which : USB or Firewire audio interface + MB or MBP ??

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by marbles, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. marbles macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #1
    I am just getting into making music on Mac and am yet to buy the hardware to do this , I've read all the guides and still cannot decide to get the MB 2.4 or the MBP 2.53 ...is there any point getting the 2.4 MBP over the MB2.4 ?? ('cept for graphics/screen size + level 2 cache , does level 2 cache make difference for audio ? )

    I guess the position i'm in is lucky because I can choose either notebook to buy ( been saving for long time ) and not be too bummed out about the loss of FW ( I feel for you guys with investment in FW ) if I go USB, ...or should I steer clear of USB or will that not really be an issue unless deeply advanced at the MIDI/keyboard way of producing music

    I've not even bought the keyboard/MIDI controller yet and hope someone can shed some light in this darkened tunnel.

    This will help with my final decision on the notebook,please help me guys :eek:
    read for weeks on the net and need some clarification.


    cheers

    rj


    ps, I am also using the mac to run DVS( digital vinyl software) and the machine will only really be used for audio n light web browsing
     
  2. themoonisdown09 macrumors 601

    themoonisdown09

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    #2
    Firewire is the most common audio recording interface. If you plan on doing serious recording, then I would recommend getting the Macbook Pro. If you are only doing light recording or doing it as a hobby, then you could get by with a Macbook.
     
  3. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #3
    could you define " serious recording" ?


    cheers


    rj
     
  4. Tosser macrumors 68030

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    #4
    Yes, but make sure you don't get one of the many that doesn't work or only partially work with the Agere chipset reintroduced in the glassbook MBP.

    When you fancy a certain one, do a little research as to whether it works with the Lucent Agere chippies. Otherwise you might be in for an expensive surprise.


    Personally, I would define "serious recording" as many tracks, high bitdepth or high sample rate – or any combination of them. Or where the quality of the end product matters. In other words, where quality and bandwidth would kill a USB interface.
     
  5. themoonisdown09 macrumors 601

    themoonisdown09

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    #5
    How many tracks will you be recording simultaneously?

    Are going to be recording any full-sized drum sets? It usually takes around 8 separate microphones recording at once.

    Is this your job or soon to be your job?

    Do you plan on using GarageBand as your recording software or something more professional like Logic Pro or Cubase?
     
  6. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #6
    Not sure how many tracks really , I'll be using 3 turntables along with a keyboard/MIDI controller

    Foremost I'm switching from analog dj( best describes) to digital by using either Traktor scratch or Serato scratch .

    I'll also be staring/learning to use MIDI and Ableton Live , also thinking about using Logic Express 7 ( which I own already) to finish projects annnd trying to tech my kids music so thought a keyboard /controller good idea , but I'm not sure. was thinkig I could also use the keyboard to control what go's on in live

    Its for work but fun too

    cheers


    rj


    edit*
    So a Firewire model of some description then , I need the best audio quality I can afford , ideally 24/192 , be able to record sessions within a DAW (more than likely LE7) while using a keyboard/MIDI controller of some sort & also be able to record direct from a Mic , be simple and easy to use and known to be stable .

    any ideas ?
     
  7. themoonisdown09 macrumors 601

    themoonisdown09

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    #7
    I would think that either one would be fine for you. If you can find a good audio interface that uses USB, then the Macbook is all you would need. If you must go the Firewire route, then the Macbook Pro is your only option right now.
     
  8. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #8
    So if I understand correctly ... for played live guitars / drums , vocals and all that going on you would definitely need the firewire audio interface to plug all those folks through but for sotware such as ableton serato TSP etc USB audio inteface will be fine ?


    :eek:


    cheers

    rj
     
  9. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #9


    Just had a thought , if I was to get an expresscard with a firewire adapter that wouldn't give me any trouble as I'd get one with a texas intstruments chipset and use the onboard crappy firewire one for my external HD should have no bother that way , right ? wrong ?
     
  10. Tosser macrumors 68030

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    #10
    Expresscards are a whole nother can of worms. Even some of the Firewire adaptors including the TI chipset aren't up to speed literally. They have bottlenecks downstream. But if using a "correct" one, it should be doable.

    From your other post you certainly do need a firewire interface. A usb-one simply won't do.
    Have you taken a look on the previous generation MBPs? They would solve that problem – and for a cheaper price to boot.

    I'm not a DJ, so I'd rather not tell you to get a specific interface, but if you can settle on a price, and perhaps narrow it down to a few that might not be perfect for you, but tell us why they're not perfect, I might point you to a few others to choose from, if that makes sense?
     
  11. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #11
    yes , definitely makes sense , I have a discount voucher to use with Apple store retail so I can only use it for the new tech because those guys don't have any previous gen in store otherwise I think I'd get a black macbook. you sound as if you know what the "correct one" is ...I'll put the kettle on ...


    Really need to have good quality on the recording of dj sets ,as this is the money for me , the quality for the keyboard is not so much of an issue I'll be just using it to teach the sprogs music and to control functions within software .

    Not too sure what to say really , an all in one keyboard /audio interface , MIDI keyboard/controller sounds like it would be perfect ,and so would breakfast in bed every morning but I don't want to break the bank the Mrs will swing for me if I did :rolleyes: .


    maybe if I just say what I think I need to do ,it might give you an idea of what I'm looking to achieve.

    Record dj sets high quality , use a mic for capturing vocals , be able to control software with a bunch of pads for starting samples , knobs , sliders etc so I feel like I'm playing an instrument rather than using a computer , be able to simplify this down to teach my young something about music before I get too old and cranky

    I have a studio amp and some bose speakers(*****) at the mo but will want to move these on for a set of powered monitors , you know it's good to just chat about stuff as I'm picking up loads of interesting things and I've only started a couple of threads ( read a lot more though)
    looked at a load of things but tbh have now idea where to go from here


    what sort of budget do you think wise ?
    cheers


    rj
     
  12. Tosser macrumors 68030

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    #12
    I am going to go back and forth in your post, although that's not what I usually do. I'm sorry for the length – consider it rambling if you must. :)

    I am thinking, the computer power, graphics cards and so on really doesn't matter to you. This is good, as it widens the field a bit. What matters are trustworth connections, good preamps (in the interface) and so on. With your voucher, can you buy - and will you be willing to consider buying - the white MacBook?
    It's smaller (which is great for things like this) and has a proper firewire connection using the Ti chipset. The tradeoff for being smaller is that it has a smaller display for obvious reasons, but all things considered, I think the white MacBook is the better choice. Despite the awful color, ha ha.

    Also, it would free up some more money for other, more important stuff.
    Speaking of money, I really can't tell. It depends on how many you got! Yes, I know, I'm not trying to be facetious, but you can spend a 100 grand no problem, or you can make do with equipment for under 300 US dollars. I can't tell you how much to spend, and being the radio journalist-cum-producer and audio geek I am, I would propably set the goal post quite a bit higher than most people, including the "audiophiles" (you know, the people who think they can hear into the microwave spectrum, lol).

    With that said, I think you should avoid any and all all-in-ones. Even if it would be much neater. If you go for separates you can upgrade one part at the time. Making your set up better and better gradually.

    When I began doing radio montages and so on and went digital I used a small Sony Minidisc and an Electrovoice A636 microphone. It was cheap (well, compared to so much other audio related stuff). Since then I have bought a variety of microphones, including plenty of Røde microphones (cheap but good), Sennies, and finally settled on a Schoeps CMXY. Of course I have used a variety of studio microphones as well, but those weren't mine, just like the studio wasn't. Recorder's-wise I have owned - besides the numerous Sony Minidiscs and in no special order - the Portadisc (HHB MDP-500), DAT-recorders (Sonys, HHB PortaDat), Aaton Cantar X (yikes! It's huge!), Nagra Ares PII+, Edirol R9 (that was shortlived), but recent years I have been using a Sound Devices 722 for field work. At the moment I'm looking at the Nagra LB – not because of quality but because it has other features, albeit in a bigger case.

    For a number of years and when not in a proper studio, I used my HD25-1 solely for my monitoring . Then I played the stuff back on a cheap-ass stereo telly to see how it would sound on cheap speakers.
    These days I use my Avi Neutron IV with external amp packs for near-field monitoring. I still rely on my headphones, though. It's when I'm mixing I'm using the monitors. My interface is a rather simple one, so perhaps we should just ignore that one right now. I have used others in a proper studio, though.

    Anyway, I'm telling you all this, because it shows how an idiot like me will always try to get better quality audio. It seems you're just as idiotic as I am on that front.

    Btw, not to confuse you, but 192kHz aren't necessarily better than 96kHz (jitter and timing tolerances). You might end up with a slightly lesser quality recording when using that, compared to a 96kHz recording upsampled for editing, adding plug-ins and whatnot. But that's another discussion.

    I do believe you should concentrate on good phono stages/preamps and good microphones. I am not asking you to spend $3-5000 on a good microphone, but go condenser, learn to place it and so on, and don't go too cheap. It's a good investment, no matter how much you spend. You audio can never get better than the microphone. The same goes for the next stage: the preamps. This is where it matters when it comes to digital recording, be it a recorder or an interface. Of course, the same goes for the phono stage and your turntables. Crap in, crap out, as they say.

    The second important stage is the monitoring. It doesn't matter how good the rest of the equipment is, if you can't monitor it and hear the difference. Use good headphones. The Senny HD25-1 is the defacto standard for a reason – and not just because of their ruggedness.

    MIDI-wise you have to ask someone else. I really don't know jack about that stuff. The most electronic music I play myself is an EUB (Yamaha upright electric bass).

    I took a look at www.Sweetwaters.com to see what's out there with midi. I think that would be a good place to begin.
    They have this $50 controller!

    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/nanoKEY/

    haha, it's propably too simple, but there's one for $100 that's more classic – and it's from M-audio:

    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/KeyRig49/


    Anyway, If I understand how you work correctly, I will point you to MOTU and Presonus' rackmounted audio interfaces an away from digidesign (it doesn't seem like it would fit your work, frankly). You might like the MOTU Ultralite MKIII.
    Control surface-wise, you have to make your own decision on what you need. But it would be a good idea to save some money on that and spend the saved cash on a better interface instead.

    Stop!! Enough is enough, I hear you say! Okay, okay, I'll stop for now, I just have one more thing to add. Take a look at this:

    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/VCM100/

    It looks sweet for a DJ traveling around. However, it's USB. Uses a 20bit A/D-converter which is downgraded to 18bit when in stereo. The reason for this, of course is that USB can't handle it. It will bottleneck.
     
  13. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #13
    Far less rambling than I and certainly I can see that you are used to conversation through words , being a journalist helps I imagine , I'm not , so I'll respond each of your paragraphs in turn if I can.sorry if it's a bit long this ....

    No , to a certain extent the CPU power does matter purely because I'll be running either Traktor Scratch Pro Or Serato Scratch Live and both those titles use a fair amount of CPU I'm told , especially the former , graphics wise I think that the integrated chip would be fine on the MB , I have doubts about the cPU although it is over the minimum specs req' I like to have a little overhead available there if needed.
    Then Ableton software which also use the CPU a fair bit too I'd get a Macpro but need mobility , also I feel the larger screen would be an advantage for this particular software .I wouldn't care if it was blue with green dots as long as it worked :p :).



    Haaa , yes I've met a few microwave listeners before and hear what your saying , I'd rather put money into something decent though than buy crap and buy twice , initially it's a bitch to pay out the money but in the long run something that I can rely on for quality of sound /durability , but, not cost the earth is what I'd like , not bothered at all about bragging rights or showing off or anything , just want decent gear man but nothing more than necessary you know .


    I was thinking you might say that about all in ones , was beginning to think that way my self , funny isnt it , when you initially begin looking at this stuff it takes an age to wade through the garbage and the only way I can find out it's garbage is by reading every bloomin article out there at every piece of gear there is :eek: and talking to good folk like yourself of course .

    Thing is I've used a fair amount of equipment over time but never had to know anything about it before , should have learned but there you go.
    The Mic is just for recording simple vocals for sampling into my sets , my little ones developing a habit for singing so I'd like to record that too , like before , just something of good quality but not silly money . I was given some headphones recently I think they're Sennhiesers or something similar (have to check name )

    I'd read that about the 96 over 192 , it does confuse me a fair bit but wont go there , I'm scared now lol ,

    I like the MOTU ultralite mkiii but I think it may be a little to much to spend at the moment ...nearly £400UK , on top of the interface I have to get a dj mixer and some way of controlling MIDI too and a keyboard for the kids ...I have about a grand UK £ :(

    I'd imagine you know more than I about MIDI but I'd imagine it would have to be supported by the audio interface for it to be able to record the sounds , no ?


    good preamps / phono stages it is then , should mention I should be picking up a dj mixer of some sort this next few weeks , not sure which yet , more than likely four up faders ( 8 channels) usuall eq pots and wot not , more than likely get one with NO effects on board as if I ever used them I'd use them in software I imagine ...anyway , I couldn't really use headphones as monitors as I need headphones in order to mix the various sounds together in a live setting so rely on the speakers to give me the monitoring and phones to 'pre mix' the tempo etc before dropping next track in or sound/sample or whatever .
    So speakers would be a necessity , use the headphone for mastering and all that and messing with Logic Express but defo need speakers of some sort .


    hehe , I was looking at the Korg nano kontrollers , they look fun for the price , could be ok for the kids then they don't mash up my gear I'll have a closer look in town in a few weeks time read that the MAudio gear can be a bit , well , err .... a bit rubbish .I suppose everyone's mileage varies though , it's tough to decide what to do for best , sometimes there really is too much choice .

    The rack mount is not really what I'm after , this gear will be for practice and recording sets at home/studio only , other gear will be there when it's a live set,........ set up by someone else ( thankfully )


    just need something for the house to get stuff recorded and send out .
    I'll ask around about the MIDI interface controller but I have seen a few about that look t' have more than whats needed just now & would enable growth ?...


    , one from Akai MPK49 which reads up well & costs about £240 UK pounds (ish)http://www.akaipro.com/mpk49

    also seen the Novation SL range which has automap to sort out the MIDI setup , it's around the same sort of price as the Akai ( for the smallest one )
    http://www.novationmusic.com/products/midi_control/remote_sl/#details
    There is the KorgMicroKontrol for about 200UK but it reads up like its a bit plasticky and crappy .

    any more thoughts Mr Tosser ? ( couldn't just call you tosser now could I )





    cheers for all your time spent writing your responses mate ,highly appreciated




    rj
     
  14. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #14
    Tosser , are you cross because of my massive post ? sorry man I just thought and typed , wish i could talk properly instead of by words on a screen ,hope you respond man , I was getting loads from this conversation.
    I found a few comments around the place about the Agere FW thing , some saying it's updated chipset some saying not .
    http://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/169025-new-mac-pro-quads-agere-fw-not.html









    Do you Tosser , or anyone anywhere know what exactly will work with the on board FW800 on the MBP ? or is it a non issue really because I could add the FW port using the express card slot and use the on board FW for my external HD
     
  15. xparaparafreakx macrumors 65816

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    #15
    A macbook will be fine.

    As for interface, your options are limited. If your going to use SSL, you need their audio interface. If your going to use TSP, your going to have to use their Audio 8.

    Unless you got with another program, they you can use almost any audio interface.

    Find the program you want to run first, that will point you to what interface you need.
     
  16. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #16
    I thought you could use any interface :confused: wasn't certain about SSL but for Traktor I thought you could because you can buy the audio 8 interface separate from the traktor software.

    I was hoping you'd drop by some of my other threads


    cheers

    rj

    edit > if I get a macbook I'd have no firewire input and a few folks now have been saying that USB is a no no for what I'm thinking of doing
     
  17. xparaparafreakx macrumors 65816

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    #17
    For what your doing, DVS, USB is your only option.

    Unless you go with a mixer that has firewire and TSP ready. Korg Zero 4 and Korg Zero 8 are good examples. I think ill buy one a Zero 8 soon.
     
  18. grandmachar2002 macrumors member

    grandmachar2002

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    #18
    get the best your money can buy. it will have better resale value
     
  19. marbles thread starter macrumors 68000

    marbles

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    #19
    I am completely confused now . how is USB my only option ?

    so confused right now it's untrue , oh yeah , I only really used the zero's as a reference to the type/style of mixers I'm thinking on , man I heard some really bad reports about the zero's ...I'd stay away .

    appreciate what your saying but I intend keeping this stuff awhile .
     
  20. xparaparafreakx macrumors 65816

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    #20
    SSL only works with their box or their mixer, its only USB.
    TSP only works with their box, its only USB.

    Like I said, dont worry about the audio interface, just find the program you like to use. That program will decide what interface you are getting. As for the people who don't like USB, they are not doing DVS. They are recording live audio and in that case they do need firewire.
     
  21. Tosser macrumors 68030

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    #21
    No, no, no, man. I'm not cross. I just sort of had my focus elsewhere thinking I would respond when I could do it properly. Don't worry.

    I will get back to this thread a little later today. :)

    Edit: Just one thing: That thread from Gearslutz is from January. The MBPs at that time used the TI chipset. It was the previous model (from then) that for short while used the Agere chipset.
    The newest computers "Fall 2008", or "glassbooks" once again use the agere chipset.
    There is NO way of knowing what it will work with, except trying. Of course, it doesn't have to be you who do the trying out-part, but sometimes the manufacturer has tested it, sometimes one got unlucky and wrote about it. But it's a case-by-case thing.
     
  22. grandmachar2002 macrumors member

    grandmachar2002

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    #22
    youll still get better resale value:D
     
  23. Tosser macrumors 68030

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    #23
    It is possible to get a proper Expresscard/FW adaptor with an on board TI chipset. However, for many of us, this has been a somewhat less than ideal solution. In theory it should work, but in practice and with anything but HDDs, this is far from always the case.

    I am willing to bet that the CPU matters far less than you think. RAM does, the CPU far less. Of course it matters to a certain extent*– you propably loose out if you were using an MBA that throttles back to 800MHz, but within reason, it really matters little. You're not doing video, and part of what you're doing is midi, which, as far I know, doesn't really tax a system that much. But then again, I know jack ***** about midi.



    Yes, that is one of the reasons I am (was?) trying to steer you into buying a whitebook if you MUST have a Mac. It means you can spend more money where it matters. Even if it just means getting something with better plugs, mondane as it sounds.


    I think it's a wise decision if you indeed go for separates. I mean, without an unlimited budget or the ability to go "I won't improve my sound quality until I can buy everything in an all-in-one once again" I really don't think buying such things are a good idea, all things considered.
    With that said, though, if all you can afford a single thing, cheap as it may be, you might not get what you want, ultimately, but at least you're doing it.

    Assuming you want, say, a sexy voice – be it female or male - you will have to go for a condenser – not an electret (not a spelling mistake) - but a "real" condenser microphone. It will be warmer than a dynamic microphone, and what some people don't like about these types is the "proximity effect", but I put that down to them waving it around and not know what they doing. In real life, this proximity can be put to good use, and the more kidney shape the "pick up" is, the more of an effect (as opposed to an omnidirectional microphone).

    Forgive me if you know this, but the thing is, that "the proximity effect" is just that: If placed near enough to a mouth, all of a sudden the person will sound like he or she is up close to your ear. You want it pointed right _next_ to the mouth so it doesn't pop and so on, but she will be whispering in your ear, or that warm male voice will be talking to YOU and not the "the crowd".
    After considering how it will be used, I think you start rather cheaply. You want phantom power, but this means you will want to have it on your interface.
    Now, here's the thing: The Røde microphones are relatively cheap. Well, in my world, they're "dirt cheap", but I realise that they're not the cheapest out there. What speaks for them is that the handheld microhone takes a 9V battery, creating it's own phantom power. Neat, huh?

    Seriously, go for some sort of condenser microphone.

    Haha, yeah. For simplicity's sake you can think of as an amplifier (technically it's not the same, but …): When you let an amplifier works its arse off by moving the attenuater up to, say, 3 or 5 o'clock it will distort like hell. Better get a bigger amplifer and keep it below 2 o'clock.
    The thing is, that the AD-converter is has less headroom for mistakes and will output those mistakes into the file. With 96khZ output on a 192kHz converter, the information including all the mistakes are lost.
    Anyway, that's the simplified version. Let's take the real deal to another day :)


    Well, that's reality for you.
    Anyway, so how do you feel about finding a DJ mixer you want (find a cheap one – you can always upgrade, and a mixer is the simplest of things) and some cheapo midi controller (there has to be some really cheapos out there, considering you seem to have simple needs from what you told me). Then we can tell what you have left when that is bought?



    Haha, no. I don't know jack about midi. Never used it. I'm just an audio geek and my way of being it is being a sort of "documentarist" (I really don't like that term). I'm guessing it's because of the journalist-part of me – or perhaps it's the other way around? Who knows …
    Anyway, if you want to control the audio interface, yes, it will have to be supported by it. If you want to control the interface manually, but control the software-part of your set-up, it really doesn't matter. Now some midi-buff will propable (and hopefully) chime in and tell me I got MIDI all wrong, and that one the thoughts I have of how to use midi is all wrong, and thus clarify things – for both you and me.


    Yeah, I'm in the "clean sound" bracket as well. Better add stuff after or further down the line. It gives you more choices in the long run.

    Okay, but start cheaply. I'm serious. Most places have crap speakers and you want to hear what it sounds like places like that. When you really want to hear the details and be able to differentiate, use the headphones. Oh, and get some closed headphones for "looking" for those places (the lining-up). In a venue with a lot of noise you will ruin your ears if you have to turn the volume up loudly enough to drown the speakers.



    Maudio aren't considered "good". But my thinking was that they're cheap(ish), mass produced, and will propably get the job done for what it is. Just don't buy their audio interfaces if you can help it. However, as always, to quote and paraphrase Larry and Lin Pardey (of engineless cruising fame): Go cheap but go now.

     
  24. grandmachar2002 macrumors member

    grandmachar2002

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    #24
    whew! Im tired after reading that post^^^^

    so the expresscard can work with a firewire 400? I would think apple would include support for this as so many pros are losing there interface capabilities
     
  25. Tosser macrumors 68030

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    #25
    LOL, sorry about that. I figured rsj wouldn't mind I took it step by step.

    Yes, you can get a firewire adaptor for an express card slot. I wouldn't suggest someone used it for audio, though. But external harddisks will be just fine (mostly), and there will be no target mode.

    It's not a matter of Apple including support, the port itself supports it, but you're using an adaptor downstream of the firewire chipset, and if you buy one of the slower ones and/or one with an Agere chipsets you can't count on it one working even as an average FW-port. So there. In theory it ought to work, but in practice you will propably run into one or the other problems meaning it's all but useless for anything more than external HDDs.

    http://www.google.com/search?ie=utf8&oe=utf8&q=expresscard+firewire
     

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