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The Newbie And The Mixer... Audio Interfaces
Old 13th September 2011
  #1
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PaperDoll117's Avatar
 

The Newbie And The Mixer...

Hiya! I'm new to this site, so first of all, hello to everybody.
So, I apologise if there is already a thread that would cover this, (I swear I did look!) but I have the following quandary:
I've been making music for some years, but I've only recently decided to get the right equipment to record it properly, and I've hit a hurdle over deciding which mixer to buy.
The only thing I really need to record with use of a microphone is my vocals, as I use a midi piano for virtually everything else. With that in mind, as well as my small budget, I thought I would only need a small mixer and so I was looking at the Behringer Xenyx series. However, whilst reading up on mixers and recording, the need for an insert jack for compression, etc, was strongly stressed. None of these small mixers I've seen come equipped with one.
So, basically, being that I don't need a lot of input channels, I wondered whether anyone could advise me on which mixer I should start out with? Or do I need one at all? Would I be better off with a preamp, and using the mixer in my DAW?
I've been trying to figure it out by myself, and my head is just going round and round in circles!!!
Any help would be greatly appreciated, and I thank you sincerely in advance.
x
Old 13th September 2011
  #2
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crying1986's Avatar
Hey,

If I were you I would not bother getting a mixer. Just start looking for audio interfaces. You can do all of your mixing within whatever DAW you get. You can use compression plugs and reverb plugs and all kinds of stuff. You do not need a mixer at this point. Spend your time trying to figure out what daw and interface you want to use.
Old 13th September 2011
  #3
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johnnyv's Avatar
Agreed, a mixer is handy for monitoring etc, but a good quality interface will have a 2 channel (or more) mixer built in. If your not about to spend $1,000 on a pre amp and/ or outboard compressor then all you need is a good interface.
Old 13th September 2011
  #4
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Hey guys! Thank you for your prompt responses. Your advice is well appreciated.

As to my DAW, I've already been trying out Cubase 5, as well as Reaper.
I was looking around for interfaces, and was looking at the F-CONTROL AUDIO FCA202 by Behringer. However, this does not include a mixer, such as johnnyv mentioned. As I'm very new to all this, I don't have the experience to know what separates a good interface from a bad one. Could you perhaps suggest some models for me to take a look at?

Sorry for being a pest! And thank you once again. x
Old 13th September 2011
  #5
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That Behringer thing doesn't appear to have any pre-amps, so it won't help you if you want to record vocals.

(Unless you already have a mic pre-amp)

That Behringer is a FireWire audio interface. Do you definitely want a Firewire rather than a USB one?

Either way, I'd suggest going onto either Dolphin music or DV247 and just browsing their USB and Firewire audio interfaces. You'll be spending a bit more than that Behringer, which is about as cheap as it gets, but... you need to. Once you see something you like the look of, have a look on eBay and see if you can get it cheaper.

You should buy one that at least has 1 XLR mic input. Unless, that is, you are only going to be making in-the-box instrumental music. You don't need a stand-alone mixer: you just need an audio interface and an industry-standard piece of software, like Cubase, Logic, Reaper or even just Garageband.

A lot of audio interfaces come bundled with trial version, or cut-down versions, of software. Both Cubase SE and Logic Express are ridiculously powerful pieces of software for the money. I've never used Reaper myself, so can't comment. I use Logic Express, and don't have any intention of ever buying the full version: it does far more than I need it to. I'm sure you could download a trial version of any DAW without having to look very far. Try it out. See what you find easiest.

Another rule of thumb in choosing a DAW: what do your friends use? this is important, as it means you can always ask them for help. not so helpful if you're the only musician you know.

Do you have any introductory 'beginner's home recording' type books? I think you should get one off amazon. sorry if that sounds patronizing, but they're useful, probably more so than forums for sorting out the basics.
Old 13th September 2011
  #6
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roman manlord's Avatar
 

This doesn't look that bad, but there are plenty of other options out there.

GuitarCenter
Old 13th September 2011
  #7
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loujudson's Avatar
DON'T buy a Behringer. Look at Yamaha or M-Audio or some honest company instead. Not bashing them, just wise advice.
Old 13th September 2011
  #8
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Category | USB Audio Interfaces | Midi Interface USB

M-Audio Fast Track would be a better option than that Behringer for a USB interface.

Not sure about Firewire interfaces, though - they tend to start at a more expensive price.
Old 13th September 2011
  #9
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hey. thank you everybody for your comments.

binarymilton, your advice is very helpful, so thank you very much. i was looking at firewire devices because i have a port for one on my computer and i had heard that they offered lower latency and better quality. is this something that i should be bothered about at my level?
also, i have cubase 5 loaded and ready to go on my laptop. i used an older version of it at college, and looking at c5, i can find my way around it pretty well. i'm also reading my way through "guerrilla home recording" by karl coryat, so your advice about a beginner's recording guide were not patronising at all. heh

loujudson, could you elaborate on why i should avoid behringer? i've heard good things about them, and i'm interested in your opinion.

x
Old 13th September 2011
  #10
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I've never heard anything good about Behringer, other than the fact that the MDX2600 has a sidechain... that's literally the best thing I've heard about them.

For your needs, in terms of mic recording, I'd recommend the Focusrite Saffire 6. No point blowing your money on a firewire interface with 8 pre's or whatever when you know you're only going to be recording vocals; that being said, it's got 2 preamps, just incase you do need to throw an extra mic on something.

Maybe an mbox mini with Pro Tools bundle is something to look into as well... the mbox 3 range are supposed to be much improved from the old ones (which you can still get bundled with Pro Tools 8 dirt cheap), and it's a cheap option that'll let you record what you need, and also provide an opportunity to learn a DAW which is considered the industry standard. You can still use it with cubase too.
Old 13th September 2011
  #11
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loujudson's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by PaperDoll117 View Post
hey. thank you everybody for your comments.

edit

loujudson, could you elaborate on why i should avoid behringer? i've heard good things about them, and i'm interested in your opinion.

x
Two things - Firewire is the best way to go for auduio, but then I only use Macs.

Behry copied Mackie mixers and sold them cheap, and got sued by Mackie (but they won, danr it) so they are a despicable corporation in their ethical practices. Just bad business. They are also known for poor quality in general. But you can find out l that oll over the bet including GS. You must be young.

L
Old 13th September 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaperDoll117 View Post
binarymilton, your advice is very helpful, so thank you very much. i was looking at firewire devices because i have a port for one on my computer and i had heard that they offered lower latency and better quality. is this something that i should be bothered about at my level?
also, i have cubase 5 loaded and ready to go on my laptop. i used an older version of it at college, and looking at c5, i can find my way around it pretty well. i'm also reading my way through "guerrilla home recording" by karl coryat, so your advice about a beginner's recording guide were not patronising at all. heh
I've got that book too! Some good advice in there.

I think these days the difference between Firewire and USB is fairly marginal. Though in a minute hordes of people will tell me why I'm wrong, you watch... But frankly if you notice latency issues, it'll have far more to do with the speed of your computer/how complicated your songs are (100s of tracks, loads of plug-in effects etc)/how regularly you update the drivers for your software etc etc. I went from a FireWire interface to a USB one (of necessity, my new Mac doesn't have firewire, my old one did) and I've never noticed any difference.

if you already have Cubase 5, well, great: that's your DAW sorted.

The interface is the big thing on your shopping list then.

Got a mic?
Old 13th September 2011
  #13
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yes, binarymilton. i just bought a mic. though i hesitate to say it after the scathing comments above, its a behringer c1 studio condenser. i managed to get it slightly cheaper because it had been opened but never used, and it had excellent reviews. however, no doubt i shall be told otherwise.

mikebailey92, i do like the look of that Focusrite Saffire 6. It seems slanted towards DJ's, but i do like the emphasis on vocals as well as the Focusrite FX Suite that comes with it.
Old 13th September 2011
  #14
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Vincent R.'s Avatar
 

Keep in mind you need phantom power for your condenser mic. Most of the interfaces provide them, but just sayin' for sure...
Old 13th September 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaperDoll117 View Post
yes, binarymilton. i just bought a mic. though i hesitate to say it after the scathing comments above, its a behringer c1 studio condenser. i managed to get it slightly cheaper because it had been opened but never used, and it had excellent reviews. however, no doubt i shall be told otherwise.

Never used one. But, for all the obsessing about microphones on here, in 2011 even a cheap mic will let a good singer sound like a good singer.

Someone told me the other day that many of the vocals on the last Bat For Lashes album were recorded with an AKG C1000, a cheap mic that probably isn't much different from what you've got there.
Old 14th September 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
Never used one. But, for all the obsessing about microphones on here, in 2011 even a cheap mic will let a good singer sound like a good singer.
Let's just hope I'm a good singer then! heh

I'd just like to say thanks again for everybody's help.

x
Old 14th September 2011
  #17
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Deuce 225's Avatar
 

Since you've already got Cubase 5, check out some of the Apogee Converters...solid company with good support and products.
Old 14th September 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deuce 225 View Post
Since you've already got Cubase 5, check out some of the Apogee Converters...solid company with good support and products.
Just bear in mind that Apogee are a Mac only company, so if you're working off Windows, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Old 14th September 2011
  #19
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PaperDoll117's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deuce 225
Since you've already got Cubase 5, check out some of the Apogee Converters...solid company with good support and products.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikebailey92 View Post
Just bear in mind that Apogee are a Mac only company, so if you're working off Windows, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Sadly, alas, I am working with Windows 7. Thanks for the suggestion, though! Keep the suggestions coming, people! x
Old 15th September 2011
  #20
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Some good advice given here so far. While it is *usually* a fairly good idea to stay away from most things Behringer if you can, some of their stuff is perfectly usable. I've used those C1's in the past, and they're fine --- not earth-shatteringly amazing, but if you're starting out, and on a limited budget, they'll do you for now. As your setup grows, your ears develop, etc you'll probably (definitely) want to upgrade at some point, but it'll be fine for now.

Regarding an interface, since you only need one channel, (and can't see that changing in the near future) then you'd be safest getting a small, simple, decent-sounding interface that doesn't have any unnecessary bells and whistles. Something like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or M-Audio Fast Track (I'd personally go Focusrite).

You'll notice that they're both usb devices --- I would honestly recommend going for a usb interface, especially if you're using a laptop, unless you know what Firewire chipset you have in it (even then, it can be a bit of a crap-shoot) --- firewire interfaces can be picky if they don't like the particular chipset you have, and you can get dropouts, random disconnects, etc, etc. Laptops, especially if they only have a small 4-pin firewire port can be especially prone to these problems. Modern usb interfaces, if they have well-written drivers should be able to give you low enough latency no problem If you buy from a decent retailer (like Andertons, which I linked to above,) and find that you can't achieve a low enough latency figure, then you should be able to return it no problem.

At this stage, I really wouldn't worry about compressing your vox during recording -- just make sure you're recording at 24 bit and leave plenty of headroom ---- unless you know exactly what you're doing with the compressors' settings, and know exactly the sound you're going for with it, it can be a very quick and easy way to ruin a vocal take. If you're inexperienced, it's much, much easier to do more harm than good with it.

Remember, you can always compress after you've recorded, but it's pretty much impossible to salvage a poorly- or overly-compressed vocal successfully.
If you prefer to hear a some compression on your vocal in your headphones for performance reasons, you can just add a plugin compressor in the Cubase mixer -- that way, you can hear the compression in your cans, but you'll be recording an uncompressed vocal, which you can process appropriately in the context of the mix later on.

I would just go with the simple interface, practice getting a good clean vocal down, and use the Cubase mixer to, er, mix. () It's best to keep things simple, get some experience, and after a while, depending on your own personal workflow, it'll become more apparent what you want/need to add to your setup, whether that's a control surface, new mic, compressor, etc.

Btw -- you didn't mention what you monitoring on --- have you already got monitor speakers, or a decent pair of headphones, etc?
Old 15th September 2011
  #21
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PaperDoll117's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeedsMoreFuzz View Post
Regarding an interface, since you only need one channel, (and can't see that changing in the near future) then you'd be safest getting a small, simple, decent-sounding interface that doesn't have any unnecessary bells and whistles. Something like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or M-Audio Fast Track (I'd personally go Focusrite).
I like the look of that focusrite one. Looks simple enough for me to manage. You are right. You start looking for gear and you get distracted by all the "bells and whistles", when actually learning how to get a good sound is most important. heh

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeedsMoreFuzz View Post
Btw -- you didn't mention what you monitoring on --- have you already got monitor speakers, or a decent pair of headphones, etc?
A good pair of headphones is on my list. Could you recommend any? Also, could I could get by just with headphones or do I need monitor speakers as well? I've read about the importance of listening on both when it comes time to mix and master.

Thanks, NeedsMoreFuzz.
Old 15th September 2011
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaperDoll117 View Post
A good pair of headphones is on my list. Could you recommend any? Also, could I could get by just with headphones or do I need monitor speakers as well? I've read about the importance of listening on both when it comes time to mix and master.
If you're going to be mixing on 'phones, it's pretty much essential that you check your mix on as many other systems as you can --- any hifi you have about the house, in the car, etc. While it's possible to create a good mix on a good pair of headphones, it is tricky --- the two main things to be aware of are the bass, and the stereo image, both of which tend to be pretty different compared to listening on speakers, so you need to check on a variety of speaker systems and environments to hear how your mixes translate, and then go back and make tweaks as necessary.
Over time, you'll begin to be able to kind of automatically compensate as you mix.

Personally, I don't like mixing on phones, never been able to get used to it, but plenty of people can.

What's your budget roughly?
Old 15th September 2011
  #23
headphones i enjoy and are pretty inexpensive are the fostex series. there's a couple different types, but essentially the same head unit. there pretty comfy to.

i think i got mine in at 50 a pair.
Old 15th September 2011
  #24
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PaperDoll117's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeedsMoreFuzz View Post
What's your budget roughly?
Well, I'm prepared to save for a good pair, but as I'm starting out I don't want to get carried away. What would £30-£40 get me? If I know that I can't get a decent pair for that price, I can just save a bit longer and go higher, if you follow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sameal
headphones i enjoy and are pretty inexpensive are the fostex series.
Those look cool. Thanx!

xx
Old 15th September 2011
  #25
Those look cool. Thanx!

xx[/QUOTE]


forgot to mention the models T50RP T40 T20

those specifically, not the consumer lines or anything. i forgot they made those to!

and if you can get them at 80 or less, thats a good price. i wouldn't pay 100 or higher.
Old 15th September 2011
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaperDoll117 View Post
Well, I'm prepared to save for a good pair, but as I'm starting out I don't want to get carried away. What would £30-£40 get me? If I know that I can't get a decent pair for that price, I can just save a bit longer and go higher, if you follow.
xx
Honestly, I'd save up a bit more -- anything around the 30-40 quid mark will be a consumer-grade pair, which, like hi-fi's compared to studio monitors, are designed to flatter the sound, rather than attempting to give you a flat, accurate picture of what you've got.

I'd suggest budgeting around 80-100 quid -- any lower and it's prob not worth the money; much higher, and you'd prob just be safer saving for longer and getting a small pair of monitors.

As I don't mix on headphones, (only use them for quick reference checks, and to spot clicks/pops etc) I'm prob not the best person to advise you. I've used Sony MDR7509's in the past, and they weren't bad --- with referencing on other systems, you could prob build a decent enough mix on them. You should be able to get a pair for 100 or so on ebay or somewhere similar, (or you could look for the slightly cheaper 7506's) Sennheiser hd280's have a good reputation in their price bracket too (about 80 quid or so)
Old 15th September 2011
  #27
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Thanks to NeedsMoreFuzz and Samael. At least now I know what price range I'm shooting for. I'll definitely have a closer look at those fostex models. Any other suggestions welcome.
Old 16th September 2011
  #28
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I'm also looking for decent cans for mixing (~£120 budget).

Some more opinions/comparisons here.
Old 16th September 2011
  #29
people rave about the beyerdynamic headphones, and while i personally owned a pair and thought the sound was great, they were not built very tough in my opinion. a couple of bad spills and they bend easy.
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