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Best USB audio interface for classical Vocals?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by JJonathan, Oct 23, 2007.

  1. JJonathan

    JJonathan Active Member

    I'm pretty new to this and would like some advice from those of you who have experience with external USB audio interface cards. I've been researching multiple devices and can't decide on a specific one. It would mainly be used for classical/operatic type vocals. I have a Sennheiser MD432 II Dynamic mic that was purchased about 8 years ago and see that it is still being sold and has good reviews - so I probably won't need another one, although a condensor might be better suited for my needs. A few of the cards I am trying to decide between are: M-Audio fast track pro, Edirol UA-101, Native Instruments audio Kontrol 1, and Digidesign mbox 2 pro. I'd like to spend less than $600 if possible. Any advice, tips, or suggestions on which of these or any other USB audio interface cards would be best for classical/operatic vocals would be greatly appreciated. PC is a core 2 duo 2.4ghz, 4 gigs ram, Vista. Thanks!
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    If you're talking about the mic I THINK your'e talking about, it's a great mic for saxophones, drums, even guitar cabinets. Once upon a time, they were used for vocals as well, and I believe they've got a proximity effect as well, similar to the SM58s, etc.

    Still, I wouldn't use it for serious vocal recording, esp operatic or choral work, where you need some distance to capture the whole vocal sound & range. I would probably use a condenser, even an affordable (read: Low end?) mic like the AT 4040 or even the AT 3035. It's a buyers' market for mics right now, and there are literally hundreds of affordable (mostly foreign/Asian) microphones on the market. THere are also a lot of great ribbon mics out there as well. Cascade makes some really interseting stuff, if you can't afford a Royer.

    As for preamps, there's a lot of USB and Firewire devices out there. For your budget, you could probably pick up a decent condenser mic & preamp package. I hate to recommend the usual suspects like SA and GC, but I"m sure they (and online places like Musician's Fiend) have combo packages to get you started. M-Audio, Fostex, MOTU and many others in the mid-level come to mind; You can easily spend four times your budget on an exotic preamp alone, but for what you want to do right now, $600 should get you started quite nicely.

    Once you get good at it and know what you want to upgrade to, then you can start thinking about upgrades for both your mic and preamp.
  3. JJonathan

    JJonathan Active Member

    Thank you for the reply...I appreciate the advice! Basically this is really just for personal entertainment/hobby purposes. I found a link for the mic I have: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MD431mkII/
    I'll probably end up experimenting with it first, but if I can't get a crisp/clear/clean sound I would definitely look in to a moderately priced condensor mic. After looking at a few sites, you're right about pream/mic packages....but adding the mic doesn't really seem to bring the prices down much. I guess I'll just go by the ratings on the sites you mentioned and look in to those brands as well. I'll also need to decide between USB2 and 1394. Out of the brands you mentioned is there any specific preamp that you would recommend? Thanks again for the info!
  4. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Ahhhh, I was mistaken, I had the wrong mic in mind. Yours does look more like a vocal mic, at least for pop and stand/hand-held use. I don't have any first hand experience with this, so I can't say if it would be useful or not for your needs. (General rule of thumb is that condensers are better for serious music, including classical, but there have been plenty of great recordings done with dynamic mics, esp the Shure SM57/58.) If you like what you're getting, that's what counts.

    As for pre's, you're in good shape with a lot of affordable choices. Right off the bat at your level of use, I'd get an M-Audio pre, like the FW 410, but that's just me. They probably make something even less comlicated than that, perhaps with USB2.0 as well. At the $250-600 level, you won't see/hear much difference between the models currently on the market; it mostly comes down to your comfort with the interface, whethere it's FW, USB or both, how you like the look & feel of it, and perhaps even the software that comes with it, and what platform you're on - Mac or PC.

    Everyone makes a usuable box at that price point these days: Fostex, Mackie, M-Audio, Tascam, Alesis, and sooo many others. Make sure the vendor you use will let you swap it out if there's something about it that won't play nice with your system. (Drivers, software, etc.) You won't get your $$ back, but you'll probably get store-credit for something comparable.

    Pick one that appeals to you and get started, you'll know a lot more once you've rolled up your sleeves and get down to the biz of recording.
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    One other thought: If you're REALLY on a tight budget, they are now making USB direct mic interfaces. MXL has one for about $90. I have one here (Got it at AES), but have not tried it out yet.

    What they claim is this: It's bus-powered, so the preamp and phantom power comes from the computer itself. It's simply a barrel that has a USB connector on one end, and a female XLR on the other. (It's so wacked that you can even unscrew the shield/sleeve on the XLR side and plug it directly into a mic; the USB cable effectively becomes your "mic" cable.)

    I have no idea (yet) what this sounds like, but I suspect it's no better or worse than what's in most entry-level preamps. If it's any way usuable, I plan to get a second one, and keep it in my gig bag for interviews and "wild" audio recording with my laptop when the moment arises.

    Just another option for you if you're looking to go REALLY cheap. :cool:
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Another inexpensive suggestion.

    The EDIROL UAX-1 is a 24-bit, 96kHz capable USB 1.1 device. It's only about $80 US without microphone preamps but with line level RCA inputs and outputs. Then, you can purchase yourself a more quality oriented preamp. A used API 312/512 (same thing different number) can be had for under $500 per channel. Sweet.

    When recording male operatic vocals, I've never been happy using a dynamic microphone. That's for rock-and-roll not opera. I much prefer a small capsule condenser for a darker vocalist and a large diaphragm condenser for the brighter sounding tenors.

    And I'll frequently used some limiting and/or light compression, depending upon the performer. It makes it so much easier to listen to that way. I mean, few people are playing things on high-end audiofile equipment and most mediocre equipment can't handle that kind of dynamic range on a solo operatic vocalist.

    Solo silly
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  7. JJonathan

    JJonathan Active Member

    Thanks again for all the responses..I really appreciate the advice. After reading through all the tips and doing some more research, I've decided that I am willing to spend a few more dollars to get a decent quality sound. For what I will be doing it doesn't pay to spend 10k, but I wouldn't be against spending a few grand for a good condernsor mic and preamp. I would actually like to get the best sound possible, with as little equipment as possible. It's really difficult to decide on a preamp, because there are so many different brands/models. I've most recently been looking at the MOTU 828mkII; USB and firewire. From what I am reading, the software that comes with it seems to only be mac compatible.,that would be the only down side for me. I just can't decide..Whatever I end up with, I'll post some links of the vocals so you can hear the end-product of your great advice.

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