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Which basic approach for audio interfacing ?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by OJG, Aug 30, 2005.

  1. OJG

    OJG Guest

    Greetings everyone,

    Although I am an experienced musician working in the field, at this point in time I need to record my first album ever. This first one is just piano and voice. Whether or not this has any future and additional recordings follow - God only knows. For this reason I am very careful with my spending.
    Obviously I am trying to spend as little as possible as I don't know whether or not I'll be able to recoup my investment. That being said, if things (God willing) do work out and I start building a following, I would rather not have a piece of gear that is not upgradable and which I would have to get rid of.

    I have a iMac 800 MHz, 256 MB, OS X 10.2.8
    and need to buy some basic equipment.
    I am thinking of the AKG C 414 B-ULS (now being B-XLS) as general purpose mic (vocals) and the MSP5 for monitors (or perhaps the KRK V6), but my concern is more about the audio interfacing.

    I understand that I can buy an all-in-one box such as the Lexicon Omega, M-Audio 1814/410, Saffire, Spike, MBox and others. I know these boxes have a mic pre, an a/d and a d/a all in one, and I am not sure how good the electronics are. These all-in-one boxes are obviously a compromise, allowing people with hardly any budget at all, to make a recording. Those may be appropriate for me but I don't know.
    Then there is the option of buying separate A/D, D/A, mic pre (and God knows what else) but I am not sure how much that could mount up to.

    My budget it somewhere along the line of $2-3k. It doesn't mean that I wish to spend all of it.
    On another note, I have an old Performer 3.6 (not DP) but an upgrade is $295 instead of buying new for $499). this makes the software end attractive.

    I also have the AT822, but I find it hard to imagine it can come in handy. But perhaps I am wrong and I can wait with spending money on the AKG.

    I could sure use some experienced input from all you gear pros.

  2. iznogood

    iznogood Guest

    i would say an mbox and a mackie 1202 and spend the rest on a mic... or if that doesn't fit your budget forget the mackie and live with the builtin pre's
  3. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    With that budget for a first album, go to a nice local studio and do it. You should be able to afford(Assuming you're rehearsed and ready when you go in), plenty of studio time with more than enough left for mastering and initial duplication, with money "left over" if you shop around and work at comfortable, yet good speed(No messin' around in the studio!) and you can do it over as many weeks or even months as you need - a few hours at a time. The result should be a very positive, "focused on your art" experience of very good quality. Adding the astounding complexity of properly recording yourself on piano and vocal for such an important project, using new, rather inexpensive, certainly unfamiliar and possibly "wrong" equipment - You won't know until you buy it and try it?(Hint: MSP5's, Mackie 1202, M-box? For a quality piano recording? I don't think so. Nice, for some of us but, not for you...). Working musician or not(Maybe BECAUSE of your knowledge as a musician?), no, just plain. Leave the "fun" home studio stuff for some other time, when it can be fun or otherwise helpful. Get your serious work done in a serious place and let someone else who's serious about their art worry about which equipment and how to run it.

  4. OJG

    OJG Guest


    That was the original plan, and you are correct in that this is one additional headache I can certainly do without. It is also a solution that is right for many musicians in a similar situation.

    Piano plus a singer sounds a certain way performed live. Take that same sound and put it on a CD, and it sounds very different, and significantly lacking (something). Reverb can make wonders but it is limited.
    I know that I want to maintain an overall piano+singer feel, but that does not necessarily mean it will have only that.
    Perhaps doubling certain piano notes with another instrument which is barely audible . . .
    who knows. Bottom line, it's going to be experimental (that's also how I compose). I need to listen to something, have an idea what I want to change, try and see.
    It takes me a lot of time.

    It may sound unprofessional to you and to others, but the very positive feedback that I have been receiving from people encourage me to continue this way.
    I am very serious at everything I undertake, this new endeavor included. There is going to be a learning curve and it will take time. I am OK with it.

    I am looking for the right gear for this job, one that will hopefully be good for more than just this one job.

  5. maintiger

    maintiger Distinguished Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    Home Page:
    upgrade to DP for $295, then get either a motu 828mkii ($750) or a motu 896 (1k, 8 pres) those boxes already have AD built in and work well with DP- you're already planning on spending $500 for monitors, so now you are already up to $1500.

    now to record the piano properly you should have 2 mics, not one. And since you also need to record vocals you will need those mics to double as vocal mics. 2 AKG 414's would be wonderful but we are talking $2000 here. If you want to spend less there are other good mics in your price range. AT and Rode have a few to choose from. (as well as other manufacturers) We are actually living in lucky times for mics. I myself have 2 Rode k2's tubes that work well for most about everything. they will run you about $1400/pair.
    If you want to pay less for just about the same quality, you can get a pair of rode NT2A's. same capsule, no tube for about $800/pair. (less if you look around- make sure you get the NT2A's, not the NT2 or the NT1's or the NT1A's- they have different capsules) I am sure others can recommend comparable mics for that much money. like I said, we live in lucky times for microphones. Good luck with your peoject and let us know how you make out. Its gonna take you a while to figure it out but if you catch the recording bug and you start getting good results with your art you'll love it.
  6. OJG

    OJG Guest


    What difference do your ears perceive between the C414 and the NT2A's ?
    I left out an important piece of information - I am not using an acoustic piano. I am using a Yamaha P-120 digital piano. Sounds great but not as good as ...
    It has two built in speakers (12.5W). I would probably like to capture its sound via microphone than line-in.

    Would I still need two microphones to record the piano ?
  7. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    I'll let you hash it out with other, more experienced recordists as to exactly what equipment you may need, but, I would make one more plea for the studio - an experiment - if you will... You will not be the first to hit the studio with nothing more than "ideas", some fleshed-out, some not, nor the first to adapt and change as you go along in the studio. Indeed, not the most efficient use of studio time, thrashing things out while the meter runs, but, sometimes done with superb results... Still and all... I would rather pay a good studio operator to handle the "stuff" - their many sleepless-nightedly chosen good stuff - which they are already familar with, indeed have spent much of their lives worrying over which mic for what, etc, etc, etc., while I do "my thing"(Sorry for the "my thing" there, I'm old...). I know from MUCH experience ---

    Maybe a tad about my experience? I do voiceover. At my home facility I do the "same thing" for different clients day in/day out, year after year, no experimenting -- pays the bills(Some of the bills)((Sometimes...)). Things sound "OK"... Still, when it's a larger project neither I nor my clients would ever use my facility - it just ain't good enough and I already have more money spent here than your budget! And I don't even PLAY the piano, let alone record it seriously! When I want to "DO" something, personally, I often DO try to get a start here at home(Having home stuff is not "bad", perse.), but, more often I just pack up and go in a studio with only ideas. I find I really need to let others "cater" to my needs while I hash things out - I often don't even know where the mic IS let alone what kind it is or what it's going through, etc. I can't. If I have to fool with the technology the technology not only gets in my way, it gets me bogged down. One "art form" at a time, for me. My studio projects go much faster - MUCH! I can do more in an evening "on the meter" than a month at home. But, of course, that's me. That said I've spent thousands of hours in either situation, so, I will "push" just once more. I believe even limited Time spent in a well-equipped studio could accomplish at least two things:

    1. If you do know what you are doing you stand a very good chance of coming out with at least something good, at least good quality, even if only a single completed "thing".(Which is more than most ever come out with, no matter where they do it...). Even if the total experience is a "failure" otherwise and you then opt to "finish/continue" on your own. You'll know MUCH more about the how's, the why's and the what to do next's, because...

    2. Even limited studio time would give you much more familiarity with the procedure(Consider it, in part, a recording class.) and better able to see/hear what you do need for your own personal studio.

    If there is a point to my ramblings, OJG(Pardon my lack of tact, too many years at this sort of thing.), it would be this:

    You show, by your words thus far, that you are NOT familiar with the recording process - - even so far as the relatively simple(Not that it isn't incredibly challenging!) recording of a person playing a digital piano. However, you have enough money - right now - to actually accomplish, in high quality fashion, at least some of your work, to realize some of your ideas, still with the ability to continue to save for more studio time or your own place. To do this right, OJG, is going to cost a whole lot more than 1500 bucks... sorry... My next "decent" VO mic - just for here at home - should cost over $2000, 3 actually... sigh... all by itself.) Your studio time, then will allow you to learn more about what you actually need to spend your money on... Meanwhile, with money and knowledge you already claim(I don't know how good you are?)you could be in a studio TONIGHT putting together some good stuff...

    May I say something about studio cost? There may be some studio(I'm being kind here MOST quite good "local" studios would walk on their hands backwards to get you in their place! They'd love to have your long-term project occupying space - at your convenience.) you can get to that would let you do "your thing" at your own pace, during studio "off hours", say... Leaving your equipment at least rather in place, charging you maybe a lower(To much lower) rate if you can accomodate them, at least to some degree, as far as when you are there and working. Could be very personal, private, no hurry, at possibly incredibly reasonable cost. Worth a phone call or a visit or two.....?

    Just meaningless thoughts, I do wish you well...

    I'll leave you alone now, as I do what I do my own way, too, which is often wrong(I call most of my life a "learning experience, someday to pay off" - I have to or I would cry all of the time, 'sted just most of the time...).

  8. OJG

    OJG Guest


    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I see your point clearly.
    If I can save time and I can save money - I go for it.
    From the money aspect, I put down money whether it is for gear to be put in my own project studio or studio time in an already well equipped (or not so well...) studio. Acknowledged.
    From the time aspect; Yes - it takes a long time of becoming occupied in a new art from (studio recording) until some basic understanding prevails (and that, BTW, could be fun). At the same time, when one does not know anything about the studios available in one vicinity, it could take much more (not to mention travel) to find a studio that is -perhaps- suitable for ones purposes. As you yourself acknowledge, it is not unlikely to work in a studio for some time, just to come to a conclusion that this combination between people is not working.

    There is another issue the further complicates things;
    There used to be a time that a truly professional studio would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In those days, the person who owned the studio was (usually) only the guy (or company) with the money. The person operating the gear was (again usually) a hired -recording engineer-. Yes - a real recording engineer with years of studying, training, credits - the works. Those engineers studied just about any recording technique that was ever used before (and during) their time.
    As gear became so unbelievably cheap (with all our complaining), a new breed emerged - one person serves as both the "money person" and the "recording engineer".
    This person, is actually neither a "money person" nor a "recording engineer" but rather a compromise of both.

    Still, those people need the work and they will tell their potential clients whatever the clients would like to hear. Many times we cannot really verify their story and we can only leave things for our gut feeling - works, works - doesn't work, another $500 in lost money (if we're lucky and figure things out soon enough). Many of them would build their learning curve on their clientele's budget.

    When I was at the music store to buy my digital piano, I was voicing my future plans about using this piano in the recording of my first album. The guy who sold me the keyboard (a real pleasant person) said that he has a studio and I can come and record there. I asked is he has a CD of some of his work and he said sure. I took it to listen in the car and had 12 tracks of trans music that almost caused my side mirror to disembody. All the music was recorded using line in, and his statement ("sure I record using microphones - I have many good and expensive mics") turned out to be voice going through a stack of effects and synthesizers, to make it sound anything other than natural.

    It's a problem. I don't think one solution is right for everyone.
    Personally I am a very critical person. Particularly in music composition - I trash music with a light heart - if it's not right it garbage. When it's right I will know. It could take 15 drafts three months, a coffee overdose and a nervous breakdown, but I will find that right sound when it's in front of me.
    That's how -I- am.

    I wish to continue to educate myself about the gear and the techniques of recording to get the results that I need. I will not go too crazy with microphone expenses though - I may lease a certain microphone for a limited time for a certain song. That (IMHO) would make more sense for me.

  9. ghellquist

    ghellquist Guest

    part of music making is to learn to use your instrument. I did spend several years playing etudes on the piano to able to play a scale the Mozart way or the Beethoven way.

    Never got very far though. But I can tell the difference between a grand Steinway and one of these pocket pianos. It is sort of the same with recording equipment. Once you have got around to liking the "real thing" you sort of never want to go back. But nevertheless, those instruments are a good way to learn.

    There is a similar type of knowledge around making recordings. It will take a lot of determined work to become good at it, but it is also very rewarding.

    I am an amateur at this recording stuff, recording mostly the orchestras I play in and a few others at the side. I started at a low budget and has progressed from there over time.

    My very sweeping statement is that today even low-priced equipment is better that I am.

    So starting slow might be one way to go.

    From the lower priced stuff I think the MBox is a good choice. You can probably find it used on ebay at a good price. It has decent mic pres and and will be a decent beginner instrument for learning. (I do have one myself, but it is no longer my first choice). The included program, ProTools LE, is very appropriate for the kind of work you are proposing. As long as you get a "latish" version it will work with your computer, no need to get the latest version. Also check up the Digidesign home page (http://www.digidesign.com) for the form they want the seller to fill in so that the software rights are transferred to you.

    You will soon want to add all kinds of effects to PT (Protools) as it is rather short in that respect. Stay calm though, as if you learn to use what is in there from the beginning you can go very far.

    The MBox has two input channel, so that is the maximum you can record at one time. I can bet real money that you will very soon want to record your piano direct line in, not through the loudspeakers. Later you process the sound by adding reverbs and other stuff.

    It is probably a really good idea to record you singing separately. The single most important aspect for recording song when you start out is in my mind not the mic. It is instead that you know the technique and take good care in setting up the acoustic space around the mic. (duvet behind you stopping sounds from coming in that way, and that kind of things). Just about any of the low-price mics will get you rolling. The Akg 414 is not a bad choice, but why not go for something really low-priced as a starter. A Studio Projects B1 will let you record and it is in my ears quite a bit better than the price. (Is used to own one as well).

    Once you have the very basic setup in place, simple start recording. Look at it as learning, exercises if you want. Experiment and learn the technology.

    The Yamaha MSP5-s are not bad either (I own a pair as well). And they can do added duty as on stage speakers for your piano.

    You will need a good pair of closed headphones as well. My first choice is Yamaha MDR-7506, but taste does vary.

    Keep it up. And do a lot of etudes on the recording side. You will master it over time.

  10. OJG

    OJG Guest

    Considering your replies on this thread as well as endless scanning that I am doing in the forum archives, I think the following;

    My ears will be the last to make the decision, however with $200 difference I feel I'll be better with the KRK V6 than the Yamaha MSP5.
    There's $700.

    Audio interface;
    I AM trying to stay away from the very bottom. Dreaming about how the Rosetta must sound like and waking up smiling (just to look up the price and lose the smile), I think MOTU 828mkII would make a reasonable compromise. Mini-Me is another option I am considering although those of you who are using it, do so primarily outside of the studio.
    $750 for the 828mkII.

    Having MOTU Performer and needing to pay only for an upgrade, in addition to wanting to have a software that will allow me to take on audio for video projects, I vote for DP.

    I am confused about this. Many of you are talking in terms of "pair of mics" so it looks like I just doubled the expense. I read good things about Rode, but the NT2-A that MainTiger suggested must be very new and I was unable to find much coverage for it. From this forum I pick up some Audio Technica and Studio Projects models that people repeatedly like but I am still lost. I need a microphone that will be great for vocals, but at the same time allow me to record other stuff and be a general workhorse around the studio. And again - do I need a pair ? Even for vocals of a single singer ?
    $ -- ???

    This item may not even be on my shopping list. I will certainly buy the above and start working for some time and listen to the various results that my setup gives me. However, many voiced their lack of appreciation over the preamps in the 828mkII, so there is a chance I will need those as well. this again has to do with the dual miking issue. I am assuming that if I need a pair of mics to record vocals (of a single singer), each mic would have to go into a preamp and they would both need to be identical. People are raving about the Brick - two of those are pricey. Then there's the VTB-1 -- two of those are more affordable but I could gather little about their quality.
    $ -- ???

    Total -- $1750 without the mic(s) and preamp(s).

    Please help me with some input on the mic and pres.


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