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Cheap but workable PC-recording?


scyzoryki

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Hey all,

 

First off on an unrelated topic, I'd just like to share my late frustration with this crappy upgrade, er.. downgrade. I used to visit this board daily but since the remodel I only check once weekly if anything. The new system won't let me login with my old username and password (i'm scyzoryk), and to top that off, it won't email me my old information from "Forgot my Password". That, and there is no "search" feature without logging on... which drove me nuts trying to search for it.

 

Anyways, I'm wondering if anyone has personally found a cheap PC hardware recording system that works? I'm looking to spend cdn$100 max, if possible. Has anyone had experience with the 1/4" -> USB interfaces? I know about MBox and the other software, but I don't exactly need professional quality gear. I just need something to record rough demos for.

 

~scyzoryk

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The cheapest thing I've found is the Soundtech LightSnake...it's a 1/4" guitar cable on one end, USB audio interface on the other end. I've used it with Audacity and it seemed to work fine. There's no true "direct monitoring", so you might struggle a little with latency...but I found it to be acceptable. I've used it to just throw something onto my PC so I didn't forget it. If I were doing a lot of overdubs, I'd definitely rather use something that has direct monitoring built in. You can snag these off Ebay for about $30 or so.

 

http://www.soundtech.com/lightsnake/index.asp

 

You may be able to snag a used M-Audio USB interface of Ebay for less than $100...check the exact model, but I believe most of them have direct monitoring.

 

HTH,

Dave

 

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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Did you already try the line input of your computer?

I don't have a lot of experience with most of the analog to digital interfaces, but before I got my current sound card I just used the line in of the on-the-motherboard sound card and a ZOOM 506 pedal for a preamp. On one computer it sounded pretty respectable, more than good enough for demos; on my next computer it sounded pretty lame. It's worth a shot, anyway. Don't use the mic input. For cheap software that works well I used Power Tracks Pro which came bundled with Band-in-a-Box for PG Music. Well under $100.

 

Peace

Paul K

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.

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Oh, on the software side, check out Audacity...it's free open-source software and it seems pretty slick and stable, judging from the couple of times I've used it.

 

Dave

 

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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Mackie's Tracktion program is pretty cool. They offer a free version online, but to unlock some of the features you have to buy the program. That was about $80 when I got it. Other than that, all you really need is a DI box and a decent sound card to get decent audio signal into your computer.

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Exactly what is 'latency'?

 

The really really simple answer: The difference in time between when you actually hear something and when you should be hearing it.

 

The latency gets introduced by your software/computer. It takes X amount of time to process the audio signal and send it back to the sound card's output. It's not instantaneous (because that's impossible) but it's pretty damn fast. The playback/output signal is pretty low on the list of priorities for what the computer is doing while you're recording. It's also playing back whatever it is you're tracking to (a click track at the very least) and it's streaming that information off a hard drive (so you've got I/O from the hard drive taking up CPU cycles), and it's writing what you're laying down (more I/O to the drive that you're most likely also playing back off of - and more CPU cycles). As you tune your recording software you're trying to tell it to give the playback a higher priority than it has by default. Eventually you start to get dropouts/clicks/noise/whatever/badness in what you're recording because the computer can't keep up with everything. You're trying to find the delicate balance.

 

I personally think it's foolish to even try to use software monitoring. Good systems can get it down to as little a a few milliseconds while bad/lower performing systems will have a higher latency. Most people will claim that anything less than 10ms isn't noticable; those people don't listen well enough. At 10ms it is so obvious I can't stand it. As you approach 1-2ms I can feel it in the playback; like something isn't quite right and the pocket isn't there.

 

Resolution: setup your system so you can hear yourself play via some other source - be it an amp or whatever. If you're able to listen to what you're tracking via some other source you won't have a latency problem. Yea.

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Anyways, I'm wondering if anyone has personally found a cheap PC hardware recording system that works? I'm looking to spend cdn$100 max, if possible. Has anyone had experience with the 1/4" -> USB interfaces? I know about MBox and the other software, but I don't exactly need professional quality gear. I just need something to record rough demos for.

 

Something like the M-Audio Fast Track will do one instrument at a time. That's about as cheap as they come.

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Exactly what is 'latency'?

I personally think it's foolish to even try to use software monitoring. Good systems can get it down to as little a a few milliseconds while bad/lower performing systems will have a higher latency. Most people will claim that anything less than 10ms isn't noticable; those people don't listen well enough. At 10ms it is so obvious I can't stand it. As you approach 1-2ms I can feel it in the playback; like something isn't quite right and the pocket isn't there.

 

Sound travels at about a foot a millisecond. Do you have trouble playing when you move more than ten feet from your amp?

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Sound travels at about a foot a millisecond. Do you have trouble playing when you move more than ten feet from your amp?

 

I never said I had trouble playing - it annoys me. Live it starts to annoy me ~15-20' from my amp - assuming I'm not in any of the monitors and/or I can't hear myself in the mains. It also depends on where I am in relationship to the drummer since I'm generally listening to the drummer more than I am myself live. Live situations are also louder and have a ton of excess noise going on. In the controlled (quite) environment of the studio the delay of a few extra milliseconds is noticable to me.

 

or when your amp is ten feet from your drummer...
I can't remember the last time I played a gig where the drummer didn't have his own monitor so the proximity of my amp to the drummer generally isn't all that important. Though I do tend to setup next to the drummer regardless of the size of the stage. On the rare occasion where the drummer doesn't have a monitor I always setup in such a fashion where the drummer is able to hear my amp as well as I can.
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When treated to a big stage I do my best to get the rest of the band to set up "the same way we always do"; whenever we spread out to fill the space allotted we just don't groove and everyone has those funny "What's going on?" stink-faces.

 

This is my excuse for not buying a wireless. Well, that and the desire to avoid having yet another wall wart in my setup.

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.

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Well, maybe you guys record differently than I do, or are more sensitive. I think most concerns about latency are psychological.

 

Using headphones or close monitors, a latency of 3.2ms through a firewire interface is probably less than I would ever get live. I don't have any problems working with delays up to 30ms or so, as long as the delay is constant, and it should be.

 

Using any kind of digital wireless or effect already introduces about 2ms to any physical setup, just due to the A/D conversion.

 

I think the last time I looked at something like this, I found that piano players deal with a 20ms latency just from the time it take the hammer to hit the string. They just learn to compensate.

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