M-Audio Fast Track or FireWire solo?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Josias, Nov 6, 2006.

  1. Josias macrumors 68000


    Mar 10, 2006
    I decided to build a mini home recording studio. I need to attach the following peripherals to my 2.0 GHz White MacBook with 1 GB RAM:
    Sennheiser MD419 microphone (XLR)
    Cort 70E acoustic western guitar (1/4" jack)
    M-Audio Keystation 49e midi USB keyboard (USB)
    Sennheiser HDR110 headphones (1/8" minijack)

    I'll be using Garageband 3 (iLife '06).

    I was wondering which is the best. I know the FireWire solo is double the price, but I dunno about differnces between the two. I would like a spare USB port, but the Fast Track has a mini jack for my Sennheiser HDR110 headphones. To use these with the Firewire Solo, I'll need to use the jack>minijack adapter I already have (will look ugly). Second, the Fast Track also has the excact aount of ports I need, also the RCA output is going to be useful.

    I just want to know, what are the technical advantages I get from buying the FW Solo instead of the Fast Track. And if anyone has the Fast Track, what kind of USB cable does it ship with. I really want a pretty Apple cable for my MB. If I'm buying the FW Solo, I'm getting a .5 m thin Apple 6-6 pin FW400 cable. Any advice?
  2. havocidal macrumors newbie

    Nov 6, 2006

    Which Fast Track are you talking about? There is the Fast Track Pro and the Fast Track USB.

    But from your description I assume you are talking about the Fast Track USB.

    I currently own the Firewire Solo and its main advantage over the Fast Track USB is that it records at 96KHz compared to Fast Track's 48KHz. Given that you already own a XLR mic, I suppose that the quality of your recording matters and that is where the Firewire Solo does better in.

    If you were to ask me, I'll recommend the Fast Track Pro instead.

    Anyway I see that you have the Keystation 49es. How good is it? Thinking of getting a MIDI controller soon.
  3. Josias thread starter macrumors 68000


    Mar 10, 2006
    I actually don't know about the 49e, since I'm about to buy it. Yes, I'm talking about the Fast Track USB. The FT Pro is double the price, and out of my budget range.

    My plan is to buy:
    M-Audio Keystation 49e midi USB keyboard
    M-Audio Fast Track
    Griffin Garageband Guitar cable
    Windcap for Sennheiser MD 419
    Stand for Sennheiser MD 419
    Jack cable (3 ft)
    XLR cable (3 ft)

    I'm buying the Griffin Guitar cable, so that I can have my own guitar and mic in the fast track, and my freinds/brothers guitar/bass via the audio in port on the MacBook.

    I know where to get all this stuff, and It'll cost me upwards of $350.

    Any further suggestions?

    I am sure that I don't need cables more than 3 ft.;)
  4. scottlinux macrumors 6502a


    Sep 21, 2005
    Get at least a 20' XLR cable. You'll need it.

    I would suggest saving up and waiting to get a firewire interface with 2 XLR inputs. 2 balanced XLR inputs, if possible. You will need it in the long run.

    Edirol has some good interfaces, also. Look there, too.
  5. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    I don't know about the idea of having the audio in and the USB/FW interface live at the same time. You may want to research whether Garageband can accept inputs from two different audio sources simultaneously.

    If you are recording a live duo/group situation, I highly recommend an interface with more inputs, or a USB or Firewire equipped mixer, to give more control.
  6. Josias thread starter macrumors 68000


    Mar 10, 2006

    I'm really sure I won't need more than 1 m of XLR cable, and if I do, this 3 foot XLR cable is a mere $10. No money wasted if I want a longer cable.;)

    I'm not gonna need two mics in the long run. Perhaps I will some day, but that day, my Fast Track will somehow have magically blewn up by Big Bang 2, and I will have gotten a FW box with 4+ XLR inputs.:D

    I didn't actually check that. I can't seem to costumize what audio feed the track should recieve from, but perhaps it's because I only have my internal mic. It can't find anything on the Apple Garageband page either. If someone can answer this, please do. This cable is around $25, so it's still a bit money wasted if I can't use it for what I intend it to.
  7. scottlinux macrumors 6502a


    Sep 21, 2005
    Hi Josias:

    Why ask these questions on this forum if you already know what you want? It seems like your mind is already made up.

    And a 1 meter/3' XLR cable for a mic? :) I can't tell if you are trying to be funny, of if you are actually serious. You won't even be able to mount that mic on a mic stand with just 3' of cable.

    Cheap XLR cable is around for about $1/foot. I paid $18 US for a 20' cable at a local store. Shop around and find a better deal than that 3' cable for $10. Yeeouch.

    And CanadaRAM is correct: Having audio coming in from multiple input devices is somewhat problematic, but can work with Tiger. There will definitely be audio latency problems, as well as noise differences. Get a better interface. Firewire, and more inputs/outputs. It's worth waiting and saving your money.

    But your mind is already made up, so whatever. I see in your profile your age is 14. It's hard to take advice at that age. I was the same way.
  8. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    let us note from his first post that one of his main concerns is how pretty the bundled USB cable is.
  9. Josias thread starter macrumors 68000


    Mar 10, 2006
    Allright, my mind wasn't made up. When you read the title, you see that I have a hardtime choosing between the Fast Track and Firewire Solo. Yes, I wanted to know if the bundled USB cable was Apple-y, so I knew if I'd have to buy another one to look pretty with my MacBook.

    And for the 1 meter cable. Whichever box I may be getting, it will be on the desk, and the mic will be on a desk stand. My desk is just about 6' wide. Seriously, I will not need more, and if I will, the 1 meter cable is $10.

    I dropped the Griffin cable, since I'm going to take your advice, and just get one big box, with more inputs. I though of the MobilePre USB, only 100 kr. ($15) more than the Fast Track, 2 mic inputs, 2 guitar/bass inputs, headphone and stereo line outputs.

    My only worry about this is the USB connectivity. I actually don't know how much difference the 48KHz vs 96KHz makes, but if someone could give me advice of FW vs. USB and 48 vs. 96 KHz, it'd be greatly appreciated.:)
  10. scottlinux macrumors 6502a


    Sep 21, 2005
    Some basic stuff:

    24 bit refers to the 'bit depth' (not the bit rate as most people say). Most everyone goes with 24bit over 16 bit these days. Basically, you are recording and working with a higher slice of audio data.

    Sample rate (44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 192, etc) refers to the number of samples per second that are recorded. The higher number, the better quality of the music. Though high sample rate recording takes a modern computer, fast hard drive, and plenty of hard drive space. CDs are 16bit/44.1kHz. Talk to any audio engineer and they will groan at the sucky rate that CDs are. But well, we are stuck there (for now).

    24bit/96kHz is somewhat of a recording standard, I'll hesitantly say. Others record at 24/88.2 to get down to CD bit/sample rate b/c of fewer rounding errors. Others prefer 24/48.

    24/96 is the high quality standard for DVD video audio, or the max audio quality it can do, I should say. Regular DVD audio is at 48kHz. DVD-Audio discs are 24/192. So we are talking about pro level audio standards here.

    If you are just doing stuff on the computer for fun, you will be just fine with 16/44.1.
    And USB can handle 16bit/44.1 with several tracks no problem.

    Firewire can handle MANY tracks (perhaps 16+) at 24/96, or many tracks at 24/192 even.

    USB transmits data in short bursts, which does not work well at all with audio (or video). Note that all pro audio and video devices are firewire only. Firewire uses a constant stream to transmit data.

    This is a good read:


    But like I said, USB 2.0 should be fine for a few tracks, 16/44.1.

    For the people who ask 'why 24bit? why 96kHz?' In 8-10 years, we will be laughing at ourselves at why we even asked this question.
  11. jonutarr macrumors regular


    Sep 1, 2006
  12. Josias thread starter macrumors 68000


    Mar 10, 2006

    I looked at tour article, and it seem to me, that though 24/196 has more than 250 times the audio resolution, the equipment to record more than 16/48, is much more expensive, than I wanna pay for a mini home recording studio.

    You see, my two younger brothers don't listen to music at all, my mom listens to music in AAC format on her iPod Shuffle, and my dad listens to .rm format on his wondize (soon to be iMac C2D:D ). My bigbrother and I use our Apple laptops and iPods for listening. The best audio speaker in our family, is my Sennheiser HDR110 headphones.

    Consider, this is for fun with my family, and for recording stuff when my friends come around. I'm not gonna publish a CD, and though many people warn me against USB, I don't believe it's that bad. I tried recording through a Fast Track USB today in an Apple Store, and it was brilliant. I'm right now set on the MobilePre USB, since it has 3 mic inputs (2 XLR + 1 minijack), 2 instrument inputs (2 jack) and is really cheap.

    I want the 61es keystation due to the semiweighted keys, I really can feel a difference. I wasn't sure on what difference the 16/24 bit and 48/96 KHz made, and how bad USB was, but I've seen and heard proof, that they both serve me far beyond my needs, and that buying a FW device with less inputs at double the price, would be just to play fancy pro.

    For a family/friend entertainment studio, how's this sound?

    Cort 70E acoustic guitar
    M-Audio Keystation 61es keyboard
    Sennheiser HDR110 hadphones
    Sennhesier MD419 microphone
    MobilePre USB
    2.0 GHz White MacBook with 1 GB RAM
    Some fancy Samsung speakers

    Besides the Cort and Sennheiser mic, my brother has a very good microphone and a Martin OM-28, and my freinds have various guitars including Martin DX-1, Fender Strat '82, Fender Squire Strat, Morgans and Gibsons, plus basses of various kinds. Of course, they won't all be here recording at the same time, but since I can add up to three guitars/basses, I should be good.;)
  13. A.W. macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2006
    No one who makes music people wanna hear would obsess about this stuff. (the engineers who work for people who have hit records might, it's true...) Help Me Rhonda, I think it was, was recorded in an empty swimming pool. Almost all Sun records were recorded using one mic...and a...TAPE recorder...cuz, guess what - no one cares about this stuff if what's recorded is good. Is the Zapruder film broadcst quality? Guess so...without hearing anyone's music here, I can guarantee you that your's (even at 24KHz! 8 bit) would be better than someone with no sense of fun at 96KHZ - honestly...teh worst thing you can possibly do is get caught up in technical stuff, when you're trying to make music. Thank God garageband makes it all painless. You probably don't realise it, but garageband alone replaces about - well - a 60,000 dollar studer tape recorder (just guessing on the price), or something, ten years ago - just make music...
  14. A.W. macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2006
    now i have a question

    to contradict myself...! Does anyone know what the analogue in quality is on the macbooks? i've only ever had ibooks, which don't have a built-in audio in. If you just want a single input, is it worth using an interface, or is the AD converter built-in any good?!? thank you..:cool:
  15. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    excellent sounding mics, excellent sounding board, excellent sounding tape machine, not to mention excellent musicians making excellent music recorded by excellent engineers.

    yes, tony visconte with an mbox will do better work than i will at a neve studio, but that fact shouldn't lead to the conclusion that crap gear is just as good as quality gear. and no, GB through a mac line input doesn't replace a studer 24-track.

    all else being equal, i do better work (work which i have posted here, btw) with good gear than i do with bad. i'll sweat the details in either case, as would any engineer, because the details are what make the difference.

    the sun studio guys wouldn't just throw up a mic and call it a day. they'd carefully place the musicians around it, carefully set all their levels, and coax that good performance from the talent. iow, the tools don't do the work, those who use them do.

Share This Page