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M Audio Fast Tracker - better then soundcard?

owens hound

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I did a search and did not come up with any hits so I thought I'd post this question.


I currently record from my bass or guitar(acoustic or electric)to my amps DI or from a Pod 2.0 or Bass Pod(depending on the instrument being used) then go into a PA and from there into my line in jack on my sound card then into recording software(usually Acid Pro 4).

I get a decent sound from that but am wondering if anyone has any experience with the M Audio Fast Tracker. Does anyone know if this will give me marked improvement in recording or am I better to save my money and keep recording as I currently am?


Is there a better way to record with the gear I already own? Am I using it properly and to it's maximum potential?


All thoughts and suggestions are welcome,


Thanks in advance,



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Thanks Davio,

I don't think that you are misunderstanding what I'm doing. I'll give it a try without the PA.

I was using the PA in the chain as a mixer to allow me to better control volumes and ease of switching instruments while recording but it might sound better without it.

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Yes, you will probably do better than the sound card. My experience with built-in sound cards is that they muffle the high end, and they're noisy due to all the other radio interference in the computer.


If you have a POD that can plug in to the computer via USB, that might work instead. I think that's only on the rackmount versions, though.

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Thanks for the response Thomas. Both Pod's I have do not have USB support.


I know that I won't get a professional sound by using either sound card or fast tracker but am wondering if it is worth the cost of the fast tracker, approx $100.00 CAN, in the final sound.


Do you think that it would be a noticeable improvement for demos and rough sketch tracks?

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In my opinion dedicated recording equipment will sound alot better but only if you have decent speakers, i don't mean studio quality, just not crappy they-came-with-the-pc speakers.

N x

"i must've wrote 30 songs the first weekend i met my true love ... then she died and i got stuck with this b****" - Father of the Pride
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For rough sketches, you probably don't need a new interface.


I have actually recorded demos on prosumer level ADAT, then transferred them into a laptop through the sound jack. That didn't sound too bad, and it's sort of equivalent to your situation with the Pod. So you can certainly make good music that way.


I upgraded mostly because the noise level annoyed me. But once you start getting better equipment, inadequacies start showing up other places--I realized I couldn't mix worth a damn, and I'm still working on that part.


For what it's worth, 100 $CAN sounds like a pretty good price for the Fasttrack. You could do a lot worse for an interface. After that, like Afro_man says, you'll probably want to buy a good set of headphones or monitors. The Sony MDR-V6 phones are really good.

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Ok, first off, I'd think you'd want to keep your signal chain as simple as possible. Each time you add another device, cable, connection, etc., you're adding another potential source of noise. Noise sucks!


If I read you correctly, this is your chain:


guitar->head->pod->PA->sound card :freak:


or maybe I'm misinterpreting this:


(1) guitar->head->PA->sound card

(2) guitar->pod->PA->sound card


Hopefully you're running your head and PA with a load, i.e. plugged into a cabinet, when you record. Running an amp without a proper load can release the magic smoke, and that ain't pretty!


Since it can be convenient to record silently -- say at 4am when your whole town is asleep -- I'd guess you'd want to take both your head and PA out of the chain.


Now you're left with:

(1a) guitar->sound card

(2a) guitar->pod->sound card


Unfortunately, (1a) doesn't work in most cases. You generally need a DI or preamp or something (mixer, etc.). Setup (2a) should work if your pod boosts your signal enough (it should), so I'd suggest you try that.


You might enjoy working with a nice DI box or preamp, but these are not necessary at this point.


Next, you're recording digitally. That means that the electronic audio signal you produce is eventually going to be turned into little zeros and ones (by an analog-to-digital converter, or ADC). Some ADCs are better than others. One good place to start is by looking at the specs.


There are two major specifications for ADCs: sample rate and bit depth. (Sorry if you already know this.) Generally, the faster sample rates and larger bit depths are going to be better.


The M-Audio Fast Track USB has a 48kHz (48,000 times per second) sampling rate and a 24-bit (over 16-million levels) bit depth. This is better-than-CD-quality, which is 44.1kHz/16-bit, but there are even better devices on the market (for more money). Compare this to your sound card.


The M-Audio device also includes a preamp, so you don't need to use a DI box or preamp or whatever with it: you can just plug your guitar in directly. Is it a good preamp? Well, I'll leave that up to those who know better, but I'm sure there are better on the market (for more money).


But wait, there's more! ;)


You'll also get a microphone input with the M-Audio (but no phantom power). True, you could record with a mic through your PA, but properly loaded you're likely to pick up some unwanted sound from the cab.


The M-Audio also gives you a latency-free headphone jack. (Not sure if your sound card does this.)



Now, if money's tight, I'd say just stick with your sound card and pod for now. You say you're only doing demos and sketches anyway, so high quality shouldn't be that big of a concern.


If you can spare the cash, you might want to give the M-Audio a try. You should at least have enough time to A/B test it against your current system before the money back guarantee runs out.



And I'll agree with Afro_Man, too. You may not be able to hear a lot of subtleties if your playback system is sub par. Headphones aren't going to cut it. Unfortunately the good monitor systems can be expensive.



Oh, one more thing. There should be a whole bunch of recording info in the EQ forums, or in Phil O'Keefe's "The Project Studio" (archive) ... all right here!

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Thanks for the sample Thomas. The sound quality works for a demo for sure.

As for speakers, I do have a decent set of logitech surrounds with a sub but find that a lot of the time I lose something in the bass when recording. I should burn the tracks to a cd and try it on my home stereo for a truer sound test.



Thanks so much for the detailed info. I had no idea about running the PA w/o a load! I had been running it much like a mixer but with no speakers attached. I found that using the Pa allowed me to balance the volumes better with the different instruments. I'll stop doing that immediately! No magic smoke for me please!

My bass recording set-up is/was bass-eden cxc112-PA-soundcard. I was running the eden with a load. Or bass pod-PA-soundcard.

For electric guitar: electric guitar-pod-PA-soundcard and for acoustic guitar:

acoustic guitar-PA-soundcard.

Anything vocally or with a harmonica was from a mic-PA-soundcard.


Since the eden amp and the mic are xlr input, I'll need to get a 1/4" to xlr adapter to go from them to the soundcard.


Does this sound like a better solution?


Thanks again,



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Good info all 'round.


FWIW, I recorded my band's EP on a Fostex 8-track digital recorder and then transfered it onto a friend's computer (which was not optimized for audio applications) for editing and mixdown and it was all done with some half-decent Sony studio headphones. You can hear the results at the MySpace in my sig.

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My first test recording on my computer into Audacity software was a CD player plugged into my input jack on the back of my computer. The recorded sound on the computer was exactly the same as listening to the CD directly. I have an upgraded internal sound card and very good Altec Lansing speakers w/sub. I was impressed by the recorded sound.


"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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This was done last night on my PC using Acid 3. My bass was plugged in a Pocket Rock-it and then right into the built in soundcard. Having said that, I plan to buy a nice simple but dedicated interface so I can get a cleaner signal although this is pretty clean.
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Sounds really good DWBass. Very clean and clear. Nice samples to go with the bass too!!

Afro_Man, sorry I missed you in previous posts, good point about the speakers. I've got a decent set on my computer right now so I don't think that they are an issue.


I'm going to try recording without the PA and see if that improvies the sound.


Thanks for all of the replies!!



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Right on, this is just what I bought last week, m-audio fasttrack. And I run it with cakewalk.


But I'm having a problem that the recording levels of the guitar and mike seem to be by-passing all controls. My buddy has one and I tried to plug guitar in the guitar jack, and the mike, the mike had a decent input to cakewalk, with the vu meter on that track active, but the guitar was flat and very low, and none of the buttons had any effect on the recording level. No matter if I cranked up m-audio, or the guitar, or the cakewalk line-in volume, there was no effect. Then the mike did the same thing. I plug my m-audio in my computer, and the bass doesn't respond, just like the guitar did before, it comes in very low and no volume button work, either on the m-audio, or cakewalk.


I'm starting to think maybe another app, maybe audacity, is capturing the signal.

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I plugged fast track in the usb, and XP recognised fast track, and installed it. But on the other computer, I use m-audio that came with it. The button says guitar, and line, I tried both positions. I tried with mike plugged in or not plugged in. The signal led goes on when I first plug it in the usb port, then goes off, then never goes on after that. I think the signal is too strong, so the machine clips it. But that doesn't explain why the mike first was operating right, then went off.


Because it did work right for a short period, I think it's a software issue. Some set up I have to do. I'm getting background noise in track 1, which I have no control over, same as the guitar input. I'm tryijng to locate the source of that noise. I unplugged the camera, and the mike from the back of the soundcard. To have no other mike input on the computer. But that didn't change the noise, which sounds like white noise from a radio that's not on any station.


OK Background noise came from mic input volume that was all the way up, I found that out when I plugged in headphones.

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