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Home Studio Consultant Needed


I have a modest home studio that is in a 17x24 room. I have the following equipment:
Mackie 24x8 w/meter bridge
Adat (2 original black face)
Lexicon PCM70
Lexicon Alex
TC Electronics M1
Alesis Q2 (two)
Zoom Studio Reverb
Behringer autocom
The usual assortment of mics.....
I recently bought a P4 2.2 ghz, 512 ram, 120 gig hd, running win XP.
I am planning on buying a hard disk recorder in the next week and am leaning toward the Alesis HD24.
I would like to be able to use my new computer somehow in a DAW type manner. What would be the best way to approach this? What would be the best way to get the signal into the computer and back out to the Masterlink?
General thoughts? Ideas?
June 26, 2002 @07:45pm

If you buy a hard disk recorder, and intend to use your computer as a DAW too, you'll have two recorders. This isn't good or bad. I have a Tascam 788, and a MOTU828 that I use only as an interface to take into my iMac, to do burning,,and MP3ing, in order to send to the net, and if the Tascam 788 ever needs service, I'm still recording, cuz the 828 is a full blown recording system too, with the AudioDesk software. If you get both, you'll probably find yourself using one, or the other, rather than both. A dual mixing environment is fraught with pitfalls, and if you buy the HD recorder, you'll probably have a board to do your mixing with that,,that would kind of obviate using the computer as a DAW. I do no mixing in AudioDesk,,just transferring of songfiles to iTunes2, as AIFF, MP3(various encoding rates), or both. If you got an interface such as Digidesign's, with ProTools, or MOTU's, with Audio/Desk and/or Digital Performer 3, you'd be using your computer, and that interface itself, with its accompanying software, to do your recording, and mixing, thereby obviating the need to use the Alesis HD24.
If you're an all of the above, the more the merrier, type of person,,having both is fine,,but you_may_find that trying to use both in concert is more trouble, in the long run, and final analysis, than it's worth,,and not really that practical.
When I do a mix on the Tascam I send it out the Tascam's S/PDIF out into the MOTU828's S/PDIF in, and from there, by FireWire, as a two track master into the iMac,,,but/and, I have to hit record on AudioDesk, a nanosecond after I hit play on the Tascam, and re-record, as a 2 track master, the 4, 5, 6, or however many tracks I have that is already recorded and mixed on the Tascam. I also have the CDR788, that can burn directly from the Tascam, and wouldn't have to use the MOTU to iMac rig at all, cept for its convenience, and the fact it savse me disk space on the 788. I like the CDR788 for its archiving ability. The Tascam rules, and I do all my recording on it, and the MOTU and iMac is secondary, and subservient to what I do on the Tascam, though, if I wanted, I could choose to not use the Tascam, and only do my recording directly to the computer, via the MOTU. As it is, I relegate it to the position of interface only, something it is imminently qualified to do, but, I'm kind of killing flies with an elephant gun, cuz the MOTU is capable of far more than I use it for. I had the Tascam first, and so am so accustomed to that, that I have stayed with it, for ease of use,,though I wouldn't hesitate to move over to the MOTU, if needed. I just don't mix in two environments, cuz it's too easy to make a mess of something that was initially just fine, and the 2nd mixing environment is unnecessary, and potentially counterproductive. Just a few thoughts. I like the insurance two units give me, but I qualify how I use them.
The main, and overriding reason I got the MOTU was to be able to get the tunes into the computer, for up to the net export/upload, as well as to burn, without having to first burn a CD on the TEAC unit, and then rip it into the iMac. I'd have CD's stacked to the ceiling by now,,but the MOTU lets me take my masters in directly. I can burn CD's on the TEAC unit, using only the Tascam 788 and it's CDR788, totally independent, and absent the MOTU and iMac,,but it makes it easy for me to get the songs into the computer this way, albeit as 2 track masters,,which is fine, and practical for me, at this juncture. This is why I have both units, more than for any other reason, though again, I like the insurance having two units gives me.
This is just a general overview, and I am far from a qualified studio consultant, and many professional studios have, and take, both routes, simultaneously, or separately, and many possible combinations of the two. For someone just getting into home recording, it's good to see the options you have, and how things basically work, the different approaches certainly aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, though I offer it's better to know well what you're doing first.
June 26, 2002 @08:42pm

Too bad you went the PC route. (Never understand that)
I would have suggested the following:
MAC G4 ($1800)
MOTU 2408 / Audio Suite ($1000)
Digital Performer 3 ($600)
This would have cost $3400. You would have had so much more flexibility than an ALESIS.
The 2408 is the secret weapon and so cheap for all it does. Anyway...
July 4, 2002 @03:22am

Unless you are doing remote or off site recording, I would stick with the computer. You don't need a hard disk recorder. Too bad you didn't get a Mac although the PC has come a long way in the world of audio.
September 2, 2002 @02:30am

you can use the Alesis to track, dump your tracks into PC via ethernet connection, edit everything graphically with your favorite editing software (i recomend checking out sonic foundry's vegas for PC). then dump everything back to the alesis for real time mixing to the masterlink.
September 3, 2002 @02:11pm

I had a similar setup. Two original ADATs. But I'd yoked them to my PC via a BRC and MIDI in the mid-90s and in '96 started using the ADATs as 8 channel i/o to the PC (using a Frontier Wavecenter). I use Cakewalk (now Sonar) as my multi-track software. Once I started working on the PC I never even started another project on tape (for myself... though my clients mostly used tape... in those days HDs were pretty small).
I essentially used the set up as an 8 in, 8 out, unlimited track recorder, typically setting up my mixes as combinations of submixes which I would route through my board (currently a Mackie 24-4) using combinations of my rather extensive collection of "cheap" tube and photo compressors and FX boxes (you can never be too rich, too thin, or have to many compressors and FX boxes). I started out mastering the old fashioned way to my Panasonic SV3700 but I soon switched to just cutting the mix to two new multitrack tracks. Much, much better.
Since I seldom used more than 2-6 tracks of input at a time and hate remote work (i only hate hauling the gear... I love to get out every now and then) this set up worked pretty good for me. (Past tense because the ADATs got increasingly cranky and I wanted to move up to 24 bit sound. I got a 2/2 Echo Mia to tide me over until I pick up something beefier (and I mix much more in the computer, now, using a plug-in software FX). I might look at the PCI based MOTU boxes... but there are a jillion choices now... it's cool. I remember when there were only a few choices.)
When I originally set up my system in 96 I checked around and there really wasn't a viable way to do it on the Mac to use the ADATs (at the time). In fact, I had to wait for the multitrack version of Cakewalk to come out to really use it. (Frontier through in a multi-instance yokable version of CoolEdit just so you could have something to multi-track with but it was pretty awkward having all those separate CE windows open and running semi-separately.)
In those days, some of my Mac friends from the old days (none of whom were doing HD audio) had made me feel inferior for using a PC (and before W95 I didn't try to do much besides a little MIDI experimenting and some radio documentary editing). But after I got CW set up for multitracking I soon got a superiority complex. :D (Sure, the Pro Tools guys had it over my set up -- but at over three times the cost -- even at the original ADAT price.)
Sorry to go on but I thought my similar gear base and perhaps parallel early ADAT experience might be of extra value.
September 27, 2002 @06:50am

Originally posted by musicstudio41
Unless you are doing remote or off site recording, I would stick with the computer. You don't need a hard disk recorder. Too bad you didn't get a Mac although the PC has come a long way in the world of audio.

People have such interesting ideas. Actually, the Mac OS has lagged far behind windows in its OS level support for MIDI and audio. Here's a quote from an Electronic Musician article on OS X (which has finally gotten its first serious multitrack application)...

Sticking with older Mac OS versions has its own hazards — it leaves users standing in the shadow of a Tower of Babel that has existed for more than a decade. Software and hardware developers have largely been on their own in making sure that sophisticated MIDI and audio peripherals work well on the Mac.
For MIDI, users formerly looked to Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) and Opcode to supply system software components that support MIDI interfaces and integrate MIDI instrument management in Mac OS applications. The risks of having developers alone manage that crucial task became all too real when Opcode shut its doors last year, taking active support of its Open Music System (OMS) software with it.
Audio support has arguably been even more confusing. Confronted with the Mac system's Sound Manager and its latency problems, lack of multichannel compatibility, and inability to handle full-duplex recording and playback, audio companies had to develop their own software interfaces. They did pretty well, creating low-latency audio systems such as ASIO and EASI to implement multichannel audio-card support without requiring a particular brand of hardware. (In fairness, however, ASIO and EASI exist to work around the limitations of Mac and Windows.) Other companies, including Digidesign, took a walled-garden approach that consisted of proprietary integrated hardware and software products for musicians who wanted an extra measure of performance and reliability.
Plug-ins for software effects were even more befuddling. Unlike Microsoft, with its DirectX format for Windows (leaving aside its particular pros and cons), Apple offered no systemwide software plug-in format. A sometimes bewildering array of mutually incompatible plug-in formats — including Steinberg VST, MOTU Audio System (MAS), and Digidesign Real Time AudioSuite (RTAS) — appeared to fill the vacuum. In general, they worked well, but many desktop musicians wondered why Apple didn't take a more active role.

This is not to say that some fine applications haven't been developed for the Mac. Digital Performer 3 looks especially interesting (and shared Sequencer of the Year from Electronic Musician with Sonar last year). And, of course, the Pro Tools hardware systems (which have in the past used the Mac as primarily a command and control center for the expensive PT hardware) are the standard in most professional studios.
But it remains for future versions of OS X to bridge the gap to the OS level services offered by Windows. That's why Apple bought E-Magic, of course, to get the technology and fold it into the OS. The future is bright for OS X. But it's gonna take a while.
September 27, 2002 @07:05am

Doghead you may be right about the PC's coming a long way in the world of digital audio recording. But for those of us that do projects with other people, other studios, the Mac is the only way to go. So many projects are done in Digital Performer or Protools. Most studios that I've worked in have a Protools setup. As far as Video and sound, midi, I haven't found a better product to use than Digital Performer. I'm not knocking the PC. But if someone needs to work with other musicians and studios the Mac seems more like the wise choice.
I don't know that the Mac is "better" anymore because I haven't kept up on the PC world. The last time I saw a PC in a professional studio was at the front desk not in the control room. I know that PC's cost less and you can get a lot more for you money. I guess if you know what you are doing, using the right preamps, mics, compressors etc, it doesn't matter whether you use a PC or a Mac. Thanks for your input.
September 27, 2002 @02:48pm

Capability and the ability to function reliably day-to-day are two very different things. I'm writing this post on a PC. The PC used to be my music/audio platform (using Logic and PT LE) until I got sick of the OS hogging half the processor bandwidth, crashing, and in general just being obstinate. I now use a Mac for music and audio, and the PC for everything else. That seems to work well for me.
People are using both platforms successfully. Both have advantages and disadvantages. There's really no reason for people to be Mac snobs OR PC snobs anymore, if the machines are properly configured and set up. Which is the one place I still think the Mac has an edge, being pretty easy to optimize for audio right out of the box, without having to worry about finding the right combinations of motherboard, memory, processor, etc. But then again, the Mac costs more, so we're back where we started.
Conversion to X has taken a long time for software makers. This is due in no small part to the fact that OS X is a revolution of the Mac OS akin to the differences between Win95 and Win3.1, although on a level several orders of magnitude different. When everyone gets their act together software-wise, it will be worth it. There also is a move toward standardizing a single Mac plug-in format, which we'll have to see how it plays out. This is something which, heretofore to my knowledge, has not yet begun to happen for Windows.
September 27, 2002 @02:57pm

I suppose you could consider DirectX plugins to be the "universal" PC plug-in format. But of course most developers still embrace their own proprietary formats more closely than something that is operating-system dependant.
You guys think we'll see more developers going toward a more neutral format like VST, or into os-centric plugs like DirectX and whatever is yet to come for OS X.
I think we're more likely to see developers making generic plugins that work in multiple formats as it will get their software saturated into both os-es and various editing platforms.
September 27, 2002 @04:35pm

musictstudio41, there's no doubt that in professional studios one is most likely to see a Mac. Just as in the pre-press world, the Mac was there first with the goods. Before Win 95, the PC was adequate for editing stereo files and doing a little rudimentary MIDI (but intrinsic timing problems limited it to casual users.)
But even after Win95 (and subsequent slipstream updates which enhanced audio and MIDI functionalities and brought onboard the DirectX API that allowed generic plug-ins and enhanced audio and MIDI performance through direct access to the hardware or virtual device layer), the Mac retained leadership status in terms of straightforward system access and fit-and-feel human engineering.
And, of course, some very fine software houses developed some very fine software for the Mac simply by rolling up their sleeves and doing it all themselves. And, now, of course, they're doing it again for OS X, since the technologies that Apple bought Emagic for will take a while to fold into a future version of the OS.
I'm not sure why -- since maybe as many as a 1/4 to 1/3 of the musicians I know and think of as serious musicians and recordists I've met online use Macs -- but very few of the muscian/computer recordists I know in the real world use Macs. (I live in Long Beach, California, which has a scrappy, blue collar sense of anti-authoritarianism [big punk rock and street-rap scene] and self-superiority that is ill-suited to the gentle sensibilities of getting along in Mac-land. Macs are Santa Monica and the Valley, if you know what I mean. People who have screenplays. LB is a hotrodded '66 GTO w/a kinda town -- not a BMW Bavaria. ;) )
Michael... ask the man who's been there. There've definitely been a couple times when I felt like making the switch myself. One of the main problems with all the extra functionalities that MS has built into Windows is that it's become amazingly complex -- and when complex systems have problems it's often a trainwreck. And, of course, the fact that the Mac OS basic architecture hadn't changed since the late 80s was a boon in many ways... but not one without tradeoffs.
I actually gave serious thought to a complete overhaul of my entire rig from the OS/platform up several years ago. But, despite some frustrations, since '96 the PC served me very well, allowing me to do 8/8 i/o HD recording way back then (getting as many as 20 discrete trax into 8 outs on a lowly Pentium 133mHz). My only real hair-tearing experience was getting my first CD burner running right (an early SCSI unit that cost an arm and two legs). Still, I only had one bad burn and that was folowing the directions of one of the bozos at Adaptec.
And after I built a P3-500 from the motherboard up and switched to Win98 (and now XP) things were pretty smooth sailing. Once it was set up it went a full 4 months of heavy multimedia use without a single crash (I'm the kind of guy who has three MIDI cards, ADAT interfaces, multiople sound cards, multiple digital cams, etc.) Now, I know all the unix folks are muttering "well, I have a server that's been running without a crash for 14 years" but, hey, you know... :D Anyhow, once I saw how stable it was I really started getting crazy... but it stayed pretty stable. ;)
And, Michael, you're right in pointing out that OS X will take a while to get all in place. I'm very pleased by what I've seen from OS X (some of the interface googahs are a bit much, but fun, anyhow -- and the system access seems logical and straightforward... something that's improved greatly in XP but could still be improved.) When Apple gets the new audio APIs they've promised in place things should really take off for music apps. Hopefully, you should see a lot more developments from smaller houses (where a lot of the innovations have come from on the PC).
One thing, though, I'm surprised by your comment about Windows lacking a standardized plug-in format... that would be DirectX -- specifically, the "DirectSound" and "DirectMusic" components of it. They work fine and have for years. I have a large collection of plug-ins I can use in everything from ACID to Sonar to Sound Forge, everything from a 64 bit depth parametric EQ to a multi-band compressor [called "WaveHammer" no less! ;) ] to a shareware vocoder (only works on files -- not on realtime audio :-(
However, there isn't a standardized v-synth plug-in format yet. But Cakewalk's used their clout to get a lot of support for their DXi 'open format.' They were able to ship the first Sonar with a handful of demo and free soft-synths. And, of course, as noted, Steinberg has its pan-platform VSTi format.
arbiter, aside from Steinberg (and I think we can be assured they'll continue doing things their own way, no matter what, vielen dank ... ;) ), I think everybody else has pretty well adopted DirectX.
There are however "wrappers" that allow use of DirectX plug-ins in Cubase and Nuendo and wrappers that allow VST plug-ins in DirectX capable apps. (Results may vary, no doubt.)
Whew... I'm one wordy son of a gun.
September 28, 2002 @07:33am