adventures in dysthymia

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Aspire to Record

I purchased an inexpensive laptop a few months back — my first one ever — in anticipation of needing something with which to travel and, perhaps, record. Or just to hole up with in my bedroom, come cold weather (I don’t bother to heat over half the house during winter). It’s a nice enough little computer, an Acer Aspire V5-571. I’ve been using it to work up midi or Band-in-a-Box arrangements for my music but...

My USB interfaces would not play nicely with it — any attempts at recording audio resulted in all sorts of noisiness. Just unusable for recording, unless I wanted to use the cheesy built-in microphone. I tried every possible solution I knew or could find on the internet, with no success.

What I did find on the internet was that this was a pretty common problem and probably due to components packed too close together in there. It was picking up noise from something internally. Using a hub was one possible solution but it didn’t work.

Well, it didn’t work until I finally invested in a powered hub. Note that the interfaces had their own external power so it wasn’t a question of supplying juice to them. None the less, the powered hub seems to provide a filter (for want of a better word) and I no longer have a noise problem. Not that I would necessarily use the Aspire for a lot of recording. I do prefer my stand-alone recorders for the sort of mobile work I used to do and would continue to use them for such.

What interfaces do I use, you ask? I’ve mostly been playing about with a small Behringer mixer (the Zenyx Q802) with a stereo USB output. This is about the least expensive recording interface I would recommend. Being in a mixer format does make it more versatile. And there’s nothing wrong with being cheap if it gets the job done.

The same goes for other equipment, of course. One doesn’t need a Neumann U87 to record vocals! I’ve mentioned and recommended the MXL V67G before; it’s in the 67/87 ‘family’ (if not exactly in their ‘league’!), in terms of its sound, but goes for around a hundred dollars typically. It is the least expensive condenser I would feel comfortable endorsing as a vocal mike. Definitely a step above the cheap Chinese microphones that flooded the market a while back and were notable mostly for their harsh, hyped upper-frequency response.

I would add that, at that price point (and up to three hundred dollars or so), a dynamic mike is often a better choice. For the same money as the MXL one can buy the ubiquitous Shure SM58 — and that’s always a good investment.

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