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ChemicalFire 05-27-2012 08:38 AM

READ NOW - Introduction to Recording Interfaces and Other Recording Gear

Recording Interfaces - A Buyers Guide

There is an important question to keep in mind whilst reading this thread

"What are you going to be recording and what is your budget?"

If you plan to mic up a drum kit for example there's little use buying a two input interface, just as an FYI this thread wont include microphones, but please, before you post a thread asking about what mic is best, please make a google search, you'd be surprised how easy these things are to find. The second part is pretty obvious, it's hard to spend money you don't have, but it can be worth saving, as with most music equipment you get what you pay for.


This, you don't want this. You may think you want this, other people may tell you that you want this, but they are wrong. You do not want this, this is bad, this makes kittens cry and melts ice cream, I have it on good authority that Hitler used a Jack to Mic input converter to record his guitar.

Some people may claim to get decent results with this, and they may do, but it's really not worth the trouble. You'll have latency issues, noise issues, terrible quality, nothing good will come of it, there have even been reports of this method breaking the mic port on your PC, it simply wasn't designed for it. IF YOU POST ON THIS FORUM ASKING FOR HELP WITH A MIX WHILST USING THIS METHOD YOU WILL NOT GET A RESPONSE. This is not to be cruel or heartless, there is just genuinely nothing we can do in order to make this method sound good. Normally people only get this to work through hard work and luck, neither of which we can teach you.

What's it for?
- Throwing at people you don't like
- Accidentally blowing the mic port on your PC

What's it not for?
- Anything else

Super Budget

Behringer - GUITAR LINK UCG102

Let me get this out off the bat, this thing is cheaper, super cheap, it's about as cheap as you can get, if you have any sense you will not buy this... unless you REALLY REALLY have to. It works, it'll get the guitar into your computer but it wont sound as good as more expensive models and it wont do much else.

What's it for?
- Recording an instrument input
- Demoing or Rough Recordings

What's it not for?
- Recording microphones
- Recording high quality audio
- Recording your first EP

PRO TIP: If you look around online you can normally find unbranded versions of this product (as in it doesn't say Behringer on it) for a fraction of the price.



Line6's TonePort/Studio Pod series is a topic of hot debate. Whilst the pre-amps line 6 use are pretty average you're also paying for the PodFarm software that comes with it, meaing that your $100 is split between a below average amp sim and a somewhat light weight box. It does the job however if you want to to record guitars.

What's it for?
- Recording an instrument input at an average level
- Recording Guitar and Bass DI for an EP
- An all inclusive package which includes amp sims.

What's it not for?
- Recording microphones
- Recording the best possible quality audio

Entry Level

Focusrite - SAFFIRE 6 / SCARLETT 2i4 (same thing in a snazzier case and USB 2.0)

This in reality is what you should buy if you can justify it, most of the regulars use this interface. This is the best USB interface on the entry level market, professional level pre amps and features without having to spend a stupid amount of money. Includes two high quality inputs.

What's it for?
- Recording Instrument Input with high quality
- Recording Microphones (Including ones requiring phantom power)
- Recording up to two inputs at once
- Recording (theoretically) a professional sounding mix
- Home recording projects

What's it not for?
- Recording in a live situation
- Recording a drum kit

Please not that the 2i2 is not the same as the 2i4. The 2i2 does not have a pad button for the inputs, which is often necessary when recording guitars DI.

Entry Level +

Tascam - US-1800

This is another entry level interface, this, whilst I have no personal experience with it, it is of a respected brand and has enough inputs for live recording and drum tracking. The pre-amps are, most likely, not as sweet sounding as those in the Saffire 6.

What's it for?
- Recording up to sixteen inputs at once
- Recording Live
- Tracking Drums

What's it not for?
- Recording one instrument in at a time
- Simple Bedroom recording


Well that's a very good question... I've never had a need to buy a professional USB interface and neither have most people on this board, if it turns out there is a super awesome pro level interface (you'd hope that'd be all of them really) then I'll add one here, but in reality the "just starting recording" guy isn't gonna need a $1000 interface.


OMG YOU SAID ENTRY LEVEL? Why is it $200 I can't afford that right now

Because you get what you pay for, just with a guitar, you wouldn't pay 50 bucks for a guitar and expect it to be good or an amp for that matter. So why would a recording interface be any different? If you can't be bothered to save up for a decent interface then I doubt you'll have the dedication to learn how to mix with it properly, no offence imaginary person. (At some point we will be adding an interface to sit between the Behringer and the Focusrite, just have to find one with a good balance of quality and cost)

Can't I just record using the USB output of my *insert cheap modelling amp here*

Technically yes, but it won't sound great. Those USB outputs are notoriously bad.

Is it better to record with Amp Sims or my amp and a microphone?

Really it's up to you, real amps tend to be better... unless you're trying to mic up a spider with a cheap brand mic, then it's much better to use amps sims, they'll sound better. If you have a Half Stack and a Sm57 however, go ahead an record with a mic, though you might want to consider some room treatment before you do.

What amp sim should I use?

I don't know, but here is a good resource

How do I record?

We have neither the time nor the patience to teach you that, I learnt a lot from youtube but there are also loads of great books around. Take some initiative guys!

More Interfaces
DAWS - No Audacity doesn't count

Multi-track Recorders - An out the box alternative

Courtesy of GaryBillington

When setting up your home recording system, an option which should be considered is the purchasing of a purpose built multitrack recorder to use as your DAW. They provide almost all the same capability as software based DAWs, but are designed for people who just want to record themselves as a part of their music playing hobby. If you have no intention of become a professional sound engineer and just want a quick and easy way to create high quality recordings, this is arguably the easiest way to get started as all the effects and EQ options that most people will need are included, often as a pre-defined selection to allow even the least experienced user a good way of creating a professional sounding product.

Obviously there are pros and cons to consider when determining if a multitrack recorder is the right choice for your DAW.

ChemicalFire 05-27-2012 08:45 AM

Pro: Everything you'll need in a single unit. Obviously this doesn't include cables & microphones etc. but all digital multitrack recorders are more than capable of creating a high quality finished product with no need to use any additional equipment or software. They have a wide range of EQ and effects (usually including a range of guitar amp models) meaning no additional plugins are required to make almost any instrument sound as good as possible.

Pro: A high proportion of multitrack recorders are designed for guitarists and include fully functional drum machines, usually with a bass sequencer included to allow one person to easily recreate the sound of a full band.

Con: As everything is in a single unit, any additional instrumentation you require that could be created virtually on a software based system is not easily accessed - you could still create it on your PC and transfer it to your multitracker, but if you will be doing that on a regular basis a standalone unit is obviously not the best option.

Pro: Can be purchased used to reduce the initial expenditure. This is a great thing about multitrackers - by buying second hand equipment, you can use your money to obtain significantly higher quality equipment within your desired budget than if you were buying new.
Con: Some older equipment may not use media compatible with current technology. This mainly relates to DAWs that are several years old, before technology like USB & SD cards were available. If you are purchasing an older unit, make sure it includes a CD writer or other usable method of transfering your finished product onto other media. Most equipment made in the past 5 years has utilised USB or SD technology, but obviously check this before purchasing.

Pro: Portability. As it's an all-in-one unit, a multitrack recorder can easily be transported to gigs, band practices, friend's house etc to record everything you do - you can record a whole gig in order to create a live demo album, you can record band practices to listen to yourselves and know what you're doing right/wrong, you can record jam sessions and keep a record of interesting riffs that could become a new composition.
Con: Just like with interfaces, recording a full band in a live environment requires more inputs, which means you're going to need higher spec and therefore more expensive equipment.

Something to avoid:

When people talk about how good recording on tape is, they DO NOT mean a cassette based 4 track such as the Tascam Portastudio that was available in the 80's. Although for some these may have a certain antique charm, they serve no practical purpose in today's society. Recording to cassette is NOT the same as recording to tape. When people talk about the glory days of recording to tape, they are talking about professional equipment using 2" tape, not equipment like this.

Basic equipment:

Tascam DP-004
RRP: 139
Simultaneous recording tracks: 2
Playback tracks: 4
Although this can be a useful tool for use as a musical notebook and claims to record at CD quality, it's lack of EQ and effects mean it is no more than that - a musical notebook. It can record 2 tracks at once using either the built in microphones or the mic/line inputs so it can be a useful tool, but it isn't recommended for use as a home studio.

Zoom H4n
Image: .jpgcam
RRP: 269
Simultaneous recording tracks: 1
Playback tracks: 4
Much like the DP-004, this is nothing more than a musical notebook, but with the added advantages of being smaller as well as including some effects and amp models. It can also be used as a interface, so if you come up with something useful you could use it in conjunction with a PC based system to create a more complete product.

Entry Level:

Tascam DP-008

Image: cam_dp008_01.jpg
RRP: 312
Simultaneous recording tracks: 2
Playback tracks: 8
This is little more than the DP-004 with extra tracks and some EQ/effects capability. It can be used to create good quality recordings so long as you are only using very basic instrumentation.

Boss BR-80
Spec: uctId=1167
Image: t/uploads/2011/11/Boss-BR80-Micro-BR.jpg
RRP: 199
Simultaneous recording tracks: 2
Playback tracks: 8
For such a cheap piece of kit, this has excellent specs - it's almost a shame to list it as entry level equipment, but as it's cheaper than the Tascam DP-008 it fits into this budget range perfectly. It includes virtual tracks, a good range of EQ & effects as well as a built in rhythm section making it the ideal solution for a guitarist wanting to take a first step into the world of recording.

Fostex MR8 MkII
Spec: R-8_Mk2.shtml
Image:,85/mr8mk2 -63af8fa004dd74276932f382eb1e9537.jpg
RRP: 249
Simultaneous recording tracks: 2
Playback tracks: 8
I used a Fostex 8 track for about 10 years and it served me well. It was able to create high quality recordings and was solidly built & reliable. Although the menu system isn't particularly well organised, once you've found your way around it all effects, EQ, and amp models etc are presented in editable presets that are designed to be easy to use. It's biggest weaknesses are it's lack of an intergrated drum machine and the need to keep tracks 7 & 8 free for track bouncing prior to creating a final version of your recording effectively making this a 6 track rather than an 8 track.

Entry level +

Fostex MR16HD
Spec: oducts/MR-16HDCD.shtml
Image: jpg
RRP: 419
Simultaneous recording tracks: 4
Playback tracks: 16
This is essentially exactly the same as the MR8, but bigger. Barring the lack of a drum machine, this would be a good purchase for someone wanting the simplest possible method of recording with a higher level of tracks. Although it's recently been discontinued, this would be a great used purchase, alternatively it's replacement (when released) will fill this gap nicely.

Intermediate / Advanced equipment:

With multitrack recorders, size matters - bigger is almost always better. 8 tracks is the absolute minimum required for most home recording projects. (eg 2 for drums, 1 for bass, 2 for rhythm guitar, 1 lead guitar & 1 vocals - it soon adds up). If you can afford more tracks, you should buy the bigger kit. Obviously these recorders all feature virtual tracks which can be used to increase this capability, but the more tracks you have the better your final product will be. At this level as a general rule I would consider anything with 8 tracks to be intermediate, anything with 16 or more tracks to be advanced.

Tascam 2488

Image: s/2010/05/Tascam-2488neo.bmp
RRP: 579
Simultaneous recording tracks: 8
Playback tracks: 24
If this included a drum machine, it would be the ultimate standalone home recording device. As it is, this is probably the closest you can buy to a professional studio in an all-in-one package, with more effects, EQ, amp & cab models etc than most home recording hobbyists would ever dream of using. When you compare the price to other equipment listed here (especially the Boss units), it's amazing how much Tascam have managed to include.

Boss BR800
Spec: uctId=1068
RRP: 429
Simultaneous recording tracks: 4
Playback tracks: 8

Boss BR1200CD
Image: mages/top_M.jpg
RRP: 799
Simultaneous recording tracks: 2
Playback tracks: 12

Boss BR1600CD

Spec: uctId=574
Image: /boss_br_1600cd_main.jpg
RRP: 1099
Simultaneous recording tracks: 8
Playback tracks: 16

Boss's multitrack DAWs are high spec, all include a drum machine & bass sequencer and receive excellent reviews. However, I have no personal experience of them due to the price - they are around double the price of the equivalent equipment from other manufacturers, none of the research I've ever done has justified this.

Hybrid equipment

Zoom R series
Image:,85/ZoomR_ Series_RecordersR8R8_head_on-11008c2f3870123d5ffa7 5bbfbc5c795.jpg
RRP: 199
Simultaneous recording tracks: 2
Playback tracks: 8

ChemicalFire 06-16-2012 02:33 PM

Image: 16_top.jpg
RRP: 379
Simultaneous recording tracks: 8*
Playback tracks: 16
Image: 6/zoom_r24_1.jpg
RRP: 479
Simultaneous recording tracks: 8*
Playback tracks: 24

*16 tracks can be recorded at once by linking two separate units via a USB cable.

For people who like the idea of having an all-in-one multitracker but also want the flexibility that software based systems provides, this is the ideal solution. It can be used on it's own, but it is also designed to act as an interface and controller for whatever software DAW you have chosen. The R8 & R24 also include a drum machine & bass sequencer, but for some reason this was left off the R16.
Although it doesn't have the same level of in built capability for EQ & effects etc that the Tascam 2488 does, the fact that it is designed to work in conjunction with your PC mean any shortcomings you may find with the EQ & effects that are included can be rectified using a software plugin.
For people who want a multitracker to start their recording hobby but who fear they may outgrow it in time, this is the perfect solution as it provides the best of both worlds - standalone multitracker and interface/software controller all in one.

REAPER - Why it's the go to beginner DAW

Courtesy of LockWolf

Hello forum users. Today, I would like make an attempt at slowing down the number of "Hai Guize! What Softwares should I use to records?" by bringing up why Reaper is pretty much suggested 99.9% of the time. Considering every time someone asks, everyone blindly says Reaper without really giving a reason, heres why:

1. Price: This is probably the biggest reason why Reaper is recommended. Outside of software included with interfaces, lets break down the pricing on the common DAWs:

Pro Tools 10: $600
Cubase 6: $500
Ableton Live: $500
Presonus Studio One 2.0: $400
Reaper: $60!!!!!

Of course, thats if you make less than $20,000 a year which most of us wont. Even then, the full price license is still $225 which is almost half as much as Studio One. On top of that, you get a 30 day free trial without having to use an iLok or anything like that.

2. Flexibility: One thing thats impressed me about Reaper looking in the from the outside is how flexible the DAW is. You can completely change the look and feel of the DAW to tailor it to your needs. There are hundreds of Themes available, some that even look like Pro Tools, Cubase & whatnot.

To extend that, it also has support for VST plugins. There are THOUSANDS of FREE VSTs, most of which model plugins that will cost anywhere between $20-$500 on their own (I'm looking at you Waves). This is a plus to anyone, especially those starting out.

3. Tutorials & Community: I know, every DAW has tutorials and such but I've found Reaper not only has a ton, but they're pretty good. You can find a tutorial for pretty much everything you'd need to get going with Reaper. Also, since most people on here use Reaper, help is just one post away (Just as long as you google it first).

Now for some questions:

Q: I recently bought X interface and it includes X software. Should I use Reaper or X software?
A: If you got a program with your interface, give it a shot and see if you like it. Though, except for the more expensive interfaces, the software that comes with your interface is usually crippled and will not include everything the full version does or limit the amount of tracks you can record. If you like it, you can get a discounted full version of the DAW. I think the only one I wouldn't recommend is Pro Tools Essentials since its 8 tracks which is pretty useless for a full band setup.

Q: Why don't you suggest Pro Tools? Its the Industry Standard!
A: Yes, but your bedroom isn't the Industry. Most of you will never need to use more than Reaper for your home recordings. Besides, with Pro Tools, its a HUGE moneypit! You're not only looking at $600 just for the software, Pro Tools doesn't have native VST support so all those free VST plugins are out of the question unless you buy the VSTtoRTAS program for an extra $100.

Q: What about Audacity? Its not listed
A: Good question. Audacity doesn't come anywhere near the power of Reaper. Audacity is very limited and is really only good for voice recording.

ChemicalFire 06-16-2012 02:33 PM

USB Microphones, a waste of money for long term use

(Or why you still need to buy an Interface)

Courtesy of Lockwolf

For the past few years, USB condenser microphones have been popping onto the market left and right. A good chunk of budget microphones by major manufactures have been made into USB microphones to get the home studio started for less money. While all these are great for those who want a cheap way to start without having to drop a lot of money, those looking to have a long term studio are going to end up wasting money on these USB mics. Why? Well, let me show you:

1. Just because its the same as a Non-USB mic, it doesn't mean its the same mic: You'd think that a company making a USB version of an XLR mic would use the same components & such but this doesn't seem to be the case. I took a look at Audio-Technica's website to look at the AT2020, a common budget mic that has a USB and XLR version. Right away, I noticed they're completely different mics based on the Frequency Response. Here's the response for the AT2020 XLR and USB (XLR on top):

Now what does this all mean? If you look, anything above 9k starts dropping off very steeply on the USB while the standard XLR starts dropping off around 14k. Most couch audio engineers will say that anything above 9k doesn't matter but if you're recording strings, cymbals & vocals, you're going to miss out on some core frequencies that will add a ton to your sound. Also, thinking you could just EQ some high end back in isn't going to work.

2. The A/D Conversion is terrible: A core part of the recording path is the Analog to Digital conversion. This is how the audio goes from the microphone to whatever DAW you're using. Between the microphone & your computer, its converted from an Analog natural sound to Digital 1's & 0's. Every audio interface & USB microphone has one built in since there is no way to get it into your PC otherwise.

Since most of these USB mics are made with budget in mind, the A/D is usually made very cheaply to keep the cost around the same price of the XLR counterpart. This will lead to a loss of quality in the signal and is probably responsible for a lot of the EQ frequency response differences seen above.

3. You can't upgrade your USB mic or your studio as easily: So you bought a USB mic & you've been recording for a while. You feel the need to upgrade, so now you can just rush out and buy a new mic, right? Wrong! If you've gone the USB route, if you ever plan on upgrading your studio, you're not going to be able to use it anymore. You're going to most likely switch to an audio interface which only has XLR or line ins. Most DAWs will not recognize your audio interface & USB mic at the same time since they are both considered audio interfaces.

With an audio interface, if you want to change mics, you can just plug it straight in. You can use any XLR mic with any audio interface as long as it has an XLR in. Got a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 and want to plug in a SM57? No problem. Wanna plug a $4000 Neumann U87 into your 2i4? Plug away. Want to plug an eV RE-320 in? Yeah, you get the point. You aren't limited to one mic and can expand as your needs grow with an audio interface

But do I really need to buy an interface an mic to record? I don't have money to: No you don't. If all you can afford is a USB mic, you'll be able to get by. Its just that if you're looking for something for the long term, you're either going to end up selling it very quickly to upgrade or it'll sit in the corner gathering dust when you decide its time to move up.

Joshua1207 06-17-2012 08:11 PM

So what is the difference between firewire and USB interfaces exactly? I know nothing about these so if you could help me out a little. Somebody suggested I get this
but here you're suggesting the Focusrite - SAFFIRE 6. I just plan on recording guitar, bass, and maybe vocals so which would be better and easier to work with?

FireHawk 06-17-2012 08:19 PM

Not to take anything away from you chemical it's a great thread...but damn that is a good multitrack write up. A lot of people (including me) have very little experience or knowledge on multitracks. I think it's good we have something to reference now when people ask about interfaces.

+1 for both of you.

EDIT: for Joshua: FireWire and USB are just types of connections at higher inputs FireWire has more bandwidth and will allow less latency. If you are tracking less than or equal to 4 (I have heard 6 on nice systems) inputs at a time it really doesn't matter which you have.

That said the Saffire 6 is best in that price range.

lockwolf 06-17-2012 10:33 PM

Originally Posted by Joshua1207

Must be pretty new. I never knew TC Electronics was making an interface. I mean, you could be the first of us to try it but judging from the looks, its not that impressive. Considering you're paying the same price as the Saffire 6 for no built in MIDI input, one Mic Preamp and something that's Firewire when realistically it could easily be done with no problem over USB, its the name.

As far as speed and what not, heres what it comes down to:

USB 1.1: 12 Mbit\s
USB 2.0: 480 Mbit\s
Firewire 400: 400 Mbit\s
Firewire 800: 800 Mbit\s

Mbit\s = Megabits a second (1/8 of a Megabyte for those not that techy)

In theory, a USB 2.0 interface is as good as a Firewire 400 interface though that never is the case. Firewire 400 is about 25% faster despite USB 2.0 having a higher bandwith. USB 2.0 can do 480 Mbit\s but it cant do a constant 480 like firewire can. Also, with USB, unless you're using a dedicated card, you're going to notice lag due to USB Keyboards, Mouses, Portable Hard Drives and whatnot. I have a Logitech G15 keyboard gathering dust because I can't run that and my Mbox at the same time.

Just something I did some research into, feel free to use it.

ChemicalFire 06-18-2012 08:05 AM

Originally Posted by FireHawk
Not to take anything away from you chemical it's a great thread...but damn that is a good multitrack write up.

It's fine, GB has put a lot more work into his section that I have into mine, really need to update this thread with more interface but I've got so much other crap to do!

GaryBillington 06-18-2012 09:41 AM

Originally Posted by ChemicalFire
It's fine, GB has put a lot more work into his section that I have into mine, really need to update this thread with more interface but I've got so much other crap to do!

Work is what I was supposed to be doing when I was writing it - I wrote it up in one of my office's template document formats so people who saw my screen thought I was busy :haha:

Joshua1207 06-21-2012 07:21 PM

Okay, so I bought the Focusrite Saffire but I have no idea how to get it to work. I plugged my guitar into one of the inputs, but how do I start recording with it now?

ChemicalFire 06-21-2012 07:23 PM

What DAW are you using?

You need to make sure your DAW is set up to use the interface as the sound device, make sure the track is set up to take input from the interface and make sure the track is armed to record.

Joshua1207 06-21-2012 07:38 PM

Trying Ableton Live Lite since that is what came with it. I am pretty sure it is set up for it to use the interface as the sound device, not exactly sure how to do the other stuff. Since I'm plugging my guitar directly into the interface do I need some kind of amp vst or whatever too?

ChemicalFire 06-21-2012 07:41 PM

Yes, but you should be able to hear the guitar anyway, just clean.

Though I can't really help you with Ableton, it's horrible to work with and is just confusing. You'd be best recording something like DI guitar in Ableton or something.

Joshua1207 06-21-2012 07:43 PM

Well I have Reaper on my computer too, maybe you could help me with that?

ChemicalFire 06-21-2012 07:50 PM

Yup, reaper is SUPER easy to set up.

All you need to do is select ASIO under devices, then select the Saffire.

Then it should be as simple as arming a track and making sure the monitoring is turned on on the track, then it should work.

ORANGE/MESA 06-22-2012 02:59 AM

im so torn about the apogee gear. great reviews on the "ONE" bad reviews on the "duet 2." i have a mac book pro with garage band (pro tools 10 soon) and was wondering if this is worth the money? whats another great interface thats compatible with mac? I'm willing ti go the extra mile($) to get a good one.

lockwolf 06-22-2012 03:02 AM

Apogee doesn't make shit gear. I personally think any bad review on their stuff is people not knowing how to use it.

MatrixClaw 06-22-2012 03:31 AM

Originally Posted by ORANGE/MESA
im so torn about the apogee gear. great reviews on the "ONE" bad reviews on the "duet 2." i have a mac book pro with garage band (pro tools 10 soon) and was wondering if this is worth the money? whats another great interface thats compatible with mac? I'm willing ti go the extra mile($) to get a good one.

The Duet 2 is a great unit, anyone who says otherwise is either using it wrong or doesn't know what they're talking about. The conversion and preamps in it are better than the Ensemble, which costs $2000.

Slapp62 06-22-2012 10:02 AM

can you cover the lexicon lambda?

Slashiepie 06-24-2012 05:14 AM

Originally Posted by ChemicalFire
Yes, but you should be able to hear the guitar anyway, just clean.

Though I can't really help you with Ableton, it's horrible to work with and is just confusing. You'd be best recording something like DI guitar in Ableton or something.

Ableton is easy as hell, TS you need to arm the audio track (activate that red dot) and select the correct input (is usually already selected)
Now if you are just plugin your guitar directly you will get the dry sound of your clean pickups, you need vstis running or connect your guitar to your amp and mic it.


Aren't we derailing the thread through these questions?

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