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westhemann

recording equipment

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For those on a budget, you could do worse than the "Pro Gear" series from Shure. Strange how it's called "Pro Gear" but it's their budget line....

Anyhow, the PG57 and PG58 are only missing a wee bit of the responsiveness of their big brothers, so if you're mostly just doing it for your own pleasure and mucking about, they'll sort you out fairly well.

Greg

I bought one of those last week. It was $40 with free cable and stand. I haven't had a chance to test it yet.

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I'm too late!

PCs just plain suck for digital audio compared to a Mac, mainly because you're stuck with Windows OS (and run the risk of wearing out the reset button). Mac OS X (I have 10.3) is hands-down the most stable OS on any computer ever. I believe that new Macs now ship with GarageBand (or you can get it for ~$50, even cheaper on edu discount), which is dead simple to use with a USB or Firewire digital audio interface. GarageBand was a direct result of Apple's purchase of Emagic last year.

If you're ever wanting to record multiple tracks simultaneously (i.e. in a live situation), on Macs the Firewire path is direct to the CPU. On PCs the Firewire path shares the same databus as all the USB stuff, resulting in a throughput bottleneck that Macs just don't have.

Finally...Emagic's Logic 6 Pro is now available through the Apple Store web site. It sells for $999 but the edu discount brings it down to $299 :D

For which you get:

A**-kicking audio & MIDI recording (unlimited # of tracks)

24 bit/96k capability

a bunch of really good effects (EQs, compressors, delays, sub-bass, you name it)

a bunch of really good software synths (they used to come $eparately)

mastering and burn-to-CD or MP3 capability

more features than the mere mortal can comprehend in a lifetime

For mastering I don't even use regular monitors. I take my Mac (mine's a laptop), route the output of my audio interface right into my car stereo, and just master in my car. If it then sounds good on the home stereo too (which is does ~80% of the time, the low end is the trickiest), you're done. Burn it!

More expensive, but well worth it.

I don't indend to flame or anything; however, a few points to ease Wes's mind...

1. My Windows never crashes. My MAC computers at school crash all the time. It used to be the case that MAC stability was much higher, but as Windows got better and MacOS (or whatever label they give it now... OSX Jaguar or what have you) got a series of rushed releases, the differences in stability are negligible. Especially if you do the right thing and power down your computer every now and then. Mac users love talking about how their computer has been 'up' for a year continuously or whatever. Bah, who cares. I shut my computer off when I'm done using it.

2. Garageband is fine for what it is-- a smallish piece of software so that people new to recording can crank out some songs. In fact, I'd venture to say that it's brilliant for what it is, and is fairly desirable. However, it's by no means full-featured, and in fact in many ways is severely crippled. Spend the money on Tracktion and don't look back. ;-) I certainly wouldn't get a Mac because of Garageband, that's for sure.

3. Your Firewire logic is flawed. Besides that, unless you're planning on sharing resources between a desktop and a laptop, why bother? PCI is cheaper and speedier. Besides that, it's a moot point as Wes already has a PCI solution.

4. Logic is the polar opposite to Garageband, which I guess means that Apple has all their bases covered except the ground in the middle. What I mean is that Logic is a great piece of software, and a true professional solution-- however it has (debatably, of course! each person is different!) the least intuitive of all user interfaces. Which is negligible when compared to something like Cubase (if you ask me, it's so similar a learning curve that it's only worth debating for the pedants) but is HUGE when compared to Garageband, Tracktion, or Cakewalk Plasma / Guitar Tracks. I wouldn't pay $20 to have my creativity crippled by Logic Audio, never mind $299. If you gave me a liscenced copy for free, in fact, I still wouldn't use it. Don't get me wrong-- there is NO arguing that Logic Audio is a fantastic pro solution, and something that many true home-recording-philes (yay, new word!) would love to own, too-- and the bundled plugins and synths ARE spectacular!! But its learning curve is steep, and the extra power would go unused by many home recording musicians.

My verdict-- based on Wes's original requirements (hey, we're not talking about what the 'best' equipment would be, simply about what the best solution would be for his criteria!) is that he has made exactly the right choice.

Sorry for the thread hijack! B)

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PCs just plain suck for digital audio compared to a Mac

For mastering I don't even use regular monitors. I take my Mac (mine's a laptop), route the output of my audio interface right into my car stereo, and just master in my car.

No intention of flaming here, but somebody who masters in a car really shouldn't tell us what paltform we should use. :D

I don't wanna get involved into a mac/pc war. I like both mac's and pc's. There's still this magic about mac's being better for digital audio recording.

Well, maybe they are, but who cares? The point is that you can make a very stable audio system on a PC based system.

My system is built around Steinberg Nuendo, Houston controller and Aardvark cards and I haven't had a single crash in the last two years.

This includes the recording of a full album.

It pretty much comes down on how you configure your pc and your software. Some excellent info can be found on this on the web.

I recorded 16 tracks simultaneous without any problems.

As far as Emagic Logic.. I wouldn't recommend it to people who start out with recording. It has such a weird interface and a hard to understand gain structure.

It's so different from "normal" XP applications that I'd definately not recommend it to starters. It does sound great though.

You gotta keep in mind though that having your games, internet, administration and audio recording on one PC with a soundblaster is gonna get you in trouble.

A better solution would be a standalone PC for audio recording (now don't start yelling at me, I use an ancient AMD 1333 with 512Mb pc that can be bought used really cheap), or a multi bootable harddisk.

One partition dedicated to recording and disabling everything you don't need, will get you in the ballpark.

A good soundcard is manditory. A soundblaster will NOT get you good results and a stable environment. I'd recommend the M-audio delta cards. They are cheap and work extremely well.

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a lot of bands test out their mixes in a car, as a lot of people won't be listening through expensive stereo equipment, the majority will be listening to the radio :D

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It's ok to test your mix in a car system after you've already mixed down, but I don't think I'd ever want to mixdown with such a system. Your frequency response is most definitely not gonna be anywhere near flat. So how can you tell exactly what your mixing down? Nearfield monitors is the cheapest route I'd go. As far as Mac vs. PC's go I wouldn't care to go into that simply because if you can't make a good CD using either one of these, then somethings wrong in the first place. I'd be way more concerned about how my music sounded on it. In which both PC's and Mac's can do excellent jobs on. For PC I prefer Nuendo myself. And for Mac you might as well be running Pro Tools to get the most out of it.

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a lot of bands test out their mixes in a car, as a lot of people won't be listening through expensive stereo equipment, the majority will be listening to the radio

testing, not mastering.. big difference

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yeah, now reading back i agree :D

damn lack of sleep stops brain from functioning..strangely just got back from the studio - it was hell B)

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Also known as GAS-- Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Quite a popular term over on the UK's Guitarist forums. :D

I agree that M-Audio makes some good gear for the buck. My card is their most basic, the Audiophile 24/96, and while it has some pretty serious limitations (only 2 ins and 2 outs unless you connect the optical), they're within my personal parameters. There's only ever me recording at one time, so I can record the mic'd signal AND a direct signal at the same time, which works out just fine.

Regarding tuning up your PC for audio use-- I totally agree that optimally you should get rid of all internet and non-music app related stuff. When I get a second computer, I'm hoping to really maximize my audio PC.

For those who use XP as their OS and want to tweak it for audio use, you should check out THIS link.

It's amazing what you can prune away once you know your OS and know what services you need (or otherwise).

Greg.

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Great Link! Thanks for that, Little Bit.

Another paid application that might be worth SOME people's money is Maxivista, which will allow you to use your laptop's (or any other computer on your network's) monitor as a second monitor. It's basically a virtual dual-monitor setup.

It's not as powerful as a true dual-monitor card with a proper monitor, but if you already own a laptop or have a second network computer nearby, it's an interesting solution.

I have to admit, you can usually get a used monitor for the same price, but if you don't have a second compatible video card or a dual-head card, you could end up saving money.

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No intention of flaming here, but somebody who masters in a car really shouldn't tell us what paltform we should use. B)

You haven't sat in my car... :D

Point is; if you can get it to sound good in your (my) car, and on the home stereo, then there's not much need to mess around any further.

This is mastering, not mixing; I've already got a good mix by this point.

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Mastering is even touchier than mixing. Nobody in their right mind should be MASTERING in a car or on a home stereo. Frankly, although I'm part of the 'trust your ears' school of thought for the most part, you CAN'T always trust your ears when there are such varieties in equipment.

I'd dread doing a proper master in the first place, and if I DID decide to try to do an amateur master, I'd not do it without a decent set of visual references such as a Spectral EQ analyzer and a timeline of the stereo levels.

Greg

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Fantastic Topic, I've learnt far too much in 5 minutes! thank you to everybody that has posted!

Greg, what software are you using, just what comes with the soundcard or something specific?

Recording wise, i think i'm not far off yourself, i don't want to record every instrument all together, i just want to record a full track of guitar, then pick up the bass and record that, get the singer to do her stuff, et viola! demo cd.

Basically i want a software 8 track and thats about it.

Despite the fact i have a computing degree, simple is most definately better... any recommendations?

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Appologies, i think i've just found the answer to my question from another post by you in another topic, Kristal looks like what i was imagining, as it's free it means i can try it out with no hassles.

marvelous!

Cheers!

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Just a quick little bit of info for those who have seen me plugging Tracktion around here: In the current issue of the UK's "Computer Music" magazine, there is a free version of Tracktion. I haven't gotten the issue yet because it hasn't come out in Canada, but I imagine it's only slightly less feature-rich than the full version. The idea is probably to get a wide audience for when Tracktion 2.0 comes out this year.

I couldn't recommend the program more, especially for those who don't like cluttered interfaces. I've found it to be an ideal platform for a recording guitarist, though a few people who make techno/dance/hip-hop may be missing out on a few features like MIDI time-clock synch. In any case, even the special CM edition is bound to be more feature-rich than Garage Band, and almost as easy to use for those intimidated by Cubase, Logic, or the like. (Not to dis Garage Band, which is an -excellent- piece of software in its own right)

If you go to a Chapters/Indigo or a book agent that sells foreign titles, it's fairly easily found in either Canada or the States for about twice the cost of a domestic magazine. It's also a good mag, and usually comes with some pretty good samples and loops, as well.

On top of Tracktion, every month it comes with a host of other 'free' stuff like a 303 bassline VST, a few drum machines, a sampler, and a different sequencer if Tracktion's not to your liking.

Anyhow, I risk sounding like a shill, but I only wanted to let you know so that you can consider giving Tracktion a shot. :D

Greg

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Not to sound "holier than thou" or anything, and I've used my share of "demo" software in the past--

But I would avoid file share as much as possible. If you're just a hobbyist, you can support independent plugin developers by buying the more budget-friendly (but still affordable!) alternatives.

Many users have jumped ship from the big sequencers to Tracktion for starters, and I have to admit that I'm biased toward this intuitive, powerful, and FUN piece of software.

A newcomer to the market is Podium, which is looking to become a legend in its own time if it stays on course.

Then there's the lesser known Energy XT which is simply the most flexible piece of sequencing software I've ever seen, and costs $39 US. It's a ridiculous price. Don't let the simple homepage fool you, this is a serious piece of work. And since it operates not only as a sequencer, but as either an effect or an instrument, you can still use it as a modular routing environment (that sounds more complicated than it really is... it's just a flexible way of plugging your stuff in... like taking a splitter and going to 2 different amps, only the amount of splitting and routing is unlimited) within your preferred host. I use EnergyXT within Tracktion and I have more power than I could ever hope for.

In terms of FX, there are lots of free and cheap options. In addition to the free Kjaerhus effects mentioned earlier in this thread are their reasonably-priced and yet AMAZING (many many positive reviews) Gold Series (new Golden plugin in development). If you haven't seen their free stuff, navigate to it from that page; it's called the Classic Series.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Just as a point of reference, my 80's rock tribute (and the earlier blues thing I did) were recorded entirely with only 2 pieces of commercial software: Tracktion, and Green Machine Amp II, a product that pays for itself. (But if it's still too expensive, the developer is working on a smaller version) I didn't even NEED to use the GMA II, because there are so many capable free distortions and FX around.

Anyhow, again, I don't want to preach-- I've used downloaded stuff before, and don't feel too badly when people used hacked versions of Windows or grab the occasional MP3 (for example), but I just wanted to remind everyone that there ARE alternatives.

Greg

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As far as Tracktion goes, the v2 is in production and will blow the socks off people; however, it will also cost more.

To be in control of your mix, there are still other options--

First off, any time you pick a plugin, you will get the same interface as any other application; for example, if you select your EQ plugin, it will come to the front of the screen and you can adjust it just like any other host.

As for the mixer, I don't like having one myself, but there are options such as the free TF Mixer (found at tracktionfaction.com), or you can easily set up EnergyXT as a mixer.

I'll keep posting help/links as I remember them, though. :D

Greg

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