I need your help to make a good decision - re: laptop card

Discussion in 'Computing' started by grotty, Jan 31, 2008.

  1. grotty

    grotty Guest

    All of this stuff ties my head in knots. I don't know very much about recording. I've made a few tracks in the past. The problem is that its sooooo motherloving frustrating. I end up wanting to hang myself with my guitar lead. I start to get in the zone and start laying down tracks and then there's issues with noise and really bad sound and I can't figure out how to make the software work and ... (insert string of expletives here.)

    My aim: To plug my guitar straight into an external soundcard. To get a nice clear, clean sound without a whole heap of background noise. To program drum tracks via piano roll, and to record some vocals. That's pretty much it. If I can get real time effects processing that would be a big bonus. Basically I just need to be able to compose and write without having to think and troubleshoot.

    Having said that - I've spent the last 12 hours trawling the net for info. I have a few hundred bucks to spend.

    Question 1 - USB 2.0 or Firewire? I have an ASUS F3S Series notebook. I'm assuming the little 4 pin plug on the side that says 1394 or something is firewire.

    Question 2 - From what I can tell - the following cards are halfway decent. I don't want to spend much more than 250US...

    Presonus Firebox

    M-Audio Fast Track Pro

    E-MU 0404

    Tascam US - 144 or 122L (what is digital input for anyway?)

    Can you please give me some pros and cons of these keeping in mind that I just want to keep it simple and I only really need 2 simultaneous tracks recording at any time. Any other suggestions for cards that are well supported and relatively trouble free are also welcome. If someone wants to back one of these on the proviso that if it ends up being a pain in the backside I can come and shove it up theirs, then by all means, do so. :)

    I'll most likely be using cubase sx3.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this. You could save me a hell of a lot of misery by replying.

    Finally, thanks for the great forum. It's helped heaps.
  2. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    First of all, please avoid double posting. We can see the newest posts on the right hand side of the browser.

    Regarding Firewire or USB, the firewire port on your laptop will not power most firewire interfaces so, if you go that route, make sure that the unit has or can accept external power.

    Regarding software, all interfaces come with some sort of free software. Some come with Cubase LE which is the most robust of the lot. Remember: "Winners don't use Crack"

    Regarding interfaces, look for something that has an instrument level input unless of course you have a decent amp and can turn it up.

    The Presonus Firebox is nice and comes with a decent software package. If I had to pick, that would be my choice.
  3. grotty

    grotty Guest

    My net dropped out when i clicked submit. Didn't realise I could remove the double post.

    Thanks heaps hueseph for the info on external power and instrument level inputs.

    RE: Firebox.

    The reviews on sweetwater and elsewhere seem really positive. Except ...

    "I'm very disappointed with my FireBox. The gain on the mic preamps is waaaay too low. I found out after I bought it that it only has 35dB of gain on the microphone preamps."

    Does that mean that plugging my guitar straight into it is going to be too quiet? Is the lack of gain an issue with these?

    Other than that it looks like I should go with it.

    Any other opinions or advice?
  4. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Well, he's talking about the mic preamp not the instrument input. So, no it doesn't mean your guitar level will be too low.

    According to Presonus it has 45dB of gain. It's not huge but I wouldn't consider it weak. I would be more concerned about the quality of the signal rather than the amount of gain. There are things you can do to increase the gain. You can't however "polish a turd" so to speak.
  5. grotty

    grotty Guest

    Alright, cheers Huseph. May men envy you and women want you.
  6. basilbowman

    basilbowman Guest

    I've been playing around with an M-audio 410 for the past couple of days and it's been pretty good to me. I picked it up on CL for like 125, the guy needed rent money, but it's been pretty solid. And if'n you're looking for a cheap, solid DAW, I'm a big fan of REAPER, which is only$40 for a home license, and it's got a full featured demo for a month. You can do the same thing with the M-audio you can with the Firepod, and it's got more sends on the other side, if you decide to do anything fancier later on down the road. Just a mention, if you happen to see one on sale or something. Cheers,


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