Is my built-in sound card good enough, or do I need...

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Greenone, Jul 18, 2008.

  1. Greenone macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    #1
    ...to get an audio interface/pre-amp?

    I'm guessing the latter, only cause a detail I didn't mention in the title is that I'd also like the option of digitalizing/recording/preserving records and tapes and storing all that info on my laptop.

    While none of my playing/singing is professional, I've only just for the first time recorded myself just using the built-in mic and garage band and it's VERY helpful in realizing what areas I need to work on (hearing myself through speakers, whatever the size). I care about saving money but I also want to be efficient re. also being able to record the records/tapes and make halfway-decent recordings of my instruments/singing. But maybe I don't need anything fancy?

    As far as how many people it would be playing and/or singing at one time, at the least there would be me, playing an acoustic instrument and maybe also singing, and at the most I could imagine having two other people playing instruments as well, with one, two or all three of us also singing along. I'm not sure how many inputs would be necessary but I think 4 inputs is ideal for my circumstances, to play it on the safe side. Two inputs seems like too little (if I'd need 2 inputs to play and sing with alone...but even if I shared a mic with someone else, there could easily be a third person being left out) and 8 seem extravagant for a person who may hardly ever play with others and who isn't trying to be professional. I was also thinking that if friends and I really wanted to record for the sake of recording, we could add more instruments/singing during editing (or whatever it's called). The only audio interface out there that has 4 inputs is one specific one made by M-Audio (the Fast Track Ultra) but it has a terrible reputation for being incompatible with Macs. :eek: So what do you think? 2 or 8, considering most of this would be acoustics and mics? Is there a way to cheat without losing too much quality? E.g. could 3 people all sit near each other playing and singing with 1 or 2 mics in the center and that sound good enough? I think I've read that mono or stereo plays a role in this somehow but I don't know how.

    I've been told I want 24 bits but I don't know what my G4 Powerbook's sound card has (were I to consider using just that and a mic). "About this apple" seems to indicate both 24 and 16 so I don't know what exactly that means.

    Please answer any or all of the following questions! :D

    If my built-in soundcard is 24 bit or bits (not sure of terminology):

    - do I only need a mic to get a decent sound (but what about digitalizing records/tapes)?
    - is there a device I can buy that will allow me to hook more than one mic into the laptop (like a splitter of some sort), and if so, does it ruin the quality?
    - is there a small and less expensive something-or-other that is the next step up from the built-in soundcard without jumping up to the higher quality of an audio interface/preamp - that one or more mics can hook into?

    And finally:

    If I do get an audio interface/preamp and condenser mic (w/ stand, I imagine), do you have any Mac-compatible suggestions (meaning something that has a good reputation re. drivers)?

    So far, for audio interfaces, I was leaning in the direction of either:

    - the PreSonus FireBox (only has 2 inputs and "6 in 10 out)
    http://www.amazon.com/PreSonus-Fire...8&s=musical-instruments&qid=1216438616&sr=1-1
    - or if I really needed 8 inputs, the PreSonus FirePod (but a lot of $$$)
    http://www.amazon.com/PreSonus-FP10...8&s=musical-instruments&qid=1216438616&sr=1-3

    Or, another Mac-friendly one appears to be:
    - the Edirol FA-66 (also only has 2 inputs & "6 in 6 out"):
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009EQZNS/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
    - couldn't find an 8-input unit - just a 4-input one which sounds great but I can't find it anywhere online besides Amazon and the cost is as much as an 8-input one w/ excellent reputation such as the PreSonus Firepod, and ALSO I can't seem to find any user-reviews on it (just one old professional review which seemed good but anyway... :
    http://www.amazon.com/Edirol-UA1000...8&s=musical-instruments&qid=1216445515&sr=1-3

    Did I miss anything exceptionally mac-friendly?

    Thanks for taking the time to read aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall this! :eek::rolleyes:
     
  2. Greenone thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    #2
    Ok I realize I gave you guys too much to read/respond to so if someone could just tell me the details about my built-in soundcard (or how to find out those details myself), i'd be most appreciative!

    I have a "PowerPC G4" Powerbook with OS X version 10.4.11. It came out almost 3 years ago (in October or November).

    This is what I found about the sound card, but I don't understand if that means it's good enough (that I don't need anything more than a mic - as opposed to needing a mic AND an audio interface):

    Devices:
    Crystal Semiconductor CS84xx:
    Inputs and Outputs:
    S/PDIF Digital Input:
    Playthrough: Yes
    PluginID: Topaz
    Burr Brown PCM3052:
    Inputs and Outputs:
    Internal Microphone:
    Controls: Mute, Master
    Playthrough: No
    PluginID: Onyx
    Line Level Input:
    Controls: Mute, Master
    Playthrough: No
    PluginID: Onyx
    S/PDIF Digital Output:
    Controls: Mute
    PluginID: Onyx
    Internal Speakers:
    Controls: Mute, Left, Right
    PluginID: Onyx
    Line Level Output:
    Controls: Mute, Left, Right
    PluginID: Onyx
    Formats:
    PCM 16:
    Bit Depth: 16
    Bit Width: 16
    Channels: 2
    Mixable: Yes
    Sample Rates: 32 KHz, 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz, 64 KHz, 88.2 KHz, 96 KHz
    PCM 24:
    Bit Depth: 24
    Bit Width: 32
    Channels: 2
    Mixable: Yes
    Sample Rates: 32 KHz, 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz, 64 KHz, 88.2 KHz, 96 KHz
    AC3 16:
    Bit Depth: 16
    Bit Width: 16
    Channels: 2
    Mixable: No
    Sample Rates: 32 KHz, 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz, 64 KHz, 88.2 KHz, 96 KHz

    p.s. at the rate of overwhelming y'all again :eek:, I just want to point out that I also want to have the capability of recording/digitalizing old records & tapes, in the end (e.g. if my built-in sound card is good enough that all I need is a mic, perhaps there is a cheap little piece of equipment that can be attached to the laptop to allow me to digitalize my old LP's/tapes without having to go the whole expensive audio interface/pre-amp route. That said, if it's more efficient all around to get the audio interface/pre-amp, i'll do that...i just need some advice about it whether or not it's worth it).

    Thanks!
     
  3. DJJONES macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2008
    Location:
    Newengland usa!
    #3
    most motherboard or built in sound cards for any computer are usually inferior compared to the cards you stated.


    the sound is clearer and flatter and much more accuarate.
    if your doing recordings i wouldnt use the built in sound card.
     
  4. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #4
    Please read through the sticky posts at the top of this subforum

    It's a matter of quality . Yes, you will need an external microphone and a preamp or interface of some description to get higher quality sound. The input of the Mac is not a mic level input, it is a line level, so most mics will not plug in directly.
    You shouldn't simply sum two inputs together. You would need a Mixer to combine microphone other inputs - most recording interfaces come wit the ability to mix at least 2 inputs.

    Yes, the least expensive simple solution is from Griffin and it's called the iMic, it will record one mic or one stereo source. It is better than the built in DA, but it is not competitive with the other audio interfaces you've mentioned.

    To record from vinyl, you need to preamplify the signal from the turntable. The easiest way to do this is to run it through a stereo receiver or amp, and record the "Tape Out" or "Tape Rec" outputs, which will be line level signals. The iMic comes with a connector for turntables.
     
  5. Greenone thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    #5
    Thank you SO much. I've been sorta pulling my hair out about what to do (if you can't tell! :rolleyes:) and it wouldn't have taken much to push me in one direction or the other. While this will obviously cost more, it sounds like it's going to be worth it to have everything I'm going to need and of the best quality (since the reviews are so good)...and if it turns out I don't use this stuff as much as I plan to, they probably have good resale value (worst case scenario). Thanks again!
    - Theresse
     
  6. SigmundFraud macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    #6
    Three years ago I bought an entry level mini DV camera (a trusted brand) based on online discussion forums alone. When I actually got my hands on it, I hated it, and still haven't got round to replacing it. 5 minutes of shooting in a store and I would have known it was going to drive me nuts, and would have decided to spend an extra two to three hundred dollars (or more). I really believe it is important to trust your ears and try stuff out.

    The Griffin thing might be fine, but I'd try out some of the numerous low-cost Firewire or USB interfaces out there. You're probably not at the dedicated pre-amp/ Apogee Duet stage of your hobby - yet...

    Audition with something with a good dynamic range and some complex sounds - as well as what you usually listen to. I find proper orchestral music shows up detail nicely, while splashy cymbals in rock music can be testing in terms of reproducing any sort of realism. Bass guitar without lots of harmonics into higher frequencies can be helpful for identifying low-end problems. This is my approach, for what its worth. Audition with decent monitors - you won't buy them now, but you might in future, or at least some decent headphones. I can guarantee you will notice a huge difference between any of these interfaces and your motherboard sound-chip. If you can't, buying expensive equipment may not make sense for you yet. Try educating your ear by listening to live acoustic music and decent equipment, and compare it to consumer Hi-Fi products.
     
  7. Greenone thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    #7
    Thank you - I really appreciate the feedback. At any rate -- due to having twin babies and barely enough time on my hands to play my music let alone record, let alone go out and tests equipment ;) -- I went ahead and ordered the Prosonus Firebox and the Sennheiser HD 280 headphones. In the next few minutes (depending on whether or not I get interrupted) I'm going to get the Sterling Audio ST51 microphone and some cables though I don't know what cables or how many I'll need (or what brand is good, etc). If you read this in time and have advice on cables (not the cheapest nor the most expensive, which I hear would be something like Mogami?) please do advise!

    Thanks again -
    Theresse
     
  8. neverownedapc macrumors member

    neverownedapc

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2008
    Location:
    near chicago
    #8
    when recording any "live" instrument through a mic including one's voice, you need a certain tool to obtain the "warmth" from it. as for cables, get GOOD ones.
     

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