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Looking for advice on sound cards/computer recording

Discussion in 'Home Recording Studio' started by Johnny Danger, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. Johnny Danger

    Johnny Danger Strat-O-Master

    Age:
    36
    511
    Aug 28, 2017
    Denton, TX
    So I haven't had a real computer in my house in ages. Now that I'm getting more into playing, I'm entertaining the idea of recording audio. I'm not looking for studio level stuff here, but just the ability to mic my amp and put down some basic tracks.

    So what should I look for in a sound card? What else will I need to put between a computer and a mic? Also, any recommendations for cheap/open source recording software would be nice.
     

  2. CalicoSkies

    CalicoSkies Senior Stratmaster

    Jun 10, 2013
    Hillsboro, OR, USA
    I haven't done a whole lot of PC recording, but most PCs these days have basic sound capability built-in, and you might be okay simply plugging a mic into your PC's existing line-in/mic input. You may or may not need an additional dedicated sound card, but for a dedicated sound card, you'd probably want to look for a good signal-to-noise ratio in its inputs. I've also seen external audio interfaces, which often plug into your PC via USB and may offer better quality audio for recording:
    https://www.amazon.com/Computer-Rec...es/b?ie=UTF8&node=11973691&tag=strattalk05-20
    http://www.guitarcenter.com/Audio-Interfaces.gc
    You should probably also consider the mic itself, and whether the mic (and the audio interface too) can handle potentially loud volumes from the amp.

    I have a dedicated sound card in my PC, an Asus Xonar Xense, although I bought it more for audio output quality (and it came with a nice pair of Sennheiser PC 350 headphones). I haven't actually tried recording music with it, but it's definitely a high-quality card and may work well for recording. I believe the Asus Xonar Xense is now discontinued since there are newer models available.

    I haven't mic'd an amp, but if you might ever want to plug a guitar directly into your PC, there are cables with a 1/4 plug on one side and USB on the other side, which act as a USB audio interface. For example:
    http://www.guitarcenter.com/Behringer/GUITAR-2-USB-Guitar-to-USB-Interface-Cable.gc

    As far as software, Audacity is a fairly good free program that can do multi-track recording:
    https://www.audacityteam.org/
    As far as pay software, I think Mixcraft (for Windows) is fairly good (although not necessarily cheap - it's $89 for their basic 'Recording Studio' version):
    https://www.acoustica.com/mixcraft/
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
    unionjack515 likes this.

  3. IronSchef

    IronSchef Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    55
    May 17, 2012
    Flew Here On My Dragonfly
    If you are willing to go Mac (iMac or Mac-book) - you would get the DAW with the computer (Garage Band). All you would need is virtually any USB interface (2 channel interfaces are really cheap and good if you are only going to mic amps and vox) , and it would virtually be plug/play/record :)
     

  4. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    May 21, 2010
    Sheffield, UK
    PC or Mac, I don't think you can go far wrong with a Focusrite 2i2, M-Audio M Track 2x2 or similar. Most come with a bundled usable DAW. Much less latency and far easier to use than Audacity.
     

  5. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    Calgary
    Audacity is okay for editing a single audio file but any DAW will do better and as Thrup’ny said, any USB two channel interface will work fine.

    Get a Sennhieser SM57 mic ($100 and worth the pennies) for micing your amp and possibly some vocals and your set.

    I’d second the idea of going to a Mac (if used get something later than 2010 and you’ll be fine). GarageBand is a fine start to doing the recording you’re after, includes basic automated drummer and has loops for other instruments. Or buy a pawnshop bass and plug right into the interface to do bass parts.
     
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  6. dbbluesproject

    dbbluesproject Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 3, 2015
    Maine
    This is the way to go if you want your recording experience to be stress free.
    (And your computer experience for that matter).
    I use a mac mini.....no issues as in Zero!
    Garageband is very nice recording software that is easy to use and sounds just as good as pro level stuff.
     

  7. vid1900

    vid1900 Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 25, 2016
    USA
    The Focusrite module works with Laptop/Desktop/PC/Mac.

    It has a Headphone output (very important), and guitar preamp.

    It goes on sale for $69 all the time.

    Highly recommended.

    frssolo2g.jpg
     
    amstratnut likes this.

  8. ProSonicLive

    ProSonicLive Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    34
    Sep 4, 2016
    Texas
    Unless You have a SPECIFIC need for a sound card, it is unwise to get one until you know WHY you are getting it. It is more than just "I need to record audio" Most desktops have a perfectly capable, if mot superior audio solution than MOST cards out there and MOST cards are not worth the price premium they command.

    1.) Hardware. You will need an interface of some sort. Focusrite and even Beringer make decent interfaces, but you can also get a 4 chn USB interface. if you just want to record guitar with one mic, the Focusrite SOLO model should work nicely. This will connect to the USB connections to your system and require no driver installation. Though, you may have to select the active driver you want to use from windows.

    2) Speakers or headphones: the Focusrite can power headphones, but is not intended to power speakers. You will need to purchase a small amp or run the focusrite into the aux input of a receiver if you wish to power passive speakers/monitors I would recomend some decent quality headphones. they dont have to be $200+ but Id recommend against $15 headphones from wal-mart or target as they tend to distort, and not in a good way. Audio Technica ATH-M30 or ATH-M40 are pretty decent choices. The M40s have a detachable cable that can be replaced to make them last longer. just be sure to not throw away the headphone jack adaptor that comes with them, the focusrite requires a 1/4 connector.

    3) software: You now have two options, Live recording or recording from a VST (think Amplitube) I use VSTs, but the more expensive and less complicated way is direct from an amp to mic to DAW
    Reaper is my choice for DAWs. Amplitube also has it's own recording function. The benefit of amplitube is that is does a VERY good job at emulating the amps, mics and cabs it says it is emulating. the more downside to amplitube is that your PC needs to have a decently quick CPU to reduce latency. If the CPU is slow and the buffer has to be too large, you will be hearing your playing about 1-2 milisecends behind your actual playing which is distracting. if you have something that is at least a quad core from the last 5 years, you should er fine.
     

  9. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    May 21, 2010
    Sheffield, UK
    I'd never go for the Solo, the extra input of the twin channel interface gives you many more recording options.
     

  10. ProSonicLive

    ProSonicLive Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    34
    Sep 4, 2016
    Texas
    It does, But I was going for what is needed at a minimum.
     

  11. amstratnut

    amstratnut Peace thru Music. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 1, 2009
    My house.
    I have a very old windows xp. Already use audacity for jamming along. What are the chances of latency when recording with tracks?
     

  12. amstratnut

    amstratnut Peace thru Music. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 1, 2009
    My house.
    Need. But only if my old ass pc will record me without latency.
     

  13. CalicoSkies

    CalicoSkies Senior Stratmaster

    Jun 10, 2013
    Hillsboro, OR, USA
    I haven't used Audacity for multi-track recording, so I'm not sure. But Audacity seems to be a fairly lightweight program, so perhaps it would work well on your PC. It wouldn't hurt to give it a quick try to see how it works for you.
     
    amstratnut likes this.

  14. fezz parka

    fezz parka Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    ₩¥€£§μГ
    Depends on how you're monitoring the track your recording. I mute the playback on the track I'm recording to and monitor what I hear before it gets to the computer. Zero latency solution. :)
     
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  15. vid1900

    vid1900 Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 25, 2016
    USA
    I was just pointing out the simplest interface, the Solo.

    It looks like Windows7 is the oldest OS it supports

    You can inexpensively move up to the other models too:

     

  16. Johnny Danger

    Johnny Danger Strat-O-Master

    Age:
    36
    511
    Aug 28, 2017
    Denton, TX
    Thanks everyone for all the input. It looks like the Focusrite stuff is the way to go. I already have some nice headphones (ATH-M40) and could probably borrow a mic. The computer is actually free. The workplace was about to throw it out. I may have to source a monitor, though.

    I may still be able to run the windows on the computer, but not totally sure. I was planning on running Linux, which might makes things with the Focusrite tricky. They aren't officially compatible, but a quick search shows Linux users making it work (that's kind of their thing).

    Not that I have anything to record at the moment, but I've got some ideas rolling around. It would help if I had talent to back them up.
     

  17. AndyFroncioni

    AndyFroncioni Strat-Talker Silver Member

    Age:
    57
    210
    Aug 14, 2017
    Montreal

  18. TheDuck

    TheDuck Most Honored Senior Member

    Age:
    53
    Jan 12, 2016
    Lil' Rhody
    @Johnny Danger - At the risk of repeating whats been said ...

    Focusrite Scarlett Series is a great bang for the buck interface, and if you purchase new, they come with some really nice plug ins.

    The Scarlett Solo is fine, I used one for years before I switched to the Eleven Rack.

    focusrite_scarlett_solo.jpg

    As far as DAWs, if you're using Windows, go with Reaper. Its got a no restrictions demo, and costs a mere $60 for a license.
    If you have a Mac, Garageband is the hands down winner.

    Running Linux is possible, but I will tell you from experience, you are in for more headaches than you probably bargained for.

    Also, if you want to dive into Pro Tools, they have Pro Tools FIRST, which is free, and is very good. Yes, it has few restrictions compared to the "full" version, though I doubt you'll notice whats missing.

    It also comes with Eleven Rack Lite, which is a guitar amp / effects sim thats so good, you might rethink micing your amp.

    Thats many options, and many quality affordable products available these days.
    Head over to the Home Recording Studio forums here on S-T, lots of great info there that can help get you going.
     
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  19. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    May 21, 2010
    Sheffield, UK
    Paging Mr @TheDuck we're in Home Recording Studio, we've been here all along... :whistling:
     
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  20. moullineaux

    moullineaux Senior Stratmaster

    Jul 11, 2009
    ATLANTA, GA
    Depending on how much recording you will be doing and how deep you want to go into the rabbit hole, there are tons of ways to go. When I started recording back in the day, it was on a fostex 4 track recorder that used cassettes. Things have come a long way since then and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options. The above advice about Focusrite Scarlett is spot on, they make good stuff reasonably priced. Presonus is also a good place to start. Do some research and find out what you need for what you’re doing and get the best you can afford. You can always upgrade if you catch recording obsession syndrome( ROS). Good luck and Good recording.