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Mr. Monsieur
Jun 21, 2005, 10:44 PM
hey folks!

has anyone done any recording using the Edirol PCR-A30 as an audio interface? How is the quality? I'm trying to decide whether to go with it as a one-stop solution for getting a controller and an audio interface for mic-ing an acoustic guitar (from what I can tell, I'd also need a mixer with phantom power to get the line up to the right level). Otherwise I'm looking at the m-audio firewire solo and a separate controller.

here's a link for the PCR-A30

http://edirol.com/products/info/pcra30.html

ANY thoughts would be much appreciated!



faintember
Jun 23, 2005, 02:13 PM
hey folks!

has anyone done any recording using the Edirol PCR-A30 as an audio interface? How is the quality? I'm trying to decide whether to go with it as a one-stop solution for getting a controller and an audio interface for mic-ing an acoustic guitar (from what I can tell, I'd also need a mixer with phantom power to get the line up to the right level). Otherwise I'm looking at the m-audio firewire solo and a separate controller.

here's a link for the PCR-A30

http://edirol.com/products/info/pcra30.html

ANY thoughts would be much appreciated!
How serious do you want to be?
Sorry if that sounds weird, but it is important.

Personally, a device like the above mentioned edirol makes me want to run away screaming. I am still very weary of these controller/audio interface/juicers/beef jerky makers. They may slice, chop, dice and make thousands of jillian(sp?) fries, but they typically do all of the above poorly.

I prefer to use a stand-alone audio interface such as the Firewire 410, Firebox/pod, Mbox, etc..etc... for my audio, then use a seperate controller for MIDI. Why? I typically get more features in both the MIDI controller and the audio interface that way, although it costs more in the long run.

Also the Edirol pcr-a30 is a USB device. I am a firm believer that audio interfaces are best when they use firewire (although i do own a mbox). My controllers are mostly usb or go through a midi box that is usb. The inputs on the edirol are limited, as are the capabilities. It also looks like it might be a nightmare to change settings quickly on the fly.

However if you decide to buy the edirol look carefully before you buy. I did a quick google search and found it for as much as $319 and as low as $170.

Phantom power is for microphones (typically condenser mics).
The m-audio firewire solo + seperate controller sound like a better deal.

Also what all do you want the controller to do? There are many options out there today, and many are suited for specific needs which can be very beneficial to the end-user.

-cameron

Mr. Monsieur
Jun 23, 2005, 04:11 PM
hey cameron!

THANKS for your reply...much appreciated. i kinda sensed that separate pieces are the way to go...it's just...well...the money issue, as always. i do hope to do increasingly professional productions, so i think you're right...besides, i'd really like at least 61 keys and the edirol has only 37...

one more question...i'd like to do enya-esque music (using synths for reverb, echo, etc. and probably using lots of layers)...ideally, i'd like to be able to run this stuff live (find someone to activate the keyboard parts and be playing an acoustic guitar and singing myself)...do you think my iBook will be able to handle all the synth work? or should i look to eventually getting an external synth, connected to my iBook?

again...ANY thoughts would be much appreciated!

CanadaRAM
Jun 23, 2005, 05:07 PM
..do you think my iBook will be able to handle all the synth work? or should i look to eventually getting an external synth, connected to my iBook?

This is another "how long is a piece of string" question.

Your iBook will do just fine UP TO a certain number of tracks, soft-synths and effects. If you exceed that amount, then the wheels fall off. Is the limit high enough for what you want to do? Impossible to say.

Soft synths in the Mac and effects rely on brute CPU power. Audio tracks rely on hard drive throughput and CPU. If you overload the CPU then the timing will get shot and the audio will suffer glitching and dropouts. MIDI on the otherhand takes next to no CPU power.

If your intention is to create backing tracks that play behind you while you play and sing, and each song is played the same way each time, then you can get around the limitations by simply rendering your synth and effects tracks into audio -- freezing them, if you like. This eliminates the need to run that synth plug in and that effects plug in.

However, if your intention is to have all of the elements playing live, and under a player's control where you can decide to stretch a chorus out, or vamp on the outro, then you need to look seriously at your system. The other alternative to lots of soft synths and effects is to drive outboard sound modules with MIDI, and let them generate the sounds. You will have lower latency this way and less CPU loading on the iBook. But you would have to invest in outboard gear - synths, effects (because you don't want to feed the outboard audio back into the Mac) and a mixer. Hardware synths have their own characteristic sounds, so you have to choose carefully for your style.

THere's no fast answer for you. You need to map out what you plan to do and make some test runs.

Mr. Monsieur
Jun 23, 2005, 05:57 PM
CanadaRam...

THANKS for your comments...

If your intention is to create backing tracks that play behind you while you play and sing, and each song is played the same way each time, then you can get around the limitations by simply rendering your synth and effects tracks into audio -- freezing them, if you like. This eliminates the need to run that synth plug in and that effects plug in.

hmmm...cool...i suppose i can do this in garage band?

However, if your intention is to have all of the elements playing live, and under a player's control where you can decide to stretch a chorus out, or vamp on the outro, then you need to look seriously at your system.

probably less likely, initially, in any case.

The other alternative to lots of soft synths and effects is to drive outboard sound modules with MIDI, and let them generate the sounds. You will have lower latency this way and less CPU loading on the iBook. But you would have to invest in outboard gear - synths, effects (because you don't want to feed the outboard audio back into the Mac) and a mixer. Hardware synths have their own characteristic sounds, so you have to choose carefully for your style.

MIDI...hmmm...here's a question...i was looking initially at getting a keyboard controller and using the iBook for softsyth sounds/effects...if i decide to go with external synths/effects do you think i'd do better with a keyboard synth (a roland or something) or a rack mounting synth/effects set-up (i suppose i would use a keyboard controller with the external synths/effects?)...my gut feeling is that the latter will give me more power and control than the former, but i honestly don't know enough to say...
again ANY thoughts would be much appreciated!

faintember
Jun 23, 2005, 09:32 PM
Yep, you are right about using the seperate units, and getting a larger keyboard. It just means better quality, better playability and better longivity. As far as controllers/MIDI go:

I would say go with an rack mount synth, and use a keyboard controller.
Many are avaiable on the market and it really depends on how "keyboard like" you want it to feel, plus do you just want keys, or do you want knobs, sliders, joysticks, mod wheels, touch pads, etc. I would say at least have a few touch pads, knobs or sliders. They are great for changing effects on the fly, changing output levels, etc. Also having the ability to add a foot switch for either the keyboardist or you can be cool. Say that you want to add reverb at the exact same time you want the synth sounds to change...with a foot controller you can control this simultaneously at your will. All this really depends on how much you want to get into working with triggers and MIDI and all that jazz.

I use a Korg Microkontrol, but it prob would suit your needs (it does not have full sized keys and it has a lot of extras, such as knobs, sliders, pads, joystick, etc.). Studiologic makes some good controllers. My university has a Fatar controller and i HATE it. I have to soft-reset the controller anytime that i want to use it, and in the past few months this even does not get the controller to work correctly.

i would be weary of running a soft synth from the ibook depending on what you are using. I have crashed Absynth on the schools PM G5 using some of my synth designs (though they were using a lot of resources. As long as you dont go toooo wild, the ibook should handle Absynth, Reaktor, Reason etc., etc. I tend to push software/hardware to the limits often. I guess that somewhere deep in my psyche i just like turning all the knobs up all the way, and then throwing the switch marked "DO NOT PULL". :p

Like CanadaRam said earlier, in Logic, Cubase, etc. freezing a track is a GREAT way to cut CPU usage when using plugins, etc, and it is often essential. You could techincally sequence all the keyboard parts and trigger them via a switch (foot switch for instance). The reason i mention this is you could start playing with out a keyboardist in a live setting. It can be a hassle though unless you come up with some pretty creative ways to change sequences/songs (that is unless you can use another trigger to change songs/sequences). Geez i am getting off topic. Sorry i have been programming in Max/MSP for the past 6 hours. I am shutting up now.

-cameron

CanadaRAM
Jun 23, 2005, 10:41 PM
hmmm...cool...i suppose i can do this in garage band?

Yup, GarageBand would be a good start

MIDI...hmmm...here's a question...i was looking initially at getting a keyboard controller and using the iBook for softsyth sounds/effects...if i decide to go with external synths/effects do you think i'd do better with a keyboard synth (a roland or something) or a rack mounting synth/effects set-up (i suppose i would use a keyboard controller with the external synths/effects?)...my gut feeling is that the latter will give me more power and control than the former, but i honestly don't know enough to say...
again ANY thoughts would be much appreciated!
It all depends what machinery you choose, what your taste in sound is, what your budget is, etc. There are some stunningly excellent keyboard synthesizers from Yamaha, Korg and Roland that have every sound in the world, effects, even recording/sampling/playback of external sounds and tracks, you could run your whole show from one -- 'course the're also expensive - $1,000 - $4,000

A simple controller keyboard will work with both the Mac and external MIDI synths. The newer keyboards all have USB connections and act as a computer-MIDI interface. Older ones you may have to buy the MIDI Interface separately. A priority would be full-size keys, MIDI Out and Thru, sliders or rotary controllers. Battery power would be a dark-horse feature that may allow you to record al fresco.

There are a bazillion used keyboards and sound modules on the market, as people abandon them for computer based recording. You have to do some serious reading to become familiar with the brands and models, so as not to buy a lemon or pay too much. Get ahold of Keyboard, Electronic Musician, Sound on Sound, Recording, FutureMusic and ComputerMusic magazines. If you are going to go with eBay, then lurk there for a couple of months, and keep a log book of interesting looking units and their prices. then go to http://www.sonicstate.com/synth/ and http://www.harmonycentral.com/Synth/ to look up features, reviews, estimated used prices, etc.

Also, the older the module is, the more "characteristic" the sound will be, because they don't have the raw power of the newer models to be "chameleons". Especially in imitative synthesis or sample playback, older units will be less convincing that they are a "violin" or "trumpet" or "sax". Some have sounds that were overused and fairly scream "1980's Pop Band". That said, some (not all) are prized for their "authentic" sound, and some are way overpriced as a result.

Mr. Monsieur
Jun 24, 2005, 09:13 AM
Cameron, CanadaRam...

THANKS again!

so...in response...

There are a bazillion used keyboards and sound modules on the market, as people abandon them for computer based recording. You have to do some serious reading to become familiar with the brands and models, so as not to buy a lemon or pay too much. Get ahold of Keyboard, Electronic Musician, Sound on Sound, Recording, FutureMusic and ComputerMusic magazines. If you are going to go with eBay, then lurk there for a couple of months, and keep a log book of interesting looking units and their prices. then go to http://www.sonicstate.com/synth/ and http://www.harmonycentral.com/Synth/ to look up features, reviews, estimated used prices, etc.

thanks for the links...v. cool websites...they'll be helpful, i'm sure. so, i found an inexpensive used keyboard/synth

http://www.sonicstate.com/synth/juno106.cfm

but my concern is hooking it up to my iBook...it'd be great on it's own...but how can i be sure that it's going to sync?

I use a Korg Microkontrol, but it prob would suit your needs (it does not have full sized keys and it has a lot of extras, such as knobs, sliders, pads, joystick, etc.).

i was looking at the microkontrol and wondering what the free software is like...do you use it? the musician's friend site touts it as live dance software, but i was wondering if i could use it for other styles?

again...thanks, folks!

CanadaRAM
Jun 24, 2005, 10:13 AM
thanks for the links...v. cool websites...they'll be helpful, i'm sure. so, i found an inexpensive used keyboard/synth

http://www.sonicstate.com/synth/juno106.cfm

but my concern is hooking it up to my iBook...it'd be great on it's own...but how can i be sure that it's going to sync?


The Juno 106 is an analog synthesizer with digitally controlled oscillators, it can play a maximum of 6 notes at once (6 note polyphony). Its forte is bass sounds and pads (synthy strings, washes and drones). It has the Roland Chorus effect built in, but no other reverb or echo or anything. It will not produce "lifelike" imitations of acoustic instruments by any modern standards. Its keyboard and MIDI implementation is rudimentary -- there is no velocity or pressure sensitivity, so it is not as well suited to expressive playing. The Juno will produce only one sound at a time (it is not multi-timbral) so you can't play bass on the left hand and strings on the right. (I'm going by memory here, its been about 20 years since I played one of these puppies.)

Will it sync... the answer to that question is, you need to do some more reading on MIDI basics ;) MIDI will control the synthesizer's note on and note offs. If you are driving the Juno from a MIDI sequencer on the Mac, there is no issue of syncing, because the keyboard is under the control of the Mac.

Depending on your type of music, if you are going for a retro-analog sound, the Juno may be good. It is quite limited as a MIDI controller, primarily with the lack of velocity and aftertouch, so I can't recommend it as your primary MIDI controller for the computer and other synths.

Mr. Monsieur
Jun 24, 2005, 11:19 AM
Will it sync... the answer to that question is, you need to do some more reading on MIDI basics MIDI will control the synthesizer's note on and note offs. If you are driving the Juno from a MIDI sequencer on the Mac, there is no issue of syncing, because the keyboard is under the control of the Mac.

:o alas, you have caught me out...a newbie among newbies, i'm afraid. any suggestions as to where to begin my MIDI education?

thanks again, CR, you've helped me begin to get a better lay of the land...

faintember
Jun 24, 2005, 07:17 PM
i was looking at the microkontrol and wondering what the free software is like...do you use it? the musician's friend site touts it as live dance software, but i was wondering if i could use it for other styles?

Yeah, the bundled "software" is pretty crappy. I played around with the apps, but it was hard to navigate and was pretty limited. Basically, if you use those apps in performance it will sound like you use those apps. Does that make sense? For instance, alot of people think that using a standard synth in Absynth makes them cool. Well to people that know the program it just makes the performer look quite un-creative, as it is pretty easy to make your own virtual synths in the software.

I love my Microkontrol. It is great for what i do (that is controlling panning in 8 channels via the joystick, triggering different parameters via the touch pads, controlling distortion/grain size/bit rate/etc. via the slider and panpots). But playing it as a keyboard BLOWS. Its ok to trigger a few chords, or play a simple melody, but actually playing anything that is remotely technical is a horrible, horrible headache.

Glad that CanadaRam and I are making some sense, and hopefully helping. :)

-cameron

Mr. Monsieur
Jun 24, 2005, 09:37 PM
Yeah, the bundled "software" is pretty crappy. I played around with the apps, but it was hard to navigate and was pretty limited. Basically, if you use those apps in performance it will sound like you use those apps. Does that make sense? For instance, alot of people think that using a standard synth in Absynth makes them cool. Well to people that know the program it just makes the performer look quite un-creative, as it is pretty easy to make your own virtual synths in the software.

good to hear...i was kinda wondering as much...

Glad that CanadaRam and I are making some sense, and hopefully helping.

oh yeah...i'm really grateful...i've been poking around the internet trying to figure things out, but there's really nothing like getting to pick the brains of people that are in the know...thanks again.

CanadaRAM
Jun 24, 2005, 11:04 PM
:o alas, you have caught me out...a newbie among newbies, i'm afraid. any suggestions as to where to begin my MIDI education?

Start with the magazines mentioned earlier, and hit the library for books on home recording and sequencing.

faintember
Jun 25, 2005, 02:21 AM
MIDI is pretty simple to begin with. Basically it is on/off messages (0 or 127) and controller messages (0-127). A type of controller message would be, for instance, pitch bend, modulation, etc. Aftertouch is also simular. Note on/off is also accompanied by a velocity message (0-127), that determines the "volume" of the output. MIDI is just raw data, numbers floating through cables. The more you move into recent times, the more options (controller messages, etc.) that are avaiable. This is a very simple intro to MIDI. It can become much more complex but basically that is all there is to it.

I totally agree with CanadaRam about the vintage modules/keyboards. Some are WAY overpriced for what they are. That said i LOVE my Prophet 600 (first synth with MIDI built-in) and would not trade it for anything. I pretty much HATE my ARP 2600 (non-MIDI synth). This is kind of comparing apples to oranges (or peecees, lol) but the ARP is just glitchy, even after i have made numerous repairs to it. My Prophet rocks, and is very solid, but it does not offer much in the way of MIDI controllers, just note on/off, pitchbend, mod. and 6-note polyphony (i think...too lazy(drunk) to get up right now).

Anyways, if a vintage piece of gear would be down your alley that is very cool. However most vintage pieces can be replicated via software today. They are much easier to control and offer many more abilities/functionality than the original models. Just getting a good controller is key. If you want some crazy keyboard controllers, check out Doepfer (http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm). These guys made great controllers. Look at the LMK2+ or the LMK4+. I have had the pleasure of using the LMK4+ and it is amazing. If i was blindfolded it would feel and respond just like a piano.

Sorry for the Doepfer rant..lol...
What kinds of keyboard sounds do you want? If you could name a band or a synth or genre, etc then it might be easier to lead you to a choice. Do you want a more "active" keyboard part, or more pad-like? Etc. Basically give us an idea what the voices in your head are playing/singing. lol

-cameron

Mr. Monsieur
Jun 25, 2005, 10:39 AM
Start with the magazines mentioned earlier, and hit the library for books on home recording and sequencing.
v. good...v. good!

What kinds of keyboard sounds do you want? If you could name a band or a synth or genre, etc then it might be easier to lead you to a choice. Do you want a more "active" keyboard part, or more pad-like? Etc. Basically give us an idea what the voices in your head are playing/singing. lol
let me begin by mentioning that the doepfer products *do* look exceedingly cool...just a bit pricey for where i'm at...for controllers, i've been looking at the edirol pcr-80 most recently (since deciding to get an external synth and audio interface)

http://edirol.com/products/info/pcr80.html

as regards keyboard sounds...mostly classic sounds: organs and acoustic pianos...and then reverb...what i'm envisioning is lush enya-esque keyboard parts, supported by bass (or just bass piano parts), with ringing open-tuned acoustic guitar parts and vocals on top...little, if any, percussion...the bass will provide...well...the base :D
btw...what's the difference between an "active" and a "pad-like" keyboard part? ideally, i'd be able to do everything solo...i may have to end up either finding a keyboardist or at least recruiting a friend to trigger the keyboard parts...

faintember
Jun 27, 2005, 12:47 AM
the edirol-pc?-80 looks like it is pretty solid for what you want to do.
Yeah, the Doepfer stuff is expensive, but i always throw it out. Their products are world-class but the prices are not too bad if you are looking at controllers/etc of the same caliber or functionality/feel.

Im looking into the rack units. The Yamaha Motif rack unit has some great on-board sounds and it is fairly easy to do some sound creations of your own. Also look at the newer Kurzweil rack mount units. My uni has a older KZ(kurzweil) and it has some nice sounds, and i think they should (note..should..lol) be a little less pricey than the Yamaha Motif.

If you want to trigger sounds yourself (that is without anyone else, while you are singing and playing guitar) you are either going to have to grow a third hand or maybe look at some MIDI pedals. I know i have seen MIDI pedals that are typically used with organs, but they could be used to trigger squences within software/talk to your MIDI box, etc. So for instance the note C on the pedals might start a certain sequence, C# may trigger another sequence, and D might trigger a program change (change of the sounds, etc. being used). This may be a solution, although then you would have to juggle singing, playing and using at least one foot. Personally, i couldnt do it. Thats why my piano chops are crap. :P

-cameron

Mr. Monsieur
Jun 27, 2005, 05:15 PM
hey cameron...

THANKS again!

i've been looking at the synths you suggested...i think you're right, kurzweil is probably the way to go...eventually...i'll probably use what garageband gives me for now and when i've saved up the money, get a kurzweil...
hmmm...

thanks, also, for the thoughts regarding live performance...i hadn't really thought through the possible solutions...foot pedals sound very doable...i've heard that people like joseph arthur do a similar "one man show"...i'm guessing they use similar solutions...

pulsewidth947
Jun 28, 2005, 03:42 AM
If you want to do your stuff live, and you are intent on running a couple of soft synths in addition to hardware synths (and why shouldnt you? best of both worlds!), then you may want to look into Ableton Live.

Admittedly, when I first saw Live I didnt think much of it, but one of the lecturers where I work uses it all the time live and he gave me a whistle stop demo the other day and it looks wonderful for live work.

Best thing is they have a demo available so you can try before you buy (http://www.ableton.com/pages/products/downloads/downloads.php)