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Surprise, surprise... I need advice (portable recording)

Discussion in 'Recording' started by purebloom, Jul 20, 2006.

  1. purebloom

    purebloom Guest

    I want a decent portable recording rig. I don't want one of those all-in-one units.... I definitely want to use a laptop (unless you can convince me otherwise). However, I really don't know which route to go. So, help me out... please.

    I plan on mainly using it to record alternative/indie bands and also acoustic singer/songwriters. The most channels I would need would probably be 8, as I don't see myself tracking everything at once. (presonus firepod)??

    So, would one option be to use an external audio interface hooked up to the laptop to record? I mean, I'm sure it's an option...but I've been reading the forums and I still need a little more direction. And what about latency issues? Has anyone used this setup.... a laptop with firepod?

    Mainly, I just want to do this properly with the least "noise", best budget setup and the most portability. I'm 21, married for two years and a child on the way..... so I'm poor! Cut me some slack, heh!

    If my laptop isn't top of the line would I be better off going with an external audio interface (HD) that records the information as well, and then transfer over to the laptop for mixing/editing?

    I apologize if this inquiry jumps all around, I feel like I'm being unclear and vague... but I just need a push in the right direction.

    Oh yeah, and my budget.... well it's real low. I'm hoping to sell some existing gear (unless you can see it being utilized in the new setup).

    I have a Fostex MR-8 which new is like $250.00 and a Yamaha MG 10/2 which is new like $100. So together I might get $275ish to put toward my goal.

    So total I'd like to spend is probably $500-$550. Budget is laughable I know... but I'm not looking for anything super, just something for demo's and what not.

    I'd like it to be a step up from my Yamaha MG 10/2 mixer, hooked directly up to my line in on my PC and recorded. That whole setup was the computer which was like ($250.00) and the MG 10/2 ($100.00)


    Anyways... I apologize for rambling. Hope you can help!
     
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    purebloom, welcome and congratulations on your up-and-coming production (your baby)! How did that happen?? I too am a Michigander.

    So you're asking questions and not providing information that is useful for us to answer your questions with. What kind of laptop you have? How fast? How much memory? What operating system? What kind of software are you using?

    So have you made any decent recordings with the current equipment you listed? The mixer ain't bad when it comes to mixers. Microphone preamplifiers are adequate and so is the rest of it. If you want something that is strictly for your laptop than I would recommend you look into one of the numerous FireWire devices? I'm not sure that you would find one exactly in your budget however? You might want to consider instead a USB type device in conjunction with your mixer? There are numerous inexpensive 2 Channel USB devices available starting at about $60 and up. Quality level isn't exactly an issue here as most of these Taiwanese manufacturers pretty much all use the same chips by numerous companies. Some are strictly 16-bit. Some offer 24-bit. Some offer 44.1kHz/48kHz sampling. Some offer 96kHz and some even might offer 192kHz. But why would you need something like that for learning purposes and cutting demos with? I'm still quite happy recording Masters at 44.1kHz at 16-bit. It's flat and quiet and that's all you need. If you think you cannot produce a good recording at 44.1kHz/16-bit, you need to learn how to. If all you have is a Shure SM58/57 and you think you need a " large diaphragm studio condenser microphone"? You don't. I'm a huge advocate for SM58/57. One of the greatest microphones ever developed. Many of my successful recording jobs have utilized mostly SM57/58, since I used to do a lot of live rock-and-roll recording with my remote truck and most of the bands and PA companies use the SM58/57 microphones from most everything. It's like your new baby. You need to learn how to walk before you can run.... an audio console.

    I think generally speaking, you would be most happy with one of those FireWire devices that feature 8 reasonable microphone preamplifiers connected to your laptop. Your laptop may also require an external USB type hard disk drive since most laptops don't feature 7200 rpm hard drives, which is a fair standard for multi-track recording. So you might be looking at a few hundreds dollars more, then what you've inquired about?

    Since you've got a new baby on the way, I thought I would also share with you an interesting twist I added to my remote truck to keep possible burglars and other riffraff away. I had signs made that appear on both the driver and passenger doors along with the central air-conditioning device on the back. The police love it! The signs on the driver and passenger doors read "DIRTY BABY DIAPER PICKUP SERVICE" (I actually had a slogan for the company as well that I did not post on the doors which was "WE DON'T TAKE JUST ANY $*^t" but I decided against that. And on the back air-conditioner is a sign that reads "LEAVE REFRIGERATION UNIT RUNNING TO CONTROL BACTERIAL ODORS". It's always pretty funny when I had to drive through those truck weigh stations, where you always find numerous state police and DOT inspectors. They always figured I was a biohazard! LOL! So I was always very proud to open up the truck and give them a grand tour. I could even plug-in my DC to AC inverters and give them a playback. I thought a longtime about what men particularly dislike and so my friend, you are soon to find out firsthand. Be gentle with baby.

    Remember mother is only half a word
    Ms. Remy Ann David
     
  3. dterry

    dterry Active Member

    If you are going completely mobile (as in no power - just battery for the laptop, etc), you will have to stick with USB and dynamic mics (e.g. mics that don't require phantom power). M-Audio has several flavors of USB interfaces under $500, as do Edirol, Roland and a few others. The 4-pin 1394 port on a laptop doesn't supply power (some firewire devices can run off of bus power if not supplying phantom power).

    If you are setting up in clubs, etc where there will be power, then your options are a bit more extensive. There are several USB and Firewire interfaces with 8 ins and at least 2 mic preamps. To get more preamps, you may have to either go with something inexpensive for the interface and get an inexpensive separate multichannel preamp, or continue using the mixer.

    I haven't found any standalone 8-in digital recorders for $500 or less (many are 8 track, but only 2 ins) - doesn't mean they don't exist, but you will probably get more for that budget by using the laptop.

    Just turn off virus protection and any Windows alerts, screensavers, etc while recording, and test it running a long recording before going live to be sure it doesn't fall over for some unanticipated reason.

    I run an RME Fireface with a laptop for remote recording - works great. Haven't tried the Firepod, but it should work fine.
     
  4. purebloom

    purebloom Guest

    Remy -

    Actually awhile back you reviewed a recording of mine.

    (Dead Link Removed)#270422

    My main issue was latency. You mentioned changing "buffer settings", which I 'spose I still haven't quite figured out. There were some pops, and crackles on my song with the expletive (which I plan to re-record, but have yet to). Usually my first track records fine, but when I record my second track it often times starts on time, but then loses time. It's hard to explain but I mean... it's like even if I align it to the first track in two spots (then further down the track it still is off). So I do a lot of cutting to line it all up.

    Sorry for not being more clear about the mobile setup, I don't have a laptop right now. I'd like to get a Mac - but really am not opposed to anything at this point. For the recording you reviewed (Amy) I just used Audacity with my MG 10/2 into the line in with my MXL 990 (vocals) 991 or SM58 (forget which I used - guitar) and then also the direct in on my guitar and mixed the combination of those two.

    I could get a Powerbook G4 20gig 512mb 500mhz for $350.00 (bad deal)? Other than that I'm sure I can look around and find a deal of fatwallet or ebay or whatever.

    External USB Hard disk... any recommendations?
    If I get a Mac any recommendations for software?

    And your story about your remote truck. Hilarious!


    Once again thanks for all your time and help Remy.
     
  5. purebloom

    purebloom Guest

    I would be mainly setting up at people's houses... and will have access to power, so not just battery power. I have MXL 990/911 and an SM58. I'd like to get a better condenser (possibly a Rode NT1.... but that's further down the road, because remember... i'm poor). I'll definitely look into the RME Fireface though. And I really appreciate your advice and taking time to help out a newbie.

    Thanks!
     
  6. Terr-orForm

    Terr-orForm Guest

    I hate giving advice on things to buy as I tend to feel that if someone get's it and feels 'screwed' - they might not ever read any other advice from me.

    Having said that, I use the Mackie ONYX 400F. It's a little out of your price range but, I would suggest save (it's about $700). It come with Traction 2 which isn't too bad for starting out. I love Mackie stuff but prefer to use Cubase SX3 as my software of choice. The problem with these types of firewire interfaces is not just the cost of the interface but also the cost of the software you'll use to record. So, my basic setup (because I chose to use Cubase) was around $1,200. Thing is, you don't have to get Cubase and you have a firewire interface and software to get you started at $700.

    Also, you can use the ONYX 400F to record straight to an HD and bring the files home for editing on your computer later. It has four mic pre's (which aren't that bad at all) and 10in and 10out. You still need to plug the power cord in when you record whether your near a computer or not.

    As far as latency - all interfaces that connect to another computer experience some sort of latency. The variable to list here would be too many indeed but, here is a short list:

    RAM
    Recording Depth (44.1, 96, 192 khz)
    How many tracks simultaneously
    Computer setup
    Processor speed
    HD speed and buffer
    ...on and on and on.

    Getting a unit that has sliders and connections and everything built in can be somewhat costly and even then you will most likely find yourself rendering the final mix on a PC or Mac anyway.

    I run my system through a laptop with 1 gig of RAM (soon to be 2), 1.66 Ghz speed Centrino Duo (the dual processor helps immensely so don't laugh at what seems to be a slow speed!) and an external HD firewired from my ONYX (the ONYX has two firewire connections for this reason one to the computer and one to the HD - remember, you don't have to be connected to the computer to record!) running on XP sp2. I use this for live situations so I wouldn't have to bring a full tower and monitor and etc. to a show - easier for quick hookup. However, soon we will be using our PC at home for the home recordings so as to not make the laptop slow down (latency again :) ).

    Here is how I made my decision (much of it was the same way you did).

    Asked for forum advice
    Looked at many online dealers at the different interfaces
    Looked up reviews for every product
    Checked to see if the manufacturer had a forum and ghosted those forums to learn about every good and bad thing about the equipment.
    Zero'd down to three units and called the manufacturers and asked very hard questions
    Bought the unit after reviewing everything I could.

    I had a really large budget and could have bought a much nicer unit that seemed to work "better" (remember, everyone has different setups and therefore different problems). I ended up buying the unit I did for ease of use, rackmount quality and portablility (and of course sound quality).

    It sounds like your on the right track but, as has been stated on these forums before - act like every piece of equipment, no matter how cheap or expensive, is an investment and not a ladder to step up and upgrade later. In the music biz, every piece of equipment counts!! I use this as an example - You buy (not lease) a car and one year later you trade that in for another new car. Guess what? The negative equity from your first car gets tacked onto the price of your new car - that equals more money that you didn't have to spend if you had chosen the right car the first time. Same goes with music equipment.

    I hope this helps and I hope you post when you find your ideal investment!!!
     
  7. purebloom

    purebloom Guest

    Terr-orForm -

    I truly appreciate the advice and suggestion. I'm going to do some research on this and I may be back with questions for you. :)

    Thanks again!
     

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