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Interfaces for Laptop recording. digi, Motu, RME...

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by khtbone, Jun 11, 2005.

  1. khtbone

    khtbone Guest

    I am toying with the idea of using a laptop for recording recitals, audition tapes, and eventually to record band and orchestra concerts. I'm pondering the idea of starting by using a laptop and some kind of firewire based interface to record all this classical music.

    I am looking for something that has atleast 2 mic pre's, but eventually I want to use external mic pres (i am just guessing that most of the interfaces do not have top notch mic pres needed for acoustical instrument recording). I would also like to use a external digital converter some day, assuming (like the micpres) are not of the highest quality for this kind of application. I have a Windows based laptop right now, but eventually I would like to use a mac. Starting out I will just mainly be doing stereo recordings, but I do not want to limit myself early on and have to buy a similar unit months afterwards.

    I have been reading about Digi 001, 002, some of the Motu and RME equipment. Just wondering if anyone has experience using any of these or other interfaces not listed above.

    Bone'n for bucks,
  2. khtbone

    khtbone Guest

    i think i'm going to scrath the digi 001 from list.
  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey Kevin,

    Welcome to the addictive and expensive world of acoustic ensemble recording!!

    You definitely seem to be starting in the right direction especially considering your post re: tall mic stands. A laptop can be a very powerful tool in location recording. Though I personally don't use a laptop, there are those here who do with quite a bit of success. My personal preference is for a portable PC either in a rack-mount case or a small cube style PC. I build these myself to ensure that only the highest quality parts go into them though there are several great manufacturers of great turnkey systems. (My issue is that there are so many builders nowadays, it's hard to know what's good and what isn't. In my experience, I understand that Sequoia Digital's stuff and Carillon's stuff is pretty good if not darned excellent.)

    Just out of curiosity, why Mac? The two biggest software manufacturers that specialize in classical programs don't write their stuff for Mac (that would be Magix - Sequoia/Samplitude and Merging - Pyramix).

    You can get some great stuff for firewire nowadays including offerings from RME and other companies - not to mention that the Lynx Auroras are supposed to have that option in the near future (as do some Apogee boxes currently).

    The best way to get good sounds on classical recordings is to start with very good equipment, add a lot of experience (which you most certainly can get from trial and error - just not on the big clients) and have the tools on the backend to do your job efficiently and logically. Of course, a good monitoring system is a must too. Standard Mackie monitors or KRKs probably just won't cut it.

    FWIW - I would stay far away from the Digi equipment. The sound quality is just not on par with the stuff from the other guys you mention. The MOTU stuff is fine, but eventually, you'll probably want better. A good bet is to start with the RME - you'll get some decent pres, pretty good conversion and great software integration. (I've also heard great things about the PreSonus Firepod or whatever it's called on this iteration...)

    I hope this helps.

  4. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Hi Kevin,
    there are several options. I´ll just list mine, and to my ears and experience it is not the equipment that is the limiting factor in my setup.

    I have a Compaq Presario Laptop. Works OK but the fans inside are very noisy, sort of like vacuum cleaners. This is on top of my list of things to change.

    Running Samplitude and cannot recommend that enough. I have opted for the Sam for rent schedule, which fits me.

    My soundcard is a Motu 828mkII. It has two preamps but I rarely ever use them. Instead I have an external 8 channel preamp, a local Swedish design which is pretty decent (Line Audio Design OMP).

    If I would start today I would probably exchange the 828mkII for a Motu Traveller instead. It has four mic pres that are said to be adequate as starters (but be warned, I have not tried them).

    As for mics, my growing collection has only small diameter condensors. My favourite setup at the moment is a main pair of omni Neumann KM183 and outriggers omni Studio Projects C4, spot mics are a pair of old Sennheisers (MKH 406) that I managed to find on a swedish ebay type of site. Just recently I spotted a Sennheiser MKH30 (pattern of 8) and will try out MS as main pair. At the same time got me a pair of MKH20 omni. Recording can become addictive.

    Currently mixing a concert where we (the symphony orchestra where I generally play the bass trombone) played a set of tango pieces together with a Bandoneon/Piano/Bass trio. Real nice music.

    Happy greetings


    By the way, listen to Cucco, he is generally spot on.

    Gunnar Hellquist
  5. khtbone

    khtbone Guest

    thank you for the quick advise so far. I like the idea of the Motu Traveler on paper. It might work nice for a good entry level interface. Hopefully the micpres are somewhat sufficent.

    I also just have a Rodes NT-4 for mics worth using (someone told me I need to stop using my SM58 for my trombone recordings...YIKES, I thought it was just my bad playing). It works ok, but I know I will have to get something better. I bought that mic cause of it being stereo and it also has a cord with an 1/8 jack that I would use to record into a Neuros MP3 recorder for lessons, practice, bootlegging...stuff like that. (Is that a Rodes NT-4 in your pocket or are you just happy to see me.)

    Bone'n for bucks,
  6. khtbone

    khtbone Guest

    About the Motu Traveler or any Motu firewire interface, will any recording software work for it, and is there software that is more suitable for the Motu? :roll:

    Bone'n For Bucks,
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    The MOTU stuff is generally pretty good to work with most software. The great thing is, over the past few years, they've really worked out a lot of the bugs. It used to be that the MOTU stuff would work okay with PC, but God only knows if you would have problems with it and when...

    Now, it's a lot better. Also, the pres in them are generally rather decent. You will want better eventually, but they would suffice for the short haul.

    I'll share a little story that I think I've only mentioned to Ben at this point and that is how I got my humble beginnings in recording. I started recording WWAAAYYY back when digital was a myth (1984 - true, CDs had just come out then, but only Sony and RCA could afford to produce them.) I was given a stereo Russian microphone (which I don't have anymore - my dad sold it at a yard sale for a buck. :evil: ) Then, while I was in college, I got the pleasure of working with a pair of AKG 414 ULS's, some boutique preamp (which I don't recall anymore), the Nakamichi Dragon 3 head tapedeck and eventually, we got the Sony digital converters which recorded onto VHS. This was the forefront of technology for digital recording.

    Anyway, when I left college and decided to start recording on my own, I had very little in the way of recording equipment - 2 AT vocal mics, a DJ mixer and a Technics tape deck as well as 2 photo light stands that were only 8 feet tall (My wife is a photographer - the funny thing is, I didn't even have stand adapters for the mics - I would duct tape them to the stands). Believe it or not, I was able to produce CDs with this equipment and while they don't sound anywhere near the stuff I'm putting out 10 to 12 years later, they still sound decent. It was only after each engagement where I made money that I could begin to upgrade. Needless to say, it took a while, but with some fantastic regular clients and some cool new ones, I've finally got 90% of the gear that I'll ever want. (I'll always still drool over something...)

    Your humble beginings are far better than mine if you're able to consider such good equipment to get started.

    I would encourage you to keep it up and suggest that, in this market, it's easy to get persuaded to buy something cuz, for the moment, it looks cool. However, be VERY careful about what you decide to purchase. Only after careful deliberation should anything be purchased for orchestral recording. Much of it finds itself being useless in a couple of months and severely depreciated in value.

    As for the MOTU stuff, I think you're doing just fine. 3 years down the line, you'll have outgrown it, but you'll be able to E-bay it for a good portion of what you paid.

    Good luck and don't hesitate to ask us ANY questions!

  8. khtbone

    khtbone Guest

    tascam FW-1804 and EMU 1616, Does anyone have experience with these devices.

    I just love the feeling of the more I search and learn, the little I actually know.

    I am thinking about using a laptop and a firewire interface to help start my location recording. I would like a device that I can start using (mic pres included), but also to be able to expand in the future.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    As for the Tascam stuff - if you do a search on both mine and Ben's opinions - you'll see we don't think of these devices as worth the box they come in.

    Just my .02

  10. khtbone

    khtbone Guest

    how about the MOTU 282 and the follow up 282 MKII. Has anyone worked with these. I am leaning towards the MOTU line. I think it offers a nice quality level for my present stage and offers useful features that I can use when I expand. I like both the 282 MKII and the Traveler, but a little more than what I want to spend right now The older 282 "used" is in range but not sure if the device is too much lower in quality that I'll be regreting some of the features and waiting to buy some better in a short about of time.

    Bone'n For Bucks,

    P.S.- For now it is better for me to use my laptop to record, but eventually I would rather no use it, just some kind of HD and/or CD recorder. I don't really need to do any fancy editing, splicing, infinite number of track recording. I just have funny feelings that computers crash and act stupid.
  11. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    I think the 828 MKII is great. I got it mainly because of the amount of inputs it offered. You have the 2 pre-amps, 8 additional analog inputs and then you can add 8 more using the ADAT interface. And If you wanted to get really crazy, you could even have 2 more using the SPDIF inputs giving you a grand total of 20 inputs.

    I hooked mine up to an alesis AI3 to use the ADAT inputs. I have the 828, AI3, and a patchbay all wired up together in a three space rack. I use it with a Dell 2.8Ghz laptop and I use an external USB 2.0 hard drive to record the audio.

    Having the 828 MKII, I haven't looked at the traveller, but I do believe it goes up to 192khz where the 828 only goes to 96khz. I don't think it has as much I/O as the 828.
  12. route909

    route909 Guest

    Long time lurker, seldom poster, I recorded a choir concert in 5.1 with my RME Fireface 800 yesterday. It´s a great little soundcard that also can be used as a standalone A/D and D/A converter. 4 preamps I wouldn´t want to use for anything critical, but they work as decent low noise pres. A total of 10 analog inputs and 8 outs + headphone jack gives some pretty decent possibilites. Add 2 adat ports in and out, and the ability to use two firefaces at the same time and you´ve got a killer setup.

    The other great thing about RME is the routing, you can make a monitor mix in no time at all and send any input to any output, phase reverse and much more.

    My FF800 is housed in a 4u rack case with a Swissonic WD-8 Word Clock generator and a home built 6 channel preamp. I think I got a pretty decent result. I´ll try and post an mp3 or two of the concert.


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