the home studio

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okay- so i'm in a band, and we're pretty good live, but we're really DIY and none of us know anything about gear. so say we just want to record a few mp3s for the website without spending too too much money, but we want to them to sound pretty good (our current batch, recorded with a $50 computer mike, make it sound like we're playing underwater). can we do it to some freeware multi-track program for an imac, like audacity, or should we buy a four track recorder? can we just all play together live and have it sound okay or do we need to go track by track? what kind of input mic(s) do we need? yeeks. that's a lot of questions. maybe there's some online guide or library book that explains all this and doesn't secretly suck?

Mark Danjer (Danjer), Thursday, 16 February 2006 19:35 (sixteen years ago) link

This depends on whether you want your demos to sound live or whether you want to produce them a bit. If you're fine with a decent-quality live recording, then the cheapest, easiest, lowest-risk thing to do would be to rent (or borrow) a selection of good microphones and a small mixer. You can get a good stereo mix on the mixer, run it directly into your computer (no multi-tracking), and have a decent-sounding live track right there -- all without having to actually purchase anything. But you won't be able to get into the production side of things, and actually put any work into "recording" the band.

The other option's more complicated, so I'll have to hit that after lunch, maybe.

nabisco (nabisco), Thursday, 16 February 2006 19:47 (sixteen years ago) link

thanks, nabisco. i'm curious about the more complicated option, but first, another question about option 1, since i'm really an amateur. so we mike all the amps and use our existing vocal mics, plug them all into the mixer, and then someone listens to what's coming into the mixer on headphones? when i say we're amateur, i mean that what we've been doing so far (at our tiny dive bar shows) is just all plugging into our big tube amps, putting the vocals through a PA, and playing.

Mark Danjer (Danjer), Thursday, 16 February 2006 20:23 (sixteen years ago) link

Okay: keep in mind that I don't actually know much about this, and have virtually no experience actually doing it. That said, these would be the cheaper, easier options:

(a) MIXER. You can get a mixer that interfaces with the computer via Firewire, so the quality will be good. And the whole thing will be fairly easy. The drawback is that you'll be recording the whole mix, straight into the computer, so you won't be able to do anything with it once it's laid down. That's a big drawback. But if you decide to do this, then yeah -- first off, you'll get the mixer and computer as far away from the band as possible, so someone can actually hear the mix over the band itself. You'll also want either a mixer with some basic effects built in (reverb) or an extra effects processor, so you don't have to record stuff like the vocals raw. Right. So you'll spend an eternity setting up the mics so they sound right, and so that the sounds are separated enough (i.e., guitar mic is picking up drums), and then you'll spend an annoying eternity trying make them mix down right. The worst part there is that you might sometimes have to record a bit of the song, put down your instruments and listen to it, make adjustments to the mix blind, record again to see if they worked, etc. But once you have something you like, you can just click the mouse, record the input, and there's your recording -- no opportunity to fuss around. It'll just be like taping the soundboard mix at a live show.

(b) TAPE FOUR-TRACK. So this gets around that problem where you can't listen and mix at the same time. The new problem is that the average four-track probably won't have enough inputs to do a nice mix, so you might need a regular mixer on top of it. (So you're back to the same issue, kind of.) But so you'll go through the same process of getting all the mics right, the sounds good, the sounds separate, and then you'll record your tracks. But in this case, it'll be easier, because you'll have the option to record things one or two instruments at a time, if you want to -- and do overdubs, too. So in the end you'll have nice-sounding tracks on tape, plus you'll be able to sit down and actually mix them in real time -- adding effects, EQing, whatever you want. Huge plus.

(c) DIGITAL WORKSTATION. Probably the best option, if you can get hold of one for a while. You can do lots of recording, adding more tracks more easily than with tape. You have loads of ability to mix after the fact, and the workstation will probably have built-in effects for your to use. It'll basically be the equivalent of getting multi-track recording on the computer, except way easier for you to learn and use (turning a computer into a studio kinda takes more than you'd think), and way cheaper. So if you can rent one -- or better yet, find someone who has one and knows how to use it -- you'll be in good hands.

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 17 February 2006 02:29 (sixteen years ago) link

I've gotten pretty good results with a minidisc walkman style recorder and a stereo microphone- i.e. how most shows are bootlegged these days. it will get you a pretty decent, detailed live sounding demo with little to no hassle and very little expense.

b mulvey, Friday, 17 February 2006 02:59 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah, I have some decent recordings of a band I was in, made roughly that way: two good mics in the room and a portable reel to reel recording. The mixer idea -- whether he winds up recording direct to the computer, to a tape, to a minidisc, whatever -- is just a way of letting them get a few more microphones and some EQ in there.

For a basic live sound, you could probably get good results with just a handful of mics -- not set up right on the instruments, but just around the room, so you're hearing the whole thing as it happens. You'd just have to be sure you have a PA or an appropriate amp for the vocals. (If you record the instruments in the room but run the vocals straight into the mixer, they'll sound too different from one another.)

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 17 February 2006 04:41 (sixteen years ago) link

nabisco...most decent quality firewire audio interfaces for the computer allow multi-track recording, and I wouldn't be suprised if many of the mixer to firewire devices do as well. Something like this:

while not cheap, is pretty powerful.

I use:

which is a decent/high-quality interface, and also, while it doesn't have the physical faders, IS a mixer. You can plug in multiple instruments, adjust the mix on the front panel if you want, and/or interface it with a computer and record multiple tracks. It's about 700 bucks.

The 828 is cheaper then the Digi002 or tascam's equivalent mixer/interface and fact is, I don't trust the hardware in those all-in-ones. I have the 828, and a little Mackie mixer, the 1402 VLZ, and it's a really nice, versatile little set up. The only time I recorded like, a full band kind of thing, I was easily able to set up using some channels on the Mackie as mic-pres, sending the signal via an insert into the computer through the 828, while the 828 fed the rest of the mix to OTHER channels on the mixer that went to the singers headphones.

1000 dollars is a lot to spend, but if you have a decent computer, you can get a pretty powerful system for that much, and you're getting what would've cost 10,000 just a few years ago.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Friday, 17 February 2006 17:07 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah but Dan, you're talking about multi-track software bundled with the mixer itself, right? Which would involve buying the mixer and setting up the software. Whereas I guess I was saying dude here could rent/borrow a mixer and just do a straight stereo recording off of it, without having to set up the corresponding software on his computer.

But yeah, that said, sure: investing in a mixer interface that comes bundled with software ... that'll take care of you in the longer term.

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 17 February 2006 17:52 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah, but I don't see a great difference in recording a stereo feed, and recording a multi-track feed, unless the learning curve is too much a pain. But it's certainly worth it to be able to mix after recording!

How much do used adats go for these days anyway?

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Friday, 17 February 2006 20:36 (sixteen years ago) link

Recording multi-track would be totally preferable, yeah. I actually kind of wonder how much it would cost to rent something like a Firewire mixer, anyway -- above a certain price, you might as well just buy one and dive into the multi-tracking software.

Dan, you do your recording straight to digital, right?

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 17 February 2006 21:15 (sixteen years ago) link

the little that I do.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Friday, 17 February 2006 21:23 (sixteen years ago) link

thanks guys- these are exactly the kind of tips i needed. dumb question: is an 'adat' the same as a digital workstation?

we just had a show this weekend that went really well, so i think everyone in the band will be excited to get in a room and put something on tape that does it justice.

Mark Danjer (Danjer), Monday, 20 February 2006 05:10 (sixteen years ago) link

adat was a system Aleses made ages ago, recorded 8 tracks onto a VHS tape. It competed with Tascam's DA-88 which did the same onto hi8 or vhsc or something. But adat created a technology called lightpipe that is still a standard interface lots of machines have.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Monday, 20 February 2006 14:13 (sixteen years ago) link

two years pass...

So my friend Lucy and I are planning on making a record this autumn, and recording it all ourselves, at home. Lots of harmonies, acoustic guitar, keyboard, some bass, pots and pans percussion.

For the project, I'm borrowing a friend's Tascam digital eight track, and about the only other equipment I own is an SM-58. I'm going to the states next week, and can spend around $200 on gear for this. After doing a little research, I was thinking of buying the MXL V67G, for vocals ($100) and the MXL 603s, for acoustic instruments ($100). But the tascam for some reason doesn't have XLR inputs or phantom power, so I guess I'd need to buy something like this? Or what? Is it worth buying these mics to use without a pre-amp?

I guess what I'm asking, IMM, is how would you recommend I spend my $200-250?

Doghouse O RLY (G00blar), Friday, 12 September 2008 09:32 (fourteen years ago) link

Oh, and a friend has recommended I get the Heil Sound PR-30, for $250, which he thinks doesn't need phantom power.

Doghouse O RLY (G00blar), Friday, 12 September 2008 09:36 (fourteen years ago) link

yeah the heil is a dynamic, and i would recommend it over the MXLs

give me some peppermint freddo (electricsound), Friday, 12 September 2008 09:46 (fourteen years ago) link

Hey Doghouse, I own a Tascam digital eight track and recommend a pre-amp when recording to it. If you can get your hands on a decent pre-amp that is. I can't really recommend any of the on board effects either.

I like the machine though. Good luck.

brownie, Friday, 12 September 2008 15:21 (fourteen years ago) link

Thanks--this is the sort of thing I've got no idea about. And no money for.

Paging Mr Justen for global budget suggestions!

Doghouse O RLY (G00blar), Friday, 12 September 2008 15:53 (fourteen years ago) link


let me ponder this for a bit and get back to you.

PROVED BY BOOZE SCIENCE (John Justen), Saturday, 13 September 2008 17:07 (fourteen years ago) link


Doghouse O RLY (G00blar), Saturday, 13 September 2008 17:13 (fourteen years ago) link

(I mean: thanks, awesome)

Doghouse O RLY (G00blar), Saturday, 13 September 2008 17:14 (fourteen years ago) link


Doghouse O RLY (G00blar), Tuesday, 16 September 2008 15:48 (fourteen years ago) link

I would not bother recording acoustically at home without a decent preamp. you can get away with the right cheap mic if your preamp is decent. odds are high that plugging the best mic in the world into a tascam's built-in "preamp" will result in a dingy sounding recording. so read up on mic preamps.

your best answer is probably the m-audio dmp3, which does wonders for acoustic recording. however, unless you get a good deal on one it will eat up most of your $200 budget.

a secondary option at a lower price point is the audiobuddy. it's a very nice preamp that will get the job done and can be had for around $50. stay away from ART, behringers, or presonus. some people get good results from them but overall the quality control from those companies is not the best.

the groove tube brick preamp is also very good, but only if you stumble across some serious cash or find one cheap.

when it comes to budget mics, it's hard to make a good recommendation since you really have to make a love connection between your voice and a mic. voices are idiosyncratic instruments, and so are cheap mics. go into the shop and try a few out, preferably in concert with the preamp you'll be using. I hate shure mics, they do nothing for my voice, but people like them because results are predictable. MXLs are not very well made.

take a look at CAD mics. you're not going to be able to afford an e100 or e300, but they make great mics and although I've never actually used one, the GXL3000 seems like a good bet for $100.

this forum is good source of info:

and googling a term like "mic shootout" can return interesting results like this:

as a last bit of advice, when it comes to mic'ing acoustic instruments placement is key. moving a mic an inch can have a big effect on the sound, so play around in the beginning to find out where the mics sound best in the room you're recording in.

Ned Raggett (Edward III), Tuesday, 16 September 2008 16:24 (fourteen years ago) link

Whoa, thanks, that's really helpful. Maybe the DMP3 and one of the studio projects mics (B1 or B3)..

Doghouse O RLY (G00blar), Tuesday, 16 September 2008 16:40 (fourteen years ago) link

wow i really dropped the ball on this one timewise.

so yeah, i'm actually a big fan of the MXL 603s, but i think the need to buy a phantom power supply kind of diminishes the utility of condenser mics given your budget. i would buy something a little more geared to non-vocal recording than the 58 though - first thought would be a audix i5, which should be about 100 USD, and is a great utility/toolkit mic.

sorry if this arrives too late, was busy with a bunch of dumb store crap for the last few weeks.

SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Tuesday, 23 September 2008 01:10 (fourteen years ago) link

Ah, s'alright. I did end up purchasing the dmp3 and the SP B1. A lot of this was due to E3's advice, but also the thinking that having a good preamp will always come in handy down the road. I'll post results when I start recording.

Doghouse O RLY (G00blar), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:44 (fourteen years ago) link

two months pass...

G00blar how did you make out w/ the dmp3?

Edward III, Friday, 5 December 2008 17:01 (thirteen years ago) link

am just heading over to n/a's thread to report.

Manchego Bay (G00blar), Friday, 5 December 2008 17:03 (thirteen years ago) link

i'm really gearing up (no pun intended) to get back into home recording, which is why i asked about preamps on the other thread. i took a reel-to-reel four-track i bought for cheap to the shop for an estimate on repairs (though it's been a month and i haven't heard anything), am looking at getting a decent mic and preamp. i've got a month or so between grad school semesters and i'm hoping to get some writing and recording done in the extra spare time.

n/a is just more of a a genre polluted by clones (n/a), Friday, 5 December 2008 17:12 (thirteen years ago) link

reel to reel, sweet! hope you can find tape for it...

Edward III, Friday, 5 December 2008 17:16 (thirteen years ago) link

i bought a couple of used reels on ebay to test it out; unfortunately the four-track needs mechanical work before i can even get that far

n/a is just more of a a genre polluted by clones (n/a), Friday, 5 December 2008 17:18 (thirteen years ago) link

it doesn't look like the reel-to-reel will be repaired by the end of this semester so i'm thinking of just buying a cassette four-track off craigslist OMG WTF

n/a is just more of a a genre polluted by clones (n/a), Friday, 5 December 2008 17:19 (thirteen years ago) link

don't you already have a cassette 8 track?

some know what you dude last summer (Jordan), Friday, 5 December 2008 17:29 (thirteen years ago) link

yeah but it's been falling apart forever ... at least one of the sliders has to be taped down for that track to work, sometimes it has to be turned upside-down for a different track to work, etc.

n/a is just more of a a genre polluted by clones (n/a), Friday, 5 December 2008 17:32 (thirteen years ago) link

I never particularly liked the tascam 244 (aka the brown box) when I was using it in the late 80s but a whole lotta people seem to love them nowadays.

Edward III, Friday, 5 December 2008 17:35 (thirteen years ago) link

but that's where the SOUL is, maan.

i'm getting excited about recording again too, maybe just because it's cold outside? a dude i play in a couple bands with is going to write songs to some of my beats, and vice versa.


some know what you dude last summer (Jordan), Friday, 5 December 2008 17:36 (thirteen years ago) link

there's a tascam 244 closing on ebay tomorrow

Edward III, Friday, 5 December 2008 17:38 (thirteen years ago) link

two years pass...

Hey guyz, anybody use a usb midi keyb? I'm lookin for somethin mad compact like the Korg Nanokey or the Akai LPK25. Also lookin at usb mics, but everything I read says you gotta put up with mad latency. T? F? Recommends on those for instruments and/or vocals?

aka the pope (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Thursday, 23 December 2010 21:10 (eleven years ago) link

that nanokey looks a little too stripped-down, like maybe you would want something with a mod wheel or some knobs to control parameters?

i've got an old m-audio oxygen controller that works fine (and now that i'm getting a new computer, i'll actually be able to use it without terrible latency!)

bows don't kill people, arrows do (Jordan), Thursday, 23 December 2010 21:27 (eleven years ago) link

Something with only two octaves of keys would probably drive me nuts, but the Akai has dedicated octave up/down buttons which helps a bit. They're also bringing out the MPK, which is the same width as the LPK but with knobs and pads as well.

Les centimètres énigmatiques (snoball), Thursday, 23 December 2010 21:35 (eleven years ago) link

i use this, but i also want to get a lil keyboard when i feel like bustin melodies bc figuring out chords and shit on this is a hassle

infinity rebounding stats (m bison), Thursday, 23 December 2010 21:38 (eleven years ago) link

Also the keys on the Nanokey are little better than calculator buttons really, and there have been some issues with individual keys coming loose.
Generally it's worth spending a little extra for a good MIDI controller, as even the mid-priced ones last for ages. (example, I've had this Evolution MK-149 for 10 years)

Les centimètres énigmatiques (snoball), Thursday, 23 December 2010 21:39 (eleven years ago) link

rip mark danjer

kanellos (gbx), Thursday, 23 December 2010 22:13 (eleven years ago) link

the phrase "usb microphone" has the same effect on me as those photos of things with holes in them has for trypophobes

boner graphs (electricsound), Thursday, 23 December 2010 23:02 (eleven years ago) link

five months pass...

Afternoon good ppl, I've got pretty much no experience w/ home rec, but I'm looking to get a new pc to record acoustic guitar as well running ableton, & other bits of software.

I have a midi controller & a unidirectional mic, but no preamp or anything. I have a fairly low budget, and am trying to work out exactly what I need, what I can scrape by not spending too much on and where it'll pay to invest £. If anyone has wisdom&recommendations as to sound cards, midi ports, the necessity of preamps &c. they would be noble indeed if they could enlighten me.

ogmor, Sunday, 5 June 2011 15:39 (eleven years ago) link

I recently bought a Tascam US-144mkII - very happy with it so far.

got a whole lotta gloves (snoball), Sunday, 5 June 2011 15:49 (eleven years ago) link

MIDI Interface, stereo mic pre, lin input, headphone and line out - all in a box the size of an external hard drive. Connects to the PC via USB2.0, very low latency, about £130.

got a whole lotta gloves (snoball), Sunday, 5 June 2011 15:51 (eleven years ago) link

lin input = line input

got a whole lotta gloves (snoball), Sunday, 5 June 2011 15:52 (eleven years ago) link

that looks neat. would I still need a decent internal sound card to run my sound through my hifi?

ogmor, Sunday, 5 June 2011 16:11 (eleven years ago) link

I'm guessing not, but that I would need an extra line out to be able to play different things through headphones and speakers?

ogmor, Sunday, 5 June 2011 16:25 (eleven years ago) link

I don't know how the interface would work with an internal soundcard. I bought the Tascam because my old PCI Soundblaster didn't have drivers for Windows 7 when I upgraded.
The Tascam has a line out on the back, but that plays the same thing that's coming out of the headphone socket on the front. However, there is a monitor mix control (the top left knob), where you can dial in the balance between direct monitoring of the inputs and what's coming from the computer.

got a whole lotta gloves (snoball), Sunday, 5 June 2011 16:53 (eleven years ago) link

the edirol ua-25 comes recommended by me, could be worth checking it out as an alternative. i haven't used the tascam.

buttwalk (electricsound), Sunday, 5 June 2011 23:07 (eleven years ago) link

The focusrite saffire series are useful because they have OK preamps and function as good soundcards. I find when there's a budget the best bet is to consolidate these things.
If you want DJ style headphone + out outs don't get the edirol ua-25 (unless you're ok with splitting the mono outs)

owenf, Monday, 6 June 2011 11:27 (eleven years ago) link

actually just noticed you're on a PC. Might work with one of those asio sound card ghosting programs. Is it asio4all?

owenf, Monday, 6 June 2011 11:27 (eleven years ago) link

I'm appreciating these suggestions! so maybe the focusrite saffire 6 would cover everything. I don't know anything about asio sound card ghosting, something that wld allow you to get stereo out of two mono outs? anyway I'm leaning towards the sapphire, I think.

ogmor, Monday, 6 June 2011 21:06 (eleven years ago) link

shouldn't be a problem with the saffire as I'm pretty positive it has multi outs. Want to list your computer specs + budget? Sometimes you can get some pretty great bundle packages. Have a look on gumtree too, you can get some great gear for cheap if you're quick and willing to travel a bit.

owenf, Monday, 6 June 2011 22:53 (eleven years ago) link

I'm getting a new comp so specs are ??? (prob decentish w/ lots of RAM) and budget is w/e I have left over afterwards.

ogmor, Monday, 6 June 2011 23:28 (eleven years ago) link

get a presonus firestudio, best box in this price range

Crackle Box, Sunday, 12 June 2011 09:48 (eleven years ago) link

two years pass...

k so I figure I should upgrade my recording setup - at the moment I'm recording to minidisc with this mic which I think would be okay for my needs if the convoluted and messy passage from that to a .wav on my computer didn't diminish the sound so much. So... what should I do? I really don't know anything in this area. (I'm mostly recording from guitar amp but there'll be some acoustic stuff too. I don't really need anything too fancy, just something that isn't full of unwanted fuzziness and digital artifacts.)

Waluigi Nono (Merdeyeux), Friday, 20 September 2013 14:02 (nine years ago) link

idk how you can soup up yr gear but i wld be very interested in some merdeyeux music

ogmor, Sunday, 22 September 2013 11:21 (nine years ago) link

Do you have a Mac or a PC? What software are you already using to grab the audio from the minidisc?

came the time he flipped his lid came the time he flipped his lid (snoball), Sunday, 22 September 2013 11:37 (nine years ago) link

Does your minidisc have a digital out?

Chewshabadoo, Sunday, 22 September 2013 13:02 (nine years ago) link

nah that's the biggest problem with the minidisc, i can (as far as i can tell) only deal directly with its files through the specific software, which doesn't seem to run on windows 7. and even if i could get the software to run, it seems that converting the files out of the sony format is still a pain. so atm i just have a shoddy line out direct to laptop, recording it in audacity. though i also have ableton, i assume that could be a better option.

ogmor, i record pretty much every sound i bother to make! lots of lo-fi loop pedal noodling here

Waluigi Nono (Merdeyeux), Sunday, 22 September 2013 14:38 (nine years ago) link

For micing a guitar cab you'll want something like an SM57, which really needs a pre-amp/USB interface to connect it to the computer. For that I use one of these

came the time he flipped his lid came the time he flipped his lid (snoball), Sunday, 22 September 2013 16:53 (nine years ago) link

oh and a mic stand of course

came the time he flipped his lid came the time he flipped his lid (snoball), Sunday, 22 September 2013 16:54 (nine years ago) link

that's useful, thanks. The SM57 is famously useful for micing anything you'd ever want to mic, right? And would a mixer with USB output do the job of the Tascam thing? Something like but less rubbish than that particular one probably is?

Waluigi Nono (Merdeyeux), Sunday, 22 September 2013 17:40 (nine years ago) link

The 57 is versatile, definitely can be used for guitar cabs, drums. For acoustic guitar it's reasonable but not great. I use mine for vocals as well (with an external pop shield), but I'm a fairly basic singer so a more expensive mic would be a waste for me. The stereo Sony mic you mentioned earlier would probably be better for acoustic guitar. But I don't know how you'd connect it directly to a PC - through the line in perhaps? Maybe someone else can confirm that. I use a Zoom H1 (micro SD card recorder) for acoustic guitar anyway. I mix in the box, and I've never owned a mixer with a USB output, so I don't know how that might work out.

came the time he flipped his lid came the time he flipped his lid (snoball), Sunday, 22 September 2013 17:53 (nine years ago) link

six years pass...

Talk to me about sound-blocking/sound-absorbing curtains -- I want to hang one over each of three doorways (one to the garage, one to the crawlspace, one to the main floor of my house) and another one over the basement stairway. Primary goal is to reduce sound leakage out of the basement so as not to bother my family/neighbors, but dampening some of the reverberation within the basement would be nice as well. Eventually intend to take additional acoustical measures but this is the first step. What kind of curtains/sheets/blankets whatever should I use?

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 10 September 2020 00:16 (two years ago) link

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