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Best Bet for Demo Recording?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Gossling, Aug 18, 2008.

  1. Gossling

    Gossling Guest


    I am very new to this, so please bear with me.

    What I essentially need to do is record ideas of mine and store them on my computer (preferably in mp3 format) to listen to. I'll be recording max three instruments (cello, piano, something else) simultaneously. I would be doing both track by track recording and (hopefully) live recording with multiple instruments at once. This would mean I would want at least two microphone inputs for whatever I'm going to buy, right? So I can record three instruments with to mics? The better the quality, obviously, the better. But budget, portability, and ease of setup come first.

    My options for recording device:
    - 4-track Yamaha MT-100 cassette recorder.
    - Some good MD recorder?
    - My 30 dollar Sound Blaster MP3+ sound card (this would force me to do track by track recording.)

    Are there any other options I don't have listed? Any suggestions for MD recorders (with mic input)? Also, what's the difference between mic input and line input in MD recorders?

    Thanks for tolerating my intolerable ignorance!
  2. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Budget? Record to wav. You can always convert to mp3 but once you do, you lose quality.
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    If you are willing to give up (at least for now) multitrack recording, then the relatively new class of compact flash recorders give you a way to record high quality audio in one take direct to stereo. There are a lot of them out there, and new ones are being introduced all the time. Some are very cheap, some are more elaborate. The basic ones are the size of a cigarette pack, have two mics on board. You position them, hit record, transfer the file to your computer to edit, burn to CD. Easy way to record song ideas or record a live trio. I have a nice little project studio with a nice array of equipment and I (and my family) use one all the time. I think it is a great way to get started (even if you can't do things like overdub tracks). There is a lot to learn about placement of the mics (the unit itself) and the instruments even with these little units.

    The next step (or the first step if you are really committed to multitrack) is a computer audio interface (to bypass your sound card), DAW software, mics, cables, stands.
  4. Gossling

    Gossling Guest

    Thanks hueseph, I'll record to WAV then.

    BobRogers, by "give up multitrack recording," do you mean that I can't even layer my songs with other voices overdubbed? For example, could I record a bass line, then record a melody over that afterward on one file? I'm actually having trouble distinguishing this (what I call overdub) with multitrack. If a device isn't multitrack capable does this mean that there is only one line-in port? Or is it a combination of having only one line-in channel and no overdub ability? If it is just the first, having only one lin-in port, I can live with it. But I won't buy anything that isn't capable of "overdubbing" or whatever this is called.

    Can you overdub on a minidisc? I read somewhere briefly that you could, but I just want to confirm.

    Also, the cheapest flash recorders I've been able to find are in the 200-300's of dollars. Am I looking only at the high end ones? Would you recommend these over minidiscs or cassette recorders?

    Thanks for the replies.
  5. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Minidisc and cassette are dying formats. I'm surprised there are any cassette four tracks still around. $300 for a multitrack recorder is not unreasonable. That's more likely in the entry level.

    (Dead Link Removed)

    That's a pretty decent deal. You still have to consider mics, cables and stands though.

    This looks interesting:

    (Dead Link Removed)

    This looks ok:

    (Dead Link Removed)

    Your best bet is to go to a music store and pick someone's brain. Don't let them sell you on anything right away though.
  6. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    By "give up on multitrack recording" BobRogers means that you can only record one track at a time.

    NOTHING (except lack of software or disk space, or electrical power) will ever prevent you layering one recording with another.
  7. Gossling

    Gossling Guest

    Are there any disadvantages of these options to recording with a sound interface connected to a laptop or computer? Also, you mentioned that minidiscs were a dying format. I am aware of this, and, in fact, this is one of the reasons I was thinking of going with this format: the price should be lower, shouldn't it? Again, I don't mind a little loss of quality when the usability, portability, and purchasability (?) are extremely high, as is the case of the minidisc format. I just want to record ideas with layered (overdubbed) tracks and transfer them to my computer, so that when I buy REAL recording equipment, I'm ready.

    Thanks for the clarification codemonkey. You mentioned lack of software as one of the variables preventing layering. Would minidisc recorders lack the software necessary for this function?

    Thanks everyone.
  8. GeckoMusic

    GeckoMusic Guest

    For a scratch pad / idea recorder I use an MP3 player. It fits in my pocket and is ready to go at any time. Your Sony microphone and a lap top would work great for this.

    Demo recording is a whole different ball game. To get decent microphones, all the cables, and audio interface you are probably looking at about $500 to $5000 just on equipment. Here is a thread about start up gear prices.
    Then there is learning how do use it all. Ears with years of experience can make a difference in seconds instead of hours.
    For the investment in time and money you may also consider getting it done at a studio. Many small recording studio offer very competitive rates, and even mobile recording. (I know I do, and at least a couple other guys in my town!)
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The flash recorders I am thinking about like this and this will not allow you to overdub. They are designed to record directly to a stereo track. They are equipped with a pair of (surprisingly good) microphones. You can use external mics if you wish, but then you are loosing the main virtue - simplicity.

    If you are committed to multitrack recording (where you record several different instruments one at a time on multiple separate tracks and then mix those tracks together to a stereo mix) I'm in favor of getting an audio interface that will take a signal from a microphone or direct input , digitize it, and send it to your computer (bypassing the sound card). You will also need DAW software to edit the digital audio files. (You can start with Audacity which is free.)

    There are "all in one" multitrack recorders that seem cheaper in the short run, but I think they are a waste of money given the price of computers and interfaces. I would not consider them unless you can get them used for next to nothing. (And they don't go for anywhere close to nothing on eBay.)

    Two more points. (1) Multitrack recording is a money pit. If you are experiencing sticker shock at the $2-300 level you are better off with a simple flash recorder and learning to work within its limitations. (2) It takes a lot of work to learn to record unless you keep it very simple. It is comparable to learning a new instrument. The recordings of people who have been recording for six months sound like the songs of guitarists who have been playing for six months. Like the guitar, a range of talents yields a range of results - but the distribution of results is comparable.
  10. casper

    casper Guest

    The Zoom H4 does the two track live and doubles as a 4 track flash recorder.http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/H4/

    Its pretty much a trade off with the flash recorders portability for flexibility. If you already have the laptop the usb or firewire interface is a good option. One way or the other the interfaces for the most part come with limited versions of recording software that typically are good enough for most basic recording situations. Audacity and Reaper are also good and easy to use.
  11. Gossling

    Gossling Guest

    Ok, taking into account everything that you all have said, here is my planned setup:

    - Laptop (have it)

    - 2-4 mic input audio interface (anything under 200):
    - Line 6 Tone Port UX2
    - M-Audio MobilePre USB Interface
    - Any specific recommendations?

    - Two Shure SM57's (one for now)

    Am I missing anything? I already have Audacity, and I'm not planning on spending any money on software. At least for now.

    Also a quick question: should I get an audio interface with 2-4 ports, or just get an interface with one port and use a mixer to connect multiple microphones? If I go with the second option, would a lower quality mixer ruin the sound? If I just got a cheap 4-channel Behringer mixer and connected it to a better interface, would the sound be altered?

    About the Line 6 Tone Port...I really don't care about the "tones" (not even sure what they mean by tones...) so would this be a waste of my money?

    But I would still like to confirm: can you layer (overdub) tracks on MD recorders? I think it would be fine for me to go with a portable MD recorder for now and buy all this equipment when I am really ready to make that commitment.

    Thanks everyone.
  12. GeckoMusic

    GeckoMusic Guest

    When you are in the market for software take a look at Repear. It's cheep for non-commercial use. Or even Magix Music Studio. (A stripped down version of Samplitude... stripped down till it's just about naked, but still usable.) Audacity should work for now, but it is very limiting.
    If you get a 2-4 port interface you will be able to mix and edit on your computer. If you use a single channel, you are stuck with whatever the mix was when you recorded.
    Haven't used one. Maybe someone else can answer this. I use a similar product to the M-Audio MobilePre you have selected from M-Audio for my ultra mobile setup and love it. I have heard good things about the PreSonus AudioBox USB. With either of these two you would not need the tone port.
    I haven't heard of any mini disk players that allow you to do it on the MD, but if you drop it to the lap top, then you could over dub on your lap top.
  13. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    Cables, lots of 'em!
  14. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Look into Kristal.
    Better than Audacity for multitrack, not as good as it for individual track editing. Also free.

    If you need some help, just ask, I'm almost sick of the thing I use it so much.

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