using mac laptop for audio recording. macbook or pro?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by masse, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. masse macrumors 6502a

    masse

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    #1
    my powerbook is starting to struggle to keep up with my daily needs and I will be replacing it this summer. For the past year or so I have had my eyes set on a new macbook pro. I liked the extra screen real estate, matte option, and nice graphics card for games etc.

    I have come to realize that I haven't played a computer game in 3 years and I probably won't get back into them as I hardly ever touch my xbox360 either. While discrete graphics would be nice for some autocad and CATIA purposes, there are very powerful computers on campus I can use for those.

    I have a passion for music and have written many songs and I'd like to start recording them (audacity and built in mic doesn't really cut it). I have a friend at music school who works in a recording studio so he's giving me some input as to what sort of interface and mic I need.

    I will only be recording guitar and vocals, probably as 2 tracks.

    ----------if you dont care about me and just want to answer the question look below----------

    Okay so, is there any reason a macbook pro would benefit over a macbook for entry level recording work? the idea is that if I go with the macbook I can spend more money on recording stuff.

    A second question is should I get a 7200rpm 200gb hard drive or 5400rpm high density 500 gb hard drive to use internally in either machine?

    Thanks.
     
  2. DJJONES macrumors 6502

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    #2
    get the 7200
    its gonna be good for easing down the latency of your recordings.

    macbook vs the pro is a preference thing and also money thing.
    the internal video card of the mb does use up more memory then the mbp since it has its own card.

    not sure if that makes the mbp a faster machine or not.
    i bought a macbook pro because of the case material lighted keyboard 15 inch screen.
    only the blackbook and macbook pro are comparable im assuming that your gonna either get one of those?
    other wise you cant really compare the macbook to the mbp. speed is different btw the both.
     
  3. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

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    #3
    Don't record to your system drive.... ever!

    Get a 7200 500Gb LaCie FW800 external and record to that.

    But get the MBP for the FW800 anyway, and stuff the biggest HD into it you can afford, the Logic libraries alone are 40 odd Gb and NI Komplete is about the same.

    Unix writes to the system drive all the time, you can't guarantee contiguous data in that scenario, and latency will result regardless of disc speed.
     
  4. masse thread starter macrumors 6502a

    masse

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    #4
    hmm..another 500 GB external...

    Well alright, I'll see what I can do as far as money is concerned. I didn't realize how expensive a decent microphone is....Anyway, once I figure out what I might be able to afford I'll post it here. Thanks.

    Any other suggestions are more than welcome.
     
  5. DJJONES macrumors 6502

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    #5
    a good mic requires a good mic pre and interconnects as well.
    dont go off buying a 500 dollar mic and a 100 dollar mixer and 20 dollar cable.
     
  6. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #6
    Any current Mac will do simple (2 track at a time) recording well. The differences between the MB and the MBP have to do more with expandability in the future if you start doing more complex things. The external hard drive thing is a good policy.

    The overall quality of your recording has to do with the entire quality of your recording chain, starting with the sound of the room you are singing in, through to the quality of the microphone, the preamp and analog/digital interface, and the skill which you bring to setting the correct levels during recording, and later during mixing.

    Hit the library and get some books and magazines. My favorite is a British one called Sound on Sound, but see the sticky threads at the top of this forum for more suggestions.
     
  7. Killyp macrumors 68040

    Killyp

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    #7
    You can't seriously think a good cable is going to improve the sound.

    Sure shielding has an affect on the sound, but there is no way you're gonna hear an improvement with different cabling - it's a complete myth.
     
  8. zosoaudo007 macrumors member

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    #8
    Dude, I call BS. I don't know what your experience is with this, but I can tell you flat out that is incorrect. Cabling is VERY important. It is probably the weakest link in a studio, and if there is cruddy cabling throughout, it will surely show itself. Professional grade cables as compared to consumer grade will make a huge difference.

    Cables aren't intended to improve sound. The goal of cables is to carry audio with the least amount of distortion, noise, and interference attainable. Consumer grade does not carry audio as well as professional grade. While pro-gear won't improve the sound, it will carry it to it's truest form.

    To the OP: When recording make sure the mic cable is not touching any other type of cable currently being used (digital, power, or audio). You want to buy the shortest distance you can, but also professional grade (Monster, preferably XLR, or quarter inch). Definitely no RCA crap (the red and white connectors).

    The RCA stuff works, but it is definitely not pro-gear and if you have a large chain of things (or just bad connections) it will definitely be apparent.
     
  9. masse thread starter macrumors 6502a

    masse

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    #9
    I'm not exactly a professional, but I do want decent quality in my recordings. I'm more concerned with the best combination I can get for my money rather than the best combination money can buy.

    I don't want one weak component in the combination bring the quality down etc. I'm still trying to work out my exact budget. If I go with a macbook it will be around 600-800 dollars. If I go with a macbook pro it will be a lot less haha. I'm thinking around $450.
     
  10. DJJONES macrumors 6502

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    #10
    you just contradicted your entire post!.

    you think the guys over at sony records are using xlr cables from the 99 cent store:confused:

    obviously a better cable is not going to put back what's missing from the vocals but any recording engineer's concern is that they definitely don't want to hear nor add what is not suppose to be in a recording or mix.

    its good piece of advice and the best way to go if your thinking or trying to get decent recordings. i dont want to see this guy coming back in another month or so saying that his vocals sound like blender blending a blackberry.
     
  11. DJJONES macrumors 6502

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    #11
    wow
    thanks for clarifying.
    some people have a larger nut then there head.

    if you want to record. you need a few basic things.

    computer
    daw
    monitors
    interface
    mic and cable

    now if your getting a computer, and now only have 6- 800 to spend for the rest of the items dont expect great quality.
    any kind of audio recording hardware and software doesn't come cheap.
     
  12. Killyp macrumors 68040

    Killyp

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    #12
    Shielding = a way of preventing external electromagnetic noise from interfering with the sound.

    No, you're right Sony, and the BBC don't use 99c cables because they know they'll break within a month, if less, and coil badly. Often they aren't even wired fully so you can't get a balanced connection to further reduce interference.

    No cable at line level, and especially mic-level is ever going to show any sonic 'advantages'.

    I spend £15 on a 10m XLR lead because I know I'm getting a cable which is going to reliably last a long time, coil back up each time and I can run it close to mains leads without getting much in the way of 50hz hum. I don't spend £15 on an XLR thinking it's going to give me a 'sweeter' or 'more dynamic' sound.

    Nobody has ever proven there to be any sonic advantages of 'good' cable. Blind tests have never given any conclusive results. If any had, everybody would know about it.
     
  13. junior macrumors 6502a

    junior

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    #13

    I don't agree, I can tell a difference (along with many other engineers I work with) and tend to choose different cables for different situations in recording. You'll probably laugh in my face now because I do the same thing with custom made electric cables as well (pre amps, ad/da, comps).
    And no, I'd don't think either approach has been scientifically proven, but I trust my own ears.

    Each to their own, obviously, but personally I find it a little naive of someone who spends 15 quid on a 10m cable to be so dismissive of the notion that different premium manufacturing processes per cable could give different end results in a recording environment (obviously I have no idea what so ever of your past experiences, so apologies if you've done tests in the past).
     
  14. DJJONES macrumors 6502

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    #14
    personally
    when it comes to mics i wouldnt use cheap cabling at all. just because to me i believe that capturing the human voice is very important in any recording.
    so my best hope and belief is i wasnt to narrow out and atleast put my mind at ease knowing that its not my cable thats degrading the sound.

    now i damn well know not any cable in the world will spice the sound up.
    we'll leave that up to eq compression delays etc all those wonderful tools.
     
  15. masse thread starter macrumors 6502a

    masse

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    #15
    Okay, I'll buy the best cables I can afford, but its not on the top of my list. Personally when I used to play electric guitar I tried different types of cables and really couldn't tell the difference. In fact, the monster gold cable that I got actually was the only one I've ever had break. go figure. Anyway..

    Is 800 dollars really not enough for a decent microphone/whatever else I need hardware wise for 2 track recording? I've been recording as one track with freeware and an internal microphone. Anything will be a drastic improvement.

    800 is for hardware only, not software. I figure 200 for a hard drive, 200 for a condensor mic, and 400 for whatever else I need (this is the part I have no idea about). I can get the software as a gift, it will probably be logic pro rather than pro tools, but I don't know much about either so that's also up in the air.

    You guys have been really helpful so far. Thanks.
     
  16. Killyp macrumors 68040

    Killyp

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    #16
    I see where you're coming from, and I also like to make sure I use 'good quality' cables, but I'm not big on 'spending big bucks' on cables. £15-20 on an XLR is money well spent IMO as it's going to last a long time, be reliable and reduce interference.
    However, I don't believe a different cable will give you a 'different' sound. I spent about £60 on a set of interconnects to go from my RIAA amp to my pre-amp and then from the pre-amp to the power-amp in my home setup and could have sworn I heard an improvement. However, I did a blind-test with a friend, and couldn't hear any difference at all, and he couldn't either.

    It's all psychological. As if to prove it, I tried recording the same thing through two different XLRs, flipped them 180º*and mixed them together to see if there was any difference, and the two cancelled each other out perfectly (with the exception of a bit of completely unrelated background hiss).
     
  17. DJJONES macrumors 6502

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    #17
    youll need a interface.
    you cant use a mic without a interface unless its usb.
    but usb mics i dont recommend at all.

    for mics i would look at akg perception 200
    rode nt1a
    you said your recording guitar? any vocals?

    motu ultralite or presonus fire box for interface.

    now you need some monitors or maybe you can work with what you have i dont know its up to you to make that judement.
     
  18. zosoaudo007 macrumors member

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    #18
    Masse it is a judgement call, but for just recording some of your ideas into your computer with guitar and vocals you don't need monitors. Unless you are going to get a good pair (which can get pricey), it isn't really worth buying any until you have the dough. That can easily be upwards of 1000 bucks. It seems like you don't want a studio setup, but something simple that you can work with easily. Don't worry about monitors until you have more cash.

    As for mics, you can get a Shure SM57 on amazon for like 100 bucks. I take it you just want something you can record into Logic or Garageband. Nothing terribly complicated. The SM57 is a huge part of the recording industry, and is surely present in studios around the world. It is a good investment, and relatively cheap. For what you are doing, spending more than 100 bucks on a mic at first is probably overkill. The AKG looks really good too, and relatively cheap.

    I would say the important thing is your interface. If you are getting a new computer, you want to make sure that the drivers are compatible with Leopard. The firebox looks decent. I have no experience with Presonus, but I hear they make good products.

    We have the basics covered:
    -Interface
    -Cables
    -Mic

    If it were me, I would get the AKG, firebox, and a good 10'cable.

    Good luck.
     
  19. masse thread starter macrumors 6502a

    masse

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    #19
    The last two responses were golden! Thanks guys.

    Exactly right, I don't need monitors, and I dont' have space for them either. (not to mention money).


    Simple, mic, interface, cable, will make a hell of a difference in my recordings. Like I said I currently record on the internal mic but I'm looking to put together a demo cd, and I've always wanted to have the power of decent recording hardware and software to use.

    I am recording guitar and vocals...preferably at the same time, that's possible right? or do i need a second microphone for that so I can get 2 tracks.

    I'm so clueless when it comes to this stuff.
     
  20. zosoaudo007 macrumors member

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    #20
    No problem, man. I know how frustrating this stuff was when first learning about it. Are you doing mostly acoustic stuff or will the guitar be direct input (DI) into the computer (like you would plug into an amplifier). With a DI you don't need a second mic. With this, you can sing and play at the same time with your mic for vocals and DI for guitar.

    Even if you are playing acoustically, you don't need two mics unless you want to sing and play at the same time when recording. Keep in mind too, you will most likely need a mic stand (possibly two if u buy another mic).

    For multiple tracks you have a few options:
    1. Buy a second mic and mic stands. Put one directly in front of your guitar, and another at head level for vocals. Each mic is your respective track. You can record both vocal and guitar at the same time.

    2. Go DI with the guitar and sing into the mic while you record both at the same time.

    3. You can record both tracks with one mic (if you are determined to record the guitar with the mic), but you have to do the two tracks at separate times. In other words, you have to record on guitar THEN record the vocals during playback of the guitar track. Or vice versa.

    I think I read somewhere you are doing electric guitar. So option 2 is probably what you will end up doing.
     
  21. cschreppel macrumors regular

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    #21
    Some good points have been made here. Here's my recommendations:

    MacBook vs MacBook Pro - I've used both for audio and I have to say that the MacBook Pro has indeed been a bit more reliable -- only marginally though. The dedicated graphics cards helps free up some space. The only real advantages with the MBPro is the FW800 port and more screen space. Other than that, either machine will suit you just fine.

    Software - Logic or Pro Tools? If you go with Pro Tools, you will be limited by their proprietary interfaces (mBox 2 mini, mBox 2, mBox 2 Pro, etc.). I would think that one of the mBox models will be just fine -- they are all USB interfaces except for the mBox 2 Pro which is FW400. If you decide to go with Logic, you have a multitude of interfaces available from Apogee, M-Audio, RME, etc. that will all work with Logic.

    Microphones - Since you're looking to do guitar and vocals, I would recommend getting a pair of matched large diaphragm condensers for the best bang for the buck. The Rode NT-1A is a great mic and pretty cheap. Shure KSM27's are also great mics as well. You'd be looking at $400-$600 for a pair. The reason I suggest using two mics is so that you can close mic your vocal and guitar for simultaneous recording. If you only need one, snag either one of those mics...they're great.

    Cables - There has been a lot of argument here regarding what cable is best, if there's any difference between brands, etc. I usually get my cables direct from Redco. They're comparable to Mogami cable, which is the industry standard. Monster cables are great, but I've found their bulky connectors to pose some problems with microphones, preamps, and interfaces -- aka, they won't lock into place.

    Hard Drive - External is the only way to go for audio -- unless you have a desktop computer that can have multiple internal drives, in which case you'd have a dedicated internal audio drive. Anyway, a 250-300GB 7200rpm or faster drive will be fine running on FW400 or 800. I usually don't recommend going above 250-300GB for drives because of potential fragmentation and increased seek time which translates to a lower track count or larger playback buffer in your audio software.

    Hope this helps!
     
  22. masse thread starter macrumors 6502a

    masse

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    #22
    Hell yeah that helps!

    Perfect.

    I should mention that I have an acoustic electric guitar in case there's some work around where I can plug the guitar in directly and avoid a second microphone (although this might just be wishful thinking).
     
  23. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

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    #23
    Check out mics from Sontronics and SE Electronics too, they are cheap and at least as good as the Rode NT range.

    I posted on the cable issue somewhere a while back, can't find it now, but it's the comments Dr. John Watkinson made about cables and physics.

    Mic cables also need to handle 48v power, and poor shielding can lead to problems in that area. The best reason to buy decent cable with good connectors is that they last a lot longer than cheap ones.

    Cheap cables are a false economy.
     
  24. cschreppel macrumors regular

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    #24
    You can certainly do that and most interfaces in your price range have both mic and line inputs so you can plug your guitar in direct. However, you'll probably lust for the natural acoustic sound after awhile...the direct sound just doesn't cut it for me in the studio.

    Invest in 2 mics, you'll be better off.
     
  25. masse thread starter macrumors 6502a

    masse

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    #25
    I think I'm going to try out one mic and directly plug my guitar in to start...If that doesn't work I'll have to pick up another mic I guess.
     

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