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going away to college...

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i'm going to be a freshman in college come this fall and i have to decide what computer i'm going to get.

Money is pretty limited, but whatever. i'm a songwriter...i've been playing gutiar for 6 years and writing for about 4. for the past two years i've just been doing a lot of acoustic stuff with different artists. now i know i'm goign to be doiung a lot of writing next year and much jamming, etc..and i really want to get an apple laptop, and something that will help a lot with recording. does anyone have suggestions as to where i can go for really good deals, what kind of computer (i've been told to def. get a powerbook...but i feel like with my budget i can only get an ibook, according to the prices i've been looking at), or maybe some new software other than garage band that i as a songwriter should know about? and once i would get either of those two things, will i need some kind of external drive to hook a mic into??

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Um ... maybe a quick trip to the Project Studio forum will help more than here?


Unfortunately, you have a limited college-student budget and you want to get into home recording. These two things do not go together well. However, as a singer/guitarist/songwriter, you may be able to scrimp by.


For what it's worth, I've been using an Apple PowerBook G4 with GarageBand (GB) to record some ideas. The quality is not as good as a pro studio, and my options are more limited, especially in mixing/mastering. Like you, I bought the laptop primarily for other reasons, but decided it could be used for recording as well. I've also been very cheap thus far; all I've added is a 1/4"-to-1/8" plug converter to plug electric guitar/bass in through the built-in sound port. I don't have the equipment to record vox/acoustic. For anything serious, I need to greatly upgrade my Desktop Audio Workstation (DAW) system.


In order to record with a microphone, you'll need at the very least a mic preamp. A better solution would probably be to get a hardware sound interface, like DigiDesign's Mbox. There are other, less expensive interfaces, but the Mbox comes with mic preamps and ProTools software (the LE version), a music industry standard. You'll be able to record 2 tracks simultaneously with the Mbox, so you can do voice and guitar at the same time. (If you're mic'ing an acoustic guitar you'll get some bleedthrough; you can always record separately if it's too much.) The Mbox is $495 MSRP.


You should also get a fast FireWire external hard disk to record to. Check the Project Studio for more specifics, maybe $200? (Without this, you will have trouble recording to your laptop no matter what software you use.)


Don't forget some studio-quality headphones for tracking; at least $100.


You'll most likely want to get a better mic (or two). If you're like me, you only have a dynamic mic like a Shure SM58. They're fine for performing but they're not the greatest for recording (unless you're mic'ing an amplifier speaker). Budget condensor mics are as low as $500 for large diaphram, and $200 for small diaphram. (Pro studios have several of these and other kinds of mics.)


For mixing/mastering, you'll want decent monitor speakers; those'll cost at least $500. And then you'll need to treat your playback room for sound (see the Acoustics forum for more info on wall treatments and bass traps).


As you can see, this gets very expensive very quickly. And you're already worried about saving $500 by buying an iBook instead of a PowerBook! ($999 vs. $1499 MSRP for base models on apple.com)


Ok, reality check. You're going to be a student for the next 4 years or so, and even if you're studying music, how much time will you have to devote to your songwriting? Will you be recording demo cds or going for commercial quality? How much can a dorm room or a student apartment be turned into a pro studio?


Yes, you can use GB to record your ideas, one track at a time, with just a mic pre and your existing mic. It may be good enough for you for now. It should sound better than the age-old recording technique of using a cassette tape and a boombox with built-in mic. Other alternatives are to get a handheld music appliance (like an iPod) with a microphone adapter, but it may not sound any better than the boombox. At least with GB you should be able to achieve demo quality recordings.


Stepping up to the Mbox will give you a chance to learn industry -standard software. ProTools is like the equivalent of Microsoft Office. Yes, $500 is a lot of money to you now -- heck, it's a lot of money to me and I'm out of college -- but it would be a good investment in your future. You'd be able to make better quality recordings than with GB, but they'd still only be demo quality without adding all the other things I listed above (and maybe more). At least you could do some pre-production work with ProTools that you couldn't with GB if you ever decide to take your material to a pro studio.


Oh, and welcome to the MusicPlayer forums!

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Dude thank you SOOOOOOO much. you really kind of just put shit into perspective for me. s


but here's the thing...i am most likely getting the ibook...for right now i guess that's all i CAN get and i think it'll be fine. if i can get a demo out that's all i'll need...i plan on doing a lot of shows in the city. now...all of that stuff you listed above, can i add that to an ibook? or is that just powerbook stuff? and also....how much recording do you think i could do on an ibook before it just craps out and starts moving slow?

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I usually just lurk, but I actually know a little bit about this topic. Whatever you buy, make sure you use the apple education store. As long as you're a college student, you can. You get cheaper prices and right now you get a free ipod mini (or $179 off a better ipod) with the purchase of any computer.


As for the computer, I have a 12 inch powerbook. It's lovely, but I never really played with the ibooks. My friend has an ibook, and it's a little bit larger, but they're both very nice looking computers. The powerbook has a line in, the ibook does not so if you're going to be doing recording with anything other than the built in mic your going to need a usb converter for the ibook. I use a cheap behringer mixer with my powerbook into the line in. It's nothing special but it gets the job done. I used to use a m-audio mobilepre which sends the sound through usb, but it was very noisy. The mixer gets me a much clearer sound.


Garageband is very easy to use and has most of the features of more expensive programs. I use garageband in combination with this freeware program called audacity. It covers a few of the features garageband lacks. I don't know if you've used them before, but macs are awesome. The tiger operating system is very enjoyable to use, and not having to deal with practically any viruses is another benefit to using a mac. Good luck with whatever you choose, and have a great time at college.

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