Beginning with Home Recording

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Member Since: Jul 13, 2006


I'm looking into finally purchasing some home recording equipment. I've just gotten a new computer (a Dell) with a 2.8 Ghz processor and a gig of RAM and a 160 gig harddrive. I'm a singer/songwriter who's been playing guitar for five years. My interests are pretty wide ranging, but my music veers from some folk fingerstyle in alternate tunings and folk/jazz in the style of Jolie Holland or Tom Waits to indie rock in the vein of the Velvet Underground, the Walkmen, Yo La Tengo to lo-fi home-recorded stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel and Cody Chesnutt. Right now, I have a no-name acoustic guitar (but with a pretty decent sound), a ukelele, an Ibanez semi-hollow body electric, a Line 6 Spider 2 amp, and a $150ish dollar Yamaha keyboard. I've done some research, but I have some questions before I start buying stuff. I'm a student and definitely have to do this as cheaply as possible, but obviously I don't want to buy crap that's not going to do what I want it to do.

I'm thinking something with two XLR inputs so that I can record guitar and vocals at the same time, which kind of knocks me out of the TonePort UX1 and the M-Audio Fasttrack, which are the base models I looked at. I'll need also need midi-in for my keyboard. So, after perusing the Musician's Friend site, I've come to decide that I need either a USB or a PCI interface. I love the sound of analog 4 tracks and tape noise (and hope to eventually get a tube pre-amp for my set-up) but want to be able to take advantage of recording software, MIDI softsynths, and being able to easily and quickly put out music on the internet.

I've read about some problems with latency concerning USB interfaces. Is this a function of people using the interfaces with computers that can't handle them or with the interfaces themselves? Is this something I'm going to have to worry about with the computer set-up I've described?

As far as USB devices go, I think my top option right now the M-Audio MobilePre USB (
I'm also considering the TASCAM US-122 (, although I'm concerned about the technical problems that are discussed. Both of these are around ($150)

At the top end of what I want to spend are (all around $200):
The Line 6 Tone Port UX-II (
The PreSonus INSPIRE 1394 (
The Lexicon Lambda (

$50 may not seem like a ton of money, but it makes this decision pretty difficult to me (that money would cover a mic or cables and stands). I don't know so much about recording - is the hardware in these boxes, the pre-amps and the A/D converters, significantly better than in the MobilPre USB or the TASCAM. Is the fact that the PreSonus is firewire a big deal? How good are the modelling options on the Tone Port -- I have a Line 6 amp and I like the models that it has, but I don't know if I really need all the models in the Tone Port.


I would also consider a PCI card. I realize that I'm sacrificing portability to do so, but lower prices or a higher sound quality/price ration would make that sacrifice worth it for me.
However, I'm a little intimidated by the comments I've seen in Musician's Friend regarding difficulty of set-up/glitches. What are your experiences with these interfaces? I've installed PCI cards before, but that's been years ago when 3D accellerators were first getting big. I'm competent with computers and troubleshooting them, but I wouldn't call myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination. To install/maintain one of these systems, do I need to be one? Is there a card you'd suggest in the $100-200 range that has the options I'd like?

Just for starting out, I need two mics - something to record vocals and something for for my guitar and amp
I've read really amazing reviews of the Behringer XM8500 (, which for $20 sounds like the ticket for vocals. For instruments, what would you recommend for under $100 (remember, the cheaper the better)?

Thanks a lot,

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Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Jul 13, 2006 10:39 pm

Hey there, welcome to HRC. IT is a bit late but I thought I would let you know saw your post and will come back to it tommorrow. Several others will probably stop by soon as well. So be patient and you'll get some answers to your questions.


Typo Szar
Since: Jul 04, 2002

Jul 13, 2006 11:14 pm

It sounds to me (even though i haven used one) that the Toneport is kind of what you need for your main setup component, because your gonna need preamps and such for the mics to get line level and it has alot of functions. I personally feel that Line 6 does a good job of giving people a big bang for their buck with all the features they include with their equipment. And for the midi problem on your keyboard, i htink they hvae midi to USB converters which i also again personally think work just as well and is kind of the future of the whole thing.
I never like behringer equipment much, i use all shure mics, their not that expensive at all and pickin up second hand ones r fine coz their usually pretty durable.
Sounds like you already have a good idea about what u want and the know how to do it, u probably know more than me! but this is from my personal experience. I use the MAudio delta unit, which is great but i have alot of problems coz i dotn have a good preamp, and when i record acoustic guitars and vocals its very far from line level, so if i was just doing two trax or so id spring for something that had its own preamps.

I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Jul 14, 2006 10:21 am

About the only thing I can suggest to you with any authority is that those cheapo Behri mics are going to be a disappointment. At very least, see if you can find a used SM57 or something.

Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Jul 14, 2006 05:32 pm

OK, here is my 2 cents worth after reading your post a couple times through.

PCI is right now the most stable of the interface options. But that said, I run several high end interfaces and also own the Line 6 UX-2. I find myself using the UX-2 so often now that I havent turned the other interfaces on in at least a month. I also own a fully loaded POD xt and dont mind having the capability of having both the Toneport and the POD. It does come in handy at times.

The battle for connectivity is getting better with the USB devices being a lot more stable and easier to get up and running then the firewire at the moment. Latency is definately not an issue, and shouldn't be on your system either. Unless you have a ton of background things running while trying to record. My system runs the UX-2 in ASIO with about 1ms or less latency depending on where I set the buffer.

For PCI on a budget the Audiophile 2496 or the Delta 44 from M-Audio are good alstable cards. And ESI makes a couple that are direct cross to the M-Audio cards with a little cheaper price tag and about the same performance.

For the type of stuff you are doing I strongly recomend the UX-2 as it will give you the ability to run either 2 mics through some absolutely killer pre amp models, which would solve your tape saturation sound need. Or you can plug in and electric or electro acoutsic and a mic on seperate channels to record vocal and guitar at the same time to seperate tracks. The UX-2 does have the killer electric guitar amp/cab models but as well has some great bass amp/cab models and as I stated absolutely killer high end pre amp models that are nothing short of stellar. I use them frequantly now here.

As for the Tascam, Lexicon and presonus interfaces. Yes you may or may not face compatablity issues and find the install and maintainance of the drivers a bit of a burden. Some people have good luck with systems that meet the hardware compatability issues that are currently present with those interfaces.

AS for the mic's, I would definately opt for at least one decent mic such as the SM57 which is a good all around mic and durable as all get out.


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