Microphone recommendations & interfacing with mac

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by joshuajestelle, Feb 12, 2004.

  1. joshuajestelle macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2003
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'm quite a beginner in the area of audio recording and mixing etc but I'm psyched about GarageBand.

    I've got a MIDI keyboard and an electric guitar and I'd like to purchase a microphone as well as a device to allow both my MIDI keyboard and guitar interface with GarageBand.

    So the advice I'm looking for is:

    1. what is a good basic microphone of descent quality but not too expensive, mainly for recording voice?

    2. what kind of device to I need so that I can record from my MIDI keyboard, electric guitar, and microphone? Is there a all-in-one device suitable for this? Or do I need multiple devices or some sort of mixer?

    Thanks so much.

    Josh Estelle
     
  2. Oroboros macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2004
    #2
    > 1. what is a good basic microphone of descent quality but not too expensive,
    > mainly for recording voice?

    There's an Australian company Røde that make a very good budget studio mic called the NT1-A. They've just invested in new plant which produces high quality mics faster, meaning the price comes down without sacrificing quality, so give them a look - http://www.rode.com.au/

    Behringer are also a good entry-level manufacturer.

    > 2. what kind of device to I need so that I can record from my MIDI keyboard,
    > electric guitar, and microphone? Is there a all-in-one device suitable for this?
    > Or do I need multiple devices or some sort of mixer?

    First, separate your digital devices (keyboard) from your acoustic devices. Your music keyboard's easy - Look for a basic MIDI controller keyboard, or any MIDI keyboard. Moderen ones are USB-ready, so they can just plug right into your Mac. Older ones are 5-Pin DIN MIDI plugs, and will need a MIDI-to-USB converter unit of some description. There are several brands to choose from... But they can be pricey.

    Acoustic input (even guitar) needs two basics: a pre-amp and digital-to-analog (D/A) conversion. Your best bet is to get a small pre-amp mixer, like the Behringer UB802. Not only will this allow you to have your mic and guitar pick-up going into the computer at the same time, this mixer can also supply phantom power for mics if required.

    (There's an even smaller pre-amp/mixer by Behringer, but I don't know the model number.)

    However, this mixer won't convert you analog input into digital output for computers. I know of no cheap machines that do. You'll need to pick up a D/A converter, like the extremely basic Edirol UA-1D (16bit/44.1kHz, two-in, two-out).

    If you want convenience-over-cheap, try the Roland UA5 or UA1000, which are both high quality pre-amp/ phantom power/ mix/ D/A converters. The Tascam US122 will do the job too.

    Please bear in mind that you seemed concerned about budget, and these recommendations are budget oriented. The quality of the items are great, but there are convenience, interface and flexibility considerations that some people like to... er... consider :)

    Good luck!

    -Oro
     
  3. joshuajestelle thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2003
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    #3
    Thanks for your reply.

    You've given a great basic description of what exactly is needed.

    Somehow when I started this thread I started it twice, and the other thread has received a bit more attention:
    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=60264

    On that thread the M-Audio Firewire 410 was suggested. Its a fairly pricey unit but sounds like its a good piece of machinery that it would take me a long time to outgrow. I was concerned with it working with the Mac, but it seems as though many of the problems with using it with the Mac have been resolved.

    But now you've presented some much less expensive options. I'm thinking maybe I should just go for the least expensive option and see how it goes from there... and if I find myself really doing a lot of this stuff then I could upgrade to something a bit more quality.

    Hmmm

    Thanks for your comments!

    Josh
     
  4. Oroboros macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2004
    #4
    Yeah, I noticed the thread was repeated too late and I jumped on the Johnny No-Friends one by mistake :)

    You've added another dimension to the mix: upgrading, so I thought I'd comment.


    > ... and if I find myself really doing a lot of this stuff then I could upgrade
    > to something a bit more quality.


    While you're experimenting, it's great to go low-budget and sort out what you're really after. But there's one thing I can't stress enough in your initial buy that you need to be aware of.

    If you _know_ you're going to upgrade your setup, invest in a decent studio microphone from the outset. That's your priority right there. If you're kinda not sure if you're going to expand or not, get the cheapest, rattiest microphone you can borrow/ buy. No point wasting good money for sound quality if you're at a stage where you don't need it, won't appreciate it, or you're going to run it thru so many effects filters that you may as well have yelled into a can tied to your comp with a piece of string.

    Your microphone is key. Your mic is the first and last wall of quality sound from the acoustic environment. You will record vocals, acoustic instruments, samples and sound effects with it. Your mic will faithfully record breathing, fret noise, as well as your acoustic environment's background noise if your room isn't treated nicely.

    So, depending on your priority of use, your microphone selection determines the range of novelty, or original sounds that go into your GB recording. If you're more interested in your electric guitar sounding hot than your vocals, skimp on the mic budget and throw it more toward something like the 410, or a MIDI controller keyboard.

    The second 'budgetary' consideration will hit you completely from left-field: treating your room :) Ideally, your mic will be positioned in a shock-mount, on a stand that's resting on a solid floor. If you have a bouncy wooden floor, you risk adding your foot-taps to the mix, for instance. If you have a powerful voice or wind instrument, and a boxy room, you'll eventually want to take to your room with a tape measure to work out what frequencies those damned re-inforcing standing waves are, and dampen them with foam walls or good ol' egg cartons, etc. Otherwise you'll find you can't mix some acoustic melodies properly, becasue some notes sound a lot louder (or tinnier) than others.

    An alternative to insulating your room is buying an expensive Graphic Equalizer, or spending an inordinate amount of editing time adjusting the volume envelope on your tracks. The latter solution sounds the easiest, but trust me: your first pass will hack you off enough to realise you won't want to go thru that again. It slows you right down.

    And all the dampening in the world isn't going to save you if your mic is positioned right by your computer :) If you're happy with your computer's fans, hard-drive spins and CD whizzes in the mix, you may as well use the built-in mic :-D

    The rest of the equipment is just middle-management, trucking the signal to the computer. The M-Audio 410 FireWire is a nice all-rounder solution, but that's a hella price. In my opinion, it's also a little overkill for someone starting out on a product like GB. You just want a simple chain from mic to computer, without having to switch between GB and another window for mixing and balancing. But again, this is the interface/ budget trade off everyone faces, and one solution doesn't fit all.

    If you were to give me more specific ideas on what you want to use GB for (just mucking around/ learning music/ scoring videos/ music notepad/ theatrical background/ sound effects/ post-processing) I could possibly throw more ideas at you with a view to saving money while maximising efficiency.

    Hope this helps,

    -Oro
     

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