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Old Feb 4, 2006, 12:51 AM   #1
OldCorpse
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Soundcard recommendations?

Any recommendations for an external soundcard I can plug into my iBook? Prefer firewire, but usb is ok too. Don't want to spend an arm and a leg, but hopefully an improvement.

Separately, I'm looking at feedback on the Behringer FCA202 (yes, I know some folks hate Behringer):

http://www.zzounds.com/item--BEHFCA202
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 01:02 AM   #2
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Well this depends on your needs. Using the Beringer as a base line, here are my recommendations:

Presonus Firebox
M Audio FW Audiophile

My personal choice would be the Presonus Firebox. Nice mic-preamps, MIDI, 2 1/4 inputs, 2 xlr inputs, 6 1/4 outputs. Why not the Behringer? Well i hate Behringer, but the 202 does not really offer, well, anything other than 80 less bucks in your wallet and another thing sitting on your work area.

Maybe if you give us some more details as to how you want to use, or envision using the audio card we can get more specific.
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 01:22 AM   #3
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Thanks, faintember, the Presonus Firebox looks good, and gets 8.1 out of 10 from the users over at zzounds. I've seen a lot of people complain about the m-audio audiophile on various boards... so i'll skip that.

On another note, the boards at macrumors are just filled with helpful posters, and I noticed that you in particular are extremely helpful in the audio area (as are folks like WinterMute). So a very big thank you for making this place an outstanding resource for new mac owners!
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 01:31 AM   #4
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No problem, we try to be helpful if possible. I eat, live, breathe, and sleep (that is when i do sleep) music and computer audio in various forms. The M Audio does tend to have a bit more, negative aspects to it, but it is cheaper and it is better quality than the Behringer. The firebox is a nice unit. I almost bought a firepod a few weeks ago, but then i decided to buy some DIY stuff from doepfer to use on my thesis. Since then i decided to go with the MOTU 828mkII. The firebox is a nice mix inputs, outputs and the sound is quite good for the price range it is in.

Cheers and welcome to Mac audio!
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 01:32 AM   #5
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lots of options available, you can get an idea of how many here.

for more specific recommendations, provide an idea of how many simultaneous channels you need with what kinds of inputs, what software you're running and a budget.

i am also someone who steers clear of berhinger.
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 01:47 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zimv20
lots of options available, you can get an idea of how many here.

for more specific recommendations, provide an idea of how many simultaneous channels you need with what kinds of inputs, what software you're running and a budget.

i am also someone who steers clear of berhinger.
I'm looking for a minimum of 2 channels and doubt more than 4, just some vocals a guitar and synth... soft: Logic Express... budget $300-$400.

Thanks for the link... when I look at links like that, I get overwhelmed, because I don't have personal experience of the vast majority of that gear, so I'm left with begging for feedback ...and in general as a result I operate on fear/prejudice/chance... for example, I avoid Digidesign gear even though I know it's *the* standard for many people, because I have this irrational fear of being sucked into their whole system with the result of spending tens of thousands and going broke... and so on. That's why it's cool when somebody like faintember can speak from experience of having students run tons of gear at his uni labs. And I guess you too have had a lot of exposure to all this... whereas I am a one rat experiment with one piece of equipment/software at a time, which feels so inadequate and overwhelming.
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 02:26 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldCorpse
I avoid Digidesign gear even though I know it's *the* standard for many people, because I have this irrational fear of being sucked into their whole system with the result of spending tens of thousands and going broke...
yes, that is irrational :-)

obviously, they can't force you to give them money. but never mind, you said you're running Logic, so that opens you up to all those other interfaces.

if i were in your shoes, i would start my search with:
Lexicon Omega
Presonus Firebox

i see FT listed the firebox. i've used neither of the above, so take my suggestion not as a recommendation, but simply somewhere to start your search. i have played around with a 2-channel M-Audio box (sorry, forgot which one), and it was pretty much what i expected: cheapish pre and conversion, useable in a pinch at best. i reckon the lexicon and presonus stuff would be an improvement, albeit probably small.

i could be very, very wrong on that.

what mics do you have?
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 02:43 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zimv20
what mics do you have?
Shure 57, Senn e914... I know I'm lacking a good one for vocals, it's on my todo list...
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 09:50 AM   #9
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I have the M-Audio Audiophile and would not reccommend it.
Never had any major problems with it only because I'm constantly babysitting it.

Something you might consider before buying a soundcard is to go to the manufacturer's site and look at the support pages to see what kind of problems are present. If I would have done this with the Audiophile, I never would have bought it.
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 01:01 PM   #10
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Mark of the Unicorn makes great audio interfaces as well. Pricing is a little bit higher. My second choice would be the Presonus Firebox.
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 01:11 PM   #11
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The Presonus stuff is an improvement soundwise over the M Audio. We have two M Audio FW 410's in our uber-portable gear at the university and they sound ok when recording, but we dont typically use them for that. Mainly they are used for feeding sound into a program, then garbling it up or using it for other purposes rather than just recording. Mainly our interfaces are just 8 + channel playback devices for live audio, but we run the hell out of them. That said one of the two FW 410's does not work on my professors PB, our PM G5 and sporadically works on my PB. We still are not sure why, so it is just collecting dust at the moment.

Our recording services dept recently bought the Firepod to record our large ensembles when they are not performing in our performance hall. Our first test of this was the jazz band performance, and it turned out quite well just using the built in mic pre amps, though next time we will probably use one of the other mic pres that we have just to have a comparison.

As far as the Lexicon i have not used any of their interfaces, but it could be a diamond in the rough.

Another sound card came to mind, the Focusrite Saffire. It is at the top of your price range ($399), but it allows for some on-board DSP to ease CPU load. For instance, if you want to record with some reverb, the Saffire will handle the reverb without placing extra burden on the CPU. I just thought since you mentioned that you have an iBook that this might be an advantage. I know that Wintermute was pretty much giddy about the Saffire when it came out. I played around with one when i was in Indiana about a month ago for a concert series. It sounded quite nice, but this is from more of a cursory use. I just wanted to throw the Saffire out as another possibility, though i still have my vote for the Firebox.

The main thing is dont get overwhelmed with the choices. Keep it to two or three and weigh price vs. performance. For instance i really want the RME Fireface, but at $1499 it is not worth the price for my needs. As for a good vocal mic, i have no clue. I use a old, old SM 58 for all of my vocal stuff but i dont deal with vocals much. I have heard some good things about Oktava mics, but i hear the quality is hit or miss on them. Some US retailers test all of their Oktava's before selling them to weed out the bad ones, but i cant remember the name of the company that does that right now....Others are more qualified to advise in the area of mics and Mic Preamps.

Oh, just noticed on Sweetwater that they have a Firebox B-stock (refurbished) for $259.
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 02:32 PM   #12
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Thanks for the comprehensive answer, faintember. I think I'll spring for the Presonus. And e-clipse, yeah, a lot of folks love MOTU gear, but it is a bit pricy for my pocket. Re: vocal mic, the guy whom I'm going to record had a bunch of recommendations for mics, but when I looked up the price it was like in the $2K range and above... I practically fainted... but I'm looking at stuff in the $300 and there appear some pretty good choices, so I'm not worried.
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 03:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldCorpse
Re: vocal mic [...] I'm looking at stuff in the $300 and there appear some pretty good choices, so I'm not worried.
i'm of the opinion that one needs to spend a bit more to get a good condenser (e.g. the $500 shure ksm32), and that i'd rather have a good dynamic (like the shure sm7) than a cheap condenser.

that said, i'd include these in your search:
shure sm7b $350
AT 4040 $300
shure ksm27 $300
Heil PR40 $270

sometimes you can find used AKG C414 EB's for under $400. if it's in good condition, it's an excellent mic.
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Old Feb 4, 2006, 03:15 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zimv20
i'm of the opinion that one needs to spend a bit more to get a good condenser (e.g. the $500 shure ksm32), and that i'd rather have a good dynamic (like the shure sm7) than a cheap condenser.

that said, i'd include these in your search:
shure sm7b $350
AT 4040 $300
shure ksm27 $300
Heil PR40 $270

sometimes you can find used AKG C414 EB's for under $400. if it's in good condition, it's an excellent mic.
Thanks for the recomms! Re: used mics... that's one piece of gear I'm uneasy about getting in "used" condition, as you simply never know, and it's such an easy thing to have some subtle damage which affects the sound quality, but you can't see with the naked eye... or maybe it's just my paranoia talking
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