New to recording...Need a beginner's setup

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by AFABS, Aug 21, 2009.

  1. macrumors regular

    AFABS

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    #1
    I want to get my feet wet with music recording and need some guidance. I would like to starting recording some guitar and vocals. Mainly I'd be recording electric guitar from an amp but as well acoustic guitar on occasion. My room is going to serve as the studio. Eventually I'd like to get a MIDI keyboard and would add some bass lines, keys, whatever...I've got a mac (obviously) and limited to USB equipment (no firewire). The most I want to spend is around $500. I need some help with Audio Interfaces, Mics, Cords, Setup...etc. At the very least I want to be able to record two tracks at time. My knowledge on recording is pretty limited so try not to get too technical if possible...oh and any suggestions on editing software (preferably something easy and reasonable in price) would be appreciated, I was advised to steer away from Garageband...Thanks in advance
    -Alex
     
  2. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    #2
    nothing wrong with starting with garageband.

    for recording two signals at once, you'll need:

    1. a 2-channel usb interface
    2. 2 mics
    3. 2 stands
    4. 2 XLR cables

    you can find a suitable interface for around $100. for mics, i'd suggest either a pair of AT2020's, or one AT2020 and a shure sm57. with cables and stands, that should total you out under $400.

    this is enough to get you started, and then you'll find your recordings sound like poop because your room sounds like poop.

    once you discover that, you'll be delighted you didn't blow your entire budget, and you can call up GIK acoustics and grab a couple 244 bass traps to help your room sound better.
     
  3. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    #3
    oh yeah -- those AT2020 mics (just like any condenser mic) need phantom power, so make certain the interface you pick provides it in both channels.
     
  4. thread starter macrumors regular

    AFABS

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    #4
    thanks for the input zim...

    which of the two mics would record which (vocals or guitar)? The sm57 is mainly for instruments if I remember correctly?
     
  5. macrumors member

    brmaki

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #5
    57's are ok for vocals as well, they can be used for almost anything and it's one piece of recording gear that you'll never outgrow.

    if i were you i'd look at the studio projects b1 and a 57, i had an at2020 and it sounded very thin. if you have any room to up your budget a little, rode is running a deal right now where if you buy one of their mics in the month of august, you get a second one for $1, and the rode nt1a is a pretty respectable entry-level condenser ( it's a large diaphragm condenser). that (or another ldc) with the 57 would be a really good starting point mic-wise.

    +1 with what zim said about phantom power, and that there's nothing wrong with garageband...there's especially nothing wrong with garageband considering your budget and what you need.

    as far as audio interfaces, i started out with the presonus audiobox...it's been treating me really well so far, has two channels, phantom power yadda yadda.
     
  6. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    #6
    whichever sounds better on each source that day.

    for acoustic and guitar, i'd first reach for two condensers. but some vox work well with the 57, and it's a standard on guitar cab.

    having only two mics is a tough call, as there are advantages to having a set and advantages to having variety. your call.

    the last song i mixed, i recorded the vocalist with a 57. came out pretty darn good, i think. if i have time, i'll upload it somewhere and post a link.
     
  7. thread starter macrumors regular

    AFABS

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    #7
  8. macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #8
    RE: New to recording...

    RE:
    "i noticed the presonus audiobox usb comes with cubase le 4???"

    I believe most of the Presonus products come with Cubase LE 4 bundled in. Cubase LE is a very good application - it offers FAR more control than does GarageBand, yet is still relatively simple to learn and use (note: there _is_ a learning curve).

    That said, I'd suggest that if you're looking for an audio interface that you choose firewire for your connection. It is SUPERIOR to USB insofar as latency and the number of connections are involved. It's worth spending a little more for.

    I've used a Firebox for the past several years, and it's been a good, reliable unit. You can probably find them on ebay for $125 or less.

    What's especially nice about the Firebox (and other firewire-based interfaces that use the Mac OS's "CORE audio" internal drivers) is that there are no "driver conflicts" with it, because there are no drivers. With CORE audio, you just plug the thing in and open the "Audio/MIDI Setup" utility to select it. In fact, with Firewire, just plug it in and it may automatically be "recognized".

    The Firebox had to be one of the easiest peripherals I ever connected to my computer. Literally:
    - Take out of box
    - Plug in with firewire cable
    - Open Audio/MIDI Setup and select
    - Open GarageBand, select Firebox in prefs
    - Start recording.
    About ten minutes total.

    (I would think that it would be nearly as easy with ANY interface running via CORE Audio)

    For mics, you might also look at CAD mics. I would recommend the M-179 multi-pattern LD condensor as a very good mic for the money (about $150). Excellent for vocals and acoustic instruments.

    For an "on the cheap" mic that sounds 'way better than it costs, you can't go wrong with the MCA SP-1:
    http://www.pssl.com/MXL-SP1-Condens...h-Clip-s?AID=10404878&PID=2242988&SID=2684871
    Buy one, and if you like it, buy a second and you'll be set up for stereo tracking.

    For cabling, I'd suggest partsexpress or monoprice.com.

    - John
     
  9. thread starter macrumors regular

    AFABS

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    #9
    Unfortunately I've got the one of the new macbook aluminum and it doesn't have a firewire connection (WTF right?)...so I'm limited to USB...thanks for the other advice on the mics and cables though
     
  10. Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #10
    Just to echo that one can very rarely go wrong owning a 57 or 58, and they're cheap on the used market (just be careful of eBay -- there are a lot of counterfeit ones running around). A couple big hidden advantage for this kind of setup in getting one of those or another well-liked dynamic mic... (1) you can always re-sell them with minimal loss, (2) if you're using your room, you may be seriously over-estimating the amount of insulation you have from background noise. LDCs are crazy sensitive... if you're recording in your bedroom, you're going to have to do a lot of cleanup on the track you record off the LDC. A dynamic mic will be much easier to use in this respect.

    I've heard good things about Presonus and also Edirol... I ended up going with the Line 6 Toneport UX2...

    http://line6.com/podstudioux2/

    Primarily because it adds a lot of really usable modeling capabilities beyond what GB would give you, although if you get Logic you might not need that. Also it has a really good reputation among less expensive interfaces in terms of noise levels. I'm really quite happy with it, although I use it predominantly for vocals and not for guitar (I really actually like the modeled vocals stuff -- I use a de-esser, tube pre-amp, analog compressor, and reverb setup in it for an SM58 and I'm really happy with the results). OTOH this particular one does have some limitations in terms of what it can do for multi-track simultaneous recording....

    I'd also suggest seeing if you can avoid blowing $500 at once, if that's a significant investment for you, since you might find out what you want is different after you start. For instance, if you get a reasonably priced, versatile mic, and a USB interface, you can get started with just those two things, and then decide what you want to do next...
     
  11. thread starter macrumors regular

    AFABS

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    #11
    thanks mkrishnan...

    it looks like a LDC might be overkill for me then since I will be just recording in my room and it's pretty big so I don't want to put padding/pillows/etc all over the place...especially just starting out seems like the Shure mics will be the way to go...still having trouble figuring if the sm57 or sm58 will be better for which thing if it matter at all

    another question that just came up is...will i be o.k. recording vocals just into the mic with no amplification or pa system? Just wear headphones and listen to the other tracks?
     
  12. macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #12
    The above is right but I'm more conservative. Buy only one mic, cable and stand. See if you like them. If you do one more of each if not buy a different brand of each. There is an advantage to having all matching gear and an advantage to having some selection.

    The sm57 and sm58 mics are very close. the 58 has a wind screen better suited to vocals the 57 is typically used for instruments.

    There are many copies of these mics. Shure themselves even make some. The Shure pg57 is half the price. Some of these copies are sold are the real thing (rip-off counterfeits on eBay) Other are up front about their mic being a "clone". Some of the copies are good enough and for $40 not bad. What you don't want is to pay $100 for a copy. Many of the mics sold on eBay and Craigslist are fakes, stay with the better retailers unless the price is low enough that you don't care.
     
  13. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    #13
    rough mix is here.

    sm57 -> phoenix drs-1 pre -> 1176
     
  14. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    #14
    57
     
  15. macrumors member

    brmaki

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #15
    The 57 and 58 are exactly the same mic internally, the 58 just has a windscreen on the top. I'd get a 57 if I were you, as you can always add a windscreen or pop-filter in front of it, but if you ever feel the need to take the top off of a 58, it's not protected underneath like the top of a 57 is. Just my $.02
     
  16. thread starter macrumors regular

    AFABS

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    #16
    ahhh didn't know that about the Shure's...Zim i'll give the track a listen
     
  17. macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #17
    RE:
    "Unfortunately I've got the one of the new macbook aluminum and it doesn't have a firewire connection"

    Then look into the M-Audio "Fast Track Ultra".

    Google it and you'll also find a few videos (including a tutorial) on YouTube.

    Given a choice of the following:
    - dynamic mic
    - large-diameter condenser
    - small-diameter condenser
    ... the best choice for voice is usually the LD condenser.
    ... best choice for acoustic guitar is often SD condensers, but nothing wrong with the LD ones, either.

    The MCA SP-1 mics I mentioned above would be a good place to start. For $100 you can get a pair of them. Set them up for stereo and track your guitar first, then your vocals.

    - John
     
  18. thread starter macrumors regular

    AFABS

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    #18
    wow sounds great Zim!!!
     
  19. thread starter macrumors regular

    AFABS

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2008
    #19
    This was stated by a poster in another forum as a reply to the same topic

    "Note that the vast majority of AI's (FTT pro included) make provision for the direct connection of electric guitar so you can record "silently" if you want/need to.

    This will not sound "the same" as a mic'ed up amp but that is often hard to do well anyway! In fact with 2 tracks there is no reason why you can't have direct in AND mic on amp at the same time, but I am complicating matters!

    Dave."

    Is it really going to be difficult to record of my guitar amp...would this only be "difficult" using a dynamic mic...not sure I want to be recording "silently".....
     
  20. macrumors member

    brmaki

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #20
    You don't have to record the guitar direct, and in my opinion, recording direct normally sounds worse than micing a good sounding amp.

    If you get an interface, a mic and a stand, then it's easy to record. Most interfaces should work with Garageband right away (or the software that some of them come with) and then you can just start experimenting with different places to set up the mic in relation to your combo and start recording!

    You should check out this site and read through 'The Guide'. They have forums on there as well with tons of knowledgeable people and many new guys (like you and I) that need some answers. This very topic has been covered in great detail both in the Guide and on the forums there. Give it a look...I think you'll find a lot of great information.
     
  21. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    #21
    i agree with brmaki -- prefer mic'ing to going direct.

    now, is it difficult? in terms of getting a decent sound, no. in terms of a lifelong pursuit of that perfect guitar sound: yes!
     
  22. macrumors 68000

    NoSmokingBandit

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2008
    #22
    I do a bit of amateur recording via my Line 6 PODxt Live and i would suggest you do use Garageband instead of a more complex app like Logic. Why? No matter what the "professionals" may say, you do not need a massive collection of apps, plugins, and crazy junk. You dont want to start relying on software to get a good clean sound. Look at the Beatles. They didnt have rewire, midi, or half that stuff that even garageband has, and i doubt anyone will say their recordings are sub-par. If you can get a clean signal into your computer (no static, buzz, hiss, pops, etc) then all you need to do is start learning your instruments, mics, and speakers. Theres no need to spend thousands on just software, it will become more of a crutch than a help.

    That being said, go buy yourself an sm57. You can record almost anything with it and sound great. If you plan on buying 2 mics get a 58 for vocals and 57 for instruments.
     
  23. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    #23
    but they did have excellent players, mics, recording equipment, live room, eq's, compressors, and george martin. most of which GB does _not_ have.

    that shouldn't read as, "therefore, use Logic," but if an available tool helps someone get the sound they want, what's the harm in using it?

    besides, i bet the Beatles would have used rewire and the rest, had it been available.
     
  24. macrumors member

    brmaki

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #24
    especially on the white album
     
  25. macrumors 68000

    NoSmokingBandit

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2008
    #25
    Thats the important stuff there. Know your room, your instrument, and your mic. Master the hardware first, then see what you need your software to do.

    Even if they would have used it, its important to see that its not required, even though many "pros" will tell you it is. When someone tells me that i HAVE to have X piece of software to record or its going to sound like ***** i just ask them if all music from the 70s sounds terrible. Most professionals spend a ton of money to make themselves feel good then try to tell everyone else that its impossible to do it any other way.
     

Share This Page