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USB Audio Interface w/ multiple inputs

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Postby jwmartin » December 14th, 2006, 9:54 am

I'm looking into getting a audio interface for my computer. Here's my list of requirements

1. Portable - I'll be using it with my laptop in multiple locations
2. I want to be able to record 2 guitars at once
3. I also want to have mic input. I would want to be able to record all 3 channels (2 guitars & mic) at the same time (preferably able to be separated on the software side)
4. Less than $200 - am I crazy?

I found this

http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/MobilePreUSB-main.html

and it sounds like it matches all my requirements, but I just want to make sure it will record the different inputs on separate channels. I have no experience with this stuff, so I want to seek out more knowledgeable advice before I spend the money.

I have 2 intended uses for this, am I even looking at the right things? One would just be to record my practice/jamming sessions by myself. If it was just that, I could buy the basic single input models. But I want the 2nd guitar and mic input because my son and I jam together, or we go to my grandfather's and all 3 jam and I would love to pick up the talking/chatter that goes on during this. Kind of a memento thing. I guess down the road I may want to actually use it to record full songs, but that's not really on the plate right now. Speaking of that, has anybody used these to record drums? Acoustic drums, not electronic. My son also plays drums and it would be nice to be able to record that. Could I just use a mic or two to pick it up? I know I would have to move him from the garage to a more acoustic-friendly area.

Sorry for the long message and multiple questions!

Thanks!
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Postby slejhamer » December 14th, 2006, 11:10 am

I am pretty sure the MobilePre
(1) is portable ;)
(2) can record two guitars at once - assuming a mono signal from each one
(3) has two mic inputs, with phantom power.

The problem is with wanting to record more than two channels at once, as it will only output two channels of audio (for example, the left and right channels of a single stereo track.) So while technically there are six audio inputs, they will be lumped together by the respective input channel numbers - all of the channel one inputs will be output to one channel, all of the channel two inputs output to the other.

So, for example, if you have a guitar in the channel one instrument input, and another guitar in the channel two instrument input, that's fine. Now where will you plug your mic? Either the channel one or channel two mic input (or both if you're using two mics) ... and the vocals will then be mixed with the guitar's signal in that same channel.

Also consider that you won't have separate level controls for both guitar and vocals in each channel. You'll need to adjust the guitar's level at your amp, or wherever the signal's coming from, so that it mixes well with the vocals coming from the mic.

A mixer (including some newer models with USB outputs) will give you greater control over your input channels, though it will still "mix down" to two channels for output to a recorder or PA system. If you're going to record three instruments and three singers, you probably want to look at an 8-channel mixer.

(4) yep; price is good. Mine was on sale for $139 at Musician's Friend - and it came with two nice MXL 990 mics at no additional cost.
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Postby jwmartin » December 14th, 2006, 12:09 pm

First of all, thank you for the information. You explained it very well. I assume the advantage of the USB output would be if you do not have stereo input on your soundcard? Since I'm using a laptop, I just have the standard line in so I should probably go w/ USB, right?

Something like this?

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Alesis-MultiMix-8USB-Mixer-with-USB-and-DSP?sku=630166

If you don't mind sharing, what kind did you end up buying?

Thanks!
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Postby PJ » December 14th, 2006, 12:34 pm

http://www.native-instruments.com/index.php?id=ak1dj_us

What about that one? It's a great control and the software that comes with it is superb!
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Postby slejhamer » December 14th, 2006, 12:41 pm

Generally speaking, the little 1/8" input on your computers sound card will be stereo, but try jamming two good microphones into it and you'll have a bit of a problem. ;)

Also generally speaking, the sound card in most computers is pretty bad for recording purposes, even though they do a passable job for playback.

You can buy a better internal soundcard, or you can get an external sound card which is basically what the MobilePre is. A sound card with multiple inputs, and phantom power for condenser microphones. A USB mixer is the same, just with more inputs and more control over those inputs (levels, EQ, effects loops, etc.)

I bought the MobilePre because (1) I have two different computers that I can use it with, and both have lousy internal soundcards, (2) I wanted to record acoustic guitar in stereo and this seemed like an easy way to do it, and (3) it was too good a deal to pass up when it came with the free mics.

I don't use a mixer myself, but yes, something like that Alesis would work. Yamaha also has USB mixers, and I think Behringer might too.

I have an acoustic recording I made with the MobilePre and those MXL mics here:
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/songInf ... ID=4502821

Click the hi-fi version or download the MP3. Sounds okay for free mics, the mobilepre, and free recording software (Audacity.) Easy, cheap, and get's the job done.
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Postby jwmartin » December 14th, 2006, 1:10 pm

Thanks for all your info. I guess I'll go with the 8-channel mixer since it is probable I will want to record 3 guitars at once. Right now, the Alesis mixer is the same price as the MobilePre. And no free mics :cry: I'm not buying all this til after Christmas, so I'll see what kind of deal I can get then.

Your song sounds really good.
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Postby Off He Goes » December 14th, 2006, 2:09 pm

Is it better to go with a usb mixer like the Alesis? I don't want to change my soundcard, void the warranty and all. But I do want to try and get the best quality sound and all. Seems to make more sense to get a usb route one as opposed to getting an non usb one?

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Postby slejhamer » December 14th, 2006, 2:23 pm

Off He Goes wrote:Is it better to go with a usb mixer like the Alesis? I don't want to change my soundcard, void the warranty and all. But I do want to try and get the best quality sound and all. Seems to make more sense to get a usb route one as opposed to getting an non usb one?

Paul


Not necessarily; if you already have a good soundcard you don't need a USB interface, and you'll only need a mixer if you plan to record multiple sources at the same time. A standard mixer plugged into a good soundcard should suffice. But if your soundcard is one of the super-cheap ones like mine, then a USB or Firewire interface may make sense.
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Postby Mike » December 14th, 2006, 4:22 pm

The MobilePre can send two signals at one time. So yes, you can record two individual instruments into two separate tracks at one time. In your recording program, select one track for "left channel input" and another track as the "right channel input". Balance off the MobilePre's channels and your recording input to taste and away you go. Works great and the mobilepre is very quiet with hardly noticeable latency, imo.


Also, the newer lines of Alesis are USB or firewire equip. So you could possibly record separates for up to however many channels the mixer has at one time. Tascam has had a firewire unit out that handles @ 18 inputs (IIRC) that can record at once, but you do need the right software to run it.
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Postby Cringe » December 15th, 2006, 2:29 pm

This a good site for recording info
http://www.tweakheadz.com/guide.htm
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Postby decieved » December 25th, 2006, 8:30 am

a line 6 toneport has multiple inputs


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Postby redpoint » May 9th, 2007, 11:25 pm

slejhamer wrote:
I have an acoustic recording I made with the MobilePre and those MXL mics here:
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/songInf ... ID=4502821

Click the hi-fi version or download the MP3. Sounds okay for free mics, the mobilepre, and free recording software (Audacity.) Easy, cheap, and get's the job done.


Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but just have to say your Amazing Grace sounded really really nice. Have you tried using those MXL 990s on vocals?
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