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Biohazard

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Hey guys, as far as I am aware, ther are no other threads to do with this as much as I would like so I thought i'd start a new one. Sorry in advance if there is already these questions answered elsewhere.

Ok I am wanting to record some tracks with my guitar. Also pu tthe bass down (either using my guitar as bass or borrowing one and drums with drum machine). I was originally thinking of an 8 track along the lines of Boss-864. But then I thought I would consider PC recording.

I have come accross two systems so far:

M-Audio Delta 66 (without software included though)

Steinberg System Cubase System 4 (includes Cubase software)

I was wanting people's opinions on each of these products and also any other products I should be considering that are within the same sort of budget area s the two above. The Steinberg system looks good and was recommended by a guitar shop here in the UK that I emailed. But thought i'd ask for the advice of people on this forum before making any decisions.

Thanks guys.

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The most important thing is to figure out what you are truly qualified to record.

I have no idea what your experience is in this area, so I'm posting this as generically as possible. If a person doesn't know much about setting up mics, then buying something that has enough inputs so they can record mulitple drum mics at once is a waste. Ditto for people who don't have the right environment for recording with mics.

However, it's basically impossible to find a less expensive solution; the Delta 66 gives you 4 balanced Ins for less than $200... but there are a lot of options if you want more flexibility... like the ability to set up 6-8 drum mics, which is what we normally run.

Personally, I prefer a small mixer or controller. My choices range from using the Yamaha MG124 mixer with M-Audio's Audiophile 2496 pci-card, all the way up to the Tascam FW1884 controller. This type of setup gives you more line/mic inputs and more monitor/headphone outputs, but they also push up the cost... like 100-1000 dollars more.

As for software, Cubase and Sonar are running pretty close right now; Cubase might have slightly better algorhythms, but Sonar has better upgrade pricing. Another idea would be Adobe Audition; it doesn't have all of the MIDI stuff that the others have, but it offers multi-track recording/mixing, and some of the best editing/processing tools on the market... far better than anything Steinberg or Cakewalk have put out.

D~s

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Ok, if it helps i'm not experienced at any of this. But very willing to learn. I also do not want to go much over the price of the Steinberg system i nentioned in terms of price. Anyone else got any input on this?

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You might want to take a look at USB interfaces - they're portable, since any USB computer can use them, and the prices have started coming down a bit. It's incredible what you can do with a USB soundcard and a good laptop, especially using a band's PA mixer (the aux sends work great for this) for live recordings. Just my $.02 :D

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i know this doesnt really have anything to do with this, but i have a protools mbox and its sweet. Im taking a course in school for about 300 that gets me certified. The course itself is probably $2000 but me and my fellow classmates only have to pay for the books. pretty sweet eh.

btw

the mbox is around 400 i think but i got a discount on it because my school is a certified protools training facility and we buy them in bulk for training and stuff. I would totally reccomend the mbox if you have the money, for protools is what the big companies use.

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You might want to take a look at USB interfaces

USB works good on a Mac, but I know several people who said that recording multiple tracks simultaneously on PCs (with USB gear) didn't work very well. PCs do much better with Firewire.

I would totally reccomend the mbox if you have the money, for protools is what the big companies use.

I don't recommend Pro Tools to people who just want to record at home because the Digidesign hardware and software is fairly proprietary. And, even though the M-Box is put out by Digidesign, comparing it to the professional version of Pro Tools is like comparing Cubase to Nuendo (which are both put out by Stienberg).

Ok, if it helps i'm not experienced at any of this. But very willing to learn. I also do not want to go much over the price of the Steinberg system i nentioned in terms of price. Anyone else got any input on this?

Yeah, talk to my friends at Studio Central; they're respectful, helpful, and knowledgeable. Some of them may have even better options than I threw at you. They also have a lot of great articles and FAQs. And check out the thread on Inexpensive Software and Demos.

D~s

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USB works good on a Mac, but I know several people who said that recording multiple tracks simultaneously on PCs (with USB gear) didn't work very well. PCs do much better with Firewire.

I hadn't heard that, that's interesting. Do you know specifically what USB products have been causing problems, and what the problems were? I only ask because a friend of mine is using an M-Audio USB Quattro as his portable interface with his laptop, and I'd like to give him a heads up if he can expect problems down the line. It's been working fine for him thus far, but I'd like to let him know what to watch for, so it doesn't fail on him in the field.

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Do you know specifically what USB products have been causing problems, and what the problems were?

It's not just the audio interface; it could also be the PC, or a combination of the two.

If your friend is recording 4 seperate tracks simultaneously using a USB device and a laptop, and he's not having any drop-outs, then he's lucky. PCs are usually set up so the USB shares an IRQ with other devices, which simply doesn't work very well for digital audio.

D~s

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I can't see myself using more than two tracks simeltaniously. As I said i'm only going to record guitar, then bass and use drumm machine for drum tracks. So I won't need simeltanious tracks. What firewire stuff is there in the price range of the Steinberg Cubase System 4 as that is a MIDI system? Thanks for anymore advice and i'll check out that forum, it looks really good.

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A few things from my personal perspective:

1. Host-- you can't get any easier than Raw Materials' Tracktion which is distributed by Mackie.

2. Hardware-- for 2 inputs simultaneously, look no further than the Audiophile 2496 or the Emu 0404. Both are basic cards with similar functionality. The Emu boasts on-chip effects that range from poor to very good, but it's less mature (drivers, user base, support) than the Audiophile.

3. Hardware revisited-- A USB interface, as mentioned, will likely only do up to 2 tracks at a time without hiccupping. The benefit is that the device is its OWN 'breakout box', and you can use it on a laptop or 2nd computer if you have such things. More and more companies are moving to USB 2.0 or Firewire, which will handle more tracks. If you're still looking at USB solutions, check out Mackie's Spike, which comes with on-board effects AND the Tracktion software package.

4. Get something with MIDI In, even if you don't end up using your drum machine-- if you get into the home recording thing, you'll eventually want a hardware controller for programming various parts and controlling various settings.

5. Forget about the drum machine. There are plenty of freeware plug-ins that will do better for you than any hardware drum machine out there. After I moved to the PC, I sold off my drum machine.

6. Speaking of freeware plug-ins, you'll want to start checking out KvR for help with your sequencer, as well as to check out free and commercial plug-ins. Be warned: free plug-ins are an unhealthy addiction. It's like someone saying, "Here, have a crate full of free stompboxes", and then you have so much that you don't know what to do with it all. Stick to the basics, or you'll never get any music done. :D

7. External hardware-- if you get the EMU or the Audiophile, you should get a small mixer to go with it. If you're absolutely, 100% positive that you'll only be doing 2-4 inputs at a time (with the Audiophile and EMU, you're limited to 2 analog anyhow), you can't go wrong with the Behringer UB802, which is cheap as chips and does a good job.

9. Remember that your signal is only as good as your weakest link. There's no point spending a tonne of cash on one component if the others are crap. Better to buy everything of a similar price/quality range. The best sequencer in the world with the most expensive plug-ins won't save your vocal track recorded with a Radio Shack mic, unless that's the sound you're going for in the first place.

Condensed, here's what I'd recommend as a home studio for a beginner, and it's biased because it's what I use myself. Be warned, though, there's not THAT much room to grow, so try to have a clear vision of what you truly need. I already knew that I wouldn't be growing much beyond this, so I bought with confidence:

1. Sofware: Tracktion, plus commercial plug-ins as you need them

2. Soundcard: Audiophile 2496 or EMU 0404. Tascam US-122 is good for USB

3. MIDI controller: whatever you can get your hands on. I use a Yamaha keyboard that can be found at Radio Shack/Tandy, but it's limited. If you already have such a beast, you'll save $$

4. Other hardware: small mixer with phantom power, possibly a hardware amp sim (depending on your amp situation), and possibly outboard compressor

5. Microphones: Studio Projects B1 is a good budget condenser microphone, and you can't go wrong with at least one Shure SM57 (PG57 is their budget version)

6. PC: Anything 1.5 Ghz or more will get you started, 512 MB RAM is a good foundation, though some say 1 Gig these days-- and dual hard drives if possible... I did it fine with only one hard drive, though.

Now, I know that sounds like a lot, but all told (I assume you already have the PC), you're only looking at $400 CDN (about what... $300 US?) to get a basic setup going on.

The one thing I didn't include because I'm still deficient in this department (and therefore have no recommendations) is a way to monitor your mixes. Either studio headphones or a decent set of 'nearfield monitors' (speakers, not video monitors!) is pretty essential to get any of your recordings sounding good. To be honest with you, I'm using a pair of $40 Sony headphones and my PC Speakers, and many people tell me my mixes are well balanced and sound good... so, you know... do what you gotta do. B)

Greg

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I have M-Audio's Audiophile 2496 PCI card on my DAW; it's a great sound card! It only has left/right analog ins/outs (RCA jacks) but it sounds great. It also has SPDIF (digital format) ins/outs, plus MIDI ins/outs. I bought mine when they first came out, for $140. Now they're down to about $90.

Be careful with the Behringer mixers; the cheapest models have cheesy mic-pres, and they're all prone to RFI. If you park a Behringer mixer too close to one of those fat CRT video monitors (for your computer) you'll pick up a ton of buzz. The UB802 is the lowest model I would buy.

Here's a link to a song I recorded primarily with my DAW, just so you can get an idea of what can be done at home. The drums are computer generated, using Sonar. (The guitar stabs in the second verse and guitar effects in the bridge were recorded at my best friend's house using a Strat, a Line6 Pod, and Pro Tools.)

Iron Horse - MP3

Iron Horse - Windows Media file

(Windows Media files are higher quality than MP3s, but load just as fast.)

D~s

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Thats funny I bought Cubase System 04...i too was in the same position u are right now wondering how the hell am i gonna get some good quality recordings on my computer. Cubase System 04 is great man...I still don't know everything about Cubase as its a pretty expansive program but the EDIT VSTi's you get with it are worth the EDIT price of the software. Trust me man...buy a EDIT midi keyboard like I did and you won't regret it. Cubase has some really good recording functions too such as mixing your recording. You can even take different takes and cut them up at differents sections to get that perfect take...Its a really good recording environment...i mean it can be a lil intimidating when you first use it but once you discover how much possibilities there are where you can take your music there really is no turning back...i hope this helps if you have any questions i'll be glad to answer...btw be warned Cubase takes up alot of your CPU power...it has frozen up on me in the past or i've had audio dropouts cause i have a measly 128 MB of RAM...I really should upgrade and put more in but im lazy...other than that I had to upgrade to Windows XP cause Cubase wouldn't work with my previous operating system, Windows 98 SE.

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Wow, GibsonSG86 thanks for that. good to hear from someone who actually has the software. Do you do simeltaneous track recordings on it? Does the USB stuff give you latency problems? I may alos send you a pm to talk about this system outside of a forum thread.

Greg P - UNBELIEVABLE!!! What am amazing reply, thanks so much, you've given me a wealth of information. I have a few questions for you though (and to anyone else who feels they would like to make a contribution):

I cant promise I won't use more than 2 simeltaneoulsy in the future so I would maybe want to get something with more than two inputs for safeness.

Ok if USB has these latency problems, which of the other two options are the better one: Firewire or PCI?

Software drum machine is what I meant anyway, not a hardware one :D.

Ok, advice on the plug-ins taken into account.

Will I need a mixer definately? (i guess this also depends on the other options other than hardware already mentioned, i.e. question one and two).

Thanks for anymore information Greg P and anyone else.

And thanks once again Greg P, I'm overwhelmed by how much you wrote.

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Dude EDIT getting a mixer man. I'd hate to see you pelt out hard earned cash for something you don't need. Be smart like me and use the onboard mixer that comes with Cubase its definitely very versatile for all your mixing needs and you can set up different presets with it so it helps alot when organizing your mix into just drum tracks, vocals, or guitar. If you really want the tactile control of using real knobs and sliders get a MIDI keyboard M-Audio makes great ones and you won't break the bank. I bought a M-Audio Radium 49 key velocity sensitive keyboard with EDIT 8 knobs and 8 sliders. Its awesome dude...you can literally automate any effect you can get your hands on all you need to do is link the controls to whatever parameter it is you want to automate and voila...instant automation! One of the other guys mentioned drum machines and how pointless they are and I couldn't agree any further. With Cubase you get the LM-7 and LM-9 drum plug-ins which have pretty decent drums and effects. If you want your drums to sound even better go with the Drumkit from Hell. I still haven't bought that thing yet but **** do those drums sound realistic...you can listen to samples at their website...Here. For 100 dollars you can't go wrong. When you compare that to alot of the VSTi plugins out there which range anywhere from 200-400 dollars it really is a bargain. I hope this helps. O btw Thomas Haake of Meshuggah who I feel is a very underrated drummer when it comes to Metal did all the drum samples from his Sonor Kit.

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I'm not usually one to be overtly contrary with forum members... but Gibson's posts were riddled with misconceptions, poor information, and clearly unresearched and untested information.

Primarily, the things that he quoted as being "features" are actually inherent in virtually ANY computer recording program... and the plug-ins bundled with Cubase SL (which is a cut-down but still feature-rich version of the program) are not renowned for their wonderful feature sets.

Additionally, it will depend on your final purchase whether or not to get a mixer. What Gibson failed to grasp is that you don't actually use it for mixing duties-- he's right that the mixing facilities of the software are more flexible and useful. The hardware mixer is more of a front-end for your instruments, providing phantom power for condenser microphones, allowing you to use multiple input jacks for a 2-input soundcard (even though you'll be limited to 2 at a time unless you're recording live and don't plan to edit much) and also serving as a 'breakout box' or miniature patch-bay for your cables rather than farting around at the back of your computer. If you get a PCI soundcard, a mixer will be your good friend. :D Dugz Ink is right about the Behringers, though-- if you plan on getting very serious with your recordings, eventually you will discover that the mic preamps aren't clean enough. For my home hobbyist purposes, they're fine, but they're certainly not pro (and are barely semi-pro) standard.

Back to your questions, though--

- Between PCI and Firewire, I'd still have to go with PCI. It's such a stable and battle-tested interface that you'll be very unlikely to run into driver or hardware incompatibilities. Some of those Firewire boxes look beautiful, though, so I don't think you could go wrong by going that route, either.

- You seem to like the look of the Steinberg System|4, so I need to reiterate-- it is a very capable and rich application. You WILL find it useful, you WILL understand it fairly quickly (depending on natural aptitude and previous experiences), and you WILL find yourself with a package that is excellent value for the money (ie. if you're worried about being ripped off, don't be. The package IS a bargain)

- By going with the system I was suggesting, you are getting a whole bunch of components, and if they need support and/or servicing (mine haven't yet), you're going to multiple vendors; the System|4 is all part of one tech support phone call. That might be a selling point.

- The plug-ins for Cubase SL aren't great... to some people they are very dated, indeed; however, they ARE still there and ARE still usable! With Tracktion, you'll have to track down some freeware replacements or buy a separate commercial plug-in. (for example, the now-cheap but industry standard DR-008 drum machine)

On the other side, though--

- Software like Tracktion is easier and has a more active and supportive user base who can help out (see the Raw Materials forum at kvr-vst.com)

- You'll have more control over your components

- You'll save money

It depends on what your priorities are. In fact, since this thread started, I was reminded of another piece of software that I highly recommend you have a look at: Magix Music Maker 2005 is more 'standard' in its interface, has a long enough pedigree to be stable, and the bundled fx/instruments are as good or better than Cubase's, and yet the whole thing only costs $59.99 (software only, all hardware must still be considered). It's an astonishing deal, and should give you another alternative while you're looking around.

Greg

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Some people like Traktion... which is now owned by Mackie, and can be purchased as a mixer/software package.

However, I'm not crazy about the interface. For an inexpensive sequencer that looks like Sonar, and has some of the features of Sonar, but only costs $75, I would recommend n-Track Studio.

Personally, I started with Cakewalk Home Studio, then upgraded to Sonar. I'm going to upgrade to Sonar 4, which will be packaged with even more plug-ins than I already have... and these aren't semi-good freebies. Sonar is serious software.

I also own Adobe Audition, which is one of THE best tools for editing and processing audio. And I want the latest upgrade that adds the ability to burn commercial quality CDs from inside the program's sequencer. (It's biggest rival is Wavelab, but Soundforge 7 is also a contender.)

As for PCI versus Firewire... well, there was a question about USB, so I started recommending Firewire as a better alternative to USB.

I have M-Audio's Audiophile 2496 PCI card. It's a great card. But I also have two unbalanced lines (with RCA connectors) running from my mixer to my computer... which is an enviroment full of potential RFI. I picked my placement of wires carefully, so mine works fine and sounds great. You can buy it now for under $100, so it's hard to beat.

Firewire doesn't have the problem of RFI, because the D/A conversion is handled in the external interface. It also puts less of a load on the computer's chip than a PCI card. When I step up tp a Firewire interface, it will be something like the Tascam 1884, a mixer and software controller combination, that sends seperate and/or combined tracks to the computer as digital audio. But that rig costs 10 times more than I paid for my Audiophile sound card.

D~s

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Some people like Traktion... which is now owned by Mackie, and can be purchased as a mixer/software package.

However, I'm not crazy about the interface. For an inexpensive sequencer that looks like Sonar, and has some of the features of Sonar, but only costs $75, I would recommend n-Track Studio.

Tracktion isn't own by Mackie at all. It is still the property and product of one man, Jules Storer, and his company Raw Material Software, who also make a very interesting library of C++ classes (or whatever they're called... I'm not a programmer) called JUCE. Tracktion IS, however, distributed by Mackie.

The interface is definitely a matter of taste, but in most cases that comes down to visual appeal rather than functionality. Once you give Tracktion a decent shot (ie. one day, not necessarily a whole week or anything silly), the ease of use soon quells any doubts that stem from the unconventional look of it.

As for n-Track, it is easily the buggiest and most unstable piece of recording software ever compiled. For a more traditional and yet inexpensive option, I stick by the Magix option.

Firewire is definitely a great technology, and I hadn't even thought of the interference-killing benefit, which is a great selling point. That Tascam looks awesome, but I don't see myself ever owning one. :D

Greg

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As for n-Track, it is easily the buggiest and most unstable piece of recording software ever compiled.

That's the first complaint I've heard about it, and I didn't have any problems.

On the other hand, I've fielded numerous questions about Magix problems. That's why I haven't recommended it yet... but I'll get a copy, and test it, based on your review.

Tracktion isn't own by Mackie at all.

I stand corrected; Traktion is just exclusively distributed by Mackie.

But I still didn't like the GUI, even after a week of testing.

D~s

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Thanks guys. I appreciate all the comments and advice. It's such a hard thing to decide on. So software wise we seem to have:

Tracktion

Sonar 4

Adobe Audition

Cubase (from the Steinberg package)

What about hardware?

Ideally I would like something with 4 I/O. Just in case I ever needed more. I'm not sure what the best hardware is, wether it is Steinberg, M-Audio or others. Any more advice would be appreciated. I won't be recording on a professional leve. More as a hobby.

Thanks.

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What about hardware?

That's the most commonly asked question, and the hardest to answer.

You could go with an inexpensive mixer (Behringer UB1204: $140) and a good sound card (Audiophile 2496: $100). That will allow you to plug in numerous instruments and mics, but you would be relegated to mixing those down to two tracks before recording them on the computer.

Or you could go with a hybrid unit (Delta 66: $190) that uses an out-board box that's hooked to a PCI card. Now you have 4 Ins and 4 Outs, but no way to control the levels on the out-board box; you have to control it elsewhere (like your guitar's volume control) to keep from distorting.

Either way, you can record one or two instruments at a time, then adjust your output/mix levels in the software's multi-track GUI (Graphic User Interface... the stuff on the screen) and then turn it into a decent demo.

And there are numerous other options, so it's hard to answer that question.

D~s

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Hmmm, ok. Well I don't know whether I definatly need the mixer as the software will have a mixer type interface surely where i can control levels from won't it?

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Yep. Traktion, n-Tracks, Magix, Home Studio, Sonar, Cubase, Logic, Audition...

Either way, you can record one or two instruments at a time, then adjust your output/mix levels in the software's multi-track GUI (Graphic User Interface... the stuff on the screen) and then turn it into a decent demo.

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