A thread for the ongoing saga of my new recording setup (and your advice).

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I don't know if we're doing loads of tech and gear questions on here, but I'm going to ask a bunch of them anyway -- because I'm in the process of upgrading my whole setup, and I'm just plain bad at the geek side of it. If nothing else, you can watch my continual updates here and laugh at me.

My setup, as of last month: Win98 desktop, circa 1999, plus cracked-type software someone gave me. Process: program by hand/mouse in Reason 1.0. Export mix to Cakewalk 9 and record instruments/vocals (via 4-track and into sound card). Export audio tracks back into Reason (as long samples) and mix/master.

UPGRADE #1: Purchased PC laptop, 1.6 ghz processor, 512 mb RAM. This presumably just about triples my system power.

SUB-STEP: Reinstall all software on laptop. Everything goes fine.

PROBLEMS: Now have to deal with latency issues, which I had none of on my old Win98 box. Also: built-in sound card is obviously not workable, and includes no line-level input.

UPGRADE #2: Purchased M-Audio Ozone combination MIDI controller and audio interface. This should, in order of importance: (a) allow me to "play" parts in Reason, instead of programming in the Matrix; (b) offer inputs for recording instruments/audio; and (c) decrase latency.

PROBLEMS: (a) Periodic blasts of digital noise. (b) Switching to MIDI input causes Reason to crash. (c) Bizarre velocity and latency issues -- have to practically punch keys to get response a full second later.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Research suggests increasing latency will solve noise problem; will reinstall and try again this weekend. Latency may also solve Reason-crashing problem, though I'm deeply afraid this is just due to this copy of Reason being cracked. And if that's the problem, what next? Options: (a) return the keyboard and think it over. (b) Do drum programming in Reason, export to Cakewalk, record raw piano MIDI in Cakewalk, and then import MIDI scripts back into Reason to associate with synths? This sounds terrible. (c) Invest in proper over-the-counter software, even though, if it still doesn't work, my return-keyboard-for-cash window will be over? And if so, what software? Would probably pay for Reason 3.0 (and keep recording raw audio tracks in Cakewalk), but it'd also be nice to be able to use these fancy VST plug-ins everyone's always on about.

This story will continue until I'm less of an idiot about this stuff. Feel free to share advice or point out where, exactly, my idiocy is causing problems.

latrisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 17:25 (sixteen years ago) link

1) Make sure you've selected the ASIO drivers for the Ozone in Reason. Check your Reason preferences.

2) Turn the buffer to a value of less than 1024 samples. You can also access this from the Reason preferences panel.

3) There should be a Control Panel app that installs with the Ozone drivers. Take a look at that & make sure that the Sync is set to Internal.

Tantrum The Cat (Tantrum The Cat), Friday, 28 October 2005 17:57 (sixteen years ago) link

Another option would be to return the Ozone and then look for a good bundle of Reason & Ozone (or another controller/interface). You'll save a bunch of money that way and I bet that a legit copy of the latest version of Reason would solve some of your issues. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can get some really good educational discounts on software. So if you are going to buy some new software you can probably get it for half price if you're a student or know someone who is.

walter kranz (walterkranz), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:06 (sixteen years ago) link

Aha: thanks, Tantrum -- you may have just hit on the problem. Apparently Reason 1.0 is full of ASIO issues, all patched in v1.0.1. (I don't think either of those Reason prefs are even on the panel!) What horror: I'm a student, but $200 for Reason 3.0 is still gonna make me cry a little.

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:19 (sixteen years ago) link

That's not so bad...aren't the legal versions of Pro Tools, Cubase et al like $500-700?

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:23 (sixteen years ago) link

(Yeah, but if I can't clear up latency issues in Cakewalk, I might have to buy one of those for recording instruments, too!)

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:24 (sixteen years ago) link

(Not that I would know, not having bought any of them)

xpost

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:24 (sixteen years ago) link

Man, I dream of the day when I can get a dedicated music computer, an interface, a legal version of Pro Tools or Ableton, and maybe 4 decent mics (not to mention a place to use it all), but that's looking at like three grand right there.

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:26 (sixteen years ago) link

You can't record audio into Reason?

walter kranz (walterkranz), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:27 (sixteen years ago) link

Not unless they've done something really special with 3.0! It's all synth/drum/sampler modules, effects, etc -- no actual audio recording that I know of. Hence I use Cakewalk as just a bare-bones multitracker -- just so I can record the raw audio in sync, then import it back into Reason for placement in the mix.

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:33 (sixteen years ago) link

So if any of the other main workstations have good audio recording capabilities, VST plug-in capacity, ease-of-use, and so on, I wonder if I'd be better off buying that, and using my old copy of Reason as a drum sequencer only ... firstworldman might have some thoughts on this?

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:38 (sixteen years ago) link

That's what I did with Cubase and later Pro Tools (i.e. only using Reason to program drums, then exporting). Then again, I never really figured out how to use most of the other stuff in Reason.

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:43 (sixteen years ago) link

xpost: There should, even in Reason 1.0, be an Audio section in the Reason preferences window.

Cakewalk should also have its own preferences section where you can adjust the latency buffer. People are often freaked out by latency without realizing that it's almost always adjustable.

Tantrum The Cat (Tantrum The Cat), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:43 (sixteen years ago) link

Tantrum, there's an Audio section, but even after spending most of last night up in there, I don't recall seeing prefs that specific: it might just be a playback select pull-down (Ozone vs. built-in), with no specific latency control. I'll check again, though. My problem with latency isn't that it's non-adjustable, but rather that it's turning too adjustable -- I keep worrying that each part of the chain (software, system, Ozone control) has its own separate latency and adjustment options, and that it's becoming a mess.

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 18:50 (sixteen years ago) link

what are you recording, nabisco?

petesmith (plsmith), Friday, 28 October 2005 19:34 (sixteen years ago) link

Your mom?

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 20:03 (sixteen years ago) link

Ok but no really, in addition to Nymphmatriarch-style electronic music constructed from samples of me having sex with your mom, I record various types of electronic pop stuff. If you mean what instruments, I'm usually either (a) taking sequencer-based arrangements and adding electric and acoustic guitar and vocals, or (b) recording raw acoustic or electric guitar sound to process and chop up and feed into software samplers.

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 20:07 (sixteen years ago) link

Do you use condenser mics for motherfucking? Close mic'ing or room sound?

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 28 October 2005 20:09 (sixteen years ago) link

Nabisco, if memory serves (I haven't used Reason 1.0 in a few years), there's a slider that allows you to set the buffer size. You may have to click-and-hold to get to the Audio section of the Reason preferences - I think they changed the window in Reason 2.

As far as things being "too adjustable" goes, this seriously shouldn't be a worry. A rule of thumb is to start at a setting of 256 samples. If you get digital glitching or "stuttering", crank it to 512, which will still you let play the MIDI keyboard with tolerable latency.

Tantrum The Cat (Tantrum The Cat), Friday, 28 October 2005 20:19 (sixteen years ago) link

Yay, thanks: between this and some research I'm thinking maybe I can get this thing to not-freeze Reason. Tantrum, have you ever seen the ASIO4All driver? This seems like it could maybe make a better bridge from Reason to the keyboard than the Ozone drivers are...

nabisco (nabisco), Friday, 28 October 2005 20:30 (sixteen years ago) link

I've heard of that, but never actually used it. M-Audio regularly update their drivers, so check their website before you try anything else.

Tantrum The Cat (Tantrum The Cat), Friday, 28 October 2005 21:01 (sixteen years ago) link

Hooray! Disabling extraneous MIDI buses in Reason = synth control, with 5ms latency! And audio recording seems mostly-okay, though for some odd reason I'm still having to use the 4-track as a pre-amp; will fiddle with that later, I guess.

NEW PROBLEM: Even when set at medium latency, output through the ozone buzzes out and/or slows to half-speed every couple minutes. Installing ASIO4All seems to be cutting down on this, but it's still just totally horrible; not the hugest problem when it comes to recording MIDI, but I'm gonna get pretty pissed off if I get that in the middle of a vocal take, or something.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: ??? -- Upping the latency would help, right, but I already feel like the timing is dodgy on audio recordings. Is there anything that could possibly help this, apart from better drivers?

nabiscothingy, Saturday, 29 October 2005 02:46 (sixteen years ago) link

do what I do not what I say kids this is bad and wrong

nono, Saturday, 29 October 2005 19:26 (sixteen years ago) link

say do

argh, Saturday, 29 October 2005 19:27 (sixteen years ago) link

Holy geez.

nabisco (nabisco), Sunday, 30 October 2005 20:55 (sixteen years ago) link

Nabisco, when you say you're using ASIO4All, does that mean you're using a Soundblaster? If so I'd guess getting a new soundcard will solve yr problems: something like http://www.zzounds.com/item--MDOAP2496+

Steve.n. (sjkirk), Monday, 31 October 2005 16:47 (sixteen years ago) link

No no -- the Ozone is a MIDI controller keyboard plus audio card, so all sound is working through that over USB. I've played around and managed to get bearable latency on a few programs using the Ozone drivers, and a few programs with the ASIO4All ones, but I'm still a little disappointed with the whole thing. The pre-amp inputs on the keyboard are a little wonky; the pitch wheel sometimes springs back past zero to a little flat (so you have to like super-guide it with your thumb); and worst of all even listening to stuff in Winamp requires setting the drivers on Very High latency to avoid crackling. My plan for today was just to go swap the Ozone for a different Ozone (without the pitch wheel defect, at least), but now I'm thinking I'll just return it, throw in an extra $40, and go with this:

- Echo Indigo I/O PCMCIA soundcard
- basic $99 M-Audio MIDI keyboard (larger range; it doesn't have the programmable knobs that the Ozone and Oxygen have, but that seems more useful for performing live and/or recording supercomplex Tangerine Dream style analog synth sweeps and burbles, neither of which I really do; I think I'll be content to automate any other knobs on-screen)

nabisco (nabisco), Monday, 31 October 2005 18:37 (sixteen years ago) link

Are you sure your USB port is working at USB2 speeds?

Dan I., Monday, 31 October 2005 19:12 (sixteen years ago) link

Why, I have no idea -- I thought the Ozone only did 1.1 anyway. I am not particularly good with computers.

Either way, I've already (a) returned the Ozone, and (b) spent the next three hours running around town learning that nobody actually stocks the Indigo in-store. Hopefully I can find it somewhere, cause I kinda like having nearby return options if it doesn't actually get the latency down.

nabisco (nabisco), Monday, 31 October 2005 21:32 (sixteen years ago) link

oh wow you're right. Yeah, that's no good

Dan I., Monday, 31 October 2005 22:02 (sixteen years ago) link

fuck the soundblaster off. i have an edirol UA25 / m-audio keys and using reason there is no perceptible latency.

john p. irrelevant (electricsound), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 00:37 (sixteen years ago) link

i'm not very good at this reading comprehension lark am i? sorry

john p. irrelevant (electricsound), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 00:37 (sixteen years ago) link

Ah apologies for not reading the thread properly nabisco. I think you did the right thing anyway, get a soundcard with its own ASIO drivers and you will get better results. Though I use Cakewalk Sonar with a ST Audio soundcard over the WDM drivers and get fine results like that (11ms latency which is fine for me.)

Steve.n. (sjkirk), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 08:51 (sixteen years ago) link

I think part of the problem with the Ozone was that the software wasn't properly estimating the latency -- I looked over some of the timing tests I did (i.e., saying "1 2 3 4" or doubling guitar riffs along with a click), and in spots the second audio tracks had been over compensated, with an audible off-time effect on guitar picking.

So yeah, hopefully the PCMCIA card will sort it out -- if only I can find one in the city. (Someone tried to sell me a $400 "substitute," which would have been half-tempting if I didn't still need to replace the keyboard.)

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 18:51 (sixteen years ago) link

oh yeah? well - the JERK store called, and theyre all out of YOU!

petesmith (plsmith), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 21:16 (sixteen years ago) link

Just remember that ASIO is nothing to do with with MIDI, the MIDI signal generates a request for a sound the ASIO driver/hardware is what responds to that request, the latency is how long the hardware takes to generate the sound in response to the request no matter where that request comes from. The speed of USB ports etc is a red herring here the delay is caused by the hardware/driver generating the sound not in transport between devices so PCMCIA/USB/FW/USB2 etc data transfer rates are irrelevant.

Jarlr'mai (jarlrmai), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 21:38 (sixteen years ago) link

Wait, so a PCMCIA card isn't necessarily going to outperform a USB device? I didn't have any problem with MIDI latency, particularly in Reason; I was snapping all the MIDI to a grid anyway, to make up for my non-existent keyboard-playing skills. But after six years of basically zero-latency audio recording, I just can't handle my guitar-playing being off time. The Echo Indigo and its drivers are promising like 3ms latency, which doubles up to only 1ms above the Steely Dan "we can spot 5ms latencies" threshold; I think that's all I need here.

(By the way, many many thanks to everyone who's helped me out here!)

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 21:55 (sixteen years ago) link

"Wait, so a PCMCIA card isn't necessarily going to outperform a USB device?"

Yes, its about the capabilties of the hardware/driver not the interface, think about it USB is fine for requests to write/read data from a HDD, 1ms is practically a geological time period in comparison.

Latency only really counts when you are playing/adding effects live.

Jarlr'mai (jarlrmai), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 22:07 (sixteen years ago) link

The latency is just killing me with multitracking, though. I mean, each of the programs I use should theoretically auto-compensate for it, but either (a) they miscalculate and leave everything off the mark, or (b) I'm unconsciously compensating in my own performances. Either way, I just don't want to have to think about this stuff at all -- just want to be back to the world of recording a take naturally and having it be in-time and effortless from the get-go.

PS shows what you know, Pete, I looked in the phone book and there's no such thing as a jerk store!

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 1 November 2005 23:33 (sixteen years ago) link

Nabisco -- I am confused. Latency should not affect the recording of sounds AFAIK. At least it's never affected the recording of sounds on my system. I notice latency when I'm using things like soft synths, or turning on/off effects. Are you monitoring through the computer or something?

Here's a short article on latency that reinforces my understanding:

http://soundwave.com/Htm/Articles/April/Audio_Latency.htm

If you're having problems because you are monitoring though the computer, I'd say a better buy would be a small mixing desk, removing the latency issue altogether.

Steve.n. (sjkirk), Wednesday, 2 November 2005 11:29 (sixteen years ago) link

No, Steve, I was direct monitoring through the Ozone. Monitoring wasn't the issue; recording was. My computer plays a drumbeat; I hear it, say, 11ms later. I play a guitar chord at the same time that I hear the beat; that gets written into memory another 11ms later. My chord is now 22ms late. All of which shouldn't matter, because the program I'm using to record the guitar should automatically compensate for each step of the process -- but so far it seems to me that none of the software is even halfway able to get that done right.

nabisco (nabisco), Wednesday, 2 November 2005 19:46 (sixteen years ago) link

Its your soundcard hardware/drivers, onboard laptop sound often does a similiar thing.

Try some new hardware.

Jarlr'mai (jarlrmai), Wednesday, 2 November 2005 20:34 (sixteen years ago) link

Exactly -- Echo Indigo!

nabisco (nabisco), Wednesday, 2 November 2005 20:52 (sixteen years ago) link

go for it, but remember USB/FW cards can be used on desktops as well.

Jarlr'mai (jarlrmai), Wednesday, 2 November 2005 21:12 (sixteen years ago) link

ten months pass...
nabisco: I just got an Ozone myself, and am experiencing the exact same problem (disregarding the Reason part etc): I am pretty sure I can detect clicks even at Very High latency when closing everything but Winamp and just playing an mp3 track.

My question is simply: did replacing with another soundcard help? Is it a USB one? (This would mean that USB wasn't the problem, I'm hoping this is the case.)

(The upside to all this is I've spent about 16 hours mightily cleaning up inside my computer to see if this helped. It didn't, but.)

The Vintner's Lipogram (OleM), Sunday, 1 October 2006 11:23 (fifteen years ago) link

three years pass...

Man, I dream of the day when I can get a dedicated music computer, an interface, a legal version of Pro Tools or Ableton, and maybe 4 decent mics (not to mention a place to use it all), but that's looking at like three grand right there.

Oh, hello: I think I'm about to do this? I now do all my day-to-day computing on a little netbook anyway, so I'm thinking of putting together a good recording system and then ... well, not really needing anything new, computer-wise, for years and years.

Question 1: Does anyone have any experience with ADK Pro Audio? I'm pretty sure I'd get this box:
http://www.adkproaudio.com/systems/viewsystem.cfm?recordid=134

Question 2: Does anyone have any experience with this interface? I'm pretty sure I'd get it. (Or should I really move over from USB to Firewire?)
http://www.emu.com/products/product.asp?product=15185

Those two things + new budget monitors (KRK 5) + PodXT + maybe even doing some crappy DIY room treatment -- I feel like this should be functional enough that it'd be hard to develop and major additional needs. Am I fooling myself? I don't work on anything particularly hi-fi, I don't do much room recording, I hardly ever get up to even 10 tracks in a song -- I feel like a set-up like this should be able to breeze through anything I do at top quality.

oɔsıqɐu (nabisco), Thursday, 10 December 2009 19:34 (twelve years ago) link

ADK pro audio have a pretty good rep, the main dude seems to know his shit, but i have no personal experience with them.

i used to have an E-MU card, a 1620 i think, but i wasn't a huge fan of it tbh. maybe the newer stuff is better? if you're only ever likely to record 2 tracks at once USB will be fine, i've never had any problem with stereo recording via USB, though firewire is usually recommended for anything more..

matt preston school of industry (electricsound), Thursday, 10 December 2009 22:44 (twelve years ago) link

twelve years pass...

my tascam 4-track died recently and i'm trying to decide what to do about it:
1) pay to get it fixed or buy a "new" 4-track
2) invest in a better set-up for recording on my computer
3) buy a digital stand-alone multitrack, probably this: https://zoomcorp.com/en/us/digital-mixer-multi-track-recorders/multi-track-recorders/r20/

i already record 50/50 analog/digital - i do some stuff only on the computer (in reason), and even the stuff that starts on the 4-track, i usually end up adding more to it digitally once i bounce the tape recordings onto the computer. the rational move seems to be to abandon the 4-track and just focus on recording on the computer. however, i don't really enjoy recording on the computer as much as on the 4-track. it's more finicky and slower and has too many possibilities and it's more likely that something will go wrong that i'll have to invest time in trying to figure out how to fix, etc etc, ultimately i'm old and semi-stuck in my ways. which makes the digital multitrack idea an interesting middle ground - it's not as tied to dying tech but it's still a standalone option with physical faders and knobs etc. but maybe even that is trying to stay in some past that will probably disappear in the next few years?

na (NA), Monday, 3 January 2022 15:17 (six months ago) link

I sympathize, NA. My Portastudio still works but it's honestly more trouble than it's worth these days. Because I know I'm just going to end up digitizing what goes into it, the only reason to record on cassettes is retro perversity.

For a long time I took the tape outs from an analog mixer into a cheap-ass USB interface. That worked fine, because I was doing one instrument at a time. Can't do a full band with meaningful separation, but then I rarely need to do that anyways.

Last year I broke down and got an Alesis mixer that has a USB out. It was really easy and I made a bunch of records with a bunch of people (pandemic energy).

So I'm still tracking in a world where microphones are pointed at bits of wood and metal and meat. But then I can manipulate the tracks in the computer so it's best of both worlds, maybe?

; (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 3 January 2022 15:34 (six months ago) link

yeah if i was going to improve my digital setup it would probably involve buying a better interface that allows for live multitrack recording and boosting the memory on my old powerbook that i use for recording to try and speed it up some

i do think it's not just retro perversity that keeps me using the 4-track. i know how to get the sounds i want out of it and it keeps the recording process free from distraction/option overload.

na (NA), Monday, 3 January 2022 15:41 (six months ago) link

I say stick with the analog 4-track! It's your instrument, if you like it and it's inspirational just embrace it imo.

change display name (Jordan), Monday, 3 January 2022 16:00 (six months ago) link

that's a good point. i think part of the appeal of the digital multitrack is just being able to justify buying a new gadget. but my friend/drummer has offered to give me his 4-track that he never uses, so i should probably use the money i'm saving on that to upgrade my computer recording setup.

na (NA), Tuesday, 4 January 2022 16:49 (five months ago) link

re: digital multitrack, have you checked out the Tascam mixer line? Model 12 is digital, 16 & 24 are analog mixers with digital recording capabilities. Very modern Portastudio.

papal hotwife (milo z), Wednesday, 5 January 2022 05:37 (five months ago) link

those do look cool. for now i bought a USB mixer to use as a better interface and also a basic drum mixer for recording band stuff on the 4-track. i'm still thinking about upgrading my computer setup and/or eventually buying a standalone digital multitrack.

na (NA), Wednesday, 5 January 2022 15:56 (five months ago) link


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