Posted by: Llama on Jun 01, 2011
Previous article: Recording yourself – Part 2
What’s your medium?
Before we get started, it’s important to decide what you want to do. There are two main considerations that should be taken into account. Are you planning on using a laptop/notebook (or netbook) or are you planning on using a desktop PC? I say PC, as your choices for Mac recording lean more toward the laptop side. If you are planning on using a desktop rig, you can either choose the PCI card or the external converter route.
PCI card converters are often quite affordable and can provide you with as many channels as you need. Unfortunately, this method (depending on your choice of PCI card) could mean that you end up with no microphone pre-amps, and in this case you would need to get a mixing desk to feed your PCI card. There are PCI cards that have mic pre-amps, but most take a simple line signal. This means that very quickly you are accumulating a large list of equipment, and needing more and more space. If this is not the way you want to go, external converters would suit you better,
External converters are available in a large range of sizes, features and prices. There are two main types of external converters to be considered: FireWire and USB. Each of these has their own advantages, so you should probably have a read into them. Simply put though, USB is the more entry level protocol to use and FireWire leans more to the professional and studio side. Both are portable though and they are available in desktop and rack-mount units. In terms of sound quality, the USB vs. FireWire argument is irrelevant, as it is the quality of the converters that counts. The big trade off is between the number of simultaneous recording channels and port availability. USB ports can be found on almost every computer, laptop, Mac and even some tablets. You are limited to 16 simultaneous (8 in and 8 out) recording streams with USB, so recording large bands can become a little tricky. Your other option, FireWire 400 allows 64 simultaneous recording streams (32 in and 32 out) and FireWire 800 will double that with 64 in another 64 out, which should cater for most users, from beginner to professional studios. The only issue with choosing a FireWire interface, is the fact that very few laptops actually come with FireWire. FireWire add-on cards can be purchased for desktop computers without a problem, but this can make mobile recording tricky. Luckily, there are laptops on the market that sport FireWire, you may just need to look a little to find the one that will suit your needs.
Next article: Recording yourself – Part 4