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Trying to improve my setup...advice needed!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Bfunk, Sep 5, 2004.

  1. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    Hi,

    I have a Fostex FD-4 that can do 2 simultaneous 24 bit tracks, and I'm borrowing another to give me a total of 4. Inevitably, I'll have to give the other back, but I'm not looking forward to the prospect of going back to 2 tracks. If I'm going to buy more equipment, I'd like the capability to record 8 simultaneous tracks (preferably 24-bit, but not a necessity). I have both a laptop and a desktop running Sonar, and I've been dumping tracks one at a time from the FD-4 to the computer via RCA cables then syncing them up in Sonar, so obviously I'd like to have a better system than that.

    Here's what I'm looking for:

    -The ability to record 8 simultaneous tracks, ideally with a choice of XLR and 1/4" inputs for each track (but at least 4 XLR inputs if not all 8)

    -An easy way to digitally transfer the synced up files to my laptop. I have no Firewire connection (Presario 2596), so I imagine it would need to be a USB connection, but I'm relatively new to this so I don't know what the alternatives are.

    -Since I'll be doing most/all of my mixing and mastering on the computer, I'm not concerned with a bunch of effects/etc. in a recorder (assuming I need to buy a recorder rather than just an audio interface), nor am I concerned with a CD-RW since I can burn discs from the laptop. I imagine it would be nice to have a compressor/limiter to prevent clipping during recording, but it hasn't been a problem so far...

    -I'd like to be able to use the setup in both live situations and in a home studio.

    As always, I'm sure my desires exceed my budget, but I'd like to know what the alternatives are and about how much they cost. I'll probably have to compromise my plan and go with something that can just do 4 simultaneous tracks, but I'm not ready to give up yet. So far I've looked at things like the Boss BR1600, Yamaha AWG16, Tascam 2488 and US428, Roland VS-1880, Mackie SDR 24/96 (I think I'd need a console in addition to this one), as well as some audio interfaces and I'm more than a little confused at this point.

    Any help, ideas, suggestions, or good natured ridicule would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!
    B
     
  2. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    take a look at rme stuff that work with a pci card!

    if you have usb 1 forget about usb!
     
  3. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    OK, I'll look into it.

    I have "VIA USB Enhanced Host Controller" listed in Device Manager, so from what I've read, it seems I'm running USB 2.0 (please correct me if I'm wrong).
     
  4. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    So how do these PCI interfaces work? I looked at the Aardvark Q10 with 8 XLR inputs, but I don't know if I can connect that to my laptop. I'm having a little trouble with terms like PCI, PCMCIA, CardBus, Firewire, etc. According to the literature on my laptop, there is 1 available Cardbus Type I/II expansion slot. (It's a Presario 2596US, 2.6G Celeron) Can I hook up a Q10 or something similar? Can I hook up an RME Hammerfall HDSP and if I do, will I need another piece of equipment to provide the inputs/preamps? I apologize for my obvious and extreme ignorance on the subject. Any and all help is appreciated.
     
  5. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    aadvark nop!
    but you can the hammerfall
    Hammerfall DSP PCMCIA Cardbus Card
     
  6. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    If I understand correctly, the Hammerfall provides me with a Firewire interface, but what do I use to provide the inputs/preamps like I would have with the Q10. And what would I need to hook the Q10 up to my desktop computer?
     
  7. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    forget the q10!

    you can check the octamic from rme, the motu 828mkII etc...

    depends on your budget and needs!
     
  8. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    How about something like an Echo Mona with a PCMCIA card adapter? That'll give me 4 balanced XLR inputs, plus the ability to expand to 12 with a Behringer ADA-8000 or similar.
     
  9. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    forget behringer! they are cheap cause they sound cheap!
     
  10. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    OK, what about the Echo?
     
  11. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    You can't use a PCI card in a laptop you need a desktop with an available PCI slot.

    IMO Echo makes nice gear, I've had a Layla 24 for a couple years and just bought another. I love them. But the Mona has been discontinued. You might be able to pick one up used.

    As far as mixers you should be able to get a Mackie CR1604 (not VLZ) or a 1402 or 1202 VLZ off Ebay for under $300. The CR is not as quiet as the VLZ's (.002 compared to .0007 THD) but the DAC's in this price range are .002 or worse so you won't be hurting your audio by using a CR Mackie. The CR also has 8 direct outs (labeled as Channel Access). That's the only mixers I'd recomend in that price range. Better quality than a Behringer.

    A CR-1604 and a Layla 24 will fullfill your needs as far as 8 tracks at once for around $800. Motu has the 2408mk3 which has 8 pres built in for $950 but someone else could tell you more about it. If you want to put a firewire card in your laptop (FMI USB 2.0 Firewire combo type II $59.99 Comp USA) you could use Tascam's FW1884 it's a DAW controller and has 8 pre's built in for $1300 or Digidesign's Digi 002R for $1200. If you put a firewire card in your desktop as well you could use the Tascam or Digi on either machine. If both of your machines have network cards just transfer your files that way with a crossover cable.

    If we knew what your budget is we could suggest some other gear that might fit your needs.
     
  12. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    Big_D, thanks for the advice. Lots of good info. I think my mid(long) term solution is the FW-1884, but for now I want to go with something simpler. I was looking at the emagic a62m as a cheap, easy short term solution that's better than what I have. I can also use it in conjunction with my FD-4 to get the preamps I need and it will connect to both the laptop and the desktop via USB.

    Sorry about the ambiguity with the budget. Originally I was hoping to spend $400-$500, but it seems like I need to spend closer to $1200-$1500 to get what I really want. Since I can't spend that right now, I'll probably go with something under $200 (like a used a62m) until I have enough $$ to take the next step.
     
  13. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    I forgot to mention that Mackie has a new line of mixers out that you may want to consider when your budget allows. The Mackie Onyx 1620 is a 16 channel mixer with 8 XLR ins for $779 and the 1640 is a 16 channel with 16 XLR ins for $1299. The cool thing about them is that they have a firewire out as well as analog outs. The jury is still out on whether the Onyx pre's are better than VLZ pre's but watch the posts as their should be a some info soon. Just another option to explore. Good Luck!
     
  14. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    One more question while I'm at it. Before I step up to 8 or 16 tracks, what kind of processing power/memory do I need to run them? Laptop is 2.6 GHz Celeron processor with 768 MB RAM, Desktop is badly in need of upgrading.
     
  15. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    It all depends on what you're planning to do. It's not the recording that eats up memory and cpu cycles, Its the mixing, effects and other things like virtual insturments that require power. The DAC's in whatever system you choose do the work before sending it into your PC by converting the analog signal to digital, so really your just streaming data to your hard drive at this point. But once you start mixing, adding effects and whatever else you choose to add to your music your CPU, memory and hard drive bear all the burden. You could record far more tracks at once onto a PC than you could ever mix etc. on that same PC. It really comes down to how many tracks you want to mix, how many effects you want to use and if you'd like to add other things to your music. If you just record a few tracks add a little reverb and compression you can get away with far less PC than a guy who runs 24 tracks with multiple effects on every track, compression, gating and a bunch of virtual instruments. It's really comes down to your needs. You should be okay with your laptop, just don't try to do too much. You have plenty of RAM and the processor is fast enough although it is a Celeron so don't expect P4 performance. The real downside to laptops is their hard drives. They spin at much slower rates than desktop HDD's so in effect that's the real bottleneck in the system. It's fine for recording in the field and mixing for now but I think in the long run you should look at upgrading your desktop to a 2.0 GHz. or better P4 or Athlon processor, 512 MB to 1 GB of RAM and a 7200 RPM EIDE or SATA Hard Drive. This would give you good performance for a 16 track studio and a little wiggle room in case you want to add some things later. You can probably do it for a little under $500 if you use your existing video card. If your current case isn't an ATX form factor (most are now) you would have to buy a case $75 to $100 for a decent one. By building your own PC you'd get far better components than some store bought peice of crap at the same price and far better perfromance too. I don't have my site up anymore (for building and tuning Gaming PC's) but I could point you to some good ones if you need them. Also check out this site, it's where I get my parts. It's like a candy store for PC parts. Good Luck and if you have anymore questions just ask.

    http://www.aberdeeninc.com/
     
  16. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    Outstanding info, Big_D. You've been extremely helpful.

    I just found and bought an Echo Mona on Ebay for $265 shipped. Unfortunately, it only has the PCI card, so now I either need to get a PCMCIA card for it, or upgrade my desktop (or both). I appreciate all your recommendations.
     
  17. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Sounds like you made out well. I think you'll like the Mona, Echo makes a quality product. Glad I could help. Good Luck!
     
  18. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    Hey Big_D (or anyone else who wants to answer)

    I'm thinking about buying a custom built computer with the following specs:

    AMD XP 2600+
    ASUS KT-400 SE motherboard
    768 MB DDR 3200 Memory
    80G 7200 RPM Hard Drive
    Aspire X-Dreamer case w/3 cooling fans and temp display
    350W PS

    I can get it for under $400, is this as good a deal as it seems?
     
  19. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    I did a search on the Mobo and couldn't find anything (could be something missing from the P/N) but the Processor and Mobo together will cost a little under $200. The Memory will cost around $150 and the HDD would cost a little under $100. With a case and PS I think it sounds like a good deal. I'd see if the HDD is a name brand (Maxtor,Seagate,WD) and if it has an 8 MB buffer or not. The PS would need upgrading if you add more drives but for what you want to use it for, it sounds ok.
     
  20. Bfunk

    Bfunk Guest

    HD is Western Digital, I also have a Maxtor 80G, 7200RPM, 8MB buffer drive that I can add to this computer.

    It also comes with a CDRW and a DVD-ROM drive (I'll probably remove and sell the DVD drive).

    How cheap/easy/necessary is a PS upgrade?

    Thanks!
     

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