Help me select the right gear for me

Discussion in 'Recording' started by TyT41, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. TyT41

    TyT41 Member

    I have about $200-$250 to spend on recording equipment. I would just be having fun with my own music and would be recording an acoustic guitar, mandolin, ukulele, and possibly an electric guitar. Since I know virtually nothing about recording, I have looked into different "starter packages" to help me get started.
    I think I have it narrowed down to two packages:
    Phonic Firefly 302 Firewire Recording Package | GuitarCenter
    TASCAM US144 Interface and 990/991 Mic Pack Bundle | GuitarCenter

    but I cannot decide which one is better or if I should go another route...

    I am a total newbie to recording and don't need a professional sound, but I would like to sound as good as possible.

    Any Help would be appreciated!
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Home Page:
    Hi and welcome!

    These are pretty basic packages you have referenced, but they will give you a feel for what's involved in the art of recording.

    A few points about these two packages:

    Although both interface boxes have headphone outputs, neither package appears to include the actual headphones. You will need these if you are considering "tracking", i.e. recording further tracks while listening to previously-recorded tracks on headphones. You would need "closed-back" headphones rather than "open-back" to minimize sound leakage into the microphone.

    The Phonic interface is FireWire and the Tascam one is USB. All modern computers have USB ports, but for the Phonic bundle, you would have to check that your computer has a FireWire connector, prefereably utilising a TI FireWire chip on the motherboard. If not, you can get plug-in cards that give you a FireWire connection, and you can choose one that has the TI chipset.

    The Tascam package has two microphones but no loudspeakers. You need some type of monitor loudspeakers (as opposed to hi-fi speakers) for making decisions during your mixing stage. Having two mics is an advantage for recording vocals and acoustic instruments. This can be done with a single mic, but not usefully at the same time.

    The Phonic package does not seem to have a "DI" input for connecting an electric guitar or the pickups from an acoustic guitar. You would need a separate "DI box" for converting pickup signals to microphone signals if you wanted to record the direct signals from guitar pickups. Maybe you aim to record the acoustic output of a guitar amplifier.

    I hope that helps. Good luck!
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Actually I would recommend the TA-SCAM unit. Though it's really not my favorite. It does however have 2 XLR microphone inputs. Unless you really dig monaural (we've had stereo since the mid-1930s), I wouldn't waste my time with a device that had a single microphone input. I won't settle for less than two. And you shouldn't either. You'll find it extremely inadequate, the first time you want to record anything in stereo. You want at least two XLR inputs, if not eight? With eight, you get more than just eggroll, LOL. You'll get the ability to track an entire band all at once! And you know that's going to happen. So if you save up your paper route money and ask your parents for a raise on your weekly allowance, you might want to consider one of the PreSonus units? For around $500, you'll have eight excellent microphone inputs that are also combo. 1/4 inch instrument and line level inputs. There is almost nothing you cannot accomplish with one of those multi-track computer audio interface devices. But then there is almost nothing you can accomplish with a single microphone input, unless you would like to move to 1931? While I'm an engineer from the 70s, I really don't want to go back that far myself either. I'll stick with the 70s. Maybe the 80s? Certainly not the 90s or the new millennia. Because all the manufacturing today is based upon profit margin. It's not based upon trying to develop and deliver a fine piece of audio hardware with no holds barred. People just want cheap, cheap, cheap, and that's the sound you get. So you can have stupid cheap sound, or you can have great, not so cheap sound.

    Of course the $500, eight track simultaneous input devices will still require a bevy of microphones, DI boxes, headphones, amplifiers, speakers for monitoring and such. Total cost? Under $1000. This is also because you get what you pay for. And that's entry-level stuff is perfectly and 100% adequate. You know neither the 36 input, Neve console from the 1970s. Like I have. But I frequently find that I don't want any less than 4 simultaneous XLR inputs, and generally more than that, up to 24 simultaneous inputs. Sometimes as many as 48 or more. But one doesn't need anything like that for personal home recording, when it only you. Then all you really need is 3 simultaneous XLR inputs. Stereo microphones on the guitar and one for vocal. Either way, this is not a cheap hobby to get into. It's a money pit, if it's anything at all today. It's always been a money pit. I've spent over $150,000, and I don't record myself. Instead I record entire bands, all at once. Even utilizing up to 12-16 microphones or more for even symphonic recordings/operatic recordings. Because only two microphones in those applications, while it might be nice, is just amateur hour. Sometimes, that's all you need. But really it's not enough for a true professional recording. It may be the main pair that we use, but we also utilize numerous highlight microphones on those softer instruments.

    Look into something that has at least 4 XLR inputs. Don't worry about the specifications as all of this entry-level equipment is all about the same. It only changes when you start spending $600 per microphone preamp and over $1000 for your analog to digital converter such as a nice Apogee, RME, and even M-Audio, which ain't bad.

    Because I generally utilize top shelf superior API & Neve microphone preamps, I don't need audio interfaces with XLR inputs. I can get away for a lot less money by purchasing devices that are line level inputs only. And if you get one of those eight channel FireWire devices, utilize those preamps to their fullest before you start purchasing other boutique outboard preamps. You may find those more than adequate? I do. As some of those units actually do have quite good, transformer less, class A microphone preamps. And I can live with that even though I prefer classic old-school transformer coupled input microphone preamps. Mackie's Onyx units are also quite good, sounding. So this is called learning the ropes.

    And now I can hang myself! Gulp! Cough, choke, choke. Maybe not?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  4. MEGADRIVE Jeroi

    MEGADRIVE Jeroi Active Member

    Xenyx mixer + shure sm68 condenser at 170$ is good all around condenser mic both for vocals on stage and home studio. Also there is youtube videos of using sm68 for acustic guitars and violins with very nice sound. You get both for about over 200$ and you have good home studio.

    In November is coming to sale xenyx gx1002 which retails about 90$ would be good investment as it has compression, klark technics effects and usb on board with very cheap price tag. How ever those packages are like crazy prices, monitor speakers plus interface plus condenser omg can't believe that they ask only 250$ for that kind of setup. Go for one of those surely and remember you can try other mics later if you ever find those ones not sounding nice.
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    while i remain disappointed w/ the digimax 8 (noisy/uninspriational), i think Presonus offers some great sound -for-your-buck quality. otherwise i stick w/ the same ol shure, tascam, mackie. Ain't nobody's neve, but i'm not even privilaged enough to use neve hardware stuff, just plug-insso far. 57/58 v.s any other low cost mic all the way.
    On the low budget i look for compatibly, cuz they all sound so similar. you couldn't piss yourself off more than to buy an interface that is incompatible, i did a few years ago, and it was terrible, all around. The previously mentioned companies make good stuff that works. If your song writing/arrangements are good, you can easily make a good recording.
  6. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Hey TY, since I'm the master of getting good stuff for really cheap I will try to save you some money. As far as kits go, you usually get junk. Don't be afraid to do some research for the specific items that you have to have. We will assume you have a computer since you want an interface, so all you really need are Interface, Mic (and xlr cord), and headphones. A desktop mic stand would be great, but I've laid mics on pillows before so whatever works. The interface is very important and getting one that stinks or has latency (delay) will just be frustrating and lead to bad timing on your recordings. M-audio, presonus, and focusrite all have both usb and firewire interfaces for less than 200 brand new. I've used all three and presonus was probably my favorite for pc, but read a couple of reviews the usb 2x2 costs 149 from most stores. Whatever you get make sure it has 48v phantom power so you can use condensor microphones. As far as mics go, I like ebay because I get great stuff for next to nothing. Dynamic mics are good all round and a sm-57 or sm-58 in mint shape will only cost about 60 bucks on ebay. That mxl 990/991 kit is really a poor microphone choice (I still have them but they sound so bad I still haven't found a use for them). Contrarily the B1 mic from studio projects or the cad e100 I got from ebay both sound awesome and were less than 100 bucks. If you gave me a crappy old pc, the usb 2x2 from presonus and a used sm-57, I could start laying clean tracks immediately for around 200$. First the ideas then comes the expensive equipment. Condensor mics are great but are really sensitive to external sounds in a room and require that 48volt phantom power. Dynamic mics like the Shure sm 57/58 are good at just picking up your voice, or instrument which is why they are used in live applications as well. You will never get rid of your 57 or 58, they will always serve a purpose even if you have more expensive mics. Ebay works if you follow three rules 1)know what you want before you go on the site 2) Figure out the max you are willing to pay for something (that get's you a great deal) 3) wait till the bid is down to about 10 or less seconds and pop in your max bid. Don't ever start bidding early, you just allow idiots to start a bid war with you. Obviously always know what something costs new and if you aren't getting it at around 60-70 percent of the new price then why trust some loser on ebay when you can get it new with free shipping from an online or local store. Good luck, and don't forget to do research and ask lot's of questions. How you mic your instruments is really important as well!
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Pacific NW
    There are SO many used interfaces and mics on craigslist or ebay these days. As was said, do your research. Dont spend your money on a big box store's bundle when you can buy used and get twice the product for the dollar. Avoid LIKE THE PLAGUE any cheap condenser mics. You cannot go wrong with the Shure SM57/58. And if you pay $50-60 for it today, in 20 years it will still be selling for that price plus the inflation. And it will still be working. You want a mic at this stage that has low self-noise, is not quite as sensitive to outside noises since you probably dont have a well-treated room and you want an interface that has at least two channels of xlr as well as 1/4" in puts in case you ever want to record a keyboard or a bass direct or even a guitar direct. You'll also want to find a software program that is easy to use and definitive in its results. One that has a decent amount of processing and one that has a low-latency feature. Look up the term latency as it applies to recording. You do NOT want that in your phones as you track. Get decent phones. Close back as has been mentioned. A couple of cables. A stand or two.Booms work best even if you're sitting down. Agian, used is so available. People upgrading from THEIR beginner rigs, people who THOUGHT they wanted to record and found it tedious and hard to understand, open box sales, demo units....the list of bargains is endless, just dont settle for the new catalog offerings. You'll be paying more than they are worth.
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    hmmm... m-audio fastrack, reaper, akg 240's, and a 57 used (get one w. the foam windscreen, or buy one for 3 bucks. that's about $250 total, and just fine.

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