 range plus some good monitors down the road. Is there any chance in finding a $200-$300 interface that is worth even taking out of the box?
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Oh sure. Completely understandable regarding your budget. In another recent thread Boswell of the UK indicated some interfaces with 4 microphone inputs. He really keeps on top of things more than I do. He runs a sound company. I just make and mix recordings with my facility and at others.

    I'm still getting by with six-year-old plus computers. Anything with a multi-core processor that accepts more than 2 GB of RAM is what you'll get. It will run rings around my machines. I plan to be upgrading to a newer i 7 laptop within the next few months.

    Regarding the TA-SCAM equipment, I was badly burnt by them back in 1993. Their stuff works but you would do better with something like a PreSonus Audio Box. Smooth quality XLR microphone preamps on combo inputs which also accept 1/4 inch instrument inputs. So I don't recommend those Japanese guys any longer. Other companies produce better quality devices at nearly the same price.

    With the standard PreSonus Audio Box USB 1.1 device, it allows for direct Pass through monitoring so you hear no latency. But it's only the microphone that's going in that you hear directly passing through along with the tracks that are playing back. With a USB 2.0 device of the Audio Box, data can be transferred extremely faster than that of USB 1.1. This allows the computer to process things such as compression, limiting, equalization, other effects while performing and hearing it in real time in your headphones or control room speakers. USB 1.1 is not fast enough to accomplish that. That simply means that if you want to hear those effects, you have to wait until you play it back which is not in real time while recording. Being able to monitor those effects while performing and recording can influence your performance in a more positive and pleasing manner than without it. Not many audio interfaces offer that kind of option at all. Devices that utilize USB 2.0 or FireWire, can move huge bulk's of multitrack data very quickly. Whereas USB 1.1 is like a snail through molasses in February. And you are generally restricted to recording only 2 and sometimes maybe 4 simultaneous tracks with USB 1.1 devices. USB 2.0 & FireWire, can typically record anywhere from 8-24 simultaneous tracks at once. Of course just like a sports car, you're paying for the speed and the capabilities that go beyond the common. Which is of course also a luxury when one can afford to do that. And also because the newer 64-bit multicore processors can do so much more all at once than a single core processor ever could, you can take advantage of what the computer is capable of delivering. My computer certainly cannot do that even though I have one computer that has a dual core 32-bit processor. Still not capable enough to handle all of those functions simultaneously while recording.

    The SHURE line of microphones are all great. They are all built like proverbial tanks. We have done shoot out audio comparisons to our $3300 each German condenser microphones and the one cheap dynamic microphone that came closest was the 57/58 of the original SM series. Their new Beta series is more of a technological update. They utilize a higher energy permanent magnet made from neodymium as opposed to ferrite. High frequency response was slightly also extended. Just because they look the same as their SM cousins doesn't mean that they are really interchangeable. It means they actually sound different but similar. Sometimes I like one of my Beta 58's for a vocalist over my SM58's. Sometimes it's the other way around. These are nuance differences. But for people like myself, that could make or break the sound I'm going for. Sometimes I don't want a dynamic microphone sound so I might choose a condenser microphone. Where I don't want a condenser microphone sound I might choose a ribbon microphone. So we basically deal with 3 different types of microphone technologies. Within those three different types there are also sub types. There are large diaphragm condenser microphones, small diaphragm condenser microphones and micro miniature diaphragm condenser microphones. All with their own pros and cons. Generally, the smaller the capsule the more linear the response will be and it will have better off axis pickup. Large diaphragm condenser microphones are generally awful with off axis sound pickup. The micro miniature diaphragm condenser microphones are the ones you see on the evening news casters ties. The smaller the diaphragm on these condenser microphones, the more noise they produce. But when putting some microphones out for television purposes and being given a directive of not wanting to see any microphones, I frequently put those tie tack taped to the stands under the cymbals, taped to the rim at the edge of a drumhead. Taped to a music stand in front of a cello, etc.. Not something you probably need to worry about. But their line of condenser microphones at SHURE are all fabulous sounding. Some can get pretty pricey. That's where a lot of the bargain Chinese ones come into play. They're not all awful. They're also not all great. But they are a bargain to be sure. Back in the days of analog tape recording, I utilize more condenser microphones on drums than I do today. That's because the tape would have a tendency to soften the sound of whatever you were recording. Whereas with digital, it's already crispy and crunchy and making it crunchier doesn't make it better. But there are some good small diaphragm condenser microphones designed specifically for drums that do work well if you want that sound. I still love utilizing 57's and when I run out of those, 58's with a metal ball unscrewed and removed which makes it a 57 because they are identical microphones. They only differ in appearance and with a little extra foam. But even that alone does not always stop P popping. So they actually even offer a foam pop filter to fit over the large metal ball to better protect that from happening. Some people don't like foam pop filters because it does have a tendency to roll off 1/2 DB at 15 kHz. Oh my oh my. I use lots of foam because I usually don't care about that 1/2 DB at 15 kHz for a rock 'n roll vocal or even an announcer.

    The ribbon microphone technology is one of the oldest of them all. Back in the late 1970s early 1980s they nearly went extinct. Today, because digital sounds like digital, almost every microphone manufacturer in the world today makes a brand-new ribbon microphone. They have a very mellow quality. The Royer company advertising campaign says " they hear like you're ears ". And I for one think they really do because I own 6 ribbon microphones not from their company. One from the 1950s by RCA, one from the 1960s by RCA and the other 4 from Germany, that were developed in the early 1960s and still made today. Mine are from the 1980s. They also have different kinds of directional patterns such as figure of eight and hyper cardioid. They are also extremely fragile and you can't use them in a wind without killing them. So you don't blow into them either. If you do, I'd have to kill you. They sound simply scrumptious on female vocalists. They sound great on percussion. Fabulous on guitar both acoustic and electric. Cool sounding on announcers to give them that 1940s flavor. And then there's other variations of those types as well that include built-in little amplification circuitry's which have to be externally powered as they do not accept batteries. Every modern day microphone preamp and audio console provides this type of Phantom Power for both condenser microphones and active ribbon and dynamic microphones. There are reasons for having those non-of which I own. I've used some and said, nice.

    Just know that the SM57/58 is one of those few industry standards you don't want to be without. You might hear others for the same price that you think sound better. But better doesn't necessarily mean better. Better simply means different. And if you want different then that's better. More rock 'n roll hits have been recorded with the 57 & 58 than anything else on the planet. Even for guys that have platinum albums and can use a $10,000 microphone for their vocal in the studio, they are still cut utilizing a $100 SM58 such as Steve Tyler of Aerosmith, Bono, even Michael Jackson utilized an upgraded version designed more for announcers and other instrumentation called the SM 7 which is about $325. Lots of people will tell you the SM 7 is the one to get and that it's so much better than a 57/58. Well that's BS. Remember to draw out the words long when saying BS. That microphone offers a couple of extra switches screws directly to the microphone stand and for that you spent an extra $200. You don't need the switches. It has more foam. Stick the microphone in the clip firmly and it won't fall out. You can also take your anger and hostility out on them without any repercussions.

    Well I think that about wraps it up.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. MontesaGold

    MontesaGold Active Member

    Thanks alot for all the insight, very helpful! I will look for Boswell's post. One more thing if you could, will you send me some links to his or any other informitive posts on this sight? There is alot of junk to get around to find the good stuff.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I'm not quite sure how to direct you on that? I don't very often go back to previous posts. Sometimes you can search by subject matter or by posters names such as Boswell and myself. Some of these posts were recent and therefore do not go back too far in time. There is also what they call the sticky section that have been specially flagged as being very important and pertinent informative posts. I don't exactly live on the Internet and therefore am not as savvy as some other folks. That's what I get for being old. One does have to frequently sift through quite a lot of posts. Sort of like when you Google something you find 1000 pages relating to your search. Savvy folks on the Internet know how to narrow this down better than I.

    Not always savvy on the Internet
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    To save you scrabbling around, these were the two USB interfaces I mentioned in the other thread Remy referred to: Lexicon Ionix U42S and Presonus Audiobox 44VSL. I have re-referenced them from UK to US dealers. Both of these units have 4 mic input channels and are of respectable sonic quality. There are others available, particularly those with a FireWire host connection rather than USB.
  11. skyy38

    skyy38 Active Member

    I don't know if you eventually picked out a software program, but if you did and found it lacking, might I suggest Studio One FREE by Presonus? It's a basic ( but not "sawed-off") version of their popular Studio One Software. When you download it, unlike a "demo" version, SOF will NOT "time-out"-it's yours to keep forever!

    Studio One Free « Studio One

    Scroll down to where it says "Download Studio One Free".
  12. Hornman

    Hornman Member

    Thank you Remy for all the useful info. Hey, I'm old too(56), well, old school. I love the Shure SM57 mic. I do all my brass work with one. In the 70's we drank a lot and dropped them all the time. It dented them but they kept on working. It's nice to hear good stuff about Presonus interfaces. I can't wait to get started with mine. I'm having my computer beefed up. Happy Recording.
  13. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Id also say get a presonus firestudio project. If you buy a new one you will get the artist version of studio one. That is a very simple program with fast workflow. Also that would be a simple plug and play system, the presonus interface sets up very easy snd intergrates with studio one instantly. You get 8 great preamps with zero latency and a system that is very stable and fast. You could also look for a used product, if the seller is nice he might include studio one for you.

    There are lots of how to videos on the presonus site on studio one so you might want to check them out also the presonus forum is very helpful. I didn't get any response there at first but when I did I found that there are many friendly users there that are willing to help. Also the technical support are easy to get in contact with and they offer really the help you need and not just having you as just another guy with a problem.

    You could also look into tannoy reveal monitors. They give a more natural sound than the krk:s. A friend of mine have the krk:s and came to me with a trance song that he made, when I played it trough my tannoys he was amazed and disscovered sounds in frequencies that he could not hear in his krk:s. They are about the same price also.

    With the computer Id also recommend getting a used one to start with. Look for the best processor/ram combination you can find for your pricerange.

    In fact, Id recommend getting everything used at first. You can probably get the price down by 50% in the end when you calculate and still have a system that is good to go for a few years.

    Sent via Tapatalk 2

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