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Going into the PC. Expert advice needed.

My objective: To purchase a card or interface

My budget: $300 or less.

Let me prefice this by saying: I have a good voice, and I know how to play the guitar. I also have some good songs to work with. With that said, here's what I want to do: record vocals and guitar. That's it. I'm looking for a couple of clean signals. I've done a pretty good amount of research and here's where the newbie starts to get confused.

1. If I am only recording vocals and guitar, do I actually need firewire? Would USB 2.0 suffice? Because that certainly opens up my options. All I am looking for is a good sounding clean signal.

2. What's up with the strength of the signal? I have read over and over, regardless of firewire/USB, that people get weak signals going into their pc's and everyone seems to end up adding their own gain.

3. Do people buy external 'interfaces' for the preamps? Is it otherwise better to go with a card? I personally like to go mic to preamp to compression, but I really prefer tube preamps, so I'm not sure it makes sense to spend money on something with preamps.

My approach to recording is keep it simple. After all, the Beatles recorded Sgt Peppers on a couple of 4-track recorders. So, I think it's easy to get caught up in "you've got to have this and you've got to have that."

All I'm looking for is a couple of clean signals.

Experts, what do you think?


jonyoung Fri, 03/02/2007 - 11:42
I never compress or EQ up front. Some folks do, I prefer not to because you can't take it back once it's there, and applying it after recording will give you the same result as if it were printed. I track on a rack mounted hard disk machine and mix in the box, so I've invested in some nice plug ins which are better than any of the rack gear I have. Most recording software will not apply effects to your recorded track until you export. You will hear the effect via monitoring, though. Some software does come with nice plug ins, others are pretty basic. What were you thinking of using to record into? You can find some decent freeware compressors and EQ's, effects at sites like Sonic Spot and KVR.

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 03/02/2007 - 12:40

I'm either going to record into Cubase LE (pretty basic) or into FL Studio. Even if I do use Cubase, I'll end up exporting into FL Studio at some point, so I'll probably use both. Or not, who knows. FL Studio is great for adding percussion, ambience, effects, whatever. Many of the songs I'm going to do really sound best with just the vox and guitar. It does also have all of the necessary plug-ins to edit and mix your tracks. Whether they are the best quality is another story, but again, I have a 'spouse' driven budget. This is not a 'tax and spend' operation. The is a 'cut and spend' budget. The money for an interface is coming from the sale of an electric guitar that I will miss. What are you going to do?

Here's more info than one needs to know, but insight into my actions. My direction of 'going on my own' really came from a demo I produced for my band to work from. The band's finished product sounds good, and that was produced in professional studio. The demo, however, is pure soul, pure emotion. I can listen to it over and over. I have a good collection of songs that fit into this category, so I'm making a project of recording them.

That's why I say I really don't need much for this project. I just need to capture the experience of the song. A vocal, a guitar, a dimly lit room. That's what I'm after. This isn't a 'musical production.' More of a musical/emotional experience. That's what I want to capture on disc.

So if I have this down right, it doesn't seem like I should need a mixer, or a compressor. Just an interface with decent preamps. Does that sound about right to you? I'll eq and compress via software.

jonyoung Fri, 03/02/2007 - 17:00
That sounds about right to me. There are plenty of project studios making a living these days that have a high end version of that very setup.

BTW, God Bless Ya for going for the soul component. So many recordings have had the life sucked out of them in studios by micromanaging the performance to achieve "perfection". As one of my favorite, go to guitarists is fond of saying, tracks like that have "a bunch of shiny goo" all over them.

drumist69 Thu, 03/01/2007 - 16:15
Keep in mind that the couple of 4-tracks that Sgt. Pepper was recorded on was state-of-the-art in its day. Couple of clean channels? Get an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 PCI card, an M-Audio DMP3 preamp to feed it, and a couple of decent mics of your choosing, add salt to taste, and there you go. Should run you about $260 for the card and pre, plus another $100-$200 for decent mics (try an SM57 or an AT2020, both under $100), and another $100-$200 for stands and cables. Trying to help! ANDY

jonyoung Fri, 03/02/2007 - 07:52
USB 2.0 is actually a little faster than firewire.

The M-Audio cards are nice for the money, I started out with the Audiophile and it served me well. I don't know that you'll get all the things on your wishlist for $300, a decent tube mic pre, not a great one, will run you at least $200 per channel. Don't buy a crappy pre like ART MP. I own several ART Pro MPA's and they're just fine, but the inxpensive starved plate design tube pres are not worth the money. I agree with Andy on the AT2020's, great mic for the money. I bought 2 from an ebay store for $82 each, I run a commercial studio and use them regularly. Don't be afraid to buy used gear either.