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Looking for interface advice...

Discussion in 'Recording' started by pritch, Jun 14, 2009.

  1. pritch

    pritch Guest

    I'm looking to create a little home studio, and 'm looking for a recording interface for my laptop. I'm using vista 32, and don't have firewire.

    I'm only recording vocals, and guitars, so I would only need 2 channels. What is the best solution for this?

    Do I get a firewire card, so I can use firewire? Do I use a USB interface? Should I look at getting a desktop first? One thing: I can't really afford a mac. As far as programs go, I'm pretty adaptable. I usually use Sony Acid Pro, but have done stuff with Ableton, and others, so I don't need protools... basically don't have a preference as long as it gets the job done.

    I am on a budget, but don't want to sacrifice too much quality so just looking for the good ol' bang to buck ratio, and something that records quality sound, as long as the other gear is there. etc...

    Thanks!
     
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Get a firewire card; either a PCI for the back if it's a desktop computer, or something slot-based like a PC Express card adapter, if you have room in the front or if it's a laptop. Lots of folks (myself included) like the SIIG cards, with the Texas Instrument chips. THey seem to have all the bugs worked out, with drivers for all windows Apps.

    My computers all came with Firewire ports anyway, but I like to run a PC Express card in my laptop with the FW adapter. For some reason, this seems to run better as a dedicated FW port.

    General rule of thumb is Firewire for audio in/out, and USB 2.0 for Data storage and files. You'll avoid conflicts and bottlenecks this way. Keep 'em all separate and away from each other.

    It's also nice to run a USB hub for all your little annyoing and port-hungry USB devices: Keyboard, mouse, dongle, etc. so you can free up the rest for external HDs.
     
  3. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    What Joe said.

    If you think you might really get into recording then I would recommend saving your pennies for an interface that does 8 channels. If you think 2 or 4 channels are all you need or are truly unable to afford the bigger stuff, look at the TC Electronics Konnekt 24D. I think its the best small box on the market currently. M-Audio also makes the Profire 610 which is similar. The 410 is not good. I have one for a Protools dongle but that's all its good for.
     
  4. pritch

    pritch Guest

    Thanks for the advice!

    I think I'm going to look into getting a decent desktop, and a firewire card, and then the Konnekt 24D. I would consider getting an 8-channel recording interface, but for mics right now I have SM58, SM-57, and MXL 4000 + MXL 603s. To record drums, I would need an 8-channel mixer, but I'd be afraid I'd need more mics for the bass drum, toms, etc... 57 for the snare, 603s overhead, I don't know what I'd use the others for for recording drums. Advice?

    Basically, I'm afraid that's just a whole nother step I can't swing right now. I would love to in the future, don't get me wrong, but I'm hoping I can do what I can with 2 channel, and then use someone else's rig for drums.
     
  5. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    With those mics, you have everything you need to record some pretty good drums using 4 channels. You can do decent drum recordings with two mics, and if Remy was here, she'd tell you that you can do it with 1. SM57 on snare, SM58 on kick (maybe remove the screen - and be careful with it, turning it into another SM57) and 603s as stereo overheads. Much of the sound will be through the overheads with the stuff coming from the snare and kick supplementing it to get a little more emphasis, especially the kick.

    When it comes to interfaces, always get more inputs than you think you need. You'll need them soon enough :) I wouldn't settle for less than 8 myself, even if I thought I could get away with 4. Totally worth the little bit of extra money. TC Electronic Konnekt 24D FireWire Audio Interface is 400$ on Musicians Friend, and the Firepod FP10 is the exact same price with 4 more inputs. Firestudio is only 100$ more. I've never tried the TC unit, so can't compare quality, but I can say that a firepod or a firestudio with a handful of SM57s and some good ears (and lots of practice) can produce very good results. And another nice thing about them is you can add another unit later on, daisychained to the first one, when you decide you want (i.e. NEED!) 16 channels.

    ps. I am in no way affiliated with Presonus. I just like their stuff.
     
  6. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    I'd seriously look into an 8ch interface.
    You're right, use the 57 for snare, the 603s (get a 2nd) for a pair of overheads, and something like a D112, Beta52, or such for the kick.
    4 channels for drums is all you need. Want toms (w/ good OH placement you DONT need them)? Get more 57s. Good for guitar amps and almost anything else. Can't go wrong. For around $200-$300, pick up a Senn 421. Very nice on toms, bass, guitar amp, and male vocals.

    I've made some pretty decent drum recordings w/ the above-mentioned 57/52/603s(x2).

    Trust me. Once you start getting the hang of it w/ the equipment you have, you'll be kicking yourself for not getting the extra channels and a couple of other (cheap) mics. If you get the interface, the mics can always come down the road. Or they can be borrowed/rented. Better to have that option then have to buy another interface.

    BTW - I really like the 603s. Great for overheads, acoustic guitar, and many other things, especially at that price point.

    For something in the neighborhood of $1000, you can grab that 8ch interface, a kick drum mic (and bass cab mic), another 603s, and another 57 or two. If the MXL4000 is anything like the 3000, that's a nice mic for vocals as well. Even given the option of using mics in the $300-$1000+ range, my 3000 sounds better when paired with the right preamp.
    (Want names? BLUE Bluebird, AKG C-414XLS, Cascade Fathead, and 58 ).

    I guess it's a question of how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go?
    I mention the possibility of spending up to $2k in upgrades. You don't need to do that. But w/ an 8ch interface and the mics I mentioned, you'll have a formidable setup.
    I was where you are two years ago. My bank account isn't so happy I made the purchases I did, but I am (and so are the people I record)!

    Note- just noticed apstrong beat me to the punch.
    +1 on the Presonus Firestudio. Up to 24 channels input (w/ add ons like the Digimax).
    On the 57s... one of my "benchmark" albums is Wilco's 2006(?) Sky Blue Sky. Recorded almost exclusively w/ 57s. (Including kick and bass)
     
  7. pritch

    pritch Guest

    Thanks a lot for the advice. I might get another MXL 4000 / 603s from musicians friend, and sell the MXL 4000 on ebay or something then so I can have two for stero overheads. Then I would love to work with what I have to try recording drums. Maybe all I'll have to borrow is a bass drum mic, if I can't get the sm58 to sound good...?

    I think I'm convinced in getting a desktop, firewire card, and one of the presonus firewire 8 channel interfaces.

    One more question though. I don't know anything about preamps. I have an ART tube MP Studio, which was only 30 bucks from musicians friend, and I got it pretty much for live situations because our vocalist has a good voice, but really quiet, and I wanted to be able to give it a boost, and warm up the sound a little, and I wanted something with phantom power. but can I get away with that for recording say... bass into the preamp, into a recording interface? I know the recording interface like the presonus firewire studio has 8 preamps in, but I've heard mixed reviews about them.

    As a complete newbie to that though, what is a preamp? Why are some better than others? What are good choices? How important are they?

    Right now my understanding is pretty much that they just boost the signal before getting amplified. Please set me straight.

    I'm trying to learn as much as I can about recording, and getting started, and you all are so helpful in my pursuit, so thanks again!
     
  8. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    You've got the gist of it. A preamp is intended to bring a mic level signal up to a line level signal.

    You can run an external preamp into the Presonus stuff - I do it all the time. Just make sure you plug the out of the preamp into a "line-in" on the interface. If you can't, turn the gain all the way down on the interface's preamp.

    The preamps in the Presonus interfaces (and some others in the same range) are more than adequate. They're clean and have a decent amount of gain.

    My knowledge of the ART tube is rather limited. I've heard great things and bad things. Trust your ear on that one.

    The differences between the stock preamps in your interface and "really good" ones are pretty simple. One, they're cleaner. Two, they tend to have more headroom. Three, the really nice ones are "colored" - which means they add a certain quality to the sound. I like to think of them as flavors. The Presonus preamps are going to leave your signal pretty much untouched, whereas something like a Neve or API will "color" the signal in its own way - usually by means of a tube or transformers that bring out harmonics.

    My ability to describe the above is a bit limited. Hopefully someone else can speak a little more coherently about what exactly these better preamps do.
     
  9. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    From my research, I have concluded that the number one thing that better preamps do is severely drain your bank account. Plus they make you very, very happy, or so I've been told. I don't have any - I'm looking at a Univeral Audio LA 610 - versatile, good quality. But around here that's $2000, and I'm not convinced I have the skills to take advantage of what it can do yet. All in good time. I've heard mostly bad things about the ART preamps. But Mr. Soap is right, trust your ears (and keep trying to improve them by practicing and experimenting) - if you like the way it sounds, then who cares?

    If I was the OP, I'd use the SM58 on kick for a while. Learn about mic placement, find out what a difference tuning a drum makes, or finding the best position in the room for the drum kit, work on EQ and compression skills. In other words, use the SM58 as a learning opportunity and save your money until you have the skills you'll need to get the most from a more expensive mic. Think of it this way: if you can make it sound good with the SM58, it will just get easier when you buy that D112 or Audix D6 AT dual diaphragm whateveritis. Keep the MXL 4000 - they're not worth much used, might as well have one more tool in the toolbox in case you ever need it. Compare it to the sm58 on vocals and keep on learning, that's the most important thing. Try it as an overhead. Try it on the hi hats. On a boat, in a moat, with a goat, in a coat. I'm sorry, I worked 14 hours today.

    You can go a long way with a desktop, a presonus interface, and a handful of different mics to experiment (stereo overheads would be nice though!). And the presonus interface will come with some good light versions of recording software too. Resist the temptation to buy gear to improve your sound - you'll get far more bang for your buck by improving your skills. And start saving now, because 2 years or so from now the gear you'll want will cost you your mortal soul.

    ps. Anyone want to buy my mortal soul? I need a good preamp. But I'm keeping my immortal soul in case I need it later.
     
  10. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Sage advice...
    The nice thing about not having 20+ mics to go to is having the chance (or being forced to) find how each mic works in a variety of uses.
    You can also use that 2nd 4000 for backup vocals (or the sm58). I also think it's essential to have a pair of pencil condensers you like. OHs? Stereo acoustic guitar? Room? Choir? Single mic on any acoustic instrument or horn? One on a hihat and one on an amp? Done.

    Sorry, I already mortgaged mine... and probably also my immortal soul, for my ISA 428 and 414s. Which by the way, I recommend the 428 ($900 used), and the API 3124+ . That's next on the list for me!

    See what happens to those of us who have been bitten by the bug, pritch?
    I sometimes tell people that recording/mixing is the 2nd most expensive hobby. Next to building and launching space-worthy rockets.
     

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