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(@3chordsabadattitude)
Active Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 14
28/03/2010 12:57 pm  

Hi, all. I'm coming back to guitar after about 20 years away, so you can consider me pretty much a newbie. I've figured out what I want guitar-wise, but am a bit overwhelmed on the other end of the wire.

Here's my situation. I have a MacBook Pro with GarageBand that I know I'll be using for various tasks. There's enough space in our current house for me to practice amplified, but we'll be moving downtown later this year which means close quarters and probably not much opportunity to crank it through an amp. I do hope to eventually do some playing with a band or some friends, so I figure I'll need some sort of amp eventually.

So what's a newbie to do? I figure I'll at least get a simple interface for the MacBook, but would I be better off with a POD or something? Headphones are another given, but should I skip the amp for now and just get some studio monitors to hook up to the MacBook or just run with my existing HK Soundsticks? Any advice would be appreciated!

Thanks!

Once you lick the lollipop of mediocrity, you'll suck forever.


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2248
28/03/2010 4:25 pm  

What kind of price range are you capable/willing to spend? Without an idea of that, it'd be really difficult to advise you one way or the other. If e.g. you were looking to spend $2k on studio monitors, I'd be saying get much cheaper monitors, plus and amp. If you were looking to spend $200 dollars on monitors, my reply would no doubt be different.

Ra Er Ga.Ninjazz have SuperChops.http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@liontable)
Estimable Member
Joined: 11 years ago
Posts: 146
28/03/2010 4:30 pm  

I'm quite bad with all the technic stuff, but I do have one thing to say:

Do not practice with headphones.

It sounds like crap if you suck at playing, you can't keep it up long (due to headache) and it just sounds a lot worse in general (for me). I'm currently using a Laney Cub 10 (10W) in combination with a digitech RP 1000. The family doesn't even hear me playing if I don't put it loud, and it's a lot more enjoyable. I generally only use the Laney without the RP 1000, as I prefer a clean sound at the moment. I'm fairly sure it's sufficient to play in a band too, provided you don't have an audience, or at least not a big one.

So a bit in the same boat as you: couldn't put it very loud so tried without an amp, sounded like crap so got myself a small one and very glad with it. It isn't particularly loud if you don't wnat it to be.


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(@3chordsabadattitude)
Active Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 14
28/03/2010 4:50 pm  

What kind of price range are you capable/willing to spend? Without an idea of that, it'd be really difficult to advise you one way or the other. If e.g. you were looking to spend $2k on studio monitors, I'd be saying get much cheaper monitors, plus and amp. If you were looking to spend $200 dollars on monitors, my reply would no doubt be different.

I was figuring around $500 I suppose for an amp, but I'm wondering if I should spend less on an amp given my likely practice situation and spend some more on gear/software for the computer. I've got some flexibility here as I'm selling a couple of motorcycles and shouldn't be short on cash for the switch to this hobby. I don't think I'd be looking to shell out $2K for studio monitors, though. I'm really just a beginner again!

Once you lick the lollipop of mediocrity, you'll suck forever.


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(@boxboy)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1227
28/03/2010 4:59 pm  

Scrybe is right. Price would play a big factor in the decisions you make.
But maybe start with a lower end USB audio interface. It's the cheapest initial option, will let you play and record and is something you're likely to want regardless.

I have a setup very close to the 'computer' one you describe.
Guitar in through audio interface (old, old low end Tascam) to computer (Mac Pro tower), amp sim by DAW software (Guitar Rig in Logic Express*) sound out to self powered speakers.
I've been using that for several years and have been completely satisfied.

For a home setup it works great. For jamming out, it wouldn't be workable. Then you'd need an amp.

But you're just getting back into things, you're going to move homes...I'd address those other issues later on.

*Garageband has surprisingly good guitar amp sims as well.

Don


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(@dogbite)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 6355
28/03/2010 5:02 pm  

look at the site tweakheadz.com. it is a very informative site with ideas for all sizes and scopes of recording. there are links to devices and products. and general costs and benefits. sounds almost like a health plan. :lol:
my home recoding system is basic and inexpensive. I get great results without delving deep. I have a PC with lots of power.
I use a USB interface, Lexicaon Lambda. the interface comes with a built in recording platform, Cubase Le. and it is upgradable at a lower cost than right off the shelf.
I plug my guitars right in and have full use of effects, amps, reverbs, etc.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


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(@boxboy)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1227
28/03/2010 5:22 pm  

So what's a newbie to do? I figure I'll at least get a simple interface for the MacBook, but would I be better off with a POD or something?

Just another note on the POD, 3chords&aBadAttitude (great handle by the way :lol: ), YMMV:
I have a POD XT that's been gathering dust for several years. It was clunky to use, the Mac driver software was awful and I don't like the amp sims near as well as a plugin like Guitar Rig or even the stock ones that come with Logic Express.

Plus, with a POD type device, what you record is what you get. That's not the case using the amp sims in an app like Garageband: there you're hearing the amp simulation while you're playing/recording, but you're actually only recording a clean signal. Let's you vary any of the parameters or even the amp sim itself later. Big advantage.

Oh yeah and, regardless what you decide, enjoy!
:)

Don


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(@3chordsabadattitude)
Active Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 14
28/03/2010 7:33 pm  

Just an update- I picked up a Line 6 amp and some headphones for the time being. I'll probably just go with a basic interface or cable for the Mac. I need to focus on learning and playing right now and less on effects and software.

Once you lick the lollipop of mediocrity, you'll suck forever.


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 10340
28/03/2010 8:36 pm  

Easiest - and cheapest - option:

buy a reasonable quality PC mic, then download Audacity (it's a FREE open-source recording programme) from sourceforge.net.

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2248
28/03/2010 9:32 pm  

Okay, I'm UK based so not up to date with US prices, but they tend to be seriously good compared to UK prices. So, I'll quote rough figures in UK£ - if I try converting them into $US the prices would be inflated compared to what you pay instore. But, for $500 in your situation, here's what I'd be looking to do, and why...

Get a practice amp. If you just use your computer/headphones to practice, you'll find it much easier to not buy a practice amp later. Trust me, there is a difference in hearing yourself through an amp, and hearing yourself through the computer (even if it is just ` difference of 'feel'). This is particular so if you're using headphones. When the time comes that you want to play out, or jam with others, using an amp could feel weird. Besides, amp and electric guitars go together, and imho, buying, owning, and using an amp is part of the fun.

For amps, you can get solid state or tube amps. I only ever use tube amps (but there are plenty of solid state amps that are perfectly good - it's just a personal preference I have, so don't see this as a suggestion that you limit yourself to tube amps), so I only know rough prices for tube amps off the top of my head, but for a 1-5W amp (small enough to use for practicing, and to record with, should you want to do that later) you can get a decent tube amp for about £100.

Amps I'd consider looking at include (wattage and priceage is off the top of my head, so there may some inaccuracies):
Fender Champion 600 (5W and about £130)
Laney - they do a tube 3W or 5W for about £100 that's pretty decent
Vox AC4TV - this is a bit more expensive, at about £250. I dig this little amp. Vox also do a range of amps with "VT" in the model label, and they start from about £100
Roland Cube - solid state amp, again there are several types and they start from about £100
Gretsch also do a tube practice amp similar to the Fender Champ for about the same price. I've not tried it tho. It's the G5222.

This should see you set up with a great basic amp for practicing. You don't really want to spend $500 or more on amp when you're just beginning unless you have cash to burn - which amp(s) you opt for will in part be dictated by your personal taste regarding musical styles and your ears. And the sensitivity of your ears will increase the more you play guitar. Give your ears time to develop a preference before buying your first 'serious' amp. The practice amp will always find a use for itself.

With the cash you have left over, you'll need studio monitors, a recording interface, and recording software. Working on the assumption that you can always add gear later, I'd second Vic's suggestion of using Audacity as your software. Completely free to download and use, and a cracking little app. Reaper is another I've heard great things about, and it also has free versions. But I haven't used it personally. There are a lot of Audacity users on here, so I'd go with that one on the basis of having a community of tourbleshooters on hand should you have any questions. :wink:

So it comes down to monitors and an interface. And here it gets a little tricky. I'd value the interface way more than the monitors - it doesn't matter how great your monitors are if the sound you're putting into the computer is sucky. Also, the "best" monitors is a really subjective term - the more you get into it, the more you find that the "best" is simply the ones you use the most in the room you've worked most in (you'll learn what defects your monitors have once you listen to stuff on other systems, and you'll build into your workflow some accommodation for this...this is true even of pro systems). You want an interface with the best preamps in your range, imho. You may also want MIDI input/output (if you want to buy a keyboard for recording with later, for example - altho many keyboards also come with USB connections nowadays). Beyond that, give some thought to how many audio inputs you want. If you're just recording guitar, or if you e.g. might want to record guitar and vocals at the same time, or two guitars.

The best interface I can think of in your price range is the Apogee Duet - this has the best preamps and converters (converting audio signal to digital and vice versa) by far. Two audio inputs, and connections for your monitors. But it doesn't have MIDI and it connects to your computer using Firewire, so if you only have USB, skip it. It retails at £369. Provided Firewire doesn't become obsolete, this is a bit of kit that'll last you for decades, even if you add interfaces with more audio inputs later on. It's that good.

But Firewire might well become obsolete, and it is at the top of your price range. I can't help too much beyond that, as the interfaces I became seriously acquainted with all have price tags around that, or higher, and way more inputs than you'll need for now. But I'd take a look at the M-Audio range - they're really solid. Their Profire 2626 also has awesome pres and converters (second best to the Duet), so check if there's a version of that with less "bells and whistles". I've also heard good things about the Presonus range. I'd also definitely check out the Line 6 POD range, cracking little boxes. Actually, I've meaning to do that myself (almost certainly gonna grab one for recording with), but I need to save some cash first! They have a few models in that range, so I can't recommend specifics - you're best to just check the lot out.

What, if any, you have left, I'd then spend on monitors. I wouldn't worry too much about decent monitors right now - a bit like with amps, unless you're already a total audio fiend (and even then), it's an area where you'd really benefit from 6-12 months just paying more attention to the sonic differences between different monitors, and trying out monitors in your price range. When you do go for monitors, the general consensus on good ones tend to be KRK, Adam, and a couple others. I'd warn against the Fostex PM-1s that I own - they're really noisy and pick up computer interference, plus they're not the most responsive monitor by a loooong stretch. Heck, for now, I'd even say (provided they're not distorting), basic computer speakers will suffice just fine, and get some really good monitors when you have the cash and the buyer's knowledge to get a good deal that will keep you happy for a few years.

Hope this helps. No affiliations with any of the companies named, and I know I've probably missed out a few names due to not knowing them well enough. Oh, and don't forget leads. You'll need leads for all of this. I always forget that. :oops:

Ra Er Ga.Ninjazz have SuperChops.http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@3chordsabadattitude)
Active Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 14
29/03/2010 11:32 am  

Scrybe,
Wow! Thanks for the detailed and well reasoned response.

I pretty much came to the same conclusion that I'd want a practice amp and got a Line 6 Spider IV 30: http://line6.com/spideriv15-30/

I still have to figure out what I'm doing on the computer side, but will take some time to research that. I've already got experience with GarageBand, so I'm likely sticking with that. I just have to figure out what interface to get and if I need to get actual monitors (the answer is likely "yes").

BTW, I picked up an '09 American Deluxe Strat at my local music store at decent savings since the '10 models are hitting the shelves now.

Once you lick the lollipop of mediocrity, you'll suck forever.


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2248
29/03/2010 1:18 pm  

Oh yeah, if you have GB, that's good, too. I'm not too up to date with the most current version, but I recall the version from a few years ago had horrible (imo) sounding FX and amp sims, so I'd still check out the Line 6 POD, or check if your Spider amp has an out on the back you can use for recording, so you can use the FX and sims on that. I'm guessing it will do, tho again not familiar enough with the model to say for sure.

Congrats on the axe!

Ra Er Ga.Ninjazz have SuperChops.http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2248
29/03/2010 1:20 pm  

For monitors, the Adam A7 are pretty good, but they're about £700 for a pair. Try the KRK Rokit (or "powered by Rokit") range - think their smallest ones start around £300 per pair. I'd go with powered monitors, over passive ones and a separate amp - more variables to control, more space housing it all, etc.

Ra Er Ga.Ninjazz have SuperChops.http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@hyperborea)
Prominent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 833
29/03/2010 7:31 pm  

For an interface with GarageBand you might want to look at the Apogee GIO. I have been giving that some thought for use with Logic. It will control GB or Logic and provide a high quality connection for your guitar into the computer and out to speakers, headphones, or a guitar amp.

http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/gio.php

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson


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