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__tsidewinder__

What is a good entry level USB audio interface?

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Hey, I'm looking for a decent audio interface for a laptop. I haven't yet purchased the laptop, but it's an inevitability. Need it for University. I also don't have any microphones yet, or any recording gear really. Well, I do have a microphone/headset thing, but does that really count?

So, I'm starting a basic home recording setup from scratch, essentially. On a tight budget.

I'm going the laptop route for conveniance sake. All the parts in one place, takes up very little space, etc. This means a PCI interface isn't going to happen. We're left with firewire, or USB 2.0. Which is better, and is it possible to get a laptop with firewire?

Next, microphones. I was thinking Shure SM 57. It's 100 bucks, and it sounds like an all round good microphone. I'll be recording acoustic guitar, my guitar amp, and vocals mainly. What do you figure, is that a good choice?

Next, the audio interface. I was looking at several on musicians friend. The maximum amount of inputs I'd be doing at one time is 2. So I need only a very basic unit I think. A few that caught my eye:

E-MU 0404 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface

PreSonus AudioBox USB 2X2 USB Recording System

Edirol UA-25EX USB Audio Capture Recording Interface

Anyone have any experiance with these? Does anyone have an audio interface they could confidently recommend? I'm think the price range for the unit should be in between $100-250. Also, can I expect the preamps to do a decent job, or would I need to shell out for one of those as well down the road?

There was also a deal on musicians friend, which included a couple microphones, cords, and an audio interface:

TASCAM US-144 Interface and 990/991 Microphone Pack Bundle

Buy TASCAM US-144 Interface and 990/991 Microphone Pack Bundle | Studio & Recording Packages | Audio Interfaces & Convertors | Audio Interfaces | Hardware-based Plugins | Musician's Friend

The fact that it is in a bundle makes me a bit leary, but getting two extra mics is tempting. does anyone know if those mics are any good, or if the system is any good at all?

And if you're wondering what sort of laptop I'm looking at, the dell new inspiron 15 caught my eye.

The other question on my mind. Will all this gear make that a huge difference? If I took an entry level mic, routed it through an integrated soundcard, and recorded from there, I know the results will be fairly poor. Thats basically what I have now, except without a conveniant microphone stand. Now compare that to the low-budget entry level gear I'm considering for purchase. Will it be a huge difference, or barely noticable?

I've got some recordings made with my current setup here:

SoundClick artist: the back front - page with MP3 music downloads

Don't worry mods, none of my recordings are long enough to chart, so I'm not hoping to increase my chart rankings, haha.

Can I expect an amazing difference? To be honest, besides the annoying 60Hz hum in the recording, I think the recording quality is surprisingly decent. My issue with the current setup, is discomfort while recording (to the point where I actually dislike the process), and how the quality varies from one recording to another. Just listen to Arpeggio blues, when compared to C breeze. Same mic, same guitar, same location, very different sound.

I guess I'm expecting a lot. I don't make many big purchases. I'll be a student in a few months, so you better believe this will be one of my last large purchases for the next, oh, 5 years. So I'm not planning to upgrade to anything larger for a while.

All help, advice appreciated. I understand there are many threads of this nature, but none that I found had quite the information I needed. Links to helpful threads also appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

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Stratrat    0

The laptop will work fine, as long as it's a fairly recent model with enough RAM and processing power to keep up. I use a 2.4 gHz Macbook with 2 MB RAM and it does fine for my projects.

The SM57 is probably one of the most popular mics ever....more of a live mic than a studio mic really, but pretty hard to go wrong with it as your first mic.

The MXL 990 isn't a bad mic - I have one and use it for my acoustic guitar and vocals. You probably won't find them in the mic locker of a pro studio, but then again they spend a lot more $$$ on mics than us amateurs tracking at home. It's an economical way to get yourself a condenser mic. I haven't tried the 991, so can't offer an honest opinion of that one.

(NOTE: If you're planning on using a condenser mic, make sure the interface you buy supplies "phantom power" - condenser mics won't operate without it.)

Yes, you should notice a considerable difference between that kind of a setup and a mic plugged into an integrated soundcard. Your Soundclick recordings actually sound pretty good, but I think you'd be much more pleased with the results from a system like the one you're trying to put together.

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Tekker    1

Hey tsidewinder,

I haven't used either of those units, but the Emu unit doesn't have mic preamps so I would rule that one out. Both of the other units get good reviews so I think either one would be a safe bet. Looking at the features the Edirol has more features, the Hi-Z would let you plug a guitar or bass straight into it without a direct box, it's also got an analog compressor/limiter, and a ground lift. I'd say the like the Edirol looks to be the best buy.

For a microphone, check out the Studio Projects B1 ($100). It's a condenser mic, so it'll need phantom power to work (which the Edirol has). This mic should sound much better on acoustic and vocals than the SM57 and I've heard that the B1 sounds very good on electric guitar amps also.

The other question on my mind. Will all this gear make that a huge difference? If I took an entry level mic, routed it through an integrated soundcard, and recorded from there, I know the results will be fairly poor. Thats basically what I have now, except without a conveniant microphone stand. Now compare that to the low-budget entry level gear I'm considering for purchase. Will it be a huge difference, or barely noticable?

HUGE! Even entry level recording equipment is going to be light years ahead of the stock PC soundcard and headset mic. I think you'll be very happy! :clap:

Hope that helps.

-tkr

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carol m    64

I have an old Tascam 122 USB with 2 in and 2 out plus phantom power and it worked fine. I now use a MAudio Mobile Pre USB 2 in and 2 out - a Christmas present upgrade and it 's good too. It doesn't have Phantom power but I don't use a condenser mic anyway.

Apple lap tops have a firewire port and have the GarageBand software editing and recording platform which I find is excellent, with FX, loops and graphic equalisers etc. The Apple's onboard mic is also surprisingly good for a built-in soundcard, much better than the one that came with my PC.

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I can't afford a macbook, unfortunately, but thanks for the suggestion Carol. I'm going to take your advice, Tekker, and get the Edirol.

It's got phantom power, so no worries there Stratrat. Thanks for suggesting the B1, Tekker, I didn't think that any good condenser mics existed for under $200. I've heard condensers are better for both acoustic guitars and vocals, so it should be perfect, I think. If it doesn't record amps quite as well, the Edirol's got the line in covered. Sweet.

I should be ordering the works tomorrow evening. Hopefully in about a week I can get some recordings up for you guys.

One last thing, I'll need mic cords and a mic stand. What's a good recommendation here?

Thanks for all the help, I feel a lot more confident about getting into this sort of thing now.

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Ok, so I went over to the local music shop to see if I could order the gear. They can get in the edirol, they can probably get in the studio projects mic, but when told that I was looking for a good entry level condenser, the guy offered me an AKG C 2000 B condenser, for $200. That is way below list price, I can't get it off ebay for that low, and from reviews it sounds like a professional mic. Worth it? Will it be that much better than the B-1 you suggested Tekker?

EDIT:

Also the AKG is a small diaphragm, which I believe makes it less versatile (can't pick up as deep sounds, or so I've read). Will it still work alright for vocals and guitar amps?

Finally, the guy also suggested a CAD GXL 2400:

CAD GXL2400 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone from zZounds.com!

For $140 canadian. Which of these three will likely be the best one for my needs? I think that the line in feature on the edirol could take care of my guitar amp recording (I've got a line 6 Spyder 1X12), so I'm looking for the best acoustic guitar and vocal mic.

Thanks again.

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I think I see your point Carol, thanks. It's really hard for me to tell the difference between the four, in the second thread especially. I'll be happy with either, I won't split hairs any further. I'll take the AKG.

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