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Thread: what should be my next purchase?

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    what should be my next purchase?

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    Hey all,

    I have to admit that as an (almost) 35 year old working in an advanced niche-market tech field, and having always felt up to date on many things, I'm feeling rather humbled that my knowledge of home recording has fallen way behind since my high school days when I last had time to be doing this kind of stuff.

    Over the years, I've not sold any instruments I've acquired, kept learning new ones, and I finally now have some time to put a few things together. What I'm hoping to learn here from this post is what my setup will benefit most from with my next purchase to put everything I've got altogether into some home recording.

    My two electronic instrument interfaces are these:

    1. Yamaha YPG-235 Digital Portable Grand piano, that has USB connectivity and a good/broad set of MIDI sounds samples (obviously the Grand Piano sample is one of its highlights)
    2. Line 6 POD-XT Live for my few electric guitars, which is now quite dated (really don't know anything about current electric guitar DSPs and amp simulation, etc.), but otherwise it servers my 'sound' sufficiently well.

    My next purchase really needs to be a decent microphone, to record some vocals, guitar, and sax. However, I'm not sure what the best direction is, whether I need a decent analog mic along with some better sound hardware for my computer (M-Audio or something), or something like a USB microphone like a Yeti maybe.

    I won't be doing any concurrent recording, and my main concern is being able to record individual instrument/layer one at a time while listening via headphones to my existing tracks/metronome click, etc. My computer doesn't have any great sound hardware as it is, and so my main concern is whether I would be fine to use something like an ASUS Xonar for a decent playback, and get yet another USB recording device (like a Yeti microphone), or whether I should bite the bullet and maybe get something even basic like an external M-Audio device that will handle an analog mic for better recording and playback.

    I'm really just not sure how latency of different devices is handled. For example, I want to make sure that when I'm recording piano via USB (to get the good Yamaha digital grand sound patch) that I'm also hearing it live with minimal latency through my computer. Same with USB audio from my POD-XT, and same for mic'd audio when I get a solution for that.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    spudz

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    Hi Spudz, I have read that those Line 6 boxes are pretty good for latency so getting guitar and kbds* into the PC and recording it should be ok.

    The fly in the ointment seems to be microphone, which one and do you have a decent pre amp with phantom power? I suspect not and so you really do need to get a modern Audio Interface. Two I can suggest are the Steinberg UR22 at about 100 and the Native Instruments KA6 at about 160. The KA6 has two extra line inputs, 4tracks, and probably lower latency than the UR22.

    As to microphones? No, you do not want a USB mic. They have come on leaps and bounds in sound quality but will, I am sure limit your recording MO. I think you need two for your different requirements. A 'classic' large, side address capacitor (aka 'condenser') such as the Sontronics STC-2 (got one) or one of the Rodes. If possible get a model with a 20dB attenuator for loud, close work. A bass cut switch is also good to have (aka High Pass Filter) the STC-2 has both. Then, a dynamic. The Shure SM57/58 is of course something of a standard but there are now many other very good dynamics around, many 1/2 the price or better. A pair of modestly priced SDC (pencil style capacitors) are a great 'Swiss Army Knife', you can never have TOO many mics!

    Then! You need to think of good headphone. Closed back types for over dubbing. Monitor speakers...Room treatment!

    *The Yammy seems to only have a headphone output? PITA for recording but you can get a Behringer HA400 headphone amp that will give you 4 outputs, one to cans one to AI via a suitable cable.

    Dave.

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    First - if you use USB for Yammie to computer you will NOT get that great piano sound! The Yammie outputs MIDI only via USB, MIDI is just data, not sound. You need to record the audio output of the Yammie, assume it has either line-out jacks or a headphone output you can use.

    First thing is you need to get an audio interface. There are a lot of choices and one of our members has created a thread here comparing many of the choices: Audio Interface Comparison Chart

    I suggest an interface with at least 2 inputs (so you can record the stereo output of that Yammie). Make sure you get one that can supply phantom power (48v) so that if you get a condensor mic, you can power it. Then a standard microphone that plugs into it via XLR (don't get a USB mic).
    Mike B My new album on CD Baby: Fact and Fiction
    My Bandcamp site: http://mikebirchmusic.bandcamp.com

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    Thanks so much, Dave and MJB. Really appreciate all the detailed feedback in your replies.

    All those things said, I've also dropped by my local Long and McQuade to see what was available in town. The selection of mics at first made my head spin, and the sales rep there didn't have much to say about the distinctions of each. Just said some types of condensers are good for female voice, others for screaming, for horns, etc. but couldn't really expand much on that. However, after seeing what's available, and doing some reading online I think I've got a better grasp.

    The general consensus I'd read is that there are more differences between each microphone, that it is less worth the time to make generalizations about subtle differences related to medium/large diaphragm mics, and more about the general quality of the mic you're getting.

    One of the mics I've got my eye on now as it is available locally on a good sale is the ART C3. I think that will be a good starting point in the < $200 CAD range, unless you've got any other considerations? One of its particular specs I haven't yet had a chance to read about is that it is a FET condenser. I know only that a FET is type of transistor, but I don't know how its use in a condenser microphone affords specific qualities or uses/applications in recording.

    In regard to USB preamps, I'd seen the Steinberg UR22 you'd mentioned, but not the Native Instruments. I'll check that out. The other one I'd since read some good things about is the Scarlett 2i2, and it seems to be at a good price point $150 CAD on Amazon right now. I'd seen a review that said the drivers were pretty good for latency too. The M-Audio 2x2 I'd been thinking of seems to have a scattered track record for some problems (maybe now fixed in driver updates), however I might stay clear of that. I'll do some more comparisons against the others you've suggested.

    First - if you use USB for Yammie to computer you will NOT get that great piano sound! The Yammie outputs MIDI only via USB, MIDI is just data, not sound. You need to record the audio output of the Yammie, assume it has either line-out jacks or a headphone output you can use.
    Great, thanks for that clarification. I hadn't fully really understood the MIDI pipeline. While I did grasp the fact that the MIDI data simply encodes some basic things like what notes you're playing, and their respective onset/offset times, amplitude, etc. I wasn't sure how the MIDI patch/voices worked. I'd thought maybe the Yamaha software/driver etc. transferred the waveforms from the keyboard device to the computer, so that recording via USB would give you the same sounds, without any loss of quality from analog recording. I guess that's not the case.

    So, I imagine the utility of USB MIDI is to control MIDI patches/voices that are otherwise on the computer, such as downloaded, and other MIDI controllable things, like attack, pitch bending, etc. I dabbled around with Reason back in the day, so those types of things, right?

    Otherwise, I guess if I'd written out a musical score/notation for something on the computer, and wanted to record it using the Grand Piano patch/voice from my Yamaha keyboard, then I guess I'd enslave the keyboard via midi playback whilst recording the analog output from the keyboard, right? If that's something I'd want to be doing, would I need an audio device that supports MIDI (e.g. Scarlett 2i4, or MTrack 2x2M, instead of the 2i2 or plain 2x2) or can I just rely on the Yamaha's MIDI over USB? Going back to the consideration of latency/delay, etc. I'm just not sure what has to recorded/played back by means of using a unified and single audio interface, vs. having multiple USB devices as well as a dedicated preamp/audio interface.

    Again, many thanks for taking the time to help out this newbie. Feel free to correct any of the wording/terminology I'm using. I'm still a little vague on the distinction of a MIDI patch, vs. voice, vs. waveform.

    Cheers,
    Brian

    EDIT: added few other midi hardware questions

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    The FET is indeed a transistor (Field Effect Transistor) and used as the 'impedance converter' in the majority of capacitor microphones.

    It does not convey any 'character' to the sound (unless levels are phenomenally high, >120dB say). The other active device used in more expensive (usually) mics is the valve and this CAN alter the sound and is often called 'warmth' but of course any deviation from the pure signal coming from the mic capsule is technically distortion!

    The shop chap was right in some respects, choosing a mic for your own voice is a personal matter.

    The kbd will control MIDI instruments (VSTIs) in the DAW via USB but! Unless you get an AI with MIDI ports you will not have a MIDI INput and thus not be able to incorporate any other MIDI generating gear in the future. Yes, modern stuff comes with USB but you might run out of ports! Yes again you could use a powered USB hub but things now getting messy and dangly/tangly, buy an AI with MIDI DINs FCS!

    Dave.

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