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#1
Hey all, I've been reading through the stickies and other threads and such, but I'm still undecided as to what route to take in regards to buying gear for my own recordings.

I'll be recording acoustic guitar, keyboard and someone else will do vocals down the road too.

My plan is to buy a real nice audio interface, mixer (if necessary), microphones and a spankin' Microkorg to replace my borrowed midi keyboard.

I'll be recording drums using Reason and EZdrummer, electric guitar using both direct input for Amplitube and a mic'ed up amp and the standard stuff for the rest.

My question comes in audio interface and microphone choice.

I've been looking at a few options upto about £300:

http://www.thomann.de/gb/m_audio_fast_track_ultra.htm
http://www.thomann.de/gb/digidesign_mbox_2.htm

But I need some suggestions and comments on these pleaseeeeeeee, as well as any other ones I should check out. (needs to have low latency, 1, maybe 2 xlr inputs, as well as midi I/O).

Also, are the Rode NT1-A and Shure SM57 as good as people say?

I know I've written a lot, but if I've missed anything out, I'm down with answering. Cheers for any help.
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#3
The SM57 will work great for micing your amp. I own two and love them! I don't have any experience with that Rode mic, but from what I understand it is quality.

If I had to choose between those two interfaces I would go for the Fast Track Ultra. You get more inputs and USB 2. That MBox is only USB 1.1. Plus the Ultra is just sexy!

EDIT: As posted above, I've read good things about the MXL990/991 package.

DS
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#4
Cheers for the input so far guys. I'm not just limiting my choice of interface to those two btw, they're just the features/price range I'm looking at.
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#5
More of my opinion:
I own the Fast Track Pro by M-Audio and I love it. So far from what I've seen of M-Audio interfaces, they are good. They even have decent preamps.

Also, check out the Firewire options too. PreSonus makes great interfaces as well.
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#6
I'm very happy you've done most of the research, one of the few threads I'll have great pleasure to join. Both of those interfaces will yield good results. It appears that the mbox2 comes bundled with software, good software at that. The 4 XLR inputs will also give you basic options for recording drums, should you decide to do that in the future (2 overheads, kick, snare). The FT Ultra will do the job equally well, you'll just have to choose what software you want to use. Another interface to consider would be the PreSonus Firebox, but at that price I would recommend one of the two you've already researched.

The SM57 and NT1/NT1-A are great mics. Pretty much everybody uses a 57 on a cab, but they have trouble catching the high-end sparkle needed to push out the guitars. Using the 57 and NT1 together to dual-mic the cab would be ideal. There's even a quick little guide here: http://www.homerecordingconnection.com/news.php?action=view_story&id=140

The NT1 is great for vox. I used one the other day to begin recording an audio book for a short film. Pretty sweet mic, but like I said in another thread, you need to find the best vocal mic for your voice (or the vocalist in question). If you can, go to a music shop and ask to sample the mics. The NT1-A is a great start, won the 2004 award for best studio mic, also the world's quietest mic with only 5dBa of self-noise. The cardioid pattern will only pick up whats in front of the mic, great for home recordings where small spaces cause more unwanted reflections, and will definately give you a better acoustic guitar recording.

The other thing you will want to look at would be a good pair of studio monitors. Right now the KRK Rokit series are turning a lot of heads, so much that I bought a pair myself and absolutely love them. You can get a pair of the 5" woofer version (KRK RP-5) at musician's friend for about $300: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/KRK-RP5-Rokit-Powered-Reference-Studio-Monitor?sku=602312. The larger the woofer, the move bass response you will hear.
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#7
haha there's been 4 replies in the time it took me to write that during the commercial breaks :P
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#8
Crazy Drummer69: Cheers for all that info man, I really do appreciate the effort that went into that post.

I'm sort of leaning towards the M-Audio at the moment, purely because of the features, USB 2.0 compatability and the fact that I'll be able to use Cubase SX with it (which is what I'm used to working within). I'm not too hot on changing over to Pro Tools just yet for some reason. Any ideas as to the quality of the pre-amps? Would they be warm enough to get a really good acoustic sound, or would I need to buy a separate tube pre? Also, any idea as to how good a recording I could potentially get? I know that's a vague question, but I'm not sure how else to word it...

That two mic technique looks really good for what I'll be recording, I'll be using a nice Orange 4x12 to begin with, so it'd be good to really get the most out of the sound that that thing can produce.

I'm pretty set on the two microphone options, but I will hopefully be able to test the Rode at some point. I'm more concerned with the ability that it has to get a really nice acoustic sound, as the vocals will be added much later on, but I will definately keep it in mind.

Same with the monitors, they're on my list of things to get, but I'll probably start off with some really good headphones until I've aquired all of the necessary equipment that I need to fully record.

Cheers again for the in-depth help, I really appreciate it.


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More of my opinion:
I own the Fast Track Pro by M-Audio and I love it. So far from what I've seen of M-Audio interfaces, they are good. They even have decent preamps.

Also, check out the Firewire options too. PreSonus makes great interfaces as well.

I don't have any firewire inputs on my pc currently unfortunately but thank-you for the recommendation on the M-Audio, always nice to hear from someone who actually has the product rather than recycling things they've heard.
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#9
I'ld personally chose the Mbox2.
Its a better interface than the fasttrack.
And you can use protools on it. Which i'lf highly recommened if you're gonna be working with audio files.
And you can use Rewire to use Reason with Pro Tools.


For the microphone, look no further than the Shure SM57.
The most versatile mic out there. You can use it to record virtually anything.
Make a "pop shield" and you'll be able to use it as an excellent vocal mic too.


And for monitors, well, i can't tell much bout them cuz i personally prefer using headphones to mix. Possibly cuz i don't play out my music loud at home so i'ld hardly be using monitors and i find it easier to work on details with headphones.
Sennheiser HD25 are supposed to be the benchmark of studio headphones.
But they don't come cheap at €220 a pair.


And the Microkorg is great. (I'ld love to own one mostly cuz its great to use live).
But if you're using Reason, you'ld find a USB MIDI controller keyboard really handy.
Check out the Korg microkontrol or Kontrol49.
Last edited by af_the_fragile at Mar 15, 2008,
#10
I didn't think Pro Tools supported Rewire, Reason or any third party VSTs? Maybe I was told wrongly...How does it compare to Cubase in terms of ease of use and end product? Obviously it depends on the person recording it, but if it has no effect whatsoever on the way it'll sound then surely I'd be better off sticking to Cubase? +any other reasons why you think the Mbox is better? I thought it was only USB 1.1 compatible, so surely that has a detrimental effect on the recording quality and latency?

Sounds the SM57 is a pretty sure bet then, any experience with the Rode?

Ah I've been recommended those headphones by a friend before, I'll look into those a bit more thanks.

+thanks for the help again, really appreciate it.
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#11
Pro Tools does support Rewire.
It'll assign channels to Reason in its mixer through Rewire. So you can use Reason along with ProTools in your mix.
More info on using Rewire with protools here:
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/oct03/articles/protoolsnotes.htm
It says there Pro Tools 6.1 supports Rewire, but its an old article, all the Pro Tools versions including the latest 7.4 version support Rewire. Infact they have improved it with their latest version.

The USB 1.1 is a downside and i did hear the mbox doesn't work too well with other applications which are not made by Digidesign.
Though you won't get a serious effect on latency unless you're recording through 4-5 simultaneous inputs or working on a 24 track mix.
Which if you're recording a full band is not a good option to go with cuz usually they end up as around 30-40 track mixes.
(The UG production competition mix in my profile is a 22 track mix).

I find Pro Tools much easier to work with while recording audio stuff and working with audio files.
Its an absolute nightmare working with MIDI on Pro Tools though, but Reason should be able to manage that bit.
Pro Tools handles audio really well. It has been designed to work like an analogue mixing desk so its controls are pretty straightforward (or atleast i find them straight forward as i've got experience on working on an analogue desk). It has really good plug-ins and you can get loads of free ones too. Trent Reznor used it to make With Teeth and Year Zero, Thrice used it to record and mix Alchemy Index on. Nothing can match Pro Tools when it comes to audio editing and production.

Pro Tools is just a great software to work with audio files. Though the mbox 2 is not great at recording.

Guess you could get the M-Audio interface and use Pro Tools M-powered with it. That should be your best option.

Cubase is a great program when it comes to MIDI. The MIDI editing features on Cubase are amazing and there's no other program that can match Cubase's MIDI editing features.
Though i seriously doubt a novice or even an amatuer would use even 10% of the editing features Cubase has.
It works great with audio too. But i'ld feel more comfortable working with audio on Pro Tools (its my own personal preference though).
Not saying Cubase is bad at it, it does it pretty well infact. I just find Pro Tools more straightforward for recording and mixing. Cubase is good for when i'm working mainly with MIDI.

Didn't use the Rode but i know you can't go wrong with the SM57. Its the most popular and widely used microphone for a reason!

I'ld say don't waste money on studio monitors unless you've got a good room to use them in at a reasonably high volume without causing annoyance to anyone.
If you don't have a room like that (as in my case), stick with the headphones.
#12
sm57 is what everyone uses because of the durability and freq response and the nt1 is pretty good 2, I would suggest throwin a little bit more and not get any m audio stuff, I would go with a cheap 002 rack from digidesign
God Bless
#13
af_the_fragile: Ah yes, after a bit more research I've found that it does in fact support all the programs and vsts that I'm planning to use, so that's cast my whole decision into doubt haha.

I'm not too hot on only having USB 1.1 capabilities though, how much of an effect would that have on the latency and/or recording quality? Is there a similar interface compatible with Pro Tools but with USB 2.0?

I'm am starting to warm to the idea of switching to Pro Tools, but I still have a few qualms. As you said, and as I've seen mentioned several times, it's not exactly renowned for its support of MIDI, whereas Cubase is well known for its good incorporation of MIDI which would be important for me as I'll be running Reason etc. However, the added general awesomeness of Pro Tools for audio is making it quite tempting on the guitar side of things.

Oh wait, the M-Audio is compatible with Pro Tools? Is the M-powered version as good?

I'll [eventually] be recording in my basement, and then Uni next year, so headphones would probably be more practical. (Y)

Again, thanks for the extensive help man.

KURT4EVER: Why not the M-Audio?
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#14
The M-Powered Pro Tools is pretty much exactly the same as the Pro Tools LE. So there's hardly any difference between the two (except for the logo and few little bits which probably won't matter to you).
Mixes made on M-Powered can be opened in both LE and HD and same goes the other way around too.

As you can use Reason with Pro Tools, you can program all the midi stuff in Reason and mix the audio in Pro Tools.

I think you should buy the M-Audio interface. You can get Pro Tools M-powered and use reason with it. Reason should manage all the MIDI stuff and you can work on all the audio recordings on Pro Tools.
Then if you've got some money (or imagination) you can later get Cubase too and it should work fine on the M-Audio interface. You can even use Pro Tools, Reason, Cubase, Live (and all the Rewire supported programs) together in sync too.

I'ld say go for the M-Audio interface and get M-powered Pro tools. It'll cost you more (cuz you'll hafta buy pro tools separate) but you can use all the programs out there freely on it. And you've got more options to choose from. Check out the M-Audio FW Solo audio interface. Its really good and fast firewire powered and cheap (€200). Though it only has one XLR and one 1/4" jack input.

You'ld be lucky to find a good used Digi 002 rack now. And the Digi 003 racks are pretty well expensive (around €700)!
#15
I thought the M-powered version of Pro Tools was a really watered down version of the full program? Again, maybe I'm getting my wires crossed here...

Yeah the M-Audio is looking like a good shout. I'm sure the M-Box is decent, but I don't like being completely tied to Pro Tools, and never being able to use it with any other recording software. I actually already have [imaginary] Cubase, so if I get hold of a Pro Tools demo [if such a thing even exists] and don't like it, then I could always revert back.

I still think I need to look into this a bit more, and research Pro Tools a bit more thoroughly, but yeah the M-Audio is definately looking good.

Now all I need to do is wait to [finally] get paid next week...

Cheers for the additional help.
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#16
The M-powered and LE are watered down versions of HD.
There is virtually no difference between the M-powered and LE.

Cool thing about having pro tools is that you can create a mix in M-Powered or LE and then you could take your file and load it into a Pro Tools HD studio (if you've got access to one) and master it there. Or just open it and work on it on another comp that's got Pro Tools LE.

And you can use Cubase and all with Mbox. I just herd the Mbox doesn't work too well with softwares that are not made by Digidesign.

I don't think you can get a Pro Tools demo. But you could look for the [imaginary] version of M-Powered and try it out.


I've got the M-Audio FW Solo audio interface. It works great. I use it with Guitar Rig and it gives me a latency of 7ms which is not noticable (you'll only notice it if its more than 15ms). It works exactly like an amp with guitar rig. As i didn't have the money to buy Pro Tools, i use it with Audacity to record stuff on (which works great too) and its equally good with the crap version of cubase i've got.

I'm planning on getting the new mbox micro (which is the size of a usb key with no inputs, just a headphone output and volume control), I'll have Pro Tools LE on the move then and i'll be recording audio stuff onto audacity or something (using my FW solo) and i can mix and produce them on Pro Tools. Use rewire to use it with reason and cubase and i've got a really descent audio production platform!
All i need to do is to reformat my mac, upgrade its ram and get the Mbox Micro.
#17
Ah I thought so. Which features are omitted from the LE and M-powered versions that are in the HD one? Their website isn't too forthcoming with the features that they've chopped out...

Yeah the M-Box isn't looking too good at the moment. The only redeeming feature is that it comes bundled with LE, and even them I'm still reluctant to leave Cubase, maybe I'm too set in my ways haha.

Ah that's pretty decent latency wise, is there anything I can do to make sure it'll be that low for myself? I have a fairly decent pc, so I don't think it'll struggle with anything...

+lol, definately sounds like a plan to me (Y) Have you used Pro Tools extensively in the past then? You seem quite set that it's the best you can get...
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#18
HD works on special digidesign HD accel processors. It uses the 192 I/O audio interfaces. Capable at recording at upto 192khz sample-rate and high bit rates. Gives better quality.
It has more and better, high quality plug ins. And its High Definition.

Its just a completely different production system. Although the software looks and functions identical to the LE and M-Powered. So if you know how to use Pro Tools LE or M-Powered, you'll have no problem using the HD.


And bout the latency, dude, i'm pretty sure your PC is better than mine. I've got a year old beaten up macbook with 1.8Ghz intel dualcore processor and just 512mb ram (a lot of which is taken up by all sorts of junk software on my mac). Guitar Rig works perfect on my mac with even those complex split amp setups. It should work fine, if not better on you pc.

I did a year long sound engineering and production course. I've recorded stuff in a studio on an analogue tape machine through an analogue desk, i've recorded stuff on a Pro Tools HD system, I'm well familiar with Reason, Cubase and Pro Tools (we had weekly classes on each of them). (I made the UG production competition mix on my profile, on Cubase in 3hrs). I used ACID and FL studio before i got big into production, never used Logic or Ableton Live.

So from all that learning I found Pro Tools the best for working with audio files, Cubase has amazing MIDI editing capabilities and is good with audio too, Reason is the most amazing software you can get to easily create amazing MIDI music in quite a short time. Reason has it all, amazing synths, loop players, drum machine, effects, arpegiaters, vocoder, music patches it has it all and its brilliant!
#19
While it is good to have an acoustically treated, isolated room to use with monitors, it is always advisable to mix on a pair of studio monitors in place of, or in addition to, a good pair of headphones. There are things you will NEVER be able to hear on headphones that you can on monitors, and vice versa.
#20
^Yeah, but monitors are not much of a use if you don't have a place where you can use them at a reasonably loud level.

It is good to have both though. As you said, headphones helps with working on little details like panning, reverb and all of that stuff while its not great at reproducing the bigger, overall sound. Monitors give a better idea of the overall sound of the mix. Depth of guitars, bass and if anything is getting masked out and all, while its not great while working on little details.

But as I don't have a room like that and neither can i afford a good pair of monitors, i've gotta stick with just headphones!
#21
Agreed.

I've found beginners often have better luck mixing at relatively low listening volumes better, as they aren't as prone to introduce EQing or other issues that result in ear fatigue or improper balance.
#22
^Beginners will do fine on pretty much anything.
It takes a good bit of time till your ears get trained to pick out little details and sound textures in tracks. Took me about a year before my ears got properly trained to using the EQ to fabricate sounds and using compressors to getting levels proper.

I remember the first time my teacher was demonstrating EQ to tighten up the sound of a kick drum, he asked me if i herd any change in the sound after he EQed out a subtle bit few bad sounding frequencies and i just looked at him blankly saying it sounded exactly the same to me. And this was in an acoustically treated Pro Tools HD lab on monitors worth €1600 the pair.
After about a year, towards the end of the course, i can say i had gotten pretty good at EQing though!
#23
Well, I'm pretty much agreeing with most of the suggestions around here. Since you plan on having at least two people at once, I'd go for a more versatile interface than the Fasttrack...however, you may have to spend a bit more. It may not be a bad idea to get a small analog mixer like a Soundcraft compact 4 or a Mackie 402 and a good soundcard like a Delta 44. If you can spend more, I highly recommend the M Audio NRV10, which is very close to mixing a control surface and mixer together. It'll also give the vocalist a change to hear some reverb, which often helps their vocal performances.

As for the SM57, yes, it deserves its hype. And the Rode, in fact, any Rode, is very good, especially in its low noise/high sound pressure levels. I'd go for a NT2-A, though, as it'll give you a much larger variety of sounds to experiment with changeable patterns (opening up or concentrating your acoustic sound).
#24
I also can recommend the M-Audio Delta 44. You'll need to buy preamps though, as they are not built in.

Latency:
On USB 1.1 you'll start noticing latency on more than 2 channels of 16bit/44.1 signal. If you need to record more than 2 at a time, go with Firewire, USB 2, or PCI interface (for a non mobile setup). As far as a mobile solution is concerned, firewire is slightly superior to USB2, but it is more expensive. A hard interface like PCI/PCIe trumps both of them by leaps and bounds.

Headphones:
On the headphones, check out the Sennheiser HD280's they run around $100 dollars, but are worth that multiple times over.

Mixers:
Not really needed, because you can mix via software. If you HAVE to buy a mixer go with something like the Yamaha MG series or equivalent/higher. I usually advise against Mackie lower end/budget mixers I've had some fail. This is my experience with them so please don't flame.

DS
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#25
I should probably have made it clear that I'd only be recording one instrument at a time haha. At the most I'd have two mics recording an acoustic, but until I have the funds for two really nice condensers or whatever, that's not going to be for a while, so it'd just be one recording at a time.

Also, to go off on a bit of a tangent, what sort of quality can I expect from a unit like this? Obviously a lot is down to microphone, production etc. but could I get decent recordings?

Lastly, thanks for all the help so far, I wasn't expecting such a volume and depth of posts!
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#26
^This is where i can stick in those golden words of production again...
Its all comes down to skill and knowledge. A good producer can come up with something really amazing out of the most basic of equipment and a noob will end up making a mess of a recording even on the most advanced HD studio.

So its all about how you manage to use what you have.
As you're a beginner, you're probably not gonna notice any difference in recording between an mbox and the fast track or even comparing that to a digi 003 rack or even a HD system. It takes time for your ears to get trained to notice all those subtle sound textures and details.

Well, if you're just gonna record 1 or 2 things at a time, the USB1.1 will do fine. But its always good to have something faster just in case!

And back to the quality, both mbox and fast track give pretty descent quality recordings. Now they're not gonna be able to match a HD system or an analogue SSL desk (which is as good as you can get!), at the stage you're at, its not gonna make much of a difference to you.
When you get better at what you do and your ears are more trained to pick up details and textures, you can sell/throw away your old interface and get something better then.
#27
Quote by the_astronaut
I should probably have made it clear that I'd only be recording one instrument at a time haha. At the most I'd have two mics recording an acoustic, but until I have the funds for two really nice condensers or whatever, that's not going to be for a while, so it'd just be one recording at a time.

Also, to go off on a bit of a tangent, what sort of quality can I expect from a unit like this? Obviously a lot is down to microphone, production etc. but could I get decent recordings?


Think semi-pro. About 75% of pro quality, assuming good microphone technique, playing, and some astute mixing and mastering. It's probably good enough to send as a demo, or sell to college students (who love indie appeal).

And anything to help a mod. You keep at least this section nice and friendly. Wish I could say the same thing about the Pit.

Our advice still stands.
#28
Alright cool, thanks a lot guys, I guess I'd better start swotting on production tips. I've already read through the related thread in here, which was a bit of an eye opener, I've got so much to learn :/

But yeah, thanks again guys, really do appreciate the help, no doubt I'll be in here again in a few weeks wondering how the hell I can make my recordings sound better.

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#29
Sorry for the double post, but I need a bit more help

Does anyone have any thoughts on this interface? :

http://www.thomann.de/gb/focusrite_saffire_pro_10_io.htm

I went to a studio today to re-record some guitar parts and the guy we know that was there just runs this into a Mac laptop, and it sounded pretty good, so how reliable/good are these things really?
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#31
Oh, any examples of Presonus interfaces I can look at that have similar features?
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#33
£1 is roughly $2 so about $700.
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#36
Is it much better than what's been recommended/discussed so far in the thread?

Because if I was to go for a Presonus then I'd have to add firewire ports to my pc.

Also, I've been reading up a lot of reviews that report a lot of hiss in recordings, is this a universal problem for this unit?
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#37
You say you're recording Acoustic guitar and vocals right? Then don't get a SM57. You'll be wanting a Condenser mic for both of those. Depending on your budget, id go for an MXL 2001, or something similar.

And definitely look into firewire interfaces. They'll be able to record 2 or more inputs and separate them into different channels - unlike USB (or so i have heard). Plus there will be next to no latency - which there will be quite a bit of if you you're using a USB interface.

Anyway, good luck recording!
#38
Quote by the_astronaut
Is it much better than what's been recommended/discussed so far in the thread?

Because if I was to go for a Presonus then I'd have to add firewire ports to my pc.

Also, I've been reading up a lot of reviews that report a lot of hiss in recordings, is this a universal problem for this unit?


The firewire interface will give you multitrack ability (eight separate tracks at once), and better sound than the rest (you'll need a good sound system to notice it). Hiss can come from many things, including bad AC power, so I don't know if it's the unit's fault, and I didn't hear it from professional reviews.

Frankly, it may be a better idea to get a versatile preamp like the ART MPA Gold and a good sound card (Analog to Digital and vice versa converter) like the Delta 44, since you'll probably stick with 2 tracks at a time, and that preamp offers some pretty cool features (impedance switching, which can make your recordings seem vintage).
#39
It's better to have more tracks available than you usually use than to have just enough to usually get by on.
#40
Quote by the_astronaut
Is it much better than what's been recommended/discussed so far in the thread?

Because if I was to go for a Presonus then I'd have to add firewire ports to my pc.

Also, I've been reading up a lot of reviews that report a lot of hiss in recordings, is this a universal problem for this unit?

If you really wanna shell out £350 on your recording interface then check this out:
http://www.thomann.de/gb/m-audio_firewire_1814.htm
I'ld say its the best you can get for the money. No matter how many people disagree with me!
Its a brilliant interface. Its got enough inputs and outputs to fill your needs. Its got brilliant quality and will hardly cause you any problems.

I just recommend M-Audio cuz i myself have one. Its a very popular brand. The studio i studied production in used a lot of M-Audio interfaces. Loads of artists like BT use their stuff. Its more reliable and always gets good reviews. Not to mention their compatibility with Pro Tools.
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