Budget "Home Studio" Suggestions?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by Squire, Jan 18, 2004.

  1. Squire macrumors 68000

    Squire

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2003
    Location:
    Canada
    #1
    Hi.

    The GarageBand frenzy is in full swing, I guess. I've searched these forums and found a lot of useful info. Maybe some of you can provide further assistance.

    I'd like to get the M-audio box that's on the Apple Site. However, I don't think it will be available over here. How would the device pictured below (Midiman Midisport 2x2 USB) work for me? I want to connect a Yamaha keyboard, a microphone (for vocals and saxophone), and an electric guitar up to my iMac. Would this Midisport rig be sufficient? I'm also considering a Shure SM-58 microphone. So, is this- plus a few cords- all I need for a budget setup to get GarageBand rolling??

    Thanks in advance.

    Squire
     

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  2. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #2
    I use this unit with my eMac and as a portable with the PowerBook, it works fine with all the MIDI apps from Logic in down, and I have no reason to expect it won't work perfectly with GB, mine should arrive tommorrow. I also have an M-box, which I would expect to work again with no problems, the core audio system makes good use of it, plus you get the excellent ProTools LE platform to play with, a much better audio recording system than GB will ever be.

    You'll still need something like the M-box for the audio, although there are units that do audio and MIDI combined, check out M-audio's USB range.

    I think you'll find the M-box in Korea, Digidesign have a very active operation in the East.

    Once you have the MIDI interface and the audio interface, you can connect your keys, mic and guitar to GB, you'll need to get a mic capable unit (like M-box) and a DI system for the guitar, otherwise the signal into a standard interface will be a bit quiet, unless you have an FX unit for your guitar in which case you can plug the guitar through that into a standard line-input, (even the Mac's own line in)

    The M-box would do it fine, as would the M-audio combined devices.
     
  3. Squire thread starter macrumors 68000

    Squire

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2003
    Location:
    Canada
    #3
    Thanks a ton for the tips. When you said, "I use this unit..." were you referring to the Midiman one I mentioned?

    I'll definitely check out places for an M-box. What about this thing from Tascam?

    ------------------------------------------
    US-122
    USB Audio/MIDI Interface
    ------------------------------------------
    http://www.tascam.com/product_info.php?pid=253&nav=computer_recording&page=1
    ------------------------------------------

    It's a little more than I initially wanted to spend (about $320 US) but it seems like it's an all-in-one piece of gear. What do you think?


    Squire
     

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  4. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

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    Jan 19, 2003
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    #4
    I was referring to the M-audio, yes, but I also have an M-box. The Tascam would work fine, but the M-box probably has better Mic amps (by Focusrite) and as I said comes with ProTools LE which is a great piece of audio software.

    Plus Digidesign for all their frustrations at pro level are active partners with Apple, Tascam don't enjoy that relationship.

    If you can find an M-box (Apple sell them on the site) I think it's a great unit for GB and you'll like ProTools.
     
  5. br0wnbuffer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2004
    #5
    There are a couple all-in-one's for < $200

    The Edirol UA-20 ($179) and the M-Audio USB Audiophile ($199) are on par feature-wise.

    Both have 2 line ins, S/PDIF and stereo RCA outs, headphone jack, and MIDI (1 in/1 out). The Edirol is USB bus-powered, while the Audiophile is self-powered.

    Neither has preamps. You'll need those if you want to use to bring just about any mic or line source in. You can get M-Audio's Audio Buddy ($79), but then you're starting to hit near $300.

    The Tascam US-122 looks like a pretty popular choice. It has everything you need including pre-amps with phantom power, and it appears to be built well. You can get it at musiciansfriend.com for $199, quite a deal.

    The mBox is a great little box, and was one of the first designed for mobile users. Focusrite is pretty much the gold standard for preamps, so it's nothing to sneeze at. But if you're not going to get a reasonably good mic to do it justice, then it's not such a big factor.

    One bit of advice, the Shure SM58 is fantastic for live performances, but it won't pick up much detail compared to even a fairly low-cost condensor mic. Check out HarmonyCentral.com for mic reviews. You can get a pretty good one for a little more than that SM58, or maybe even the same price.
     
  6. pepeleuepe macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    #6
    If you are just using the mic for recording vocals I would recommend a condenser mic over a dynamic one like the SM-58. Condensers have drastically dropped in price in the past couple years and you can find a pretty nice mic for $100.

    I have two Behringer B-1 condenser mics and they work great. Its unbelievable how much more detail this mic picks up compared to a dynamic mic around the same price. I got mine for $100 a piece with case, shockmount, and windscreen, so in the end its not that much more than an SM-58.
     
  7. crenz macrumors 6502a

    crenz

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    Shanghai, China
    #7
    For the microphone, I'd go to a local music store and ask them to demonstrate several mikes to you. You will hear the difference for yourself. A versatile condenser mike will not only make a huge difference for your vocals, but will also allow you to record instruments, e.g. your saxophone. If you also have an acoustic guitar, try recording it using the pickup and the microphone and mix the two channels.
     
  8. Squire thread starter macrumors 68000

    Squire

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2003
    Location:
    Canada
    #8
    Again, thanks for all the help.

    I keep hearing about how good this M-box and Pro-tools are and, if I had the money, I'd probably get it. The problem is that most of this stuff has about a 50% markup over here. That, unfortunately, puts it out of my price range. (I found the M-box for about $700 US; the US-122 is still pricey at about $320 US.)

    I'll probably try to pick up a half-decent used mic instead of a new one. And, yeah, for my sax, I'll get a condenser mic. I've heard good things about the Rode NT-1. It goes for about $220 US over here new.

    This could become an expensive hobby. ;)

    Thanks, again.

    Squire
     
  9. losackmd macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2004
    #9
    why do i need an audio interfase to record guitar/mic

    hi

    WHY DO I HAVE TO HAVE AN AUDIO INTERFACE FOR THE G5?
    in order to record an electric guitar or mic into GB?
    these are already hooked up to my mixer.

    i have heard users tell me that they plug directly into the
    mic input ( back of mac) or go into their mixers with their guitar/microphones
    and out from the mixer ( with RCA's) directly into the MAC input.

    why the added expense?

    i had an old 8500 that had rcas built in and the sound was fine.

    why is the M BOX necessary if i have a mixer and ordinary cables?

    thanks

    glenn
     
  10. br0wnbuffer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2004
    #10
    You don't NEED them

    It's all a matter of sound quality. The audio interfaces we've discussed all have nice 16 or 24-bit A/D converters, and the audio comes in over USB. Your mixer provides phantom power for your mics, which is good. Depending on how good the mixer is, it could introduce latency and/or noise. With your setup, the signal is coming in analog and is relying on the computer to convert it, with any noise that might accompany the signal on its journey. With an interface, it's converted at the box and comes in clean. It's all about getting as clean a signal into the computer as possible.

    You could conceivable run everything into a simple Mackie or Behringer mixing board, then run stereo RCA's out to the line-in port on the Mac (if it has one, iBooks don't). But for me personally, I don't trust a 1/8" line in. As an alternative, you could run the mixer out to a simpler USB audio interface like Edirol's UA-1 ($89), which has RCA's in and out.

    There have been threads on the use of Griffin's iMic, which does something similar. The complaints have been that it is a bit noisy. If you can get really good sound in without much noise, my hat's off to you. If not, go with a true audio interface.
     
  11. br0wnbuffer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2004
    #11
    Different Mics

    For vocals, I have a couple of mics - a modified MXL 2001 for vocals, and two mics for instruments, an Oktava MC012, and a MXL603. The Oktava is great for acoustic guitars and horns. You can find Oktava MC012's for less than $100 on eBay easily. If you go retail, you'll find lots of condensor mics of varying quality for well under $100 from AKG, Nady, Behringer, and others. I wouldn't suggest going overboard on hardware like mics yet. Stay within your means, and focus on your music. Crappy music still sounds crappy no matter how well it was recorded.
     
  12. crenz macrumors 6502a

    crenz

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    Location:
    Shanghai, China
    #12
    So very true. However, I'll second Br0wnbuffer's advice: Work on the music first before spending too much money. You might be able to get a cheap USB MIDI Interface and a small mixer (4-8) tracks for less than a MIDI & Audio USB interface (I just got a Yamaha MD10/2 for EUR 110,-). Connect the mixer to your computer's line in; that gives you two tracks. At least give a listen to the cheap condenser mikes before you get a SM58. (The SM58 won't work really well for a sax anyway, IMVHO.). Get cables, and you're set. The electric guitar might sound a bit thin though.

    After a while, you can still get an USB audio interface (or even a Firewire one), Logic Express, DI-Box, ...
     
  13. dantaco macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2004
    Location:
    Boston
    #13
    The truth about mics

    Honestly, it all depends on the quality of the recording you are looking for. If you are just looking for something audible for demos (meaning you can hear all of the instruments), and professional quality isn't a major concern, then I would just buy the cheapest mic that sounds good with your voice and instrument (condensers usually sound better but not on all voices/instr). Don't spend over $100.

    Now, if you want professional quaility, dont spend any money without doing the following:

    1) Don't use the Mac line-in. The A/D converters won't provide pro-quality signals. A mic only sounds as good as the signal it is running through to tape (or disk)
    2) Buy some sort of pro-level DAW or A/D interface like a Digidesign MBOX or better. These have 24bit 48Khz A/D converters and will be more sufficient for pro-level recordings. They also usually come with good software (Cubase, ProTools) for recording, MIDI, and you can still use garageband.
    3) Buy a good mic pre-amp. Without a good pre-amp, you won't get the best sound out of a mic.
    4) Buy a GOOD mic. Not a cheap one. A condenser for under $100 is a CHEAP mic and will probably not produce pro quality sounds. Start at $300 and find mics that sound good with your voices/instr.

    And good luck!
     
  14. br0wnbuffer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2004
    #14
    There are so many ways one could go...

    The important thing is that you can build a usable budget studio for $300, $500, $1000. In the last few years, it's become increasingly affordable for anyone to dabble in DA.

    I think if you're just going to start with GB and work slowly into it, don't spend too much - get the Tascam and a $100 mic. It's the digital equivalent of the old Tascam/Fostex four-track from 10 years ago. There's no shame in this.

    If you want some room to grow, get an Mbox for Pro Tools LE and the Focusrite pre-amps, or an M-Audio Firewire 410 for more inputs and flexibility (both $500), plus a $200 mic like a Rode NT-1, and Logic Express.

    For a $1500 package, get an even better mic like Blue Baby Bottle.
    Or you can get a USB control surface to complement everything.

    For $2000-3000, you can start thinking about a Digi 001 workstation, and a Neumann TLM-103, or Logic Pro 6.

    Several years ago, those first couple of levels didn't exist. It was still mostly 4/8-track analog and a lot of bouncing for the amateurs. This is a great time to get started making music, when technology has become even more accessible than before. Get started, and as you become more confident in your music and abilities, you can invest in higher quality equipment. Then you can pass on your older stuff to the next upstart.
     
  15. nickmarine macrumors newbie

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    Sep 23, 2003
    Location:
    California
    #15
    I had issues with my 2x2 while trying to hook my Yamaha P80 to my G4. I bit the bullet and bought an M-Audio firewire 410 which has worked great . Its a bit much @ $499 but I got it brand new ay guitar center for $300 so not bad.

    My 2 cents

    Nick
     
  16. patniemeyer macrumors newbie

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    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis
    #16
    US-122 is < $200

    I have the Tascam US-122... It's nice: two mic/gutar/line inputs plus midi. It's only $200 (not $320 as someone posted) and it's completely USB powered... which is nice if you want to drag it around with your laptop...

    It will even power the mics from the USB.


    Pat
     
  17. Squire thread starter macrumors 68000

    Squire

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    Jan 8, 2003
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    Canada
    #17
    No, my point was that it's about $320 over here. Import tax. Everything like that is expensive. The M-box will set me back 600 bucks if I buy it here.

    It's good to hear you like it, though. No compatibility issues with your Mac? How's the software that comes with it?

    Squire

    <edit: Is it as small as it looks? By the look of it, it seems to be about the size of, say, a DVD case.>
     
  18. patniemeyer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis
    #18
    Ah.

    As for size, it's a little bigger than I had thought it would be. It has about the footprint of a DVD case, but it's pretty fat and has large knobs...

    Which is good actually for daily use, but kind of struggles against the portability thing.

    Drivers are ok... I only had one problem using it with Audacity (audacity.sf.net) it broke under Panther... but it appears to be Audacity's fault.

    I'm using it with GB now and it's doing great. I've recorded guitar direct, line level keyboard and also MIDI.

    One small downside of the USB power - there is no additional power input (no plug or batteries) so it sort of dies and wakes up each time you put your laptop to sleep and that causes pain for the drivers sometimes... mostly ok, but once in a while I have to restart an app that I probably shouldn't otherwise have to.


    Pat
     
  19. sahnert macrumors 6502

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    Oct 20, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle
    #19
    You must be running at least OS 10.2
    A friend at school has a TiBook running 10.1.3 and just got that tascam unit for christmas. He was all excited to plug it in and start playing with it but couldn't get it to work on 10.1
     
  20. Squire thread starter macrumors 68000

    Squire

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2003
    Location:
    Canada
    #20
    I'm running Panther so that's not an issue.

    Back on the topic of microphones, have any of you heard of Leem microphones? Judging by the name, it sounds like a local company. Anyway, some of their mics are dirt cheap. It might be okay to start with. Eventually, I'm thinking about getting an AKG C1000S or a Rode NT-3. Half decent mics? (Based on the prices here, they're about the only two remotely close to my budget.)

    Well I just got an extra 512 MB of RAM yesterday. Now I just need to get my copy of iLife.

    Squire
     
  21. ExoticFish macrumors 6502a

    ExoticFish

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    The inner depths of madness, aka Kent, OH
    #21
    i was looking for something to plug my synth into and wanted more than just the m-audio 2x2 for expandability reasons (i'd like to mess around with guitars at some point). i found the Tascam US 122 off EBay for $159 shipped. brand new too! i liked that it had guitar inputs and phantom power mic inputs too. it's coming on friday, i can't wait.
     

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