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Upgrading sound card


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#1
Jaekus

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I'm wanting to write and record music on my computer.

I'm using Fruity Loops at the moment, and have an older version of Cubase to record guitar (it's just demo stuff, I have access to professional recording gear for proper recording, but I can't do it at home - this is to work on some new things).

I'll probably need a new soundcard, any suggestions?

Setup:


ASUS M2N-MX SE
AMD Athlon x2 64 Dual Core 4000+
2x 1GB DDR2 RAM

I have a bass preamp (SansAmp BDDI) I'm planning on using for the guitar input, running straight into the line input at the back of the computer.

Any problems with this idea? Thanks in advance :)
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#2
Troy

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We do have a few musicians around here - I'll throw out a few messages and see if I can get someone "in the industry" to help. :)
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#3
Jaekus

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Thanks Troy :)
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#4
Bobbi Flekman

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Hey Jaekus,

it all depends on what you want/need, and what you plan to spend. Personally I am on Apple (an iMac, and a MacBook Pro for the road), and am using a variety of external cards.

You're planning to use the SansAmp DI, have you used it before with guitars? Is the sound quality good enough? If so, stay with it... [bleep], Hendrix made a living of playing through Fender Bassman amps which are bass amps as well! If you like it, stick with it. Personally I like the roar of the inferno while recording guitars. Keyboards I do DI'd as well (apart from Hammonds, and real pianos).

If you're not satisfied with the quality you can look at Line6 guitar<>computer interfaces as a start. My own set-up is a MOTU 828 mkII which has a bunch of inputs at the back so I can plug in a bunch of standard gear I use (like the keyboards). On the front of it there are also two inputs that can handle guitar level and line level jacks (and Phantom power for mics). I don't think the mkII is available anymore but I know there is a mkIII now, so it may be something to look at as a replacement. They are in Firewire and in USB flavor.

For quick and dirty interfacing I also have a Tascam US-144, but I advise against it when "doing things for real" on the simple fact that it is USB bus powered. In other words it will suck juice from your computer that can be better used for other things.

I have no experience with either Cubase or Fruity Loops as I use Logic Studio, so can't comment on that either. Though I have no reason to assume it wouldn't work.

The real question is... What do you want to record, apart from (bass-)guitars? Vocals? You have a good mic? A pop shield? Drums? You have multiple mics/stands? The space to set it up? Etc.

My home demo recordings are basically like this. Drums are programmed as I can only do extremely simple four on the floor stuff... :) Bass goes into the MOTU and is processed with virtual bass amps. Guitars: move that air! Mic in front of the cab, and record the noise. Keyboards are done in many ways, depending on the rack stuff, computer synths (AUs for Logic, VST for Cubase), etc. If they are external they will be plugged into the MOTU. Vocals... Eh.... Mic, anyone?

They're not spectacular, but it gets the job done. Sometimes a little too well :)

Hope this helps.
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#5
Jaekus

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Ok, I should explain a bit further. I've been playing (and have been teaching for about 6 years) guitar and bass for about 13 or so years. I've recorded in different studios etc. and done a whole lot of other stuff musically.

What I'm trying to achieve here is real basic get-the-ideas-down home recording. Sound quality isn't really an issue, I'm merely in the pipeline stage to work on ideas and then take it to another level with a mate who has a bit of a setup. But I don't want to waste his time spending hours trying out ideas - I want to bring some more complete ideas to him first.

Anyways, I just want to be able to record guitar with the gear I have. The SansAmp I've used extensively with bass, never with guitar but I know it has a mid scoop and am reasonably confident I can use the bass/treble/presence eq on it in an attempt to make it as 'transparent' as possible.

It's my assumption a sound card upgrade will help with both recording (can't afford an M-Box) and using samples for drums (this is where Fruity Loops comes in) and other sounds I may wish to use.

So, in a nutshell, I want to record guitar, apply effects in post production and want to have a compatible sound card that can process programmed samples with effects applied to recorded audio in the most basic fashion I can with what I have got.

Thanks :)

Edited by Jaekus, 30 October 2009 - 07:55 AM.

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#6
Troy

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So it sounds like you just need any form of line input, have you tried the onboard audio on your machine yet? Give it a go, if it's no good, then a dedicated card would give better results - something like Creative are pretty good.
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#7
Bobbi Flekman

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Anyways, I just want to be able to record guitar with the gear I have. The SansAmp I've used extensively with bass, never with guitar but I know it has a mid scoop and am reasonably confident I can use the bass/treble/presence eq on it in an attempt to make it as 'transparent' as possible.

The first thing to do is record the guitar with the SansAmp. Check out whether you like the sound or not. What kind of music do you intend to record? If it is some sort of newer metal (like Nu Metal, Metalcore, etc.) they all use downtuned, midscooped guitars so that should be right up that alley. Does your Cubase have some sort of guitar manipulation stuff in it? I know that Logic 8, and higher, has guitar amps and I have Guitar Rig and Amplitube at my disposal as well. Something you can also look into. Instead of a new sound interface... a guitar software suite. And on the bright side, you can use the amps and effects in them to process virtual synths as well. Rhodes via a Chorus/Phaser through a virtual Fender Twin Reverb? Hammond through an overdrive and a Marshall stack?

It's my assumption a sound card upgrade will help with both recording (can't afford an M-Box) and using samples for drums (this is where Fruity Loops comes in) and other sounds I may wish to use.

Yep. Most interfaces have audio and MIDI so apart from line level audio you should be able to record MIDI as well. There are also a bunch of interfaces with multiple inputs so that it can also function as a limited mixer. The MOTU has 20 inputs so I have my rackgear plugged in by default.

So, in a nutshell, I want to record guitar, apply effects in post production and want to have a compatible sound card that can process programmed samples with effects applied to recorded audio in the most basic fashion I can with what I have got.

Audio interfaces don't process, or rather they shouldn't. Just transport the audio to your computer, and there you do the manipulation. Remember that you cannot take away, only add. If you record the guitar with a lot of delay it is there forever. Add the delay during mixing.
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#8
Jaekus

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Yeah I can play around with the SansAmp and pull a great bass tone, and even though it's made for bass I'm fairly confident I can pull a decent sound. It's mainly for the preamp so I can try to lose the colouration it gives by taking out the drive and flattening the EQ or at least pulling back the treble and low controls to give it a mid boost (SansAmp are meant to be kinda neutral at 12 o'clock, but I'm not sure it is, however cutting the lows and highs does result in a mid boost IME), removing the presence and just using the level to boost the signal from my guitar.

The guitar software is a great idea. I was also thinking of getting EZ Drummer sometime, the demo vids look very tasty indeed.

And yes, I am very aware of the recording process, hence adding effects in post production, but thanks for your reply, it's helpful indeed :)
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#9
Bobbi Flekman

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(SansAmp are meant to be kinda neutral at 12 o'clock, but I'm not sure it is, however cutting the lows and highs does result in a mid boost IME), removing the presence and just using the level to boost the signal from my guitar.

Try it out. A colored inputsound routed through a virtual amp is a bit double. When I was messing around (in the hope I could ditch the hardware and go software) with guitars and computers I simply plugged into the MOTU and have that sound manipulated by Guitar Rig and Amplitube. In the end I decided against it as the computer always introduces some amount of latency and I had more than enough with the programs (a forgetting of authentication every three weeks, crashing audio buffers, way too short max-length for a USB cable to be usable on stage, etc.). Now I am back to amps pushing baked air. My neighbors like me a little less than before... :) Just kidding, I use attenuators at home as I don't want to be in noise either.

The guitar software is a great idea. I was also thinking of getting EZ Drummer sometime, the demo vids look very tasty indeed.

From what I hear EZ Drummer is a-okay. I have Native Instruments Komplete 5 which came with Battery, so that is what I use.

And yes, I am very aware of the recording process, hence adding effects in post production, but thanks for your reply, it's helpful indeed :)

I already thought so, but thought of mentioning it anyway.
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#10
Jaekus

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Ah ok, so using a preamp would create latency, but a mic wouldn't? This is something I hadn't considered, but I thought a line input would be similar to that of a mic input... ?

I've got access to a decent sounding practice amp, and I'm not trying to sound amazing with this setup, just something halfway decent.
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#11
Bobbi Flekman

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In effect everything adds latency because sounds have to travel over wires.

But using computer as amp means that the computer will have to handle the incoming stream, and that means buffersizes for the audio and CPU time for the actual manipulations. You will have to play around with buffersettings and such to be sure that the sound is okay.

If you have a practice amp, once again: mic it, record it and listen. Is it okay? Or not? In the end that is what matters... The sound.
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#12
Jaekus

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Ah ok, so with latency it's not something I can fix later? Like if the track is out of sync I can just shift the track so it syncs with the other audio I have going on?

As before, I understand about the recording process, but it's the computer element that I'm not so sure about. If I had all analog gear I'd be fine.
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#13
Bobbi Flekman

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Latency can be fixed in theory, but...

a. it is a [bleep] of a job;
b. you still have to record it.

If you record the guitar parts, and they're slow in comparison to the drums and the rest... How are you gonna keep time? Latency is a bane to computer recording and something that has to be fixed by messing with buffer sizes. You will always have latency, but there is a difference between latency of a millisecond and a microsecond. Unfortunately it is something that you have to play with yourself as it is impossible to simply say: take this buffersize, that CPU priority, and everything is okay.

There are things you can do though on the computer side of things. Shutdown unneeded apps. You really need to have Outlook open to retrieve mail every 5 minutes? Can't you wait for an hour? Every program eats memory, every running program eats CPU cycles. My laptop has everything shutdown that I can shutdown. The thing is meant as a synth server, so it doesn't have a network, it doesn't run browsers, emailers, word processors, etc. Only my synthesizer host and the AUs that provide the synth engines.

In short, the more you can control what goes in the less you will have to worry about latency. The more free memory and CPU cycles you have, the less you have to worry about latency.
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