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A comprehensive Guide for getting into Home Recording

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  • A comprehensive Guide for getting into Home Recording

    This thread is for all those of you who are interested in entering the world of recording. The minute you open the door, you start to feel very small, because the sheer amount of information is simply overwhelming; the options endless! Here is my humble attempt to make sense out of all of it and lay it out for you.

    So, most of you would love to just buy a set of mics and plug them into your computers, hit record, play and boom(!) there's a recording. Unfortunately it's not really that simple! Many of you are also unknowingly carrying many misconceptions and illusions around with you, and I will try to address them.

    Audio recording has come a long way, and even in just the last 10 years we have seen huge changes. Never before has recording been so accessible to the average person! It used to be something that could only be done in professional studios, for a whole lot of cash. Now it seems like everyone and their dog can record at home and pop their stuff onto the internet and youtube to share with others. It's very exciting!

    I will be adding to this thread as I go, it's going to be a lot of researching and writing!

    Signal Chain <- VERY IMPORTANT!!

    Before you get all excited about gear, it's important to understand what a signal chain is and how it works. If you don't, you will be greatly confused if you go out and buy a bunch of gear and try to make it work. Please read post #1 of (and more if you'd like too - great thread) PDF forum member Butnutz's "How Recording Works" Thread here:

    The only thing I'd like to expand on is preamps. A microphone turns the physical sound waves of a source's sound intro an electric signal. This signal though is very low-level. A preamp is the next device in the signal chain (after the cable to connect them of course), because it is needed to boost this weak signal. A preamp boosts the signal to line level, which describes a signal strength which many audio devices like mixers are designed to work with.

    Table of Contents

    #1 Introduction and link to "How Recording Works" thread for detailed explanation of the Signal Chain
    #2 Handheld and Portable Field Recorders
    #3 USB Microphones and XLR to USB Converters
    #4 Introduction to Audio Recording Interfaces and Dual Channel Interfaces
    #5 Interface Mixers
    #7 Multi-Tracking Interfaces, Core Card Interfaces and USB VS Firewire
    #23 DAWs
    Last edited by thismercifulfate; 11-18-2011, 02:52 PM.

  • #2
    Handheld and Portable Field Recorders

    Now, before getting to how to connect a mic to your computer, I will introduce a couple of options that are more simple, because they don't directly or rather immidiately involve your computer that should not be ignored!

    First there are handheld field recorders. I don't know if portable cassette tape recorders are still around, but that's an example of one. They are (or used to) be very popular with journalists because they were pretty decent at capturing speech. They do not fare too well with music though. Not too long ago, we saw the emergence of the digital field recorder. These are really nifty little devices. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors, and can be very affordable. They run on batteries, and have built-in microphones, and record digitally onto SD cards or harddiscs. The more simple ones have a pair of built-in condenser microphones, which may or may not be adjustable, and record onto an SD-card. They start around $99 (or less if you don't mind buying refurbished). You turn it on, record, connect the device itself or the SD card to your computer, transfer the file(s) and there is your recording!

    An entry-level example is the Tascam DR-05. It costs $99. It has two built in omni-directional mics, comes with a 2GB microSD card and runs on two AA batteries. It can record in different formats, the highest being 24-bit 96KHz Broadcast WAV, which is higher than DVD quality! You can also choose to record as an MP3 (32-320kbps) if you need to save space on the SD card or if you're simply going to record a speech/conference or upload it on the web later on. It's got a headphone jack and even small built-in speakers. It can be mounted onto a tripod. And it's about the size of a cell phone. It has a ton of other features, but feel free to google it yourself. My point is... $99 gets you all that! I find that in itself amazing.

    The next step up (although there are of course many options that are price and feature-wise inbetween this one and the last) is a beefier device like the Zoom H4n. It's got all the same features as the Tascam DR-05 and more! It has two adjustable built-in cardioid condenser mics in an XY configuration (you can adjust the angle from a 90-120 degree spread). On the bottom of the device, there are two XLR inputs with preamps. With those, you can expand your recording possibilities with two external microphones. The preamps can send phantom power, so you can even use very nice studio mics. All 4 channels will be recorded independantly, so you can pop them onto your computer later and mix them with software. This device can also act as a USB interface, so instead of just using it as a field recorder, you can connect it directly to your computer or to a DSLR camera for HD filming. The H4n comes bundled with Cubase LE 4, which is a decent recording software. This device costs $299, well worth the extra features!

    At the top of this category are portable harddisc field recorders. It's a considerable step up in price, and probably not the right option for those getting into home recording, but I shall include them nonetheless. I will use the (Roland) Edirol R4 as my example, because not too long ago I used one extensively for a location recording gig. It costs around $995. The R4 has a compartment for 8 AA batteries, but also an AC adapter. It has a 40GB harddisc, 4 high quality preamps with XLR/phone combo jacks. These preamps have a lot of gain, and are very clean, so you can get high quality soft/critical recordings of orchestras or other chamber/acoustic music. The R4 records up to 24bit/96kHz WAV audio. It's older brother the R44 will even go to 24bit/192kHz! It has two built-in omni mics and also small (crappy) speakers for playback. There is a slot for compact flash, and a USB 2.0 port for direct connection to a computer for upload. It may not seem like a big step up from the h4n, considering the big price difference. But it's a very nice device. You get to use up to 4 mics of your choice, the preamps are considerably better than the ones on the handheld devices, and it's built like a tank. The GUI is very intuitive and user-friendly. Here's a snippet of that gig I mentioned where I used one of these: and some pictures:

    An honorable mention is the Zoom Q3, which is a combination of a camcorder and a handheld field recorder. A great solution and time-saver if you want to upload vids with decent audio quality to youtube. With one device recording both things, you skip the process of syncing the audio and video. I believe several PDF members use these.

    Last edited by thismercifulfate; 09-24-2011, 05:57 PM.


    • #3
      USB Microphones

      There are actually mics that you an plug in directly to your computer via USB. The mics themselves are their own audio interfaces. These mics come in many shapes and sizes, and offer affordable solutions for basic home recording. My first recording-related purchase was an MXL 007 stereo USB microphone. I used it to record my classical voice lessons, and also to make some simple recordings. They are plug and play; your computer will recognize the mic as an external audio device, and you can record using a DAW or even something simple like the stock windows sound recorder program that's in the acessories folder of my Windows operating system.

      The Blue Snowflake is very affordable at $59. It can stand alone or you can attach it to your laptop or your flat screen monitor. It can record up to 44.1kHz, 16-bit WAV audio, which is CD quality. It's a condenser mic with a directional cardioid pickup pattern and has a full frequency response - from 35Hz-20kHz. It probably won't blow you away, but it's a big departure from your average built-in laptop, webcam, headset or desktop microphone.

      The Audio Technica AT2020 USB is a USB version of their popular AT2020 condenser microphone. At $100 it costs a little more than the regular version. The AT2020 is one of the finest mics in its price range. It's got a very clear sound and it can handle loud volumes. Other companies like Shure and Samson also offer USB versions of some of their studio mics. The AT2020 USB also records up to CD-quality audio and comes with a little desktop tripod.

      The MXL USB.009 mic is an all-out USB microphone. It features a 1 inch large-diaphragm condenser capsule and can record up to 24-bit 96kHz WAV audio. You can plug your headphones right into the mic (remember, it is its own audio interface) so you can monitor your recordings with no latency, as opposed to doing so with your computer. Switches on the mic control the gain and can blend the mic channel with playback audio. Cost: $399.

      XLR to USB Converters

      If you already have a mic, or you don't want to be stuck with just a USB mic, you can purcase of of these cool little guys. They basically turn any mic instantly into a USB microphone.

      Here is a fantastic review of 4 popular models with sound samples from one of my favorite websites:


      • #4
        Audio Recording Interfaces

        You've been reading that word a lot, so I guess this would be a good point to explain what an interface is. An audio interface, as far as your computer is concerned, is an external sound card. It has audio inputs, such as a microphone preamp and outputs which connect to other audio devices or to headphones or speakers. The modern day recording 'rid' is based around a computer, and to get the sound onto your computer, an interface is necessary. All computers have a sound card of some sort, but these are low quality units that were not designed with any kind of sophisticated audio recording in mind, so for us they are useless and a dedicated audio interface must come into play.

        There are hundreds of interfaces out there. Most commonly they connect to a computer via USB or Firewire. There are also PCI and PCI Express-based interfaces for desktop computers. The most simple interfaces can record one channel via USB, while others can record up to 30 via firewire! There are a number of things to consider when choosing an audio interface. First off your budget, number of channels you'd like to be able to record simultaneously, your monitoring system, your computer and operating system and your applications.

        Regarding budget, you have to get real. $500 is not going to get you a rig with the ability to multi-track a drum set covered in mics. Not even close! You might get an interface with 8 channels for that much, but you have to factor in the cost of everything, including mics, cables, stands, monitors/headphones, software, etc...

        Before I go further, I'm going to pause here and talk about two recording methods: Stereo Recording and Multi-Track Recording. Stereo Recording is recording two tracks: A left and right channel, which reflects most audio playback systems.

        This doesn't necessarily mean you are simply recording with two mics, it means that what your rig is recording onto your computer is a single stereo track. You could be recording a 5-piece band with 16 mics/channels, but if you're recording in stereo, all you're getting is a summation of those 16 tracks. This means that in your recording software, you won't be able to manipulate any of those channels independantly after you recorded them. If the rack tom mic wasn't turned up loud enough, or you want to mute the guitars, you can't do that, because all you have is a stereo track of everything. It's up to you to get your levels and balance and tone right before you hit record. If you are only using two mics or lines, then you will have individual control over each channel after recording. If you want that sort of control for a whole band, you'd have to record one instrument at a time, using one or two mics/lines each time.

        Not so with multi-tracking! With multi-tracking, you are recording more than 2 channels simultaneously and independantly. Each mic or line that you are recording with will get it's own track in your software, which you can edit and process after the fact. So you can record that band live - meaning everyone playing together at once, and have access to each channel after you record. This gives you a lot of control over a recording, and opens up many mixing options.

        But more on that later, I shall first focus on dual-channel interfaces.

        Dual-channel Interfaces

        For instance, at home I have a first generation MBox. It is a dual-channel USB interface with two built-in preamps. It also has two S/PDIF connectors if one wishes to bypass the less-than-superb built-in Focusrite preamps with nicer extrernal preamps.

        So with that interface, no matter what I do, I can only record two mono or one stereo track at a time. Again, I could have a gigantic console with 100 channels and be recording a symphony orchestra with 100 mics, but with that interface all I can do is connect the main outs of the mixer to the preamps of the MBox and record a stereo track of the mixer is sending me. The mixing - setting volume levels, panning, EQ'ing, putting effects etc.. of individual channels must be done prior to recording on the console.

        So let's expand on this. When I started out with my little Mbox, I purchased a pair of Karma K-10 microphones and nothing more. I plugged them straight into the preamps of the Mbox and hit record and that way I was recording in stereo. I recorded my drums at home like this, or me playing on one of the drum sets at college. Here's a recording of me using just the two Karma mics into the Mbox with no processing:

        I had never dreamed it would turn out that good. But it goes to show that you don't need a ton of mics or really fancy gear. I liked this recording so much I didn't even mess with the audio – so there is no EQ and no effects. The reverb you hear is natural – I recorded myself in the college choir room, which has a very tall ceiling and is very reverberant and sounds fantastic.

        I also did some live choir recordings with this small rig that turned out quite nicely. Having such little gear was a great start for me, because it made me focus on learning how to position my mics different to get different sounds. This was crucial at home for instance, because my living room is not a very nice sounding room and with its low-cielings and parallel walls created a lot of standing waves, which can cause ugly colorations and phase issues when recording a source with multiple mics. I could alter the sound of the recordings in protools using plug ins, like EQ'ing or adding reverb. The art of this type of stereo recording bears down on your ability to make smart desicions before you hit record, and what you get with what you get and your options to mess with the recording afterward are fairly limited.

        Eventually though, I wanted to expand my rig, but I didn't have a lot of money to spend. After shopping around, I purchased a used Behringer Xenyx 1202 mixer, a used AKG D112 bass mic for my kick drum and an Audix i5 dynamic mic for my snare drum and extra stands and cables for these. The mixer has
        12 channels, but only 4 microphone preamps. But that's all I needed for my 4 mics. So whereas before I ran my K-10 mics straight into my interface, I now ran all 4 mics into the mixer, and then ran the Main Outputs of the mixer into the interface. This changes a number of things. First off I obviously have expanded my rig to be able to use more than 4 mics. The mic signals are being boested by the mixer's preamps. Now, the Mbox preamps are somewhat decent, but the mixer's preamps are worse. They are more noisy, and don't have as much gain, making them worse performers and less flexible. Even my then untrained ears could tell a drop in sound quality right away, but I was ok with it because I could now get a fuller sound from my kit with the new mics.

        The main outs of the mixer went into my Mbox's preamp, but I now had to switch the input mode to line in. Since the preamps of the mixer already boosted the mic signals to line level, that's what was going out of the mixer, so I didn't need the mbox preamps to boost. When set to line level, set the gain to unity, so it was not being boosted or trimmed. So before getting the mixer and extra mics, the two channels in my software represented the signal coming from each of two mics which were plugged into the interface. Now, the two channels in my DAW represent the left and the right signals from the main outs of the mixer. The mixer takes the 4 signals from the 4 mics that are plugged into it and sums them into a single stereo channel before it leaves the board. This means I no longer have control over individual mics on my computer, only on the overall sound. But now I have that control on the mixer. Each channel has a strip with gain and attenuation options, EQ controls, pan knob and output volume. The gain/trim knob controls how much you're boosting the mic signal. When this knob is all the way down, it's not off! When recording loud sources like drums, sometimes the signal coming from the mic is strong enough and needs no additional boosting and you can leave the gain all the way down. You must monitor the levels on the LED indication lights of your mixer. A red light will flash on a channel that is overloading at the gain stage. This means you need to trim the signal from the mic. If it's overloading with the trim all the way down, many mixers have a pad button, which when engaged will attenuate the signal by a fixed amount, which varies from board to board. Often this will be the case with condenser mics being used as drum overheads, since they put out a very 'hot' signal. Those mics also need phantom power.

        Confused yet? Please watch this fantastic video from forum member ws6freak which covers all this and more:
        Last edited by thismercifulfate; 09-24-2011, 04:43 PM.


        • #5
          Interface Mixers

          This brings up the subject of mixer interfaces. A lot of folks wanting to start recording at home think that they need a mixer, so you can use a ton of mics! But a regular analog or even digital mixer will not connect properly to your computer! Like I mentioned in my post about interfaces, your computer's sound card SUCKS, and you will get horrible results if you try to hook up the main outs of a regular mixer to the little mic jack on your computer or laptop. A regular mixer is designed to either connect to a PA system for live applications, or in a studio setting to either an ADAT harddisc recorder, a reel-to-reel tape recorder or if you're going into a computer you still need a dedicated audio interface!

          Recently though, we have seen the emergence of mixer interfaces, which is the marriage of an analog mixing board and an audio interface, like the one in the video you [better have!] just watched from my previous post. They can do everything that a regular mixer does, but they can also send the audio to your computer. As if that's not confusing enough, there are four kinds of these board that you will run into:

          1. USB Mixers that only send a stereo signal to your computer, even if they have many input channels or even more than 2 mic preamps.

          2. USB Mixers that can multi-track record – they send individual channels to your computer, not the sum/main outs. So you can record as many tracks as the mixer as mic pres and line ins.

          3. Firewire Mixers that send a stereo signal, that may or may not have many inputs and more than 2 XLR channels.

          4. Firewire Mixer that multitrack and send all their individual channels to your DAW.

          If you get one of these things, that's all you need to buy to record onto your computer, instead of an interface or an interface and an analog mixer like I did. This is a very convenient solution! But you need to do a lot of research when shopping for these, because it's never immediately apparent which of the 4 types of interface board you're dealing with. The cheaper ones tend to be be types 1 and 3, and more pricey ones are usually types 2 and 4, 4 being the most expensive kind, because they can handle the most channels. Most of these cheaper boards have not so good preamps, can be noisy, and the EQ and built-in effects if there are any are nothing to rave about. The nicer ones will have better preamps and nicer EQ's and effects. But I maintain that an equally priced interface will always have nicer preamps. So one of these may be the right solution for you.

          The most affordable models will be identical to most companies budget offerings (like that Behringer mixer I had) with the integration of a stereo USB interface. An example of a type 1 mixer is the Behringer Xenyx 1204FX. It has 4 mic preamps and 8 line ins, but it will only send everything summed together via USB to your computer. It costs around $180.

          An example of a type 4 mixer is the Allen & Heath ZED R-16 Firewire Recording Mixer. It's a fully-functional 16-channel Analog board with 16 mic preamps/lines. With Firewire you can either recording sending each individual track to your computer or you can choose to just record the master buss into a single stereo channel. And it can even be expanded to record up to 26 channels at once because it has several ADAT optical sockets. It's not cheap though - it costs $1999.

          And of course there are a million models inbetween these two and ones even bigger and more expensive than the ZED R16, but I'll leave it up to you to research this if you want to know more.

          So far we've only been dealing with Analog boards. There are also digital boards. I won't get into detail, because I don't like them and they won't be of big interest to my target audience here, which is people interested in getting into home recording! Digital mixers are very complicated, as you're often dealing with a graphics interface on a small screen with millions of menus, submenus etc.. which is a stark contrast to an analog board on which everything is always visible, tangible and accessible all at the same time. For instance, if you want to EQ channel 5 of your board, on an analog board you just find a knob and turn it. With a digital mixer, you go into a series of menus to find that specific EQ. If you're going to do that all day, imagine the difference in time spent doing such little tasks?

          That being said, while like analog boards, digital board at first didn't have USB or Firewire capabilities, they now of coarse do as well, and there are some very powerful digital interface mixers on the market. An example is the PreSonus StudioLive 24. It has 24 mic preamps, and its Firewire interface can handle a whopping 32 inputs and 24 output (playback) channels. Like many digital mixers, you have a plethora of signal processing options available for every single channel – everything from EQ's, reverbs, delays, gates, compressors etc...

          The cost? $3299.99! Moving on...


          • #6
            You are the man.


            • #7
              Multi-Tracking Interfaces

              Back to 'regular' interfaces. I have gone over dual-channel interfaces and now you understand their capabilities, expansion options and limitations. The next step up are interfaces with more than 2 recording channels. These will allow you, if you are using more than 2 mics/instrument lines to maintain individual control of each track after you have recorded them onto your computer. This way you can initially concern yourself with mic selection, positioning before tracking, and worry about mixing (panning, EQ, effects etc..) afterwards. This is how most recording is done today, and what most people seek.

              I recorded a band once at one of the guitarists house, and he has a Digidesign 003 Firewire interface. It has 4 built-in preamps, 4-line ins, ADAT litepipe in and a S/PDIF in. *{If you don't know what those mean, please go back to post #1 of this thread, clink on the link to Butnutz's very excellent thread, where he describes each one of these protocols.}* I used that interface, but brought some of my own gear to expand the input channels on that interface. For instance I brought with me an M-Audio DMP3 dual-channel preamp and a JoeMeek VC3 channel strip. These are both external preamps - a channel strip is a preamp with built-in extra features. In the case of the VC3, it has a compressor and an enhancer, but other channel strips can have EQ's, gates, DeEssers, limiters, etc... I connect these devices to the 003 interface via balanced TRS cables to one of the 4 line-ins, and that way I increased the number of channels I can record simultaneously by 3. I also brought with me my PreSonus Digimax FS 8-channel preamp. This unit has 8 preamps built into it. For each channel, it has a balanced analog output (1/4") and a balanced digital output (because this particular unit has its own converters and word clock) and also an ADAT litepipe out. I connect it via tosslink cable to the Digi 003's ADAT in and that way I added 8 more channels that I can record with at the same time, for a total of 15 now. I still have one line in free, which I could connect another external preamp to. And as if that wasn't enough already, the 003 has a S/PDIF connector, which can carry two digital signals from an external preamp that has S/PDIF outputs. So fully expanded, the Digi 003 firewire interface can be used to multi-track record up to 18 channels at the same time! But as you can see, it's a lot more complicated and obviously more expensive.

              The most built-in preamps you'll ever find on any interface is 8, which is more than enough channels to mic a full drum set without going crazy. Many multi-tracking interfaces will give you options to expand like the Digi 003, but you can always get started with the 4 or 8 built-in ones at first. Now, as far as Preamps go, the built-in ones on most interfaces, even ones that cost over $1000 aren't anything to write home about. They get the job done, and are certainly useful and welcome when starting out but there's nothing interesting about them. Just like different mics can add 'color' to the sound of whatever it is recording, there are many 'flavors' of preamps. The nice thing about expanding an interface like I described is that you're not stuck with only the stock preamps, and you can not only expand the number of preamps your rig has, but also add different sonic options that way. For instance, the M-Audio DMP3 is considered to be quite a 'clean' sounding preamp; it's very transparent and doesn't add anything to the sound of the source. It also has very clean gain and a LOT of it (~70db!), so it will do a better job than the stock preamps of quietly boosting the signal of mics that send especially weak signals, like ribbon and dynamic mics, or any mic that is being used to capture a very quiet source. The JoeMeek VC3 on the other hand has a lot of character. The built-in enhancer section can color the sound heavily with harmonic distortion.

              Core Card Interfaces

              I shall briefly intreoduce a third kind of interface is for desktop computers, which is not very popular. These are PCI based interfaces – therefore only useful or possible for the matter on desktop computers. They have serial-type ports on them and breakout cables that go from serial on one end to your analog inputs, outputs, midi and sometimes more:

              Somewhat related, but a whole different animal: The top-of-the-line Avid ProTools interfaces, which run ProTools HD version utilize PCI-Express core cards with extremely powerful dedicated audio processors. Unlike on other systems, where your computers CPU is handling all the audio applications of your software, these specialized processors handle all the audio tasks, taking the burden off your computer so it only has to focus on mundane tasks like controlling your peripherals and displaying images on your monitors.

              But alas I digress... even the most basic ProTools HD system is very expensive, and not what you should be looking at for basic home recording! Back to reality!

              USB vs. Firewire

              USB can only handle so many channels of professional-quality audio (44.1kHz/16-bit and up) at once, so most smaller interfaces have USB and larger ones have Firewire. We all know that USB connections are ubiquitous on all computers. Now, if your computer is based on a Windows OS system, it might not have Firewire. Firewire was invented by Apple and somewhat rivals USB. So naturally, most Macintosh computers and laptops have Firewire 400 and/or 800 ports built in already. This is not true for Windows-based machines - here they are not common at all. Now, USB interfaces with up to 8 channels do exist. For instance the M-Audio FastTrack Ultra has 4 channels and the Ultra 8R even has 8.

              But as you can see, unlike the Digi 003, these have no channel expansion options. I think 8 simultaneous channels might be the most that USB can reliably handle (don't quote me on this though!). So if you don't want to stop at 8 channels right now, you'll have to go for a Firewire solution. If you have a Mac, you're probably set.

              Let's assume you have a windows-based laptop with no built-in firewire ports. If your laptop has an ExpressCard expansion port, you can add Firewire connectivity to your laptop by purchasing and installing an ExpressCard Firewire adapter like this one:

              They typically cost under $50, and I recommend reading lots of reviews on them and also searching audio forums like gearslutz for information on ones that are recommended for audio recording. If your windows laptop has neither firewire or ExpressCard expansion, then you will have to use a different computer, stick to USB interfaces or get a new computer.

              If you have a desktop windows machine, you can purchase a PCI firewire expansion card, that you install onto your computer's mainboard.

              Almost all interfaces are both PC and Mac compatible, but always check! Apogee some years ago discontinued support for Windows, so their Interfaces are Mac-only. I don't know of any PC only interfaces.

              An interfaces form can also be an important consideration. Smaller interfaces are standalone, and can be as small as an iPod or even a USB stick, and larger ones are usually rack-mountable. Do you want an interface that is portable, so you can have it wherever you take your laptop, or will it stay at home? Are you going to be mounting the interface onto a rack? Consider these, and check out the form and the layout of each interface. You could end up with a rack-mounted multi-channel interface that you put into your rack amongst other rack-mounter gear, and then realize the phantom power switches are in the back of the unit! You'll undoubtedly LOVE reaching back for those every time you record! Also, notice some interfaces have the mic preamps on the front panel and others in the back. One will suit your needs much better than the other. Also, some interfaces, like the RME Fireface have digital controls. That means you can search for the phantom power switch forever on the unit and you'll never find it! You have to use a dedicated program on your computer to turn phantom power on and off, and other controls. Many single-rack space interfaces will have this, because they've fit so much into such small space and there simply isn't space on the front and back panels for so many buttons and knobs. Happy researching!

              Last edited by thismercifulfate; 09-24-2011, 05:19 PM.


              • #8
                Quick note on USB vs. Firewire: The primary difference is that USB requires CPU power for conflict resolution, whereas Firewire has it's own hardware designed to handle this. This fact alone is why in recording 8 tracks simultaneously at or above 44.1KHz 16-Bit is better to be done on Firewire. USB 3.0 will be a different story, but this is the situation with USB 2.0.

                For data speed, I just checked, USB 2.0 is faster than Firewire 400, but slower than Firewire 800; however, there are not a lot of devices that currently use Firewire 800 that I have seen in this market.
                Last edited by Gord The Drummer; 09-26-2011, 08:59 AM.

                Need some Microphone info?


                • #9
                  Apple came up with the thunderbolt standard too, this interface is promising.
                  My YouTube channel - old school Metal & Progressive.

                  Drum Gear:
                  Paiste, Tama, Oriollo, Trick, Gibraltar, Rhythm Tech, Aquarian, LP, Vater, Turkish Kurak.

                  Recording/Mixing Gear:
                  Mackie 1640i, Senheiser, Beyerdynamic, Audio Technica, Shure, Apple, Logic, Ultimate Ears.


                  • #10
                    I'm waiting to see which one companies pick up. I think the tech is still too new for either of them to be found in the market currently (just like USB 2.0 when it was first released and firewire 800). The fastest interfaces still don't use either, but they usually require more power being that they can multitrack as many channels as you have available.

                    Need some Microphone info?


                    • #11
                      Thanks for such an awesome thread. I just have one question…can you give an example of a type 2 mixer interface? I’m looking on musiciansfriend, but I’m having a difficult time deciphering it from the descriptions. Is it possible for a USB mixer to do both....send each mic to its own channel as well as mix them all into one stereo track? I just did a recording using the latter method, and I'm wondering if we can use the same mixer to record to separate channels.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Son of Shub-Niggurath View Post
                        Thanks for such an awesome thread. I just have one question…can you give an example of a type 2 mixer interface? I’m looking on musiciansfriend, but I’m having a difficult time deciphering it from the descriptions. Is it possible for a USB mixer to do both....send each mic to its own channel as well as mix them all into one stereo track? I just did a recording using the latter method, and I'm wondering if we can use the same mixer to record to separate channels.
                        Hey you're welcome. It's still incomplete, but I'll be adding more when I have time.

                        Admittedly there aren't that many type 2 mixers as there are type 4 mixers, if you want to buy something for multi-track recording. The Roland M-16DX is an example, the Zoom R16 also and the Alesis multimix 8 usb 2.0 (there's also a USB 1.1 version of it that doesn't multi-track!).

                        Like I mentioned, you really have to do research on individual products or you'll end up with a USB mixer that only sends a stereo sum. All the literature on retail websites makes it completely unclear. Heck, even the manufacturer's own literature doesn't make it clear at all!


                        • #13
                          Thanks again. So, it seems like a mixer interface does the job and more of a dual channel interface. What would be a situation that would call for a dual channel interface to be used?


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Son of Shub-Niggurath View Post
                            Thanks again. So, it seems like a mixer interface does the job and more of a dual channel interface. What would be a situation that would call for a dual channel interface to be used?
                            Well, in some cases yes. In general the cheaper USB and FW mixers will only record a stereo sum, and if you shell out more they can send individual channels.

                            Dual channel interfaces are fine for getting an overall mix quickly onto your computer for upload or whatever. Sometimes you don't have time to mix, or the mix doesn't have to be amazing (not to say you can't get a good sound this way). Or maybe you're recording at home and you don't have the space or enough mics/cables etc... to track more than one instrument at a time, so you can record using that approach. It's also useful for overdubbing parts, you don't need to use a huge rig, or pay lots to use one, for simple quick purposes. Sometimes if you're just mixing a project, you just need a simple little interface to hook up your computer to your monitors with, and a small 2-channel interface is a lot more portable than a big one.

                            That being said, many recordings are done as stereo recordings. Sometimes that's the way you want to record something. You'd be amazed at the sound you can capture with just two mics. You can record a choir, orchestra, a band, drums... anything really with just a stereo pair of mics, and get a full and balanced sound. Recording is an art, like music. Sometimes a kick, snare and some hats is all you need to get the job done, or sometimes you get a 10-piece kit with 20 cymbals you know...

                            If you want to record a live show, it's easy to throw up a stereo mic or a pair of condenser mics in a 'sweet spot' and record everything that way, and you're really just capturing what it's like to be there, instead of worrying about lots of mics and levels like you would in a studio. Think about it.. mics are like ears. We only have two ears, and everything we hear is like listening to a stereo recording through a 9"/17cm spaced pair of omni mics with a head inbetween them. That is actually called binaural recording, and you can read more about it in the mic questions thread in my signature. Anyway, recording with just two carefully selected and positioned mics will give you the most realistic sound, and you can really put the listener in the room, and it's a wonderful way to record, and it's just as valid, valuable and in no way inferiour to multi-track recording with complex mixing.


                            • #15
                              Don't forget also that when only needing a stereo input sometimes you have a board/set of preamps that blow away anything that can come in an interface. If you get the mix right via the board, there is no need to send individual channels, just a stereo pair.

                              This isn't a really realistic thing in home recordings, as I've seen better preamps in interfaces than cheap boards... but you can sometimes luck out on the used market and pick up a really nice sounding board with top notch EQ's and Preamps (that are quiet), then you run your stereo bus into your 2 channel interface and you are good to go. A lot of it comes down to what options you have available, and the skill of the person recording it.

                              Need some Microphone info?