Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Recording engineering discussions and questions. Also a great place to discuss software, plugins, and computer based recording/arranging.
abcxyz
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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by abcxyz » June 1st, 2010, 9:40 am

Hi boxboy,

Thanks for your inputs. I am now understanding this a bit.

So basically while using an audio interface, I will be able to record 2 channels separately. Eg. on one channel guitar can come and vocals on another. So later on using the sequencer I can tweak these channels wrt EQ, effects etc.

However, for a second lets also talk about the mixer route.

Now, supposingly I use the Behringer XENYX 1204 USB mixer - http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/1204USB.aspx

Image

Ok I won't be using this setup exactly, but, there would be 2/3 channels used sometimes simutaneously. So, as you can see in this image, the computer is getting data from the USB. Is this USB sending all these tracks information separately or just as a summed up stereo track?

Thanks for your time and patience with me...I do ask a whole bunch of questions...

abcxyz
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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by abcxyz » June 1st, 2010, 9:49 am

I also saw a thread in which Smokindog purchased this very same mixer - http://guitarnoise.com/forums/viewtopic ... 04#p390249

Hey Smokindog...if you are there, could you please share your experience with the USB recording through this mixer. Hopefully, that will clear all the doubts...

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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by Scrybe » June 1st, 2010, 5:24 pm

As boxboy pointed out earlier - how the mixer or interface sends info to your computer depends on the specific mixer or interface you use. I have no idea how many channels the Behringer you link to will send, but all mixers or interfaces with two or more signal inputs should be able to send the info as two separate stereo channels to your computer.

So, you record guitar on input 1, and vocals on input 2.

You get a stereo/mono track for the guitar in your software, and another stereo/mono track for your vocals.



On another note, I think it was also boxboy who said that your interface is your soundcard so the quality of the converters in your interface are very important to the overall sound quality you'll get on your recordings. The key thing to remember about recording is that* if you don't have quality going into the computer, nothing in the computer will make it quality. The really important factors here are having the best mic preamps you can afford, and the best converters you can afford. An interface or USB mixer will contain both of these, but the quality of each will differ between various mixers or interfaces in the same price range. Generally, for any given price point, you'll get better quality mic pres and converters in an interface than in a USB mixer, simply because mixers look cooler (so they "sell themselves" more easily and look more familiar) and have more "design features" (the faders and knobs).

As an example, I went with the ProFire 2626. I was choosing between that and the Apogee Duet. The 2626 allows 26 simultaneous inputs, while the Apogee Duet only allows two. But that wasn't my concern. Both of them were akcnowledged by professionals in the industry on a pretty unanimous basis as having the best mic pres for that price point, and they had 24-bit/192kHz sample rates, so the audio conversion was good. That's what narrowed my choice down to those two units. From there, I chose the Profire 2626 because it had more inputs, as well as the opportunity to expand further should I need it. So far, I've not needed all the inputs on it, but the Apogee only allowed two inputs, and I knew that I'd need more than that, so I went with the Profire 2626. To mix, I use the mixer in my software (most/all software for recording will include a mixer of some description). It would be easier to mix if I had a mixing desk to work on, but I don't miss it at all - to get a quality mixer, I would have been looking at spending at least double or triple what I paid for Profire.

Your key concerns when choosing a mixer/interface for home recording should be (in no order):
The quality of the mic preamps (you can buy separate preamps, but for a decent entry-level two channel pre, you're looking at around £300).
The quality of the converters.
How many inputs and outputs the device has, and the possibilities for expanding the number of input and outputs later.

I don't know of any beginners guides to specific software that I can recommend. I began learning how to record back in school, using their 4-track recorder, theiir 8-track desk, and then their Cubase software. From there, I owned my own 4-track at one stage and used Nuendo (also learned Nuendo, which is almost identical to Cubase but with extra features for post-production work) with a friend who owned it before I got my copy. I have since added Reason and Logic Pro. I'm new to both of these, but know enough about general recording processes and recording software to be able to figure most of it out by trial and error. MIDI is something I'm quite a newbie to - in school, the MIDI gear was already set up, so I just had to learn how to use it. I don't know how to tweak settings and things, and had to learn that bit from scratch when I got my MIDI keyboard (it was really simple though, just plug and play - the Axiom keyboard does let you programme various settings, but that's the bit I've yet to learn....wish I knew someone who was really good at MIDI to teach me). Oh, but I did happen across a website called http://www.boyinaband.com/ the other day - that guy seems to know quite a lot about MIDI and seems pretty helpful. He also studied computer-based music making at college, so it might be worth asking him about the best beginner's guide. Recording mags like Sound On Sound, Computer Music, and MusicTech do have tutorials in each issue for software like Reason, Ableton, Cubase, and Logic (those seem to be the most popular ones they cover), but not so much for Fruity Loops, or Sonar last time I checked. The tutorials will take a specific topic, like "how to use compression in Reason" and cover that in-depth. That's a great reference for when you want to try that sort of thing, but it's not pitched at all at the person who's only just bought the software for the first time. I'd suggest recording a few tracks, going through the whole process - recording, mixing, and mastering - just by following the manuals with your software. Do at least one track like this. Don't worry about the quality, the key thing is to just complete the process (that was the point of my first Audio Flash - see www.audioflasher.blogspot.com/ for more on that). Then, either do a new recording or go back to the original recording files from that track. This time, pick something.....using panning, for example. And mix it again, this time just focussing on that specific technique. Then, on you next track, pick something else, using reverb on tracks for example, and focus on that, but also pay attention to your panning. Rinse and repeat. A lot. Also, as you do more and more recordings, keep listening to professionally recorded music and other people's home recordings, but listen critically to how they sound. Learning to record well (and I don't claim to be at all professional with it yet) is just like learning to play the guitar - a slow process of learning one step at a time. But if you do it regularly, you'll be making decent records soon enough.

Oh, and for recording live instruments like guitar and vocals, a good topic to start learning with is mic placement. It's definitely worth checking the Sound on Sound website (www.soundonsound.com) as they post their magazine article on there a few months after they appear in print, so you can find some excellent tips on everything from setting up an indie label properly, to mic placement, to room design. Cracking resource, imo.

*There are some plug-ins by iZotope that are, frankly, awesome for improving recording quality. But you don't want to have to rely on them, or rely on having to buy them.
Ra Er Ga.

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Scrybe
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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by Scrybe » June 1st, 2010, 5:29 pm

Oh yeah, meant to add a massive +1 on the nod to Tweak's site, although some of the info on choosing gear is a bit outdated, imo. But the tutes and general info is spot on, fun read as well.

And in addition to advocating you dive in and make crappy recordings* and learn from there, I also strongly advocate that you complete each project and post it here and/or elsewhere and seek constructive feedback on it.

*(everyone who starts recording at home starts with crappy recordings - the only ones who don't are those who have had some relevant prior training or experience in audio, like working in a studio in some form, or working as a sound engineer in live gigs, and even most of those guys don't make serious quality straight out of the gate)
Ra Er Ga.

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abcxyz
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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by abcxyz » June 1st, 2010, 11:20 pm

Scrybe,

Can't thank you enough for your answers...They clear a lot. :)

I got it now I think. An audio interface such as Profire 2626 - http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ProFire2626 or any other audio interface like this one - http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FireStuMobile/, acts as a soundcard in itself.

So, when it will be connected to the computer via firewire or usb, the device will send as many channels/tracks to the sequencer as the no. of inputs it has.

That means that even my current laptop soundcard is kind of an audio interface. It has one in, one out (both 1/8") and plays midi. Of course, it is not sufficient for recordings (it does well for voice chat...lol).

But, if I am working with an interface, won't I need sufficient amount of memory (I have 3 gb ram currently - 32 bit Vista)? When all that mixing is being done IN the computer, I am sure that will require quite a bit of memory.

Also, any latency issues? Tweak's guide said that one advantage of going through the mixer route is that they don't face the latency problem faced by 'those mixerless dudes'...(see Rig 3 at http://www.tweakheadz.com/rigs.htm)

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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by Scrybe » June 1st, 2010, 11:43 pm

k, its easily so I'm keeping this one fairly short, but.....

RAM is useful. Have as much as you can fit in your computer. I have 4GB in mine and that works fine for now. Processor speeds are possibly more important tho.

But I wouldn't worry about it. The really taxing thing on your computer is if you want lots of virtual instruments (VSTs, AUs, and other things named worringly like STDs....). Basically (and apologies if I write this too basic...) - when you record a MIDI track into your computer, it is saved as a MIDI file. This isn't audio, it isn't sound of any type. It's a much smaller file than an audio file of identical length (takes up less storage space). The MIDI file is just a file giving note-on and note-off indications and other commands (velocity, note duration). The computer then reads this file on playback, and converts it to the sounds you hear. Virtual Instruments are apps within your software app that shape the sound of each note (so picking the "trumpet" setting on a VST gives the MIDI file a trumpet sound, while picking the "drum" setting will give it a drum sound.

A great advantage with this is that it's easy to manipulate. If I record an audio file and then decide I want to change the tempo or key, it can be a hassle. But with MIDI you can edit parts really eassily. The downside is it drains your CPU (your comp's system) to try to "play" lots of MIDI files at once (think of the MIDI file as a score and the computer is the performer). But you can "freeze" tracks (generally prevents you editing them temporarily and creates an audio file which is played in its place - its easy to switch between "frozen" and "unfrozen" settings) or, if you're happy with the take, you can bounce it to an audio track and use that. The general rule is to bounce all your MIDI tracks to individual audio files before you start mixing. I've run 30 MIDI files on my comp (not state of the art by today's standards at all - dual 2.0GHz processor) with FX on most of them and had lots of stalls because the computer couldn't handle it. My workaround was to freeze all the tracks after I'd done a good take. Then I bounced to audio for the mix and had no problems at all. The mix was actually the easiest part of the process. Its the realtime processing involved in playing back lots of MIDI files "live" that is the problem. Once you know how to freeze tracks and bounce to audio, life gets much simpler.

The latency issue is one area where I think Tweak's articles are a bit dated - for a start, any anologue-to-digital converter system can suffer latency issues, but they're way less of a problem today than 5-10 years ago even. You can also use workarounds to solve latency issues and computer stalls.

I lied about keeping it short. Not sure about coherent though. :roll:
Ra Er Ga.

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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by Scrybe » June 1st, 2010, 11:43 pm

early.

it is so early my typing ability is still asleep.
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abcxyz
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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by abcxyz » June 2nd, 2010, 1:06 am

I think I need to go through midi also. Well, I have that usb midi out keyboard and a sony hifi. Let me play with em for a while. I will post if something cool comes out...

Rahul

Scrybe: Are you on facebook or any kind of chat?

abcxyz
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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by abcxyz » June 3rd, 2010, 6:15 am

Ok, so I tried recording using a karaoke mic sitting in front of the hifi speaker, but all I got was a LOT of hiss :(

I have been reading reviews of the Lexicon Omega - http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/pr ... sku=245505 and turns out that I may get it in my country also - http://www.bajaao.com/lexicon-omega-pro ... -5390.html.

It has very positive reviews by some, although some have rated it negetively also. Anyone has experience with this interface?

I am now definitly in the favour of the mixerless and audio interface way. Thanks for your insights people!

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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by Scrybe » June 3rd, 2010, 6:54 am

I was surprised the site didn't say what the sample rates where so I googled it, and found this http://www.acousticfingerstyle.com/LexiconOmega.htm which says it has a max. rate of 96kHz. Ideally, you want a max rate of 192 for better quality. Just throwing that out there in case you're looking at several models.

I haven't used the interface myself, so I don't know about quality enough to recommend it or not.
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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by abcxyz » June 3rd, 2010, 7:14 am

Well the review you posted is very positive about the omega.

I think dogbite has a smaller version of this interface called lambda and he seems pretty happy with it.

I read about Omega and it sends 4 independent outputs via a USB cable (and I am looking for 2 only at this time). I think that will be a big advantage!

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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by Scrybe » June 3rd, 2010, 8:36 am

Yup, like I say, I was just throwing it out there. Lmaoo, I just dropped in cos I was browsing thomann.de for gear for future Audio Flash Experiments, and I looked up the M-Audio baby-brother for the ProFire 2626, may be in your price range and worth a serious consideration if you have a firewire port on your computer (if you only have USB ports, you wont be able to use it tho) - http://www.thomann.de/gb/maudio_profire_610.htm
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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by boxboy » June 3rd, 2010, 10:26 am

That looks like a great unit for your purposes, Rahul. Amazing what you can get for under 200USD these days.
A couple of people on the MF page were complaining about driver support. I'd just triple check that Lexicon have a good stable driver for your OS (and that their track record for software updates is solid).
Enjoy!
:)
Don

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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by abcxyz » June 3rd, 2010, 10:43 am

Hi boxboy,

I am pretty much set for the Lexicon Omega now. I was just reading its userguide and it actually gave an example of recording 4 separate tracks - 2 mics, guitar and keys into cubase le (which comes free with it) on 4 separate tracks. That is a real useful thing, I believe!

Btw, which audio interface are you using ?

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Re: Building a Home Studio for decent recordings

Post by boxboy » June 3rd, 2010, 11:04 am

I have an antique by today's standards. It's the original, entry level Tascam 122; I bought it used for about 180 bucks maybe 6 or 7 years ago (?).
It's on its last legs now, but it has never missed a day of service, taken horrible abuse (ie knocked on the floor umpteen times) and Tascam has been great at upgrading software drivers through various Mac OS changes.
I'll miss it when it's gone. :cry:
Just as a side note, MIDI seems really daunting to start, there's a ton of jargon attached to it...but it's a very powerful thing. Just get your head around the basics: using a MIDI keyboard to send data to your DAW recording software and then learning how to rudimentarily tweak that data. It opens up a HUGE world of sonic possibilities.
Home recording is a blast! Have fun.
:)
Don

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