Need help with a budget recording setup

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Need help with a budget recording setup

Postby Guts » September 7th, 2015, 9:55 am

I've been making all kinds of music for 10+ years, and recording for a little more than 2. So far though, my setup's been total garbage. I'm looking for what i need in terms of 1.) a suitable laptop, 2.) an audio interface, 3.) headphones and 4.) a phono-interface for recording vinyl samples. I'm on a really tight budget though, and finding all that without either spending loads or getting garbage isn't all that easy.

When it comes to laptops, i have no clue where to start. Suggestions for anything costing up to 500, maybe 600 bucks would be much appreciated.

For an audio-interface, i've set my sights on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (around 130€). For headphones, the AKG K-240 MK2 (ca 120€) and for my phono-interface, the ART USB Phono Plus PS (ca 80€). If anyone has any experience with this gear and can either recommend it or anything else over it in the same price range, please let me know.

I have a Shure SM58 and a Blue Spark microphone, several electrical guitars, bass guitars, acoustic guitars, a banjo, a microKorg and will probably be getting a Maschine MK2 as my sampler. I intend to use all of these instruments in different ways and genres, so i need to kind of have an allrounder-setup that's not meant for specific styles or anything. Regarding software i'm fine, don't need much help with that at the moment, but if anyone wants to recommend some rather 'unknown' software that beats out the likes of FL, Reaper and Audacity in certain areas, that would also be appreciated.

Tips for a MIDI-interface for using my microKorg as a controller are welcome as well.

Thanks in advance for any kind of help
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Re: Need help with a budget recording setup

Postby J-Bot » September 7th, 2015, 11:13 am

On the laptops, my preference in brands for your typical laptops are Lenovo, Asus, and maybe HP. I tend to dislike Sony, Acer, Toshiba, Samsung, etc.
For audio engineering-specific laptops, check out PC Audio Labs and ADK. Though, many recording enthusiasts might tell you to get a macbook and go that route instead of windows. You may want to consider getting a laptop with a dedicated graphics card with dedicated memory so it's not chewing into system RAM.

Other than that, you want a laptop with a fast Hard drive, or possibly solid state. Most laptops HDDs run at around 7400 rpm spindle speed where you probably want 10000 rpm if you can find one that will do it. Also, more RAM is better. It should be pretty easy to find one with 8GB RAM within your budget. You might also consider a fast external USB3 hard drive for storing samples and audio files and such.

Since you're going with the 2i2, and sticking with a USB interface, you don't need to worry about a firewire chipset and making sure it's a TI chipset and all that. Any good solid USB 3 capable laptop with a decent amount of RAM and a fast hard drive should work.

With the headphones, that's not a bad choice at all. I don't know how the MK II's compare to the 240S or the original 240M. Supposedly sound/build quality of the AKG headphones dropped after they moved their production from Austria to China, but I don't really have a verifiable source of that, just various reviews. Still the semi-open back should help with achieving a ballpark mix. Monitors in a treated room will always trump headphones, though. (I'm sure you've heard that a million times) Otherwise, you might consider a pair of Grado SR60's or SR80's if you plan to mix on headphones. I understand they've just brought out their e-series headphones within the last year. Granted they're completely open back, so recording with them would be a no-go due to bleed. The AKG semi-open headphones should be a good middle ground for tracking and mixing, though.

The Scarelett 2i2 should be a decent starter interface for the price. It's no MOTU or RME or NI Komplete 6 interface, but it should do the job. Though, if you also need a midi interface for the microkorg, rather than spending an extra 10 or 20 quid, why not spend a little more on an audio interface that has built-in midi support? The Scarlett 2i4 has built-in midi I/O ports and getting it instead of the 2i2 would be cheaper than paying for a separate midi interface.

Also, welcome to the forum!
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Re: Need help with a budget recording setup

Postby Guts » September 7th, 2015, 12:44 pm

Thanks for the welcome and the quick reply.

The tip about the 2i4 was really useful, and so were the laptop recommendations. Especially since i know someone who has a lenovo with an SSD and 8GBs of RAM that wasn't too expensive (around 500€), so now i've got a pretty good starting point for comparing different models.

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Re: Need help with a budget recording setup

Postby iqi616 » September 9th, 2015, 7:43 pm

For the phono interface, if you already have a turntable your best bet is a reasonable quality receiver or "hifi separate" amplifier with phono inputs. Plug the cassette send of the amp into the 2i4. You'll be surprised what you can find at pawn shops or local online classifieds for next to nothing just because it looks old-fashioned or isn't surround sound. I tried standalone RIAA preamps but all were crap compared to my old stereo tuner.

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