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Thread: DIY Recording FAQ

  1. #1

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    DIY Recording FAQ

    [About]
    hi there softies, i'm Ron (BluePrintStudios) a.k.a king of sparechange a.k.a pimp/a$$h0le to some people in SOFT also.
    the purpose of this FAQ is for newbies who have worldly troubles trying to understand the audio theory/info on the net. and just want it to be rephrased into simplified layman terms.I'm no professional, I've never studied any audio course. I "just do it,regret later". so whatever I'm typing it's based on purely experience.terms and conditions, kindly DO NOT diss me for any wrong information, cos 80%-accurate-information is better than 0% information leading newbies into wasted purchases.So it'll be great if newbies read this up and see if you can answer your own qn before posting them hehe.

    [Legend]
    the basic signal chain formula is :
    Recording Purpose > vocals/instrument > mic > preamp > soundcard > USB/Firewire/PCI > PC > DAW

    Recording Purpose = well, thats why you're reading this right?

    Vocals instrument = duh, you.

    Mic = captures audio wave signals (singing/drums/guitars etc). there's 2 main kinds Condensor/Dynamic. Condensor mics NEED PHANTOM POWER. and standard mics are XLR connectors. the unbalanced(cheapo) ones use 1/4inch jack.

    Preamp = "boosts the mic signal/adds gain/volume" without preamp , mic > soundcard will pretty much be soft as hell or no sound. it's also a "phantom power supply" also.

    Soundcard = records the "mic's>preamp's captured audio signals". ppl call this audio interface/etc whatever. basically records. usually normal soundcards record 2 mono channel signals (stereo). recording soundcards can range from supporting 2 channels to 8 and more depending on the specs. and it's not just about channels, but the quality of the .wav file (or .aiff for protools) from World Standard CD Quality 16bit 44.1khz / Usual recording quality : 24bit 48khz/88.2khz/96khz/192khz etc. I'll skip other indepth stuff such as "latency" etc

    Soundcard cable = PCI is that card supposed to install inside your PC's mainboard. with the latest new gadgets like Line6 TonePort UX2 (USB) and Presonus FP10/Firepod (Firewire). PCI becomes less popular cos nowadays computers come with USB ports and Firewire ports. and with windows xp, just "plug n play" unlike the old days of windows 98 it was "plug n pray (that it doesn't crash)". USB if i'm not wrong mainly records only 2 channels or around there. Firewire is way faster and with gears like Presonus Firepod/FP10, it's capable of carrying 8 channels to daisy-chained 24 channels max at 24bit/96khz.

    PC = yes it's either your standard PC that supports windows XP/Linux/etc or Macintosh. but always remember your PC has to be powerful enough to do multitrack recording, it's heavy duty for PCs cos they weren't originally built for audio. but something "Intel Core2Duo/Dual Core" and 512mb > 1gig ram should be good enough. cos the worst I've ever recorded was 16 tracks of 24bit/48khz simultaneously on a 2.4ghz nonhyperthreading PC with 512mb ram. but then again my old PCI soundcard's low latency could have made that possible. now PCs at that (shit) range cost only $300-$400. compared to 4 years ago when I bought at $1.5K. i think. before I forget to mention, MAINTENANCE is VERY IMPORTANT for your audiorecording PC. (heck even for macs i think), defragging, no porn no games etc. for optimized performance.

    DAW = Digital Audio Workstation. your "Software Mixer". where the art of mixing happens. Mac : Logic , Protools , PC : Steinberg Cubase/Nuendo , Adobe audition, Cakewalk Sonar , Audacity , ACID etc. This thing will command the soundcard to record via mouse click.

    [Other Notes]
    -
    Mixers = I don't know what they write in books/audio course. but to me when it comes to recording, that's a "phantom power supply/Panner/EFX(optional)/EQ/Preamp" , and here's the confusion, newbies often get mistaken that die die must Mic > Mixer > Soundcard/DAW/PC etc. and yet they don't do the EQing/Panning/EFX on the mixer, they do it on their adobe audition/cubase whatever. that means you're paying for the Preamp,phantompowersupply/Panner,efx,eq, but only using 2 out of 5 of that functions?
    a mixer HAS a preamp, but they do sell preamp(+phantompower) in 1 rack units just for the purpose for your mics too!
    -
    Connectors = ok whatever I typed is pretty much 80% misleading.Kindly read godchuanz's post :
    Balanced = Clean signal. for 1/4inch jack it's TRS plug (tip-ring-sleeve, there's 2 black lines)/stereo. XLR for mics is balanced also but it's MONO. The signal is Lo-Z (Low Impedance)
    Unbalanced = err, unclean? signal? haha. 1/4inch jack , TS plug (tip-sleeve, there's 1 black line)/mono. The signal is Hi-Z (High Impedance). usually it's your guitar/bass cable.
    -
    Wasted Purchases = avoid them if possible unless you're opening a professional studio where image counts. avoid the temptation of "hey that Mackie Big Knob ($400) looks damn pro" or "hey i love that mixer with the motorized faders!!" and then re-think... actually those just mainly perform purposes of "adjusting volume/etc/etc" when that can be performed SLIGHTLY uncomfortably with a keyboard($10?) and mouse ($8?)click'n'drag. don't just rely on how cool it looks, but how cool it'll SOUND for your final mix. thats what counts.
    -
    Cost-Efficiency for purpose = i learned this word from some lame salesman uncle (unfortunately related) of mine when I was working sales executive, but learned to apply the mindset to recording.

    for example - Softie A spends huge sum of money on his super high end pretty drumset and cymbals. then when it comes to drum mics, he uses karaoke mics to a cheap behringer mixer then stereo record into his normal PC's onboard soundcard > audacity (free)
    Result : an Obviously-killer-Drumset-but-inflexible-mix-poor-sounding-mics-and stereo.wav

    compared to - Softie B spends decent amountof money on the drumset, decent cymbals.And wisely sets aside lets say buying Samson's 7 piece drum mikes and grabs lets say presonus fp10 that comes bundled with softwares and all. and turns out he spends just as much if not a little bit more than Softie A.
    Result : Left Cym/Right Cymbals/Snare/Kick/LTom/RTom/FlrTom.wav , recorded with decent mics, nice preamp, high resolution .wav , individual tracks which means you can flexibly compress/EQ seperately.
    and with the same setup, he can record a full band e.g 1.)Left 2.)Right Overheads 3.)snare 4.)kick, 5.) Lead guitar amp 6.) rhythm guitar amp 7.) vocalist 8.) Bass direct line in (no need mic)
    as you can see there are things that can be offered more with LESS.

    Side track info : Presonus Firepod/FP10 is a "Preamp/Phantom Powersupply/Soundcard" all in one. so referring to the "formula" above. it'll be simply Mics > firepod > firewire cable into PC > DAW . get it?
    -
    WAV?MP3? Audible differences = ok this one if i'm not wrong ok. I once explained this to a guy who just couldn't visualize it, so I "Drew" one example :
    [----------------------------ORIGINAL SOUND---------------------------------------]
    [24bit 96khz.wav-----------------------------------------------]
    [24bit 48khz.wav------------------------------------------]
    [16bit 44.1khz CD STANDARD ------------------------]
    [320kbps mp3----------------------------------]
    [192kbps mp3--------------------------------]
    [160kbps mp3----------------------------]
    [128kbps mp3-------------------------]
    [Radio-------------------------------]
    [96kbps mp3-------------------] (a.k.a myspace)
    [HUMAN HEARING--------------------------]
    [Dog Hearing--------------------------------------------------]
    [Bats Hearing---------------------------------------------------------------------... ?

    ok the last 2 was just kidding. but in general, i'm sure all of us can tell the difference when we listen to a 128kbps mp3, the high frequencies are swishy and all.
    so if you burned a 24bit wav file to audio CD, most likely nero would verify it as corrupt or unreadable. as all cd players in the world plays only 16bit 44.1khz. (remember to burn in AudioCD mode)
    -
    MAC:Protools/Logic? Vs PC:Cubase/Cakewalk etc = I always say this, DAWs are like weapons and recording/mixing is like War. they all perform the same purpose : KILL! some ppl swear by mac'n'protools (but it costs a few thousand $$$) , some ppl can even "kill" more efficiently with lousier weapons like a PC and DAW:Audacity (costs a few hundred $$). ironically you give these ppl a more powerful DAW like Cubase/Cakewalk, the "weapon" is new to them and they may not know how to fully utilize it. so... choose your weapon.
    Learning your DAW & Ethics
    -
    Should I go indepth into audio? = here's both good and bad news, this is a lifelong LEARNING trip. even if you do learn everything, by the time in 2017, there'll be new gear and you'll never catch up learning the past/present/future/and beyond imagination.
    -
    Getting neat and organised
    -------
    I'll end it here now,I'll update this FAQ often. Hope this helps to all you starters there. P.S : i'm not endorsing any products here, but i'll only somehow mention the "cost-effective" gear that i've come across so far.there is no good or bad gear. just "killer gear" or "gear that performs its basic purpose" or "gears that suck totally".

    999 worth.
    Last edited by blueprintstudios; 24-10-07 at 12:24 PM. Reason: Update

  2. #2

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    for mp3s vs pcm wav.

    most people will not be able to differentiate between > 256kbps mp3 vs 16bit/44.1khz wav vs 24bit/96khz wav. But if you're going to stick it into a DAW and alter anything, the daw does know the difference, and frequent audio munging can make everything all too obvious.

  3. #3

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    alright blueprint!!!!

    you rawks!!!

    finally something nice to read up ... =)

  4. #4

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    Just to clear up the balanced/unbalanced signals issue:

    - Unbalanced: you take the signal from one end to the other. Any noise picked up in between is present at the other end, e.g. from guitars to most effects pedals, to amps etc. This means, the longer your cable, the higher your noise. Since you only need to transmit 1 signal, a MONO cable (TS) will do. If you plug in a stereo cable (TRS, XLR if it fits), only one of the channels will be used.

    - Balanced: you take 2 copies of the SAME signal from one end to the other. It gives cleaner sound. The trick is, one of the signals is phase-inverted. When it goes through the cable, they both pick up very similar noise signatures. So when the 2 waveforms are summed after noise, the signal cancel each other out, and only the noise is present. You can then invert the noise and apply it to the uninverted channel, to achieve noise cancellation.

    Ignore this part if you don't understand. But for those who see things mathematically,
    1) let signal be x(t)
    2) inverted signal will be -x(t)
    3) let noise be z(t)
    4) At the end of the transmission, the signals will be:
    a) x(t) + z(t)
    b) -x(t) + z(t)
    5) Summing them, you get 2z(t)
    6) Apply noise cancellation: x(t) + z(t) - 0.5(2z(t))
    7) End result: x(t)


    Since balanced connections require 2 signals to be transmitted, you will need a stereo cable for that, e.g. TRS or XLR cables.

    I hope I helped clear up some fog!

    edit: By the way, impedance has little to do with balanced/unbalanced signals. It has got more to do with signal strength, and even that is not really accurate.
    Last edited by godchuanz; 12-10-07 at 01:16 PM. Reason: add on

  5. #5

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    godchuanz : hahah thanks man. embarrassingly huge misinterpretation. but I've updated the 1st post with a link to your post. anyone else with the free time and sharing knowledge feel free to post in!

    btw I hit the 10'000 characters limit per post hahah. damn could be limited to type in more info.
    [Check out the stuff I put up for sale starting from Free/$1 !]
    [BluePrintStudios.Org] Freelance Services : [A]udio / [V]ideo / [P]hoto / [C]omputer

  6. #6

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    blueprintstudios:
    No problem, dude. We're all learning. I point out your misconceptions, you point out mine, we both learm something at the end of the day.

    By the way, I've heard a few of your works. Very nice, balanced (no pun intended) sound

    edit:
    Anyway, it's not my theory! This information can easily be gotten from any audio course working with signals, internet, textbooks.
    Last edited by godchuanz; 12-10-07 at 03:58 PM. Reason: Add on

  7. #7

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    Jus a qns, I notice that most soundcards that are for the homerecording market have RCA jacks, so is it in anyway better to record through RCA instead of using the usual 1/8" jack that most generic soundcards has?
    "Technically, I'm not a guitar player. All I play is truth and emotion." - Jimi Hendrix

  8. #8

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    Mobius : well I'm not sure about the quality side wise. but to me RCA's kinda inconvenient. unless i'm recording from the TV/VCR/VCD/DVD or an analog mixer, which usually has RCA outs. then y'know mics > analog mixer > RCA out > soundcard with RCA ins (like Echo Audio's Darla20, i have it but it's just collecting dust.)

    usually the standard recording soundcards should have 1/4jack or breakoutbox/XLR inputs support I think?
    [Check out the stuff I put up for sale starting from Free/$1 !]
    [BluePrintStudios.Org] Freelance Services : [A]udio / [V]ideo / [P]hoto / [C]omputer

  9. #9

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    They do have, but just curious why they also come with RCA and PDIF jacks as well, which I thought belong more to the TV/Sound system stuff
    "Technically, I'm not a guitar player. All I play is truth and emotion." - Jimi Hendrix

  10. #10

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    24bit 96khz.wav-----------------------------------------------]
    [24bit 48khz.wav------------------------------------------]
    [16bit 44.1khz CD STANDARD ------------------------]
    [320kbps mp3----------------------------------]
    [192kbps mp3--------------------------------]
    [160kbps mp3----------------------------]
    [128kbps mp3-------------------------]
    [Radio-------------------------------]
    [96kbps mp3-------------------] (a.k.a myspace)
    [HUMAN HEARING--------------------------]
    [Dog Hearing--------------------------------------------------]
    [Bats Hearing---------------------------------------------------------------------



    Can someone hmm explain to about this thing?

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