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#1August 19th, 2005 · 01:54 PM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
First Timer's Recording Setup HOWTO
Updated! Cheap Computer Recording!

Rule 1 You need an interface. Do not! I repeat: Do not plug your microphone directly into the microphone jack on your computer. In fact, don't ever plug any instrument directly into your computer: You need an interface. Standard computer sound systems are designed for use with home stereos not music gear.

Rule 2 You need money. Probably more than you want to spend. So be nice to your parents or get a job or whatever you need to do. Do some chores, mow some lawns, ask for christmas gifts. This guide is intented give you the understanding of what a real computer studio is made of so that you can decide for yourself what gear to buy.

A word on equipment - There is lots of equipment and lots to choose from. The world of gear can be rather confusing, but it doesn't have to be. What you need is simple. A way to get your sound into the computer with as much clarity as possible at the lowest price possible. Really that's the goal of any recording studio however major they might be.

An Interface is what lets you get sound into your computer. Every computer studio needs an interface for sound. There are two primary ways to connect your interface to your computer, internal and external. Internal computer interfaces, also called cards, are placed inside the computer and connected using a special plug and system called the PCI bus. External computer interfaces are placed on your desk or in a rack, outside computer, then connected to the computer with some type of cable such as Firewire and USB. There are many different interfaces made by many different manufacturers but there are a few basic approaches you can take when thinking about buying some gear and setting up a studio.

  • Stereo Mixer
  • Pro/Consumer
  • Dedicated

Stereo Mixer $200 ~ 500 This is the approach I will be detailing. You will be purchasing the basic bare bones low end gear which will do the job(s) you need done which are: handling of instrument signals and microphone signals. This gear consists of a stereo PCI computer sound interface (most people call it a sound card), a mixer, some cables, and a microphone. Standard stereo PCI computer interfaces do not have instrument jacks or microphone jacks. They also have no way to amplify the weak signal of microphones and they have no way of handling the stronger signal of electric instruments. You must purchase a mixer separately to handle these things. Then you plug your microphone(s) and instrument(s) into your mixer, and the mixer in turn is connected to your stereo PCI computer interface.

Pro/Consumer $500 ~ 3000 This category combines a computer interface with a mixer and some pro-audio hardware like microphone preamps and instrument jacks. The better interfaces allow you to record multiple separate instruments all at the same time. This is by far the largest category of audio recording interfaces and getting one is really the first step in building a decent home project studio.

Dedicated $10,000 ~ 50,000 approach the interface actually has computer chips on it which take the work off of your computer, so instead of processing sound your computer can process other stuff. you can plan on anywhere from  or more, so get out your wallet buddy!

So! My reccommendations for el cheapo equipment are as follows:

Chaintech AV-710 ~ $30
The Chaintech is a PCI interface using the the Envy24HT chipset. You get a very wide sound stage and full frequency response as well as better DACs (Digital Audio Converters) and all for super cheap. M-Audio makes probably the cheapest Pro/Consumer cards available but they're probably still too expensive - the Revolution 7.1 is their cheapest at about $100. The Chaintech AV-710 is essentially the same thing as the revolution but the Revolution has nicer DACs and is more expensive.

Behringer Eurorack UB502 ~ $35
This mixer will be perfect for a small budget. This is a critial item for the budget studio. If you must wait to purchase other things, buy this first. Most all computers have sound. It may be low quality but it will be somewhere close to CD quality. It's got a microphone preamp built in along with phantom power, so just in case you happen to get a fancy dancy new condenser mic for christmas, you'll be able to use it. I've got a tiny behringer and it works pretty well for me, though I don't use it for recording or anything super important. I've got a different setup for my recording studio - much more expensive.

Sure SM-57 ~ $100
The microphone you choose is the second most important part of your studio. Second because - in your situation - without a mixer it's useless. Sure is a brand of microphone which has become a standard in the music industry. This mic is good for both vocals and instruments. The SM sound is the sound of rock to a large degree. Many professional live sound stages use these microphones. The SM-58 is similar in design and price but is intended primarily for vocals alone. The SM-57 is designed for vocals and instruments, so it's a better all round versatile starter mic. On the high end forums there's a thread called "Re: SM-57's Who used one last time they made a recording" and basically every person there uses them.

Cables: XLR, 1/4" and Tape Out ~ $30
You will need cables to use your new setup. An XLR for the microphone, a regular guitar calbe also just called an instrument cable - unbalanced instrument cables are fine. And a special cable to use for your tape out signal - this is commonly found in home stereo and home theater setups. You can find the tape out cable at radio shack. It's got two mono RCA jacks - also known as phono jacks - on one end and the other end has a single regular stereo 1/8" mini jack.

As far as computer programs go, well that's really up to how much money you want to spend. Luckily most of these software titles come in lighter more affordable versions. The main contenders these days are Cubase and Nuendo made by Steinberg, Sonar made by Cakewalk, Garage Band and Logic made by Apple, Digital Performer made by MOTU and last but not least Pro Tools made by DigiDesign. There are others to be sure, but in the standard Windows/Macintosh world these are the main players.

Computer microphone inputs (the pink ones) are bad. They are designed for telephone quality sound - e.g. when you play computer games you can use a microphone to speak with your team. This is a telephone quality computer microphone and it is not designed for audio recording.

Line Level
A term used to denote the strength of an audio signal used to transmit analog sound information between audio components such as CD players, stereo amplifiers, and mixing consoles.

What you do want to do is connect your mixer to the line level input on your computer. The line-level input jack on your computer is (usually green and) designed for CD quality audio input. It's got a very specific low level signal that helps acheive that pristine sound quality that I'm sure you've probably been looking for. Your mixer will have a line-level output labeled as TAPE OUT. Connect the TAPE OUT from your mixer to the green line-level input jack on your computer.

Now you're ready to start recording. Read the manual. Have fun!
#2December 8th, 2005 · 06:14 AM
1 posts
Congratulations... you made a good one 
What do you think bout the Delta 44, From M-Audio?

#3December 9th, 2005 · 11:05 PM
74 threads / 5 songs
441 posts
United States of America
Man, we really should have a list of the best threads on BandAMP.

This would definitely be on it 
#4December 12th, 2005 · 08:10 AM
1 posts
DAW Specs
Just wanted to get everybody's inputs on these:


Mobo: ASROCK 939DUAL-SATA2 [ULi 1695 chipset]
Processor: Athlon64 3000+ [Venice]
RAM: 1GB Geil Value RAM PC3200
HD: 200Gb Seagte Baracuda
SOUND CARD: Chaintech AV-710
MIXER: Behringer ub -802 or UB1002FX

The reason why i chose the ff items was that these are available here & im a bit strapped for cash, hehehehe. Would  really appreciate your help, thanks.
#5December 16th, 2005 · 10:55 AM
42 threads / 1 songs
556 posts
United States of America
I'm sorry, this guide is great, but I could use a little more clarification on the cables... specifically on how to connect the mixer to your soundcard.

Once again, this is great, and now I may actually get a song up here sometime in the future.
#6March 29th, 2006 · 12:59 AM
14 threads / 7 songs
72 posts
United States of America
To connect your mixer to the sound card, first locate the output jacks on the mixer. Most mixers will have at least a stereo pair of RCA jacks (the kind most stereos use, a 1/4" round thing with a pin in the middle).

Next, locate the Line In jack on your sound card. That will be a 1/8" stereo jack, probably labeled IN or LIN or some such.

The cable you will need in this example will have two RCA plugs and one 1/8" stereo (mini) plug.

It is pretty easy when you are using inexpensive equipment, as it gets more expensive you get more options, thus more confusion. Take it slowly, look at what you have, you should have no problems.
#7April 21st, 2006 · 09:28 AM
17 posts
United States of America
What about...
Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum? I've done recording on this card with excellent results, but I also don't normally do recording at all, mostly MIDI using Cakewalk. The front mounted connectivity is awesome!
#8May 6th, 2006 · 04:34 PM
1 posts
United States of America
Just wanted to say thanks.  I'm starting to record podcasts for the site I review DVDs for and wanted to have something cheap-ish but reasonably clean.  Thanks in part to your advice I've got:
Shure SM-58 >> Eurorack MX602A >> cheap 25' RCA to mini plug cable >> Chaintech710

I got the 25' cable because my computer fan is slightly audible.  I have a small (10' x 10') laundy/mudroom that I'm running the mic under the door to.  It has nothing in it that makes noise and is in the back of the house.  It isn't the definitive studio, but for recording an hour or so of vocals that will be compressed to mp3 I think it is fine. 

Also, nice studio setup post.  This is great of you to write.
#9August 25th, 2006 · 07:11 AM
6 threads
138 posts
good article, lot of effort has been put.

nice clearing of the basics
#10September 15th, 2006 · 04:46 AM
Cheap Way into Recording at Home
I recently purchased the Zoom GT 2.1u Guitar effects Pedal. The u stands for USB interface.
The quality is really very good. I used this to create my podcasts for several weeks as well as some music at home. The advantage is, for less then $200 US /$295 AUS you get a really good Guitar multi effects pedal and an audio interface and it comes with Cubase LE so you have everything you need to get started apart from a cheap mic.

Of course you cannot use condensers as there is no phantom power.

The Zoom site does not really mention using it for voice much but it works quite well with a great gate and noise reduction option, it is also one of the quietest pedals I have come across. It does still give a little hum if you try to record to close to the monitor with guitar but I don't think there is anyway around that (For us single coil users anyway)

Pedal also has some great amp cabinet and mic placement modelling sound in it for use when recording direct into the USB interface.

I did a segment on one of my Podcasts about this pedal a few weeks ago. There are some sample sounds on their website also.

Other options for Home Recording are Audacity on Mac and Windows as well as Krystal on Windows only, both are free

BTW Only discovered this site today, I will give it a big plug on next weeks show.


Andrew Brierley
Home Recording Odyssey Podcast
#11September 23rd, 2006 · 06:28 AM
8 threads / 2 songs
47 posts
great site
great site for budding musicains...
is BANDAMP....

and this kind of threads are the basic gig-guide for an budding musician...
great !!

BANDAMP great community for great musicians....
it will become the best site ever for music lovers..
my prodigy...!!!!
#12January 16th, 2009 · 10:10 AM
1 posts
United States of America
maybe a stupid question
so I've checked out the Behringer mixer and I have one question.  Supposing I wanted to plug the mixer into a PA system at my church.  Should it work that way as well??  I know that it simply is not powered enough to stand on its own, but to eliminate the amount of chords, could this work?  Thanks
#13January 16th, 2009 · 11:11 AM
119 threads / 55 songs
3,088 posts
re: maybe a stupid question
Winks1139 wrote…
so I've checked out the Behringer mixer and I have one question.  Supposing I wanted to plug the mixer into a PA system at my church.  Should it work that way as well??  I know that it simply is not powered enough to stand on its own, but to eliminate the amount of chords, could this work?  Thanks

Sorry.. which mixer is that exactly? And what PA system do you want to connect it to? If the PA system has it's own amplifyer then sure you can feed the mixer output into the amplifyer, that seems to be the most logical setup. If the mixer itself has an amplifyer built in then all you need to do it hook up the speakers to it (and there's your PA). If the mixer has only line-level output and there's no amplifyer to the speakers then basically there is an incomplete setup and you won't get a sound at all - unless the speakers are active (= with inbuilt amplifyers).
#14January 23rd, 2009 · 08:43 AM
22 threads / 7 songs
164 posts
holy crap Entheon...
that was GREAT.

cut & paste baby......right into word.

thank you!

#15January 28th, 2009 · 12:53 PM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
cool glad you liked it
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