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Getting Started - Home Recording

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by Bob L, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. Bob L

    Bob L Tele-Meister

    230
    May 16, 2003
    Chicago
    I have very limited experience with home recording - mostly very crude efforts using Audacity and an analog mixing board into the PC sound card. I am interested in doing more recording for my own amusement; capturing ideas, creating backing tracks to improvise with, etc. Ease of use would be my priority, with versatility second.

    I thought that a small mixer with USB output would be a start. I searched other posts in this forum and saw recommendations to use an audio interface instead. I am trying to decide which would be best for me. A small mixer could do double duty for live gigs. I looked at a Line 6 audio interface that comes with modeling software for classic amps and stomp boxes.

    What things should I take into consideration before jumping in?
     
    hotpot likes this.

  2. Garruchal

    Garruchal Tele-Meister

    Age:
    50
    101
    Nov 29, 2013
    Seattle
    Ease of use is a big one. I basically went from being a professional musician to being a professional programmer because I wanted to use digital recording equipment in the late 90's. I've spent FAR too much time on gear.

    You will want a device which has decent mic preamps and can record and play back at least 2 tracks simultaneously. A USB mixer does this quite nicely (I would recommend the Behringer Q1202USB or Q802USB as good entry-level devices.) However, they are designed to satisfy a pretty limited need, and you might want to consider something with more routing capabilities, such as a Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD. The main differences are: more inputs and outputs, no faders, and higher sampling rate. For recording, it would mean that you can record 4 signals onto 4 separate tracks and also play them back separately if desired.

    Although I often record as many as 18 tracks simultaneously, most recording I do calls for one or two tracks at a time, which the USB mixer can do. If you think you might get the bug and expand, though, get the audio interface instead.

    As for software, there are plenty of free options. Take a look at Reaper.

    Other considerations: for simple home recording, use simple, good dynamic microphones (a Shure Beta58 is a great mic) because if you want to start using condenser mics you better start thinking of constructing a sound-proof room. Guitar directly into the audio interface will work great, if you have software with guitar effects otherwise, any multi-fx pedalboard with a line out will serve you well.

    If I had to go out and buy a recording setup today with very limited funds, I would buy the following:

    • Windows Laptop
    • Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD
    • Sennheiser HD202 headphones
    • Shure Beta58, cable, mic stand
    • Reaper with Guitar FX VST
    • A comfortable chair with no armrests
    • a beer
     

  3. KCKC

    KCKC Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 10, 2008
    Hingham, MA
    Hey Bob!

    I just started recording again and am reacquainting myself with my system. This is what I have:

    Cheapy dynamic & condenser mics>Alesis Multimix USB 2.0 mixer>computer running Studio One.

    I have had good luck with the Multimix but I don't think it's in production anymore. I like the ability to multi mic at the same time - This can be done with an interface as well.

    I've only just begun exporing the impact of the mixer eq prior to hitting the DAW and must say it's come in handy in helping me to get the best sound going into the DAW.

    You could gig with it if it is paired with either an amp for PA or powered speakers.

    I think if you were looking for ease of use over versatility an interface might be the way to go and if you are looking for a different recording software many other DAWs offer a free or trial version I've listed some below:


    Cakewalk (formerly SONAR) FREE

    is fairly comprehensive and now free

    https://www.soundonsound.com/news/sonar-now-free-renamed-cakewalk-bandlab


    Studio One: Free version

    https://support.presonus.com/hc/en-...ll-offer-Studio-One-Free-What-about-Producer-

    Pro Tools Free version

    http://www.avid.com/pro-tools-first


    Reaper Trial version

    https://www.reaper.fm/download.php

    I have used Reaper and Studio One and prefer Studio One because I find it more intuitive. However, Reaper and Pro Tools and a widely used and there are usually DAW specific forums that are tremendously helpful too!

    I'm sure a more experienced crowd will be chiming in soon!

    Good Luck!

    KC
     

  4. archtop_fjk

    archtop_fjk Tele-Meister

    161
    Aug 4, 2009
    Lebanon, NH
    Hi Bob L.

    Your description sounds exactly like my set up for the last 8 years, specifically: mic or guitar amplifier line out (or drum machine, keyboard) into an analog mixer (Yamaha MG10) into a computer with Audacity as my DAW. Though it's limited, I like Audacity because I know it well and it's been gradually improved over the years. Also, with this set up, I'm able to overdub drums, bass, synth, and other instruments without too much trouble or latency issues.

    The biggest problem for me with this setup has been noise. Up to now, I used the stereo output from the mixer and ran this into the stereo line in on my computer's sound card. It works OK, but it seems to generate a higher noise floor than I like, especially when recording acoustic guitar with a mic.

    I am now changing things up a bit. First, I am investing in a new Allen & Heath ZEDi 10FX mixer. With it's ability to use USB I/O, I can use a laptop, iPad, or computer to capture, mix and master the recordings (USB I/O should also lower the noise floor compared to my current rig). You can even capture multiple sources at once and save them to separate tracks on your DAW. I can also use this for live acoustic gigs as a general purpose mixer, as it has a bunch of on-board effects.

    In addition to the new mixer, I also plan to try Reaper as a DAW for recording. I've heard a lot of good things about Reaper - it's powerful, full featured, and not expensive. Should be a nice upgrade to Audacity.

    Beyond that, I may try different microphones, but I already have a collection of Sennheiser dynamic mics, a Shure SM57, and an AKG condenser. I'm eager to try capturing several live mics to separate tracks and then mixing them in different ways to get the best possible sound.
     

  5. screamin eagle

    screamin eagle Friend of Leo's

    Oct 9, 2008
    S. CA
    I just recently bought a Behringer UMC204HD and it's perfect, even if there are more robust models out there. The 404 makes sense if you anticipate tracking multiple instruments at the same time.

    I use Garageband.

    Currently I'm mic'ing my amp. I like this better than going straight in.
     

  6. jaybones

    jaybones Tele-Afflicted

    +1 for Reaper!! That's what I use. Got a plugin MT Power Drum Kit which at the time was free.

    A Behringer USB audio interface (>$30 on Amazon), and I was able to get some tracks down. Using the drum kit I was able to put down some pretty realistic sounding tracks.

    The Behringer USB interface only had RCA inputs so I had to make a 1/4" to RCA cable (simple splice), but after a while the splice got noisy.

    So I found a used M-Audio M Track for $50. Now I could use my low noise 1/4" cables.

    I have several songs I'm working on. There's a jazz progression I came up with in college that I've written a solo and bass line for. Also recorded an original with vocals I wrote when I moved to Key West (about moving there). Recorded the vocals in my bathroom with a Shure SM 57 on a stand and a SM58 hanging over the shower rod, to different tracks on Reaper.

    Mixed them down to get the best vocal sound.
     
    dr_tom likes this.

  7. 5ofeight

    5ofeight Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    854
    Oct 17, 2016
    Glasgow
    Reaper is just all you need, I have the Home use license which costs £60. Lots of plug ins and sims and Reaper can do basic video editing too.
    Plenty of help and how too's on Reapers forum https://forum.cockos.com/index.php to get you started on single and multi track recording..
    I use a Focusrite 2i2 thing to link my guitar but I can also use my THR10c as an interface for recording..
     

  8. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Friend of Leo's

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    Unless I'm looking at it incorrectly, Reaper appears to be free only for 60 days.

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Kristal Audio Engine. I've been using it for everything. It's a few years old, but quite capable and 100% free.

    http://www.kreatives.org/kristal/
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018

  9. suthol

    suthol Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 15, 2010
    Sydney - Australia
    At $60.00 US it's hardly going to break the bank, it is a further $60 when it reaches the each 2nd full release after purchase.

    I came in at R3.x and got all of the 3.x & 4.x releases, paid another $60 for 5.x and will have to stump up again at R7 when it comes along.

    Even as a pensioner I can afford that
     
    3-Chord-Genius likes this.

  10. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Friend of Leo's

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    Very few people alive today understand how cheap I am.....
     
    Outstanding Bill, 7171551 and suthol like this.

  11. bendercaster

    bendercaster Tele-Holic

    827
    Sep 20, 2011
    Sacramento
    I understand why folks recommend an auido interface over a USB mixer, but after using a couple with mixed results over the last 10 years, I now use a Yamaha USB mixer. I wanted something I could use live with my band and for digital recording. I'm very happy with it. It is low-noise and I like the preamps. It has some effects built in as well as a one-knob compressor on a couple of the channels--these have come in handy for live use.
     

  12. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

    Age:
    72
    Nov 28, 2004
    Mint Hill, NC
    LOTS to like about a mixer interface (see Gain Staging thread currently on RIP), but if you're going for pure audio quality, the Focusrite stuff has excellent bang for the buck as far as preamps and converters, even in the entry-level models.
     
    Martin R, dr_tom and bendercaster like this.

  13. Chanan

    Chanan TDPRI Member

    78
    Mar 20, 2015
    New York
    I’m a huge reaper fan. While I don’t advocate for short-changing them, technically after the 60-day free trial nothing changes except when you launch the program there is a dialog box for 5 seconds asking you to plunk down 60 bucks. But theoretically one could use the trial version forever...
     
    dr_tom likes this.

  14. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Age:
    66
    Dec 23, 2009
    Rocklin Ca.
    Great point about the chair I'm on my 4th one so far so good https://www.staples.com/Broyhill-Rosaline-Fabric-Chair-Dark-Grey/product_2263631
     

  15. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    66
    Oct 11, 2006
    Greater Boston

  16. Sconnie

    Sconnie Tele-Holic

    Age:
    26
    965
    May 1, 2017
    Denver, CO
    I know your primary concern is a mixing board/interface but don't forget how important a good microphone is. A Shure SM57 will be your best friend for pretty much everything, it's a worthwhile investment :)
     

  17. Bob L

    Bob L Tele-Meister

    230
    May 16, 2003
    Chicago
    Thanks for all the responses. I should have mentioned that I have SM57 and SM58 mics and don't anticipate moving up to condenser mics. I have a question about audio interfaces after looking at the Line 6 POD Studio UX2, which comes with a modeling plug-in for classic amps and other effects. Is the modeling applied after a track has been recorded, or is it pseudo real-time and can be applied to the signal while recording and monitoring? It would be cool to hear the modified signal while playing.
     

  18. Garruchal

    Garruchal Tele-Meister

    Age:
    50
    101
    Nov 29, 2013
    Seattle
    I have a POD HD500x, but have never used the UX2. When recording guitar, I often mic my Princeton, but when I am being recorded for the theater I work at, they want the HD500x. Clean sound with far more flexibility. The signal to the computer is post-fx, although we usually record two tracks; one clean and one with fx.
     

  19. Bob L

    Bob L Tele-Meister

    230
    May 16, 2003
    Chicago
    The Steinberg UR44 looks to be an interesting interface. It appears to allow monitoring with effects and comes with Cubase AI. Any users here?
     

  20. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Friend of Leo's

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    I just downloaded and install the Cakewalk, based on this discussion. All I can say is that it's going to be quite a learning curve for this old guy....
     
    aerhed likes this.

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