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Cheap upgrade for us, mic pre or sound card?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by TimRP, Nov 7, 2005.

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  1. TimRP

    TimRP Guest

    Ok I think this is the place to put this. Our set up, mic-EV N/D 767a, mixer-Behringer UB802, sound card-Zoltrix Nightingale Pro (its a $35 sound card), PC-windows with Audacity.

    We are just trying to record my wifes vocals to some CD tracks for demo purposes. I know its all cheap stuff, so we are thinking about doing an upgrade to get better sound quality. Should we go with a Studio Projects VTB-1 mic pre or a M-Audio Audiophile 2496, they are about the same price. And I am thinking the mic pre would be the biggest upgrade we could do, is that correct thinking?
  2. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    Well, not necessarily.......

    which is noisier, the soundcard or the Behr*nger mixer? I don't know that particular soundcard, but some of the really low-end ones will just cause you endless problems no matter what preamp you put through it. If you don't notice a lot of goofy noise and artifacts with your soundcard right now, then maybe the micpre is the way to go.
  3. TimRP

    TimRP Guest

    Not that these links help, but here is the card:

    Link removed


    The recordings we have made, do have a little noise to them, not that much though, wish is was 6dB or so less then what we have, but its usable. I imagine its a little bit of both the card and mixer. Now is there digital hash from the converters? I don't know. More hash then a m-audio solution? Yah, probably. Whatever we don't go with, we should be able to do after Christmas anyways.....then we want a LDC.......then.......
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    It's none of the above problems or suggestions that will correct what you need.

    You need to purchase a hardware compressor to plug-in after your microphone preamp and before it goes into your cheap soundcard, lying input.

    A nice limiter/compressor like the old UREI 1176, LA 3, LA 2, and 4 on my first choices but they are extremely expensive.

    I have gotten excellent results with cheap ones from Alesis to DBXs.

    Having or a compressor/limiter is a virtual necessity (virtual, not applying to your software) is generally mandatory for recording vocals.
  5. TimRP

    TimRP Guest

    Yeah I have actually been looking at hardware compressors on ebay. Saw an Ashly SC50 go for $31+shipping the other night. I almost bid on it, maybe I should have. I know the Alesis 3630 is talked about as being "just ok" for the price, do you concur?
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    You would do all right with the 3630. Not great but they work. They have reasonable metering on them.

    I personally like the DBXs, they have some inexpensive versions. Whatever you do, don't use a guitar compressor stomp box.
  7. TimRP

    TimRP Guest

    After digging around on ebay, and other sites, the DBX 266XL seems like something we could fit into our budget. Anything wrong with the 266XL? The only hardware comperssors that I have worked with are from Symetrix and Behringer. I do know DBXs reputation with dynamics processing, but haven't read much about thier lower end stuff. But I do have a DBX 231 EQ in my home theater, and love the sound of it, but that has nothing to do with their 266XL.
  8. Roly

    Roly Guest

    If you can record at 24 bit you can get away with lower input levels and remove the need for an inline analog comp. The 2496 will do that.
    Loose the onboard sound card period.
    That would allow you to buy the SP mic pre and the M-Audio 2496.
    Once the signal is compressed there's no going back.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    The budget oriented DBX 266 is nice for a small studio on a tight budget. Still has that DBX quality character.

    Even though the previous posting indicates you can do without the compressor/limiter by going with other new stuff that has a higher bit and sample rate. That's still wouldn't matter to me. I am a firm believer in adding dynamics processing going to your track! If you're not experienced enough to make a technical decision before you record, then you're just not ready to record. Just remember, less is more. You can certainly over squish, which never sounds good.

    Happy tracking!
  10. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    An outboard compressor would be nice to have - sometimes.

    Now, back to the original question.

    Start at the center - the beginning, as it were. Your recording space. This is the most difficult and most important part. This is the part that even big studios hire-out to a professional - though you can do well following suggestions from many sources, online and in magazines/books. Next. A decent computer, relatively modern with a "fast enough" processor and enough ram(See the "requirements" list for your chosen software and devices). The next step is a competent "sound device" - your sound card or interface. Without this "base", you can go no farther. Now! Start attaching the actual things you will use to record your sounds. Like a mic preamp/DI. Without a fairly good one no mic you attach to it will sound as good as it can. Follow this with a microphone of the type/quality you need/can afford. After that a nice pair of speakers will help you "know" what you've recorded and to do a good mix, which will transfer well to other sound systems. Follow all of this with lots of experience(Upgrading everything as budget allows or as individual pieces begin to limit you).

    Waa-Lah! You are now a recordist!

    Yes! You can keep things relatively inexpensive, but, as you suggest, the 35 dollar sound card, for instance, is one of those things that begs for upgrade... You should be able to put together a nice "demo" system for less than your computer cost(Unless you got a really good deal from QVC, or something?)... 1000 - 1500 bucks should do it - equipment-wise. The room? Little money but lots of your time and effort will help alot... The thing you need most is simply to "read-up" on this stuff. Mix Magazine, basic recording books, forums like this, etc., can be a huge help.

    Another suggestion? One of the very portable(Pocket-size even!) "flash card" recorders with a nice Shure SM57 or 58 and a decent set of headphones. "All-in-one", simple, cheap(?). Transfer it's recordings to your computer for mixing/editing/burning. Your soundcard, itself and other inadequacies of your computer, will not then enter into the picture nearly as much. And, you can record anywhere that "sounds good"...

    Teddy G.
  11. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    I definitely think you can overlook the compressor. It's a nice thought but a luxury for home recordists. The essential is definitely the soundcard. Investing in a mic pre just goes along with getting the new soundcard. I personally wouldn't wan't to track through the Behringer on it's own. but that's just me. You could get away with it though. If you've been settling for a substandard soundcard all this time, a proper card will make a world of difference.
  12. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Another suggestion - though this assumes that your "demo stuff" is, pretty much, one time(You're not writing a new song every week to send to someone(?), is to get your demo tunes together, go over them well with a competent accompainist and rent studio time at a "real" studio. Much cheaper in the long run in both money and time spent and likely much higher quality than you'll do at home.

  13. TimRP

    TimRP Guest

    We are just recording along with CD soundtracks, no orginal music. This demo stuff, is for lets see 3 reasons. One a recording artist heard my wife sing at a womens conference and she wants a CD of my wife singing. This "artist" is thinking about bringing my wife on tour with her (this is small time, Chirstian stuff here), and this artist just wants a better idea about what my wife can do. Two we are thinking about handing out some of these CDs out for Christmas presents, yes we have or will soon have paid for the licensing to the music so we don't get in trouble. And three, my wife wants to hear herself so she can learn what works and doesn't work well.

    We just started recording, and this PC I am using is my HTPC (home theater PC). I have only used the digital outs as up to a month ago. The Behringer was a stop gap measure for now. We needed a way for my wife to hear the music and hearself in her headphones and the Behringer provided that. And it will continue to do so once we have the pre-amp.

    I put some stuff on ebay, so I should have enough money to buy the pre and the sound card. If we really need it, a compressor will come last I guess.

    Thanks to all that replied, you have been a big help.
  14. TimRP

    TimRP Guest

    Ok we got the pre today, wow what a piece of crap that behringer is!!!!! Hehehehe, I already knew it, just didn't really know how bad it was till tonight. The Studio Projects VTB-1 sounds great, warmed my wifes voice up nicely, and I had the tube drive all the way to the solid state setting. Just recorded a couple times, so didn't play with the tube drive, but to me, for $90, its going to work wonderfully. I am sure that the sound card upgrade will bring that extra x% to the stew, but really I could live with what we have if I had too.

    I just got to keep the gear lust in check, which with our money situations, isn't hard when you have no money to play with, but still in the back of my head, an AT-3035, a compressor, etc would be nice I guess :).
  15. ShellTones

    ShellTones Guest

    I highly recommend you upgrade your soundcard before making any more gear purchases.

    The M-audio card will make a WORLD of difference not only in the quality of your recordings but also how they sound on playback.
  16. TimRP

    TimRP Guest

    We are getting the 2496 or the 1010lt this week. Not sure which one, prolly the 2496 just for a cost reason, although the 1010lt would give me lots of room to add extra ins for recording multiple things in the future if needed. I have a nephew that plays drums, wonder if he would want anything layed down to a hard drive, hmmmm. But yes the sound card is first on my list.

    Although one question, since I am currently using the digital out of my sound card would playback quality go up at all VS. the m-audio's digital out? My playback chain is computer digital out-->BK ref50 home theater pre/processor-->rane EQ-->Crown XLS 402 amp-->Klipsch THX Ultra2 mains/SVS PC-Ultra Sub-->first reflection points treated with acoustical foam (system was EQ'd by my brother inlaws laptop running SMART, 100-16Khz is +/-2dB)

    As you can tell my mixing room is my home theater, we have been recording my wife in our "lobby".
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I am quite sure your quality level would improve as the input to your sound card IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING! Obviously if you have ED, it won't make any difference what sound card you get.
  18. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    While either of your chosen options should work very well, considering what you use now, just for fun, have a look at the Lynx cards(http://). More money, but even the L-22, is the "real deal", pro-wise and the options they offer are rather spectacular as you go up in price. Your home theater would scream with joy, having a Lynx setup! Nothing like "dual-purpose" money spent!

    Check out their "forum", as well - access from the web site. The people who sell, design and build the Lynx stuff answer your questions directly - and fast(This phenomenal tech support is a BIG reason why pros use Lynx gear - even over and above their superb quality.)...

    For the future, anyway..?

  19. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Not to mull over the previous postings, but I firmly believe that a decent analog compressor will support your attempts at dubbing your wife's vocals over pre-recorded CDs. Especially since she is essentially an "amateur" (no offense- I'm stating experience, not talent!). A compressor will get you in the ballpark when you are trying to get the voice to mesh with the professionally-mixed music.
    BTW, I love my old SC50 compressors....on guitar amps!
    Try the FMR RNC or the dbx 286a voice processor if you are looking to improve the vocal track once you've gotten the soundcard issue updated. They will help you more than you might imagine at getting the vocal to "sit in the mix"...
  20. TimRP

    TimRP Guest

    L-22 is $600+? Little out of my price range of $99 to $199 (I am looking at the 10101LT not the 1010). But it sure does look nice, maybe if I get serious about recording, till then I think M-Audio fits the budget nicely.
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