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Starting home recording

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Jay-B, Aug 30, 2014.

  1. Jay-B

    Jay-B Active Member

    Hey all,

    I've been writing songs for some time and am now looking to get into recording them myself. I'm aware of the various tools and such I will need, but I'm just gonna go one at a time, starting with a computer. There are so many options out there with so many different pros and cons, I feel as if I am drowning in information.

    I will be recording vocal, guitar, and piano tracks to start. I would prefer something relatively cheap, something I can upgrade as I get more money, and obviously something good with DAW. Don't really have a preference of laptop vs desktop.

    Hit me with some user-friendly knowledge
  2. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Welcome to the deep end of the pool Jay. It's not going to get any easier. I still cause my self head aches after 30 years at the recording bit. First thing is, what's your budget?. That more than anything will determine initial purchase. I personally am a fan of buying better than I need, not too much better, but so that I don't waste my initial money. So if a 2 input device is needed, I would get a 4 for example. RemyRad did a really good write up for someone else in relation to using a zoom portable 4 track device, worth your reading of that thread.

    If you are doing it all on your own, it's of course much easier to do in some respects. For example per RemyRad's example, and frankly close to where I started, I had a 4 track Tascam 244. Use 3 tracks, bounce to 4th and so on. There was a limit on that of course, due to tape flutter and loss of quality over bounces. These days with digital it's a breeze.


  3. Jay-B

    Jay-B Active Member

    Budget is a little flexible. I'm the same way, in that I don't need state of the art equipment, but I don't want something that will be obsolete in less than 5 years. I certainly don't have a large quantity of ready-to-use money, but I am willing to work and save money for reasonable things that will further my work. I would say anywhere between 500-1200. And those are extremes. I understand that finding a dependable machine for this kind of work for 500 dollars is a dream, but I'm really not trying to break the bank, as I have more than just the computer to think about. I'm just trying to get some opinions on what is a good computer for a singer/songwriter to record his own material.
  4. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Any modern computer with 8 or more GB of RAM is a powerhouse for recording. The biggest thing is not to allow a whole pile of crap to be installed on it. Just keep to what you need to record. There are guides out there on how to optomize a PC. A Mac is just use it :D. But not in that budget of course. As you will find, for that kind of money though, you can build a very solid starting setup that could do you potentially for years, depending on your needs.
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Thanks Makzimia for your supportive words.

    Jay-B, when you say your budget is 500-$1200? Is that for the recording equipment? Is that for the computer? Is that for both? Obviously, you already have a computer otherwise, you wouldn't be here. And the computer only needs to be, only modestly capable. In that, 2 track, 4 track and even 8 track recordings, can be done on computers from the late 1990s.

    Where ya really need some power are for programs such as Avid's rather popular ProTools. ProTools, unlike other software out there, does all of its effects in real time. Prior to a few years ago, ProTools had their own large box that had multiple DSP processor chips. These DSP processors allow for real-time equalization, digital effects such as delays, phasing, flanging, reverb, in addition to real-time dynamics processing such as compression, limiting, downward expansion and gating. Realtime required some hefty DSP power.

    Our computers today have gotten incredibly powerful with multiple processing cores, within a single CPU. One of the more powerful types is the Intel i7, quad core that can run as 8 through hyperthreading. And those 64-bit processors can usually utilize upwards of 16-32 GB of RAM. Whereas older, single Pentium style laptops and desktops, running windows XP, can only accommodate, generally, 2 GB of RAM. Those older XP computers with a much smaller RAM, really can't effectively run multiple real-time effects, much at all. But have no fear... other software is near.

    With my preferred software, Adobe Audition, it's a little different. The difference being is, it can't run these effects, in real time, no. Instead, these effects must be rendered. But before you render them, you at least have the ability to preview, what they will do, what they will sound like, before you render. Utilizing whatever the power of the computer that it can deliver. Which means the software runs quite well, on even the oldest and slowest, Windows 2000 & Windows 98, Windows 95 computers with only a couple hundred megabytes of RAM. So theoretically, you could use a 10-year-old computer and get away with this, still producing a 100% professional product.

    High-end equipment is not required to obtain 100% professional results. In fact an excellent computer audio interface, is the Presonus Audio Box USB 1.1 for around $150 US. Included with the purchase of this USB computer audio interface also includes a rather fabulous $600 complete production software package. It's truly wild! And what it can do, will boggle your mind. Meanwhile, the microphone input quality is truly superb and is said to be Class A. Which is a similar quality level to that of tube circuitry. It just means that the transistors run hotter and suck more current. And they are extremely smooth sounding. And virtually goof proof. In fact the simple controls on the front of the Audio Box, is rather reminiscent of a small section of an actual recording console. With only two inputs not 24-48 not even eight. Just two.

    Of course the computer audio interface device is only one part of the equation. With that, you need microphones, microphone cables and stands, headphones and a pair of studio monitoring speakers. Though even your stereo system speakers, could also be used. And a lot of people have and do that. I personally prefer dedicated control room monitors. Both passive, Howard from outboard power amplifiers or, self-contained, self powered monitors. They don't have to be huge and you don't need a sub. Unless of course ya prefer cheesesteak or cold cuts? But I digest.

    There is a single brand/type of microphone, I recommend to everyone. And that is the venerable SHURE, SM-57 & the matching SM-58's. These microphones are technically identical except for the larger metal ball, additional pop proofing on the 58's. But even that metal ball is inadequate, for recording applications of vocals. The 57 on the other hand, are slimmer, which makes them easier to position and capture other instruments and vocals. And while both of these are very popular, mostly seen on the PA system of a rock band. These are actually extremely superb recording microphones for only $100 each US, new. Where even the 57 can deliver a great vocal recording. You just need to use an even larger foam pop filter. Particularly when used on vocals. When used on guitars, drums, pianos, you don't need no stinkin' pop filters. Because none of those items breathe, blast and spit. Well... some sound like they're breathing but, he's dead Jim.

    While some folks think you need condenser microphones. You absolutely don't need them. In fact for entry-level folks, I rarely ever recommend them over the 57 & 58's. So many hits, countless hits, have used the 57 & 58's as the most widely used, most popular microphone/microphones. As I said, we use them on drums, acoustic guitars, electric guitar amplifiers, all of the drums. And contrary to popular belief, they also make swell drum overhead microphones and even on tight miked grand piano! The other advantage to this particular pair of microphones is that they are slightly less sensitive and slightly restricted in their bandwidth. Which means they eliminate a lot of extraneous noise, most people have in their homes. Such as low-frequency air-conditioning rumble and high frequency noise from air conditioning air flow hissing, cathode-ray tube televisions on, in your kid's room with the door closed. That condenser microphones have a nasty habit of picking up all too well, the 15 kHz horizontal sync, from the flyback transformer in the TV set. That signal permeates everything throughout your house. Through the air, through the electrical, and also as radio interference that audio equipment can pick up.

    If you are hell bent on getting some condenser microphones? In a compromised acoustic environment, such as your home, the large diaphragm condenser microphones, don't usually work out as well. Whereas the small diaphragm condenser microphones always have a truer sound without the artifacts common to large diaphragm condenser microphones. And ya get a bitchin' pair of small diaphragm condenser microphones, sometimes for as little as $50-$100 for a pair. These will provide a little more zippy zing on items like tight miked piano and acoustic guitar and also vocals. And they do not have the artifacts, so easily picked up by large diaphragm condenser microphones. Which when, the microphone picks up sound that is not aimed directly at the diaphragm, sounds like total crap. As large diaphragm condenser microphones have very poor " off axis response ". And a good room, with plenty of cubic feet and really tall ceilings like 13 feet-23 feet, the large diaphragm condenser microphones will sound yummy. When you don't know that? That's when everybody complains that their large diaphragm condenser microphone, doesn't sound good because they only spent 200 or $300. Well that's just from ill-advised sales associates. Because people come walking in and say they need a large diaphragm condenser microphone when in fact they really don't. So there's a lot of small diaphragm condenser microphones to choose from. With the bottom and being those of the Radio Shaft varieties. Which still be quite usable and perform equivalent quality of microphones costing hundreds of dollars more. Since even those might have the same Taiwanese capsules? I kid you not. It's a fact Jack. But it is more of a crapshoot whether you get a good sounding one or not. So don't disregard those given your miniscule budget. They still can't compare to the SM-57/58's. They're not better. They are merely different sounding. And one must learn when good is good enough. Which generally isn't usually the case when dealing with obsessive-compulsive self-proclaimed engineers. Who only want clean, clear, transparent, neutral sounding stuff. That's sort of like having a glass of water for dinner. Yum. Wow... that is the best glass of water I've ever had for dinner! Truly not exciting.

    Then the headphones and speakers. You need closed back headphones to use when overdubbing. So the headphones don't feed back into the microphone. But when mixing on headphones? Which is generally a no-no (except under certain conditions) I preferred the open air headphones. These allow the outside sound, noise and disturbances, to virtually be heard as normal, even when you're listening to music coming from the headphones.

    The speakers... we could have a conversation all night about those but we won't. There are many speakers out there. Some sound spectacular and cost a spectacular amount. And then there are the affordable ones. With many to choose from. But speakers are a little bit like your underwear. No... they don't have skidmarks like your underwear. I mean jockeys as compared to boxers. And the color of your choice. Nobody knows what color you're wearing and nobody knows whether you have boxers or jockeys on if you have any on at all? (Some guys like to live dangerously without a safety net or Depends.) I'm an old steadfast, passive, JBL 4311/4312 user with an external Crown DC 300 mark 2. Which are essentially from the mid-1970s. And my KRK, V6 and Rock It's. One of which is a powered monitor and the other is a passive monitor with external amplifier. Those only have six-inch woofers and a one-inch tweeter and kick ass! Most all of us do not rely upon a single pair of control room monitor speakers. Most of us have two pairs or three pairs of different monitor speakers. And we switch back and forth between them when evaluating our mixes. Headphones, you only use, if you were to be making a live recording and you are only a few feet away from the PA speakers. But it's much more difficult to mix with headphones than it is even with cheap control room speakers. This is where a lot of people like yourself and up with simply dreadful sounding results. Usually with a huge mud bucket of nondescript low-end bass. Yuck. Almost like a huge TURD! Great for everybody that wants to be reminded of your excrement.

    That's all ya need to get started making first-class professional recordings.

    While many of us pros, have the absolute top-of-the-line best stuff. The equipment today has gotten so good that even the cheap, Taiwanese, bottom of the barrel stuff, can still deliver surprisingly professional results. As long as you know better what it can't do than what the specifications say it can do. That knowledge only really comes from using equipment, for a goodly length of time. And we are here to save you time and money as none of us are equipment dealers. We are professional end-users. And I can make just as lovely a recording with $500 of equipment, as I can from my $150,000 of equipment. So I don't care what I use as long as it works and passes audio. I can use it and deliver a professional product. Will it sound the same as the expensive stuff? In many cases, yes it will. Though not quite in the same way. But knowing what it can't deliver prevents me from struggling to deliver what it can't. Making life a lot simpler. Bottom line, I can't push the cheap stuff the same way I can push my top-of-the-line stuff.

    What being a professional audio engineer means, you can't use your equipment as an excuse for an inferior recording job. So we don't let that happen even when we don't have the choice of the equipment we want to use. This comes from my extensive live radio and television background. Where you don't get a choice of any of the equipment you're using. And it's not always good stuff. Sometimes it can also be quite decrepit. Nevertheless, you still deliver a professional product. Because I know how. And now you know how also. There is no secret. There are no magic beans. There are no plug-ins for software, to make up for bad technique or no technique. Even though they can do incredible things that would be impossible to do in real time. I don't use but a couple of third-party plug-ins aside from my 10 year old version of Adobe Audition 1.5. But wait there's more!

    Adobe recently deemed the Audition 3.0, obsolete. Since they have now released 64-bit versions of Audition. Now up to version 6. And 3.0, was given away for free, earlier this past year, by Adobe. It's $300 plus worth of fabulous software! Unfortunately, 3.0 does not want to run on my new Windows 8, high-end HP laptop. Please... they've got to be kidding me? But no. I can run Audition 2.0 but I really prefer the earlier 1.5. Which strangely enough does run and work on Windows 8. Just not quite normally, completely. So these are other factors that can be terribly elusive and irritating to correct, in the operating system, if at all.

    There are specific adjustments to the computer and the operating system that needs to be done, to produce professional audio. Many articles have been written about this and talked about this right here at Recording.org. These adjustments to the operating system or to not having anything running in the background, at all. There are other tweaks that are also needed to the way the computer handles virtual memory and programs always in search for updates. All of that stuff has to be disabled making the computer rather vulnerable to hacker attacks, viruses and other nasties on the Internet. So many of us use a dedicated computer for our audio purposes, that doesn't surf the Internet, at all.

    Along with the dedicated computer, also comes the need for an external dedicated, hard drive, to record to. You don't use the operating system C drive, for recording purposes. You use an external USB 2.0/3.0, FireWire hard disk drives. Where you direct the software to record all of your audio to, within your multitrack audio software. Otherwise, your computer will always be trying to record the awful, lousy, crappy, built-in sound thingy and playing back through that also. The built-in gizmo is fine for talking to your friends on Skype or playing games. It is not appropriate for recording with. Marginally acceptable for playback purposes. It's simply designed for personal home entertainment. Not for high quality professional recording applications, at all. I don't care how great somebody told you your built-in soundcard was. They're all crap. Every single last one of them. Ergo the need for an external professional computer audio interface device. You can even find some cheaper than that $150 Presonus Audio Box. But that's a quality piece. And their build quality really blew me away. And I'm not impressed by much. I was impressed with the Presonus product line. Though I like my microphone preamps to be even zippier sounding and they are. But those are the top-of-the-line preamps that end up costing $600 per microphone input channel. No equalizers. No compression and/or limiting of the dynamic range. Just a single microphone preamp.

    I could go on but it's almost 3 AM and I'm crapping out LOL. Everybody knows I'm full of something. But this should get ya started, quite nicely.

    You are now ready to graduate to Professional Audio Engineer.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Any i7 computer will do. Just think about having a second hdd for audio files and a third for backups. A tour is more flexible and last longer!

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