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A beginner's guide to recording, That's me!

Member for

21 years 2 months
I haven't bought any recording equipment, yet. I like to do my homework, get some excellent opinions so I don't go and upgrade every 2 months. Here's my need for recording

I'm not a pro. My wife has a voice and piano studio and I want to record demos and recitals. I don't believe that I need a ton of plug ins and the like. I do live sound in a small church and believe I can make Tom Waits sound more polished.

I have a Compaq Presario with a 1.8 gHz Athlon, 512DDR RAM, 40Gig HD, CD-R burner. My research, to date, was to run MBox into the USB and feel around with the Pro Tools LE and move up to a better version, if it didn't make me mental.

I asked a bud on the internet about this plan and he said you should buy another HD with 7500rpm just for music tracks. I don't like that idea, I want to record, put to disc, and move to the next project. I can edit with the software and the CD in the future. I'm not going to record for local bands, maybe in the future, but not for awhile.

I want quality, SIMPLICITY, and budget conscious equipment. Any recommendations for a beginning recording engineer? The more sugestions the merrier. I have an internal desire to have an excellent product, i I put my name on it. I have to have good tone.

Thanks, in advance


Member for

20 years 9 months

AudioGaff Sun, 12/28/2003 - 21:41
If you want simple and reliable then the all in one studio in a box may be your best option. Look for units from Fostex, Korg, Roland as the leaders in this area.

The PC route can seem tempting, but unless you dedicate a PC for recording only, you are going to have problems along the way, some that are likely to be serious. The PC route can be a complete nightmare if you don't have previous experience in setting up and doing PC recording. OS quirks, driver confilcts, hardware interfacing issues, file maintenance and backup, ect.. can quickly become a very long journey of stress and frustration before you get it all to be stable and reliable.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 12/29/2003 - 03:44
I would have to disagree with the recommendation of an all in one unit.. they are very quickly left behind in quality and features, whereas you will probably be updating your PC every couple of years or so anyway. You would also be paying again for a lot of parts you already own, e.g CD burner.. But if you are not willing to cart your PC around for mobile recordings, or don't want to invest in a laptop and and MBox, then I guess they are a reasonable option..
I have had good experiences with the MBox and Pro Tools software, it is as easy to use as any other sofware I have used, and easier than quite a few... The hardware and software are generally well known for reliability and stability, being the basis of many pro studios around the world. So as long as your PC and operating system are stable to start with, I wouldn't expect any problems... Otherwise, I have also done well with some of the Tascam products such as the US-428 with Sonar, which is easy to use..
I would recommend the second fast hard drive for audio as well. Windows is often doing things with it's system hard drive in the background, such as virtual memory access, and if Windows has control of the drive when audio needs to be going there, it can cause problems... It makes file management easier. And if something goes wrong with your PC and you have to reformat and reinstall Windows (or use the 'restore' discs you get with name brand PC's like yours) whatever audio you were working on (and other important data you want to keep) is still there..

Member for

18 years 5 months

Rod Gervais Mon, 12/29/2003 - 05:54
A lot depends on the direction you want to go in the long run.

There are pro's to either set-up.

I own a lot of gear - and one of those pieces is the Korg D1600 - which i love.

It gives you the capacity for recording 8 tracks simultaneously, a ton of editing capacity - and lots of efffects are built in. I also love the touch screen for ease of use.

I've had the unit for 3 years and never had a problem with it - and when I am going to do something live it's great for capturing the moment.

It's lightweight and very portable - so it fits that need very well.

It's also what i use to capture my band's practices, due to it's ease of use and the ability to mix quickly and burn a finished cd on the spot.

Last October I used this piece of gear to capture a performance of my family's band during a wine fest at my aunt's winery. A simple 4 track recording of us playing together... finished it up and had cd's out in a few weeks - a 2 cd collection that blew everyone away with it's quality for a quick set-up on an outside gig. For me - if it never did anything else - it was worth the investment for that alone.

It is not - however - what i use for my home studio.

Then again - i don't use DAW for that either.

I am still using a board - a 24 track digital recorder - compressors, effects boards - tons of rack gear, a more standard set-up - and this suits me fine.

I do own Cakewalk - but have not yet felt the need to really bring it into the picture yet - maybe next year....... :D

If I were to head down the path you are discussing - not only would I get a dedicated hard drive - personally I would get a dedicated computer........

What ever you choose - figure that as long as you get what you need now - you won't really have to worry about upgrading unless you decided to go pro - or semi pro.

Who cares that the technology is "out-dated" as long as you can capture what you want when you want to - isn't that really (in the end) what it's all about anyway?.


Member for

18 years 8 months

jdier Mon, 12/29/2003 - 09:57
The reason people here are suggesting another hard drive is not so you can save all of your work their forever, but instead so you can use it AS you record.

The second disk should be fast (7200 rpm) and it should have a larger than standard cache (2mb norm, 8mb is what you want.)

As you are recording the computer is going to want some place to write to quickly as sounds are coming in. With your current set up you will use the RAM then quickly start writing to disk... Bear in mind that the disk you are writing to given your current set up is the same disk running the OS, which means it is also the scratch virtual memory disk, and it is also the disk with the primary tracking application on it.

By adding the second disk you are providing your computer a place to quickly write the audio streams coming in.

For $85 it would seem very worth the investment.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 12/29/2003 - 18:40
Another huge reason for the 2nd drive is GHOSTing your system drive image after it is correctly configured.

Building/configuring/tweaking the OS and associated drivers is a time consuming process. Once you have it up and done, make a GHOST image of it (Norton Systemworks) on the 2nd hard disk.

Create a small FAT32 partition on the 2nd hard drive just large enough to hold the GHOST image. This way you don't have to buy into NTFSDOS, etc, so you can write to NTFS partitions from the GHOST (DOS) diskette.

If/When your system becomes corrupted, you can restore it in 20 minutes or less from the GHOST image. Very handy.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Tue, 12/30/2003 - 19:24
Great points, guys. I appreciate it. I'm in between a Korg all in one and a second HD and MBox. I may end up doing the Korg unit, it makes the most sense to me. Having one unit that was factory tweaked for compatibility wihout the error messages and downloads would increase the pleasure factor.
Would buying computer based equipment become too much to handle? Click and record and clean up later sounds like my style. ;)

Again, I really appreciate your help. I am pretty good getting guitar tones and become annoyed with simplistic "solutions" to getting tones. But, you have to start at the bottom, unless you're a gravedigger

Member for

20 years 9 months

AudioGaff Tue, 12/30/2003 - 21:22
It doesn't have to be an only PC or standalone decision. You can still get the best of both worlds. Depending on which all-in-one you pick, you may get more than one option in being able to move your music from it and your PC by just adding an audio interface to your PC. You then could further process on the PC after transfer without the risk of affecting the original music tracks. This lets you learn to use the PC and everthing involved with it at your own pace and yet still have a simple, dedicated, easy way to get things recorded and mixed that don't have to rely an a PC.

You might want to also check that the newer all-in-one units you are looking at also offer PC recording features such as being a remote control surface and/or interface (the digial mixer section of the all-in-one unit) for recording software so that your not having to rely soley on a mouse when working on the PC. This can be a very handy feature and give you automation control of both your PC recording and mixing.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Wed, 01/07/2004 - 13:38
With the regards to a hard drive set up. I do recommend that you do use a second hard drive.

An even better way to have a second hard drive is to use a SCSI drive. My system was completely SCSI for a time. Cheap Large IDE drives have made me compromise.

Still. I Have a second hard drive that is SCSI. I found that even with slower SCSI drives I get better performance than the best IDE drives. They do cost much more. Ebay has some good deals on drives and controllers every so often. They are worth it when you are trying to push performance out of a computer for recording purposes.

Member for

19 years 11 months

Davedog Wed, 01/07/2004 - 14:18
Its good you have a lot of confidence in your abilities and I wish you all the luck in your endeavours.Whether or not you find the extra HD,or the standalone unit to be your choice,I would like to add,from my experience, that the simplistic ways of acheiving sound are usually best.Let me define simplistic...The Basics.Whereas this may involve a technically sophisticated placement and selection of mics and their particular aspects to achieve a quality sound in a not so quality environment, this is all still ...basics.Good luck to you and PLeaSE do NOT attempt to 'polish' Tom Waits.It just wouldnt be Tom Waits.

Somethings are the way they are for a reason.I hear,everyday,things I can most definately record better,but then my Producer mind takes over and keeps it the way it is because of its style.Peace.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Mon, 01/12/2004 - 11:04
i'm kinda in the same boat right now. i want my system to be portable aswell. my two decisions are in the PC based system is to either cough up some serious money and get a laptop and the new laya 24 gear that is laptop enabled or build a new machine using a rack mountable atx case (on ebay for $60 - $100) with a delta revolution card and behringer ultragain ada8000 digital preamp breakout box. the laptop route will run me about $2000+ and the portable rack pc might go as little as $600 to $800 depending on the type of monitor i get (lcd or crt) and if i build it myself. either way i figure i can have a machine i can record 8+ tracks at a time and edit the waveforms and do complex edits as opposed to the limited ones in the portable daw's.