#1
I'm looking for a good HOME recording setup through a laptop computer. Right now, I'm using a Boss stand alone unit (BR 600) and the recording quality sucks. The clean sucks and clips at really low volumes. The effects sound whiny and/or buzzy. But mostly, the direct clean sucks really bad. I figure if I go the computer route it has to be better than that.

Here's what I'm looking for.

-Must be able to do everything direct. I do not want to mic up my amp. I want to play direct into the desk.
-Must have a very good base clean which will not clip at low volumes. I play a lot of jazz and I need a good clean.
-Must be able to import in an MP3 and set it to one of the tracks and then have the option of either keeping or deleting that track.
-Have the ability to add in an effects loop and sound good or have its own. I'm not as worried about the effects. I don't use a ton of effects, but it needs to be able to either have its own effects or be able to loop in a multi pedal or something and still sound decent.
-Have at least 8 tracks (but I don't think this is a problem with computers, right? ) I don't need 8 inputs, I just need 8 tracks.

I already have the computer. So, I'm looking to spend $500 (or cheaper) preferably, but closer to $1000 if necessary. I'm looking to mostly record myself and not run a studio out of my home. So, I don't need all the bells and whistles, just something with a good quality sound.

Thanks.
Last edited by jogogonne at Mar 1, 2016,
#2
Something like the Presonus Audiobox i2 Interface or the Focusrite 2i4 would make good direct interface connections (with pad functions). Both come with DAW programs you could use. Ableton Live Lite (focusrite)has a maximum 8 tracks iirc. Or download Reaper if you want to try that with better built in effects.

Then you just need some vst plug ins or connect outboard MFX.
#3
Well, you can get your recording program (DAW) for free if you go with Reaper. It really has all the firepower you could possibly ask for (in my opinion) and then some, if you choose to download third party plugins too. So, yea Reaper $0 (unless you want to sell your music, then you need a license, which is very affordable, I have one).

You will also need an interface to plug your guitar into, or your mic if you decide to sing. Since you said it is only for yourself, I would get just a single or dual channel interface. If you are using Mac, i would get the Apogee One or Duet. If you are on PC, I would probably get a Zoom Tac-2, possibly. So thats $300-$450 right there, and solves most of your problems.
For amp simulations, there are also free plugins available online. But I would get something like Peavey Revalver which has a bunch of good options for clean sounds (check out the review videos on youtube). The revalver 4 bundle is $99. So that puts you around $500-600 total.

Lastly, you need a way to monitor for recording/mixing. This means headphones and/or studio monitors. Mixing on headphones often leads to poor mixing decisions- but unless you are working in an acoustic-friendly environment, studio monitors will be a challenge too, and sound treating a room will definitely put you over a budget of $1000. Maybe start off by just using headphones and cross-reference on your car stereo or other peoples speakers. There are a lot of options for headphones out there, even for under $100. Everybody recommends something different, so you will have to do some google searching there and just go with your gut on a pair- they arent a perfect solution unfortunately
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#4
Quote by Watterboy
Well, you can get your recording program (DAW) for free if you go with Reaper. It really has all the firepower you could possibly ask for (in my opinion) and then some, if you choose to download third party plugins too. So, yea Reaper $0 (unless you want to sell your music, then you need a license, which is very affordable, I have one).

You will also need an interface to plug your guitar into, or your mic if you decide to sing. Since you said it is only for yourself, I would get just a single or dual channel interface. If you are using Mac, i would get the Apogee One or Duet. If you are on PC, I would probably get a Zoom Tac-2, possibly. So thats $300-$450 right there, and solves most of your problems.
For amp simulations, there are also free plugins available online. But I would get something like Peavey Revalver which has a bunch of good options for clean sounds (check out the review videos on youtube). The revalver 4 bundle is $99. So that puts you around $500-600 total.

Lastly, you need a way to monitor for recording/mixing. This means headphones and/or studio monitors. Mixing on headphones often leads to poor mixing decisions- but unless you are working in an acoustic-friendly environment, studio monitors will be a challenge too, and sound treating a room will definitely put you over a budget of $1000. Maybe start off by just using headphones and cross-reference on your car stereo or other peoples speakers. There are a lot of options for headphones out there, even for under $100. Everybody recommends something different, so you will have to do some google searching there and just go with your gut on a pair- they arent a perfect solution unfortunately


Hi thanks.

It will be for a PC. I really just need something that sounds better than my standalone digital. For the recording, I plan to do 100% direct through headphones. Later on, when I mix and decide what to bring up or down, I can use monitors. But for now, just worried about getting something decent on track.

So, for the software, free is just as good, huh? Well, that's good news.

The interface is within budget and I will check out the one you suggested. Thanks.
#5
Reaper is NOT free. Read the EULA. You can try it for free, but if you continue to use it, I believe the asking price is $60 (still VERY reasonable and worth it).

With a DAW, you'd be able to add the effects after recording, but if you want to include external effects (like a pedal), the only interface that I know off the top of my head that has physical Inserts for effects is the Behringer FCA1616. More I/O than you probably need, but it's in the price range of other 2-4 channel Interfaces. Also, when selecting your Interface, keep in mind what you're going to plug in and make sure you get one with the proper jacks for what you need to connect to it (XLR w/ preamps for mics, line level for keyboards/ amp line outs / etc..., Hi-Z for direct Guitar / Instrument level connections, etc...).
#6
It depends how involved you want to get with the production, do you want to do drums, keys, orchestral arrangements? Do you need notation and scoring capability?

Off the bat I'll say you can focus a few bucks on a better than standard direct channel so look at Audient interface:
http://audient.com/products/audio-interfaces
Both of these will work and are expandable via adat to 8 extra channels, in case you ever want more channels.
As far as software, I'm currently using Studio One and like it quite a bit. If you buy the pro version you get a lot of options, including mastering facility, but the Artist is fine if you're just starting out.

You can also buy the Presonus packs which somes with Studio One.

If you want more scoring capabilities, Sonar is best on Pc, then probably Cubase.
Reaper is fine, if you want to go that route.
If you want more simplistic, Tracktion and Mixcraft come to mind.
These all are capable of achieving good results.

How good is your Pc? Want to make sure you're not underpowered and need to spend $ on new machine.
#7
Quote by diabolical
It depends how involved you want to get with the production, do you want to do drums, keys, orchestral arrangements? Do you need notation and scoring capability?

Off the bat I'll say you can focus a few bucks on a better than standard direct channel so look at Audient interface:
http://audient.com/products/audio-interfaces
Both of these will work and are expandable via adat to 8 extra channels, in case you ever want more channels.
As far as software, I'm currently using Studio One and like it quite a bit. If you buy the pro version you get a lot of options, including mastering facility, but the Artist is fine if you're just starting out.

You can also buy the Presonus packs which somes with Studio One.

If you want more scoring capabilities, Sonar is best on Pc, then probably Cubase.
Reaper is fine, if you want to go that route.
If you want more simplistic, Tracktion and Mixcraft come to mind.
These all are capable of achieving good results.

How good is your Pc? Want to make sure you're not underpowered and need to spend $ on new machine.


Hi,

Thanks for the response. I'm most concerned with recording myself, solo, and playing over myself. I may throw in a bass and and keys in there too, but again, I can lay those tracks separately.

So, I'm most concerned about the quality of the sound of ONE guitar. Dry and direct. I want a nice, fat, warm tone without clipping.

Are the $300 units enough to get it done? I may buy one and test it out to see if it's good enough.
Last edited by jogogonne at Mar 1, 2016,
#8
Consider how many inputs and outputs you will need.

If you are certain that you will only ever be recording one input or two at most then you will be good with a one or two channel input.

If you want to be more open with where you could go with the process then you might want more inputs.

Consider a few questions:

1)While it might typically just be you, will there ever be a time where you want to record yourself and a couple of friends all jamming together?

2)Will there ever be a time where you want to record your voice?

3)Will you ever want to get your clean signal then send it back out to process through an outboard effects pedal or amp and then go back into the computer for a wet and a dry track from one performance?

4)Do you plan to expand your studio over time with more mics, or more gear that requires extra inputs?

While you don't want to waste money on inputs you will never use it's better to have a few spare inputs that you don't end up using than to find yourself in a situation where you wish you had two more inputs and having to consider buying a new interface because the one you got the first time around just didn't have enough input/outputs.

I have an 8x8 interface (8 ins and 8 outs) which is great. I haven't used more than about five ins at once (and yeah sometimes that's just by myself). But it's awesome when some friends come over to be able to plug everyone in and lay it all down together at once.

Remember too that stereo outputs take up two channels, one for left one for right. So if you have 4 outputs that equates to two stereo outputs.

So think about your needs. You won't be disappointed with the sound quality of any of the mid-range stuff like the presonus or the focusrite etc.

The Apogee has 2/2 (in/out) both inputs have preamps and it has a single headphone output for about $500.

You can get more than 8 inputs with 8 preamps, and 10 or more outputs as well as two dedicated headphone monitoring outputs for less $$ if you look at a Focusrite or similar.

Of course it always pays to research this stuff for yourself online and make an informed decision. Also make sure you buy one with the right connection!! You don't want to buy a firewire audio interface to find you don't have a firewire port!!

RAM and processing power is also pretty important. 4Gb RAM will allow you to do most things. If you have software instruments like Toontrack for drums, then you'll start eating up RAM a bit quicker. I you're running multiple tracks with multiple plug ins and effects then you can run start running out of RAM. 8Gb will give you a bit more room and more than that should give you plenty of breathing space.

Best of luck.

EDIT: If you go direct in then the sound will be clean and direct from your guitar. The interfaces are aimed at producing a clean uncoloured sound. in all honesty even the $300 versions won't disappoint you. It won't fatten up or warm your tone. But once in the DAW you can throw a few plug ins on it and get a really thick warm tone whether you like it clean or dirty as hell.
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#9
Quote by 20Tigers


EDIT: If you go direct in then the sound will be clean and direct from your guitar. The interfaces are aimed at producing a clean uncoloured sound. in all honesty even the $300 versions won't disappoint you. It won't fatten up or warm your tone. But once in the DAW you can throw a few plug ins on it and get a really thick warm tone whether you like it clean or dirty as hell.


Thanks. I think I'll go that route and trade up if that's not good enough.

P.S. Somebody recommended a Thunderbolt interface. I had never even heard of that before today, so I'm pretty sure my computer don't got it.
#10
i like my focusrite 2i4 for just a small simple interface.

i really like reaper for a DAW $60, for the price impossible to beat. IMO anyways.

for drums, i downloaded the free kontakt player and i got the free "drumica' sennheiser drums and i haven't done a ton with it yet, but at an earlys stage of use on it seems pretty cool. i think the real thing that makes or breaks that is your EQ/Compression skills.
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#11
The thing with recording is that it is on per channel basis, so the higher up in price you can go the better preamps/DIs you will get. One of the reasons why I recommended the Audient $500 interface first. Might look up RME as well while we're at it. You don't buy just the unit, you also buy driver support.
I currently own a Firepod (PreSOnus) which is firewire as I have that on my laptop and desktop but going firewire will be hard as support is dropping, especially on laptops. Thunderbolt is kinda replacing that.
The benefits of firewire/thunderbolt is better and more solid data stream as USB is kinda sketchy, especially if you have more going on. In your case - you do only one channel at a time so that's not a big deal.
My other interface is Edirol (now Cakewalk) UA-4FX which I've been using a lot lately, sadly discontinued but it has a lot of crazy options that other interfaces don't (built in compressor, mastering effects, loopback for recording your output into the input, etc.) and I like it for what it does, plus it is portable.
If I need the best signal path available I have outboard 2 channel preamp (Joe Meek TwinQ) with optocompressors, eq, etc. and transformer DI, as well as a few more expensive DI boxes (Radial) that I use, but honestly, lately I am realizing that the higher end pickups in one of my guitars has added a lot of that extra mojo, even through the cheap interface, and is probably the best investment as it sounds great direct, and the modeling software afterwards sounds very good as opposed to good as it sounded earlier.

Anyway, you'd probably need some amplifier emulations as well since you'd be recording direct, so for jazz, I am not sure, maybe IK's Fender packs, mainly for the Bassman and other clean Fender tube amp sims.
http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/fender/

Drums - maybe look at EZDrummer's jazz section, I know they have some jazz stuff, but that'll probably be hell to program as jazz is probably the most nuanced when it comes to drumming so it'll be hard to fake a live drummer.

You could get started with one of the PreSonus interfaces and see how it goes from there. You can always upgrade to a better DI or get a single channel preamp, like the UA Solo.
Or you can just start on a high note and get an Audient, RME Babyface or a Universal Audio interface and take it from there.
#12
Zoom r16 or R24. Stand alone units like you are used to. Effects etc also work as a control surface to operate sliders etc in a daw, also transfer files to and from pc with ease. Up to 32 gb per card so it's cheap to keep projects without filling up pc harddrive with shit takes. lol.
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#13
Quote by lmychajluk
Reaper is NOT free. Read the EULA. You can try it for free, but if you continue to use it, I believe the asking price is $60 (still VERY reasonable and worth it).

With a DAW, you'd be able to add the effects after recording, but if you want to include external effects (like a pedal), the only interface that I know off the top of my head that has physical Inserts for effects is the Behringer FCA1616. More I/O than you probably need, but it's in the price range of other 2-4 channel Interfaces. Also, when selecting your Interface, keep in mind what you're going to plug in and make sure you get one with the proper jacks for what you need to connect to it (XLR w/ preamps for mics, line level for keyboards/ amp line outs / etc..., Hi-Z for direct Guitar / Instrument level connections, etc...).


Lol, Reaper is free to use in a non-commercial way. I used it for about 5 years, free of charge (aka waiting for the countdown and then hitting continue trial), until I decided to start trying to sell music, so I bought a license
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#14
Quote by Watterboy
Lol, Reaper is free to use in a non-commercial way. I used it for about 5 years, free of charge (aka waiting for the countdown and then hitting continue trial), until I decided to start trying to sell music, so I bought a license


Read - http://www.reaper.fm/purchase.php

It's all there on the one page.


$60 : discounted license.
$225 : commercial license.

You may use the discounted license if:
You are an individual, and REAPER is only for your personal use, or

You are an individual or business using REAPER commercially, and yearly gross revenue does not exceed USD $20,000, or

You are an educational or non-profit organization.


LOL....
#15
Reaper is not free but the trial is unlimited, I guess they figured that if you use it enough you'll eventually buy it, so unlike the crazy registration schemes and messes the other manufacturers do, they're quite nice in that regard. Try to register a new copy of Cubase on a 2nd machine and you'd be pulling your hair
Either way - what is $60, that's my scotch budget for half a week.

The Zoom R16, etc. are not bad but the preamps are not the quality you'd get in an Audient for example. It might be perfectly adequate, I myself am thinking of getting one as I am kinda fed up of sitting on a desk every time I want to write.
Last edited by diabolical at Mar 4, 2016,
#16
Quote by diabolical
Reaper is not free but the trial is unlimited, I guess they figured that if you use it enough you'll eventually buy it, so unlike the crazy registration schemes and messes the other manufacturers do, they're quite nice in that regard. Try to register a new copy of Cubase on a 2nd machine and you'd be pulling your hair
Either way - what is $60, that's my scotch budget for half a week.

The Zoom R16, etc. are not bad but the preamps are not the quality you'd get in an Audient for example. It might be perfectly adequate, I myself am thinking of getting one as I am kinda fed up of sitting on a desk every time I want to write.


Agreed about Cubase: great DAW, terrible support and license management.

I've always been rather impressed with a lot of the 'light' versions of DAWs that come with most boxes.

My only complaint is that Focusrite has a hard-on for packaging Ableton Live lite with it's boxes. As good as Live is for sample/loop based music, I found it seriously lacks on multi-track recorded music.

I think PreSonus ships with either Sonar Lite or Cubase LE (or whatever replaced LE,I haven't used Cubase since 4, which was really good).

I'll +1 Reaper. At 60 bones, it's really fantastic. I personally don't use it myself, but the YT channel I'm now working with does and I've been pleasantly surprised at it. Favorite part? I like the look and feel of PT, but they prefer Cubase. So, custom UIs are incredibly useful.

You stated between 500-1000 budget, so I'd recommend:

Steinberg UR28M (Comes with Cubase AI6, Cubase is a great DAW (even the AI versions)

I've not heard anything bad about this box in any way, and it looks very clean. Steinberg uses Yamaha pres (AFAIR) so they're fairly clean and accurate.

Steinberg Box

You never mentioned a Mic at all, but here's an option as well. Good old Rode NT1-A. It's a Rode... not the absolute best, definitely not the worst. Works on most applications, tends to be better in acoustics and voice as it has a bit of a boost in the upper mids, but doesn't get that cheap forwardness on the high end (compared to most cheaper LDCs anyways).

Rode Mic

What else may you need?
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#17
Steinberg=Line6=Yamaha
Sonar=Roland
Alesis=AKAI=owned by investment group.

For the most part, one of the major audio manufacturers acquired a DAW.

Presonus used to package Cubase LE, now it comes with their own software, Studio One.
Last edited by diabolical at Mar 13, 2016,
#18
If you already have a computer, the best of the best for under $1k is the Tascam UH7000. YOu will also need a DI to connect the guitar directly to it though. I like it as much as my Apogee Symphony which is like 5 times the price. The preamps on that specific tascam sound gorgeus.
#19
Thats a huge budget and not a lot of stuff you need to do.

I got Logic for $240ish (Mac only) but there are comparable windows programs (Cubase, Abelton, Studio One)
As far as interface if you're not using mics you don't need that good of pre amps.

Honestly for what you're doing I can't even think of a way to spend $1000. Id recomend a half decent DAW for 100-300 and an interface (Audiobox, Scartlett are two good ones) for an additional 200-300.


Alternativly people have mentioned stand alone units, ZOOM makes some great ones for a decent price.