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Alternative To Using a Computer?
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skei



Joined: 07 Jul 2008
Posts: 28
Location: up north

PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw the interesting discussion and said to self: 'join in and say something'. So, I'm a mac guy, macmini intel and a G4 spaceship iMac. But that's irrelevant I suppose, the backup tracks I get from Biab, and put into garageband, good enough for my humble playing capacities.
It has happened I wanted to do a bass thing, and it's ok, just lower the octave in GB, easy. And the sounds are ok, when I take the midi file and put any of the sounds in GB on each track. Basic I suppose, but for me, coming from the old 4 track tascam days, it's a huge step up.
I might some day in the future get a stand alone digital recording thing. Saw one at Thomann.de at about 200 euros. Cheaper than another mac, at least. And they seem to have more mixing capacity than the macmini would probably be able to handle. I don't know.
It's not top notch as it is now, but it's ok for a beginner (I've only been into jazz guitar for some 13 months, so I don't want to blow my finances altogether on stuff).
Peace
Skei (the starting to get it one)
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New Marco



Joined: 13 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 2:16 pm    Post subject: .. Reply with quote

Shifting the topic a bit here...the OP mentioned one of the hassles of PC based recording, was trying to combat latency.

- That was one of the Great things about old Windows 98, which I still run on a pc that I built back in 1996. It works like an analog recorder, no latency because the sound inputs go directly to the sound card instead of recorded and replayed.

2 other things that help my cause immensly are an ancient music recording program, "Music Center" by Data Becker. And a 'Live Drive' from soundblaster... The live drive sits in one of the CD drive bays and has spdif inputs I've never used, Midi connectors, and a regular guitar/Mic input, with its own built in stereo booster amp and volume knob.
The Music Center program is a virtual 32 track recorder, which is quite useful for recording separate tracks.

But your right, even with all this, the hassles involved because of all the clicking around different pages, and PC crashes and the like, make a using a PC for recording counter productive most of the time.

If I had a drum set to mic, it would be alot more effective.

Drum loops just dont inspire me.
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Gorecki
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Garage Band is a really good tool, especially for the price, the G4 is probably a little limited RAM wise but frankly a recent version of a miniMac will likely do more than any of the self contained units collectively.

Now with PC recording, frankly I can't say I've ever had a PC crash trying to record and I've been using PC for recording exclusively for 15 years and in tandom with a Mac for years before that. Not knowing what you're doing with the tool you're trying to use is your fault, not the systems.

Mac's have been largely like a gaming console. Very limited scope in hardware so developers don't have to cover everything in the world when releasing a software.

Now essentially they are exactly the same systems just different operating systems but apple still often charges more for the same thing.

But again garage band is a good useful tool for the price. But other than the miniMac the systems are priced high enough that a person could buy a more powerful PC and a premium DAW software for less. Unfortunate but true, I've built PC's for a long time that blow away anything apple has to offer for considerably less money.
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randyc



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
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Location: Eureka, CA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a novice at PC-based recording, I have a Yamaha MP-4, purchased new, way many years ago, usually mixed-down into a Sony R-R, which I also still own.

Recently, I've tried recording (direct) to the MP-4, downloading (laptop sound card) to computer and finally using "Audacity" to edit. I haven't done this often and probably won't do it frequently in the future. This is a curiosity question as opposed to those of you who have current requirements and do this often, so feel free to ignore or prioritize your responses Smile

Given the limitations of the equipment/software available to me, can I achieve a signal/noise ratio that experienced "recorders" obtain with full digital implementation? Ignoring all other options/suggestions please, can tape still achieve comparable SNR to digital recording?

(FWIW, sound clips that I recorded a few months back, evaluating various guitars were recorded in this manner, if any of you happened to listen. The quality wasn't so good, but there are three or four reasons for that, LOL.)

I've never participated in this section of the forum, maybe my question has been answered 100 times. If so, a link direction would be appreciated -

many thanks,
randyc
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Gorecki
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Signal to noise ratio is relative to what ever is in the chain but most certainly analog can not produce as great of a ratio as digital in optimal situations.

A great real-to-real unit at its fastest tape speed with good quality tape will produce good sound but suffers from all the things anything that is tape does, just less of it. All the details of making a tape unit optimal still leaves it as a media that has friction, motor driven and the tape degrades over time. It's not consistant and requires lots of calibration to get as good as it can.

Digital is by all means not perfect and your example of using a 'laptop sound card' is probably about as bad as it gets. Those things are intended for the most general of use and have terrible digital/analog converters inducing lots of noise and inaccurate capture. They are also not intended for multi-tracking applications and often don't have proper hardware level drivers to support the I/O.

A simple example is on a laptop's internal sound I could track 4-6 concurrent but then changing to an external firewire audio interface could track 12-14 on the same laptop to the same software at considerably higher quality. Now, I take that same firewire device to a high powered computer and I can track ~200 concurrent tracks. What this example shows is the audio interface is critical and the computer is only critical if you need it to do a LOT of tracking.

Back in the early days I use to bounce back and forth between a DAT unit and a R2R with pretty good results. These days that is totally silly as I can multi-track at full HD audio. Wink

You can get a TON of good sound from a $100 audio interface but if the mic's are cheap, shielding's bad...etc. The S/N ratio still suffers.

Has this helped at all? Confused
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randyc



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
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Location: Eureka, CA

PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, Brian, yes it's very helpful. This is an amazing coincidence because I just ran some experiments on this laptop (using "Audacity) less than an hour ago. It appears that the best noise performance that this sound card can achieve is about -63 dBV. That's not very good, my tape machines may even be slightly better.

It sounds like, ignoring external contributors, one might get the most bang for the buck by upgrading sound cards? I had always thought that sampling rate and number of bits determined the noise floor but it seems like there is something else internal to this laptop that is degrading noise (maybe there's loss or gain in front of the analog-digital converter).

Thanks for the input, I'm continuing to study the problem. Fortunately there are three or four desktops around here, doing nothing, so if I upgrade the sound card, it would apply to one of those.

Cheers,
Randy
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Gorecki
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, you're seeing exactly what I was trying to describe. The converters in that laptop is likely your noise source. They're are great for dictation but on todays standards are about the same as a cassette recorder from radio shack 30 years ago. Confused

With the intended system being a desktop the biggest 'bang for the buck' I would suggest is an M-Audio Audiophile 2496. This is a PCI card for $99 and will do a lot of audio. One of the interfaces I use is its big sister the 192 (HD version) and been thrilled with it.

Now I've built hundreds of computers so for me the details of cause/effect of the system itself is very clear, communicating that via forum would be extremely long winded at best. But the bottom line elements are 'faster and more the better', processor, ram, hard disk play the largest cause/effect, next is the operating system itself. Windows is intended to 'do everything' out of the box and in turn can have negative effects on recording while Mac's do very little out of the box so tweaking is minimal. I prefer windows primarily because I can control virtually everything the OS does but I tweak it a lot. A search for 'windows daw tweaks' will yield lots of useful system prep information. After saying all of that, I am extreme compared to many and just ploping a card in a box may do exactly what you want/need. Wink

After years of 'cutting tape' all of this stuff is just wonderful IMO! Cool
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randyc



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I'm a decade behind digital recording (at least). Since 1969 I've been using reel-reel machines; bouncing three tracks is a real challenge without excessive noise creeping into the mix.

"Audacity" is fairly new to me too, I'm still discovering options that are pretty cool (and stimulated me to dust off the MX-4 and digitize some of the older tracks). My experience so far, despite the amazing capabilities of digital editing, suggests that for every two-second glitch or clam in the original recording, fixing it digitally is going to take fifteen minutes, at least.

The lesson being what it always has been: get it as perfect as possible on the original track before attempting to edit.

Thank you for the sound card suggestion, I'll look it up and order one if my wife will allow me to install it on her desktop. She bought a desktop recently, it's the most modern, fastest and with most memory than the older ones available to me.

Cheers -
Randy
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surfrider



Joined: 04 Jun 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Southern California

PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

iPad. . .

That's where it is now but who knows were it will go. . .

Surf's up! Cool
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surfrider



Joined: 04 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

iPad. . . one of the simpler tools. . .

http://tascam.com/product/portastudio/

and it's fun. . .

Surf's up!

Cool jt
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Gorecki
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Truthfully surf though it's really useful and convenient don't expect to get a lot of great sound out of it. So far D/A conversion is pretty bad (noisy).

But I'm sure someone like digidesign is working on a really good interface.

Wink
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sunflower



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
Posts: 581

PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Goreki ,
you obviously know your PCs man
But do you find that puters with software are too complex
for multitrack recording on your own ?

I don't dig them if I'm recording myself solo
(there's just too many options and mouse clicks to navigate)
I think simple units like these are better when you're on your tod

http://tascam.com/product/dp-008/

Its all there ....
decent converters
Hi Z instrument i/p
2 XLR mic i/ps with phantom ,
decent built in stereo mic
zero/low latency monitoring ,
reverb
and a simple operating system
Don't rule these kind of devices out completly Randy
I think the simplicity allows one to concentrate on the music better
and I'm a sound engineer by trade !

PS I'm not endorsing that particular model
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sunflower



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
After years of 'cutting tape' all of this stuff is just wonderful IMO!


sorry yeah for editing you can't beat a puter
I was talking about the recording stage really
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Gorecki
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't say I find them too complicated but look at it for what it is, pretty much an all-in-one recording studio! You can track, punch, edit, mix, process and master all in one place.

The amount of 'stuff' the packages do these days absolutely can be overwhelming...most require an education just to used the, and often it's offered. But *most* of the time these packages are relatively the same to use with some variables on how to do things. But again, if you really don't have a grasp of how to do things in the first place a person will certainly get lost.

I've been working with digital audio for a very long time going back to the first DAT units, moving over to PC based around the early 90's. Still have a fully functional MAC with a couple digidesign 442's headed by Protools v2 (yeah...real old). But the modern stuff really isn't drastically different, it can do more but foundationally relative. Example back then I would trigger track start/stop or punch in/out with a midi keyboard. Now I use a more advanced midi keyboard that will not only start/stop but I can scroll, set markers...sort of stuff.

Now getting to the tascam. Doesn't look like a bad unit at all! What my little midi device does during tracking mostly is makes the process easier, very much like that tascam offers. What that tascam doesn't offer is all the other extensive caps a full DAW will. For example, I did a piece a couple years ago where the end result had ~140 audio tracks, ~200 midi tracks triggering synths and samples (resulting in a full orchestra and tons of other stuff), tons of automation and signal processing...this can't be done with the tascam...or at least to this extreme.

However...again, that tascam looks like a good little unit for doing basic tracking, composing or even recording a combo and do a basic mix down quite well. So if it offers up what you want to accomplish...go for it dude! Cool
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sunflower



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Alternative To Using a Computer? Reply with quote

jazzbox wrote:
I posted a similar thread yesterday but nobody seems to have any thoughts on it.
Basically I find the computer counterproductive in a practicing situation. It's ironic because I'm quite computer savvy. It's just that I'm tired of messing with settings and programs, latency, etc... I want something more instantaneous.

It's no secret that it helps a player's improvisation when you have backing tracks to jam along to. I have BIAB and some Aebersold stuff and they're great. But due to certain restrictions where I live it's best to use headphones.

I was wondering if there are any alternatives to using a computer? I saw the Boss Micro BR(that I mentioned in previous thread). It's extremely small and offers 4 tracks to record on. I was thinking of dumping a bunch of my backing tracks onto it and using it as an improv tool. I'm just wondering if there's any latency issues, etc..

Aside from that can anyone here think of other alternatives? I'm not looking to make high quality recordings. Just looking for something to practice with and do the occasional recording take.


glad you sort of agree for someone like jazzbox and indeed Randy
I've been in the Sound game for 35 years myself !
So cutting 2" and 1/4" tape etc is a distant memory
PCs are vastly superior for what they are good at .... agreed
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