1. Register NOW and become part of this fantastic knowledge base forum! This message will go away once you have registered.

New recording artist, needs help with my setup

Discussion in 'Recording' started by AlexVSAlexia, Mar 13, 2010.

  1. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest

    Hey everyone!

    Need quite a bit of help, I apologize in advance for sounding like a real newbie, yes I do have a vast knowledge of IT, but sound recording and hardware confuses me very much.

    I have been recording vocals for quite a long time now, I use to record them on my old pc with a cheap £10 USB Microphone and with Sonar I believe, but when my motherboard died and would of ended up costing more to fix it than to replace it, I decided to get a quality laptop instead that I could focus much more time in to recording.

    I purchased the Sony Vaio AW, which I thought was a very nice laptop and would have managed sound recording very well, but I started to notice that my cheap microphone really wasn't doing the job, my recordings didn't sound good at all, so I thought I would do a little searching on the net and see if I could find some nicely priced high quality Microphones that would work on my laptop, whilst searching I found out about the XLR format, and read that it was used for high quality microphones, so I really wanted to get one, after lots more searching I found out about the Samson Q7 microphone, and read a LOT of nice reviews for it, getting compared with much more expensive microphones and being very similar, so without any further thought I went out and purchased one.

    Of course laptops don't have XLR ports so I bought a XLR to USB converter, which cost £30, I couldn't believe it was that cost just for a converter.

    Connected it all up, set all my hardware up using adobe audition and I must say the quality was much better than my old £10 microphone, but still, it was nowhere near professional quality, the sound was either too loud or too quiet, a lot of interference, I really didn't want to produce these sort of sounds.

    So Back on the net I started searching for external hardware that would enable me to produce nice clear recordings, I didn't have a clue whether to buy an audio interface or a sound card, I came across some nice M-Audio interfaces, but a lot of users said they had problems with 64 bit operating systems so I gave it a miss, I came across an external sound card, which had lots of positive reviews, was a nice price and I really thought it would do the job, it looked amazing, and it had a remote with it which I thought was awesome, it was the ''Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1'' so I bought it straight away, I was so excited to receive it, I wanted to connect my mic straight up to the card, so I got a jack-XLR converter so I could put the mic straight in the cards mic in port.

    Got the card today, I was so happy as it was shipped to me really fast, I thought I was gonna plug everything in, and i was going to have nice sounding recordings, how wrong could I be.

    Where do I start, when I finally got the drivers and software sorted got it connected, disabled my laptops on board sound to stop any problems occurring, plugged my headphones in so I could test a FLAC file and yeah it played nice and loudly and clear but it would sound quite unusual every few seconds, making buzzes and cutting out, but I ignored this as I was too excited to see what my microphone sounded like so I plugged that in, and as soon as I did, I was greeted by a loud buzzing and crackling sound, sounded terrible, so I messed around with the settings a little bit, maybe the volume was just too loud, or maybe the live option was on where you hear what your saying as soon as you plug it in, so I turned that off and I started up Adobe Audition.

    It was a nightmare setting up the hardware in adobe, wouldn't seem to recognize it, and couldn't get it to playback, so I tried sonar and when I finally got it to playback, the sound was 10x worse than my laptops on board, the crackling was unbearable and there was a really loud buzzing sound and there was a lot of cutting out, I tried everything to try and get a clean recording but it just wasn't happening, so I have just had to unplug the card and go back to my laptops on board sound.

    I am really upset, as I don't have much funds as it is and £50 is a lot to me, that I feel I have just wasted, could I do anything to produce a better sound with this card, am I doing anything wrong, could the bad quality recording be anything to do with the cable I am using.

    If anyone has any experience with this card and recording with it PLEASE let me know.

    If I am doomed with this sound card what could I buy to actually produce a nice clean recording without spending an insane amount of money.

    I am sorry I have written an essay here, but I don't know who to ask, and I am such a newb.

    Thanks so much.
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Soundblaster is not adequate for audio recording. You need an actual audio interface like your fore mentioned M-Audio or something by Presonus or Lexicon or TC Electronics or similar. Second thing, you need to adjust the buffer settings in your audio driver. They are set too low which is one reason you are getting dropouts. Third, when recording you should disable all networking components. There are some other things to do but these will get you started.

  3. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest

    Thanks for the quick reply! =D

    Oh dear guess I just wasted my money, oh well live and learn.

    So an audio interface it is then, could you link me some fairly cheap, I wouldn't want to go much over £100 tbh, of course in the future when I have more money I will be able to upgrade to a better model but for now, I don't mind dealing with a basic one.

    Wow I had no idea about disabling network components, well they say you learn a new things every day.

    Would my Samson Q7 be okay at producing clean sounding recordings with an audio interface.

  4. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Well I don't know how serious you are about recording but this is a standard problem...and I'm not trying to discourage you or be arrogant in any way...just my opinion FWIW...
    Nobody who is seriously considering recording audio would use a laptop and internal consumer soundcard unless it's just for the occasional fun and enjoyment.
    Using internal sound cards or Soundblaster isn't going to cut it....unless that's what you want and your not looking to spend some money....in that case it is what it is....
    Laptops can be made to work either using a fast USB or faster FW audio interface but you will need a separate external HDD to record audio tracks onto. Again this is another USB device so speed and bandwidth is rapidly being used up here and taxing your laptops USB bus....If you go all USB devices then the laptops speed and power will suffer and just starts to crap out and will lose it. USB isn't bidirectional....A FW interface is better...it is bidirectional.....but you still need an external HDD for recording the audio. eSATA or FW external will be better if your laptop supports it!
    Using ASIO or Mac Core drivers for audio with an interface is the only way to record audio properly so any interface needs to use that.....WDM doesn't cut it! Laptops just can't stream data fast enough on your single root drive while executing the OS and everything else...it will stall and stop and breakup no matter what you do...more pro systems generally use desktops as the preferred computer which can be loaded with multiple HDD and have better bus speeds and I/O.
    You really need to decide what it is your interested in doing, how far you want to go and find a budget that works for you....buy a FW audio interface that works with your laptop, more RAM can never hurt, external HDD and then streamline and minimize the OS on your laptop to a strict minimum and record away....
    Good luck!
  5. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest

    For the record I am very serious about recording, singing is my life and I take much pleasure in recording vocals, doing covers and recording my own original tracks.

    I fully understand where you are coming from, but like I said money is an issue at the moment, jobs are really hard to come by, so i have got to work with what I have got, in the near future I will definitely be purchasing an Imac or possibly an alienware pc but for now, I have to record with my laptop, I also thought with getting a laptop it would be convenient for the future when I start performing in pubs and clubs.

    I always use ASIO drivers as it gives no delay.

    For now I want to purchase an effective but not overpriced audio interface, that will vastly improve recording with my laptops on board, so I can keep doing what I love and then when I can afford I can get an I7 core desktop system and constantly keep upgrading my hardware.

    Thanks so much for your input.
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    You might be best served by returning the Soundblaster and ordering a Zoom H4n. This can even be used as an interface in limited fashion but more importantly would give you the ability to use proper quality microphones. As a vocalist you should start your mic search with the Shure SM58. For specialty vocal microphones you can do a search here at RO.
  7. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest

    Unfortunately I can't return it, was off eBay and no returns, it was like his last stock he had new, hence why it was a bit cheaper. A digital recorder? Sounds expensive, but worth it I'm sure! Be interesting using new hardware I have never used before!

    How does the zoom work exactly? What would I be better off getting some high quality headphones or decent monitors?
  8. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    It kinda sounds like you're stuck using what you have, a laptop, samson mic, soundblaster or laptop internal soundcard.
    high quality headphones and decent monitors for recording can be expensive (starting around $300US) and if you haven't improved the recording process then headphones or monitors won't help...it will sound just as bad!
    None of that will improve your "recordings" and I'm afraid if that is what you have...the quality of the sound you can record is based on the equipment.
    There are PCMCIA adapter cards for laptops that might be an option.
  9. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest

    Well that was very blunt and to the point of you, I wasn't exactly saying I was going out and buying headphones and monitors right now, I actually meant for when I had decent hardware.

    I will definitely look into adapter cards.

  10. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    I really wasn't trying to be blunt and to the point. And I have no animosity towards you or your knowledge or your current setup. I was trying to help you or I wouldn't even post... You have to realize I have no idea what your intentions are with your recordings or what sort of budget you have to spend on equipment so it's really difficult to know what advice to offer as a solution to your current equipment dilemma....which I think everyone here has been blunt and to the point....is inadequate....if you want better sound you need to rethink your entire setup, top to bottom...which is why JackAttack suggested selling the Soundblaster first. You have no way of properly plugging in your XLR dynamic microphone into any sort of balanced preamp, you don't have any sort of analog to digital converter interface to get your voice recorded into your laptop accurately.
    The Soundblaster Surround 5.1 is just an external USB sound card.....should be fine to listen to music but it's not a recording device, just like the internal sound card on your laptop is not a recording device. You have a laptop, Soundblaster Surround 5.1, Adobe Audition and a Samson dynamic mic. That is what I've seen...the quality of your recording is all about your chain of equipment.....a laptop, soundcard and a mic is what it is....
    If you want to look into a USB recording interface that I think will get you a better sound that has XLR mic preamps and balanced line inputs (4 channels) look at the Lexicon Omega or Lambda....they cost under $200US. You can always leave the Soundblaster hooked up to your laptop with a 5.1 surround speaker setup as a playback system!
  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Blunt and to the point is back from playing the weekends concerts.

    Audition is a decent DAW choice. I'm running the current v3 myself. DJ is correct in all of his points. The Zoom H4n would resolve your audio points in the easiest fashion. Many of us started out with stand alone recorders back when they were reel tape machines. I still do some remote classical recording with stand alone 2 track and 4 track flash card machines (Marantz PMD671 and Edirol R-44). These machines are modified from stock by Doug Oade but in the beginning I used stock machines with good results. They, like the Zoom, allow one to concentrate on the music portion much more quickly and to experiment with mics and mic position easier too. Then just import the wave files (you will want to only record to .wav or.aiff files-don't bother with any version of mp3 or other lossy format) into Audition and begin to learn that program. There is a very good self taught course that is based on Audition 2 but works well enough on v3 too. Adobe Classroom In A Book. Get the actual book as it comes with a cd rom full of things to work with.

    Zoom manual

    As to monitors, the best inexpensive near field (sitting close to you) monitors are probably the NHT M00 at $500/pr. The best one are in the Genelec price range and I'll just let you google those for the sticker shock. It is extremely important to know that the room you monitor and mix in affects things 70% more than the monitors provided you have a decent pair. Until you can afford a good room which could be a treated room in your house, you might be best served initially with some quality headphones like the Audio Technica ATH-M50. These combined with the Zoom will get you going and learning about recording and mic placement.

    Learn all you can with the Zoom and save your pennies. Then you can jump over all the entry level p-o-s interfaces out there and go directly to the middle ground. Also, computers set up for recording should be single purpose meaning they don't get used to surf the web or do banking or watch movies or anything else. Those that multi use their "recording" machines are constantly in my forum asking why they get digital artifacts and drop outs. Too many folks get wrapped up in G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) before they know how to place a mic and certainly before they could possible use the gear well. Often for those just starting out that catch GAS, they have another condition which causes uncontrollable wailing and gnashing of teeth. These are the folks that insist they have to have a piece of kit NOW and buy the cheapest d#$% thing even though advised repeatedly to wait and get better. One of the other moderators has a wonderful saying regarding good quality gear:
    Buy Once. Cry Once.

    Now, if after all you end up decided you love this stuff and want to start recording studio or live as any version of a profession you have to make yourself a plan. Make an overview and then a detailed version. Realistically allow for what gear/costs would be required and what learning you would have to incur first. Also allow for a realistic timeline to acquire all of the above including ways to put food on your table and a roof over your head.

    Whew. This is not my usual humorous post type or my proofread thoughtful type. Must still be tired.
  12. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest


    I apologize it just seemed as though you were just telling me how stupid I am and that I'm doomed to ever record, but my judgment sucks! So I'm sorry for that.

    I just want a basic interface, something to start me off, I'm such an idiot for buying a sound card for recording and I was so close to buying an interface, I suppose I was going to buy some decent 5.1 speakers, guess I'm just going to have to leave them out for now and just mainly focus on getting a USB recording interface, I'm from the UK and was probably going to spend around £100 which is nearly $200, I believe, if you could link me up some nice reputable sites with specific hardware that would be awesome.

    Thanks so much!
  13. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Google the Zoom H4n in your neighborhood. I'm not familiar with UK chains but it's going to be there somewhere-Dophin Music? Also, Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones.

    You can get by with what you have until you can put the 300 quid together to get the Zoom. Then sell the soundblaster on amazon or ebay or whatever. Keep all the boxes and papers etc for that purpose. Your first step with the soundblaster is to adjust the latency buffer. Increase the size to somewhere around 1024. Disable your networking adapters. Get a 7200rpm external hard drive. Adjust the permissions on both the internal hard drive and the external hard drive to allow all. Then practice practice practice.
  14. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest


    I love audition, I have tried MANY different DAW's in the past and by far the best results have come from adobe, I feel it is the easiest to set up and I have never gotten any delay problems, it's a good job you mentioned a book as there are a lot of things I don't understand in the software, I normally just fire it up, set up my inputs and outputs place my instrumental/backing track in track 2 and I'm away, often using a different varieties of effects in track 1, I find if I use an echo effect it removes a lot of the back ground noises and hisses and using things like auto tune makes me sound much clearer (no I'm not using it to make me sing better) I find auto tune if used correctly it can enhance and bring out the vocal rather than it just sounding totally computerized.

    I have read a lot into single purpose computers, wiped from all the OS C**P, which I would be totally willing to do, as all I really use my laptop for is recording so it's not like I would be missing out on anything :)

    Your post has gotten me all excited and I just want to go out right now and buy everything I need, arrrrg! Why don't I have more money LOL. My original plans were to just go to a local studio and do my recording there but having read up on studios near where I live, the prices are just too much, I mean paying thousands to just end up with a few good tracks, when I could get some decent equipment, that would last for years and I could do unlimited recording.

    I love performing live, must be the best thing in the world, although at the moment recording live from audition isn't the greatest thing in the world but it keeps me going :D.

    I think I'm going to save up for that zoom it looks pretty sweet, I don't have to use batteries though do I, I can just use the adapter, can't I?

    Honestly Thank you so much, you folks here are awesome, I wish I registered here all that time ago when I realized this was what I wanted to do in my life, could have had the help then, and could have already had a nice setup!.
  15. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Performing live is why we are musicians. Those that only are musicians in a studio don't really understand what it's all about. It's those moments like last night. We had essentially performed/recorded (I was playing not doing audio) the Planets and the Poulenc Gloria at 11am and then came back and did it again in the evening. To play the planets well once in a day is stressful enough for a principal horn player without a bumper, but twice in one day is just sadistic. The thrill and the racing pulse and the sweat dripping off the nose having just played Mars and waiting for that sweet melancholy first few notes of Venus is something I'd never pass up though. I think I'm spent all over again just typing it up. ^_^

    As to the computer, not all are created equal. Most can be made to work after a fashion with tweaking. The best ones require purchasing from an expert DAW builder or massive research on components to build yourself. For your particular machine right now, check out the sticky in the computer forum here. Lots of folks posted there links. I always like the blackviper site and not just because it reminds me of a Rowen Atkinson character.

    The Zoom can be run with the AC adapter without any problems. However a fresh set of batteries should last at least five hours even with phantom power on. That would get you through a gig without issue. If AC is available and you were using condenser mic's then I probably would use the adapter just for the stable phantom power. The other nice thing about the Zoom is that it there is so much less gear involved-a couple of mics, a couple of cables, a stand and the zoom.

    For instance, on Friday I recorded a piano recital. I schlepped in a big stand bag, two mic cases, laptop, external hdd case, cable/snake case, 2 road cases with the preamps AC conditioners interface and hard disk recorder. Set up, sound check, concert, tear down, schlepp it all out again. Elapsed time three hours, two cups of coffee, and two aspirin in preparation for the concert piano tuning I did 30 minutes later at a different location. That's why if I don't want to use my fancy preamps and the track count is low enough, I go out with the modified flash recorders. Lots less to carry.
  16. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest

    Hell yeah!! The feeling of performing in front of a large crowd, is possibly the best feeling ever, if they like you, then its just pure ecstasy.

    Mr Bean???? HaHa.

    Cool, reading up on reviews of zoom, someone even calling it a handheld studio, looks like a must have to me :)

    Random question is it expensive to set up wireless hardware for recording live, like you see all the pro artists do, it amazes me, I bet it costs a fortune though!
  17. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Expensive to do well, yes. Also, you have to know about frequency spectrums and how to know what else is on that in your area etc.
  18. AlexVSAlexia

    AlexVSAlexia Guest

    Well when I get big I can get someone to do all that for me, hehe, (wishful thinking) ^_^

Share This Page