View Full Version : What Hardware To Buy On A Budget?

29th July 2005, 11:14 AM
Hello all,

I am about to purchase a iMac G5 to use GarageBand to record my first album. I've been looking into the necessary hardware and wanted to see what hardware you guys have found to produce the best quality at a reasonable budget minded cost? (i.e. Audio Interface, PreAmps, FireWire, Mics, etc.)

Thanks Guys :D

4th August 2005, 10:13 AM
That depends entirely on your needs and budget. However, if you're planning on this album being release quality, then I'd recommend a minimum of:

Software :: Depending on what you need, GarageBand may not be enough. Definitely look into Logic Express or Logic Pro if you intend to mix in the box.

Audio Interface :: Any external interface by RME, MOTU or Metric Halo. Go for the Lynx Aurora if you have the cash! They're not cheap though.

Preamp :: Maybe something from FMR Audio. There's a million options here.

Compressor :: FMR Audio (RNC) or Joemeek. Once again, millions of options. Don't go for anything digital.

Monitors :: You really need a decent room and monitors. Alesis M1s are good. If you have more cash then anything from Dynaudio, Quested or ADAM would be worth a listen.

Headphones :: You're going to need some cans that don't spill. I use Sennheiser HD25s for recording.

Mic(s) :: Could really be anything, depending on the application.

That's some fairly serious kit though. You're probably looking at no less than $10k for the lot. There are much cheaper options, but I wouldn't recommend them if you're releasing the album.

Are you using another studio to mix? What style of music are you recording?

4th August 2005, 12:00 PM
Thanks for the info Marc!!

I unfortunately only have about $4K US to work with. (Which includes having to still purchase the iMac.) Of course I wish I had more to work with for releasing the album, but it is completely independent at this point, but want to produce the best quality possible at such a low budget.

I will be mixing myself, but likely someone to master. The music is Alternative Rock.

I'm hoping to find a good all-in-one audio Interface if possible, with enough pre-amps to record an 8 mic set up on the drums.

I have looked a bit at Motu Firewire's.
Also looking at M-Audio products

I am considering going ahead and using Pro Tools and Digi 002 Rack. But since I'm a beginner, Garageband seemed to be the easiest program to produce quality results for a beginner??? But am willing to learn and attempt something like Pro Tools.

I will look at these others you have recommended.

Perhaps at such a low budget the quality I desire is not possible, but knowing my budget, ($4k,) would you happen to be able to make some more specific recommendations? I would greatly appreciate it.

4th August 2005, 12:08 PM
You know, I haven't really looked at Logic Express or Logic Pro yet. I will do that too.

4th August 2005, 12:22 PM
if you're going to spend that kind of money on logic, you might as well buy a pro tools m-box or digi 002, it comes with the hardware and a copy of pro tools and future updates.
being the industry standard, it is a lot more functional than logic.
Logic has had its day, and most studios around the world threw their copies in the bin when Pro Tools started to get good.

More expandability, cheaper in the long run, more compatibility if you intend on taking tracks to other studios (if anybody wants to challenge me on this, phone atleast 5-10 studios in your area, I guarentee over 60% are using pro tools systems)

also, it's a lot easier to use than Logic was/is/ever will be.

4th August 2005, 12:28 PM
A member of this forum uses GarageBand to mix albums, he makes money from it. Garage band is powerful. People think it isn't, but its not a Mickey Mouse app, its actually got some nice features, and can produce professional recordings.

I use it to record my band's live performances through it.

Best thing you could probably get it a Firewire audio device. One that has a few good inputs. I think Edirol make a few good ones. Roland. etc.

pipsqeek :thumbup:

4th August 2005, 12:41 PM
the ability to take something you have been working on at home on yr ProTools system into virtually any studio is very handy..... and it isn't a bad app.

but hey, iron+wine did his first CD on a 4track.. so really... it's probably just as important to spend time doing it right as it is to spend money gettting good stuff...

4th August 2005, 12:43 PM
I completely disagree noisypoppy.

ProTools and Logic are different beasts. It's not really a one or the other kind of thing.

The simple rules are...
Use ProTools for: Film or TV post.
Music editing with no click track or consistent tempo.
Composing with no click track or consistent tempo.
...Don't use ProTools for anything that requires serious MIDI (or even light MIDI). Also, don't use ProTools for anything that requires serious softsynths or soft samplers.
Use Logic for: Composing / writing. Nothing beats Logic for this.
Live music editing with consistent tempo, ie bands (although my first choice would be PT).
Electronic music. Logic is king in this area and used by most of the top producers.
Serious MIDI use.
Serious softsynth or soft sampler use (EXS24 rocks)

I've used both heaps and like them for different reasons. And btw, I would never buy low end DigiDesign hardware. It's crap. It's only good because you get to use the PT software (which only works with Digi hardware).

Axiom :: A MOTU FireWire interface would be an excellent choice. I have 2x 1224s and love them (although I'll be getting an Aurora 16 as soon as I can afford it). Definitely check out Metric Halo. I think their converters sound better than the MOTU ones.

pipsqeek :: Agreed. GB uses a similar mix engine as Logic (no surprises there!) and shares some plugins. It sounds good, it just depends if the editing features are enough. I guess GB will come free with the mac, so you can always see if it's enough before spending the $$ and time on Logic.

4th August 2005, 01:07 PM
I agree marc
Logic & Cubase (so close they're not funny) are the best for midi
digidesign really do suck with midi, it's highly tacky unprofessional things.
There's nothing wrong with the lower end digi systems, I've used the digi001, M-Box and a HD system. Mind you, the HD system did make me drool but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the cheaper ones, it just depends on how well you can mix. Like somebody else said, if you can mix well, you can get a good professional sound out of anything, provided you have the basic tools you need (compressor, gate & EQ), which is what Pro Tools is renowned for, it's almost putting outboard gear into the obsolete section of ebay. (mind you I said *ALMOST*)

But in the end, if you're going to be doing mainly acoustic/micing or real instruments through a line/DI Box use Pro Tools definitely and sink your cash into a good mic(s).
But also what marc said was true, if it's mainly electronic, really go for the Logic/Cubase thing.

4th August 2005, 01:40 PM
I'm glad you said almost :)

***hugs analogue compressors and EQs***

4th August 2005, 01:53 PM
Garageband is alright, it uses the same engine as logic, but lacks the options that logic has. If it works for you, then grab it.

With regards to the whole pro-tools vs. logic debate that seems to be happening, try them out, read some reviews, check out osxaudio.com and choose what one YOU feel the most comfortable with and will get the most out of. Everyone has a preference from pro-tools to cubase to live etc. So try them out and see what you prefer.

If you've never worked in those products before, just be prepared to have a bit of a learning curve, and you will spend a bit of time familarising yourself. But just remember, if you can't do something, just ask, musicians are one of the most helpful kinds of posters around and there are heaps of music production type forums around, so just ask.

Check out www.osxaudio.com

4th August 2005, 03:34 PM
Some suggestions:

First off, while you're learning, forget about Logic, ProTools or anything that costs money. Stick with GarageBand at first - the less options to confuse you the better, and GarageBand can give VERY nice results. You can always get Logic later and your old songs will load and play fine.

You won't get 'commercial-quality' drum recording for $4k. You could spend $4k just treating a terrible room to sound acceptable, and then you have to consider mics, compressors, preamps and so on. You might want to sniff around for people that have decent project studios. Recording the drum tracks in another studio, then moving the files to your Mac and recording the guitars/bass/vocals yourself wouldn't be that expensive if your drummer doesn't suck (time is money).

If you really want to do it yourself, I've had reasonable (but only demo quality) results draping blankets around the room and using a pair of capacitor overhead mics and dynamics on the kick and snare. These mics alone are going to cost you at least $500-600 US. You do not need 8 mics on the drum kit. Led Zeppelin recorded 'When the Levee Breaks' with 3 mics. Go for a good room sound, don't close-mic everything.

You'll need to ignore compressors, exotic preamps and so on when you begin. Yes, they will improve your front end, but you simply don't have the budget to buy them without compromising in more important areas. I'd recommend a decent Firewire audio interface - the MOTU Traveler looks good, for around $850 US. It has four mic inputs and a bunch of line inputs - you could buy mic preamps down the line when money permits.

You might want to look at the Pod for hassle-free guitar recording. XTC's 'Wasp Star' is almost all Pod and the guitar sounds are great to my ears. Using a Pod means you don't have to worry about spending cash hiring different amps, dealing with dodgy gear, hiss, etc, plus your guitarist can work on guitar sounds on their own and save them for the recording session.

Definitely buy the best monitors you can afford. You also want a good large diaphragm capacitor mic for vocals, and an SM57 dynamic wouldn't hurt either.

Let's see where we are with this stuff:

iMac - $1300 + cash for additional RAM, let's say $1350 total for the sake of argument.
Good Firewire interface - $850
Pod - $200
Matched-pair overhead capacitor mics and cables - $350
AKG D112, SM57 plus cables - $300
Decent voice mic + popper stopper - $300
Alesis M1 monitors (at the least) - $350
Monitoring headphones - $30 or so each.

This puts you at around $3700, give or take. You could put the rest of your budget towards room treatment for the drums or software plugins (which will work in GarageBand and Logic).

Just my suggestion, but I think it's a reasonable starting point to work from.

4th August 2005, 04:50 PM
Great Feedback, Thanks

Marc - Is this the Metric Halo you are referring too?
I will be doing very little Midi. So would I be better off with ProTools? (You mention not to use ProTools for MIDI as you may know, Nine Inch Nails newest album was recorded using ProTools. And Trent uses a lot of Midi...but of course he also has the budget to see that it all comes out right too. hehehe.)

Squozen - Thanks for the brake down...One thing I was worried about is if Garageband is only compatible with certain audio processer hardware. But it sounds like I could use Motu's Travelor with Garageband?
On the POD, I assume you're referring to a Line 6 POD, do you recommend a particular one?
What do you think of the Amp Simulator in Garageband. Is it good enough to use, or is a POD a lot better?

4th August 2005, 05:34 PM
All apps work with all audio hardware, except ProTools.

So, GB will be fine with anything that's OS X savvy. And yep, those are the Metric Halos I'm talking about.

I haven't used Amp Simulator in GB, but if it's the same as the Logic one, then it's ok. Not as good as Amplitube, but alright. The Pod would be much better. Don't discount old guitar pedals too. I have a couple of sans amps (including a PSA-1) and they're great.

Squozen :: Solid advise, especially regarding drums. They're damn hard to get right.

5th August 2005, 10:00 AM
Axiom, I won't recommend a particular amp simulator as it's purely a matter of taste. If you're a guitarist, go down to your local music shop and fiddle with some for a while, it's the only way to be sure you'll get the sounds you're after.

The GB amp simulator is not bad at all, but it's not as intuitive or as versatile as a hardware unit. The real benefit of the hardware unit, as I mentioned before, is that the guitarist can use it while working on their parts at home, program the exact sound they want and then just plug it into the recording gear when it's time for the session. All you'll need to do is make sure the reverb is disabled when recording to keep your options open, and maybe tweak the EQ to taste during mixdown.

Check these articles:

Yes, I'm a huge XTC fan. :)

5th August 2005, 07:21 PM
By 'capacitor' mike, I'm assuming you mean condenser/condensor (YMMV) mike, Squozen?

If so, I second that for any vocals. Dynamic mikes (ie, the ol' chestnut, Shure SM58) are more rugged for road use, but if you treat them well, ie. use them in a studio, condensers are the better option.

A (Line6) POD, whilst unconvincing to my ears, is still good, and a lot cheaper than owning all the various gear (and doesn't my wallet know about that.) Note, that this is a guitarist's ears, and guitarists are the pickiest bunch of SOBs ever. To -normal- people things recorded on a POD sound quite good.

5th August 2005, 07:45 PM
Mods/FL's/Participants - what a cracker thread!!!

Can someone 'Pin' this into the top of the Creative Forum, for future reference by those wanting info on using their Macs for recording..

Excellent info guys - it even made sense to me!!



(also Mods/FL's - feel free to delete this post after it's pinned)

6th August 2005, 11:23 AM
csmole: Yes, you can refer to them as condenser or capacitor mics interchangeably. I prefer capacitor because it suggest how the mic differs internally from a dynamic. Tech geekery here: http://www.record-producer.com/learn.cfm?a=112

Another mic link that might help beginners: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr98/arti.../mic_types.html (http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr98/articles/mic_types.html)

6th August 2005, 01:15 PM
csmole :: Don't discount the 58s. They're a great studio mic as well, depending on the purpose and desired result. Björk and Bono can't be too wrong. I think they're a pretty common snare mic too (its been a while since I miced a kit... and I never really did it much to begin with).

The main reason for using dynamics live is that they're less sensitive, so they are less likely to feedback.

There's loads of options for condensers. I really like Sounddelux (http://www.soundeluxmics.com/) and I've heard really good things about Røde (http://www.rodemicrophones.com/), but I haven't used them much. The industry standard Neumanns are great... it's just that there's so many other cheaper or better choices. I'm sure Squozen will have some favourites too.

Edit: Fixed link.

7th August 2005, 10:45 AM
I don't think you can beat Røde for price/performance, at least in Australia (I own an NT2 which I found in a Cash Converters for $115 - it sounds so good that my housemate at the time went out and bought one for himself). A friend of mine has just finished comparison shopping for his new ProTools rig, and ended up with the Røde K2 and NT5 matched pair.

Soundelux is out of Axiom's price bracket (and marc, your link is a bit broken). Here's a few mics under US$500 that would be worth auditioning:

* AKG C3000B
* Røde NT-2A
* Røde NTK (this is a valve mic and probably not the best all-purpose animal, but a seriously nice piece of kit for vocals - may be wasted on alt-rock perhaps)
* Audio-Technica AT3035

Remember, you'll need a popper stopper for any of these mics. I'll add to the list if anything else comes to mind.

12th August 2005, 10:16 AM
Hi everyone
I went into the AppleCentre in Chapel St the other day and asked the guy there what would be a good replacement audio application for someone who used to use Cool Edit Pro/Adobe Audition on a PC. My main things I need to do are recording, mixing and creating radio type stuff, like spots, interviews, mixing band stuff, and things like that. I told him I am currently using Audacity just to get me by. He suggested Logic Pro 7, and with my student card, I get it at $799 instead of the hugely expensive price of $1500. But after reading this forum, I can't help feeling that this advice was wrong. Is it?

Can I use Logic for recording/mixing/radio production type stuff? Also, can I use it for filtering, like someon at work has given me some tapes with lecture stuff on them and it's really hard to hear, I used to use Cool Edit on my PC and I could apply a filter to clean them up, can you do this with Logic??

12th August 2005, 10:31 AM
You can, but it's like using a Ferrari to drive to the milk bar. For what you're doing, something like GarageBand and Audacity (for cleanup of individual tracks) would be a LOT cheaper. If you like the idea of Logic, you might want to look at Logic Express, which has about 90% of the functionality for a third of the price.

12th August 2005, 10:38 AM
You'll be able to all that without a doubt.

Logic has a zillion times more features than Cooledit. It's a massive program that can pretty much do anything any other audio app on the planet can do. It's really just a matter of if you'd prefer to be using ProTools. For working on certain types of things there's no doubt ProTools is better, but for others, Logic is king.

Make no mistake about it, we're talking about some of the top production tools on offer.

However, after what you've said you're doing, maybe SoundtrackPro (http://www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/soundtrackpro/) might be an option as well. I haven't used it much at all, but it's definitely more post based.

12th August 2005, 10:39 AM
Ok well where I live people would drive to the milk bar in their Ferraris, even though they could just walk!! :)

But thanks for the info.

Can you get filters for Audacity to clean up stuff??


12th August 2005, 11:49 AM
Audacity can use VST plugins (AFAIK!) and also has some included effects, including EQ.

So... yes :)

12th August 2005, 03:12 PM
Just my two cents: the iMacs have Optical audio output, the G5 PowerMacs have optical in AND out. Maybe you could ask NextByte and COmputers Now if they have any ex-demo/second-hand PowerMac G5s with an extended AppleCare warranty? You might get one fairly cheap that way...

Cheers :)

13th August 2008, 09:24 AM
Selecting the best tool may require some expert opinion, but take note your the one that's going to use this said "add ons". It is important that these equipments suits your taste for you to enjoy it more. Buying wisely and being practical won't hurt a bit.