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I have a mac mini. I want to record Sitar, and down the track I will want to use the setup to record stuff like acoustic guitar and possible vocals (but I want to put my money towards something that will make sitar and guitar sound good). The problem with the Mac Mini is that the sound card does not have a line in or PCI. So, I'll probably need a new external USB sound card.

Now, from my perspective, I guess I have three broad options:

a) Buy a whole new computer with a built in sound card, mixer and mic.
b) Buy a USB card, mixer and mic.
c) Buy a USB mic (it looks like Shure make some good ones).

Now. Firstly, I would like some opinions on which of these options will give me the best bang for buck in terms of sound quality to dollar ratio.

But, I have a few questions about the possible setup. If I end up buying an external USB card, will I loose any quality, or will I be adding unwanted delay to the sound? This device looks pretty cool: [url=http://www.m-audio… - MobilePre - Record Music with Your Computer[/url]

Lastly, what would your personal setup look like? If you had $500 to spend, what would you buy? If you had $1000, what would you buy? Would you invest in PC hardware, or an outstanding mic?


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Jeemy Tue, 05/10/2011 - 11:36

No, its quite the opposite. A built in computer soundcard is only really ever built to process game/computer program audio to an acceptable level. You need a professional audio sound card with better stabler power and bigger chipsets, so (a) is out, you want something external to your computer. Also this way later when you upgrade your computer the soundcard (we will call it an audio interface from here on in) goes with you. In a PC you might insert a PCI soundcard but anyway......yes USB will introduce some delay (latency) but only in a situation where you want to monitor via your computer, with acoustic music this isn't a concern.

b) Will get you the best option. USB mics are resoundingly crap, so (c) is out. M-Audio is pretty resoundingly bad as well.

If I had $500 to spend and a Mac Mini, I'd buy an Apogee One for $200 and a $300 mic. There will be plenty options on this but I'd try to get a secondhand Rode K2, or a Rode NT2 or NT1A new, or even a stereo mic like the Rode NT5 I think it is.

This will give you one channel at a time. You should note the One has an internal mic so you could record guitar/sitar and vocals simultaneously to one track but you'd be better doing them one by one.

If I had $1000 to spend I'd get an Apogee Duet. I'd maybe get an FMR RNP preamp, and the same mic, or upgrade the mic to an AT4021 or even a Gefell M930 or something like that if I could afford it, or get 2 KEL mics, and use any small change to buy a decent set of monitors, but really you'd want another $500 or so for something like Adam A3s.

Boswell Wed, 05/11/2011 - 04:23

A sitar is not an easy instrument to capture well. It needs a good acoustic environment and an appropriate microphone carefully placed. Don't skimp on the microphone!

I would not necessarily expect to use the same type of mic for a sitar, a steel-string guitar and for vocals. However, if you have a good acoustic environment, and seeing you are in the land of Rode, an NT2-A will give you good results from the instruments, and, depending on the quality of the voice, adequate vocal performance when used with a pop shield. I'm less happy about the NT1-A for tackling all these tasks.

The Shure SM81 is a great mic for acoustic guitar, but it's not one I would have not gone straight to for recording sitar, and also would not use it for vocals. Steer clear of the AKG Perception range for this type of all-round work.

In terms of audio interface, I've never used an Apogee One, but it has a chance of working well with an NT1-A or NT2-A.


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